Enjoying our girl

Tuesday, April 25

A week after she was born my mom and I snapped these photos of Avonlea around our house. She's now 3 weeks old and I can already tell she's grown! She's an amazing little eater, and her stomach is so round it's hilarious!

We are just in love with this sweet girl and enjoying her so much. Yes, we are a bit sleep deprived, and yes, I spend my days mostly nursing and rocking her, and yes, I'm mostly covered in spit up and breast milk…but I honestly can say that I really love it. More than I thought I would, which has surprised me. I'm not sure what I expected to feel like in the weeks following the baby, but it certainly has been really lovely. This little one has charmed my heart:)

I'm healing up well, and starting to take walks which has been a game changer. She loves to walk! It's been raining a lot, but starting Thursday it's supposed to be in the 80's and completely sunny for a while, so i'm pumped!!

The flower game here in northern california is strong, and I'm loving all the wildflowers in the hills, the gorgeous blooms at the farmers market, and the bouquet of daffodils on my kitchen table. The camellias in the pictures above were cut from a bush in our yard, just love them!

We've got some sweet visitors this week so i'm looking forward to that! Any fun plans this week for you??

FREE Green Tea Oil Free Hydration SPF 30 with $100 or more purchase

Avonlea's birth story

Wednesday, April 19

 While I was pregnant with Avonlea, I kept a prayer journal. I often asked the Lord for any words, verses or pictures he had for me with the birth. The words He gave me were trust and dependence. I wasn't sure what to make of the words, but let me tell you, in hindsight, I needed a lot of trust and dependence during this process, so I'm glad the Lord had prepared me:) So much of my pregnancy and birth forced me to abandon my plans, and trust His!

To "prepare" for birth (can you really ever prepare with your first? haha!), Kevin and I took a 5 week birth class at the hospital. It was helpful to gain some basic insight into the process. We also took an online Kingdom Childbirth Class called A Heavenly Welcome. It incorporated a Christian perspective into the birthing process, and was just so encouraging. It taught me to release fear and embrace birth as something so beautiful! A Heavenly Welcome also has free birth podcasts, where women share their birthing stories (which I found fascinating!). The one thing I gained from the podcasts is that your birth will not go as you plan, but as God plans.

So…from the start, I felt pretty good about holding things very loosely. I'm a very natural person, so of course I wanted to try to give birth with no drugs at all…but I told myself I wasn't opposed to it. And I'm so glad I had that attitude, because I can tell you right now that my entire experience didn't go at all how I would have planned! But…it was absolutely perfect because it's what God planned for me. I had to trust and depend on him each step of the way.

To begin, Avonlea was two weeks past her due date. Those two weeks were so hard emotionally. I was So ready to meet our girl and each day I would excitedly arise and think "this could be the day!" only to go to bed with absolutely nothing happening. My mom and I walked every single day (sometime multiple walks!), I bounced on a ball, did lunges, put essential oils on, and even tried castor oil (never again!)! She just wouldn't budge!

Finally my OB scheduled to induce me on Monday night, April 3rd. Again, "my plan" would not have included being induced, but I just had to trust God. Deep breathe! Kevin and I went in and around 9pm they gave me Cervadil to soften my cervix (as up until this point I had only dilated to a 1- my cervix being so far back they could barely get to it!). Around 4am, I started having some pretty intense contractions. Kevin stood next to me, holding my hand as I slept between contractions. Around 7am the nurses checked me and I was at a 3 and my cervix had finally moved down into the right position (which was something to celebrate! haha).

They hooked me up to an IV and started the pitocin. The contractions started becoming pretty massive and close together. My mom came and brought me a smoothie in the morning, and then went right to work massaging my back during the contractions as Kevin looked me in the face and walked me through each part of the contraction. My mom and Kevin were lifesavers during this time. The pain was excruciating! I tried all the methods I thought I would like…getting into the whirlpool tub, holding on to Kevin, etc…and I hated all of it. Everything felt so painful. The only position I liked was sitting on a folding chair with my mom and Kevin around me. I had read the book by Marie Mongon on Hypnobirthing, and her hypnobirthing cd (which I had downloaded on my phone) literally got me through the worst of the contractions. I can still hear those chimes now…haha! But really, I was able to sleep between the contractions and stay relaxed.

Around 10am they checked me again and I had progressed to a 6! We all cheered! The pitocin was really doing it's job. The next 4 hours were the most excruciating as I continued to labor through the contractions. At 2pm they checked me again, and I was still only at a 6. Being in so much pain, and feeling like nothing had happened in the last four hours prompted me to ask for an epidural. I had tried hard without it, but felt no shame in asking for one. I just trusted that this was going to be part of my birth, and let me tell you…it was heavenly. When the drug started working, I was on cloud 9. Even though I could still feel the contractions, they were more a dull pain. I was able to nap, my mom and Kevin were able to eat some lunch and rest, and we all just relaxed for about an hour or so.

Around 5pm the nurses checked me and I was at a 10! I was so happy I cried! Actually I sobbed. I couldn't believe I was finally there (except little did I know I still had so far to go, haha!). The nurses had me start pushing. At first, because of the epidural the pushing wasn't hard, and I thought "this is easy!" haha…that was not my tune later!. An hour in, the doctor came in and told me we needed to turn down the epidural so that I could feel myself pushing. I pushed a total of 3 hours, and Avonlea still wasn't coming out!

At this point, my doctor gave me three options…he said I could have a C-section, I could keep pushing naturally (but she wasn't going to come anytime soon), or he could use the vacuum to get her out. I literally told them I didn't like any of the options. In this moment, after laboring 16 hours and pushing for 3, I was exhausted and felt like I couldn't make a decision. Kevin mentioned we try the vacuum, and I went for it. Three sets of contractions later, Avonlea came out. (I won't mention the part where her head was stuck half inside me and half outside of me, and I had to wait 4 minutes until the next contraction! I can honestly say, that was the worst!!!)

But what a miracle! Honestly, when they put her on me, Kevin and I were so overwhelmed with emotion. We couldn't believe that our little peach was finally here and sitting on my chest. Everyone was cheering, my mom was taking pictures, and it was just such a holy moment. My dad and siblings and Kevin's parents were all in the waiting room, and over time they came in to see her. It was just such a beautiful celebration of our baby girl's arrival into the world.

I literally look back at my birth experience and rejoice at each part of it. It all felt holy and miraculous to me. I felt the Holy Spirit at each stage through my nurses, the doctor, and especially my mom and Kevin.  It was such a sweet bonding time for me with both of them as they worked SO hard to support me. I couldn't have done it without their constant encouragement. The room was so peaceful, and I felt like I was able to bring her into a calm and loving atmosphere. Like I said, nothing really went the way I had envisioned it going in some ways, but the way it went seemed perfect to me. I learned to just depend and trust God in a tangible way, and that was beautiful.

Thank you all for being so loving and supportive to us in this time. I've received so many lovely blog comments, cards in the mail and emails. Thank you ALL!! xoxo 

An honest 2 year review

Monday, April 17

Organic and All Natural Beauty Prodicts

I hope you had a wonderful Easter:) This one was special as it was Avonlea's first time celebrating the  resurrection of our sweet Savior! My parents hosted in their beautiful home, and every fire place in the house was roaring as it was pouring rain outside. It was actually rather magical with the fires and tons of candles all over the house. My huge wonderful family had driven in for the event, and Avonlea got more than her fair share of cuddles. I barely held her, haha! Today I thought I'd share a review of products that have truly changed my life:)

It's been exactly two years since I was introduced to 100% Pure. I was in the beginning of my quest to rid my life of the toxins that I so cluelessly was rubbing all over my body (lotions, make-up, etc). I started my search at the local natural food shop, and found that the make-up there was just not cutting it.  I did an online search, but was overwhelmed with options. Finally, I read a review from another blogger on 100% Pure products, and thought "i'll give them a try". So, I bought some basics…foundation, mascara and a lip stick. When my package arrived, I excitedly tore it open and tested them out. I was amazed at how beautifully they applied, and then lasted the entire day!

Now…two years later, I can honestly say these products have changed my skin in the best way possible. If you are someone on the beginning of your search for a toxin-free lifestyle, I would really recommend trying out a few staples. Of course they are going to cost more than the products in the beauty aisle at the grocery store, but that's because they are made with only the BEST pure ingredients...free of all toxic chemicals and anything that will harm your body. I literally felt the difference the minute I put the make-up on, and my body did too!

Here are the staples I use on a daily basis. I hope you'll consider trying them for yourself!

I wash every morning and every evening with the Purity Facial Cleanser + Mask. It's amazing, and I will never part with it!

After washing, I rub a dollop of the Coconut Whipped Body Butter all over my face. I actually started using this on my face by accident, as one day I ran out of my face lotion and tried this. My face loved it so much i've been using it for about 8 months and my skin is so hydrated and no break-outs!

For make-up, my routine includes:
Mattifying Primer: This is a total STAPLE you should try. Game changer in my opinion! Regular primers make me break-out for sure, but not this one. It is smooth, healthy, and makes my foundation slide on my skin!

Fruit Pigmented Healthy Foundation (in Peach Bisque) : Another staple I will always buy. Great coverage and so smooth!

Maracuja Mascara: Black Tea: Best mascara i've ever used!

If you're into lipsticks, this one is my favorite. If you're looking for something more subtle, I adore this lip glaze, and if you like a good lip gloss, this one is my favorite!

At night, I wash with the Purity Facial Cleanser + Mask, and then apply a serum that they actually discontinued. Once I run out of the serum, I'm planning on trying their new night cream product called the Retinol Restorative Overnight Balm.

They also source baby products too!! I got this lotion, this shampoo, and this sunscreen for Avonlea. I feel super comfortable using them on such a tiny babe as they are all non-toxic and gentle as can be!!

So that's that! These are the staples I use on a daily basis! My advice is to start small, purchasing just a few foundational products (foundation, mascara, etc) and try them out! If you like them, then over time add a few more to your routine. Everything lasts a good amount of time, and I swear you'll notice the difference!

Hope this helps get you where you want to be with your more natural, non-toxic lifestyle:) And as a fun added bonus, in the month of April 100% Pure will plant a tree for every item you purchase! So cool, right?

Hopefully this week i'll be sharing my birth story and more pics of sweet Avonlea! Have a lovely day:)

FREE 5 Piece Ginseng Collagen Boost Mask with £72 or more purchase

Our little girl is here!!

Tuesday, April 11

I am seriously overjoyed to announce that our sweet daughter,
Avonlea Grace,
 who we have prayed for and carried for 9 months, 
has arrived into our arms. 
She made her debut a week ago, 
Tuesday April 4th at 8:30pm. 
She weighed 7 pounds 14 ounces and was 21 inches long. 
We are so so smitten. 

I have always loved the name Avonlea. 
I first heard it about 10 years ago when I met a little girl in a coffee shop name Avonlea, 
and thought it was beautiful. 
Being that Anne of Green Gables is one of my favorite books and movies, 
it was a top contender for girl names. 
For months Kevin and I tried to find a name we liked better, and we never did. 
I think we always knew it would be Avonlea:) 
The name means
"A return to childlike faith, simple beauty, noble purity, and compassion for the least"
all beautiful qualities I pray for our girl! 
I think it fits perfectly for her:) 

Grace, her middle name, is the anthem for our life. 
I am encouraged by this verse in John 1:16 that says, 
"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace"
Jesus offers us gifts we don't deserve, an immense love beyond measure. 
As Avonlea is a gift, grace felt like the perfect middle name:) 

I am excited to write out my birth story on here, as it was beautiful and unique 
(and not what I expected at all!). 
Hopefully that will come this week or next, as I don't want to forget it! 
This past week of being parents has been a crash course in figuring out what to do with a newborn, haha! But she has been wonderful, and I'm still on a total high. 
Kevin and I spend hours just staring at her, laughing hysterically at her funny faces, and praying over her tiny frame. 

In our eyes, she is just perfect:) We praise God daily for his generous and kind gift to us, one that we so don't deserve…what a privilege it is to bring a baby into the world. 

Don't worry, more pictures and stories to come:) 
But for now, thank you for your prayers and your excitement for this sweet babe. 
We are just filled to the brim with gratitude! 

Still waiting for our sweet babe

Monday, March 27

We are officially 6 days overdue with our sweet baby girl, and this mama is going crazy!! Waiting is so tough, especially since i've already spent 9 months dreaming about our baby and so looking forward to the day I get to meet her. Each day I wake up and think "is this the day?"....and then I go to bed with no baby. She's still moving and for that i'm grateful- she is doing well and kicking strong- but oh...the longing to hold her in my arms and kiss her chubby face is irresistible! Our bags are packed, Kevin's cleaned the car, installed her carseat in the backseat, and we are ready!

Any of you have overdue babies and want to share your story? I'd love to hear! And I could totally use your prayers:) I'm trusting in God's timing, but it's totally not my timing, so it's real lesson in faith, haha! Hopefully the next time I write she'll be out and in our arms!!

Thanks lovely ladies...just love this community!!

My top 5 Favorite Tropical Destinations in the world

Tuesday, March 21

Being a total lover of all things warm and relaxing, it comes as no surprise that I tend to gravitate towards places that are tropical, especially when I need to kick back and rest! There are SO many amazing tropical places around the world, but these 5 beaches/islands have captured me in a special way and I wanted to share them with you today! I'm sure i'll have like 100 honorable mentions to list, but these 5 places are sure-fire bets to get you dreaming about a fabulous tropical holiday:)

1. Railay Beach, Thailand
I've said it before, and i'll say it again…this beach stole my heart. Thailand has hundreds of amazing islands and beaches, but this one was hands-down my favorite. While many beaches in Thailand have turned into crazy party hubs, Railay has retained it's kick-back feel. Kevin and I would just lay on the beach at night looking at the stars and it was so peaceful. The beach itself is amazing!! Gorgeous sand, crystal clear waters that were warm enough to swim in but cool enough to refresh you from the heat. Railay (and it's sister beach Phra Nang, just a few minutes walk away) are the closest i've ever felt to heaven on earth. That's how much I loved Railay!! And if you are an adventurer, there are SO many fun things to do on Railay (like rock climbing, hiking, kayaking, etc) and then you can take boats to other islands for some top class snorkeling and sight seeing. Something for everyone!
To see my pictures of our time in and around Railay:
Railay Beach
Phra Nang
Speed Boat Tour  & snorkeling {Koh Phi Phi, Maya Bay, Bamboo Island}
Our 3 Week Itinerary in South East Asia

2. Hoi An, Vietnam

Besides just being absolutely obsessed with the quaint little town of Hoi An (and wanting to move there!), the beaches on the outskirts of the town were pretty fabulous. Every day in Hoi An, we'd either scooter or ride our bikes to the beach for some serious R&R. They had great chairs and umbrellas you could rent for pennies, the water was warm but also refreshing, and it was lined with beautiful sand and palm trees. The Vietnamese people are just the best, and we found some delicious food just minutes walking from the beach to fulfill our hunger.  And as a whole, Hoi An is magical. If you've never even heard of this Asian hamlet, then by all means head on over to my posts about our time in Hoi An:
{Day 1} and {Day 2 & 3} and Our 3 Week Itinerary in South East Asia

3. Riviera Maya, Mexico
I think Mexico flies under the radar when people think about traveling to a tropical location. But let me tell you, I was SO impressed with the strip of beaches in the Riviera Maya, below Cancun. Kevin booked our honeymoon at this resort, and it was sheer bliss. The beach was absolutely incredible, with white sand and turquoise waters that were just the right temperature. There is SO much to do in the Riviera Maya…we went zip lining, snorkeled in a gorgeous lagoon here, and explored the ruins at Tulum which was fascinating. If you've never given a thought to the Riviera Maya, then you are missing out. I'm already dreaming about when we can return:)

4. Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Kevin and I got the chance to take a once in a lifetime trip this past summer…a yacht cruise through French Polynesia with Inspiration Cruises & Tours. It was unbelievable. My favorite island (by FAR) was Bora Bora, and lucky for us we got to anchor there for two whole days! Bora Bora is gorgeous. What makes it such a special tropical location is not necessarily the beaches, but the reef activities. There is a beautiful coral reef surrounding the island, where you can discover a whole new world under water! We got to swim with manta rays, sharks, and all sorts of tropical fish. I will confess to you that i'm terribly afraid of fish, but even I couldn't wait to get into the beautiful waters and interact with the wild life! While Bora Bora is harder to get to than many of the other places i've shared, it is worth every penny!
To see our pictures of French Polynesia (and in specific Bora Bora):
An Introduction to Inspiration Cruises & Tours 
Our First Day in Tahiti 
Exploring the Island of Moorea
This Island of Ta'Haa
Exploring Raiatea
Bora Bora Day 1 (swimming with sharks and Manta Rays!) 
Bora Bora Day 2 (Luau and fire dancers!) 

5. Bali, Indonesia
Kevin used to coach basketball in Indonesia, and Bali was a $50 plane ride away. The first time I went to Bali, I assumed it would be like the rest of Indonesia…and boy was I wrong. Bali is a magical place unto itself. As you may know, Indonesia has the biggest Muslim population in the world…but Bali is Hindu. There are shrines everywhere (you literally have to make sure you don't step on the offerings) and it is shrouded in a very mystical feel. The whole island is utterly spectacular…from the beaches to the mountains to the terraced farming to the coffee plantations. My favorite places were Ubud (a little mountain town), the beaches at Candidassa, and visiting the coffee plantations that dot the island. And in my humble opinion, Indonesians are literally the nicest people in the world. Just love them:)

What tropical locations would you add?? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Have you been to any of these?  Maybe one day i'll do my favorite beaches, as there are TONS of beaches in Europe that are gorgeous, just not necessarily tropical!

And if you're checking in on baby-watch 2017, our sweet girl is not here quite yet. Today is her due date, so feel free to send up some prayers that she will come soon. I'm SOOOO excited to meet her! Hope you all are doing well! Much love…xoxo

GInseng Collagen Boost Mask FREE with qualifying purchase

2 weeks until our sweet baby girl arrives

Tuesday, March 7

After carrying a baby almost 40 weeks, it's amazing to me that we are in the final stretch. Baby girl is due March 21st...exactly 2 weeks from today! Holy Moly! My favorite part of these past few months has been feeling her move inside of me. I sometimes forget there is a tiny human in me, and then she starts to kick and punch and it makes me giggle! Kevin and I love praying, talking and singing to her. We are over the moon to see what she looks like, so crazy!

This past weekend my college roommates threw me a shower down in the bay area. I'll share more pictures from that time later, but it was so incredibly delightful and life giving. Life long friends (like these girls) are one of the greatest gifts in the world. On the way home, Kevin and I saw a gorgeous orchard of almonds that were blossoming so we made a spontaneous decision to pull over and sneak into the orchard for some maternity pics (as i've hardly taken any so far!). I had on no make-up, my hair wasn't brushed, and I literally threw on a dress I got at a thrift store that weekend (that I hadn't washed yet, whoops! ha), and we ran into the orchard and snapped  a few pics. The wind was howling and it was freezing, but oh so fun:)

Any last tips for me as a new mama to a newborn? I'd love your thoughts!! Happy Tuesday dear ones. Today my mama comes over and we will start tackling the nursery, woo hoo!! And then Thursday is my birthday. So all in all, I think it's going to be a good week:) xoxo

A lovely February

Monday, February 27

 February has been a sweet month (no pun intended, hehe!). One of the most fun surprises has been hosting 2 Japanese college students for 3 weeks. We have connected so well with them, and they get so excited about everything…and I mean everything, haha! It makes me laugh when they start squealing with joy over this and that. They've been coming to church with us, and have been so open to hear about Christ's love. They fell in love with that Matt Redman song 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord, Oh my Soul…), and so we've had that on repeat at our house, ha! I found it in Japanese on youtube, and they were so excited. Today as we were making lunch together, I turned to one and told her I was going to miss her so much (as they leave on Thursday). She literally burst into tears and came and gave me the biggest hug. What a blessing they have been:)

Valentines day was a ton of fun. Kev took me out to breakfast at a new place we'd never tried, and it was delightful. We're still working through the 100 questions I found online (the ones we started on our babymoon in Tahoe) and had a few good laughs that morning at breakfast. We went on a walk before Kevin had to go to work. Later that night I made a big Valentines day dinner for both Kev and the Japanese girls. I made the girls Valentines and wrote them little notes, and cut out hearts and put conversation hearts in a bowl (I always forget how random conversations hearts are…haha! I tried to explain them in English to the girls, they thought they hilarious). The girls were obsessed with the Valentines (I had some Disney Princess ones, so classy!). That night, Kev surprised me with this necklace that i've been wanting for quite some time. I had no idea he remembered, and his thoughtfulness overwhelmed me with gratitude! We never buy each other gifts for Valentines (besides flowers and chocolates or a date at a restaurant), so opening that gift was so special:)

Weekends have been filled with farmer's market visits with the girls, lunch dates, church, and some lovely baby showers for me. My sweet Aunt Susan threw me one, and my dear friends Rach and Nance threw me one. I couldn't have been more blessed! I'll share more about those after our sweet baby girl is born (3 MORE WEEKS!!! EPP!!), as both were themed according to the name we picked out for our peanut (which I'm keeping a surprise from the internet until she is born, haha…you'll just have to wait:)

I'm finally on maternity leave, and now comes the final prep! On to decorating our baby girl's room, packing our hospital bag, getting in some much needed sleep, and spending lots of time with people:) I have a feeling March is going to change my life:)

How was your February? xoxo

 My frilly black dress is from here // The colored scarf is from here // The grey jacket is from here // The grey shirt with the leather elbow patch is from here

A funny story about our last day in Tahiti (and by funny I mean insane…you'll see!)

Tuesday, February 21

Our last day in Tahiti was a combination of hilarious/insane…maybe it was so insane it was hilarious. Actually, it wasn't hilarious to me at the time, like at all (see pointless story below). But now I look back and Kevin and I laugh (took me a while to get there, but now it really is funny). 

First of all, I haven't said much about this on my blog at all, but my baby morning sickness (which should be called ENTIRE DAY SICKNESS) started while we were in Tahiti, mid-trip. Which was incredibly unfortunate but I guess that's what happens when you grow a baby! Anyway…

The very last day of the trip, when we disembarked off the ship in Tahiti, I was FEELING IT. And by that I mean I was throwing up constantly, and could barely walk I felt so sick. Kevin and I got off the ship, and proceeded to drag our bags along the port to the street so we could find a taxi. Kevin had booked us a hotel earlier that morning on his phone, and tried to tell the taxi driver we were staying at Hotel Milano. 

The taxi driver looked super duper confused, shook his head, and told Kev there was no hotel by that name in the city (and this was a SMALL city, so we believed him). Kev was super confused, and I was just passed out, hunched over our bags just praying I wouldn't die and praying Hotel Milano was real and we didn't just get swindled online. Kev and the taxi driver went back and forth, but at this point it was apparent that either our hotel didn't exist, OR wasn't in Tahiti. Kev checked his email for the booking, and evidently this taxi driver didn't know this hotel because it was in Milan…Milan, Italy that is. I wanted to scream. 

Kev booked a new hotel, and decided that it was so close we should save money and walk to it (why did I think that was a good idea? Why did I go along with it?). I could barely stand up, was convinced I was going to barf every other step….not to mention it was like 100 degrees and humid. I kept chanting to myself "I can do it, I can do it, God can do it through me" (I wish I was kidding, but that was my mantra for the 30 minute walk). We got lost twice, a wheel fell off one of our suitcases, and when we finally arrived at the hotel they wouldn't let us check in for a few hours. So I did the only thing I could muster…I took over a couch in the lobby and promptly fell asleep….for 2 hours.  

On the bright side, the day was redeemed by a tour of the island that was a part of our cruise booking. Tahiti is actually a gorgeous island…might have been the most beautiful in French Polynesia in terms of lushness and scenery. I didn't take many pictures, because…you know, barfing happened. But…I will tell you that if you get the chance to visit Tahiti, you should. And hopefully you will not be suffering from nausea like I was:) 

On a fun note, that last day in Tahiti we got some time with Chuck Swindoll (see picture below!). He really is an amazing man full of joy and humor. I could sit and listen to him for hours without getting bored, even ease dropping on his conversations with other people while on the cruise were amusing. 

These are the last of my Tahiti pics….if you missed the others, you can see them here: 

Thanks Inspiration Cruises & Tours for a memorable cruise to French Polynesia!! What a wonderful trip it was (despite my baby nausea! haha). I really did meet so many lovely people, saw some gorgeous scenery, and got to explore with my main man Kevin!! xoxo 

{my life was pretty much made when I met Chuck! He's literally one of the most hilarious and joy-filled people i've ever encountered!!}  {Two of my "best friends" on the trip…Marilyn and Verna! They were hilarious!!}