Flax Hair I Wear

My hair is one of my favorite physical features I have. But during my middle school and high school years, it was a painful experiment to tame my mane. I have a vivid memory of being in study hall in 7th grade, and leaving only to discover that some nice boys a grade above me had made my hair a target for their spitballs.

I went through many extremes of hair do’s and don’ts: pulled back into a tight bun, too much gel to have a crunchy look, french braiding my hair at night to give it a crimpy look, and the list goes on. For years, L.A. Looks blue level ten plus extreme sports gel was my best friend. It was cheap, it did the trick, and my hair looked good.

In recent years, I’ve been introduced to the idea of a toxic free home. This idea promotes using products that have clean ingredients-from what you scrub your toilet with to the makeup you put on your face. Gel was on the back burner though… It was the one thing I didn’t want to give up, even after seeing it’s poor rating on the EWG website. Organic toxic-free gel ain’t cheap, Mamas. And most of the products that I’ve tried didn’t give me the hold I needed for my curly locks.

To L.A. Looks I clung.

Until one day, I researched how to make homemade gel. I’ve adapted the recipes I found online, and added the secret ingredient for the hold I desired- honey.

This recipe is three ingredients. You’ll need a pot, a pair of tongs, a bowl, a glass Tupperware for storing, and nylon knee highs.

Flax Hair I Wear

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Ingredients:

2 cups of flax seeds

A few squirts of honey

5 cups of water

Directions:

  1. Put the 2 cups of flax seeds and five cups of water into a pot. Put the burner on medium high to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to medium/medium high so it continues to boil, but not to the point that it is splashing out of pot. Stir occasionally, so the flax seeds at the bottom of the pot don’t burn. Let it simmer for ten minutes or slightly longer. There should be a frothy look when it’s done.APC_0725.jpeg
  2. Let it cool for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Scoop out with a ladel and insert several scoops into nylon sock. APC_0732.jpeg
  4. Using a pair of tongs, squeeze the flax gel into a glass tuperware. Repeat steps until all gel is squeezed out and nothing remains in pot.APC_0737.jpeg
  5. Add a few squirts of honey to Tupperware and mix well. I store my flax gel in the fridge to keep it fresh and usually use one batch within a week to two weeks, depending on how often I wash my hair.APC_0739.jpeg

Be careful on the honey, too much makes your hair stiff as a board. Too little doesn’t give you enough hold.

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Do you make any homemade recipes for beauty products, Mama? What’s your favorite physical feature you have? Share in the comments below!

 

Our NICU Journey

Two years and one month ago, our baby girl was born on June 24, 2017. We had a beautiful birth experience at home under the care of a midwife. Check out my birth story here.

Two years ago and three weeks ago, our sweet Lilian was admitted into the NICU. Many of you may remember seeing facebook posts with updates. This was by far the most faith stretching and challenging thing I’ve ever walked through. I’ve put off blogging about this because I knew it would take a lot of my emotional energy to remember these series of events. It’s hard to look back at the severity of the situation and recall that our precious girl’s outcome could have been much, much different.

I know there are other Mamas and families that need the hope to keep pressing on. One more day of visiting their little ones, one more pumping session to give your baby the best and seemingly only thing you can physically offer. One more prayer lifted up, one more post shared asking others to join you in interceding on behalf of your baby.

So it’s for all you families who have your little blessings in the NICU, this story is to offer you encouragement that you are not alone, that you and your baby are not forgotten, and there are people who have walked through this journey and come on the other side with a miracle.

Let’s start at the beginning.

The first week of Lillian’s life we were getting the hang of breastfeeding, pushing through having blisters on my nipples, and encouraging her to poop the rest of that meconium out. We visited the midwife for checkups and had her bilirubin tested which was in a normal range for her age of 5 days old.

At day 7, Lillian was not acting like herself. She wasn’t feeding as energetically as she had been. As the day turned into night, she wasn’t eating at her usually 2 hour mark. When she refused to eat at 3 hours, I was concerned and called the pediatrician and the midwife. The pediatrician asked if she had a temperature and to check her breathing. He said if she went to the four hour mark without eating to take her to the Emergency room.

Our thermometer’s batteries were dead- note to future moms, make sure your first aid kit is up to date! My husband noticed her breathing was more labored, but I am SO BAD at being able to tell these things, mostly because I wanted to believe the best. But also, why I pursued a teaching degree verses a nursing degree.

At the four hour mark, we rushed to the hospital. My mom and sister came to stay the night with our son. I couldn’t shake the mama’s instinct that we needed to go to the ER, but then also kept thinking, “I must be overreacting, she’s fine, right?”

When we got to the Children’s ER at St. Mary’s and they processed her, they proceeded to run a series of tests. I kept thinking, “She needs fluids, she’s been without fluids for too long now!” The ER doctor was super kind and communicated that she was really, really sick. She told me that Lillian’s way of communicating something was wrong was by not eating.  I was shocked, as I thought this would be an easy fix and we’d be home before the sun was up. She spewed statistics like high white blood cell count and needing our permission for a spinal tap.

All the while, my breasts are large and needing to nurse. Thank God for the one ER nurse who gave me a hand pump to bring some relief. In the early hours of the next morning, Lillian was transferred to the NICU where they finally put her on an IV for some fluids. We were shown the process of “scrubbing in” which required two minutes of using a fresh scour pad and hot water each time before entering the NICU. I was also kindly shown to the “pumping room” where I was able to pump milk for Lillian to drink later.

More tests were to be run, blood cultures were taken, and she was put on two antibiotics to begin fighting off whatever this was. We had to wait a few days for the cultures to come back with the results. At this point she was jaundice for being so long without fluids, so they had her put under the bilirubin light.

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Halfway through that day, we decided to go home and get some sleep. We had been up for over 24 hours and were exhausted. Lillian was stable enough and we would return that night.

Day 3 of Lillian being there she was moved from level 2 to level 3. I will never forget the how the nurse communicated with me not to touch her and that I was not to get in her way. She spoke kindly, truthfully, and firmly. Lillian was in a much more critical state and she showed me her coloring and breathing that were more labored. It was around that time that we were given the results from the cultures. Lillian had contracted Group Beta Strep which was in her spinal fluid, so spinal meningitis. My sister who is a NICU nurse was a godsend as she explained everything to us in terms we could understand. When I asked how bad that was, she said, “That was the one thing I was hoping it wasn’t.”

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Mamas, words cannot express how hard this was. I remember leaving that day feeling so discouraged and borderline depressed. “This is too hard,” I thought. “I don’t know if I can do this.” I remember forcing myself to eat meals those days, attempting to take care of myself. My husband stepped up to the plate. His faith did not waver. When it got hard for me to be there that day, he came by her bedside in the hospital and sang and spoke scripture of her. He commanded the infection to leave in the name of Jesus.

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That same day, my dear friend Amie texted me asking, “Christina are you taking your placenta pills? I think Lillian might be getting the GBS through your milk.” She sent me this article about a mom who had taken her placenta pills, the child got GBS, went to the NICU and got better, and then contracted it again. The connection was the placenta picked up on the infection.

Now this is a theory, but my instinct says this is exactly what happened. I took my first placenta pill 24 hours before Lillian went into the NICU. The day she got moved from level 2 to level 3, I had taken 2 placenta pills that morning. When I went home I dumped those pills directly in the trash just to be safe. In hindsight, I wish I would have kept them so the lab would have tested them. When they tested my milk that same day, there were traces of GBS in it. I was forbidden to breastfeed until my milk was cleared. A few days later, after the pills were no longer in my system, I was good to go with breastfeeding again.

When I was originally tested for GBS, I tested negative. I’ll do a future post on GBS, but Mamas, I encourage you to thoroughly do your research on this and placenta encapsulation. I was a huge advocate for it, and am still not against it, but my experience would cause me to refrain from it in the future.

Getting back on track with our story, Lillian was eventually moved from level 3 back to level 2 once more stable, and it was a marathon of waiting patiently for the 21 days of antibiotics to be administered. During this time a PICU was put in, x-rays were taken, 2 more spinal taps done, and so many other things that are a crunchy mama’s worst nightmare. There was grace in this process though. I firmly believe that God healed my daughter. But I also believe that He guided me to take her to the hospital and used modern medicine to aid in her healing process.

I just want you to understand a little bit more how serious this situation was. When I reminisce with my sister the NICU nurse, she reiterates, “Beans (she calls me), if you would have waited one hour longer, the outcome could have been different. Lillian’s quality of life could have been altered or she could have died.” Trust that Mama’s instinct, ladies. God gave us it for a reason!

We basically lived at St. Mary’s. I did come home each night to sleep, pumping at night, but was there all day long and Derek would come back at night to bottle feed her breastmilk. 

How did we get through? The support of our family, friends, and local church was amazing. We had people who donated money, breast pumps, provided meals, watched our son, sent encouraging texts, prayed, and visited us and Lillian in the hospital. We could not have made it through that valley without them! A big shout out to all you who cheered us on, we love you and are so thankful for you!

The NICU is a special and fragile place, the doctors and nurses there have a high calling to care for these little ones. I am forever grateful for the wisdom and kindness of the staff at St. Mary’s NICU.

Two years ago on this day our baby girl was released from the NICU. What a joyous celebration it was!

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The past two years have been filled with follow up appointments to specialists such as neurologists, infectious disease doctors, audiologists, and physical therapists.

Today, Lillian Melody is a passionate, friendly, loving, joy and delight! We celebrate the miracle and the beautiful pure song she is.

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What about you Mama? Do you have a NICU experience you want to share? What’s been the most challenging thing you’ve walked through?

Father’s Day Craft Ideas

Hey Mamas and Dadas! Happy almost Father’s Day to all those awesome Daddy’s out there! One of our favorite things to do is to create gifts for the holidays! This year for Father’s Day we are giving our Daddy and Papas a canvas made by the kiddos. Check out the supplies you need and easy steps to this process!

Supplies: Painter’s tape, canvases, paint, paper plate, and sponges.

How to do it:

  1. Prep the canvas with the masking tape. We did a simple “Dad” and “Papa.” A friend  of ours was very creative and made a space rocket! img_1280.jpeg
  2. Put a variety of paint colors in the paper plate.
  3. Show your child a sample online of a painting project made with painter’s tape. Model for them how to use the sponge to blot the paint on. Try to avoid smearing as this mixes colors, but also let your child have fun!IMG_1283.jpeg IMG_1284.jpeg
  4. Allow the canvas to dry some, but not completely.
  5. Carefully remove the painter’s tape from the canvas.IMG_1286.jpegimg_1287.jpeg
  6. After the canvas is completely dry, wrap it up!

What are your plans for Father’s Day this year, Mama? Do you and your kids ever make home made crafts as a gift?

Mother’s Day and Holy Moments

Happy belated Mother’s Day, Mama! I hope you and yours had a blessed one. I have lots of blog post ideas running through my head, but so little time to write! I am currently watching my daughter Lillian through a window as she is in Physical Therapy to fine tune her balance and walking.

Easter and Mother’s Day passed in a blur. We are in the process of creating new traditions with our children as our families expand. Sharing the holidays is a rhythm we are finding.

The past couple years we’ve done brunch with my in laws out at a restaurant. This year we hosted in our home, and can I get an amen that eating at home with kids is the way to go? The struggle of having little ones sit still for 1.5 hours out at a restaurant is real. We’ve enjoyed hosting as my MIL graciously cooks brunch and brings it to our home. The kids loving playing with their uncles and interacting with the family in their environment. Then later on in the day, after my youngest has napped, we head over to my moms to swim and eat. What a blessing to have a day off from cooking! I usually help bake an item for each family session, and am so thankful to indulge in some deliciousness I did not have to prepare.

Lets rewind (who remembers VHS?) back to Easter. Due to little ones and early bed time the past two years we have not attended the Good Friday service at our church. We’ve tried to be intentional about reading the story of Jesus’ beautiful sacrifice in our home along with creating sacred space of not running around like little chicks. We had multiple Easter egg hunts at Awanas, school, and family…trying to keep the focus on what Easter is about. What activities did you do for Easter?

It was tradition in the Urso home to get a new Easter dress every year, usually accompanied by big bows and gloves and frilly socks. Confession:this year I was too tired and didnt wash my hair or shave my legs. Shout out to maxi dresses to cover the hairy beasts! Years ago I was challenged when listening to a podcast that when I go to church, it’s  not about what I gain but about what I give. It was a privilege to serve in walker room at our church on Easter morning. My eyes often tear up in those precious moments with the little ones as we read the story or color.

The day before Easter, I went for a run and had a holy moment in the kitchen. I was sweaty, chowing down on carrots and guac and simply listening to a song on my iPhone with headphones. It was in that moment that I sensed the presence of God so strongly. Most of the times I encounter that presence it’s not in a corporate setting, but in the mundane of a car ride, run, or the normal day to day.

I love that Jesus is not put off by sweaty runny clothes. I don’t have to be in my best Easter dress to enter the presence of the Holy One, he accepts us all just as we are.

What did you do to celebrate Easter and Mother’s Day, Mama? Have you encountered any holy moments lately?

 

Transitioning to Solids

Hey Mamas! Today I want to share with you our journey from liquid to solid foods. I have a friend whose baby is about to transition into eating solids, so I thought why not share this with everyone?

There are options out there. Some people lean towards baby led weaning, and others start with purées. I’m sharing with you what worked best for my family based on our diet preference and what we felt comfortable with.

Let’s go with the who, what, when, where, why, how format.

Who: Who is ready to eat? A baby around 6 months of age. Some doctors and people encourage introducing solids as early as 4 months. Based on my research and my mama instinct, we waited until both our children were 6 months of age. I thought why not let that digestive system develop a bit longer? Your baby will show signs of readiness such as licking their lips, or watching you eat.

What: What foods should you start with? We started with homemade veggies puréed or mashed. Avocados, peas, steamed broccoli, carrots, and mashed sweet potatoes. We avoided fruit for awhile because we wanted to teach their palates not to expect something sweet.

When: When should you feed your child their first meal? Avoid feeding them when they are tangry, hangry, or thangry. I gave my child half the amount of breastmilk they would normally drink (one side), and had their food prepped and ready to go.

Where: Where should you feed them? A sturdy high chair or bumbo seat is a must. We introduced food to our children at our family meal time.

Why: Why should you give them the same food? A good rule of thumb is to introduce only one new food at a time, for 3-4 days in a row, to watch for possible allergies.

How: How much should you feed them? At first it’s just a taste, like a teaspoon once a day. You don’t want to overload their digestive system as they will have their first solid poop. As their bellies and appetites grow, so will the amount of food they eat. 7 months I increased to two meals a day, 8 months 3 meals a day, and weaned them off the purées.

There are different schools of thought on how soon to introduce nuts, eggs, and meat. I waited until about 9/10 months for nut butters and offered them very minuscule amounts.

I offered mahi fish to my daughter around 10/11 months and she was smacking her lips! Eventually I just had her eating off my plate! The sooner we had her eating our stuff the better. I found both my children preferred food with flavor! Sometimes I would even chew up a little of what we were eating and then offer it to them, like a mama bird.

Tools that I used: Small jars/containers for storing home made food, the baby bullet, baby spoons, a high chair, and bibs. My daughter used to rip her bib off, so we would just strip her down to her diaper for feedings and still do to this day.

What was your baby’s first food, Mama? Do you have any feeding tips to share?

 

Family Size OJ Smoothie: Part 2 Breakfast, Brunch, and Brinner

My breakfast of choice lately has been a massive smoothie. Mornings tend to be full of exciting moments at our house. My son runs upstairs and needs to poop to discover that the toilet paper was put up high the night before to prevent my 21 month old daughter from eating and unrolling the entire thing. Then Mommy needs to use the bathroom only to have the same 21 month old crying desperately for me outside my door, as if I’m going on a long journey for months on end.

Needless to say, a grab and go smoothie for this Mama on a run is efficient and (mostly) effortless.

We like to refer to my hubby, aka Daddy, as the “Smoothie Master.” He always comes up with yummy concoctions that satisfy adults and kiddos alike. This recipe happens to be our favorite. It is jam packed with nutrition found in kale, açai, hemp seeds, flax seed meal, and fruit! Check out this family sized recipe. Feel free to cut it in half or quarter it to meet your needs.

Servings: 2 Adults and 2 kids

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Blend Time: Until smooth

Ingredients:

  • 5 Cups of Kennessaw OJ with pulp
  • 3 stalks of kale
  • 2 açai packets (3.5/4 oz package)
  • 1.5 cups of frozen mango
  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1/2 cup of blueberries
  • 2 scoops of Organic Vega Berry flavor protein powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons of flax meal (optional)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of hemp seeds (optional)

Add all ingredients into your blender and put on high until smooth, using the tamper if needed.

What’s your favorite go-to smoothie, Mama?

*Note, we use a Vitamix 64 oz and it is packed to the brim with all these ingredients.

 

 

Preparing for The Season of Lent

Can you believe it’s the first week of March, Mama? The year of 2019 seems to be flying by and I am trying to keep up with its fast past. Tomorrow, Wednesday, March 6, Lent begins.

I grew up with grandparents who loved Jesus and were devout Catholics. I have a very vivid memory of going to an Ash Wednesday service with them and having an ash put on my forehead around age 4. I have other memories as well. The smell of incense. The image of my Grandfather holding his Rosary beads. The sound of the recording of Hail Mary prayers on our car rides.

I attended a wide variety of denominations growing up…pentecostal, baptist, non-denominational, and presbyterian. It was my Grandparents’ influence, however that had me ponder the season of Lent when I grew older.

In years past, I’ve fasted from sweets, restaurants, dairy, and meat.

This year I stumbled upon a treasure. There’s this beautiful devotional called “40 Days of Decrease” by Alicia Britt Chloe.

Alicia challenges us to look past the superficial and seek to fast from deeper issues of the heart that we allow ourselves to engage in such as: comparison, accumulation, and gossip. She calls readers to “study Jesus’ uncommon and uncomfortable call to abandon the world’s allusions, embrace His kingdom’s reality, and journey cross-ward and beyond.”

The study guides the reader through John 12 to 21 over the course of 40 days, preparing our hearts and pointing to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

What I love is that it is available for free on the Hoopla app. All you need is your library card and you can access it!

What are you giving up for Lent this season, Mama?