Monday, December 11, 2017

that one time God saved my life 24 hours in advance

Do you ever have one of those moments where, after everything is said and done, you look back and can so clearly see God's hand?

I do, but it's usually over a decent period of time. This weekend; however, it was more like 24 hours.

On Saturday morning, out of the blue, Lilli woke up with a bad cold. Usually, on Saturday evenings, I serve at church and I bring Lilli with me so Kyle can work. Since Lilli wasn't feeling well, we decided it would be better if she stayed home that evening.

It snowed in our neck of the woods this weekend, maybe an inch or two. It didn't look bad outside and I wasn't worried about driving that evening back and forth to church.

At the very last minute, like walking out the door last minute, Kyle said, "You should take the truck (instead of my tiny car) just in case it looks worse than it is."

On Saturday evening, I left the church in Kyle's truck and was about to pull onto one of the busiest streets in our area. It was 7:30 on a Saturday night and the road was filled with traffic.
The road was also filled with black ice, something I didn't know beforehand.

I was only a few feet from the intersection when I hit a sheet of black ice and the truck instantly started skidding, right towards the red light, with traffic speeding by at 50 miles an hour.
Black ice is no joke. There was literally nothing I could do but pray the car would stop.

At the very last second, and I mean, incoming cars had to start slamming on their brakes to avoid me, the truck's 4x4 ice sensor kicked in and the car instantly came to a stop, stopping me from sliding into that oncoming traffic.

And do you want to know the one thing I heard when the truck stopped?

"Trust Me."

Had the day gone according to my plans on Saturday, Lilli and I both would have been in my small car with no four-wheel drive and, without God's intervention, would have slid into 50 mph traffic in 19-degree weather.

Trust Him always, even when you think your plans are better because I can most certainly tell you, they are not.


'"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the Lord.'
 Isaiah 55:8

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

top five hair care tips + the best non-toxic shampoo + conditioner

If I had to pick my favorite thing about my outward appearance, I think it would be my hair.

From the time I was little, I have always enjoyed doing my hair, and as I got older, taking care of my hair is as important as taking care of my skin!
Although I am far from a hair expert, I know enough to feel proud of my hair (usually) on the daily!

However, when Kyle and I started cutting toxins out of our lives, we really struggled to find a shampoo that cleaned my long, thinks hair well enough for me to feel comfortable using it from then on. Most "clean" shampoos left my hair feeling dirty, knotted, and greasy.

I was just about to head back to my old shampoo until I could find another non-toxic brand to try when Courtney reached out to me to try Monat! I was actually hesitant to try it because it almost seemed too good to be true. It was toxin-free, smelled great, and worked great? I figured it was worth a shot, though, and let her send me samples to try.

Guys, I'll be the first to admit that I was totally wrong. This stuff is amazing!

I actually tested out the dry shampoo before the shampoo and conditioner because, as I'll explain in a moment, I only wash my hair once or twice a week and the samples came in right after I washed my hair.
I've struggled with dry shampoo in the past because I have so.much hair that once it's greasy, it's pretty hard to win that battle. But the dry shampoo worked really well! I'd say it worked about the same as my other dry shampoo, but I'd definitely recommend it if you're looking for a non-toxic option!

A few days later, I tried out the shampoo and conditioner. Courtney told me to make sure I washed twice and let the shampoo sit for a few minutes each wash. The first wash, I was actually concerned that it was like all the other shampoos I had tried because it thinned out pretty quickly. But, as soon as I rinsed and started the second wash, it was like a whole new shampoo! I found out very quickly that a little goes a long way, as it lathered up very quickly and very well.
Then, when I rinsed out that mixture, I tried the conditioner. I only condition my ends and never go near my scalp. I combed through the ends of my hair and it felt so silky soft, even after I rinsed it out!

Since trying Monat, I've noticed:

→ my hair combs much easier
→ it's not as frizzy
→ I can still stick to my wash routine
→ it's softer and easier to manage

So, do I recommend Monat?

YES!

If you're interested in trying Monat, Courtney's Instagram is HERE and her website is HERE!



Okay, if you've made it this far, high five! Now onto my top five hair care tips:

one → go as long as you can between washes. I started going one day in between washes, then two, and now I only wash my hair once or twice a week. It's going to take your hair a while to adjust, but I usually only have to use my dry shampoo on the second to the last or last day before my next wash because I've trained my hair to accommodate its natural oils.
two → only condition your ends. Unless you have a condition with your scalp that it requires extra help, you don't need to add anything extra to your scalp, including conditioner. Your scalp makes plenty of its own natural oils, and conditioner only adds to those oils and makes your hair look greasy.
three → use a hair mask once a month. Your hair takes a beating every day from brushing, washing, drying, hair products, heat, etc. Just like you would use a mask on your face, your hair needs a little extra love every once a while to help repair damage. I currently make my own mask to avoid toxins, but there are quite a few on the market that you can try. Just make sure to avoid your scalp unless it's a scalp-targeted mask. 
four → trim your hair every 6-8 weeks. If you're like me and avoid hair scissors like the plague, your hair is probably filled with split ends and dead ends, even if you don't see them. You can get these impurities trimmed without losing your length and it benefits the health of your hair greatly. 
five → take it easy on the heat products. I can't stand leaving the house if my hair isn't done, usually curled, straightened, or braided somehow. However, this led to the over-use of heat products which led to dry, brittle hair. But how do I avoid using heat as much as possible, you ask? 1 - use a good hair towel, like THIS one, that helps dry more of your hair while it's wrapped after your shower. 2 - if your curl your hair frequently, use a wand versus a curling iron and avoid touching your ends to the wand. 3 - try out hairstyles that don't require heat, like braids and buns. I love trying out braids from Abby's website on days I don't have time to do my hair or my hair needs a break from the heat.

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What is your top hair care tip?? Let me know in the comments!


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

the official diagnosis.

Today, I’m saying the words that I never thought I would say: I have an official diagnosis for my recurrent, chronic stomach issues.

Well, mostly.

Let me back up and explain.

I’ve mentioned on and off on my blog and on my social media that I’ve been having a horrible time with my stomach. I already have a history of chronic pancreatitis and my doctors thought that my pancreas was behind these issues as well.

Upon further investigation, sludge and tiny stones were found in my gallbladder. They removed it, thinking it would relieve my pancreas and my problems would disappear. (Read more about that surgery HERE.)

If you’ve been hanging out with me since then, then you know the removal of my gallbladder did the exact opposite of "help". After I recovered and realized that my stomach was worse than it was before, it was back to the drawing board.

The months of this past summer and early fall could be described as a whirlwind. I was constantly in pain, throwing up most of what I was eating, nauseous when I wasn’t throwing up, trying medicine after medicine, in and out of doctor’s offices at least twice a week (even going as far as Cleveland Clinic), going through test after test after test trying to figure out what was wrong, and in and out of the ER more times than I can count.

It pretty much sucked. 

A few months ago, I was admitted to the hospital with a small bowel blockage. While I didn’t know it at the time, this hospital stay was a turning point in my journey for a diagnosis. 
The hospital couldn’t find an immediate reason for my blockage and after remaining on a liquid diet and IV fluids for four days, it passed uneventfully.
I was released and told to remain on a full liquid diet until I was able to keep food down, which ended up being 10 days later. 

During this hospital stay, my GI doctor was out on leave for a surgery of his own. What was supposed to be a two-week leave ended up being two months. I had been seeing this doctor for so long and I didn’t want to switch because changing doctors can be such a pain, especially when you have a chronic illness and they know your full history.

So I waited.

As soon as my GI returned from leave, he dove deep into figuring out what was going on. He told me point blank if they couldn’t get this figured out, soon, he was going to have to put me on a feeding tube because I was never able to eat and I was malnourished.

For two months, I was in the surgical office or the hospital two times almost every week undergoing some sort of test or procedure. 
In those two months, we were sure I was close to a diagnosis three times. The first time was after an endoscopy that showed gastritis. The second time was after a gastric emptying study when we thought it was gastroparesis. The third time they actually mentioned the phrase "ovarian cancer". I had an intestinal CT scan done that showed a significant amount of free fluid in my lower abdomen. I was sent immediately to my OB-GYN to be screened for ovarian cancer. The main symptoms of ovarian cancer are stomach issues, many of which I was having, so I braced myself for the worst answer, but thank You Heavenly Father, there was no answer as to why the free fluid was there and upon my second visit to the OB-GYN, I left with a clean bill of health, at least in that region. I was so relieved that it changed my “want” for a diagnosis. I was healthy “enough”, but I still continued to follow my GI’s instruction to avoid a feeding tube.

Fast forward a couple weeks and a few more tests later, I was finally sitting in my doctor’s office for an official diagnosis. This is a summarization of what he told me:

My stomach, from my esophagus to the end of my colon, has spurts of paralysis, which basically means for no reason (at least in my case), it just stops working. Then, after however long it decides to "sleep", it starts working overtime to make up for the digestion it missed. I'm always nauseous because I'm not properly digesting food, I throw up frequently because when my stomach goes through this paralysis, food doesn't move anywhere so it has to come out some way, and I'm in pain often because my intestines never know what the heck they are doing.
It went undiagnosed for so long that my colon backed up profusely, which is what caused the blockage I was hospitalized for previously. 

So what is my official diagnosis?

Idiopathic Intestinal Paralysis and Severe Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

If you don't know what these are, Irritable Bowel Syndrome is "a widespread condition involving recurrent abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements; Idiopathic Intestinal Paralysis is "random and irregular paralysis of the intestines."

😦 I know, it's a mouthful.

He also said I have a moderate dairy allergy that could possibly be amplifying my symptoms, as well as ongoing-acid reflux and moderate bile reflux, which is a result of the removal of my gallbladder. 

There is, unfortunately, no cure for either of these conditions. It is something that will never go away and has the possibility of worsening in the future (possibly to the point of needing a feeding tube) if I don't maintain strict precautions and treatment. I'm not able to take 95% of the medication used to treat these diseases because of my history of chronic pancreatitis. I have to follow a very strict diet and be very mindful of my treatment plan at all times. I'm constantly searching for more holistic, natural approaches to, if nothing else, help with my symptoms. It's a tiring, daily battle.
But... it's okay. I now know exactly what’s wrong (at least, know enough) and why I have my symptoms. I’m able to move forward. I’m done with the tests (for now) and my doctor appointments are no longer weekly. I’m working every day to find holistic aids and finding a diet that works for my stomach. I know I have a long road of me but I am so thankful to be able to place a period where a question mark used to be. I'm no longer living in fear of finding out what's wrong. Jesus answered my prayers to find an answer even though He didn't have to. And for that, as well as His great love and comfort that He showed me every single day, I'm grateful.


"...but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."
Isaiah 40:31


Monday, November 6, 2017

sleep tight essential oil blend recipe

come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
matthew 11:28

Successful sleep is highly important to us in this house. Even though we’re currently going through a transition with Lilli’s naps, we are always trying to promote our most restful sleep possible, even if it’s just at night.

Not only does adequate sleep keep the Little clan happy, it also highly beneficial to get a good night's sleep during "cold and flu" season to help your immune system rest and recharge.


Essential oils are a huge part of our sleep routine. There are many oils that can be used to promote healthy sleep, depending on what you struggle with most. But there is one blend that is my go-to on an average day and I’m going to share that with you today!


Please keep in mind my recipe is for a 4 oz spray bottle. If you are using this blend in a diffuser or in a roller bottle, you can omit the witch hazel and water and either just use the oils for a diffuser or substitute the witch hazel and water for a carrier oil, just as fractionated coconut oil or olive oil.

sleep tight oil blend

→ 1 part witch hazel
→ 3 parts distilled water
→ 20 drops lavender
→ 10 drops cedarwood
→ 10 drops frankincense


Gently shake this blend together in your spray bottle. Spray on pillows, blankets, and/or pajamas before bed. This blend can be used for any age. We frequently spray it on our daughter's lovey before bed since she snuggles with it during sleep. 


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Find the spray bottle I use HERE. Find my pumpkin bookmark HERE.




Wednesday, October 25, 2017

pumpkin chocolate chip oatmeal bake | dairy free

Happy Wednesday, friends!

I mentioned on my social media yesterday that, as a way to help manage my stomach symptoms, I'm going back to a dairy-free diet. I went completely dairy-free when I was breastfeeding Lilli to help her reflux and although it's not the easiest diet in the world, I'm thankful I've already done it before and know the best-hidden dairy-free treats. 😉

While it's not easy to find dairy-free items that are premade, it is easy to create dairy-free recipes, as long as you have the right ingredients!

I created this Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bake from this recipe. I modified the ingredients to make them dairy-free and also added some chocolate chips because....chocolate. duh.



Ingredients:

→ 2 and 1 ⁄ 2 cups dry old-fashioned oats
→ 1 ⁄ 2 cups brown sugar, tightly packed
→ 1 (15 oz) can of pumpkin puree
→ 2 eggs
→ 1 and 1 ⁄ 2 cups almond milk
→ 1 ⁄ 2 tsp vanilla extract
→ 1 ⁄ 2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
→ 1 ⁄ 2 tsp salt
→ 3 ⁄ 4 tsp baking powder
→ 3 ⁄ 4 cup dairy-free chocolate chips **


Directions:

→ Preheat oven to 375°.
→ In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients until smooth.
→ Spray an 8 x 8 baking dish with non-stick spray or dairy-free butter. Pour oatmeal mixture into the dish.
→ Bake for 45 minutes or until the center no longer looks wet and the edges are lightly golden brown.




** Not sure where to find dairy-free chocolate chips? If you have a Meijer local to you, their Organic Chocolate Chips are made without dairy. I've heard Enjoy Life chocolate chips are very good and you can buy those HERE. Some dark chocolate chips are made without dairy but always check the label. If you're still at a loss, I like to look for pure, organic dark chocolate bars (again, check the label, all brands are different) and break them up as make-shift chips. :)


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See more dairy free recipes HERE!




Friday, October 20, 2017

the day we got engaged + engagement photos

October 20th, 2012.

October 20th, 2012 will be a day I will never forget. It was the day my sweet, lovely husband proposed to me and initiated the start of our family.

I'll be honest, I had a feeling it was coming. 🙈 We had been talking about it in the months coming up to the day he proposed. The day it happened, Kyle had called me to say he was on his way to pick me up for a "special day" and I remembering smiling thinking, "This is it".

Kyle picked me up and drove me to a park that I loved. The leaves were just starting to change and we were the only ones in the park. We walked around and Kyle made random remarks more than once that entailed the words, "Once we're married..."

As it started to get darker outside, he drove me back to his parent's house, where he still lived at the time. (We were both in college and didn't live together prior to marriage.)

He told me we were going to carve pumpkins but that they had to be for each other as a surprise. I remember laughing at him (in a nice way, I promise) and said "okay".
I honestly don't remember what I carved mine into, I think it was a cat. I had my cat, Arlo, at the time and he was my first baby. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if that's what I chose to carve.

My pumpkin didn't really matter because Kyle carved this and totally beat anything I could have ever carved:


I'm being so serious when I say this: Despite my earlier confidence, I thought Kyle was joking at first. Haha! In my defense, Kyle had joked about it a number of times beforehand so I thought this might be one of those times. I sat there and said, "really?" like the true classy woman I am. It wasn't until Kyle pulled out the ring that I was like:

OH MY GOSH YOU'RE SERIOUS.

We got our engagement photos done the following spring in the same park that Kyle took me to the day he proposed. :)

Here's a look at some of my favorites:












Happy Engagement-versary, babe. It was the best question I've ever answered. ♡



Friday, October 13, 2017

five on friday

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Happy Friday (the 13th 👻), friends! Friday's during the fall season always seem twice as great to me. Do you feel that way, too?


o n e ||

I bake constantly, it's one of my favorite things to do, especially during the holiday seasons! Lilli is just getting to the stage where she not only wants to help but she can help without completely destroying the kitchen.



This week she helped me make my famous cinnamon banana bread (remind me to share the recipe someday) and it melted my heart to have my little girl baking with me! We also made those pumpkin sugar cookies which were a little bit easier for her little hands, haha.


t w o ||

I've pretty much decided that kids are flowers. You put them to bed one night and in that time between when you close and open your eyes, they've grown like a foot. You also have to water them, like, constantly.


See what I mean?


t h r e e ||

As part of the Influenster program (join for free HERE), I received THIS hair towel to try out and you guys, it's the best towel EVER! My blow drying time is cut in half, my hair isn't as frizzy, and it brushes out so much easier. I definitely, definitely recommend it!

f o u r ||

We went to Menards to get wood for our shop and they had their famous Christmas display up and I was in the Christmas spirit in about .01 seconds.


I'm also proud to announce that Lilli inherited my love for Christmas. Her conversation went as follows:
Ooooo pretty lights. Look, tree! Ahh, lights. 

I die.

f i v e ||

Last but not least, I posted an update on my Instagram about my most recent chronic illness story. Read it HERE.


Have a lovely weekend, friends!