Beauty Review: Birchbox, July 2019

Beauty Review: Birchbox, July 2019 | Writing Between Pauses

About 10 days ago, I had every intention of keeping my blog schedule. Then life happened.

I know if you follow me on Instagram, you’re probably thinking, “Is she going to mention it? Is she going to talk about it?” The truth is: right now, probably not. But to cut a long story short if you don’t follow me on Instagram (and you totally should)… I (as well as all my coworkers) were laid off on Wednesday. We knew it was coming, but it happened sooner than we thought and with a variety of factors that were really, really unpleasant.

In short: Wednesday was a terrible, no-good, very bad day. And to be honest, Thursday and Friday weren’t much better.

I don’t really want to talk about it right now (is a Birchbox review really the best place to get into all these feelings?), but it’s had a huge impact on every single part of my life, for better or for worse. I will be writing about it eventually, but not now. It’s too fresh and I’m too “in” the situation.

I was feeling pretty melancholy Saturday after I put Forrest to bed. Danny was getting ready to go to the gym and I had exhausted my to do list and simply couldn’t do anymore. (I’ve been fiddling with a blog post for LinkedIn for, like, a week now.) Danny told me I should write a normal blog post. You know, for that other blog I run, that I love and refuse to give up even when it’s a huge pain in my ass? (Bless.)

He was right. I needed to feel normal. I needed to write about something not related to my career. I needed to have a phone call or a meeting or a text where I didn’t rehash the story over and over again and start crying again and wondering how 5 years went by so fast and I didn’t do all the work I wanted to and I feel like I let clients down and blah blah blah blah. Rinse, repeat, ad nauseum.

So here I am: freshly scrubbed out of the bathtub, with my Birchbox freshly photographed, ready to write about it. Sorry for this heavy introduction, but hey, it’s the truth. And as Birchbox pointed out in an email to me recently, Birchbox is all about taking care of yourself.

You can read my past Birchbox reviews here. If you’re interested in a longer Birchbox vs. Ipsy blog post, I’m working on one that will be posted in 2-3 months. So stay tuned! As well, if you’d like to sign up for your own Birchbox subscription, click here!

One note about this month’s Birchbox: I chose a curated box just out of curiosity and because I hated the customization samples this month. Ho-hum.

Is Birthbox Worth It?

1. Number 4 Super Comb Prep & Protect

The month I don’t receive a Number 4 product from Birchbox will be the day I feel like I’ve made it. Every month I get a product from them! The thing about Birchbox reviews that niggles at me (that I mentioned last time) is that there’s no way to say I don’t actually like something and want to stop receiving something. It’s all just about whether I’ve tried the product before and whether I’ll be buying it soon. There’s no way to say, “I actually hate this and would like to stop receiving these Number 4 products because I’ve barely liked a single one.” Either way, this one is a solid “fine”: I don’t love it, I don’t hate it, it’s the 4th detangling spray I’ve received. I can only use so much.

2. ARROW BOOST Color Enhancing Lip Balm - Blush Hour

I received this same product in my box last week. It remains the same. I’ll be regifting this one.

3. Clarins Wonder Perfect Mascara 4D

Mascara! I usually hate receiving mascara because it’s something I’m very picky about (in short, I hate all mascaras and have yet to find out that doesn’t make me miserable). On Wednesday, I wore this mascara and cried a lot and ended up looking exactly like those emo girl photos circa 2004 that were super popular on Myspace, so that was very exciting. Aside from that, I actually quite like it; it’s a little goopier than I prefer, but it doesn’t get clumpy like most mascaras.

Bumble and bumble. Don't Blow It (H)air Styler - Fine

4. Bumble and bumble. Don't Blow It (H)air Styler - Fine

Yes! Another hair product! This one is is actually quite nice. If I use it right after the shower, my hair dries with less flyaways and general nastiness. It smells good and makes my hair feel pretty good, so it gets some solid points there.

5. invisibobble® POWER in Pink

I really don’t like this style of hair tie: they tend to tear my hair out. However, these ones are really nice. (Am I going soft?! Giving in? Being less critical!? Never.) I’ve been wearing them quite a lot in the past week as I throw my hair into any variety of messy bun, weird ponytail, or half-pony-bun-thing. In fact, I’ve already lost one, which is the sign of a well-loved hair tie if I do say so myself.

6. COOLA® Dawn Patrol™ Classic Primer SPF 30

Can you believe I picked this curated box specifically for this product and then was crushed when it arrived and I realized it is primer? A product I neither like nor use? Good one, Michelle, good reading comprehension there. Yeah, it’s an SPF primer, which is great in theory. But this is silicon-y as all hell and turns my already oil face into a slip and slide. I can’t even apply foundation over it, it’s a lost cause. I tried wearing it without foundation and I was so shiny and my skin felt so gross I had to baby wipe my face in my car. A great look! I’m regifting this. Why couldn’t it have just been a nice COOLA sunscreen?

ARROW BOOST Color Enhancing Lip Balm - Blush Hour

Final Thoughts

Did reviewing these products help me get out some of my sadness and aggression? Yes. Do I feel better now? Absolutely. Do I like Birchbox? Not really. I’ll be ending my subscription as soon as I get my sixth box. I feel like I haven’t gotten anything I really love or use, but rather a bunch of shockingly similar hair products that basically act as conditioners. I’m not overly impressed, but perhaps I should have expected it—Birchbox seems like maybe it’s more of a hair-focused subscription (that’s just my expectation) and that’s not exactly what I love focusing on. (My hair does exactly 4 tricks: curls/waves that fall out within 4 hours; a bun; a high ponytail; and down.)

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Marriage

6 Things I've Learned in 6 Years of Marriage | Writing Between Pauses

Danny and I got married June 23, 2013. If you’ve followed my blog for that long (and honestly, some of you have!), you know that I blogged about my wedding heavily at that time. Over the years, just like most things, I’ve questioned how much to share about everything in my life. I try not to share too much about Forrest: this is a mommy blog without being the day-to-day, share too much mommy blog I’m used to seeing. I don’t write about my job at all. I even post less photos of myself these days.

But sometimes, it’s good to reflect and sometimes that means sharing more than perhaps I would normally.

Danny and I met in 2007. Can you believe that? We met in McCall, Idaho at our college’s freshman retreat that happened before classes started. We all moved into our dorms on a hot, sticky Idaho August day, then loaded into busses the next day and drove several hours to McCall. I can’t remember exactly when I met Danny, but I know I met him on that trip and he popped up throughout my freshman year. Sophomore year, we saw more of each other, both being in the campus writing club, writing for the school paper, and having a similar, overlapping group of friends.

It wasn’t until junior year that we really became friends. Over that summer between junior and senior year, he watched my apartment for me (thanks!) and visited me a few times when I had mild emotional breakdowns over my roommate (who eventually moved out). It was a rough, weird time for me. Then, senior year, we were in several classes together: a few literature classes and then in capstone.

And then, of course, we started dating.

Without being too sappy, I knew pretty early on (as in, maybe a month in) that we were pretty serious. We started dating April 20, 2011, exactly a month before we graduated. That’s right: we’d had 4 years together, 4 years rotating around each other, and we waited until a freaking month before I moved away from Idaho and he stayed behind.

It was great!

(It really wasn’t great.)

We graduated. I moved back to Oregon. My grandpa was extremely ill. We talked over Skype every day. I cried every day. It was an awful, difficult year, 2011-2012. My grandpa died in November after I graduated. I worked at a local grocery store and cut part of my thumb off in February 2012, then started working at a car dealership, which was soul sucking and made me feel like garbage.

But we made it. We got engaged after 3 months of dating and slogged through a year of long distance together. We planned a wedding and got Danny certified to teach in Oregon and built a home together. We changed jobs and went through the hardest days of our lives together. The months after I got fired. The months where Danny worked never ending substitute teacher jobs. Sometimes I think back to those days, when I made $11 an hour as a full time receptionist and Danny made about $100 a day as a sub, and how we somehow paid all our bills that way. It was so hard and I felt so embarrassed to let on about how hard it was.

This is all to say: in some ways, our relationship started out as totally idyllic. We liked each other—Danny continues to insist I’m out of his league to this day and I insist we are in the same “weird kid” league, both of us loving astrology, the occult, bats, and other weird shit—and we loved each other and that was enough. And even though the hardest parts of our relationship, I’ve felt like I always wanted to keep that part of us: we’re too weirdos who like and love each other, who learn from each other.

I know for other married couples, it isn’t quite that way. Everyone has their own story. But I think there are a few things that are universal, especially when it comes to marriage and relationships. So, without further ado, here are 6 things I’ve learned in 6 years of marriage.

Wedding Photography
Sweet Cheeks Winery Eugene Oregon Wedding

1. Having kids brings out the best (& worst) in you.

I feel like this is one I wish I had been told before I had Forrest. It goes without saying: kids are stressful. And as I’ve written before, I absolutely, positively hated the newborn months. I’d never been more miserable in my life and I was attached to a pump 12 times a day (for a grand total of 6 hours every day!). That’s something that Danny couldn’t help with. He also couldn’t quite understand what I was going through. It’s one thing for men to watch their wives or girlfriends give birth; it’s another thing for them to completely emphasize with how exhausted and wrecked you feel afterwards.

I felt like a foreigner in my own body. I didn’t recognize it; everything hurt; everything leaked; I had to wear diapers; I could barely walk for a week; my skin freaked out. And all at the same time, I was taking care of a new human being and Danny felt totally clueless (and was occasionally unwilling to guess at how to do things, which is generally his M.O.).

Sometimes, I think we are such good parents. But other times, the stress definitely gets to us and we get snappy or we take naps when we should be doing other things. It happens. But I think it’s important to keep perspective when you start to feel like you don’t recognize yourself or your partner after having a child: things won’t always be this hard.

2. It’s ok to be angry.

The most common relationship advice is always “don’t go to bed angry”… to which I call bullshit.

Go to bed angry. Sleep angry. Stay angry.

Anger is natural human emotion. We tend to view anger as a negative emotion (which it is), but also as one we shouldn’t feel, especially as women. And when women get angry at their husbands, they are often brushed off as “crazy,” “nagging,” or “shrill.”

Again, I call bullshit.

My advice is to be angry. Make your anger heard to your husband. Your feelings matter in a relationship and if your anger is justified (your husband seriously won’t stop leaving crumbs all over the counters or drops his socks at the bottom of the stairs or exactly 2 inches from the hamper), then let him feel it & let yourself feel it.

Anger in relationships isn’t bad, but remember you also need to talk it out, express your anger in a productive way, and make sure that your husband understands how you need him to behave. (Put his damn socks in the hamper! It’s right there!)

3. All relationships have highs & lows.

There will be bad days. It’s easy to think that you’ll always be happy, happy, happy. But there will be bad days, hard days, rough days.

When I lost my job in 2014, there were many bad days. I was stressed about money and feeling like a failure. Danny was working hard, but feeling adrift as well. We were dirt poor and had just bought a house, using food stamps, and just trying to get by. Sometimes, it felt like we barely knew each other.

Then, things got better.

Again, I think in the end, this is something that just needs perspective: sometimes your needs in your relationship won’t always be what they were in the beginning. You won’t always be super clingy, super talkative, or super interested in being together 100% of the time. You’ll want distance. Or you’ll want to go grocery shopping alone. Or you’ll just want to sit on the couch and watch Teen Mom without being interrupted or having to watch someone play video games. It’s ok. There will also be times where you’ll want the opposite of all those things. That’s just how relationships are.

Cutting Cake Wedding Photo

4. You should take breaks from each other.

Going along with number 3, it’s important to spend time away from each other.

In 2017, I took a weekend trip to Sunriver alone. Solo. Without Forrest or Danny or anyone else. I drank wine, watched Netflix, took walks, treated myself to dinner, and did all the things I felt I couldn’t do while watching Forrest or cleaning or cooking or whatever. It was amazing. It made me feel rejuvenated.

Every time Danny and I spend a weekend apart, I feel like we’re always 100x happier to see each other than usual. When you spend all your time with one person, you can get sick of them, even if you really love them. I really love Danny, but sometimes I do need a solo shopping trip or a long drive by myself. It’s just better that way.

5. Find routines that work for you & your family.

In my ideal world, I would wake up every day around 7am, make coffee, make breakfast, clean up the house, write a little bit, get dressed, and go do something fun.

That’s not really how it works with a kid and a husband.

Danny likes to sleep late. Generally, he stays up later than me. However, we both get up whenever Forrest gets up, which is usually between 5am and 6am (although he’s been pushing 6:30am lately). This is an early morning for nearly everyone. We’ve gotten used to it over the years, but it is still really hard to wake up at 5:30am every single morning without fail.

As well, Forrest being awake isn’t super conducive to me making my coffee and drinking it alone. I have always preferred to be alone in the morning; I don’t feel like talking right when I get up and I tend to be pretty cranky. I’ve had to adjust my routine; Danny has had to adjust his routine. Forrest gets to run his routine!

This is my way to say: you might have things you really like to do each day, that are part of your routine. As you get older, as your relationship shifts, you might not be able to hold onto those things anymore. I really miss watching Food Network and cooking breakfast every morning, like I used to before I had Forrest; sometimes I miss it so much, I just wish I could scream! But I know life won’t always be this way (life won’t always be this hard) and so I just adjust my expectations & my routine… and move on.

6. Delegate responsibilities.

I know we’ve all seen those articles about emotional labor and about how today, even with progressive husbands, women still perform the vast majority of household tasks.

It goes without saying but that’s true in my life as well.

It’s not really Danny’s fault; he has less stringent requirements for home cleanliness and while I’ve relaxed about mine in some ways (at a detriment to my mental health), I still wish he did more around the house.

I’ve learned over the years that I have to delegate. I can’t run everything on my own. I can pretty much handle one floor of our house and that’s it. It’s either upstairs or downstairs! So in our house, I’m in charge of inside. Danny is in charge of outside. And I stay on top of him in regards to keeping our outdoor areas nice, especially in our new house! As Forrest gets older and can take on chores (he’s still a little young), we will definitely start giving him responsibilities as well.

I don’t want to put the onus on women to delegate chores to their husbands; they aren’t children, after all. But sometimes, we just have to say: you’re in charge of this. Figure it out! It’s not hard!


Thanks for reading! Tell me: if you’re married or have been in a relationship for a significant amount of time, what’s the number one thing you’ve learned?

Beauty Basics Guide: How to Pick Your Foundation, Primer, & Powder

Beauty Basics Guide: How to Pick Your Foundation, Primer, & Powder | Writing Between Pauses

Welcome to the beauty basics guide! My first post, a guide to brushes, was so successful, I decided to keep going! If you have a beauty basics question, or an area where you think a guide would help, let me know in the comments. I noticed that so many beauty blogs don’t post a basics guide when it comes to beauty; we’re all learning and sometimes we all need a foot up!

Foundation, primer, & powder are considered the base of your makeup. When you have a good base, you can pretty much always feel confident about your makeup. As well, if you’re main concern is evening your skin tone or hiding a few blemishes, your base is where you want to focus most of your energy.

When it comes to choosing foundation, I know it can be super overwhelming; there are so many to pick from! This post won’t necessarily help you pick your specific foundation; I instead hope to help you determine what you should look for in a foundation, as well as a primer and powder. Let’s get started!

Primer

I know I just mentioned foundation, but it makes more sense to work from the bottom to the top in terms of application.

Primers are incredibly popular for helping smooth out your foundation, make application easier, and increase the wear time. There have always been debates on whether you need to use primer or not; a lot of people do and a lot of people don’t.

I happen to fall into the category of someone who avoids primer; occasionally, I will test one out. But usually, I decide I don’t need it; the reason is because primers often don’t play nice with my skin at all. I’ve yet to find one that really worked for my skin.

That being said, lots of people love primers. If you want to try one, here are a few things to look for.

If you have dry skin: Primer is often ideal if you have skin that is quite dry or can get flaky with foundation. Hydrating primers, like e.l.f.’s (which is super affordable), can help boost your skin’s moisture before you apply foundation. There are thankfully lots of hydrating primers on the market; here’s a great list of 10.

If you have oily skin: Primer often doesn’t place nice with oily skin, so you have to make sure to pick your primer well. Check your ingredients; slippy, silicon-based primers are better for dry skin, so avoid those. Any primer that promises “mattifying” is better, but make sure to spot test accordingly. The Tatcha primer is one of the best on the market, but for $22, is a little spendy; here’s a list of a bunch of options.

If you have regular skin: If you feel you’re neither super oily or super dry, you can pretty much get away with anything. The world is, essentially, your oyster—primer-wise, that is. Here’s a great list of 15 primers that you can check out.

Foundation

Foundation! If you’ve found your perfect primer (or you’ve decided to skip it for the moment), it’s time to think about foundation.

It goes without saying: not everyone needs or has to use foundation. You aren’t obligated to have perfect skin. However, if wearing foundation lets you feel more comfortable, then it is entirely up to you.

Like I said, there are so many foundations to choose from. I’ve reviewed what feels like hundreds of foundations for this blog alone. My most comprehensive post was about the foundation quizzes offered via Sephora and Ulta; you can read that post here.

When it comes to choosing foundation, here are a few things to look for:

If you have dry skin: Avoid foundations that offer “matte” or “mattifying.” These foundations will be too drying on your skin and will most likely contribute to dryness, texture, and flakiness. Look for dewy or hydrating foundations; go for water-based foundations, as opposed to cream foundations, which will be too heavy on your skin. My recommendations include Too Faced’s Dew You foundation and Wet’n’Wild Photo Focus Foundation.

If you have oily skin: You can play with using dewy foundations, but if you get oily throughout the day and tend to have your make up break down, matte or mattifying is the way to go. Cream foundations tend to work best on oily skin, but it depends on your needs when it comes to foundation. My recommendations for oily skin are the Hourglass foundation, Tarte Amazonian Clay foundation, and Too Faced Peach Perfect foundation.

Powder

Powder is probably the base product I’m most passionate about. Honestly, with the right setting powder, regardless of your skin type, your base will be amazing. Just like with foundation and primer, some people don’t necessarily need powder; if you have exceptionally dry skin, you aren’t going to want a powder that is super matte. However, if you have oily skin and you skip powder, you’re doing your base a disservice.

I’ve reviewed a ton of powders for my blog and I have a very specific set of requirements for powders—all of which are based on my skin type (which is very, very oily). This isn’t necessarily going to work for everybody because I follow the Wayne Goss method of powdering before foundation, then powdering after.

One mistake I often see people make is baking with a ton of powder on their undereyes; this is because we see beauty gurus or instagram videos doing it. Plain and simple: this will make your undereyes look terrible. It looks great for photos. And if you only set your undereye concealer, then the rest of your face makeup… isn’t set. Using powder all over your face makes it easier to apply powder blush and contour, as well as highlight. So, simple: a light layer of powder over your entire face.

If you have dry skin: again, you’re going to want to be careful with powders, as they can be quite drying. Look for a powder that doesn’t offer mattifying or long-lasting power—and definitely avoid talc-based powders. A few powders I’ve tried that I think would work great for dry skin would be the Hourglass powder and the Make Up Revolution luxury baking powder.

If you have oily skin: There are definitely levels of oily skin, but if you struggle with your foundation breaking down, I highly recommend trying the Wayne Goss method. (You can read about my foundation process here.) My favorite powder for oily skin is the It Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores powder; nothing sets like this powder does. If you are oily, this will keep your skin dry all day.


That’s it! The basics on choosing the right products for you and your skin. Have anything to add? Share with me in the comments!

The Moving Diaries: Is It Normal to Feel Sad?

The Movie Diaries: Is It Normal to Feel Sad? | Writing Between Pauses

5 years ago, Danny & I bought our first home together. It wasn’t perfect. There were a lot of things, right from the get go, that we didn’t love. We had our home built on land I already owned, so we considered it our forever home.

Fast forward a few years: several job changes, a pregnancy, a newborn turned toddler turned preschooler… and suddenly that house just wasn’t right anymore. It felt tiny. We were cramped, on top of each other, and the prospect of adding another child felt absolutely impossible.

A year ago, we decided to build a second home. We would make better decisions this time! We will pick a better plan, build in a better spot, do all the things we didn’t last time. (I will write more about the process of building your own home later. I know this is a totally privileged thing that many people can’t imagine, so just know, if you’re gaping at your computer, I totally acknowledge that.)

Our home was completed last week. It was about 2 or 3 weeks behind schedule by that point. And when I say completed, I don’t mean… “completed.” It wasn’t really completed. (Again: I can write about this later.)

But either way, we started moving our things out of our home into our new forever home. I was ecstatic.

We moved things for 3 days in the evenings: piece by piece, it felt like the slowest process ever. But there was only so much we could do as two people! On Friday, we went to IKEA to buy some new furniture (including a new kitchen table) and then thankfully Danny’s parents arrived and helped us move boxes and furniture.

Friday night, we all slept in our new home for the first time. Forrest’s room was mostly put together, but in our room, we only had our mattress on our box spring on the floor (our bed frame is still on a delivery truck somewhere!). I had a suitcase and my toiletries and that was about it.

I told Danny, “it feels like we are on a really weird, shitty camping trip.” That feeling isn’t helped by the fact that our contractor hasn’t really finished our upstairs toilet in the master bathroom (again, more on this later!) and 50% of our possessions are still in a different house.

My anxiety was high Friday night. Like really high.

Remus is also an anxious being (in that specifically hyper chocolate lab sort of way), so he woke me up 3 times during the night. He would run outside and pee, then look at me as if asking, “Can we go home?”

And at 3am, my last wake up, I briefly thought: let’s just go home. I started to panic. Do I really want to live in this strange house that doesn’t smell like me? Do I really want to leave all my memories behind?

I thought of all the memories I have of our old house. I let Remus back inside, locked the patio door, went upstairs, and cried while Danny slept. I panicked and cried and felt horribly sad.

I thought of bringing Forrest home—anxious, swollen, bleeding, looking wretched—and seeing the sign my sister-in-law Amy made and put on our front door. I remember sitting upstairs with him, pumping and feeding him, while my family sat downstairs. I thought of the hours I spent holding him during naps on the couch: the light shining through our windows in such a specific way.

I thought of painting our living room wall grey last summer, our breakfasts in our kitchen, standing at the counter making Christmas cookies with Fo.

For once, I thought not of all the things that I didn’t like about that house (the cramped layout, the lack of a closet in the master bedroom, the teeny tiny bathrooms) and I thought about all the things I loved. Sitting with Forrest in his room, reading him Harry Potter. Being in his room when he was 2 weeks old and wouldn’t stop crying and not knowing what to do. The long nights I spent awake and pumping. The sink where I washed all his bottles. Seeing him walk for the first time. Getting home from Disneyland with him and being so relieved and sad.

When Danny finally woke up, I told him I felt panicked. I think a lot of it was the feeling of being totally overwhelmed: we still have so much to pack and move and I feel rushed and anxious to get it done. I want to do it, but I also wish I could hand off the wheel and let someone else (anyone else!) do it! Mostly, I just felt sad.

Danny assured me that this seemed normal: we’re in a new house that doesn’t feel like “us” yet even though it is very “us”. We will get used to it and we will love it.

The same feeling hit me later on Saturday. (I’m actually typing this up Saturday, so it’s a particularly fresh memory.) I ran to the old house one last time—at 8pm, of course—to get my computer. I needed, in order to feel sane, to set up my computer. To get all my desk things and arrange them on my new desk and sit and work and feel normal. I went to the house and packed up my office… then I went into Forrest’s room.

Forrest has gotten a big bed in the new house. He’s incredibly proud of it. But in his old bedroom, his toddler bed is still sitting there, along with some of his toys and some boxed up clothes. About half his books are still there too. (Like I said, so much to move still!) I collected up all his clothes to pack into the car and as I walked out of his room, I started to cry. Again.

It hit me like a wave. To me, that was Forrest’s room. It always will be. I took all his weekly and monthly progression photos in that room on his chevron carpet. I rocked him to sleep every single night for two years—and have read him a story and sang him 3 songs every single night for about 1 and a half more. That room is his room: it feels like him, it smells like him. But we’re emptying it out, shaking out all the things that are Forrest to make into a new space. And while he loves his new room, I can’t help but think of him crawling across the floor, the nights I ran in when I heard him sick and crying, reading him Harry Potter while he drank his last bottle for the night. That toddler bed will be moved to the new house and have the front put back on in anticipation of a new baby: one I don’t know yet, who will fill our lives the way Forrest does.

Moving is hard. As someone said to me on Twitter, moving is nothing but trauma. Change is hard and locational change is particularly difficult for me, someone who is incredibly anchored by my physical space. Not being able to clean and organize the way I want makes it hard for me to feel anything but adrift.

I don’t know if it’s totally normal to be sad over moving. I cried when I moved out of all of my college dorms, however; I cried when I left my college apartment. I cried when I drove away from Caldwell, Idaho, a town I had viscerally hated for 4 years (and now return to on vacations at least twice a year). I cried when I moved out my parents’ house. I cried when I moved in our old house. I suppose for me it is normal, but it feels like this time it has hit me a lot harder than it did before.

It’s a total cliche, but it’s true: moving is hard. It stresses everyone out. And now being the one in charge of the moving (no one is holding my hand and helping me make these decisions!), it’s even more stressful.

I don’t have a real clear message to end this post on. It’s a much more personal one than I usually post. I guess what I’m saying is: I don’t know if it’s “normal” to feel sad when you’re moving, but with emotions running so high, I can’t imagine it’s a new phenomenon either. If you’re moving and feeling sad, tell me about it!

Beauty Review: I Tried Ipsy Glam Bag Plus So You Don't Have To

Beauty Review: I Tried Ipsy Glam Bag Plus So You Don't Have To | Writing Between Pauses

I waited patiently—anxiously, even—for this: I finally got off the waiting list for the Glam Bag Plus.

I’ve been an Ipsy Glam Bag subscriber for over a year now—probably 18 months total, minus a few months where I skipped or put my membership on hold. I have reviewed nearly every single Ipsy bag I received; I quite liked a lot of them, but started to find them boring in the last few months. (You can read all my Ipsy reviews here.)

When they announced the Glam Bag Plus, I immediately signed up for the waiting list; I knew I wanted to try it, even if $25 was a bit steep (compared to $10 a month that is!) Mostly, I just wanted to see what they would actually send.

The Glam Bag Plus is, like Boxy Charm, 5 full-size products every single month. The regular Glam Bag promises a mix of sample size, deluxe sample size, and full-size products. The full size products in the Glam Bag are usually masks or single eyeshadows. The Glam Bag Plus is $25; comparatively, Boxy Charm is $21 per month and seems to be primarily name brand products.

How does the Glam Bag Plus compare? Let’s see what I got in my first box.

(As a note, I did receive 2 bonus items that I received through trading in my points on Ipsy. I will include small reviews for them!)

If you’d like to try the Glam Bag Plus, you can sign up here.

Ipsy Glam Bag Plus

1. Tula Major Glow Cooling & Brightening Sheet Masks, $26.25

Here’s an interesting note: these Tula masks usually come in a pack of 4. I received 3 (and the package says “pack of 3 masks”). Now, to me, if the standard pack includes 4 masks and this pack includes 3…. that’s not full size. I don’t know what size it is, but it’s not full size, that’s for sure. Already, that makes me highly suspicious about the “full size” aspect of this box! But I digress; a pack of 4 masks costs $35, making each one worth $8.75. That makes 3 worth $26.25.

The plus side of all this: I really like these masks! I love masks that are two pieces, because they tend to fit better. I also really like the hydrogel feel of these masks. It’s been pretty hot already this summer, so I like to pop them in the fridge and wear one in the evening while I watch TV.

2. Suva Beauty Hydra Liner in Grease & Six Twenty Brush Set, $26

This is interesting because this “item” is actually two items: a Six Twenty Brush (for eyeliner) and the Hydra Liner in the shade Grease (black). The brush is $12; the liner is $14. They might be sold as a set, but I can’t find that option on this brand’s website. So, I guess that’s pretty nice; it’s technically two full size items. Personally, a $12 brush is a bit much for me, especially as it is a teeny tiny liner brush.

This eyeliner is activated by a wet brush. It seems nice, but I haven’t gotten a chance to experiment with it a lot yet. I love winged eyeliner, but I personally prefer an all-in-one tool; it’s just easier for me, especially as I won’t have time to wash a brush every single day.

Is Ipsy Glam Bag Worth It

3. Tetrix x Ipsy Game On Eyeshadow Palette, $15

This is an interesting one: an eyeshadow palette specifically by Ipsy. Not any other brand, but… Ipsy.

This is a big of a rankle for me. To me, the point of this beauty subscription is to receive either indie brands or major brands… not Ipsy products. It’s like signing up for a beauty subscription and getting Target’s generic brand items in it. They’re great, but I can buy them for cheaper on my own.

As well, apparently there is a second palette that has colors I would much prefer.

I estimated this price at around $15. If I’ve being generous, that’s about $2.50 per eyeshadow (the cost of Ulta Beauty’s individual eyeshadows, for comparison). However, the full Tetris x Ipsy Collection retails for $158 total. Since this palette isn’t sold anywhere else, I have nowhere else to link to!

It is a fairly decent palette. I quite like the shade Game Day, which is foiled; Stack It Up is pretty and so are Block Party and Game Night. However, I don’t wear navy eyeshadow, so Game Over is a bit much; and orange eyeshadow makes me look ill. I’ll use a fair number of the shades so it’s not a total waste, but I am disappointed to receive essentially a generic palette. C’est la vie.

4. Tréstique Matte Color + Shiny Lip Balm Lip Crayon, $25

This one is actually pretty nice, if a bit gimmicky. In the picture on Ipsy, it looked like it was actually 3 products in one. But when it arrived, I realized the packaging is literally just shaped like a giant lip crayon with a smaller lip crayon inside and then the teeny tiniest little lip balm to ever exist. Both are quite nice; I like the color of the lip crayon and the lip balm feels nice. My only annoyance is that I have to carry around a giant lip crayon to use a little balm! The shade I received is: Belize Bordeaux & Grenache Balm. The pictures look absolutely nothing like the color it is. The website make it seems like a dusty rose pink; it’s more like… red wine. Burgundy.

5. Sunday Riley C.E.O. Vitamin C Rich Hydration Cream, $65

OK. OK. OK. Maybe… maybe it’s worth it just for this. An ENTIRE tub of Sunday Riley C.E.O. Vitamin C cream! I can’t! Miraculous! Marvelous! Extraordinary!

Am I being dramatic? Yes. But a tub of this alone costs $65. I can see why they perhaps cheaped out on the eyeshadow palettes and masks (I see you, Ipsy), because whew, $65!

This is one of those creams I’ve dreamed of trying but didn’t have the actual cash. I’m never going to drop $65 on just a moisturizer. Especially one that is all about Vitamin C.

Oh, have I mentioned? Vitamin C makes me break out. Bad. I’m still going to try this ($65!!!) But I don’t have my hopes up. In fact, my hopes are… low. I’m probably going to break out. But who knows? Maybe this will be the vitamin C cream of my dreams; I have heard excellent things about it.

What Comes In Ipsy Glam Bag Plus

A word on my points items! I received the Neogen White Truffle Oil Drops and the Billion Dollar Brows Eyebrow Brush. I love an oil on top of my moisturizer at night to help with my dehydrated skin and I am so far loving these oil drops. I’ve been meaning to get an eyebrow brush for ages, but just never got around to it; I like that this one is angled slightly and has both types of brush that I need. In total, I traded in like 1200 points for both of these and the brush alone is worth $16. Worth it.

Ipsy Glam Bag Plus Products

Final Thoughts

In total, the value of this first box is… $157.25. Ok, DANG! That’s pretty good!

Let’s compare, however. If we review my “One Year of Ipsy” blog post here, we know that in July 2018 I received a bag that had a value of $93. That’s a difference of about $64. If a $10 Ipsy bag has the potential to be worth $93 (and that was a slight outlier of a bag; my lowest was a $45 value bag in October 2018). The average value of my Ipsy bags has been $65, which is pretty good for a $10 purchase.

Looking at it logically, of course a $25 box is going to have a higher value than a $10 bag; but I actually don’t feel like it has enough comparative value. In this first Glam Bag Plus, I only received one recognizable brand (Sunday Riley) and the value of that product greatly inflated the value of the bag. Remove the $65 cream and this Glam Bag Plus is only worth, wait for it, $92. So 4 products total is worth the exact same as a 5-product Ipsy bag that cost only $10. I feel like, again, this is a box of filler products with one extreme high end product thrown in to inflate the value.

However, that being said… despite my criticisms, I do quite like every thing I received. Was it worth the $25? Sure! I’m really happy with everything, even if I’m suspicious of it all as a whole.

If you’d like to try the Glam Bag Plus, you can sign up here.

Have you received the Glam Bag Plus? What did you think? What did you receive?

Beauty Review: Birchbox June 2019 Review

Beauty Review: Birchbox June 2019 Review | Writing Between Pauses

This is my third Birchbox of a 6-month subscription I was gifted. To jump to the point right away, my overall impression has been a little… lackluster. I enjoyed my first box; last month’s box had 4/7 samples as hair products. And this month’s box is better, but I still don’t get that excitement I thought I would have. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either, you know?

In short: I don’t look forward to my Birchbox arriving quite as much as I do my Ipsy bag. (And even better, I have a very exciting Ipsy review this month. Stay tuned!)

You can read my past Birchbox reviews here. If you’re interested in a longer Birchbox vs. Ipsy blog post, I’m working on one that will be posted in 2-3 months. So stay tuned! As well, if you’d like to sign up for your own Birchbox subscription, click here!

Birchbox Branding

This month’s Birchbox theme was self-care, clearly. My box included a pamphlet about how Birchbox isn’t a “beauty box” (er) and it had a checklist of self-care suggestions that included, “take a walk around the block” and “actually SEE your friends”, as well as things like “Plan some time off for 3 months from now” (yes! I can afford that!) and “moisturize your hands.” My favorite is “get some actual sleep (7+ hours please!)”; what a privileged thing to send people! I’d love to get 7 hours of sleep per night… I simply can’t. I’d love to take a vacation or go on a nature walk; I have neither the money nor the time.

I find corporatized self-care extremely embarrassing and painful, because these self-care items are very much about pampering. Lots of people take part in self care that is along these lines, but self-care isn’t prescriptive. Self-care is very much about taking care of yourself and your mental health—and sometimes self-care isn’t cute stuff like taking vacations and going on nature walks. It is taking a shower when you have been so exhausted for 3 days that showering is insurmountable; it’s taking your medication even though you might not want to; it’s cutting off toxic people because they are making your mental health worse.

So anyway, I found this very annoying. At the end of the day, Birchbox is a beauty box that sends out a few samples to a lot of people every month and while I’m glad any large company supports mental health initiatives, I would like to see them reflect those ideals inward. How is their medical insurance for employees? Do they provide mental health support, life-work balance? Do they accommodate mothers? What is their family leave policy? And most importantly: are all their employees compensated fairly? It’s great to send out a checklist of potential self-care items, but are they supporting actual humans in their actual policies? (This goes for all companies that decide to use mental health in their marketing, not just Birchbox.)

I’m off my soapbox now. Let’s talk about the products.

Is Birthbox Worth It?

1. Wilma Shumann Skincare Hydrating Collagen Eye Pads, $7.20

These made my skin burn, which is often a problem I have with eye pads and eye masks. They also didn’t seem very wet, as to open the packaging, you have to slide out a plastic tray (a waste of packaging!!) and it makes all the serum spill out. Not only is that a waste, I had that these plastic masks aren’t actually soaked with product; it just sits on top. Give me a biodegradable eye mask over this. The value for these is quite low, as a “full size” includes 5 sets of masks for $18, making each set of eye pads worth about $3.60.

2. Too Cool for School All-in-One Egg Mellow Cream 5-in-1 Firming Moisturizer, $7

I love this K-beauty brand and I love this moisturizer. This is probably my favorite thing I received and one thing I will probably buy a full size of. I’ve been really struggling with extreme dry patches on my nose and cheeks, especially during my cycle, and this is one of the few moisturizers that has really helped. A full size is 1.76 ounces and costs $36 (which is pretty expensive). This sample is 0.35 oz, making it around $7.

3. Beauty Protector Protect & Detangle, $2.94

You can find this at Walgreens. Walgreens! It costs $23.50 for a full size, which is 8 ounces. This sample size is 1 ounce, making it worth less than $3. It’s a perfectly fine detangler, but I’m not exactly impressed. I don’t know why, but I don’t feel like getting sent things I can buy at Walgreens is really fair! I can go to my local Walgreens and find these things myself.

What comes in a Birchbox

4. Arrow BOOST Color Enhancing Lip Balm in Blush Hour, $15

They also sell this at Walgreens. This is the one product that really increased the value of this box and I’m not sure thats a good thing. $15 for one lip balm that turns a bright pink? I’ve seen reviews that say this is a really flattering color and it is supposed to change “just for you personally.” I don’t agree. This is really unflattering on me. I don’t mind the balm itself (even though I think lip balm is a bit of a scam even though I cannot stop using it), but I won’t be wearing it out of the house.

5. Amika Perk Up Dry Shampoo, $10

I don’t like Amika products generally and I get so many samples of them! I also don’t use dry shampoo as it makes my dry, itchy scalp 400 times worse. Also, dry shampoo has been linked to alopecia areata (when my alopecia was at its worst, I was in a dry shampoo phase, which is not a coincidence). A sample can costs $10 from Sephora. I won’t be using this product, so it is getting passed on to donate.

6. Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner, $11

Funny enough, I just bought (via Ipsy) another Eyeko liner. This one isn’t the same; it’s a felt tip pen, which is my absolute least favorite kind of eyeliner. I don’t know what monsters are using felt tip eyeliners still; they aren’t good, they don’t work well, and they don’t look good! End felt tip liner! Every brand needs to make a good brush tip, which makes a sharper line and a better wing. But no! Brush tips are hard to find and felt tips populate the world at astronomical rates. Anyway, this is about half the size of a full size, making it worth $11. I will not be using it.

New Birchbox Pricing

Final Thoughts

This box has a $53.14 value. The value lies almost entirely in the lip balm and eyeliner, with the dry shampoo coming in third. That isn’t exactly great; I don’t like when the value of my beauty boxes is bolstered by one or two products, because it means i’m getting sent filler usually. There are two things I will not use period in this box (the dry shampoo and the eyeliner), one thing I will use but not outside the house (the lip balm), one thing I’m indifferent on (the detangler), one thing I don’t like period (the eye masks), and one thing I love (the moisturizer).

This might just be an unlucky box. In fact, that’s really just the truth. I forgot to log in and choose my custom option this month, so I got a grab bag and it feels like this isn’t tailored to what I like at all. I wish there were some way for me to tell beauty subscriptions all the things I love, love, love and hate, hate, hate so they know not to send me color-changing lip balms (which never look good on me) or felt eyeliners or dry shampoo.

One thing about Birchbox is that their system for reviewing items is not good and last month, when I reviewed my items, I didn’t get my credits like I did the month before, as if the system wasn’t registering them. It was pretty annoying and it makes it hard to indicate that I don’t want certain items.

This is all to say: I found my Birchbox quite disappointing this month.

A Busy Mom's Guide to: Road Trips (Featuring Hungryroot!*)

A Busy Mom's Guide to: Road Trips (Featuring Hungryroot!*) | Writing Between Pauses

Danny and I love taking road trips. It used to be something we really looked forward to, especially when we were first dating and, later, first married. Once Forrest was born, we definitely scaled back on the amount we spend driving every summer--but we still love taking a few road trips every single year!

This year, we’ve already been on quite a few road trips: we’ve been to Sunriver several times and Idaho several times. Coming up this summer, we have plans for a big trip to the coast, as well as some smaller trips to Portland, the coast, and Central Oregon.

By no means am I a road trip expert--but I feel like I do know how to do a road trip with an infant, a toddler, and now a preschooler in a way that keeps me from feeling like I’m absolutely losing it! I want to share all my tips and tricks for a perfect summer trip. At the end of this blog post, I’ll also have a FREE download with packing checklists, memory sheets, and much more to make your road trip go just a little bit smoother. I also have an exclusive deal for some Hungryroot snacks!

Packing for a road trip with a toddler

I’m a consistent overpacker. And honestly, I will defend my overpacking: sometimes, you just need extra stuff, especially with kids. The days of Danny and I breezing into hotels or houses with a bag each, and maybe a cooler, are over. These days, it looks like: a storage bin, a bag, Forrest’s suitcase, my bag, Danny’s bag, my computer bag (gotta work!), my tripod… It’s a bit like a clown car.

I just don’t like having to spend money unnecessarily on trips, especially if we are pinching pennies already. That means, I often try to pack anything I can think we might need in an emergency. For us, that’s extra medications, plus any kids medicine we might need (such as suppositories, cough medicine, Ibuprofen, and band ads), as well as a flashlight, some extra food, and a small stash of water.

Here’s a rundown of what my packing list often looks like:

  • Medications

  • Medicine: kids Ibuprofen, kids suppositories, band aids, antibacterial cream, sanitizer

  • Cleaning wipes*

  • Emergency kit: two gallons of water, extra food, extra clothes, matches, small candle, flare

  • Travel potty if your toddler is younger, recently potty trained, or just prone to accidents

That’s just a few extras I add alongside everything else we’ll need, like clothes, laundry bags, extra bags for souvenirs, our charging cables, and more. You know what you’ll need best on vacation, but it’s important to remember on road trips to prepare for what you think you’ll need. In case of an emergency, I prefer to have everything with me, including extra water and more.

A note on cleaning wipes: I know single use wipes have become increasingly unpopular--and I totally agree! However, if I’m traveling and staying at a hotel, I like to do a quick wipe on everything just for that extra level of clean. It helps me feel more at home and feel much better. I like to use the new Everspring line from Target; these wipes are compostable, cruelty-free, and ammonia free. They come in three scents: Lavender & Bergamot, Lemon & Mint, and Citrus & Basil. I like the Lemon & Mint the best. Even better, they are very affordable. You can find them on Target here.

Hungryroot snacks on a road trip

One thing I also like to make sure I have packed? Plenty of snacks! I get bored when I’m driving, especially during long stretches where there isn’t anywhere to stop. When we go to Idaho, we cut through Bend and Burns to Caldwell. The stretch from Bend to Burns and then Burns to Ontario are absolutely grueling; each leg is only 100 ish miles each, but there is nothing between! Nowhere to stop, nowhere to go to the bathroom, nothing. So, snacks are important.

That’s one of the things I love about Hungryroot! On our most recent trip to Idaho, we took along a big box of Hungryroot snacks: the salted pili nuts, coconut cashew granola, crunchy bean toppers, superfood almond butter, and almond milk maca matcha. These were the perfect snacks to have on the road--much better than my usual Cheez-Its! Not only did we feel better about our snack choices, we avoided that nasty travel stomach that is so common from eating food on the road. Plus, all of these options gave us ways to customize hotel breakfasts: we grabbed a few extra yogurts to eat with the coconut cashew granola. Our hotel had a smoothie bar (!) and we used the almond milk maca matcha in our smoothies. Plus, the almond milk maca matcha made a great drink in the morning to get the day started throughout our trip.

If you’d like to stock up on some healthy snacks before your next road trip, I can’t recommend Hungryroot enough! And even better, you can use the code PAUSETRAVEL to get $25 of your first two boxes (that’s $50 total).

Hungryroot promo code $25 off
How to plan a road trip with a toddler

“But Michelle,” you ask, “how am I supposed to keep a toddler entertained on a road trip?”

You know those two 100-mile stretches between Oregon and Idaho I mentioned? Those are often our hardest on the road. So here are my tips:

  • Play car games. Whenever Forrest starts to get whiny or bored, I say, “I spy something… blue!” And we start a game of I Spy. Or, we’ll play Bingo. Car games seemed so lame to me when I was younger--my parents were not fans--but I totally get them now. This can fill up time and keep your little one from getting too distracted.

  • Get a travel DVD player. LISTEN! I know what I say about screens and we don’t let Forrest have a tablet… but I would literally lose my mind without our travel DVD player. It is perfect for when there is no stop along the way to stretch our legs. Pop in a Daniel Tiger DVD and hit play, then Danny & I can relax. You can find these for really affordable on Amazon and in stores too.

  • Look ahead and plan fun stops. One thing Danny and I do before any road trip is plan somewhere to stop for fun. Whether it’s just a cute shop we see on our route (such as the Crescent General Store after the Willamette Pass) or something bigger (like a rose garden), we try to plan a few short (like 15-20 minutes total!) stops to stretch our legs, let Forrest have a bathroom break, and break up the monotony of the drive.

For me, these things are all part of planning our trip. We aren’t just looking at hotels to stop along the way, but rather activities we can do together. This might include things like stopping at the Mount Shasta viewing area on the way to Disneyland (this feels like a lifetime ago!), going for a walk along the river in Bend on our way to Idaho, and more. If you’re staying a few nights at a hotel on your road trip, you can always look for places to go around it; you’ll have a few hours in the evening, of course, so you can always do some walking (to release pent up energy!) and find somewhere fun to eat.

One important aspect of planning your trip… is planning how you’ll pack your car. Danny and I like to pack the car in a way that makes sense to us, although we used to just throw things in and hope we all made it in one piece! Now, we arrange everything depending on what we know we’ll need throughout the trip. This means, our travel potty is in the back seat, along with some paper towels and a trash bag; our snack bag is within reach; our bag with activities for Fo is right in front of him where Danny or I can reach it. How you arrange your car is totally your preference, but this will save you so much hassle on the road! Basically: organize your car and keep it organized!

Staying in a hotel with a toddler

It goes without saying, but: on vacation, your child just isn’t going to sleep like they do at home. That’s an important expectation to keep if you’re staying at a hotel throughout your trip or just on a few stops on the road. They might get better as time goes on through the trip, but I think it’s so important to keep your expectations quite low when it comes to sleep when you travel!

When we travel, I make sure to bring two things to make it easier on Forrest: his sound machine and one of his blankets. Before, we would bring stuffed animals he had been sleeping with, but Forrest isn’t a lovey kid—he doesn’t have anything he feels particularly attached to. However, having a familiar blanket definitely helps with the sleeping. As well, the sound machine helps all of us sleep, drowns out noise from the rest of the hotel, and reminds him of home. He usually still wakes up at 3am on the dot in hotels, but it could totally be worse.

The sound machine we use is not currently made anymore, but this one is from the same company and looks like it has many similar features.

As I said in the planning section, doing something fun at the hotel when you arrive, even if it is perhaps a little later than usual for your family, can help little ones settle in, burn off some energy after being in the hotel all day, and sleep better. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Visit the pool to splash & play around before dinner.

  • Walk to dinner! This is a great way to explore the area, find somewhere interesting, and stretch your legs (as well as get some steps in if you, like me, are a slave to your Fitbit)

  • Visit a local attraction for a quick visit. A good option is a rose garden or an art exhibit.

  • Find a local ice cream parlor to take everyone to.

  • Window shop!

Once you’ve made it through the evening, grabbed dinner (I highly recommend getting pizza delivered if you’re absolutely exhausted, which kids also love), and slept (maybe), it’s time to think about breakfast!

Like I said, Hungryroot is a great way to augment a potentially lackluster hotel breakfast—if your hotel provides one. It might not, which is totally possible! Hungryroot can help there too. A great option are the Hungryroot oatmeal cups, like the Cherry Chia Maple Oatmeal; you only need to add hot water, so if your room has a coffee maker, you can easily use that to heat water and make oatmeal for everyone.

However, if your hotel does offer breakfast, you can use plenty of Hungryroot options to make it just a little bit better: adding some granola to those little tubs of yogurt makes it much more filling and delicious. Or you can add some granola on top of a waffle or eat with milk and any fruit offered. The hotel breakfast doesn’t have to be sad, cold bagels and bad coffee. A little planning ahead can make it much more filling and healthy for everyone in your family. Don’t forget you can use my code PAUSETRAVEL for $25 off your first TWO boxes of Hungryroot; that is $50 total.

Once you’re ready to head out, check your room for anything left behind and get on with your vacation!


Danny & I enjoy road trips. And even though I’m on record as saying I don’t love traveling, I do love giving Forrest memories that last forever. Road trips can be incredibly intimidating, especially if you’re a new mom or you’re just an anxious person (like me). I hope these tips help you make the most of this summer. And of course, I hope you take the chance to try some delicious Hungryroot snacks & food options to make your summer even better.

As an added bonus, I have an exclusive download just for you! This include itinerary planning for your trip, hotel information sheets, journal pages for your memories, and packing checklists perfect for new moms & experienced moms alike! Click the button below to download.

I’m turning it over to you! What are your big tips for traveling with kids?

Disclaimer: Products for my recent road trip were provided to me by Hungryroot in exchange for mentioning them, as well as a small kickback whenever you use my code. Posts like these have helped me keep Writing Between Pauses going! If you’d like to learn more about my disclosure policy, click here.

5 Ways to Keep Your Preschooler Entertained This Summer

5 Ways to Keep Your Preschooler Entertained This Summer | Writing Between Pauses

I am incredibly lucky that Forrest is a highly independent, easy-going child. Most of the time. He thrives on routine, which is why when school finished up, we needed to sign him up for something; thankfully, his preschool offered a summer program & we jumped at the opportunity for him to have more school.

But I know once August rolls around, he’s going to be tired of staying at home.

To save money, I often try to find fun things to do at home. I’d love to be able to take him to the beach (a 70 mile drive) or to the zoo (a 3 hour drive), but all those things cost money. Outside of his summer school, swim lessons, sports team, and everything else costs money—and with moving into a new house, we are trying to save wherever we can.

My husband is a teacher, which means I’ll be trying to work as much as possible during the summer and he will have a nice break. However, he’s not quite as used to how quick Forrest’s behavior can turn from his normal easy-going self to his “I need to go somewhere” attitude. Forrest is, after all, a total social butterfly and extrovert; he is not like us at all and he is not a homebody. He likes projects and visiting people and always having a plan for something to do.

I’ve already started looking for things to keep Forrest from becoming a total handful this summer—and I thought I’d share a few things we’ve had success with.

1. Workbooks

Some kids are not interested in workbooks whatsoever. They don’t want to do them, they just aren’t interested. I’m a bit fan of physical workbooks as opposed to online programs or TV programs. I just think the less kids have access to the internet, computer & tablet screens, and all that blue light, the better. (That’s not a judgement; you do you, but I love workbooks!) Workbooks will help them learn how to write, hold a pencil or crayon, and to do homework assignments.

Here are a few of our favorites:

  • The Scholastic Preschooler Workbook Bundle: we have several of these workbooks and they are wonderful. Colorful, fun, and interesting, perfect for a few 10-minute sessions throughout the day. We especially love the early reading skills one, as Forrest is very interested in learning what letters are in every word. You can also find these individually at Target.

  • Bear Fairy Education Workbooks: you can find these on Amazon and they are lovely! Simple, affordable, and designed by teachers. Forrest specifically likes the letter & number tracing one, because he can color the pictures on each page, then work on writing his letters and numbers. This has really helped him even out the size of his letters and numbers! He has also started writing his name and tries to write out the words on each letter page (including elephant!)

One note about workbooks: I usually select a few for Forrest to have complete access to at his art table, just like coloring books. These are ones that don’t have a lot of instructions; the Bear Fairy workbooks are perfect for this, as they are just tracing. The Scholastic workbooks, or more complicated ones, often have instructions and we will sit at the table for a few minutes and do those.

2. Kinetic Sand

I am normally not a fan of messy things like this: Playdough, slime, sandboxes, etc., just make messes and I think kids get bored of them quite quickly. But about a year ago, I bought a small container of kinetic sand and a few cookie cutters and Fo loves it. I keep it in a Pyrex container with a lid and store it with the outdoor toys; he knows to keep it in the container and just spends a lot of time cutting out shapes. This is such an easy activity and especially for younger toddlers, provides a lot of sensory information! You can talk about how it feels, teach them to cut out shapes (manual dexterity!), and use words to describe the sand itself. I like these packs here.

3. Sidewalk Chalk Paint

Forrest loves sidewalk chalk and he also loves painting. Combining the two is an instant win. I bought two small containers of sidewalk chalk paint from the Target Dollar Spot section and he loved them—while Googling to see if I could buy more for cheaper, I found that you can make it easily at home! Even better! I whipped up a batch and it was as good as (or perhaps better) than the store bought. This is a more messy activity and would be perfect for those warm summer days where the sprinklers are on, you’re all outside with the wading pool, and you’re all getting baths anyway! You can find that tutorial here.

4. Rotate Your Toys

This is one of those tips I’m embarrassed that I didn’t think of earlier, but has been recommended by nearly every mom I know. As I’ve been packing up Forrest’s toys for our move, it became a lot easier to do: pack up toys into 3 or 4 different bins, then store all but one of the bins away (in a spare room, in your closet, wherever). Switch out the bins every 5-6 days to keep your preschooler on their toys when it comes to their toys. They’ll rediscover things they used to love (Forrest with his tool belt from Christmas this week) and stay interested. Plus, it helps decrease the clutter in your living room, playroom, or child’s bedroom. Perfect!

5. Have a Party

Most young kids love routine—but they also love when parents disrupt the routine for something fun. I already have plans to throw an “at home luau” for Forrest (complete with pineapple string lights I found at the dollar store and making paper leis), but there are a million ways to do this and have fun together.

  • Tea parties: whether you have a boy or girl, kids love tea parties. They can help set the table, make the sandwiches & cookies, pour the “tea” (water, or you could make herbal tea), invite the guests (Teddy Bear Tea Party, anyone?), and more. Plus, this is a subtle way to teach manners.

  • Dance parties: I got this idea from Elsie Larson of A Beautiful Mess, but fill a jar with your favorite musical artists and have your child pick one slip at a time. Play one song on Spotify and dance it out. Pick a new artist and repeat until your child is exhausted.

  • Invite some friends: Invite a few friends over who have kids and just hang out at home. Seriously! I know this is basic, but I often don’t think to reach out to my friends; we’re all busy and I just assume, “you know what? They’re probably busy today!” But they might not be! Fill the wading pool, make some sun tea, and start the grill for some hot dogs for the kids. Boom, everyone is entertained for a few hours!


What are your tips for keeping kids (preschool age or not) entertained during the summer?