Almost three weeks later…

…and I have yet to do another blog post here! :So much for my hope that an Instagram account and updated blog look would inspire me to blog more…  Though honestly, it’s not inspiration that I need…it’s time.  There’s lots I want to blog about, and I would gladly do so regularly if someone would just come over and watch my kids, fold my laundry, and cook supper for us — for free!  Anybody?!

Despite the lack of blogginess, I have been posting to Instagram quite a bit…or at least quite a bit more than I originally thought I would.  It’s been really fun — I’m so enjoying sharing our “natural” approach to living, from what we eat and how I cook, stuff I use for skin care, what type of tea I drink, etc.  I’m also (slowly!) going through my cookbook shelf and sharing my favorites.  And as is now obvious, I opted pretty quickly to not do the Instagram round-up posts I mentioned in my last post.  It just seemed a little overly repetitious since the Instagram feed is on the blog sidebar.

I also recently did a couple more guest posts for my friend, Gretchen‘s, “For the Love of Babywearing” series.  I concluded my “Babywearing Basics” series with an “Answers to Frequently Asked Questions” post., addressing all the different questions I’ve been asked about babywearing that I didn’t get to in the first two posts.  I also ended up writing a post on “5 reasons not to ‘help’ a babywearing mama with her carrier“…it ended up going pretty viral on Facebook, and I’m guessing because it’s a subject that a lot of babywearing mamas can relate to.  My littles and I were also featured in Gretchen’s photo gallery post “Wear All The Babies“…so fun to see “real life” pictures of other mamas wearing their babies in everyday situations.

So that’s where I’ve been on the web these last weeks that I have not been here!  We’ll see what happens over these next months…

Some changes and some guest posts

The last couple of years have brought a lot of changes for our family, and it’s been almost all I can do to keep up with it all!  Last summer, we moved back across the country from eastern Tennessee and are now living in the mountains of Colorado.  And although we love this area, the transition has been hard — we’ve been here over a year and have yet to find a church and make any close friends.  Finding our way in a new area is always time-consuming, and the past six months have also brought new challenges: we “officially” started homeschooling, made some pretty significant diet changes after we discovered that Genoa has gluten and corn intolerances, and now I’m growing our fourth little one…coming in March!  Needless to say, writing has been pushed to the very back burner.  But when a good friend asks you to write a guest post (or three!) to contribute to her month-long series on a subject you’re very passionate about, what’s a girl to do?!

And that’s what happened.  My friend, Gretchen, is doing a series this month on babywearing, and wanted me to do a “Babywearing Basics” post.  That post morphed into three and reignited my love of writing…which turned into a public Instagram account since I still don’t have much time for regular long blog posts…which turned into a new blog theme that’s actually mobile responsive (which I didn’t even know was a thing until recently!) and a slight name change to mesh more thoroughly with my public Instagram account.  Lots of changes, and most of them spurred on by Gretchen who “gets” this stuff way more than I do and put up with all my techy-inept questions…so big thanks to her!

First — the babywearing guest posts.  The first one is a run-down of carrier types, and the second is on babywearing safety.  The third, coming at the end of the month, will be a babywearing Q&A…so if you have any questions on the subject, leave them in a comment and I’ll try to be sure and address them there.  There’s also a great giveaway going on right now for a custom babywearing wool felt figure…I have one (that’s mine pictured in the post) and it’s absolutely beautiful.  Definitely enter!

Second — the new Instagram account.  Yes, I’m very late to the party, but what else is new?!  I’m going to have a live feed of the account on my sidebar, and I also hope to do a regular (hopefully weekly, but I’m not promising anything!) round-up of my posts here.  And obviously, you can follow me on Instagram too.

I’m hopeful that all these changes might spur me on to blog regularly again, but we’ll see.  It’s always a matter of time, and with a new baby coming, I doubt I’ll be getting more of that any time soon.  If you haven’t given up on my blog yet, I thank you all for your patience!

Simple Essential Oils – Part Six: The follow-up post

This post should have been written a long time ago.  But it wasn’t.  One reason being that I’ve found it incredibly difficult to find the brain space and time to write much at all since having three little ones five and under (as is clearly evidenced by the fact that the last post here was written over a year and a half ago!).  But the main reason is that I’ve been really conflicted on how to go about writing this post.  I don’t want to cast a bad light on a company that I still dearly love and use often, but at the same time, the information I presented and recommendations I made when I first wrote this series a couple years ago has changed.  And considering that this series still gets some traffic and people reading it, I felt it was necessary to do a follow-up.

In short, I no longer recommend Beeyoutiful essential oils as a great option for those wanting to get into using essential oils.  It’s not that I think they’re horrible oils, or that I no longer support Beeyoutiful as a company.  I fully support Beeyoutiful as a natural supplement company and still order quite a bit from them (we use their Miracle Salve almost daily!).  However, I don’t think they’re the best option for essential oils, and have found several that I think are better.

Several years ago, when I first started researching and using essential oils, there were two options that I knew of: essential oils from the popular multi-level marketing companies, Young Living and doTerra, or those purchased from health food stores.  I didn’t want to buy from the MLMs as I thought their oils were incredibly over-priced, and even with the little research I had done up to that point, I recognized that the majority of their usage recommendations were unsafe (using them undiluted/neat and taking them internally without the supervision of an aromatherapist).  Even though I knew I wasn’t required to use the oils as they recommended, I couldn’t, in good conscience, support companies who made such recommendations just to get people to buy more of their products.  I didn’t really want to buy the majority of the essential oils offered in health food stores as most of the ones I had seen up to that point didn’t seem like they were very good quality (i.e. there was a lack of basic information about the oil on the bottle, all the oils were priced the same regardless of type, etc.).  At the time, Beeyoutiful seemed like the great third option: they weren’t over-priced and the company was very conservative in their usage recommendations, but from what I had researched about essential oils so far, they still seemed like quality oils.

As I talked about when I first wrote the Simple Essential Oils series, I used Beeyoutiful oils for several years and was very happy with them.  I had a basic collection and I was slowly figuring out how to safely use the oils for different ailments my family came up against, and how to effectively use them to replace conventional cleaners and the like.  However, in the last two years, I’ve been researching essential oils a lot more and a whole new world has opened before me!  I discovered that there were a lot of others out there like me who were striving to learn more about essential oils, but didn’t want that to involve the MLM companies.  And through these others, I found out that there’s quite a few essential oil companies that sell quality oils for a reasonable price.  I was so excited about all the options that I now knew about!

The more I researched though, I discovered several signs that made me wonder if Beeyoutiful oils were as great as I thought they were.   They failed to supply some information about the oil that I was learning was very important — things like where the plant was grown and what part of the plant the oil was extracted from.  Also, the more I read about aromatherapy and discussed things with certified aromatherapists, I started to wonder how much Beeyoutiful actually know about aromatherapy.  Not that they were trying to pass themselves off as something they weren’t, but essential oils are just a small part of their company, and therefore they couldn’t make aromatherapy their focus.

Along with those wonderings, I started to become concerned about some of the usage recommendations that I was seeing from Beeyoutiful regarding different ways to use their essential oils.  Now that I had a much better grasp on the safety considerations that come with delving into aromatherapy, practices and recommendations that I had originally taken at face value raised some red flags for me.  Things like not mentioning when an oil would be unsafe to use around young children (this article has a lot of good information about that), and recommending dilutions that were much higher than they ought to be.  Seeing these tendencies in the recommendations made by the company made me feel that I could no longer recommend them as a source to others beginning their journey into using essential oils.

But all is definitely not lost — there are several other options out there to use as essential oils suppliers without having to get caught up in the over-priced and dangerously-marketed MLMs.

My top favourite supplier is definitely Plant Therapy.  They are an amazing company and I have yet to hear anything bad about them (which, if you’ve read much online about essential oils, is pretty rare!).  Their oils are great quality and very reasonably-priced (with free shipping on every order!).  My favourite aspect of their company though, is their focus on essential oil safety.  There are no crazy recommendations specific to their company just to get you to use up your oils faster so you can buy more.  All their recommendations follow basic guidelines recognized in the global aromatherapy world.  Plant Therapy even teamed up with Robert Tisserand, the world-renowned expert on essential oil safety, to develop their line of KidSafe blends, specifically made with oils that are safe to use with young children.  As a mama to little ones, this was huge for me!  I could go on about the company, but suffice to say: I highly recommend Plant Therapy to anyone looking to get started in essential oils.

While Plant Therapy is my go-to, I have also been very happy with Florihana essential oils.  They’re a small company in France, and make great quality oils, but with international shipping and all, ordering directly from them can be pretty expensive.  As such, I’ve ordered all of my Florihana essential oils through Tropical Traditions.  I’ve been very happy with the oils themselves, but Tropical Tradtions’ stock seems to fluctuate significantly so I’ve only purchased from them a handful of times.

Well, I guess that covers most of what has been mulling around in my brain about this post for the past year or so.  I hope to do (another!) follow-up post sometime in the near future with links to different websites and books that have been helpful to me as I’ve continued to learn more and more about using essential oils in my family.  I definitely don’t know everything about the topic (not even close!), but if you have any questions, I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned.


Crunchy interviews

As you may have noticed, what with a new baby in the house and me figuring out how to be a mama to three littles three and under, not much blogging has been happening.  Type-able computer time is at an all-time low, as is creative brain power.  However, I can still answer questions, and so recently I participated in two interviews at the blog, Nourishing Simplicity.  It was “So Long Disposables, Hello Cloth” month and as the entire topic is one I feel strongly about, it was fun to share my experiences.  Along with several other mamas, we talked about using cloth diapers and cloth menstrual pads (mama cloth).  And as fun as it was to participate, I also really enjoyed hearing other women’s perspectives as well.

So Long Disposables, Hello Cloth Diapers {Interviews with Four Bloggers}

So Long Disposables, Hello Cloth Pads {Interviews with Three Bloggers}

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences as well!

The birth story of Avila Constance

To properly tell this story, and explain all that the Lord taught me through it, I’ll have start before I actually went into labor…

My due date was on a Saturday (May 11th), and a week before that, my sister-in-law had their first baby. An exciting time, to be sure, but in all honesty, it was very hard for me to deal with because I was the one who was due first (by several days). Yes, that’s immature, but very pregnant women aren’t known for their rational emotions… At 39 weeks pregnant, I was very much in the “safe zone” and I was very ready to have this baby.

My mom arrived the Tuesday before my due date and was planning on staying two weeks. And as much as I wanted to just have this baby, I was relieved that the baby had at least waited until my mom got here. Even though we had back-up people to watch Cedar and Genoa during the birth, it would be much simpler if my mom was here since she was staying with us. Driving home from the airport on Tuesday evening, the last logistical piece of the puzzle was in place, and my “plan” was to go into labour early Wednesday morning. We could all get a good night’s sleep and we would get the greatest postpartum benefit of my mom’s presence. Also, we weren’t sure what my mom was going to do with the kids if I had the baby at night. We’re in a pretty small house and I’m not a quiet laborer so I didn’t want the kids to get scared if they heard Mama moaning and screaming.

Wednesday morning rolled around and nothing. Not even any pre-labor contractions. I had a lot of pre-labor contractions with both Cedar and Genoa‘s pregnancies, but had hardly had any with this one.  And while I had been thankful for that, it also scared me a bit since both the other labors were 20+ hours even after the pre-labor contractions.  Wednesday continued with nothing out of the ordinary and my mom offered to watch the kids that evening so Aaron and I could go out for dinner.  We hadn’t been on an “out” date for almost a year, so we gladly took her up on the offer and I was thankful that I hadn’t gone into labor that morning.  However, once the date was over, I was definitely good to go so the next “plan” was to have the baby on Thursday.  I had a midwife appointment late Thursday morning and as our midwife lives over an hour away, I was hoping that I’d have a reason to tell her to come here instead of me going there!

Thursday morning dawned and not much was happening.  I had a couple hours of random harder contractions, but they eventually petered out.  However, because of those contractions I had called my midwife, Debi, and she told me to not try to come to the appointment with the hope I’d have the baby in the next couple of days.  That was a relief, but I still got pretty discouraged when the contractions stopped and nothing was happening.  I was talking about it all with my mom and about how this really was teaching me that God’s plans are better than mine, even when it doesn’t seem like it.  She brought up a C.S. Lewis quote from The Weight of Glory:

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are…like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

We joked that we should name the baby “Sandcastle”, but the reminder was exactly what I needed.  Here I was making what I thought were “perfect” plans and they weren’t coming to pass.  But that shouldn’t make me anxious (exactly what was happening) — instead it should reassure me that God’s plans were even more perfect than that and I just needed to trust Him.

I awoke around 4:30 on Friday morning with hard contractions.  They were roughly ten minutes apart and continued despite a hot shower and moving around some.  I called Debi around 6:30 to let her know what was happening.  The contractions were still ten minutes apart, but were getting to the point where I had to vocalize through them.  I wasn’t sure if Debi should come yet, but she wanted to and she said that she would alert her two student midwives, Rachel and Rebecca, and that they would start heading in our direction.

Over the next hour or two, the rest of the household woke up (Aaron was obviously already awake) and Mom took over care of the kids.  I spent most of the time lying on my side on our bed, trying to rest and relax through the contractions.  They stayed at about ten minutes apart, but continued to grow in intensity.  Because my mom was with the kids, Aaron was able to stay with me and rub my back during contractions as that was the only thing that helped with the pain at all.

The midwives arrived shortly after nine and Debi checked to see how dilated I was.  As I hadn’t really had any pre-labor contractions and the ones that morning hadn’t been very close together, I had been mentally preparing myself to only be a couple centimeters or so.  However, when Debi checked me, I was already around 5-6!  Needless to say, I was very excited that things were progressing so quickly.

Because I was already so dilated, the midwives started working to prep our bedroom and fill the birthing pool. Debi had both her student midwives with her and I was amazed at what a great team they all were.  They just took over prepping everything and Aaron and I hung out in our living room while my mom and the kids played outside.

Once the pool was filled, Debi called me to come and look at it.  The local water isn’t great and we filter it to drink and cook with, and in the pool, it had a very obvious brownish tint.  Debi said that she wouldn’t feel comfortable birthing in it and I agreed.  However, it would be totally fine to labor in and so I prepared to get in.  The water felt relaxing, but in the tub Aaron couldn’t rub/push on my lower back in the same way he could when I was lying on the bed.  As that was really the only thing that helped at all with the pain, after a few minutes I opted to get out and labor on the bed.

After I had moved into active labor, my mom had taken the kids on a long bike ride to the park with plans to picnic there and come back once the baby was born.  I had been slightly nauseous most of the morning and so hadn’t eaten much, but I occasionally sipped on a raw milk/chocolate/banana/peanut butter smoothie that Aaron had made me and tried to keep drinking water.  Every so often, one of the midwives would come in and check the baby’s heart-tones, but for the most part, Aaron and I were left alone to labor together.  I lay on my side on the bed, breathing and moaning through contractions.  Aaron would push on/rub my back through every contraction — he never left my side.  With my other two births, by the time the midwife got there, I was already in active labor or transition and Aaron had to be helping set up the birth pool, etc.  But this time, he was able to stay with me the entire time and it was incredible. Other than the very strong contractions, the next hour or so was quite peaceful as my body moved through active labor and started transition.

I started to feel pretty pushy after awhile and when Debi checked me, I was around nine centimeters, but with a lip of cervix in the way.  She wanted me to wait to try pushing since I wasn’t fully dilated yet, but pretty soon the urge was so overwhelming that she let me try and see if that pushed the lip out of the way.  It did, but slowly.  With Genoa’s birth, I had felt her head descend on the first push and I was expecting that to happen again since this was my third baby, but for the first ten minutes or so of pushing, it felt pretty unproductive.

The sudden change in plans from a waterbirth to birthing “on land” wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought it might be, but in my laboring state, it left me rather confused as I’ve only ever given birth in the water and loved it.  In retrospect, I can see that I should have just let my body take over and do what it knew to do in regard to birthing on land, but instead I ended up trying to duplicate birthing in the water minus the water.   This meant that I didn’t really try to experiment with different positions when pushing, etc. but stayed in the semi-reclined position that I had gravitated toward with my previous births. Since the pool wasn’t in the way this time, Aaron was able to be directly behind me and support me through the pushing phase which was very calming.

Pushing this time around was a lot more painful than the other two births, especially Genoa’s.  That, combined with my unmet expectations of a very fast pushing phase, made pushing seem like it was taking forever, but in reality I think it was only around fifteen or twenty minutes.  Also due to the fact that I thought it “should” take less time than it was meant that, after I got going, I wasn’t really waiting for strong contractions to push.  Basically, in general, if I had just realized that each birth is completely different from previous ones, I think it would have made the pushing phase a lot more effective and enjoyable.

But, in the end, I finally started feeling the baby descend and I pushed the head out.  Though I didn’t know it at the time, the baby was born in the caul so Debi broke the bag of waters while I finished pushing the rest of the body out. (A neat little gift as I had always wanted a caul baby!)  The midwives told me to reach down and catch my baby, but I said I didn’t want to because my hands were tingling so badly from me hyperventilating some while pushing.  However, despite my protests otherwise, apparently I did catch my baby and brought her up onto my chest.  It was 12:31 in the afternoon, on Friday, May 10th, 2013 — the day before the due date.

We discovered that the baby was a girl (what I had thought all along!) and she was much chubbier than either Cedar or Genoa had been at birth.  The cord was kind of short, so I didn’t start trying to nurse her until after it stopped pulsing and the midwives cut it.  The midwives started cleaning up while Aaron and I cuddled with our new little girl and called my mom’s cell phone.  They were just finishing up their picnic at the park and we told Cedar that he had a new baby sister.  He was very excited (and apparently was telling a bunch of people at the park!) and they started heading home.  While we waited for them to get back, I nursed the baby and she took right to it.

It was so sweet introducing the kids to their new sister.  Cedar was ecstatic, but Genoa was a little apprehensive of the new situation.  After the kids had been with us for a little bit, my mom took them out of the room and the midwives prepared an herb bath for the baby and I.  They ended up putting it in the birthing pool since it was so much bigger than our bathtub and Aaron held the baby while I transferred over to the tub.  Once all the bloody sheets and Chux pads were cleaned up, my mom brought the kids back in and they watched the baby and I in the herb bath.  I had never had one of those immediately post-birth and it was amazing.

After that, I got dressed in clean clothes and ate something while Debi did the newborn exam.  The new little one was eight pounds exactly and 21 inches long.  We dressed her and the kids and my mom were able to hold her.  The midwives finished cleaning everything up and headed out.

Since we didn’t find out the gender beforehand, Aaron and I had come up with both boy and girl names early on in the pregnancy, but the girl one had undergone several changes over the months.  Aaron’s favourite was Avila Constance, and while I liked that name, I preferred another one that had been in the running.  However, after all the excitement had died and Aaron and I were discussing it, I realized that Avila Constance just fit.  While I knew it as a city in Spain, there is also an Avila Beach in California and that seemed fitting in reference to C.S. Lewis quote that had been so meaningful the last days of her pregnancy.  Constance was the middle name that we had already chosen in combination with Avila, but that too   ended up being a reminder of God’s constant faithfulness in His timing.  We always have chosen our kids’ names for how they sound, and not for any specific meaning, but it ended up working out that Avila’s name had a lot of meaning after the fact.  Our little reminder that God’s plans (and specifically His timing), really are better than ours!

When you’re about to burst

For all of March, we’re talking about books over at Kindred Grace, and on Monday my review of Rachel Jankovic’s new book Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem, and the Joys of Motherhood went up.  Rachel’s first book, Loving the Little Years, was a huge encouragement to me, and Fit to Burst is a continuation of that.

She got it. She knew the hard parts of being surrounded by littles always demanding your attention, but she also embraced the humor in those times as well. She knew how draining the constancy of mothering tinies can be, but she also fully recognized that amazing joy it brings as well.

And the best part: Canon Press, who published Fit to Burst and provided me with a review copy, also included a copy to give away!  So if you’re a mama in need of some encouragement, head over to Kindred Grace and enter the giveaway (open until March 18th).

Grace for others

A week ago, we had an exciting announcement at my other writing place on the web…Young Ladies Christian Fellowship has a new name, one that speaks of what we hope our posts have and will continue to communicate.  Kindred Grace.  Our “About” page sums the new site up well:

“Kindred Grace is a community of women who are dedicated to fellowship through words, in order to glorify God and encourage each other. Our desire is to provide a grace-filled space for conversations between sisters in Christ.”

I’m writing over at Kindred Grace today about something that I think greatly saddens the heart of God.

“It’s a scenario I’ve witnessed too many times.

Christian A does something that Christian B doesn’t agree with. What Christian A did wasn’t sinful, but it’s something that Christian B has been convicted differently about. Christian B confronts Christian A about “being in sin” and things go downhill from there. Best case scenario: they agree to disagree, but there is still an underlying tension. However, all too often, there will be hard feelings and the relationship ends up disintegrating.”

Read more of “What is that to you?”.