Greeting the World with The Honest Company

Living in Africa- especially with children and ESPECIALLY with a newborn- presents a number of challenges that just aren’t a part of life in the developed world. We feel strongly about exposing our children to life in Africa (as opposed to sheltering them) as much as possible, but we have so many things to think about here- and one of the big ones is hygiene.

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Many sicknesses that have been eradicated or are very scarce in the US are still a part of life here in Rwanda- typhoid, yellow fever, malaria, dengue fever, and a cornucopia of different intestinal woes are all sicknesses that happen in relative frequency here, which means that we have to be prepared! Even something as simple as shaking a hand on the street or children playing together should be, for us (as our immune systems aren’t used to the same germs) conducted with caution.

See, I will never forget the first time our daughter visited the Kibagabaga preschool and shook hands with each child through the fence. Or when we waited at our church for her daddy to get off of work, and she ended up being led by the hand into a room where the schoolchildren sang songs to her. The delight and adventure in her eyes as she got to follow these new friends and experience their world is something I want her to experience every day. It fills my heart with joy. But in the back of my mind, as a mama, I have to think- could she be being exposed to something that might make her sick?

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One of our favorite tools for making our lives peaceful and worry-free is Honest Company’s Hand Sanitizer. I keep one in my purse and one in my diaper bag- and I can watch my little one knowing that she is having the time of her life and that I don’t have to fret about the germs- it kills 99% on contact, using plant-based ingredients! It’s gentle but still super-effective.

It’s crazy that something so small and simple (and affordable!) can give me such peace of mind, and empower me to be more confident in meeting new people here in a different culture! I can let new friends greet our baby with the knowledge that I am doing something to protect my little one. We can build relationships while also keeping ourselves healthy- and that makes a huge difference in my heart. Thank you, Honest Company!

Shepherd’s Birth Story

Our dear little buddy is turning 3 months old this week, so I think it’s high time I share his birth story!

Just like his sister, our precious little guy was about as late as you can go before anyone starts getting nervous- 11 days after my due date! Over the few weeks prior, we had several occurrences of false labor, and we knew that I was dilated 2-3cm already, so we figured he would come anytime. He had other plans!

For a few days before his birth, I tried many, many things to get him to come out- you might remember my post 40 ways to go into labor, well, we probably tried 38 of them! Finally, on day 10 (the day before he came) I said ENOUGH. I believed that my body knew what it was doing and that he would come when he was ready. My labor with Hallelujah was nightmarish and I didn’t want a repeat, and I remember trying EVERYTHING to get her to come. It’s like my body finally gave up and went into labor with her, but didn’t really want to yet. I didn’t want the same experience.

So, on day 10, I decided to rest in the Lord and the fact that he made my body perfectly (even though many times it’s not seemed that way). I felt this peace about just waiting and making the most of my day- and I did! I decided to cherish those moments with Halle and take what could be (and was) a last opportunity to really make her feel loved before Shepherd came. We walked to the bagel store and the grocery store, went for a swim in the frigid pool and drank hot cocoa while we swam, took a bath, took a nap, and took her to her first ever movie in a theater (Moana). We had a quiet night at home and just enjoyed each other’s company!

And then, before I knew it, I woke up at about 4:45 to basically feel like I was peeing myself (if you know me IRL you know that I know this feeling well). I stood up out of bed quickly and….it stopped? Did I really just pee myself in my sleep? I went to the bathroom and noticed that it didn’t smell like pee, didn’t really have a smell at all. I had read about / had several friends who had high water leaks, where your water breaks near the top of the uterus and then the baby’s head plugs up the hole when you stand up- so I figured that might be what was happening. I decided to lay down and go back to sleep.

Around 6am, it happened again- basically confirming what I knew. I got up, changed my pants (again) and made myself a protein shake while I still had an appetite. I was having contractions maybe 5-6 minutes apart, but nothing major. Around 6:45, I woke Matthew up and told him we needed to get ready- the contractions were getting closer together. He insisted on showering (insert eye roll for my husband who takes the longest showers of any man) while I got things together. I called the midwife, who agreed that I should come in (we were almost an hour away from the birth center) and called Matthew’s mom to have her meet us at the birth center.

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We woke Halle up and told her that her brother was coming! She was excited and behaved well as we gathered our things and got ready to go. We were in the car and headed to the birth center at about 7:30. We listened to the Hamilton soundtrack the whole way (we are sooo obsessed)! However, I began to get discouraged as my contractions slowed down to every 8-10 minutes apart. Could this seriously be another bout of false labor? I honestly think I would’ve turned around and gone home, except for my suspicion that my water was broken.

We arrived at the birth center at about 8:30, and I was completely comfortable. The midwife (Michelle, who also owned the birth center, and made our “coming from overseas” experience a breeze)) checked me and said that I was 5cm and that I was definitely having Shepherd that day! I was so relieved. After so many false starts, I was ready to go!

I told Matthew the good news (and Debbie, his mama, and Halle, who were in the waiting room together) and we went to unpack in our room. We were the only ones there in labor at the time, so we had our pick- and we chose a pretty room with a tub in-room- because of Halle’s shoulder dystocia, we wanted everything (bed and tub) close together so we could avoid having to move me mid-birth, haha! We were psyched that out ideal room was available- the bed even had a mosquito net over it, just like at home in Rwanda!

The birth assistant began filling up the tub while we unpacked. I told her I was concerned about getting in the tub too early and slowing down labor, but both she and the midwife assured me that I was already in active labor and it was fine. So I got in for a bit- it was sooooo relaxing but, after Halle’s hard birth, I couldn’t help but feel like nothing was happening! I was restless. This was too easy, right?

We decided that going for a walk would make me feel better, like I was “working”. The birth center was just a few blocks from the St John’s River, so we walked down to the riverfront a few times, The contractions stayed consistent but not painful. Soon, our photographer and dear friend Kristy, arrived!

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Around 11:30, my contractions began to be stronger, andI stayed in bed for a bit to try to relax all of my muscles and let my body do it’s. This is when Halle decided to come give me a “checkup”- cue the preciousness! I also labored on the toilet for a bit. Everything was feeling more intense, but I was really fine! Michelle decided to check me, and I just KNEW that I would only be like 6 cm. To my surprise, I was 8!

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I knew from my education that 8-10cm, or “transition”, can be the most intense part of birth. I wasn’t feeling that at all- that is, until Michelle pulled my bag of waters down and released all of the fluid that was left. I was laying on a chux pad on the bed, and so much fluid came out that I was soaked up to my shoulders! Holy moly. Weirdest feeling ever. And….cue the cray cray contractions- no water to balance out the pressure, it was go time!

What I didn’t realize at the time was that, to release the water still left in my uterus, Michelle actually had to push Shepherd’s head UP and allow the water to drain out. So then, when my body went from 8-10cm in about 10 minutes, when I felt like I needed to push, he wasn’t actually down in the birth canal where he should’ve been. My body was pushing but he wasn’t there yet- it was exhausting. Even though they kept telling me not to bear down, I couldn’t help it- that’s the only thing that felt right at the time. This started at about 1:15pm.

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So, I labored on the toilet and then in the tub for a while. I got very nauseous at one point, but was quickly given nux vomica and it went away completely (amazing!). It was hard and more of a mental strain maybe than anything- knowing that he needed to move down and re-engage before my pushing would actually be productive. Finally, at about 2:15, Michelle said it was time to really work! He was ready and so were we.

Michelle and I had previously discussed my plan for the actual birth, especially in regards to Halle’s shoulder dystocia. While one dystocia doesn’t necessarily mean you are predisposed to it, it can- and I didn’t want to take any chances. So we had decided early on in the morning that I would deliver on the bed, flat on my back, so that my knees could be pushed up to my head and Shepherd would have optimal room to get under my pelvic bone. Not my ideal, to be sure, but I wanted a healthy baby, so I didn’t hesitate.

 

 

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After pushing for about 10 minutes, a receptionist came in and told us that our dear friend Keri had arrived! Keri is an LDRP nurse and I wanted her to be at the birth SO badly- but she had been scheduled to work that day. But, surprise! She had left work and made it JUST in time. She dutifully kept a cold rag on my head while Matthew helped hold my legs up and encouraged me. Kristy kept taking amazing photos- man! I had the best team ever!

Finally, at 2:42 pm, Shepherd was born! Matthew caught him and lifted him to my chest in one of the most surreal moments of my life. Especially after so many losses- to hold my miracle son was like a dream. His placenta soon followed, and after we were both examined to be in perfect health- yes, you read that right, almost ten pounds of baby without a stitch 🙂

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Little man nursed right away and we had some quiet moments to ourselves between Matthew’s family coming to visit. Uncle Maverick and Aunt Mony brought us Smoothie King (because I was craving it) and we waited to be discharged. I have to be honest, I felt like I took longer to recover from this birth than the last at first- I think with Halle, I basically fell asleep immediately after birth for about an hour and then felt great, but with Shepherd I was lucid the entire time but felt very weak for a few hours- probably due to my low iron throughout my pregnancy. Though, luckily, I was apparently the only client that didn’t hemmhorage that day!

By about 8:00, we were ready to go! We packed up the car and drove to Matthew’s family’s home, where we spent our first two nights. Shepherd slept 5 hours in a row, and has been doing that ever since! He is a dream and we are so grateful for our little man and a great birth experience!

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Say Goodbye to Boring Gifts!

Alright y’all. If you actually know me personally, you may already know that gifts are my love language- giving and receiving. If you don’t already know, well- there’s nothing that makes my heart sing quite like picking out something amazing and unexpected that I know a loved one will just ADORE- especially if it’s something they’ve never seen or heard of or thought of before. Wanna know a secret? I have a source…Uncommon Goods!


I first found Uncommon Goods a few years back when searching for whiskey stones to get my husband for Christmas. What I stumbled upon was not just whiskey stones, but an entire site devoted to amazing, unique, small-maker products that made my gift giving love language soar to new heights. From the very beginning, I have worked hard to feature products that value sustainability and social/environmental responsibility, and Uncommon Goods is no exception. They are committed to working with small manufacturers and artists to bring the world products that do no harm to people or animals (so, no leather, fur, or feathers!) and they are a founding B Corporation member!

So what can you find at Uncommon Goods? Seriously…something for everyone. I spent several hours the other night just drooling over all of the awesome gifts- from gorgeous jewelry to homemade kombucha kits to socks that look like sushi to personalized champagne flutes! With spring upon us, you should consider Uncommon Goods for amazing, unique wedding gifts– no boring old toasters here. How about champagne flutes etched like trees, or a personalized cutting board?


I especially love this site for finding unique, unforgettable gifts for bridal parties- both bridesmaids and groomsmen! When I got married, we actually opted to make donations to the charity of each person’s choice rather than giving a gift, because I just didn’t want to add one more thing to the “gifts I’ll never use” pile from my friends. But had I seen these options….

Why give your faithful bridesmaids a piece of jewelry they might never wear again when you could give them something that shows just how well you know them, like a throw pillow embroidered with a special place, or a carry-on cocktail kit to make their favorite drink on their way home from the wedding? If jewelry is your style, though, there are gorgeous options- like a gold-dipped lace necklace, or super unique tiny planter earrings! 


And then there’s your dapper groomsmen– a flask or a knife is a great gift, but with Uncommon Goods, you can level up. How about a set of cuff links made from the stadium seating of their favorite team? Or maybe a custom growler is more their style- so much classier than a flask these days. Gift your men with something they will cherish for years to come- and know that you are being socially and environmentally responsible, too. 

Whatever the occasion- Uncommon Goods has your back. I love finding the perfect gift for my loved ones, and I have a blast looking through their catalog to find it! I know you will too. Enjoy!

The 2016 Give Back Gift Guide

When I first started writing this blog (almost five years ago!) one of my main goals was to educate my friends and family on choices they were making with their purchases and how they could better stand up and support the things they love with their money. Christmas provides the perfect opportunity to do this- find gifts that give back to good causes, employ people that need someone to take a chance on them, or (at the very least) are sustainable and intentional.

Our purchases have power. Without getting too political, it’s obvious that we all have things we wish were getting more attention these days, whether its rights for a certain people group, money to fight a certain illness, or any number of other things. The beautiful thing is, there are great companies that are combining commerce with charity and making it possible- even at Christmastime- for great gifts to make a difference.

With that heart, I present to you the 2016 Give Back Gift Guide! For the most part, I let the companies speak for themselves. I hope you find a new company you love!

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Povertees
http://www.povertees.com/

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“We make all of our clothing in Los Angeles to employ as many people transitioning out of homelessness as we can. Over the years, we saw that people were returning to the streets because they could not find steady employment. In response, we offer supportive employment to women who are transitioning out of homelessness. We care for their well-being in and out of the workplace, and involve them in all aspects of the organization. Our employees do not simply work here, they belong here.
We look at clothing manufacturing and we see an opportunity to create systemic change. Businesses manufacture clothing overseas simply because it is cheaper to do so. Yet, a desire to strengthen domestic manufacturing and job creation is building. We will continue to be on the forefront of this change.
Businesses are not separate from the communities they operate in. We operate to show that community should not be separate from business.”

Good Grounds Coffee Co
https://www.goodgrounds.coffee/

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“Good Grounds is a for-profit company that partners with existing coffee cooperatives in East Africa by financing, marketing and exporting specialty coffee. Good Grounds brings change by working with widows and former Congolese rebels who have given up their guns to grow coffee. In our ever-globalizing world, we believe that farmer education and supply chain transparency are the keys to creating sustainable change and quality coffee, roast after roast.”  **This company is owned and operated by dear friends of ours in Rwanda and I can personally vouch for the great work they are doing!**

Madera Hammocks
https://maderaoutdoor.com/

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“For every hammock you buy two trees are planted. Hence the name Madera. We love giving back and since the nature of the business is…well, nature… we naturally owe all our efforts to the very thing that inspired us. We have partnered with Trees for the future to plant trees in remote parts of the world.”

Lovishly
https://lovishly.com/collections/lovishly

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“Lovishly Co. started in 2014 for the simple reason of giving back to the community that we live in. Lovishly believes each of us have the power to tell stories that change lives through fashion. When you wear our necklaces, our hope is that you will feel empowered to share the story it holds. How do we change the world? Lovishly believes in giving extravagantly. Throughout the year, we partner with many non-profits that are making a difference in their communities. We create a custom necklace for each organization and help spread the word of the work they are doing. During their campaign, $5 from every necklace sold goes towards their work. We believe that when you wear our necklaces you will want to share about the change that is going on in the world through that specific organization. Lovishly believes that together we can make a difference in the world. Fashion has become a way for us to express ourselves and the things we care about, so what better way to do that then purchasing one of our necklaces.”  ALL ITEMS ON SALE AND FREE GIFT WITH $100 PURCHASE AT TIME OF PUBLISHING.

Skyline Socks
http://skylinesocks.com/

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“We believe that where you’re from help shapes who you are, and what you have become. Nothing is more sacred than your hometown. With this in mind, we’ve cultivated a product that honors the very ground with which you stand on, literally…
If home is where the heart is, then our socks are the very foundation with which that great big heart of yours is grounded on. With this fundamental understanding the Skyline concept is passed on from individual, to community, to city, state, country, and beyond, a nation of Skyliners is born. Made from the highest quality materials, it is our mission to provide the world with the most comfortable, versatile, and visually impactful athletic crew sock on the market.” **These socks are super high quality, so soft AND their Maryland line speaks straight to my heart! Full disclosure: I did receive socks to review for this guide, all opinions are my own**

Carefull Candles
https://www.etsy.com/shop/CarefullCandles

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“Carefull Candles is the home of scented soy candles made with non-GMO soy wax, non-toxic fragrances and essential oils: carcinogen/phthalate-free/non-synthetic and handmade with love. These candles are chic with a rustic touch perfect for any space in your home or office. With every purchase, we donate $1 to the Hearts2Honduras foundation to help children in need. Our jars and metal lids can be recycled or repurposed because we love the planet ♥” **My friend, Caroline, makes each of these candles by hand and they are stellar! AWAKEN is my favorite scent** USE CODE “JOYFUL” FOR $15 OFF OF 50, “PEACE” FOR $25 OFF OF $100, “CHRISTMAS” FOR 20% OFF ANY ORDER THROUGH MONDAY, 11/28

Dear Survivor Leather & Jewelry
http://www.dear-survivor.com/

dearsurvivorfw16-18 “Dear Survivor is my (founder Christine Longoria) attempt to right the wrongs I’ve seen. It is the combination of all my skills, passions, and resources. As a new company, I’m starting small. Initially, 10% of every dollar will be donated to an established organization working with trafficking Survivors in California. As of July 27, 2015, Dear Survivor has an official partnership with GenerateHope, a 501(c)(3) dedicated to helping human trafficking survivors.” USE CODE”THANKS16″ FOR 20% OFF ENTIRE ORDER. FREE CLUSTER STUDS OVER $200 THROUGH  11/28

Cuttlefish Jewelry
http://www.cuttlefishjewelry.com/

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 “Cuttlefish Jewelry is a hand made jewelry company that is inspired by art and motivated by sustainability. Each piece is made from quality materials and features hand crafted ceramics all made in Los Angeles, California. Our goal is to create visual art that inspires creativity in others while bringing an awareness to sustainable living. All packaging currently used for Cuttlefish Jewelry is 100% recycled. This is the first step of many others we hope to take in creating an environmentally helpful company.”

Free and Crowned
https://freeandcrowned.com/

products-on-white2_0000_dsc08012_1024x1024 “Today, Free and Crowned exists with the promise that 25% of the proceeds from every headband sold will go to incredible organizations combating the human trafficking epidemic. These proceeds now work so that not only can these girls truly see their value, but that their chains might be broken and they be set FREE. Join us and take a stand against human trafficking by purchasing a Free and Crowned headband. This new “crown” you wear will not only go towards freeing the enslaved and helping them to experience their worth, but it will serve as a constant (and fashionable!) reminder to every girl around that they too can be a part of the solution.”

Sudara PunJammies
https://www.sudara.org

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“PUNJAMMIES® are loungepants made with hope by women in India who have escaped human trafficking. Whenever you purchase PUNJAMMIES®, you invest in the freedom and dignity of these women and girls who are working to forge a new life for themselves and their children.” USE CODE ‘Love16’ FOR 25% OFF, ACTIVE AT TIME OF PUBLISHING.

ReleaseSARA
https://releasesara.com/

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“ReleaseSARA uses 100% of the proceeds from every item sold to purchase essential oils for children and teens rescued from human sex trafficking. Essential oils assist these survivors in releasing emotions that can block healing. Rest assured that each purchase is a huge help, so grab something for yourself and a friend!”

Better Life Bags
https://betterlifebags.com/

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“In 2010, founder Rebecca and her family moved to a low income area of Detroit, Michigan and her eyes were opened to what povery, unemployment, and blight can do to a city and the people living there. When orders experienced a boom in 2012, she turned to her neighborhood for help. She hired a woman originally from Yemen, named Nadia, to start sewing bags alongside her. After a few months of spending time with Nadia and paying her for the work she was doing, Rebecca saw a shift in her attitude and economic status. Her family was finally able to afford bed frames for their four children and a dining room table. Better Life Bags was making lives better in Rebecca’s own community. Our mission is to hire women who have various barriers to employment to make our custom leather and fabric bags. They are adopted into our Better Life family and given a chance to succeed in life, family, and friendship. Even from the beginning, all of our bags have been custom and made-to-order for you – the customer!”

The Adopt Shoppe Jewelry and Totes
http://www.theadoptshoppe.com/

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“I started my shop to raise money to bring our son and daughter home. Now I try to use my shoppe to bless, uplift, and encourage women. It is also a way to help other adoptive families overcome the financial hurdles so that they can bring their children home. Made in India by women rescued from slavery, you will be honored to carry these adorable, fair-trade bags.” **This shop also makes incredible handmade jewelry but it’s nearly impossible to get, they sell out in seconds!**

Cuddle + Kind
https://www.cuddleandkind.com/

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“Helping children reach their potential resonates with us as parents. It motivated us to start cuddle+kind and inspires us everyday. It’s why we provide 10 meals for every doll we sell. Our goal is to provide one million meals a year. Through our partnership with World Food Program USA (WFP), we are feeding children nutritious meals in school and giving them the energy they need to learn. It’s one of the most effective ways of empowering children to break out of the poverty cycle they were born into. We think that’s not only important, but beautiful. We’ve also partnered with Children’s Hunger Fund to provide Food Paks – boxes of nutritious, non-perishable staple foods like rice, pasta, beans, canned vegetables and meat – to offer relief for families who suffer from food insecurity in North America and around the world. Through our partnership, we are providing vital nutrition and hope to children in need.” USE CODE “GIVETHANKS” FOR FREE SHIPPING, ACTIVE AT TIME OF PUBLISHING.

Harry’s Razors
https://www.harrys.com/products

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“We give 1% of Harry’s sales to City Year’s New York chapter. When we say “sales”, we’re talking about what accountants call “net revenue”. That means 1% of every purchase of Harry’s product, online or wholesale, goes to the organization. There is no cap to the amount of money we give to City Year.  All Harry’s employees volunteer 1% of their time at work with City Year and other organizations that get people ready. We focus on projects that use our team’s skills to grow our partners’ impact—from wireframing websites to creating pitch decks for potential donors.” **I use and love Harry’s products and I will never go back** 

Denik Notebooks
http://denik.com/

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“The Denik brand began with a few college guys at Utah State University, and has blossomed from a grassroots street team of book-slingers to a grassroots, artsy-ecletic bunch. Now slinging books to customers, corporations, and clients across the globe. We believe that the art of a high-schooler in Houston, or a professional artist in Brazil can be printed on one of our books and be used to impact generations. We gather artists from across the globe and put their work on journals, notebooks, and sketchbooks. Then, with every product sold, a portion of the proceeds goes directly to building schools and to support the artist.”

Sky and Arrow Blankets
http://www.skyandarrow.com/

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“Sky & Arrow was founded by Carly and Tyler. It started with a passion to raise up the next generation. We want to live by example & teach our children what compassion and kindness towards people in need looks like. With my love of handmade textiles and rad earthy vibes and Ty’s experience in growing businesses, we became an awesome husband & wife team. Everything we sell goes to a purpose of helping someone in need. We support other Non-Profits to help spread kindness all over the world. We are currently partnering up with Compassion Covers California. We are going to be apart of there next outreach taking place in San Francisco, LA, and San Diego. They have a goal of getting 2100 blankets – 700 to each city. This will help a lot of our friends on the streets this winter. We are so excited for this sweet partnership.
SPREADING KINDNESS, ONE BLANKET AT A TIME.”

Panda Eyewear and Watches
https://wearpanda.com/

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“You purchase a pair of Panda sunglasses, we count the number of pairs sold and donate monthly to our nonprofit partner, covering the cost of that same amount of prescription glasses and medical eye exams. The donation we make also helps cover the cost of building optometry schools and training men and women to become optometrists.
The funds also help train local eye care professionals and develop infrastructure such as vision centers to ensure a long-term solution.
Good vision enables children to learn, adults to work and the elderly to maintain their independence.”

ROMA Boots
https://romaboots.com/

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“Roma Boots merges fashion with philanthropy to give poverty the boot. Our mission is to bring impoverished children throughout the world hope, love, and lasting change through aid and education. For every pair of boots sold, a new pair is donated to a child in need. Additionally, ten percent of all proceeds funds educational initiatives around the world. Roma was founded in 2010 by Samuel Bistrian, who wanted to combine his love of fashion and philanthropy to help children in his home country of Romania. Roma’s ultimate goal is not only to provide aid, but to educate. By doing so we will empower them to contribute their gifts & talents to society, eradicate poverty as a condition and a state of mind to make this world a better place.”

The 4 BEST Books for a Natural Childbirth

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As a self professed birth nerd, I have done quite a bit of reading about pregnancy and birth- both clinical books about birth that are science based and anatomically driven, and hippy-dippy spiritual books about birth that will transport you to another world entirely- and everything in between. In preparing for a natural childbirth, I believe it is crucial for the mama (really, for both parents) to prepare their hearts and minds for what they are about to go through and the season they will enter into- and there’s no better way to do that than by reading!

That said, here’s some of my favorite books on natural childbirth. All of these are readily available on Amazon and most of them on Kindle, too!

SPIRITUAL MIDWIFERY

I have to admit it, but I didn’t actually read this one until very recently, when it was required for my doula work. You guys, this book is AWESOME! It’s Ina May’s first book, and it’s half amazing, empowering birth stories (and you can read more about why those are important in this post) and half practical knowledge on the mechanics and anatomy of childbirth, with some good old Ina May hippie birth advice stirred in. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and I felt like it was a great inspiration for me to prepare for my birth!

INA MAY GASKIN’S GUIDE TO CHILDBIRTH

Ina May’s second book, and perhaps a little more approachable to the non-birth nerd reader 😉 This book is similar to Spiritual Midwifery, but is toned down a bit in terms of the hippie stuff, while still being both educational and inspirational for those looking to have a natural birth. It’s often reported as the “if you only read one book, make it this one” of childbirth, and I would have to agree!

HUSBAND COACHED CHILDBIRTH

AKA the book about the Bradley Method. I took extensive Bradley Method classes when I was pregnant with my daughter, but not everyone has time for a 13 week class when they are pregnant! However, this book is super helpful and lays out both the philosophy behind husband-coached childbirthing, the relaxation methods that are employed during childbirth, and the diet and exercise that are so important to preparing your body for labor and birth. Especially if your partner wants to be really involved, and you want to have a solid plan for pain management that you can stick to, this is a great read.

BIRTHING FROM WITHIN

This book is a favorite among the natural birth community, and for good reason. So much of birth is about discovering your power as a woman and understanding that birth is a natural function of your body that you have been created to accomplish- and the ideas presented in this book help you do just that!

Did you have a favorite book you used to prepare for natural childbirth? What do you recommend?

Self Care for Expecting Mamas

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Self care is such a buzz phrase right now, am I right?

Guys. FOR GOOD REASON. We need to take care of ourselves if we want to be able to give the best of us to our jobs, families, and friends!

I spent years of my life not really understanding my own personality and living in a constant state of exhaustion, discomfort, and frustration. I couldn’t minister effectively, I wasn’t a present wife or mother, and I was physically unhealthy. It wasn’t until I really started paying attention to what my body and heart were telling me that I began to heal and bring myself to a physically and emotionally healthy place- a journey that, truthfully, I am still on to this day and is all the more important now that I’m expecting.

When you’re pregnant (and ESPECIALLY if you already have little ones) it’s really easy to let self care go right out the window in favor of productivity and “enjoying life” or “living it up” before baby comes. Thankfully, I don’t think it’s typically that extreme, but I do see the tendency within myself to let go of priorities that I might not otherwise because theres “only so much time left”. Pregnancy takes easy self-care things like a glass of wine and sushi right out the window (I’m not bitter…) but there are other great practices that we expecting mamas can enjoy…and I hope you do!

NAP

I honestly have had to make myself adopt the “sleep when the (toddler) sleeps” adage during my pregnancy. It was really hard to get myself to nap for a while, but I would just be so tired come the evening that I would be worthless. Taking a few short naps a week helps me recharge and be more present for my family, and especially for my husband- AKA I can actually stay awake and have a conversation or watch a movie post-toddler bedtime.

BATH

Long, luxurious soaks in the tub are awesome when your are pregnant! This is great for keeping muscles relaxed, blood pressure low, and helping you feel pampered. Even if you don’t have too much time, this little ritual can add some luxury into a season of life that often has you feeling clumsy and bloated. Just keep the water comfortable- not too hot.

BABY BONDING

A great thing to do to keep yourself calm and focused during your pregnancy is have some intentional baby bonding time. This looks different for everyone- maybe doing some hypnobirth exercises, reading to the baby, talking or singing to baby, playing music, doing pregnancy exercises. Any time that’s set apart and intentional for you and baby is going to do your mind and body good

FEED YOUR ENERGY WELL

Are you an introvert? Be conscious of how much alone time you’re getting, and be generous with yourself. It’s true- those days are numbered. Similarly, if you’re an extrovert, plan some low-key movie nights or potlucks with friends! You might not have the energy or capacity to do those things for a bit after birth. Whatever your personality needs, take the opportunity to tune in and feed your energy well.

CHILDBIRTH PREP

Again, taking any intentional time to bond with baby and prepare for what’s ahead is a great way to take care of yourself in your pregnancy. Many mamas struggle with fears about childbirth and anxieties about the newborn phase or parenting in general- and taking the time to do some solid childbirth and parenting preparation will ease your mind and bring some balance to those thoughts. You can read about some of my favorites in this post.

READ FOR FUN

For many mamas, this is something that goes out the window for quite some time after birth. If you’re a reader, take advantage and read up now! Read a novel you’ve been wanting to dive into, finish that lengthy nonfiction that’s been on your shelf for a while.

A CUP OF TEA

Unless you’re really averse to hot things in pregnancy like me (try being 7 months preggo in East Africa!) a cup of warm tea will likely make you feel so calm and relaxed. Not only is the ritual of making tea and then enjoying the cup soothing, but you can make a tea that has great balancing benefits, too. Check out my DIY pregnancy tea blend in this post!

NESTING

Just let yourself go wild. Nest away, mama. To your heart’s content. Pinterest the crap outta your house. You’ll feel great 🙂 You also might find comfort in packing your birth bag– a great way to channel that energy.

MANICURE

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel so much better when my nails and toes are scrubbed a bit and painted nicely. I just feel more put together. Whether you go somewhere for a nice treat or do it yourself, that 45 minutes could make a big difference in how you see yourself (even if you often can’t see your feet!)

SCRUB AND LOTION

This is my secret weapon for a bad day. A good body scrub- whether a store bought one, or mixing up your own with some sugar and olive or coconut oil, and maybe some essential oils- ALL OVER YOUR BODY. Scrub the heck out of your skin. Focus on rougher areas like feet and elbows. Really go for it, let those oils sink in. Then out of the shower or bath, give yourself a good lotion. Bam. Don’t you feel better just reading this?

GRACE

The most important part of self care in pregnancy? Having grace with yourself. You’re growing a human inside of you, which requires a tremendous amount of energy, changes how your brain works, and can make you feel like you are living in an alien body. Trust me, I get how hard this is. Having grace with yourself in a demanding season is a challenge! Be kind to yourself, mama! You’re doing great.

So You Want a Natural Birth… (Tips For Success!)

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I’m kind of a birth nerd. I’ll admit it. I LOVE to hear everyone’s birth stories and talk through birth plans and encourage mamas and snuggle newborns. I love to make women feel empowered and affirm them during labor and make suggestions and read books and articles and geek out. It’s my thing. I love it!

However, one thing that I do NOT love is seeing an unprepared mama go through a birth that she regrets. I can’t tell you how many mamas I talk to that really have their hearts set on having a natural birth, but don’t put in the time to educate themselves, become familiar with their options, and prepare their bodies and minds for what they are about to go through. Sometimes everything turns out exactly the way they would like, but more often than not, some twist of labor fate ends them up with an experience that is far from what they dreamed, and it’s a lot for them to process!

I want to be clear- I’ve got no issues with people choosing medicated births or even cesareans if it’s right for their families. My sadness is for those mamas who wanted to choose otherwise, but maybe didn’t have all the tools and information they needed to be successful, and they end up with regret. That said, I want to offer up a basic list of tools that can be used to make your natural birth easier, and perhaps increase your chances of success! YOU CAN DO THIS!

A GOOD CHILDBIRTH CLASS / PREPARATION

Honestly, y’all. This is the most important thing you can do if your heart is set on having a natural birth. We don’t have the age-old wisdom of mamas and grammas passing down what birth is like and what to expect and how to handle things anymore- we ladies need to be taught what to expect, what is happening to our bodies, and how to handle it. Invest some time and money into a solid childbirth class- and not just something your hospital offers- so that you can go into your birth informed and prepared. I personally recommend Bradley Method classes, but I have also had good experiences with hypnobirthing and birthing from within.

A YOGA BALL

Or a “birth ball“, if you want a specific one. Not only is this great for you to use for sitting in the last months of your pregnancy (it encourages the baby to be positioned perfectly and helps with elasticity of ligaments) but it’s great for helping you roll around in smooth movements and relaxing during contractions. Many women will spend much of their labor on a birth ball, because it keeps them upright (which allows gravity to help progress labor) but also allows them to relax.

A REBOZO

This labor tool is really starting to gain traction, and I love it! This is another tool that is great to use during the last months of pregnancy to encourage good positioning of the baby, but is also awesome to use during labor. The mama can get on her hands and knees and a birth attendant or partner places the rebozo around the belly and lifts up, taking the pressure off of the mama and “cradling” the baby for her. This can feel great for mama, both between and during contractions. I loved this piece on shortening labor times with a rebozo, and after my own 50+ hour labor with my daughter, I am looking forward to trying this with more vigor myself.

FOOD AND DRINK FOR LABOR

Maternal exhaustion is one of the top reasons mamas who desire a natural birth end up with a medicated one- their bodies just get tired. And rightfully so! Birth is really hard work! Though it can be difficult to work around policies if you are in a hospital, almost all birth centers (and definitely all homes, ha) now allow eating and drinking during labor. This is your chance to fuel up! When packing a bag for a natural birth, choose high-nutrient snacks that will be easy to eat in small portions, in case you are nauseous. But throw in some favorites, too- just in case! Many people opt for trail mix, clif bars, honey sticks, frozen or fresh fruit, peanut butter, electrolyte drink mixes, and herbal teas.

POSITIVE BIRTH STORIES

This is such an important tool for pursuing a natural birth. There’s something about mama society now where we trade birth stories like war stories- mine is worse than yours- when in reality, we should be encouraging one another! I believe it can make a huge difference in a mama’s outlook on birth so surround herself with positivity about birth and read empowering, beautiful birth stories. Two great resources for this are Ina May Gaskin’s books, Spiritual Midwifery and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Both are full of encouraging and empowering birth stories that are both honest and inspiring. This is an extensive online collection of positive birth stories, too! If you’re struggling with fear of birth because of the experiences of those around you- or even your own previous experiences- hypnobirthing could be a huge asset to your preparation. This home study course, in particular, has a great segment on releasing fear of birth.

ESSENTIAL OILS AND HERBS

Essential oils and herbs can be tremendous tools in labor, both for encouraging the body into more productive labor and for helping the mind deal with the intense emotions that accompany childbirth. Essential oils, in particular, can help make contractions more effective, ease pain, help with nausea, calm anxiety, give energy, help with headaches, and so many more labor issues- a good essential oils toolkit can be invaluable during labor! If you’re like more information on using essential oils and which ones I would recommend for your labor and delivery, feel free to email me: karli dot feedmemama at gmail dot com 🙂

RELAXATION METHODS

This really looks different for everyone, but knowing what things are effective for helping you relax is key! for some people, its a specific music playlist that they love. Maybe its an essential oil blend to diffuse, a special candle in a warmer, a scented lotion or body scrub, a warm rice sack, a special pillow or blanket or nightgown. My advice: bring it all! You want to be as relaxed as possible!

WATER FOR PAIN RELIEF

This largely depends on what is available in your birthing facility, so think about this when choosing a care provider! Having a shower available for directed heat and pressure can be great during contractions- but most mamas swear by the relief that comes from birthing in a tub or birth pool. Warmth helps relax muscles, water takes pressure off the mama and increases elasticity of the skin. This is sometimes referred to as the “natural birth’s epidural” 🙂

THE BOTTOM LINE…you need FLEXIBILITY

Being prepared is so, SO important in a natural birth. But really? You need to go into your birth with positivity and flexibility. Birth is a wild ride, and it is unpredictable! Having a set-in-stone birth plan that you are “married to” will very likely just cause you greater frustration and anxiety in the long run. By all means, know what is ideal for you! But also know that you might be repulsed by things that once felt comforting to you, you might not be able to keep food down, or a surgical birth might end up saving your baby’s life (or yours)!

What was the most useful thing you did to prepare for a natural birth?

10 Ways to Bless Your Overseas Friends

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Shameless plug from someone living overseas? Maybe. You be the judge ;)

Since we moved overseas six months ago, we have seen how difficult it can be to maintain relationships with those we love and care about the most- but also, how big of an impact a small action can have!

Many of us know people living overseas- whether serving in some kind of foreign aid position, working, or as missionaries. I have to be honest, when I lived in the states, I often felt at a loss as to how to bless them, even when I really wanted to!

That said, I want to humbly offer a list of things people have done for us that have helped bridge the gap and make us feel really loved, even at a distance. I hope it inspires you to show your overseas friends some love, too!

SEND THEM A PHOTO OF THE TWO OF YOU

This is so easy and so meaningful! I love when friends will take the time to message me an old photo or something that came up on TimeHop and just say they are missing me and encourage me a little bit. The memories are sweet and the friendship is sweeter.

SNAIL MAIL

Sure, it takes forever and is really unreliable, but getting snail mail or packages when you live overseas is the BEST. It doesn’t have to be elaborate- even a birthday card can make someone’s whole day. If you’re unsure how to go about it, talk to your overseas friend or your post office worker and they can help you figure out details. Ask your friend about turn around time, too! My Grammy is a boss at this- she can land a birthday card here in Rwanda within 2 days of a birthday. She’s amazing 🙂

REMEMBER IMPORTANT DATES

Things like birthdays, anniversaries, and even important events can go largely unnoticed by stateside community. Make a point to invest in the goings on of your overseas friends- pray for big projects they have coming up, and follow up with them! Birthdays and anniversaries, too- especially when forging a new community, it can mean a lot to have some familiar love from back home.

ASK WHAT THEY NEED (OR WANT!)

I will assume that most expats are like me and have a running list on their phones of things they need or it would be nice to have from the states. This could be anything from a favorite chocolate bar to nutritional supplements to shoes for their toddler. It’s a huge blessing to have a willing person ask what we need at any given point- even if it might take a while to get here. And yeah, sometimes we just need some chocolate!

AMAZON GIFT CARD

This might seem a little off the wall, particularly if your overseas friend lives somewhere that Amazon doesn’t ship (like Rwanda). But hear me out- this is useful in a few ways. First of all, with Kindles (and Kindle apps) and with computers and phones- this is a really easy way to give a friend access to new entertainment they may not be able to get any other way- a new movie, a new book, new music. Many places in the world are English entertainment black holes and we resort to swapping movies with friends and never having new books to read. Amazon gift cards are so great for this! A friend recently gifted me a book on Kindle. I didn’t even know you could do that, but it was SO awesome!

In addition, these can also be used to ship things quickly to visitors or contacts that are coming through the country. It’s an exciting day when a friend texts and say “Hey! I know someone coming through town if you need anything, ship it here!” Cue Amazon Prime shipping to said friend and some goodies coming our way.

And really, the bottom line: especially for those of us living on missionary support, we don’t always have the budget to buy a new movie for our family night of a new book to entertain us and encourage us. This is an easy way to circumvent that.

WRITE OUT A PRAYER OR ENCOURAGEMENT

So, so meaningful. I have a few friends that faithfully send me Scripture, check up on me, send me written prayers and encouragements and general take it upon themselves to keep a pulse on my emotional health. If you can have that relationship with your overseas friends, fill that role for them. It’s so necessary.

ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR ABSENCE

We miss a lot of fun things happening in our communities back in the states. It’s sad for us, and we would be lying if we said we didn’t care. We aren’t asking to be photoshopped into group photos, but even a sweet text saying “hey, you were really missed tonight” or “you would’ve loved this” can mean the world, especially on a hard day.

ITUNES GIFT CARD

See Amazon gift card. Same idea. Someday, I’ll own that new Beyonce album….ha!

HELP ORCHESTRATE DETAILS DURING TIME IN THE STATES

This is a little more abstract, but just as meaningful and helpful. As we are preparing for our first quick furlough back to have our son, I am realizing what a crapshoot it can be to balance a schedule and jetlag and kids and seeing people and….it can be really overwhelming. Reach out to your overseas friends if they are planning a trip back, and see how you can help. Airport rides, offer to host, cook a meal, whatever- everyone’s needs will be different but your willingness will speak volumes.

REPOST, COMMENT, LIKE THINGS THEY POST ABOUT THEIR WORK

It can get lonely over here and the gratification of overseas work is far from instant. When your friends share about the work they are doing on social media, vocalize your support and let them know what they are doing is important and valued! Share a photo or a story. Comment. Give it a little heart like! We see these things and it fuels us. Promise 🙂

I hope this list was helpful and inspiring to you to love your overseas friends well! Wherever they are and whatever they are doing, your friendship is important and your love and support are crucial to their success.

*One final note. If you know your friend’s love language, hone in on things that might speak that to them. It can be hard to spend quality time with someone thousands of miles away, but a Skype call could do the trick! You might just have to think outside the box*

Living overseas? Have an idea to add? Leave it in a comment below!

How the Spiritual Disciplines Saved My Faith

I decided, last week: this has been the hardest 6 months of my life.

But then I remembered where I was 6 years ago, finding out that my mom had breast cancer, while simultaneously balancing visits to my grandfather after a fall and my sister after several brain surgeries,in different hospitals in downtown Baltimore. Maybe that was the hardest season?

Or maybe it was the season that where we were newlyweds and naively started a not-for-loss company working in post-earthquake Haiti and also took in some heroin addicts in an effort to save them by our example of Christ’s love- only to be left basically broke and definitely broken. Was that the hardest season?

The season that broke me was losing our son. Looking back, I can see that clearly- the touches of PTSD, the panic attacks in public places, not being able to sleep, always being tired, depressed, anxious, unable to really parent or be social or have much to do with my family at all. My faith fell apart as I quickly realized that the church- or at least a church service- didn’t have much to say to me as I angrily crossed my arms during songs about God being a healer and how good He was and how much He loved me. I didn’t believe those things. Just because some worship leader with a trendy hairdo sang them or wrote them or whatever didn’t make them true. My baby son was dead and he wasn’t healed and God wasn’t good. Not then. And I definitely wasn’t going to sing about it.

So many parts of that season feel like a blur- like time. I have no recollection of several months of my life. But then, there are certain things that are so vivid- the smell of the “console” essential oil blend I would use each night before bed, the color of the himalayan salt lamp I prayed would help me sleep, the feel of putting on a new pair of leggings for the first time that I would inevitably wear for weeks as I skirted the line between “getting dressed” and “I slept in these”. The gin and tonics- too frequent, the saltwater I would drink in the morning to try to reset my shot adrenals, the smell of the ocean as I would sit on the sea ledge and cry. The two little crabs I would watch digging holes every morning- and I would say to myself, “if God cares about even these little crabs, why does my life feel like such a disaster? Why doesn’t He care about me, my family?”

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking lately about what got me out of that season- what saved me. Because, if I’m being honest, the last 6 months of my life truly have been the hardest- harder than all the rest. Moving to East Africa at 8 weeks pregnant is no joke- moving to Africa at all is no cakewalk anyway. Cultural stress, jet lag, the difficulty of finding a home and setting it up and learning where to buy things and forging a new community and a million other tiny decisions and interactions that just wear on your day after day- it’s mentally exhausting. Add in altitude and hyperemesis (thankfully mostly controlled) and a case of prenatal anxiety and depression because my last pregnancy ended so tragically- yeah, the last 6 months were a recipe for disaster. So why weren’t they?

Don’t get me wrong- I have had numerous breakdowns and “i’m packing up and leaving” moments. Numerous. I won’t lie to you, there have been multiple times where I was ready to throw in the towel. Multiple times where I basically didn’t leave my room- really, my bed- for an entire day. There have been
Netflix marathons and days of eating entire chocolate bars and parenting with TV. My family has not come through this unscathed and I have not always been okay. But then- how am I still here? After that hard season that broke me, with losing Hudson? How am I handling this?

I’ve come to realize that the answer lies in habit- routine- spiritual discipline. I got to the point with my faith where I was so burnt out from what I was supposed to believe about God and his character and what I was supposed to cling to as comfort that I just stopped, and was honest with myself. I was mad. I was frustrated with people throwing cliches my way that didn’t make me feel any better. So I stopped trying to pretend- at least to myself- and I surrendered.

While I don’t feel that I ever really got to a place where I abandoned my faith completely, I think that I wanted to. But something in me remembered those other hard seasons, and how I had found peace in them before, and that there must be something to that. So, I started looking for the things that had stood the test of time. Things that weren’t some kind of postmodern, comfortable pastoral revelation, but things that the church had clung to in times of real trial and pain. Here’s what I found:

Traditional prayers and creeds.

It was so refreshing for me to pray something that had been prayed by so many people for so many years. One of the first things I did was pray the Novena of St. Andrew for all of December. It’s a prayer commonly used in Catholic churches and particularly asking the Lord to bless the wombs of women. It felt easier and safer to me than just telling God how pissed I was about my empty uterus. The prayers of both St. Francis and St. Patrick have all brought direction and comfort in the past year as well. Even the Lord’s Prayer gave me words when, often, I didn’t have them. And the creeds- especially the Nicene Creed- helped me figure out what I believed again on a really basic level- like “okay, if I can agree to this as my foundation, maybe I can move forward”. I am still wrestling, but I am being honest about it. I’ll say them until they sink in. Until I really, really believe them again.

Meditation and silence.

This maybe started out as a more practical way to deal with my anxiety and panic attacks- to help myself start my day calm and centered and focused. But my mediation practice grew into something that I craved and needed in order to really get through my day with any semblance of mental sanity and peace. I looked at different kinds of meditation and “centering prayers” and tried many- and still practice them to this day, though perhaps with less frequency. But those times of remembering how small I was and how big God is and how out of control of everything I truly was helped reground me in the midst of a chaotic and emotionally messy season. The Liturgists have a really great Centering Prayer recording, as well as an excellent episode on meditation. I have also really enjoyed getting Richard Rohr’s daily meditation emails.

Reading the Bible.

This was the hardest for me- and probably still is, if I’m honest. Sadly, I am one of those people that comes through a Bible college with a lower esteem for Scripture than I would like- after studying how the canon was formed and the politics of it all, I just wonder, what else is out there that we are missing? And moreso, I haven’t shaken the feeling that the Bible is just another textbook for me to pull apart and study. After 7 years, it’s really difficult for me to read the Bible as a mystical, transcendent message of God’s love for us that speaks personally to me. I’m still worried about finding background knowledge and looking up greek words and ALL the CONTEXT and really, it’s just hard for me to sit down and bask and be comforted.

However- I found a little tool that has really helped. I am a big fan of Lara Casey’s productivity tools- not only are they beautiful and help women really get to the heart of what they love, but they are so centered on living a life for Christ, whether overtly or not. Last year, Lara released her series of Write the Word Journals, a simple idea in which we write out a Bible passage on one page, and then just whatever is on our hearts on the other. I’ll be honest, deciding to do this got me to open my Bible and let out some feelings, little by little, for the first time in months. Since then, it has become a staple in my routine of daily quiet and has allowed me to venture back into scripture gently, yet with some direction. I am really grateful.

Another big tool for me, has been the Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals book– and, now, the app as well. While it is meant to be read in community, I go through each day’s liturgy in my own quiet time, meditating on the centering words, reading the Scriptures, and praying the prayers. It has allowed me to have some structure to my thoughts and reading and prayers that I have craved- some direction- while still keeping time with things that I care about. I like the space given to pray for others. I like the way the selected readings and quotes are from heroes of the faith, both old and more contemporary. It’s exposed me to thinkers and martyrs that I didn’t know before- people that have paved the way. I really value that. The app includes these readings, as well as a midday and evening liturgy, which I try to pray as often as I can remember. I feel like I need to recenter myself as often as possible. Which brings me to my next tool…

The Chimes app. I don’t actually remember where I first heard of this, but it’s a simple enough idea- your phone will make a little chime noise every hour, on the hour, for whatever hours of the day you want it to. So every day, from 7am to 9pm, I will get a tiny chime on the hour. At that point, I choose what to do with that tiny wake up call- right now, I am working on memorizing the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. For a while, it was the Beatitudes, and before that it was Psalm 23. Sometimes I will recite all 3! But this little chime helps me take a second and recenter myself before I get on with my day. It’s just a minute or so out of each hour, but if I am diligent to really do it, it makes a huge difference. Sometimes that chime goes off in the middle of a tough parenting moment, or while I’m exhaustedly doing dishes, or maybe having a difficult conversation with my spouse. It’s a great reminder.

So, I’m not there yet. I’m not healed, or whole- I still feel very broken, though maybe I always should? But these things, these daily practices- they keep me grounded. They keep me stable and able to have grace with myself and handle my circumstances and relinquish control, even if just for a brief second of my day, of each hour.

If you’re here today, too- I pray that these things will inspire you or maybe give you hope, too. Maybe you can’t recite Scripture on the hour yet, but maybe you can just ask God for mercy. Maybe you don’t want to open your Bible, but you can practice some meditation. Wherever you are- have grace with yourself, keep being honest, and know that you aren’t alone, and that you are very loved- whether you feel it or not.

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Sweet Gifts for a 2-Year-Old Girl

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Our little one turned two this last month (CRYING FACE!) and we had to get pretty creative when it came to getting her gifts. As a family, we really value thoughtful and intentional gift giving, as well as supporting mindful and responsible companies. Add to that our impending move to Rwanda, and we had a heap of challenges when it came to shopping!

I thought to myself… I really can’t be the only one dealing with being stumped when it comes to birthdays for a 2 year old…so, I want to share with you what we found!

PERSONALIZED and APPROPRIATE BOOKS

Because our daughter’s name is, well, rather unique (Hallelujah) (no really, that’s her name), we decided to get her a personalized “Lost My Name” book. I saw these advertised on Facebook for a bit and checked it out- boy, is it beautiful! It will teach her how to spell her own name and includes lots of animals for her to learn. A great bedtime story!

We also got her a few books that are appropriate for what she is learning right now: shapes, colors, counting. We love this one by Eric Carle and this Olaf counting book is super cute!

HER OWN VERSION OF YOUR THINGS

Okay, this isn’t the most mindful or green, but my little one LOVES putting on my jewelry, so I thought- why not let her have some of her own? She picked out a super cute Anna and Elsa set at Target, similar to this one. Adorbs galore.

I also gave her some of “her own” essential oil bottles to play with- just empty ones of mine, but still- it makes her feel included in many of my daily activities.

Halle also got a $1 makeup brush in her stocking, which she loves! She “plays pretties”. 🙂

FINGER PUPPETS

So much imagination in a 2 year old! This set of finger puppets is SO cute and entertaining. We have so much fun looking at them and naming all of the animals.

OK TO WAKE CLOCK

You guys. If I could recommend ONE THING to you, it’s THIS CLOCK. Buy it right now. IT’s incredible. She stays quiet in bed until it turns green, and then she is super happy! DO IT!

BUY WHAT THEY NEED…BUT ALSO WHAT THEY LIKE

For me, this means buying clothes with Minnie Mouse or Elsa on them, even though I would much rather dress her in solids or floral prints. She needs new socks? For her birthday, she can have Minnie socks. I’ll concede to the impractical on this point!

BABY DOLL SETS

My sweet and thoughtful mother-in-law hooked Halle up with some incredible swag for her baby for Christmas! Not only did she get a gorgeous bed/blankie/diaper bag set (with cloth diapers!) but also a sewn toddler-sized babywearing sling! I can’t handle the cuteness. Halle loves to wear her baby- and she’s always “shhhh sleeping” when she does!

TINY KITCHEN

This is the best! Sometimes, I am prepping food or cooking hot things and Halle just can’t safely help me at this age. So, we found a fun little kitchen set to put in our kitchen, so she can cook while I do, too! Much smaller and more portable than those behemoth full-on kitchen sets, this can be toted outside for water play, moved from room to room, and easily cleaned!

HER OWN PLAY TENT

This one is a splurge, but we have loved every minute of Halle’s own play tent. She loves to go in and read, or put her babies to bed- and BONUS, toys can easily be thrown in for a quick clean up when needed!