God Is Able & I Am Fruitful

Most of you know at least some of our story if you’ve been following this blog for a while. You read about our difficulties getting pregnant, the four long and hard years that we prayed and tried and waited, the miracle healing and conception that took place, and then met our miracle baby boy who made us a family. All along in my journey I knew a few things for certain: I knew that God would be faithful to us and bless us with children, and I knew that I would be called to share our story of God’s goodness to encourage others along the way.

Isn’t that how God works? He takes you through the crazy journey of struggle and pain and growing in faith, showing Himself good and faithful all along the way to give you a story SO good, SO amazing, SO glorifying to HIM that you just have to share it with others.

For months and months I’ve heard quite audibly in my spirit that God is calling me to encourage women who are trying to conceive. I’d push it away and think, “Later, later,” only to be convicted once again. I’ve sat next to women at church who have openly told me their infertility struggles, met husbands who have told me about their wives, heard sermons about following your calling. It’s almost humorous, really, how clearly God is eagerly yanking at my dress saying, “THIS is what I’ve called you to do.”

Which brings me to Tuesday.

This Tuesday, August 1, I will be hosting a small group for women who are struggling to conceive, those who have felt the pain of miscarriage, those who’ve lost their newborns, and those who are pursuing adoption because of their fertility struggles. We’ll come together in a safe place where you can share your story and find hope for the journey that you’re in. I don’t have a name for the group yet…I’m still praying through some options….but I do know that this is what God is calling me to do, so I am believing that there are women HE is calling and preparing for the group.

My mission for the group is this:

  • to create a space for women who are longing for children to have a safe place to share with others who understand
  • to pray for one another, believing that NOTHING is impossible for our God
  • to dig into the Word of God to see what He has to say about family, fertility and His promises for us
  • to encourage one another, hold each other up when we’re hurting and find laughter again
  • to create a place where we can hear from women who’ve gone before us and be encouraged by their testimonies
  • to be a safe place to grieve what has been stolen from us and bind us broken hearts
  • to find healing and a renewed hope

I’m SO excited for this group to begin! I have so many things that I want to share with the group, so many lessons and testimonies, scriptures and prayers that helped me along the way. There will be some of my favorite books for ladies to purchase, printouts of scriptures for everyone to take with them, and snacks to gobble up as we catch up with one another.

So my sister, my friend– would you like to join us and share your story? Share your hope, your grief, your pain, your joy, your love, and your heartache?

If YOU live near the N. County San Diego area and this sounds like something you might be interested in, I hope that you will consider joining us! Our first meeting is Tuesday, August 1 from 7-9 PM in Carlsbad. If you want to come, email me at alexisgward(at)gmail(dot)com for my address and directions. The plan for now is to meet every third week which makes our next two meetings August 22 and September 12.

I am so excited about what the Lord has for all of us. It going to be awesome!

xoxo

International Travel With Your Baby

By the time he was 8 months old, our lil bear cub had more stamps in his passport than some of my adult friends. He’s been on 10 airplanes, traveled through multiple time zones, slept in numerous random beds and cribs, missed naps, visited a glacier in cold rain, stayed up past his bedtime almost every night…and we all survived. Even better, we had the time of our lives.

When we tell people that we took our baby with us to Iceland and Sweden this spring we get a lot of responses: everything from “you’re crazy,” mouth hanging open, laughs, looks of disbelief and my favorite, “That must have been hard/terrible.brutal.” I’m not sure why everyone thinks that traveling with a baby has to be miserable. Is it because of all the crying babies you’ve listened to on the plane?

So today I’m here to tell you that traveling with a baby doesn’t have to be miserable. In fact, it can be really fun and awesome. Who says you have to put all of your travels and adventures on hold because you grew a tiny human? You just need a few (dozen) extra things in your luggage, a slower pace and a little patience. No, it won’t be exactly the way it used to be, but isn’t seeing the world through the eyes of a child half the fun of it? Today I’m going to share with you a few of the tips we learned from traveling internationally with our 7.5 month old baby boy.

1. Packing. There’s no getting around it – babies need a LOT of stuff. Especially if you’re going somewhere like Iceland which can have bitter cold temperatures and tons of rain. We managed to stuff all of our stuff into 2 large suitcases and two backpacks. Baby boy’s stuff took up MOST of the space. We managed to pack light for ourselves because we knew we couldn’t skimp on his stuff. While you can’t get away with skipping packing clothes, blankets, food, etc, we did try our hardest to pack as light as possible. Stick to around 3-4 favorite small toys, 2 books if you read every night, only a few extra changes of clothes, and just enough food and diapers to get you through until you know that you can buy more (we were able to find organic baby food that was affordable as well as Pampers diapers in Iceland just about everywhere). There DEFINITELY was a LOT of stuff that we had to haul. We couldn’t avoid a few bulky items like the car seat, stroller, baby carrier and a foot muff for the bitter Icelandic winds — all of which were totally worth bringing which takes us to point #2…

{all bundled up in his Bumbleride winter footmuff which kept him warm and dry}

2. Car seat. This one is a toss up. Let’s start with flying – Many airlines line Southwest, Alaska and Icelandair are very baby friendly and will happily give you an empty seat for you to put your car seat if the flight isn’t fully booked. Trust me when I say that we were SO SO SO glad we lugged our car seat through the airport when it payed off with a FREE seat for baby boy to sleep away in. Icelandair would even move other passengers around so that we could have a full row to ourselves. Ya’ll…it’s painful to hold a 16 lb baby in your arms for 7 hours straight. It was so nice to be able to let him chill in his own seat for most of the flights. Of course, you can always buy your baby his own seat as well. (Side note — please do not check your car seat as luggage! It’s too easy to damage them. Gate check only!) Once in Iceland we also needed the car seat for our rental car. We had actually planned on renting a car seat there as they have different rules around car seats (they require a different buckle type), but our rental car place was crummy and didn’t have a clean car seat ready for us NOR did they know how to install the seat so we just used our own which leads to #3…

3. Make sure you have a locking clip if you take your car seat without a base! Most US car seats come with a locking clip — ours was on the bottom of the car seat. In Iceland, none of the cars seemed to have self-locking seat belts like they do in the US so you HAVE to use a locking clip to make the car seat safe and sturdy. You can request one from your car seat manufacturer if you don’t have one and they will have instructions on how to use it.

{diaper changes can happen anywhere! Back of the car, front seat of the car, in his stroller}

4. Be flexible and patient. Babies require a lot more time to get fed and ready every day and they need extra breaks for naps and eating and diaper changes. We always got a later start than we hoped in the mornings and that was ok! By the time everyone was dressed and fed and on the road, he’d already be ready for his first nap of the day. There were a few times when J would go see a site and I needed to sit in the car or on a bench to nurse for 15 minutes first. Once he was fed he was happy and ready to go! And HE was even more flexible than he is at home.

5. Know your baby. Obviously, every baby is totally different, right? When we were in Iceland, Ethan was 7.5 months old. He wasn’t crawling yet and he loved being in his car seat. It was truly the best timing for this kind of trip where we spent MOST of the day driving in the car with him strapped into his car seat. He would nap and giggle and sing and look out the window. He never had a meltdown in the car the entire trip. If your kid hates car rides, he or she would definitely hate this kind of trip….so maybe a place like Iceland or New Zealand wouldn’t be ideal at this point for you, but somewhere else could be great!

When we hiked the W trail in Patagonia a few years ago we saw a couple who was doing the same hike with their 10 month old on their back. It was a hard trek but that baby was SO happy every day! It was incredible! Their baby loved going on hikes and being outside so that was a great trip for them. Remember, you’re baby is super adaptable so they will probably do better than you think they will, but perhaps try not to put them in a situation where every single day they are miserable.

{napping in Stockholm}

6. Breastfeeding tips. When you breastfeed your baby, you can feed your baby anywhere! And you should! Bring a nursing cover if you care about modesty, but know that many parts of the world are much more accepting of nursing in public than the US. Of course, if you have a little one like mine who gets distracted SO easily, that’s easier said than done. Take a hand pump along so that you can relieve your breasts if you need to — plus, it takes up way less room in your luggage! I love this pump and take it everywhere.

7. White noise is your friend. Be sure to bring along your noise machine or at least download a white noise app (I use one called SleepySounds when I travel) so that you can create a quiet place for baby to sleep regardless of if your hallway echos with every door slam or you are above a noisy city street.

8. Bring a crib sheet. Each hotel on our trip provided us with a crib or a pack and play for Ethan to sleep in –but none of them had any sort of sheet or cover for the bottom of them. Seeing as I don’t know how often or if the crib mattress has ever been cleaned, I always covered it with a light muslin blanket. Just tuck in the blanket as well as you can, and sleep easy knowing that baby isn’t face down on an icky surface.

{checking out the geysir in Iceland}

9. Let go of the schedule. Take a deep breath momma. You can do it! If you’re anything like me, your baby lives, eats and sleeps by a strict daily schedule. I don’t let much mess his schedule up because it keeps momma and baby happy and rested. Before our trip I envisioned us marching back to our hotel every day in Stockholm so that little E could take a 2 hour nap. Haha! That never happened. We’d wander so far from our hotel every day that there was no way that we’d return until after dinner. Instead, we made sure that we were prepared for the day with food and diapers (he is nursing so he always has milk nearby) and we let him take naps whenever he needed them in his carseat (Iceland) or stroller (Sweden). He definitely got more naps in Iceland but he was in no way on his schedule at ALL. Bedtimes were super late after super late dinners. It wasn’t how we wanted it, but it’s just how it went. He’d crash at night and wake up happy and ready to go each morning.

In Stockholm he spent all day either being carried or in his stroller which made for easy napping. He definitely got less sleep there as we pushed him along cobblestone streets, but he sure loved napping in the dark and quiet Vasa museum. Thankfully, our stroller back can be lowered to an almost flat position ( we LOVE our Bumbleride Indie) so when we’d see him fall asleep, we’d slowly lower the back to let him sleep lying down.

10. Have fun. Here’s the thing…you’re gonna have good days and bad day,s but at the end of it all you’ll have created some really incredible memories with your little one. Try not to sweat the small stuff (like the fact that Ethan would not nurse in public in Sweden no matter how hard I tried) and instead embrace each day as an adventure. We’ll never forget how Ethan’s eyes lit up when he saw a waterfall, or how he would squeal and get super excited as we explored beaches and glaciers. We loved watching him pet Icelandic ponies and try crazy foods like pickled herring. We didn’t mind giving up the glacier hikes and horseback rides that we would normally choose to do because this is our life now…slower…different…and perfectly sweet family.

 

 

Why We All Need Safer Beauty

charcoal-barFriend,

Do you have any idea what the ingredients are in your shampoo? What about your lotion? Or that perfect red lipstick that you love so much?

1938.

That was the last time the US passed a major federal law regulating the cosmetics industry. 79 years, you guys.

1,400.

The number of ingredients that the European union has banned from cosmetics, calling them questionable or harmful. The US has banned or restricted only 11.

When I was struggling with infertility, I learned a lot about the body and after almost 4 years of trying, was willing to do just about anything to get pregnant. We changed our diets, turned off WiFi at night to reduce EMFs, did all kinds of tests, avoided all kinds of delicious foods like gluten and dairy (I dreamed of pizza), got poked and prodded and so much more.

testingvsscreening1

We also started paying attention to what we put ON our bodies. You see, our skin is the largest organ in our bodies and will absorb anything we put on it in mere seconds. That includes lotions, soaps, makeup, deodorant, shampoos, etc. All soaked up and into our skin, scalp and the rest of our bodies. So I started to take a closer look at the products I was using. I read this awesome book recommended by a friend called No More Dirty Looks and was terrified about the ingredients in my skin care and makeup. Some of those ingredients:

Formaldehyde: used as a preservative in cosmetics. A known carcinogen that is also linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity. Present where quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol), and several other preservatives are listed. Found in: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath.

Parabens  (methyl-, isobutyl-, propyl- and others): a class of preservatives commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Parabens are endocrine (or hormone) disruptors, which may alter important hormone mechanisms in our bodies. Found in: shampoo, face cleanser, body wash, body lotion, foundation.

Phthalates  (DBP, DEHP, DEP and others): a class of plasticizing chemicals used to make products more pliable or to make fragrances stick to skin. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system and may cause birth defects. Found in: synthetic fragrance, nail polish, hairspray, and plastic materials.

Triclosan and Triclocarban: antimicrobial pesticides toxic to the aquatic environment; may also impact human reproductive systems. Found in: liquid soap, soap bars, toothpaste.

Retinyl palmitate and Retinol (Vitamin A): a nutrient that may damage DNA and speed the growth of skin tumors when used topically. Found in: moisturizer, anti-aging skincare.

Yuck, right?

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “But the shampoo/lotion/body wash I’m using says it’s natural!” There’s a nasty lil thing called greenwashing that happens all the time in the beauty industry. That’s when companies throw around terms like preservative-free or natural or even dermatologist-tested. Because of major loopholes in U.S. federal law, cosmetics brands are able to boldly make claims like “natural” and “non-toxic” without proper regulations, so most of these terms end up becoming meaningless. This is known as greenwashing.

It’s time to take a good look at what we’re putting on our bodies! What can we do about it? Check out http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ and search for a few of your daily skincare products and favorite makeup items. How do they rate? Do any of the ingredients shock you? I know that I was horrified by the ingredients in most of my daily regiment, and that’s when I started looking for better options.

neverlistblog-3

I’ve been trying a lot of cleaner products over the last 5 years or so. Some are good, some are not so good. About a year ago I discovered BeautyCounter. BeautyCounter is a skincare company dedicated to selling safer products but also to educating and empowering consumers with the knowledge to make better purchasing decisions.

And it helps that their products are AMAZING.

I love their skincare line…so luxurious and delicious smelling. And it works! I honestly had low expectations for their shampoo and conditioner for my crazy hair and it surprised me completely…SO GOOD! Their plumping mask is the best thing ever for *ahem* aging skin (hello peony scent!…all essential oil based scents) and it makes my skin look so young and fresh. Their mascara is award-winning and seriously the BEST of the safer, more natural mascaras I’ve tried (and I’ve tried maybe 3 or 4).

But you guys, don’t take my word for it, try it out for yourself! If you want to try out some Beautycounter goodies, just leave me a comment below and I’ll hook you up!

If you love the mission of Beautycounter as much as I do, consider hosting a social to share what you’ve learned with your friends (with the bonus of earning FREE product for yourself!), or better yet, join our community and sign up as a consultant — you can make an impact while earning a significant income for your family.

***And as a special for the month of May ONLY, all purchases of $150+ will be entered to win a FREE Protect Stick Sunscreen for your face! And until May 11 you will also get a FREE LIP GLOSS with your $150 purchase. That’s right, free sunscreen from me AND free lipgloss from Beautycounter!!! This includes Band of Beauty purchases (which is awesome because you will you be saving money and getting credit towards more good stuff). Also, anyone who signs up to be a consultant and buys a starter kit will get a FREE lip sheer in the color of your choice. Good stuff!!!***

 

I love you guys and want everyone to be more aware of what they are putting on their skin. For their own health. For their familes. For their futures.

xoxo