Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pregnancy Beauty Product Picks: Reasonably Pure, Natural and Affordable!

It all started last fall.  After quitting our jobs, selling our home, purchasing a new one and moving all our stuff, I was ready to treat myself and time was finally on my side!  I purchased and read Lauren Conrad Beauty.  Now, I hated Laguna Beach and all of its' ridiculous spin-offs (and basically all "reality" TV in general), but I love Lauren Conrad.  She is surprisingly grounded, hard-working, and down-to-earth.  In this book she discusses how lots of beauty products are loaded with chemicals and fillers.  In the past I only had 2 concerns when hitting the drugstore:  Will it make me break out?  and What does it cost?  Typical teenager criteria.  It's safe to say I wised up quite a bit after reading this book.  I made a resolution right then and there to clean up my routine in 2013.  Turns out it was easier said than done.

My first step in reaching this goal was to set the criteria for my beauty products.  This is what I came up with:
  1. Is it free of harmful ingredients?  (focusing primarily on pregnancy-safe as we were getting ready to start trying for a baby)
  2.  Is it reasonably priced? (we are working with only one income now)
  3. How accessible is it? (we live 45 minutes away from the nearest city)
  4. Does it work?  (some "pure" products just don't cut it in my opinion)
Next I had to gather some tools to help me decide if the products did in fact meet said criteria. My main tool when researching products was  I know I've mentioned this site before on my blog, and it was a life saver!  You can search more than 78,000 products to check for harmful ingredients, and if a product you're looking for isn't on there you can check the individual ingredients (time-consuming but something I still did often).  I also read ingredients on labels and checked a few blogs for recommendations, but primarily I just used this website.
It was much harder to find products that met all 4 criteria than I expected!  I hoped to find a few brands that would work and stick to those, but I kept finding that each brand might have a few great products and the rest were loaded with crap!  So frustrating!   I will admit it took me most of this year, lots of trial and error, and several returns before I was able to finally stock my bathroom with products that I am happy with.  After all that work I'm hoping others are able to pick some of these products to use for themselves during pregnancy, and any time they want safe beauty finds, without spending as much time as I did locating them!

***Disclaimer:  Before I list the products, I want to state that I did have to compromise on my criteria for some products in order to stay within my budget and end up with stuff that worked.  Not all of these products are perfectly natural!  Not all of them are cheap!  Not all can be found at Wal Mart (I am a big fan of online shopping during pregnancy-save those feet!  Save purchases in Amazon and Sephora until you qualify for free shipping!)  However, all are safe for use during pregnancy (as far as current research goes, we all know how this is constantly changing).  I am not a doctor, just a soon-to-be mommy who wanted the best for myself and my baby!

  • Aveeno Baby Gentle Conditioning Shampoo (Babies-R-Us, Target, Wal Mart)...yes, it's a baby shampoo, and it leaves my hair SO SOFT!  I only use every 2-3 days.  The only bad thing is my hair is too soft to style, so make sure you don't wash for a day or two before you want to style it for a night out.
  • Once a week I coat my hair with coconut oil (grocery stores), leave on for half an hour, and then jump in the shower.  While washing it I add a quick pour of apple cider vinegar (grocery stores).  This combo works to clarify and condition your hair naturally.
  •  I didn't dye my hair during pregnancy.  I've heard mixed opinions but decided it wasn't worth it for me.  I went with an ombre look (darker on top, lighter on bottom) before I got pregnant to avoid my roots growing out during pregnancy.  I was happy with this choice and the look lasted throughout my pregnancy!
  •  To begin I will state that I have oily, acne-prone, sensitive skin.  Probably the worst combo out there, because anything I want to use to treat the oil and acne irritates my sensitive skin, and anything I want to use to soothe my red, irritated skin just makes it break out!  This made finding face products super-challenging, but with some persistence I did it!
  • To remove make-up I use Yes to Cucumbers Wipes (WM, Ulta) and Almay Gentle remover pads (WM) for my eye make-up.
  • I wash my face twice a day using my Clarisonic brush (the original one, Ulta) and Philosophy Total Matteness face wash (Sephora).  A pricier combo, but it keeps my skin oil-free so it's worth it!
  • Next I always tone my face with a cotton ball soaked in witch hazel (WM, first aid section).  It's a natural alternative to toners full of harmful ingredients, and it works great!
  •  At night, I treat my blemishes with a few drops of pure tea tree oil (Vitamin Shoppe, Amazon) on a wet cotton ball (to dilute the oil).  At first I used a few creams my dermatologist prescribed and insisted were safe to use during pregnancy, but they just made me too nervous.  They also left my sensitive skin red all the time.  The tea tree oil has cleared up my face with out irritating it.  A big bottle was only $20 and it will last FOREVER!
  • To moisturize, I love Josie Maran's argan oils (Sephora).  I use the light one for day and the regular at night.  I swore I'd never put oil on my oily face but these haven't broken me out and are very pure! A little pricey, but again, the bottles will last forever!!
  • Twice a week I give myself an at-home facial.  Right after stepping out of the shower I use my Tweezerman pore tool.  You can find it here:  I just drag it over my nose and chin to clean out my pores.  I've seen a big difference since doing this, and it's so much easier and quicker than those pore strips!  Then i exfoliate (once a week by rubbing organic sugar on my face with a cotton ball soaked in lemon juice, and once a week with baking soda using just my fingers), and finally I end with a mask.  I use a clay mask from my dermatologist once a week, and sometimes I dot it on blemishes and leave it on overnight (you can also find clay masks at Ulta)  The other time I use Mario Badescu's whitening mask.  You can find it here:, or at Ulta.  My skin never darkened during pregnancy, but this is a safe way to brighten your complexion if yours did.  I also splurge on facials at the spa.  It's the one indulgence I never gave up after my wedding prep.  I get 2-3 per year, and I stuck with organic ones during my pregnancy.
  • To moisturize and brighten up under my eyes I use 100% Pure eye cream.  When my allergies kick in I put in a few drops of Refresh (drugstores), as my prescription eye drops weren't safe during pregnancy.  Darn.  We are surrounded by fields!!
  •  I use Vaseline lip balms (drugstores), Tom's Antiplaque & Whitening toothpaste (Hy Vee), any old floss, and a homemade mouthwash (recipe found here) every morning and night.  Once a week I rinse my mouth with peroxide to kill germs and keep my teeth white since I didn't trust my normal teeth whitening gel.
  •  Johnsons Baby Naturals Head-to-Toe wash (Babies-R-Us, Wal Mart) for me and Stella!
  •  Vaseline Total Moisture Cocoa Radiant lotion in the morning and Palmer's Stretch Marks lotion at night (both at WM)
  •  Almay Hypoallergenic clear gel deodorant (WM)
  • Gilette shave gel with Olay moisturizer and disposable razors (WM...I get the good ones and it's still cheaper than replacing blades)
  • Once a week I use my homemade body exfoliater, which is just organic sugar and pure Vitamin E oil (Walgreens) mixed together in a jar.
  • I only used perfume on special occasions, not everyday, during my pregnancy.
  •  Non-Acetone nail polish remover (WM)
  • Zoya nail polish (Ulta)
  •  I did my own nails by just clipping and filing them, pushing back my cuticles with some oil, and painting them (sometimes) once a week.  Again, many people swear nail salons are safe, but I really don't go normally so I skipped it during pregnancy.
  • Neutrogena pure & free baby faces SPF 50 for face (Walgreens)'s amazing!!
  • Kiss my Face Kids Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 for body (Amazon)...I will say this didn't rub in good, but it is all natural.  It is also only water resistant for 40 minutes, and I burned the first time using it because I was in the pool for 2 hours (and prego skin burns MUCH quicker), so make sure to re-apply often.  I will look for a different sunscreen next summer, but this worked for now.
I'm very pleased with my finds and eager to start 2014 with cabinets full of safe, beneficial beauty products!  I'm always on the hunt for new stuff, but it's nice to have some stand-bys available, especially as we await the arrival of our first baby.  And as always, I'm open to suggestions for tried and true products!
The only belly pictures I have...and want!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

37 Weeks and I'm Ready!?

Some of my prayers have been answered, Stella is now considered full term!  And we are ready!  Are we ready?  Well, for the most part I'm comfortable saying we are ready to meet Stella.  My basic to-do list is done!  Here are the major tasks that have been finished in the past few months:
  • house is cleaned using all-natural cleaning products
  • fridge has been cleaned out, I've started freezing some meals and stocking up on healthy snacks
  • nursery is complete!
  • pack and play is set up in the living room along with her new bouncy seat
  • bassinet is set up in our bedroom with her AngelCare Monitor hooked up
  • laundry is caught up, diapers are washed and assembled with instructions on the washer for Mark while I'm recovering
  • hospital bag is packed
  • toiletries and house necessities are stock piled (remember we live in the middle of nowhere)
  • plans are in place for our dog Kaiser when I go in labor
  • car seat is installed, car is clean, oil is changed, gas tank is full
  • reading and research is complete on:  labor and delivery, postpartum recovery, baby care, breastfeeding, and CPR (with instructions posted on fridge)
  • Mark and I went over loading and safety basics with all our guns (something we plan to repeat weekly)
  • smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms are installed and checked, fire extinguishers are placed throughout the house and in our vehicles
  • and after all that work, yesterday I treated myself to an at-home spa day for some relaxation!!
Now, of course that is just a checklist.  I am fully aware that there is no way to be 100% "ready" to be a parent.  I know my life is going to change in ways that I can't even imagine.  However, that doesn't give me the excuse to not be as prepared as possible.  Emotionally I feel mostly relaxed and excited.  Yes, I'm apprehensive about the pain, worried Stella will have complications, nervous about getting to the hospital in time...the unavoidable fears.  But being organized and prepared has helped me reach a level of calm that I would have never arrived at otherwise.  I am proud of all our nesting, and I am as ready as I can be!

Physically I've been feeling pretty good, although I have noticed some changes over the past few days.  The biggest is that I've developed carpel tunnel in my right hand.  It's very annoying, but not painful.  My hand is constantly "asleep", numb and tingly.  It gets worse at night and when I use it too much.  Very frustrating, I'm glad my projects are all finished!  I have also been having more contractions, not painful but definitely more often.  My doctor didn't check to see if I was dilated yet since I've been feeling so good, but she will check next Tuesday at my 38 week appointment.  I had the Group B strep test done 2 weeks ago and it came back negative.  One less medicine to worry about during labor!  I don't think Stella has dropped yet, but I'm not sure since I'm so big.  I really tried to stick to the 25-35 pound weight gain, but I'm almost at 50.  Every girl I've talked to that is my height gained about 50 pounds.  Although it is uncomfortable, I've had a perfectly healthy pregnancy (thank God) so I will worry about the weight later!

I will continue to update until I deliver, but wanted to post some final thoughts should I have Stella early (which everyone predicts since I'm so big!)  Sometimes it feels like last week I took that pregnancy test, other times I feel like I've been pregnant for years.  Either way I look at it, I've loved every minute of being pregnant.  I'm thankful I didn't work during most of it and I am grateful for how healthy I've been (you know, once I got past that initial double ear infection and week on the couch).  My husband has been supportive, patient, and beyond helpful.  After 13 years I can honestly say I love him more every day.  Cheesy but couldn't be more true.  I am so excited to raise a family together, and if I do say so myself I think we'll do a pretty fine job.  And to my Stella:

I am so excited to meet you.  You already make me so happy, so brave, and so proud.  There are times I am nervous to bring you into this world, for it can be so cruel and is full of people with bad intentions and awful hearts.  But our world needs more light, more pureness, more genuinely good people.  And mark my words that is how you will be raised.  You will be loved unconditionally but disciplined when necessary.  You will be taught how to be independent, how to stand up for yourself, and how to be honest.  I am so thankful for all the bad stuff in my life that taught me to do better, and all the good stuff that kept my heart pure and my conscience clean.  My journey will allow me to be a better mommy, teacher, and friend (in that order) to you.  You have a dad who will make you laugh, teach you to defend yourself, and love you until the end of time.  You are coming into the biggest, silliest, most loving family that I could ever imagine.  You are a lucky little girl, and I can't wait to feel your wiggles, kicks and squirms from the outside.  We continue to pray for your healthy and safe arrival, and wait patiently until you decide to join us.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Stella's Nursery!

The nursery is finally finished!  We tried to create a cute, calm nursery while spending as little money as possible.  The room is very small (as are all the rooms in our 800 sq. ft., 3 bedroom home), so we were also working with limited space.  With that being said, I am totally pleased with the results.  My sister laughs at me because I wanted no pink in the room (although I'm totally fine with a pink wardrobe for little Stella!) and I didn't want a theme.  I'm just weird like that I guess.  To avoid rambling, I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves!

dresser borrowed from G&G Bomleny, crib from Grandpa Bob.  we painted the room with leftover paint from the rest of the house, choosing a darker brown for an accent wall.  we also opted to keep the same carpet and just give it another good cleaning.

lamp was $8 at Hobby Lobby (base is broken but you can't tell unless you pick it up).  picture is the reading of The Velveteen Rabbit from our wedding.

a sneak peek into one of the drawers.  see, there's lots of pink in there!  I bought a total of 3 outfits for Stella, yet her drawers and closet are full.  A plus to having 5 older girl cousins and generous aunts!

frames were ones we already owned, I just printed out the pictures at Wal Mart.  we did purchase the bedding (I bought the pieces separate because the sets had lots of items in them that I didn't want), mobile, and mattress.

this is the accent wall behind the crib.  we really just ran out of light paint, but it worked out pretty well!

threw in some giraffes so Abby would be happy :-)  so glad I did, they are adorable.  bedding from Babies R Us, bed skirt ordered off Amazon.

used a tote I already had to hold extra items for diaper bag, which will also sit in this corner (it's packed right now!)
this tote fits like a glove under the crib.  it has extra cloth diapers, inserts for diapers that will go in when she's bigger, and travel diaper covers and pads.
changing table from Aunt Abby.  pad and cover were a gift, baskets are ones I already had from Target (wedding gift).  curtains were a steal at $13 each at Shopko.

Bath goodies (all natural of course).  gifts from shower, some were ordered from Amazon (natural nipple cream, diaper rash cream, and room spray).

cloth wipes and diaper covers (for swimming and extra protection at night if needed).

cloth diapers and inserts, washed and ready to be dirtied!
chair from Grandma Sue, teddy bear was a gift from Mark to me years ago on Valentine's Day!

found this mirror for $16 at Lowes a year ago and bought it only because it was such a deal.  works perfect in the nursery, love the distressed look.  they still sell it, now for $90!

glider from Wal Mart.
pretty big closet for such a small room!

already had fabric boxes, tag labels from Hobby Lobby, already had candles.  boxes hold holiday outfits, car seat covers, and toys.

I only hung outfits and coats, the rest of her clothes are in the dresser.

bookshelf $20 from Target, all books were shower gifts.

look at the Baby Stella book from Great Grandma Norton!  Mark helped me make the hairband container, despite hating hairbands on babies.  guess a preggers wife is hard to say no to!

the idea came from Pinterest.  The can is an old recycled (washed) oatmeal container.  Mark gave it 2 coats of white spray paint/primer (otherwise you could read the oatmeal label through the burlap) and then attached the burlap with tiny nuts & bolts.  The burlap is glued with Elmers gel glue on the lid.  I keep her barrettes in the can.

closet organizer was $20 at Burlington Coat Factory, 2 extra drawers were $8.  they hold blankets, sheets & changing pad covers, towels, and washcloths & burp rags.  the tote I already had, it just holds a few extra items.
the bag is a Grovia handing diaper pail, perfect when you're tight on space!  I ordered it off Pinstripes & Polkadots, also can be found on Amazon.

light fixture was already in room. 
Feels good to have the nursery set up and cleaned.  Now all we need is our baby girl!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

My "Fall" Baby Shower!

We had my baby shower in our shop on October 13, 2013...also 1 day before my 30th birthday!  It was a beautiful fall day, which was a good thing because we sure put a lot of work into the shower.  My amazing husband worked so hard at cleaning up the shop, it didn't even look like his man cave on shower day!  When your hubs is willing to cover up his tools in the name of a baby shower, you've got it made!  He also helped me out with several crafts...I love Pinterest and have some good ideas, but I'm just not very talented in the craft department.  I blame it on my lack of patience (in this department anyways) and a short attention span.  He also helped me him so much!  My sisters threw the baby shower and did a spectacular job decorating the place and serving a delicious lunch!  Fall is my favorite time of year, and I loved the "our little pumpkin" theme.  Here is a collage of my favorite pictures from that day:

If you would like to see all the pictures from the shower click here for a link to the album.

The guys enjoyed lunch at a local bar & grill followed by some trap shooting while all the ladies had fun at the shower.  We began with introductions, and then enjoyed a delicious lunch of roast beef and turkey sandwiches, pasta salad, chips, veggies, pink cherry salad, and pumpkin fluff dip.  After that we played a few games (a baby word scramble, measured my belly with toilet paper, and played "The Price is Right" where everyone guessed the price of a few baby items that lucky Stella got to keep), and enjoyed desserts-cake and cupcakes, mini cheesecakes, mini brownies, and delicious bakery cookies.  I made a raspberry sherbet punch and an apple cider punch...which were thankfully both good because I'd never made either before!  Then it was time to open presents.  Each guest brought a book instead of a card and dedicated it to Stella.  Being a teacher and avid reader, this was my favorite part of the shower.  She has quite the library started already, and I can't wait to read the books to her and tell her all about who they are from!  Great Grandma Norton even found a book called Stella's Big Girl Potty!  I'm sure that will come in handy in a few years!  Every guest also filled out an advice card for me to keep.  I really really enjoyed reading them.  I am so thankful for all the gifts (which are all FINALLY washed, cleaned, and put away!), but what I truly treasure are the pictures, the memories, and the advice and support of all our loved ones.  It was a perfect shower and I'm humbled by all the love (and honestly people...not an open spot there) that fit in our shop that day!

No matter how much you plan for something, or how well things are going, bad stuff is inevitable.  Nothing is perfect, you just have to enjoy each beautiful moment and pray for strength during the ugly ones.  Despite my amazing shower, a few awful memories will forever accompany that day.  Such is life.  My sister was unable to attend the shower due to a funeral of a wonderful man.  She helped me out before and after, but was upset by the circumstances.  I told her that often the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.  I continue to pray every day for comfort during a difficult time for the family and friends of a special guy.

And I put "Fall" in the title of this post in quotations for two reasons.  Yes, one was the adorable "fall" theme of my baby shower, but the other reason is a dark one.  After returning the tables and chairs to Mark's work after the shower, we decided to carry in the rest of the food, have a piece of cake, and call it a night.  I grabbed one pan and headed across our gravel drive towards the house.  And somehow I tripped.  I don't know if it was my pant leg, a bigger rock in the driveway, the darkness, or just pure pregnancy clumsiness, but I went down hard.  Now, kinda funny and no big deal...unless you're 8 months pregnant.  Falls can be fatal to the baby...and even mom in some cases.  In the split second I had as I was going down all I thought about was "save Stella, save Stella" so I threw the pan and put my hands and knees down.  They took the brunt of the fall but my belly, big as it is, did bump the ground.  I immediately started crying, I guess you could say hysterically.  It wasn't the pain...although I was bleeding everywhere pretty was the sheer fear and panic of harming my baby.  Mark came running out and helped me into the house.  After washing me up he called the hospital and told them what happened.  Of course it was 7:30pm on a Sunday night.  They said if I'm not losing fluids or bleeding and can still feel the baby move, everything should be OK, but I was welcome to come in and they'd hook me up to a monitor for 4-5 hours.  I decided to drink some water and lay down and wait for movement.  Thankfully she was as active as ever.  We closely examined my belly, there wasn't so much as a scratch on it.  After enduring endless peroxide on my wounds, we decided to stay at home.  I did re-schedule my doctor appointment for the next morning just to make sure all was well.  Despite being banged up pretty good, my Stella was just fine.  Thank God.  My doctor told me to start walking around like an old person.  Actually not too bad of advice.  I've slowed down a lot since then, and Mark won't let me carry anything anymore.  Even if you feel fine, being pregnant requires you to take it easy.  I'm much more accepting of my limitations now, because NO task is more important than growing a healthy baby.

So...I hold close the dear memories of my baby shower, I learn from the bad, and I carry on.  Because really, that's all any of us can ever do.'s to all the good times you plan for, all the bad things you don't, and the strength the Lord gives you to make it through both.