Current obsessions – my favorite facial skincare products.

I am no expert (not even close) on skincare, but I always enjoy these types of posts when other people write them, so I figured – hey, why not me?  I am just loving how my skin looks recently and wanted to share a few newer products that may have contributed.  None of these companies know I exist, I purchased all items listed below, and these are not affiliate links because I don’t care enough to learn how to set that up.  :)  Full disclosure.

A few months ago I was not loving my skin.  I – in general – have very dry skin.  Like very, very dry.  It was really patchy and flaky and just PARCHED a few months ago and I chalked that up to 1) naturally dry skin; 2) getting over a cold; 3) pregnancy.  But it was really bothering me, so I decided to go see an esthetician who I’d met in pre-natal yoga two summers ago.  She owns Broadway Skin and Body Retreat and is a really sweet person.  She reviewed the products I was using at the time, looked at my skin with her fancy magnifying machine (a scary sight, I’m sure), and confirmed that my skin was very dry with some hyper-pigmentation and discoloration.  She politely told me that a few of my current skincare products were not ideal for me (most importantly – my face wash and the fact that I was using witch hazel as a toner) and recommended that I focus on exfoliation to get rid of the layers upon layers of dry skin that had built up on my face.  She was not pushy with the products she carried in her shop at all, and made some general recommendations.  She sent me home with some samples and sold me on the benefits of a couple of items that I purchased that day.

I heard a quote recently and I’m so sad I can’t remember where I heard it (probably a YouTuber) to reference the person who said it and precisely share it here, but it was something along the lines of, “When you’re young, you have the skin you were given.  As you age, you have the skin you earn.”  That resonated with me!  It is within my power to take care of my skin and protect it from the sun and so forth.  Why am I not better about doing that?  Older me will thank younger me.

Okay – so here’s what I currently do and I really think it’s working well for me in this phase of life.

IMAGE Skincare Ormedic Balancing Facial Cleanser.  I really love this stuff!  It tones the skin as well and balances out that pH without any added steps.  It’s gentle and non-drying.  I will definitely keep using this.  I am religious about washing my face each evening.  I go through phases where I’ll wash it in the morning (I know that’s recommended due to all the bacteria on our pillowcases – ew – and so forth), but more often than not, I don’t.

HollyBeth Organics Grits Honey Scrub.  I use this exfoliating scrub approximately three times a week and it has made an amazing difference in how plump and healthy my face feels.  Gone is the dry, listless appearance of a few months ago.  I think getting rid of all that dead skin was huge for me.  Since I have dry skin I thought that exfoliating was a no-no because it would dry the skin out further, but I guess I had that backwards!

HollyBeth Organics Eye Cream.  I was previously not using an eye cream and it showed.  My dry skin needs something around that eye area to keep the lines at bay.  I have seen a major difference since I started using this cream and I’m very happy with it.  Maybe any other good cream would be just as good, but this has worked for me.  I apply it after I cleanse my face.  It’s pricey but lasts a long time and I don’t mind investing in good skin products when they work.

Clinique Moisture Surge Intense Skin Fortifying Hydrator.  This was one item that I was previously using and Devon said that Clinique is okay but not at the top of her list of the best product lines.  I tried a HollyBeth moisturizer sample she gave me and it was not effective, so I went back to my trusty Clinique – mainly just to use the jar since I hate wasting products.  It seems to be working well with the changes I’ve made, so I’m sticking with it.  I’m not opposed to trying something new, but am not deliberately seeking anything out either.  I’m happy with this!  I apply it after I wash my face each evening.

IMAGE Vital C Hydrating Repair Crème.  I have been using this in the morning and I really like the citrus scent.  It’s perfect for the AM and this seems to work well to keep my skin moisturized through the day.  I’m only wearing make-up once or twice a week these days and this has served as a good unofficial “primer” for me when I do put on makeup.  If my skin feels super dry, I’ll reach for the Clinique option above, but in general I’ve been using this and like it.

Supergoop! Skin Soothing Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40.  If I am not wearing makeup and know that I’ll be outside a decent amount in a day, I’ll use this sunscreen on my face, neck, and décolletage instead of using the Vital C crème above.  It’s light and doesn’t have a strong scent, which I appreciate.

Supergoop! CC Cream Daily Correct Broad Spectrum SPF 35+ Sunscreen.  As previously mentioned, I’m only wearing makeup once or twice a week recently, and honestly – I have never been the type to NEED makeup in order to feel like I can leave the house (not that there is anything wrong with that – it’s just not something I’ve ever cared about).  When I do have the desire and want to take the time to wear a little makeup, this is what I am using.  It gives me enough coverage to even out my skin a bit but is obviously not full coverage and doesn’t hide all freckles, hyper-pigmentation spots, etc.  I think I got a sample in a Birchbox years ago and it has been my go-to ever since.  I use the shade Light to Medium, I think.

Clinique Blended Face Powder.  I’ll set my CC cream with a very, very light dusting of this powder.  I don’t really know why as it’s basically invisible.  Maybe it’s purely mental but I just feel like a powder gives a little finish and adds a smooth quality to the skin.  This container is huge and I’ll be using it until I’m 40 probably because I use so little of it.  I think I have the Transparency Neutral shade.

A few other things I use and do include:

Clarisonic Mia 2 with a sensitive skin brush head.  I requested this for Christmas a few years ago and my mother-in-law delivered.  I use my Image face cleanser with the Clarisonic about three times a week (on days that I don’t use the HollyBeth exfoliating scrub).

Water.  Without fail, I drink 80 ounces a day.  Some days are easier than others, but I know this is good for my skin and especially important while pregnant to keep those Braxton Hicks, among other symptoms, at bay.

Clean makeup brushes/sponges.  I have become quite diligent about cleaning my Sephora makeup brush, BeautyBlender sponge, or Clarisonic Sonic Foundation Brush Head (a recent little splurge that I LOVE) after every use.  I would formerly go weeks without cleaning whatever tool I’d been using to apply my makeup and I cringe to think about that now.  It takes about a minute of my time and I think it applies makeup so much better when I next use it.  Plus – more importantly – it’s clean and better for the skin without all that buildup and bacteria.

And that’s all she wrote on a subject she knows next to nothing about.  I love talking about makeup and skincare and beauty products, even if I do barely dabble in using them and don’t know anything.  What are your favorite skincare must-haves?

Advertisements

That’s a wrap {August}.

 

Links to Love:

  1. I’m certainly not a minimalist (although I am closer to minimalist than hoarder on that spectrum, for sure), but I think there is a lot of value to this idea:  kids need minimalism.
  2. An oldie but a goodie and one I am really relating to recently…  {What’s Up Moms:  I’m So Pregnant}
  3. Even older.  Also always makes me laugh:  Pregnant Women are Smug.
  4. I got this one from a recent Links & Loves post that Amanda did:  Let’s Bring Motherhood Down a Notch.  Timely because I’m in a high-strung phase of motherhood, fo sho.
  5. This was also one that Amanda linked to (she was on a roll with that post):  When the Words Feel Heavy.  It’s beautifully written, and I especially liked the links to other resources that address racial inequality issues so prevalent in our country at the end of the post.

Making Memories:

  1. In general, we haven’t gone out much since Ava went in the cast.  We do our grocery shopping each week – one of us will push Ava in the stroller while the other pushes the cart – which we all enjoy, and we take morning walks each day.  We also go to Kevin’s parents’ house once a week for Sunday dinner.  And we go to Ava’s doctor’s appointments.  Kevin and Ava went to the zoo one morning before it warmed up too much and we plan to do that more as it cools down.  I’m also thinking I’ll take her to the aquarium or something soon because school is back in session and it’ll be less chaotic.  But overall, it’s just not worth the hassle of getting her out in the heat and dealing with packing up our cast-friendly booster chair, etc. and instead we just make friends come to us.  :)  However, we did make it to her little friend’s birthday party which was something right out of Pinterest.  It was fun to catch up with friends and Ava was quite the charmer.  She talked about going to the party basically the entire drive to the party and then the following couple of days had plenty of talk of the party.  Kevin’s arms were really tired by the time we left because he held her the whole time!  But I think we all had a really nice time.
  2. We also ventured out to breakfast with my great aunt one Sunday morning and it was so pleasant.  Honestly – Ava may be even better in restaurants now than she was before (and she has always been very, very good) because she is so accustomed to sitting in one spot.  She was perfectly entertained with the bowl of single serve half-and-half containers and the pieces of paper we peel off her disposable placemat.  She is such a good little toddler.
  3. For Mother’s Day, my mother-and-father-in-law gave me a gift card for a prenatal massage at a local spa.  Since I was not very pregnant at the time, I decided to keep it for the third trimester and I am so glad I did.  It was such a treat to spend a few hours at the spa one Saturday morning in August.  Thanks to them for that pampering!
  4. Kevin is helping with the varsity home games for football this year, and I’m so glad that he’s able to get out for a bit some weekends and go do something he loves:  coach football.  I think he’s perfect of course and it’s really fantastic that he’s able to be involved with those kids and set a good example for impressionable teenagers.
  5. Some people at work threw Owen a surprise baby shower!  It was so sweet.  They had posole, green chile stew, and the BEST tres leches cake in the whole wide world.  There were dinosaur balloons and a diaper cake and lots of gifted diapers and wipes.  We feel so fortunate to work with such awesome people.

Bookish:

  1. In August I finished quite a few books.  I’d been working on this one for a bit and finally finished Emma by the one and only Jane Austen, of course, to which I awarded 5 stars (and I want to go on the record saying that I prefer Mr. Knightly to Mr. Darcy, hands down).  I listened to One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid and gave it 4 stars – it was actually a really interesting storyline (lady marries high school sweetheart, he disappears after a helicopter crash on their first anniversary and is presumed dead, then three years later, he is found alive and she has, in the meantime, gotten engaged to someone else) and a good listen.  Often narrators start to annoy me or I notice that the author repeats words a lot more when I listen versus read or whatever – but I was engaged and not annoyed through this whole listen.  I read The After Party by Anton DiSclafani and gave it 3 stars.  My first ever Agatha Christie was And Then There Were None, to which I gave 5 stars.  My second Agatha Christie was A Caribbean Mystery (Miss Marple #10) and I gave it 3 stars.  I read Queen Lucia and loved it – 5 stars.  E.F. Benson’s writing is just excellent.  And finally, I read The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth and I gave it 4 stars.
  2. I’m currently listening to Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and think it is hilarious.  It’s all I can do to get out of my car and stop listening when I reach my destination.  Highly recommend – thus far at least – as a light, easy read/listen.  And I’m currently reading Miss Mapp by E.F. Benson, which I’m also loving.
  3. In August, Kevin finished American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic by Joseph Ellis and he gave it 4 stars.
  4. Kevin’s currently reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (his mom is reading it too and they’re doing a little book club together) and really enjoying it.  He is also still reading Naked by David Sedaris and HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Leadership.  He’s listening to The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell:  The Dyslexic Traitor, An Unbreakable Code, and the FBI’s Hunt for America’s Stolen Secrets by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, and finds it fascinating.
  5. Ava’s favorite books these days are probably My Dynamite Dad, A Ride Through the Neighborhood (Daniel Tiger), Hoot, Zoom, and Big Fish Little Fish.  :)  Those are the ones she tends to request at bedtime, night after night.

Challenges:

  1. Ava had a cast change on August 22 which meant anesthesia and uncertainty.  Fortunately all went perfectly and the surgeon said the x-ray looks even better than he expected (he’s super conservative with his communicated expectations, so that is glowing news really).  Ava didn’t even seem to notice that she had a different cast, which we were grateful for because we thought she may be in a bit of pain since the legs were repositioned slightly.  Anyway, all went really well and we’re so grateful, but it was a mental and emotional strain through the beginning of the month as we lived with the anticipation of more anesthesia and the surgeon getting a good look at how things were coming together in that hip zone.
  2. She continues to be such a champ, but entertaining an immobile toddler is a challenge and worth noting.  Kevin and I have become masters of extending an activity for a ridiculous length of time by pointing out something, tweaking it a little bit, etc. just so we’re not shuffling through puzzles, legos, homemade games, books, etc. at breakneck speed.  Her attention span truly is amazing, but sometimes the hours seem long.
  3. We’re in the every-two-week-appointment zone for pregnancy and Ava has pretty regular appointments as well and we’re both working and running a household and….  It feels like there is a lot to juggle right now.  My belly is getting bigger and I’m moving slower and sometimes at the end of the day it just seems like so MUCH.  I know we’re not unique in any of this – this is life for everyone, with variations here and there.  We all just do what we can when we can, right?

Sustenance:

  1. We tried this chicken penne casserole with corn and zucchini.  I grabbed yellow squash rather than zucchini at the store, and we subbed in Banza for regular penne to increase the protein a bit.  {Sidenote:  have you tried Banza?  It’s a pasta substitute made with chickpeas.  I really do think it tastes like regular pasta – and I’m picky about pasta.  Worth trying if you care about watching carbs!}  Anyway, the casserole was good, but I’d probably go in with a heavier hand with the salt and pepper and maybe even some red pepper flakes or green chile if I made it again.
  2. We made this creamy sun-dried tomato baked chicken as well and it was really good.  Dairy-free!  I love using coconut milk.  It’s also supposed to be gluten free but I tossed the chicken thighs in flour instead of buying potato starch or tapioca starch just for this one recipe (the recipe also suggests corn starch, but I just went with flour because it was easier).  I’d add mushrooms next time – those would add a nice depth of flavor, I think.  We ate it over rice, but it would be really good over egg noodles as well.
  3. And evidently I didn’t track new recipes well or we stuck with old, familiar favorites in August, because that’s the only noteworthy things I have to share about food for the month!

How was your August?

The second bambino – a pregnancy update.

Here we are in the third trimester and I’m finally taking the time to jot down a few things about this pregnancy and what I know about this baby I’m carrying.  #secondchildproblems indeed.

I saw a meme that said something like:  First Pregnancy – “The baby weighs 1.3 pounds which is 6 ounces more than last week.”  Second Pregnancy – “I think I’m due in the Fall….”  I’ve found that to be very true.  I definitely have a hard time keeping track of what week I’m on.  My Ovia app keeps me on track there – and I mainly only check the app when I need to remember how far along I am.  I don’t devour the information in the articles like I’m going to be tested on the material the way I did during my first pregnancy.

Much like my pregnancy with Ava, I have been very blessed thus far to be enjoying a relatively easy time of it.  I still – even as recently as last week – gag in the mornings if my stomach is too empty, but it’s nothing a Kind bar won’t fix lickety-split.  There are other pregnancy symptoms that I won’t go into detail about, but overall, it has been pretty smooth sailing.  My varicose veins are out of control, which is glamorous, but doesn’t really affect how I feel.  There have been a handful of days when I think I was on my feet too much or something because by the end I feel very mild contraction-like discomfort in waves, but maybe those are just a different style of Braxton Hicks.  I spoke to my OB’s office about it and mentioned it at yesterday’s ultrasound and since there is nothing else to indicate an increased risk of pre-term labor, no one seems concerned.  Owen looked great at the ultrasound yesterday.  He’s measuring right on track at 30 weeks, 6 days and weighing around 3 lbs 9 oz.  His heart and kidneys and spine and brain all look great and he’s taking his practice breaths like a champ.  He’s head down and in a good position for now, so hopefully he stays comfy just like that for the next 7-10 weeks.  He had a hand up over his face and his feet pulled up around his head, but we got a few cute 3D pictures with a little smile on his face.

I feel like my immune system really took a hit in the early second trimester, but I’ve felt well and healthy through the summertime months.  Speaking of summer, I know that being pregnant in the summer is many women’s nightmare (hot hot HOT) but I continue to have cold blood coursing through my veins and have not been affected by the heat at all.  In fact I usually need a sweater or blanket if I’m sitting or lying down through the day.

Owen moves a lot which is so fun.  Those baby kicks and punches and rolls are one of my favorite things about pregnancy.  I’ve been taking a continuing ed prenatal yoga class, which is a really great way to unwind and do something for just myself and Owen each week.  The class ends soon and I won’t renew, but I want to find something else to do in its place.  Other than that class and our morning walks as a family, I’m not exercising.  I walk around a lot and am pretty active in general for everyday activities, so hopefully that’s working okay for me.  As of my 28 week appointment with my OB, I was only up 11 pounds from the 8 week appointment weight.  He was really comfortable with that, so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.

I passed the glucose test (yay!) and have been trying to limit my sugar intake in general, which I’ve noticed makes a big difference in how I feel.  Of course I am craving ALL THE SWEET THINGS, but I’ve been pretty disciplined about not eating them because I know it’s not worth not feeling well later.  I basically only drink water (always 80+ ounces a day) with the exception of the occasional (once a week? maybe?) sweet black tea from Starbucks.  And I’ll have a sip or two of Kevin’s diet soda when he indulges in one (once a month? maybe?).  So overall I’m very happy with how I’ve been doing on the food and drink front.

We have basically made no preparations.  I think we have bought three sleep and play outfits and we have maybe four gender neutral items of clothing in Ava’s stash of things outgrown.  Of course we have the high chair and the pack and play and the travel crib and changing supplies.  We need to get a Rock’n’Play sleeper (hopefully Owen is the same kind of sleeper – awesome – as Ava) and some newborn diapers.  We’ll get away with not buying a second infant car seat because Ava is in a forward facing seat and will likely continue to be from here on out because of the span and shape of the spica cast and rhino cruiser brace (by the time she’s out of the brace she should be big enough to face forward anyway).  We need to order a crib soon and get the room converted from office to baby, but there is no sense of urgency since we know Owen will be in our room for 4-6 months.  We’re going with a safari kind of theme with a lot of grey and brown and yellow in the room.  We need to get a double stroller at some point as well.

I think Ava is going to be an amazing, sweet big sister.  She has been obsessed with babies for the past few weeks.  Of course it’ll be different when the baby doesn’t leave and takes mama and daddy’s time away from her, but I think we’ll all do fine with the transition.  We’re so fortunate that Kevin’s parents live so close to us and that they regularly care for her now and she’s accustomed to being around them for longer stretches of time.  As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’m nervous about the timeline of the next 10 weeks.  Ava should be transitioning to the brace from the cast when I’m around 37 weeks and I had her at 37 weeks (and 6 days), so it just seems like it could be a whole lot going on at once.  I know it will all work out fine, but the unknowns are unnerving.

I feel a little guilty sometimes that so little of my time and thoughts have been focused on Owen versus how I was when pregnant with Ava.  But maybe it’s to his advantage – I feel like though there is more life stress during this pregnancy, I am much less stressed and worried about stuff that could go wrong related to the pregnancy.  Does that make sense?  Maybe he’ll be totally chill – just like his mom (wink wink).  I do know that we are so, so grateful for this life and that he is thriving.  We love him already and are excited to meet him in a couple of months.

{Pregnancy Announcement – Owen}

That’s a wrap {July}.

 

Links to Love:

  1. As I had an epidural during my first time in the labor and delivery ward, and I have every intention of repeating that blissful experience in a few months, I thought this was very wise.  And the writing yielded a chuckle or seven from me too.
  2. Ten ways kids appear to be acting naughty but aren’t.  I thought this article was interesting and it definitely reminded me to keep my expectations of a toddler in check.  Structure and clear parameters and expectations are important at any age, but gosh – kids are kids!
  3. Let the record reflect that I have not purchased anything from the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.  Normally I pick up a pair of Zella leggings because…why not?  But this year the Zella leggings I already own are feeling a little tight so I know I wouldn’t be able to enjoy new leggings for several months and I’m more an instant gratification kind of shopper.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve perused the sale items and put a plethora of items in my cart, but then I change my mind (for reasons such as:  out of my size, won’t fit now, not breastfeeding friendly and therefore I know I won’t reach for it in a few months, etc.) and remove all items.  Just to go back the following day and play the same game.  Here are a few of my favorites:  Vince Camuto Prasata Bootie, Halogen Long Open Front Cardigan, Gibson Tie Front Cozy Fleece Pullover, Eliza J Cold Shoulder Fit & Flare Dress, Free People Electric City Pullover, and Born Allie Scalloped Ballet Flats.
  4. I did recently buy some new sneakers because I realized my beloved purple New Balance shoes have served me well since 2013 (!!) and well, there is zero support remaining and my arches aren’t getting any younger.  I bought these.  Simple and basic.

 

Making Memories:

  1. We had planned to do a staycation this year and a staycation we had.  It was just a little different than we’d imagined.  I am so grateful that Kevin and I were both able to take over a week off work after Ava’s surgery.  We really enjoyed our time together as a family, taking it pretty easy.  Kevin’s parents hung out with Ava a few times to let us get out of the house for a couple of hours.
  2. We were and are so floored by the support and love of our family and friends bringing/sending gifts and food and well wishes and texts and calls and prayers and…  Feeling the love, folks, feeling the love.
  3. I’ve been taking pre-natal yoga on Saturday mornings and it has been enjoyable.  It’s a little…prop heavy (seriously – three blankets, two blocks, a bolster, a folding chair, two sandbags, and a strap – every time.  There’s barely enough room for the pregnant ladies with all those props scattered about the space.) and it’s the kind of place that would probably frown upon my epidural birth plan, but it still provides a nice little escape for Amy and Owen.  We both feel good coming away from class.
  4. We’re adjusting to a work schedule that is slightly abbreviated as either Kevin or I work from home while Sue is with Ava, just so we’re available if she needs help with anything related to the cumbersomeness of the cast.  So far it has been working out really well.  We’re so grateful that we have the flexibility to do that with our jobs and that we have family with Ava.  I cannot imagine how tough this would be if Ava were in daycare or if we had jobs that did not allow us this flexibility.
  5. We met some friends – a quadruple date of sorts – at a local escape room one Saturday afternoon and it was so much fun.  We escaped the room, which was awesome (15% success rate for that room and we escaped with 15 minutes remaining on our time and we didn’t ask for a single hint while in the room!).  We already have a tentative date set for our next escape room adventure!  After escaping we went to a local brewery that has awesome food to boot.  I had some of their house brew root beer and a roast beef and cheddar wrap.  Kevin had a beer and a sandwich.  It was really nice to relax and chat with the other three couples, who are all just awesome people.  We’re so grateful that Kevin’s parents are so generous with their time and always willing to watch Ava so we can get out and do stuff like this or even just grab coffee and read for a bit at Starbucks.

Bookish:

  1. Kevin and I finished listening to Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris.  I believe he gave it five stars and I gave it four.  He also finished listening to Treason by Newt Gingrich, which he really loved – five stars for that one too.  He was on a reading kick this month and also finished American Lion:  Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham – it received a three star rating.
  2. Kevin is reading Naked by David Sedaris (we’re all into David these days), HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Leadership, and American Creation:  Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic by Jon Meachum.
  3. I finished the fourth Harry Potter (Goblet of Fire).  I love re-reading that series.  They truly are such good books.  I also finished Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams, to which I gave three stars.  And f.i.n.a.l.l.y – Team of Rivals:  The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin.  I’ve been chipping away at that one since last October (!!) and it was so good.  Five stars undoubtedly.
  4. I’m currently reading Emma by Jane Austen and I’m listening to One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid.
  5. Ava’s favorite books currently are two from the library: Body in the My First board book series (she calls it the “baby” book because there are a lot of babies in it) and The Itsy-Bitsy Bunny.

Challenges:

  1. Obviously having a toddler in a spica cast is a challenge.  Overall we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the new normal routine and how well we’re all doing with it, but there have certainly been challenging moments.  It’s still really hard to see her immobilized.  Considering it is a short term thing, we are probably too maudlin and nostalgic about missing the sound of her little feet running down the hall or playing on the swings and slides at the park.  I think both Kevin and I have struggled with being weighed down by all the “what ifs” – what if the hip comes out again, what if the acetabulum doesn’t move down the way it needs to, what if another surgery is needed….  We are very, very grateful that things have gone smoothly thus far and all seems well as of the most recent appointment last Friday, but it has still been emotionally and mentally draining.
  2. Along those lines, both Kevin and I have had some little aches and pains as we adjusted to picking up, setting down, and carrying Ava in that bulky cast.  It turns out that it didn’t add nearly the weight we thought it would, but it’s very cumbersome and has no give to it (good thing too because it’s keeping that precious hip in place!) so it can get a little tiresome to hold and carry her for extended amounts of time.
  3. Kiki had a little digestive issue in July.  Poor girl was trapped in a room with Rue while our master bath reno was going on, and then I’m sure she picked up on our human stress with Ava’s recent experience.  She turns 15 this weekend (!!) and is overall doing so good, but we did have to go to the vet in July to get her a little medicine.  We also think her thyroid medication may need to be adjusted again.
  4. I’m only 29 weeks pregnant but starting to feel very pregnant and experienced some aches and pains that I’ve found a little alarming.  We’re on such a tight timeline in terms of when Ava is expected to move from the cast to the brace and our due date for Owen.  I just pray it all lines up okay and the pregnancy continues to go smoothly so that I can focus on Ava and all the stuff we need to do before Owen is born.

Sustenance:

  1. I made this apple breakfast cobbler in the crock pot one night.  It was pretty good with some vanilla Greek yogurt.  I don’t think it’ll be a regular breakfast in our house, but I could see it being a good option if you host a brunch or have people over for breakfast.
  2. This creamy chicken and rice one-pot dinner was a home run.  Kevin and I both loved it, Ava ate some of the chicken (she’s so picky about chicken), and the leftovers were delicious.  It reminded me of a risotto – minus all the stirring.  It really is one-pot too, so easy clean up.  I highly, highly recommend and will be making this one again.
  3. I love muffins and I love making muffins but neither Kevin or Ava are super into them (except for Einstein’s blueberry muffins – Ava will inhale one of those) so that means that I basically go through phases where I want to make a lot of muffins and then I eat a lot of muffins.  I try to stick to low/no-sugar options since I know that I’ll be eating so many of the 12-18 that a recipe produces (I know I could freeze some but I’m really bad about freezing food for “later” but NEVER eating it and eventually I have to throw out a bunch of ice-covered blocks of best of intentions), and these were really good – 2/3 of the flour used is whole wheat flour, a cup of Greek yogurt which I think must add a little bit of protein, and they’re sweetened with honey.  I happened to have blueberries and raspberries that needed to be used so I tossed both in the mix rather than just the blueberries that the recipe lists.  I also made these banana nut muffins which were delicious.  And I made these sugar-free, gluten-free chocolate peanut butter protein muffins.  Loved them!
  4. We made this slow cooker beef and potato au gratin and it was pretty good.  Super easy, and Ava friendly since she likes beef so may be something we repeat at some point.
  5. Another slow cooker meal that was a hit with Ava and Kevin was this cubed steak and gravy.  I thought the steak was a little overcooked and therefore didn’t love the texture (Kevin probably secretly agreed but he is the nicest/smartest husband on the planet and NEVER criticizes my cooking).  The gravy, however, was delicious and I would so make it again with chicken or turkey.  I also added sliced mushrooms which were perfection in that gravy.
  6. Lots of recipes to share from July!  I made these breakfast sandwiches to freeze and am happy with how they turned out.  Next time I will leave out the red bell peppers just because I’m picky about bell peppers and don’t like them with breakfast food?  I don’t know.  Can’t explain it, but that’s the one thing I’d change.
  7. Last one:  we made this Slow Cooker Korean Beef last week and it was pretty good.  I think we’d make it again.  I would recommend taking some of the sauce out and thickening it with cornstarch on the stovetop rather than trying to thicken it in the slow cooker like the recipe recommends.

 

How was your July?

Ava // twenty-one months old.

Our girl is 21 months old today and I’ve accepted that I will probably stop counting her age in months and start saying, “almost two,” because, well, that’s where we are.  At almost two, Ava is the most amazing little toddler.  She is resilient and strong and smart and sweet and funny and the cutest little girl I’ve ever seen (I’m sure I’m not biased).  She has all the teeth except the two year molars and she probably weighs 23 pounds (not including her constant companion, the cast, of course).

SLEEPING

Ava continues to be a champion sleeper overall.  We were really worried about how the cast would affect her ability to sleep comfortably through the night because she would move a lot in her crib and sleep on her belly and side, but we have been pleasantly surprised (KNOCK WOOD).  It sometimes takes a bit for her to fall asleep because she’s trapped on her back, on the crib wedge, rather than being able to roll around and move to settle herself in for the night like she formerly could.  We try to be in her room, winding down for the night by around 7:15 PM.  Kevin is the bedtime parent and he’s so sweet and patient.  He walks around holding her for a bit, singing to her, and then puts her in the crib and continues to sing.  Eventually he tells her that mama and daddy love her and to sleep well and he leaves the room.  Sometimes she’s fine from the get-go, sometimes she cries for a few minutes and then gets quiet, sometimes she cries for a long time (long being 10 minutes or so) and he’ll go back in to sing to her some more.  Once she’s asleep she usually sleeps through the night very well, waking up – on average – at 6:30 AM.  Some nights she’ll cry out but she’s very good at soothing herself back to sleep.  We know that she CAN flip herself over in the cast so that makes me a little nervous.  We’ve never dealt with a video monitor but I’m tempted to get one, just so I’ll be able to see if she has turned herself over.  There are a variety of favorite stuffed animals and dolls that stay in the crib with Ava – Elmo doll, Shawna doll, Oregon duck, Portland duck, Nancy the lamb, and Kitten.  Each morning when Kevin goes to get her out she’ll tell him who she’s carrying and who he’s carrying and who they need to pass to me so I can help cart around the friends.

Naps (again – KNOCK WOOD) have actually been easier and more consistent in the cast.  I think it’s because she knows she can’t be running around and her brain is working overtime since her body is stationary, so maybe she’s ready for the little break?  Whatever it is, I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth and will continue to give her lunch at about 11:50, then walk around with her beginning at around 12:15, singing, until she falls asleep.  I place her in the crib (becoming more difficult to maneuver the cast clad toddler up and over and down into the crib with the ever growing belly), keep singing for a bit to be sure she’s asleep, then creep like a ninja – avoiding the squeaky boards as best I can – out of her room.  She’ll nap for an hour and a half to two and half hours and USUALLY – but not always – wakes up cheerful.

PLAYING

Since she can’t run around right now, her playing involves a lot of sensory and fine motor skill games and activities.  She will sit for long periods of time – longer than some adults could, I’m certain! – in her “chair-chair”.  It has a handy little desk and she can play very easily there.  We also have an infant-to-toddler rocker/chair that is great for when she wants to watch TV (she’s into Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood), and a bean bag near the TV as well.  There’s a bean bag in her room too so we’ll occasionally read books and play briefly from that one.  She loves taking things out of boxes, bags, etc. and putting things in boxes, bags, etc.  She also continues to love music.  She likes to draw and has a few options of paper size, utensil type, etc. for that.  Her favorite toys are probably her Leap Frog picnic basket, her blocks (stacking them and making them go “BOOM” is a favorite), her xylophone, and interestingly, really simple activities.  I punched holes in the bottom of the egg stations in an egg carton and she’ll sit for 30 minutes with that – taking clothes pins in and out of the holes and opening and closing the egg carton.  My cousin Lori brought us a plethora of other activities, including a Huggies wipes box and some different textured pieces to put in and take out.  That wipes box has also been great for putting in and taking out her animal magnets that usually are on the fridge.

In order to break up the day and the monotony for Ava, we try to get her involved in what we’re doing as much as possible.  She and Kevin used the manual nut chopper to chop up some walnuts for me when I was baking muffins.  I’ll carry her to the washer and dryer and have her push the buttons to turn it on and start it (something she loved to do when she could run around).  I’ll let her play with my makeup in the chair-chair while I’m getting ready.  That kind of thing.

We’ll read a few books through the day too.  I’ve enjoyed turning on classical music or the James Taylor or 90’s country Pandora stations to have some background music and she likes that too – requesting to hear some songs “Again!”.  I’ve tried to set up at least one play date each week, just to keep her engaged with other kids.  They usually come to us since she has more options of places to sit when she’s at home.  It has been interesting to see her interact with other kids when they can move around and play with HER stuff and she’s stuck in the chair-chair or on my lap.  I think that’s really frustrating to her, and I can understand how it would be!

EATING

Ava is still a good eater – for a toddler.  I continue to be disappointed that she doesn’t request a veggie omelet for breakfast, but I’ll make my peace with that right around the time that she decides she likes veggie omelets.  She does tend to eat a favorite item incessantly and then get burnt out on it, so it keeps us on our toes, trying to think of replacements that she’ll try and like for the stuff that she couldn’t get enough of yesterday but shuns today.  She’s getting a bit more adventurous about trying new stuff, which is a step in the right direction.  We have tried to emphasize that something will make her strong if we want her to try it and she’ll “flex” her little arms and say, “Grrr!”

We did our usual grocery store run over the weekend and none of the stores (we checked three) had our Stonyfield yogurt pouches with a cat (jaguar) or Baby Beluga (whale) on the package so we tried Chobani pouches with Spider-Man.  It has posed quite a disruption to our morning routine, and I hope we are back to our regularly scheduled programming next week, but she has begrudgingly tried the new yogurt and I think we’re all stronger for the experience.  ;-)

Right now her favorite foods are beef, bananas, applesauce, yogurt, plums, apples, chicken thighs, sweet potatoes, deli turkey, and perhaps the ultimate favorite – cheese.  She’ll drink small amounts of “almond juice” (almond milk) and even smaller amounts of regular milk, but that’s better than the none that she was drinking of those things, so we’ll take it. When Kevin or I am eating or drinking something that she has learned is not for her, she’ll shake her head and say, “Blegh!” and we’ll agree with her assessment that it is a yucky Dad or Mama drink/food.

 

DOING

We all miss baths in the bathtub, but we have figured out a system for washing her hair in the kitchen sink and doing a sponge bath on the kitchen counter.  It gets the job done.  She’s so patient with us as we fumble our way through figuring out how to make lifestyle adjustments such as that and it makes me want to weep because it is so humbling to have this little person put their trust wholly and fully in you.  Ah, parenthood.

Ava loves touching Kevin’s face to gauge how long ago he shaved.  He’ll say, “Is Daddy’s face rough?” and she’ll giggle and then he’ll feel her face and say, “Is Ava’s face smooth?” and she’ll laugh.  No one makes her laugh like Kevin does.  It’s the sweetest sound in the world.  She likes to put her hands over her eyes and say, “Clown,” or “Ava,” or “Cat,” or something/something else and we have to sing a little song from music class (“We know you’re hiding in there, we know you’re crouching down, we really want to see you…come out!  Little clown (or Ava, Cat, etc.)!”.  She’ll uncover her eyes and laugh laugh laugh.

It is too hot during the day to be outside much while she is in the cast, so we have been going on morning walks at around 7:00 and we have a great routine going.  She eats a yogurt and some puffs and we keep our eyes peeled for cats and birds and bunnies and hot air balloons and sprinklers.  We go “bump bump bump” down a little dirt path that leads to the Bosque and then we stop on a little bridge to look at the water (and occasionally see fish jumping up to catch bugs, ducks floating by, and a bullfrog gazing out and croaking).  The fresh air is great for all of us – especially her since she’s pretty housebound during the day.

We have people over a couple times a week (with kids or without) and we’re going to start a developmental therapy and a music therapy lesson each week through Early Intervention, just to break up the day and engage Ava’s mind while she’s immobilized. She loves music and has a little xylophone that she dismantles and assembles and plays. Sue also bought her a little ukulele that Ava enjoys “tuning” and “playing” and insisting we play for her.

COMMUNICATING

I know that 19-21 months is when verbal development typically takes off anyway, so maybe it’s coincidental or would have happened this way anyway, but Ava’s verbal communication is astounding.  Every day she rolls out a new word or puts a few words together to explain something to us in a phrase.  She can mimic any word or sound we ask her to repeat.  She knows that Mama is Amy and Daddy is Kevin and her pronunciation of each is so sweet.  I’m waiting for the day when she’ll call out, “Kevin!” instead of Dada, or “Amy!” instead of Mama to summon us to her.  We have dialogue conversations with her, which are so cute and repetitive and it’s just really fun to interact at that level.  Her favorite word is probably “awesome”.  Or “yellow”.   She knows her colors well but often declares non-yellow things to be yellow simply because it is fun to say, I think. Or “helllllllooooooo” which she says in a very exaggerated tone that is sooooo cute.  My favorite, which she said yesterday, is “privacy”.  As in when people go to the bathroom, we give them privacy.  :)  I also love when she says “exactly”.  It’s just adorable to hear such formal words coming from such a little lady.  She has learned “stop” and “go” and has hand gestures to match.  This morning on our walk she would randomly call out, “Stop!” and put her palm up.  We’d stop the stroller and wait a few seconds for her to say, “Go!” and point her finger forward.  She’s amazing.

Or, as she would say, awesome.

We love you so much, Ava, and we’re inspired by your strength and sweet spirit every single day!

(I chose photos that spanned the 18 month – 21 month range, so that’s why we jump around from no cast to cast to no cast in the photos. :))

 

A tale of a bathroom reno: the master

This was a major undertaking – the renovation of the master bathroom.  Our master bath was very dated – 1990’s light oak, jetted tub (that we never used), the one-sink vanity that had seen better days, and there was this really random shelf and wasted space at the foot of the tub.  Rue figured out how to get the door on the tub open and took it upon herself to explore the mechanics of the jetted tub, so we {and by we I mean I} duck-taped it closed with some classy mustache tape.  {Kevin probably would have preferred Rue having access to the underbelly of the tub than look at that mustache tape day in and day out!}  All that to say, we were really excited to update the bathroom.

We have a contractor guy who works with his son on projects such as these so we got a quote and some ideas from them and started buying the stuff.  So much stuff.  Kevin is really good at piecing these projects together and he pays attention to the details.  I’m more big picture.  I know what I like, I know what I don’t like, but I can’t really articulate that until I see it in a photo or something.  I sometimes get a little impatient because he is so deliberate and doesn’t rush decisions.  Basically if we ever built a house from the ground up, he would just have to make all the decisions and tell me when to move in because I get so bored with the details!

Anyway, Kirk and Scott set to work on June 5 and finished on June 21.  A bigger company probably would have done it faster – for a price – but we really like knowing and trusting the people working in our house.  And they do great work, so it was definitely a great decision.

Here are the photos, by phase!

And some final photos with the paint touched up and our stuff moved in…

We worked with a local company to get the vanity and shelves custom built.  The place does granite work, which is why we looked there to begin with – the granite top of the vanity is also from them.  We already can’t wait to have that company gives us an estimate to replace our kitchen countertops!  From one project to the next.

And a tale for another day – the next chapter in the adventures of Ruester. She took it upon herself to explore the space between the first floor and the second floor. That cat – she’s a pistol.

Do you like the idea of building a house from the ground up, with all the little decisions that entails?  Any big projects on the horizon for your space?

That’s a wrap {June}.

 

Links to Love:

  1. This song (Homecoming – Josh Ritter) was at the end of the Billions season finale and I immediately bought it on iTunes.  My play count since purchase is probably 100+.  (Slight exaggeration.  Slight.  Maybe.)  I love it.
  2. Speaking of songs, Rach shared this one recently, and it really resonated.  Hannah Kerr’s voice is beautiful.
  3. Comparing the Big 12 Football Teams to characters from The Office – I thought this was pretty funny.
  4. Heart eyes on this little video – a baby elephant chasing birds.

Making Memories:

  1. Our master bath renovation took a little over two weeks but it is over now and we are so, so happy with the results!  Our bathroom feels so luxurious and spa-like.
  2. Kevin and I have each made time for friends in June.  He met up with some guys he used to work with for a golf tournament and they had a great time.  I’ve lunched and brunched with a few friends, and we met up with my aunt and some of my cousins for dinner one night.
  3. I started a pre-natal yoga continuing education class.  It’s eight weeks and I think it’ll be really good for me and therefore the little guy.
  4. Speaking of our boy, we have announced his name:  Owen Daniel.  Owen was honestly the only name that Kevin and I agreed we strongly liked and Daniel is Kevin’s middle name.  We’ve probably known for two months that Owen was the strongest name contender, but we waited for quite awhile to share because why not?
  5. Ava had a lot of fun in June.  She’s been to the zoo a couple of times, had a few play dates, played in sprinklers with the neighborhood kids, and went swimming for the first time!
  6. We have felt so blessed by the outpouring of love and support from family and friends. Seriously – I’m so humbled by the generosity of the people in our lives. Kevin’s parents have kept us fed from the day of the surgery forward and so many others have given food and time and prayers and gifts and…we’re just so fortunate.

Bookish:

  1. I’m still currently reading Team of Rivals (slow and steady progress) and re-reading the fourth Harry Potter.  I also started Emma and I’m really enjoying it!  Jane Austen is so witty.
  2. The only book I finished in June was actually an Audible book:  Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella.  Definitely not my favorite book by her – I gave it three stars.  It’s hard to say for sure, but I may have liked it better if I’d read it rather than listened to it.
  3. Kevin finished Good to Great and gave it five stars.  (Ron, are you reading this?  I promise we’re not just saying five stars because you’d disown us if we rated Jim Collins any lower.  ;-) Kevin really loved the book and sees so much application for it at work.)
  4. Kevin is reading American Lion:  Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham.  He is also listening to Treason, which is the sequel to Duplicity, the book we listened to on our way to and from Denver last December.
  5. We also are both still listening to David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day.  And we found out that David Sedaris is coming to town in November!!  We’re definitely going to go to that show.
  6. Ava made a trip to the library in June and has really enjoyed two of her checked out board books:  Show Me Your Feelings and Baby’s First Words.

Challenges:

  1. This post goes into the details, but finding out on June 1 that Ava’s hip is out of joint and she would require surgery was undoubtedly a monster challenge.  The month included a lot of anxiety, tears, and research as we tried to prepare ourselves.  A few decisions were made:  I decided to take a leave of absence from Junior League which meant abandoning my role on the board and Kevin decided to decline the offer to be the head coach of the middle school football team at his alma mater.  We both struggle with feeling like we’re letting people down by backing away from those commitments, but I feel strongly that as rewarding as those roles would be in a normal fall, we simply have too much else going on personally and professionally.
  2. The surgery was Wednesday and it was a very, very hard day. We had to be there at 6:15 am and they called us back around 7:00. By then Ava was starting to get hungry and she doesn’t care for medical professionals anyway, so we went into meltdown mode pretty quick. And by we I mean both her and me. The people – nurses, surgeon, anesthesiologist – were all so professional and amazing but oh my goodness I think it was the hardest thing either Kevin or I have ever done to send our baby back to the sterile surgery environment section. The surgery was definitely best case scenario –  a closed reduction. They made a small incision to cut a tendon but it was a primarily un-invasive procedure, for which we are very thankful. The nurse kept us updated from the OR through the process and the surgeon came out to talk to us when he was done and we were happy with the degree of confidence he had in the result of the procedure.
  3. Ava’s recovery and our adjustment is only three days in but we’re doing well overall. Ava gets frustrated with her lack of mobility and has asked us a few times to let her “out” of the cast or for us to put her down to walk. It breaks my heart to see her confused and frustrated. We think we are managing the pain well and we’re learning as we go. It’ll be a long 12 weeks in the cast and then the unknown of what will follow (brace for probably 12 months and the continued uncertainty of everything in that hip area staying in place, etc.) but one day at a time, one day at a time.
  4. We still know that we did the right thing with this surgery. Without intervention, Ava would have likely had arthritis by age 15 and needed a total hip replacement by age 30. But it is still hard in the moment to see her so immobilized.

Sustenance:

  1. We made these tomato-basil fish packets on the grill and they were really good.  We’re definitely going to try other variations of veggies with white fish.  Salmon packets or shrimp packets would be great too.  So many possibilities!  Perfect for summer!
  2. I made these 2-ingredient fro-yo bites as a dessert option for myself since I’m trying to really limit my sugar.  I did Oikos Triple Zero vanilla Greek yogurt with raspberries and I think they’re good.  They also made excellent little popsicles for Ava.
  3. Kevin loves this sauce which is a staple in Costa Rica, so we ordered some on Amazon and made this Costa Rican arroz con pollo.  It was very good and easy.

How was your June?