Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Our Favorite Chemical Free Products For Kids

Switching to chemical free products/a chemical free home can be quite the process. It can take quite awhile to get where you are aiming to be. There is a lot to learn, a lot to research, new products to buy and try, or even to make yourself, and lots of trial and error. It takes time, but it is so worth doing. 
When my oldest was a baby, she had a battle with eczema early on that led us to a dermatologist and quickly led to us eliminating pretty much all fragrance from our products. At first it was just her things. We started using the "natural" soaps and shampoos the dermatologist gave us (which I laugh at now, because they were still completely filled with chemicals, just more expensive and fragrance free...) on her, but noticed she would still have breakouts from being snuggled up to an adult whose clothes had been washed in regular detergent. Crazy. So we quickly eliminated all of that from our home and never looked back. 

Several years later is when I really started looking into chemical exposure, carcinogens in the home, and what we are putting on our bodies. It is absolutely insane. It makes me sad how it is just completely normal for us to use products filled with literal garbage, and no one bats an eye because we don't know better! Well, now I know, and am so glad we've made the effort to switch out all of our products for the last 2 years or so. It has taken some time to find what works for each person in our family, and to test out products, but we have found some natural products that we really love! These are all products that our family actually uses, that I have found to be affordable (remember, what is considered affordable for a more natural product is usually still going to be quite a bit more than you'd pay for a conventional product, but I feel that the products we have found and use don't break the bank), and that we truly love!
(One more quick note: I love using the EWG skin deep website and app to check products. Not all products are on there, so when I really want to know about something, I create my own report. I typically aim to have a score of 2 or under for the products we use.)

Body Wash: Alaffia EveryDay Shea Moisturizing Body Wash in vanilla mint (I bought at a local store for around $10.) 
This stuff smells sooooo insanely good! It kind of smells like a junior mint. It is really creamy and the bottle that we got is enormous. We have been using it for probably 6+ months for 6 people and have hardly made a dent in it. One pump on a loofah goes a LONG way. I really like having a lather when I use body wash, so that is an important factor for me and the kids to consider when testing out natural body washes (some hardly lather at all). For $10 I would say that this product is a great value! I love that I only need one bottle of body wash in the shower for our entire family as opposed to buying kids/baby/adult products because of
"natural" factor. 

Shampoo: Fresh Monster Kids 2-in-1 Shampoo and Conditioner in coconut
This stuff also smells really good, has a great lather, and is a 2 on the SkinDeep site. I love that I can buy it at Target online (free shipping with a redcard= effortless shopping!) and again, it is a more affordable natural option. My 2 daughters have been using this for 8 months and we still have about 1/4 of the bottle left. So, under $7 for 2 kids (one with hair almost to her waist) to use for about a year is really not too bad at all!

 I also love that they have different scents to choose from. I will say that we also have their detangler and haven't liked it much. It is ok when I use it on their wet hair, but it makes me sneeze, which is weird. I feel like the scent makes my sinuses ache when I spray it, which is strange for a natural product. And when I spray it on their dry hair, it leaves a greasy residue which I can't stand. But, that brings me to the detangler that we DO love...
Detangler: Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Kids Extra Moisturizing Detangler 
I have had this for over a year for one of my littles who has kinky hair, and use it daily. One day when I got fed up with the other detangler I sprayed this on the girls as well, and it was AMAZING! I can honestly say it works well for ALL hair types. I've used it on 3 of my kids and myself....all different kinds of hair (kinky super tight curls, loose ringlet curls, wavy hair, and stick straight). It smells incredible, is affordable (again, I've had this bottle over a year and have been using it daily on 1 and on all 3 kids for about half that time), and is a 2 on the EWG scale. I use all Shea Moisture products on my Little with the tight curls and they all work amazingly well on that type of hair. 

Toothpaste: Jack n Jill Natural Toothpaste
This one is a bit more expensive, but I have had a really hard time finding a good kids toothpaste without some ingredient I don't like. It seems everything we've tried so far has been pretty close, but would still have 1 or 2 things I didn't love. This meets my ingredient standards (scores a 1 on the EWG scale). We haven't had it for long so I can't say how long it'll last, but from the Amazon reviews it looks like it should last us quite awhile. I am a little over the top about oral health, so I'm willing to pay the price. 

Lotion: Alaffia Everyday Coconut Hair & Body Lotion in coconut strawberry (I bought at a local store, so I'm not 100% sure what I paid for it.) I actually have several Alaffia brand products for myself, too, and I don't know what it is about these products but it seems like they will just last forever! We hardly make a dent in them no matter how often we use them, so I love that! This lotion is really creamy and smells fruity which the kids love. It just feels really gentle and glides on their skin so nicely, leaves no residue and makes their skin super soft. 
So that's what we've been loving for our kiddo essentials! It truly has been trial and error, finding that some things I throw away most of a bottle because we don't like it/it doesn't work, but we have found some great gems here that we love! If you have made your way into chemical free products, what are some of your favorites for your kids? I love hearing recommendations from real people to see what actually works and is worth the price! 

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Brain dump-Homeschooling Preschool

We are about halfway through our preschool year, (I think. I am not really keeping super close track as we don't have to do anything this year) and I'm having lots of feelings. 
We have been having a ton of fun this year, and I have loved watching my girls grow and enjoy learning. 
Last summer, I meticulously did tons of research on preschool curriculum, preschool programs, units, styles of learning, etc. and chose some things I thought would fit really well for my girls. We have dumped about half of that stuff I meticulously researched, ha. Just goes to show you can't always tell how good of a fit it will be until you are using it every day. 
The Bible curriculum I chose, I loved because each week had a story, character of God that went along with that story and letter for the week, a verse, and some activities to go along with it all. It looked like just what we needed-not a full blown Bible curriculum yet, but something to supplement what we were already learning about the Bible, and to go along with the letter we were focusing on that week. Well, that was all great, but once we actually started doing it, it was not a good fit. I still love focusing on the character of God each week, but one of the things we were doing each week was a page with the verse to trace, and a picture. Well, my girls can't read! So while it was good handwriting practice, it certainly wasn't helping them hide the verse away in their hearts since they mostly didn't know what they were copying at the time. So, I've stowed those away for future years as something additional to do for memory verses. 
The main curriculum we chose has been about what I expected it to be. I pick and choose a lot from it, where things apply or don't apply to my kids, what we are learning, what we have time for, and their ability and interest. That has worked out pretty well. 
The additional sight word "curriculum" I chose, has gone pretty well. My girls have memorized the words they've learned very well, and are able to read the reader each week with no help from me (after I teach them that week's new word), which I think has been very empowering for them! My oldest daughter LOVES pointing out words she knows when we are reading books together (which interrupts our story 997897234 times each book, but ya know...she's proud and I'm proud of her!) 
We have abandoned about half of what we were doing in our binders each day. It was taking F.O.R.E.V.E.R. for them to get them done each day, and it wasn't the bulk of what we needed to be doing, so we cut way back. Now we just fill in a square for the 100 days of school count, they do the weather for the day, what they're thankful for, and how they're feeling. We basically stopped all the calendar pages and just go over our calendar area together for the day, date, month, etc. 
Lately I have been having a hard time being motivated to get things ready each week. The girls have been so imaginative lately and they just get SO into playing these make believe games with their toys, and it is really hard to want to ask them to stop to come do school. So lately, more often than not, I've been letting them do their thing and if we don't get school in, oh well. I've had to really loosen up the reigns on this for myself, because I hate feeling like we're getting behind. But you know what? This is my oldest's last official year before we really start school. And then it will be school for the next 13 years. So I'm just feeling all the feelings right now and feeling like if she wants to play, I should let her play. She is plenty ready for Kindergarten already, that I am just trying not to worry about it. I guess that's one of the beauties of homeschooling-we can adjust where we see fit and do what works for us in that season. That's hard for my type A personality to be ok with, but it's a little easier when I see how much they've been enjoying themselves lately. 
It definitely feels like Kinder is approaching rapidly. We will be registering with our local HSAP (homeschool assistance program) soon, purchasing curriculum, and getting ready for her first official year of school! I am excited and she is more than ready, I think. We are debating about whether to send her to the HSAP options program once a week which is a class of homeschooled kids and they go to music, art, P.E., history, science, lunch and recess. I think it's about 4-5 hours once a week. I think she would really enjoy that and I would love for her to get more out of some of those specials areas than what she might get at home the first few years, but we have a few reservations as well, so we will see which way it goes! 
I was going to try to find some recent school pictures, but I think I am going to just leave this as a true "brain dump" post and end it here! 
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Sunday, January 8, 2017

How to Be a Great Mom

{Tips from a super imperfect mom, who is learning more every day about what's truly important.}

Buy your kids lots of presents

Give them ice cream every day

Take them on extravagant vacations

Love them 

Join the PTA

Make sure they know how to read by the age of 3

Enroll them in every activity you can find

Seek Jesus every hour of every day for guidance

Feed them all organic, unprocessed foods

Make sure they always wear the newest and latest fashion

Teach them about and point them to the Father

Ensure they always get straight A's and are on the honor roll

Make sure they spend no more than 30 minutes on any electronic device every day

Insist that your home is completely free of all chemicals

Tell them how loved and cherished they are

Buy them a brand new car when they turn 16

Start a college savings fund for them as soon as they join your family

Hug them every day

Send them to daycare 

Don't send them to daycare 

Send them to public school

Homeschool them

Send them to private school

Unschool them

Spend quality time with them

I am certainly not criticizing anyone who does any of these things. I do several of them myself! I just know as a mom, especially in our society today, there is so much pressure to do the "right thing". The right thing is different for every family and every child. I am learning so much more that to my kids, a great mom is the one who spends time with them, plays with them, comforts them, encourages them, and loves them. The other day, I talked to my husband about how my kids would remember me if I died tomorrow. I want to work harder on placing importance on those things that aren't crossed out. Someday, not so far away, when my kids leave our nest, those are the things I want my kids to remember about me. 
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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2016 Recap-Month By Month

Because of how crazy 2016 ended up being, I took a lot of time off from blogging. I thought it would be fun to do a little recap of our family's year! 
On January 6, we got a call about 2 little ones needing to be moved from their current foster home. I called my husband at work, told him the details, and called them right back to say yes! On January 9, we met them for the first time when they moved into our home. Obviously, this would be one of the most ideal things to share a picture of from last year, but, ya know. 
 The rest of January, we pretty much spent adjusting to moving back into the baby phase, and getting to know 2 new little ones, as well as learning the foster care process as we went.
In January, we also had a little one who refused to sleep in her own bed for a several week (or maybe month?) period of time, which was really cute and funny.
We were very sleep deprived in January.
My husband took the girls on a special Daddy/Daughter date night for Valentine's Day. They got all pampered and felt SO special going out on a big date with Daddy. It was much needed time together after their little world's had changed so much the month before. 
My hubby turned 28...
And we actually had warm enough weather toward the end of the month to spend time outside, which is crazy here.

In March, my younger daughter had a joint birthday party with her friend. We had a bounce house and a cookie theme at our church, and once again, it was warm enough weather to actually do it outside (shocking)! 

We took our first respite weekend from our foster kiddos (sending them to another foster family for the weekend) and celebrated our girl's birthday with lots of fun events, like a movie, pizza and museum night, and a day at the indoor water park. 
We ended the weekend with E.R. visit number one for the year due to RSV, which sounds a lot less scary than it was.... (i.e. one of the scariest moments of my life)
E.R. visit number 2 for 2016 happened in early April, when on the way home from the Children's Museum, one of the littles started puking uncontrollably. Thatttt was super fun! And these things ALWAYS happen on nights or weekends, when everything else is closed. Anyone else?! 
2 days later, both my husband and I got the stomach bug late one night. He had to cancel his work trip for the next morning, and we both tried to recoup and hope none of the other kids got it. Thank God for Zofran!! 
We took the girls bowling for the first time this month...
I chopped A TON of hair off....
And our big girl started soccer!
My husband started traveling A LOT somewhere around this time (it's fuzzy), which was really hard. 
We celebrated Mother's Day...
Went to the petting zoo...
Started spending tons of time outside and in the water with friends...
Met up for an afternoon with some of our oldest and best friends, who moved away and we don't get to see often enough!
Took the babies out of town with us for the first time, on a work trip with Daddy. 4 kids under 5 in a hotel room, and driving both ways by myself with them (since my husband had to drive a company car)...we barely survived...
We DID go to the zoo while we were there, though! 
We enjoyed the beautiful weather to the fullest, and spent as much time outside as we could...
Celebrated our favorite guy on Father's Day...
The girls crushed some swimming lessons...
(This is blurry, and far away, but it's one of my favorites, of my oldest hugging her sister who had just gone under the water, which she hates, for the final test). 
We celebrated swimming success with ice cream!

And took the littles out of state for the first time. We had a great time in Arkansas with my family! Had no idea how beautiful it is there!
As soon as we got back from vacation, we took another respite weekend, so we could take the girls out late to see fireworks and celebrate the 4th! (And also to recoup from the 10 hours of crying in the car from 2 toddlers we heard the entire way home from AR, if I'm being perfectly honest....)

I did a 3 day smoothie "cleanse" to reset after all the junk on vacation. I had a smoothie thief most meals...
My husband started a new job, doing something more in his field and there is NO TRAVEL! Hallelujah! Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Thank ya Jesus!
I turned 29!
My mom came to visit...
We sold and rearranged a bunch of furniture in several rooms of our house to come up with a homeschool configuration. It eventually worked out, but I am pretty sure my husband didn't appreciate the process very much ;) 
In early August, we had a long training day for our foster care license renewal, so we made a weekend out of it and sent the girls to their grandparents for a night and the boys to respite. 
While they were gone, we basically completely redid our downstairs living/family/multi use room and turned it into a school room. It took all night, but we got it done! 
In late August, we started school
We decided sort of last minute-ish to drive to Colorado over Labor Day to FINALLY meet our new niece/cousin who had been born the previous December. We had tried several times to make it work over the year, and something always happened that stopped us. We were not able to take the boys with us this time, and I was a little bit nervous about leaving them for so long, but they were in great hands! A few nights before, my oldest started throwing up randomly and we ended up having her sleep on our floor after the second round of it. 2 nights later, the night before leaving for Colorado, it hit me. I was SO upset! I thought we were going to have to cancel the trip. It was about the same for me as it was for her, and luckily I had some Zofran from the last time, and was able to take that. So, we still left the next morning, but only made it about 4-5 hours before I needed to stop for the day. It was slow going, and we missed out on a day with my family, but we eventually made it there the next day and I was feeling fully better, and luckily no one else got it! 
My mom moved up to the mountains the summer before, and we hadn't been to her house yet, so we stayed there for the first two nights. (I mean, talk about that view while hot tubbing!)
My mom also got a new puppy, who is SO CUTE!
My girls were reunited with their cousin, and we all FINALLY got to meet the baby!!! 

We moved down to my brother and sister-in-law's (about an hour and a half away from my mom) and stayed the next 2 nights there. We also did family pictures, which was crazy but fun! 

In September, we hit school full force. 
We went apple picking...

My big girl started ice skating lessons...
She had a birthday party at the "farm"...

And she turned 5!
The girls started taking piano in a group class...

October brought lots of outside time...

Daddy love...

And Halloween fun...

I spent a good majority of October taking and editing pictures, as this was my last month for photography before cold weather hits. I haven't counted but I probably had close to as many photo sessions in this one month as I did the entire rest of the year...it was crazy, but really fun! 
Someone got her ears pierced at the beginning of the month!
The girls and I made the front page of our local newspaper...
Baba (my Dad) came to visit...
Followed a few days later by Grandmommy...
And Aunt Lili!
We had a great Thanksgiving!
And celebrated Christmas with them while they were here!

December started with a much anticipated visit to a cardiologist for my oldest. I had put it out of my mind for the months we were waiting, because it was too scary to think about. Praise God, all is well with her heart! 

Shortly after our Texas family left, my mom came to visit!

We had our first snowfall... (and 2nd, and 3rd...)
My big girl passed level 2 of ice skating...
My husband hit a deer on the way home from work one night, and his car was totaled, so we spent a lot of time researching, test driving, and ultimately buying a new one.
We did lots of baking, and treat delivering...
And spent the month enjoying some down time, each other's company, and Christ's birth!
(Oh, and ER visit #3 for a swallowed Lego...this is where I would insert the emoji with the wide eyes...)
What a full year 2016 was for our family! We are excited to see what is in store for our family in 2017! 
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