Dealing With Loss Yet Again

You may have read my last post about pregnancy #8. This is a follow up post. Fair warning….things did not go well. Stop reading now if you are overly sensitive/easily upset.

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Two weeks ago, we went back to my ob-gyn for another ultrasound. At that point, it was determined that I had suffered another miscarriage. Despite the fact that my hormone levels continued to improve, and my body still thought I was pregnant, there was no longer a baby present. My husband and I were crushed. The doctor gave me two options: wait for my body to figure out that I had another miscarriage, or schedule surgery (a D&C) to remove the remnants of the pregnancy. My last miscarriage was a particular strain on my body, so I chose the surgery.

Last Monday, I went in to the hospital for the surgery. In years past, I had some really awful reactions to anesthesia (for dental surgery and problems with my GI tract). Once I learned that I have a severe egg allergy, an anesthesiologist told me my reactions had been so severe because the most commonly used anesthesia is egg-based. Those past experiences were so awful that it made surgery my #1 most feared thing in life. I explained to the anesthesiologist this time that I have a severe egg allergy, and have had severe reactions to egg-based anesthesia in the past. Irritatingly enough, she started debating with me about the severity of my allergy. She eventually assured me that she would use an alternative anesthesia, even though that was not her preference.

The surgery itself was uneventful. I was unconscious, and woke up fine, just in pain. There were a few insensitive comments from some of the staff about whether or not my son was my “real son”, given the fact that I have had 7 miscarriages. I may have had a very difficult journey, but that makes us appreciate that little guy even more. He truly is a miracle baby!

The day after the surgery, I started noticing itchy hives all over my body. They weren’t too bad, so I ignored them and just tried to rest. The post-surgery instructions stated that I could not pick up anything heavier than 10 pounds for a week. That meant I would definitely need some assistance with our son. The company my husband works for offers a “backup care” service, where we can call in to have a caregiver come into our home to help out for a day. They even pay for the service in full this month, which is really nice. The day after the surgery, we had a lady come to our house to assist me with Edison.

Last year, I used various babysitters quite often when I was working with the photography business so much. Our son usually seemed fine with the situation, and was usually not too irate about it all. I always had that mommy guilt that all working moms deal with though…am I spending too much time away from my baby? Will he remember this time when he gets older? Is this ruining my commitment to practicing attachment parenting? Our son was a very colicky baby, and his temperament did not seem to be influenced by the fact that a babysitter came in for a while. Since he has gotten a bit older (and too many babysitters proved completely unreliable), I made the change to only meeting with clients when my husband is available to watch our son. I figured that since he did okay with all of the random babysitters in the past, he would be fine with the service sending people to come help while I rested and recovered from surgery. That was not the case at all unfortunately.

As soon as the lady came last week to help out, my son started screaming, “no, no, no! Mama going away!”. Great…He remembered how much I went away when I was working previously and apparently it had been upsetting to him. I thought it was a coincidence that his colicky behavior stopped as soon as I cut back my business availability, but now I am thinking that was no coincidence. So not only do I feel awful about the miscarriage, but now I am dealing with the worst case of mommy guilt. That day was absolutely awful. Even if I was sitting right next to them when the lady picked him up for a diaper change, etc., he started screaming his head off. I definitely could not relax at all.

I told my husband that the next day I wanted to try things on my own, and just see if I could get through the day without picking him up. I very carefully explained to Edison that Mommy could not pick him up for a few days, but that we were going to be okay just the two of us. I put a step stool next to our bed so he could climb in with me, set up his little art table in the living room so he could eat there instead of his high chair, and set up a diaper change area on the floor. With the exception of a couple of tantrums here and there, the rest of the week went surprisingly well. My sweet little guy followed me over to the diaper changing area when he needed changing, and he even took care of me, bringing me snacks and juice in bed, whatever he could reach in the pantry. :) Words cannot express how lucky I feel to have been blessed with such an amazing little boy. Usually he gets stir crazy when we don’t leave the house all day, but he was amazingly patient and understanding of the fact that we were just going to be at home all week.

In the meantime, the itchy hives I had been noticing had been getting progressively worse. By Thursday, they were the worst I have ever had in my life (which is saying a lot given all of my allergy problems), were now covering my entire body, and they were unbearable. I started to worry that maybe I had gotten shingles or something since the welts were so painful. My husband took me to the urgent care, and I was evaluated by a doctor. The doctor was from England, and actually worked as an ob-gyn back there, but worked in urgent care now. He took a particular interest in my medical file since obstetrics were where his heart lies. He said my skin problem definitely looked like an allergic reaction, most likely to the antibiotics I was given in surgery. We ruled out any food allergen exposure since I had only eaten food I had cooked from scratch the entire week (I always keep at least a week’s worth of meals frozen in case of an emergency where I need rest and am unable to cook each day. Life with food allergies can be dangerous when eating out).

The urgent care doctor suggested there may be a connection between my egg allergy and the way that my body absorbed or appeared to have attacked this last pregnancy. He suggested that it may be possible that my allergy made my body see the baby’s yolk as a foreign entity to attack. He also suggested that I look into testing for an autoimmune disease since I seem to have had progressive problems with allergies and arthritis. I had always wondered if my egg allergy would explain some of my miscarriages, and my husband and I were excited, feeling like we were possibly getting some answers that could help us on the next round. I had always felt like that was a crazy question when I had asked doctors in the past if there could possibly be any connection between the two issues. The doctor gave me a shot and two prescriptions to deal with the current allergic reaction. Given the fact that I have had anaphylactic responses to allergies in the past, and the cause of this reaction was unknown and progressing worse each day, he gave me some pretty high doses of a steroid to take each day.

The pharmacist that filled my prescriptions warned that the steroid would make me probably feel hyper, edgy, or agitated, but the other medicine would make me sleepy so they would probably balance each other out. The first few days were okay, but then I stopped taking the medicine that made me drowsy since the hives were no longer itchy, and I was just way too exhausted to keep up with our son while dealing with extra drowsiness. When I stopped taking that medication, I noticed an unfortunate side effect. The edginess that I felt from the steroid was also affecting our son since he was getting it through the breastmilk. He started getting angry and violent, totally not his normal personality. Thankfully, we are finished with all of that now, and he is back to his normal sweet self. If you ever want to know what hell must be like, give even a microscopic amount of steroids to a toddler. It is not a fun experience, I promise.

After all of that, I went in for my follow up appointment today with my ob-gyn. My husband and I were excited to hear his opinion on what the doctor at the urgent care suggested. Unfortunately, he dismissed the idea as not a plausible issue, and just told us to try again after one cycle has passed. He also dismissed any concerns we had about the fibroid, saying it was nothing to worry about now (I wanted to have it removed before we try to get pregnant again). We left feeling frustrated and defeated. We know that many of my miscarriages are most likely caused by my deformed uterus (which cannot be corrected via surgery). However, we initially felt hopeful that perhaps we had found something else that could help us improve our odds of having another successful pregnancy. So far, my success rate of 1 in 8 has not been great at all. After today’s appointment, we both felt frustrated and extremely discouraged.

The doctor at the urgent care had suggested that I contact some of the doctors at USC or UCLA medical school to see if any research was currently taking place about maternal immune system interactions with pregnancy. I found one doctor that states his current work includes studies on maternal-fetal immune interactions. I emailed him and a week has gone by with no response. My husband and I are so incredibly frustrated. On one hand, we know that any child we have (even if it is only our son) is a huge miracle, given the way I was born with a deformed uterus. We went into this marriage with the expectation of no kids. Our little guy is so wonderful, and such a blessing. He makes me smile and laugh even on my worst days.

While that helps tremendously, we still have to cope with the pain of all of those losses. Someone told me recently that I didn’t lose these babies, I just gave them temporarily to mother Mary to babysit for me. That was such a beautiful way of looking at it, and it brought tears to my eyes. I have often told my husband that I know in this life, we probably will never have our “ideal life” (a big house in the country with a whole bunch of kids). However, if there is any upside to dealing with 7 miscarriages, it is taking comfort in the thought that we will have our “ideal life” with a whole bunch of babies once we are all reunited in heaven.

This past miscarriage was particularly difficult in its own way since we had such high hopes for this pregnancy. The improvement in my hormones based on my dietary changes had really gotten our hopes up. We thought for sure this pregnancy was going to bring us another child. The emotional and physical strain of each pregnancy and loss has been getting increasingly difficult to handle. I honestly do not know how many more times I can go through the whole process and not have a nervous breakdown or fall into a severe depression. I know that whether I have one child or 20, I am still a mother, but each loss somehow often makes me feel like less of a mother. I don’t know why we as women tend to feel that way…after all, one of our best examples of motherhood was a mother to only one child (Mary, the mother of Jesus).

I feel guilty knowing that our son desperately wants a little sibling, and my husband has his heart set on a little daughter (I wanted a mini of him, and he wants a mini of me). At this point, all I can do is give the situation to God and have faith that all of the details will work out in His timing. I don’t understand why we are going through this journey, and it makes me angry at times, but I trust that ultimately He has a master plan for us. I have been through way worse things in my life, and somehow eventually found peace with all of those situations, so I know at some point we will feel better about our current struggles. In the meantime, I’m spending extra time in prayer, and lots of time hugging and kissing our little guy and enjoying every minute we have together.

DIY All-Natural Sensory Play Dough

DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
Play dough is such a great learning activity for toddlers. Unfortunately, I am allergic to a lot of artificial dyes, and it appears that little Edison is allergic to some as well. I wanted to make him some homemade play dough with natural coloring so that he could play with it without any problems with allergic reactions. I used to buy natural food colors at Sur La Table (for cupcake frosting, etc.), but they have not restocked them in a really long time. Every time I asked about them, they just suggested that I order them online. I felt silly paying for shipping for something so small. Then I realized that the same natural food colors are available on Amazon.com, and they come with free shipping with our Prime membership (I cannot say enough good things about how much I absolutely love having that Amazon Prime membership…I use it for so many things)!

I was quite excited to get started with making some homemade play dough! I thought it would be even more fun to make a bunch of different scents with the dough, enhancing the sensory experience.

Here is the recipe I used:

2 cups flower
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 cup sea salt

1. Mix all of the ingredients above into a pot on the stove, over medium-low heat.
2. Cook while stirring frequently, until the mixture resembles mashed potatoes.
3. Let mixture cool, then divide into 6 equal sized chunks.
4. Each chunk of dough got a different color and scent for a fun, sensory experience. I kneaded 3-5 drops of food coloring and 3 drops of essential oil into each chunk of dough.

Here are the color/scent combos that I used:
1. purple – doTERRA lavender essential oil
2. yellow – doTERRA lemon essential oil
3. pink – rose essential oil (purchased at Sprouts since doTERRA does not currently sell rose oil)
4. greenish blue – peppermint doTERRA essential oil
5. green – oregano doTERRA essential oil
6. orange – 1 pinch each cinnamon and nutmeg, to smell like pumpkin pie

Between uses, each ball of dough is stored in its own ziploc baggie in the refrigerator.

*Important safety warning: Since this recipe contains a significant amount of salt, do not let your child play with the play dough around dogs. Salt is toxic to dogs, and most dogs love to eat anything they can get their paws on. Our dogs are especially good at making sad puppy dog eyes at our son, manipulating him into giving them whatever they want, even when they are locked out of the room behind a baby gate. When our son is having sensory dough time, I lock our dogs outside or in one of our bedrooms. One of our dogs has tried a few times now to get Edison to give him the dough.

Edison’s favorite scents are the three that he is most familiar with from our garden: lavender, lemon, and rose. The oregano and pumpkin pie scented doughs are not his favorite…sometimes he is in the mood for those, other times those two get pushed away. Here is a funny video of him having so much fun smelling his dough. :)

 

DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog DIY All-Natural Play Dough - Alicia in Wonderland Blog

*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

Our Little Minion on Halloween

On Halloween, we took Edison trick or treating in our neighborhood for the first time. My parents came over too to join in on the fun. Edison caught on pretty quickly about going up to the door and getting candy, which was pretty funny since he has only had candy on a very few occasions (we generally reserve anything with sugar for holidays or birthdays only now that we have this little guy around).

Below, Edison had a fun time getting candy with his Daddy and Grandpa. :)

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After Edison got scared by one of our neighbors in a mask making a scary voice, we decided to check out the harvest festival at one of the churches down the street from our house. We all had so much fun there, and we are definitely planning to go back there next year (and skipping the door-to-door trick-or-treating until Edison is a bit older and less likely to get so scared).
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There was a country music cover band, and Edison had SO MUCH FUN dancing to the live music.
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Then he played a few games to get a bit more candy.
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Chipmunk face full of candy.
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He caught on that the more efficient he was with completing these games quickly, the more candy he would get, lol. So he was placing the bean bags in the holes repeatedly. Such a silly little guy.aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog aliciainwonderlandblog

Just in case you were wondering, Edison picked out his costume himself. :) I had plans originally to make the three of us costumes as Family Guy…who could resist a cute little guy with a big noggin? However when Edison and I were at the mall one day waiting for my cell phone screen to be replaced, he saw the minion costume and I knew my plans were trashed. As long as he was excited and had fun, that’s the important thing. :)

Pregnancy #8

I was originally holding off on doing this post until I had a cute little ultrasound picture of our baby to upload. In this house, things never seem to go as we originally plan.

*Disclaimer: This blog post contains brutally honest descriptions of my current health, pregnancy, and previous issues with secondary infertility (miscarriages). Stop reading now if you are easily offended/squeamish.

Why in the world do I feel the need to include such a disclaimer in  a post announcing that I am pregnant again? The day of my last miscarriage, I told a few friends that I had miscarried (we had plans that day that I had to flake out on, and I hate feeling like a flaky friend). I didn’t go into all of the details at the time. I later found out (via an attempt to humiliate me on Facebook), that one of those friends was angry I had told her I miscarried while she herself was pregnant. Most of the details she complained about I had only mentioned in my blog.

Even though I am brutally honest here on my blog, these stories are not really something I feel like retelling in person over and over again. Often, the details are too emotional for me to verbalize, but significantly easier for me to write out on a screen. That way, those who are close to me get filled in on why I am out of sorts lately, or what I am going through, without me having to hash through painful details repeatedly to a few dozen different people.

I do not like bringing up stories like the one above, but I tell it for a specific reason. I am human. My life is not perfect. I am not perfect, nor do I claim to be. I try my best to be a good mother, good wife, good friend, and in general good person. As far as I am concerned, there has only ever been one perfect human being, and I have a feeling that He is not judging me for having an emotionally raw moment after going through something as traumatic as the loss of a baby (or the loss of many babies actually). This post below contains some graphic details about my current health struggles. Do not continue to read this post (or my blog at all) if you are going to get angry or offended about reading honest details of my life.

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It is no secret that my husband and I would love to have more children. Our son really wants a real baby too. He plays with his little baby doll, practicing to be a big brother. He is so sweet with that doll, cuddling her and “feeding” her snacks, napping with her, etc. Every time he goes into my office and sees photos of other people’s babies, he points at the picture and says, “Baby! I need it!”. It is so heartwarming, and I want so bad to be able to have another child so he can be a great big brother.

Ever since I was 12 years old, I was told by doctors (based on tests) that I do not ovulate. Miraculously, that has obviously changed since my husband and I got married, and I suddenly started ovulating for the first time in my life. Previously, I would just cycle two weeks on, two weeks off with a period, never having a chance to recuperate, let alone ovulate. I obviously have ovulated several times since we’ve been married, otherwise I would not have been pregnant at all. After my last miscarriage, my body went back on that two weeks on, two weeks off schedule again for a while. It was really difficult for me to regain my energy and strength from the miscarriage when I was still bleeding heavily 50% of each month following. Finally, things started to calm down again, and I could tell I was ovulating for the first time again in months. I knew this was our chance.

While my pregnancy with our son was a success in terms of the fact that we have a healthy, adorable, intelligent son, I still wish that I did not have to take so many artificial hormone supplements in order to stay pregnant with him. I was determined to see if there was a way that I could do something to help get my hormones more in balance naturally, without the artificial supplements. I started reading a lot about natural pregnancy, including The Kind Mama, by Alicia Silverstone. I was skeptical at first (is this just another celebrity touting uninformed info, a la Jenny McCarthy?!). The book was surprisingly very well written, and is chock-full of footnotes from highly reputable sources, like studies from Harvard Medical School. That’s the kind of book that I love. The book suggested that a hormonal imbalance (particularly low progesterone, which has been my problem) can be caused by dietary factors, particularly consuming hormones from dairy and meat. I started thinking back to when my hormone problems started…age 12, the same age I decided to become a vegetarian (and therefore compensated by starting to consume large amounts of dairy instead of meat). I had already cut dairy out of my diet previously when our son had a temporary dairy allergy, so I had no problem cutting it out again. I knew that I was craving meat a lot when I was pregnant with our son, so instead of trying to torture myself by cutting out meat completely, I decided to just eat meat a few times per week, and organic meat only. It may sound crazy, but I figured it was worth a shot.

I took a pregnancy test as soon as I possibly could. At first morning light, I did not see the positive pregnancy line. I called my husband at work and told him the disappointing news. Later that morning, once it was a bit brighter, I noticed that there was a faint line that I had actually missed seeing in the dark bathroom. I took another test in a few days, and got a definite positive. I knew that my dietary changes had to be making a significant difference since I never got to that point with the last pregnancy, and this happened right away. After my doctor’s office ordered a round of blood and urine tests, everything was looking very good. For the first time, my progesterone levels were looking good, and my HCG levels doubled in two days. We were so excited and optimistic.

My husband and I decided early on in this pregnancy that I would announce it as soon as I felt ready. When I saw our son playing with his baby doll in the photo above, I knew I was ready to announce it, so I announced my pregnancy to our friends and extended family via Facebook. We decided to announce early for the following reasons:
1. As Catholics, we believe that life begins at conception. Once a couple knows they have conceived, they should feel free to share that happy news if they feel so inclined.
2. I hate the whole “wait until after the first trimester so you don’t jinx it” mentality. We know given my past history, that any time I am pregnant, there is a high likelihood that I may miscarry. I strongly feel that telling those around you will not be the determining factor if a pregnancy fails…that is such an archaic, superstitious mentality. If anything, telling everyone early can only help by getting more people involved with praying for the little tiny baby. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20.
3. Let’s be perfectly honest…if the worst happens and God forbid, I were to have another miscarriage, I would be honest about that anyway, so why hide the facts from the start? Better to just get the news out in the open right from the start.

Then I had my first ultrasound. At this point, I should have been around 6 weeks pregnant. The nurse practitioner saw a sac, but could not see a yolk or baby. She was also concerned about the location of the sac’s implantation, but she was not sure if that just looked odd to her because of my misshapen uterus. From what she could see, it looked like the sac may have been dangerously low. She told me to set another ultrasound appointment in a week with my usual ultrasound technician.

Then we went in for my second ultrasound. At this point, I should be just over 7 weeks pregnant. The ultrasound technician reassured me that there was no problem with the implantation location (that was just my odd shaped uterus, as I had expected). However, she still was not seeing any baby. It still could be too early to see the baby, or it could be what is called a blighted ovum. However, my blood tests all point toward a healthy pregnancy. From what I understand, the HCGp levels never double with a blighted ovum (mine doubled rapidly this time). The whole thing is quite baffling at this point.

We were hoping for good news with this second ultrasound, and to hopefully see a speck of a little baby. Not seeing the baby again was beyond disappointing. Then the ultrasound technician started probing around further, looking concerned. She started asking me if I had been having pain lately. I said sure, I always have pain when I am pregnant because of my type of uterus (my uterine abnormality includes a misshapen uterus, made of a type of non-elastic tissue. When my uterus stretches at all, every tiny bit hurts like crazy). Then she started pushing on the left side of my uterus and asking me specifically if it hurt worse over there, which it did. I guess I had not noticed that the pain lately had been more severe on that side…I just tried to ignore the pain I had been in, thinking it was a “good” pain, like a sore muscle after working out.

I have had a horrible history of solid “cysts” on my ovaries and fibroid tumors on my uterus throughout my reproductive years. I say “cysts” in quotes because traditionally cysts are fluid filled, where mine have always been filled with a dark, solid tissue. This has left doctors worried that I am at high risk for ovarian/uterine cancer, and many doctors have recommended that I have a preventative hysterectomy to preemptively deal with the problem. The last time an ER doctor recommended a hysterectomy was a few days before our wedding. I obviously refused, and thankfully the situation resolved on its own for the time being. I have seen many, many ultrasounds of my problem areas over the years, and I have seen some pretty huge, scary growths, particularly on my ovaries. Once I had multiple cysts measuring 4cm in diameter. They left my ovaries so damaged that only half of my right ovary remained intact. However, when I looked up on the ultrasound screen this past Friday, I saw something huge and very scary looking on the left side of my uterus. Bigger than anything I had ever seen on any ultrasound. Whatever it is came since late July/early August (the last time I had a complete abdominal ultrasound – nothing was detected then), which means it has grown fairly rapidly to reach that size.

My doctor was about to leave for the day, but the ultrasound technician told him that he needed to meet with us. He reviewed the images, and looked very concerned. This is the man who remained as calm as can be throughout my entire crazy pregnancy with our son, and calmly explained my labor options for me when I had a high probability of ended up permanently handicapped from my dislocated pelvis. He did an amazing job through the whole thing. Seeing him look concerned as he reviewed those ultrasound images on Friday made me so worried. He explained that it may be something other than a tumor, and it was possible that there was a baby implanted outside of the uterus. Either option is not good. He told me that we can’t do further testing on the mass until we know for sure if there is a baby in the sac, so in the meantime, I need to try to stay calm and be alert to any changes in my pain level.

And so we wait for another Friday ultrasound. I cannot even explain the stress and anxiety that I am going through right now. All of the possible scenarios seem so bleak. So many nightmare scenarios have been racing through my mind. I already have gone through so many serious issues with my reproductive system, and the whole thing feels a bit unfair. I worry that I should have already had my preventative hysterectomy and “the jig is up”, as my grandma used to say. My always analytical (engineer) husband keeps telling me not to worry until we know more facts. But to me, I already have enough facts to worry…I am in a lot of pain, caused by something that should not be there and most likely is dangerous for my health, regardless of the explanation. All I can do over the next week is try to stay positive and stay in prayer.

I still have faith that the pregnancy is viable, even though the baby has not been spotted yet. From what I have read, they often cannot be spotted until at least the 8th week. My blood tests all point to the fact that the pregnancy is one of my own personal best. I have faith that the Lord knows I need to be here on this earth as a mother for our son. I am trying to find peace in Him, and put the whole situation in His hands. Until the next ultrasound, I am going to try to just focus on having fun with my two guys that I am so blessed to have in my life. :)

If you feel so inclined, please keep us in your prayers. We would greatly appreciate it.

Wellness Wednesday: My Low-Maintenace, DIY, Non-toxic Beauty Routine

I know that many people are fed up with seeing posts online (mostly via Facebook) about essential oils, nail products, skin care, body wraps, eyelash extensions, etc. I apologize in advance because I am not trying to be one of “those people”. Simply put, I have found a few things that have been major game changers for me in my beauty routine, and I am just excited to share with you all. Before our son was born, keeping my hair and makeup well-kept was much easier. While I was always very health-conscious and concerned about using products that were environmentally friendly, I tended to use whatever worked best in the beauty department before I was a mom. Ever since I was pregnant with our son, my whole perspective on beauty products changed (previous post here). I started searching for natural options, and things free of all of the toxins. It has been an interesting journey, to say the least. Some things that I have tried did not go well.

I had actually planned to do this post months ago, but it took me a while to be able to put it all together. Plus, there were a few variations that I wanted to experiment with to make sure that I was giving the best possible advice.

The first thing in my repertoire is dry shampoo. I have very curly (frizzy) hair, and curly hair always tends to be dryer because of the uneven hair cuticle. One of the best ways to care for curly hair is to not wash it every day. That works great for a busy mom because it takes me a long time to blow dry my hair (air-drying is not an option for me…my hair is way too wild and it just gets too matted, tangled and unruly for me, despite a lifetime of trying everything and anything to get it to air-dry nicely). Let’s be honest though…skipping shampoos does wonders for my hair (and my time management), but my scalp is oily so it is kind of a double-edged sword. I used to buy those fancy dry shampoos in a bottle that you spray in your hair, which worked great. However the good ones are expensive, and full of pollutants and strange chemicals. I decided to try making my own dry shampoo, and this has been amazing.

Recipe:
1. 2 tablespoons corn starch
2. 2 tablespoons cocoa (or cacao) powder (omit for blonde hair)
3. 3-4 drops each dōTERRA essential oil: lemon (for cleansing), melaluca (also known as tea tree – for itching and cleansing), lavender (for cleansing and soothing), and peppermint (invigorating and refreshing).
4. Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse a few times until well blended.
5. Transfer contents to mason jar or other container.
6. When using, dab small amounts of the powder onto scalp with a makeup brush, massage into scalp, then brush thoroughly.

It helps with oilyness, itchy scalp, gives your hair a great refresh between washings, and saves tons of time (and money)!
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The next thing on my list is my recipe for the perfect detangler/leave-in conditioner/texture and shine spray for perfect beachy waves and curls. I use fresh aloe vera for a lot of things, especially when any of us gets a cut, scrape, bruise, rash, etc. It has such amazing soothing and healing properties for our skin, and I started to wonder if it would do the same for my hair. Spoiler alert…it does. :) I have spent most of my life hating my hair, wishing that I had been born with anything other than such frizzy, unruly hair. I am not exaggerating by any means, but ever since I started making this spray, I have finally started loving my hair for the first time ever. See, major game changer, right?

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1. To start making the spray, a piece of fresh aloe vera plant is essential. Cut off a piece about an inch in length, and place it in a food processor or blender. Liquify the entire piece until it is mostly smooth and creamy.
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2. Then poor that mixture over a very fine mesh strainer. It is slow to strain, but you want to separate out all of the fresh juice, leaving behind the bigger chunks and bits.aliciainwonderlandblog
3. Then mix about 1 teaspoon of the aloe vera juice with 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 2-3 teaspoons of filtered or distilled water, and 8-10 drops dōTERRA lavender oil (for soothing and healing the hair, as well as masking the scent of the raw aloe vera).
4. Mix well and pour into a spray bottle.
5. Spray onto hair before styling, when tangled, etc. Keep refrigerated between uses. Let sit out for a few minutes before using to reach room temperature, and shake very well before applying.

The other major breakthrough I’ve had with my hair lately has been with these jumbo foam curlers that I found at Target (similar ones here). My mom used to use foam curlers on my hair when I was a kid, and I wanted to try it out in an effort to use less heat styling. The first few attempts with the foam rollers were a bit disappointing. I even tried using them with things like coconut oil, steam, etc. and everything had slightly disappointing results. However, once I came up with the spray above, my results were drastically different. My hair came out with perfect Pinterest-worthy big waves and curls, without using the curling iron or hot rollers! This may not work the same if you are lucky enough to have naturally straight hair, but if you have wavy, curly, or frizzy hair, I definitely highly recommend trying this out!

I start with blow drying my hair to smooth it out. Then as I am getting ready for bed at night, I put in the aloe vera-lavender spray, brushing well to work the spray through. Then I section my hair into chunks and put in the big foam rollers. It works incredibly well, and my hair stays nicer all day than it does when I use the curling iron or hot rollers! It took my husband and son a few days to stop laughing at my hair in rollers each night, but they definitely appreciate seeing my hair down and nicely styled instead of shoved into an ugly bun in desperation. :)

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Cell phone selfie of my hair…first time I was ever proud of my hair. :)
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Speaking of getting ready for bed, I also made a natural makeup remover. Previously, I had always been afraid to use anything oily on my face because I tend to have acne-prone skin (thanks hormonal imbalance!). Then I kept reading online about how people were having great results with using coconut oil and castor oil to remove their makeup, and how it applies the like-dissolves-like principle. I knew that my regular face washing routine was not fully removing all of my makeup each night, so I decided to give it a try. Surprisingly, it works great, and has not given me any breakouts! I just apply it, massage it in, and wipe it off with a soft towel.

For the makeup remover, I mixed together:
1. 3 tablespoons organic coconut oil
2. 1 tablespoon organic castor oil
3. 3 drops each dōTERRA lavender (for cleansing and soothing), frankincense (for skin renewal and anti-aging), and melaluca oils (for cleansing and anti-acne).

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The last thing on my list has been something that I’m sure many people have heard of, but perhaps have not considered trying yet. I’m talking about Jamberry nails. When I was pregnant with our son, I started trying all different types of natural nail polish. None of the non-toxic options seemed to last longer than a day without chipping, even on my toe nails. I honestly don’t care if my fingernails are polished unless I am going to a fancy event (with all of my gardening, crafting, and cleaning the house, I am just happy if my fingernails are all the same length and clean), but I can’t stand going in public with unpolished toe nails. Since we live in Southern California, we keep our sandals in heavy rotation most of the year (it is almost November and still in the 80 degree range most afternoons lately).

I have been using Jamberry nail wraps for the past several months on my toes and have been so happy with them! They stay on for weeks at a time, which is amazing! They even hold up through all of my barefoot gardening and beach walks. :) Over the past few months, I found a few tips that work best for me with applying the Jamberry nails. The first couple of times I applied them they were okay, but once I got the hang of a few tricks, they have been beyond amazing.

Alicia in Wonderland blog - low maintenance, nontoxic DIY beauty

If you haven’t heard of Jamberry nails before, they are basically like a DIY, non-toxic alternative to salon gel manicures. They are adhesive strips that you apply to your nails with a hair dryer. It is pretty simple and great for moms because you don’t have to worry about your kids coming over and smudging your perfectly painted fresh pedicure (has happened to me many times before I tried these)! Also, they have so many fun, amazing designs to choose from! I have seen some nail wraps at the drug stores, but the patterns available there do not come anywhere close the the amazing options that Jamberry has available. :)

Here are my tips for the perfect Jamberry manicure/pedicure:
1. Be sure to prep your nails well. Soak to make sure they are nice and clean.
2. Dry completely, then push back/clip any messy cuticles.
3. Lightly buff your nails, trim, and file them to get them prepared.
4. Wipe nails with rubbing alcohol pad.
5. Apply Jamberry strips per instructions.
6. Be sure to trim any excess tiny bits around the edges and sides of your nails. Anything that is not trimmed off will lift up, leaving your manicure or pedicure falling off when it could stay on for much longer otherwise. The easiest way I have found to trim all those excess bits is with a pair of sharp cuticle nippers (seen below).
7. Pay attention to the size and shape of your nails when applying. I am very petite, which means I have small feet, and therefore tiny little toe nails. I initially had a problem with keeping my pinky toe nail polished, but then I realized a trick that worked best for me. The cuticle bed of my pinky toe is tiny and flat, not rounded like the other toes. Once I trimmed off that rounded bit on the pinky toe wrap, it stayed on much longer! Trimming to fit your own toe nails’ shape/size is the most important part. :)
8. Don’t rush when using the hair dryer to apply them. If you need to, stop the process and come back to the next few nails instead of cutting the applying time short. I often do a few nails, deal with the round of “Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom”, and then come back to finish up the rest. ;)

Alicia in Wonderland blog - low maintenance, nontoxic DIY beauty

If you would like to try Jamberry nails for yourself (and I definitely recommend that you do!), I have a Jamberry party set up over on Facebook here that you can join! My friend Kristin set up the event (and has very patiently rescheduled it multiple times for me while I tried to get this blog post together!), and she has a way of making these Jamberry parties so much fun. :)

*Disclaimer: the post above contains affiliate links for your convenience. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to treat, prevent or cure any disease.

$2 DIY Barn Toy

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog

Our little guy loves playing with his little farm animals, and I’ve been wanting to find him a little barn for them. I saw a DIY barn on Pinterest recently and it inspired me to make one myself for him. I didn’t have a big tea box to use like in that tutorial, so I started brainstorming about what else I had on hand that I could use. I started picturing some of our favorite barns that we’ve seen at some of the homes nearby, and I had a perfect idea…an empty juice container.

Here are the supplies you will need to make this super simple toy for your own little one:
1. empty juice or milk container
2. sheet of red corrugated 12″x12″ scrapbook paper (I purchased mine at Joann’s)
3. sheet of brown felt
4. sheet of sticky back, stiff white felt
5. glue gun
6. razor blade
7. scissors
8. ruler
9. duct tape

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
1. I started by thoroughly cleaning and drying the juice box.
2. Then I measured the width of one of the sides (4 inches). I cut up the length of 4 inches along three of the sides of the juice container, starting from the bottom. This created a flap to be the new bottom of the barn. I also cut off the plastic pour spout and trimmed off the tab at the very top of the container that makes the top a bit more pointy.

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
3. I used duct tape to close and secure the flap to make the new bottom.
$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
4. My son actually picked out this red corrugated cardboard a long time ago when we were shopping for craft supplies, and I had no idea what we were going to use it for. Red is his favorite color, and the corrugated texture makes for a great sensory experience, so I was determined to find a use for it eventually. I realized that it would make the perfect “wood siding” for the barn. I measured the red paper to fit the sides of the carton, and glued on with the glue gun. $2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
5. Next I started with the roof. I used two sheets of felt, one sticky back white and one standard piece of brown felt. The white felt gives some much needed stiffness, and also gives the illusion of painted white trim around the roof. :)
$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
6. I measured out a piece of each felt for the roof, approximately 7″ x 5.5″. Then I stuck the brown felt to the sticky side of the white felt, and glued the whole thing on the roof with the glue gun.
$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
7. Then I used more of the sticky white felt to create the barn doors. I sketched out my design on the back (paper covering the sticky side), and cut out with a razor blade (cut over a cutting board).

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
8. Here are the cut out doors. Next I put the doors on, using a tiny bit of glue from the glue gun.

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
9. Last step was cutting out the doors with the razor blade.

$2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog $2 DIY Barn Toy - Alicia in Wonderland Blog
My little guy immediately took the barn out of the sensory bin, but he has had tons of fun playing with it. He keeps singing E-I-E-I-O when he plays with it. :)

Clearing out Clutter & Chaos

You know how in the show Friends Monica was obsessive about cleaning and organizing, but had that one locked closet where she stashed all of her junk and clutter? That’s kind of what our closet room/storage room has turned into lately (our house has no garage, no basement, no useable attic, and no closets. We have a bedroom designated for all of our storage). Our house is usually clean and organized (despite having a toddler and four furry kids which makes keeping a clean house a lot more work). My one area of weakness lately is paperwork. I had gotten so behind on keeping organized with all of the receipts and paperwork for my business expenses, just shoving things in boxes and drawers to deal with later. As we approach the end of our extension for our taxes, I started going into panic mode recently trying to get everything organized. I quickly realized that this prolonged procrastination of organizing my paperwork made several things go missing.

I decided that it was time to do a major purge on the whole house. I started tackling area by area, as we looked for the papers we needed to locate. Even though things were organized and labeled, it was still neatly organized clutter that we don’t need, taking up valuable storage space in a house with very little storage. This pile in the photo below is our donation bags and boxes that Salvation Army just picked up yesterday, along with all of the paperwork that I still need to organize in a better manner. Luckily, just a few days after I started my massive reorganization/purge project, a 31 day purge project started over at ABowlFullofLemons.net! I have been going to that blog each morning to find a daily theme for purging and organizing, and adding it to my routine. Breaking it up bit by bit has really helped! There is also a great Facebook page set up for the 31 day challenge, where lots of readers are sharing pictures, tips, and more. It has been so incredibly helpful!

I will be doing follow up posts soon, showing some of the changes I have made, and how I am reorganizing everything! For anyone who may have been wondering why I have been silent in the past week…I apologize! I have really been trying to focus on the tasks at hand here. :) I’m finally just about finished with my tax stuff too. :)

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On a side note, I sorted my donation bags and boxes after I took this photo for easier itemization. I even had a few things labeled. The men that came to pick up my donation were super appreciative that my donation was organized. It helps them a lot and it is apparently something people rarely do. It only took a few minutes too!