Nov 15, 2016

Review: OvaCue Fertility Monitor (Using It To Avoid Pregnancy)

Fertility, pregnancy, ovulation, moon time. These are topics that every human with ovaries and a uterus has given much contemplation, frustration, and time to. Myself included.

When my partner, Chuck, and I first started learning about ways to track my cycles and understand them without a lot of confusion, we stumbled across natural family planning. We loved the idea of using something that was non-invasive (as far as pills, surgeries, etc. go anyway), and that it seemed fairly easy. We tried keeping track of my cervical mucus and temperatures for a few months in an attempt to avoid getting pregnant, but this method didn't come through for us. (The pregnancy ended in an early miscarriage.) NFP is overwhelming, and for me in particular, I am not willing to give NFP alone another shot.

So! I discovered the OvaCue - a fertility tracker that uses your saliva and cervical mucus to help you keep track of your cycle. (More on how that works later!) While OvaCue is not FDA approved to help avoid pregnancy, it can be used this way, and people have successfully done so. (The OvaCue was created specifically to help people achieve pregnancy. But when used in "reverse", it can also be used to avoid pregnancy.)

I decided I wanted to give this a try. I'm not personally comfortable using the OvaCue alone, so we still take other precautions, but I am SO happy to be getting to know my body in this new way on such a deep level. Let me explain what I mean.

The OvaCue is made up of a small hand held electronic device, an oral sensor, and a vaginal sensor. These sensors attach by USB cord to the handheld device, and when in use, record the appropriate information which the device then stores until it's uploaded to your computer. It couldn't be easier!

I love using the OvaCue because it is fairly flexible in the realm of natural forms of birth control, and also extremely easy. When you wake up in the morning and go to the bathroom for the first time, you turn on the device, pop the oral sensor in your mouth to take your reading, and then switch to the vaginal sensor and take that reading and then you are DONE. The device records all the information, including color coding the display calendar so that you know where you are in your cycle. It. is. amazing.

A few things to get used to once you start using the OvaCue:

  • You need to get in the habit of going into the bathroom to take your readings when you first get out of bed.
  • You can't eat/drink/or put anything in your mouth before taking your oral reading.
  • You need to take your readings at least 8 hours after intercourse or immediately before. (This means that impromptu morning sex before anyone is out of bed has an extra step.)
  • You can't forget to use it. If you do, it will throw off any of the information you've gathered thus far.
  • The OvaCue is not touch screen, and at first that really bothered me and confused me. However, as I started using it, I realize that it's actually a VERY good thing it's not touch screen! I bumped the screen, dropped the device, and otherwise touched it in ways that would have messed up important information if it had been touch screen. So consider it a blessing that it's not. :)
  • Nothing is foolproof. 

The OvaCue is extremely easy and intuitive to use once you get used to it. It does take a fair amount of messing around with it and exploration before you actually start using it to feel comfortable. And I highly recommend taking some time to just take a peek at all the options, play around with them before you set them, and play around with using the two sensors before you try recording actual results for the first time.

I keep the device and sensors in a basket in the bathroom. I also like to keep my instruction booklet there too as a reference guide. It is so much fun to learn about what your body is doing each day. 

The vaginal sensor is long and skinny and goes way further up into your vagina than your fingers can easily reach. I love this because it gives me a much more accurate visual of what my cervical mucus is doing for the day. That's something I wasn't able to accurately asses when I was doing NFP without the OvaCue. It can be the slightest bit uncomfortable sticking something so cold and skinny into your vagina, but it's not too bad. I have discovered that depending on the position of my cervix, I need to change position to allow the sensor to fall into the correct placement. No biggie.

Using the oral sensor is very straight forward - you place it so that the entire flat part is on the tip of your tongue, hold it there for a second, and then remove it. Easy peasy!

If I was trying to conceive, I can't even imagine how incredibly useful the OvaCue would be! By showing you the specific days you're possibly fertile right down to the day that you're ovulating, it would make understanding your body's cycle so much easier. And in reverse, if you're trying to avoid pregnancy (but still willing to get pregnant if it were to happen) this is an incredibly useful tool!

I would highly recommend the OvaCue because of how easy it is to use and it's reliability.

So what about you? What has your experience been with tracking your cycles? Do you think something like the OvaCue would be helpful to you? I'd love to hear your thoughts! 

Jul 13, 2016

A journey to self love, acceptance, self worth, and healing

Self love, acceptance, self beauty, self worth, self anything really has been almost non existent in my life. That is, until recently when I realized that needed to change. I remember one time as a teenager looking in the mirror and admiring my hair, but quickly checking myself because "If I love my hair too much, "God" would take it away." (That was true for a lot of husband, my children, my home, etc. If you love anything more than God, his (God's) only choice would be to take it away.)

As you can imagine, that does a number on one's self esteem. It leaves no room for anything having to do with self for fear of loving one's self too much and becoming vain or self absorbed. 

The past year, and more recently, the past few weeks, I've been exploring what it means to truly love and accept myself. To love me for me. And to see me not as a sad, broken, messed up, bad, ugly, hurting, _______, or ________ human but instead as...


I was having a really hard day a few days ago seeing any of this. I sat on the couch in the living room while the kids napped and sobbed. Chuck came and sat next to me and spoke truth into the situation as I sat there and tried to argue with him and tell him how wrong he was. I finally started to calm down and Chuck told me "I have an idea." (I always love his ideas.) "I want you to pick out something that will be a tangible thing for you to hold or wear or whatever to act as a constant reminder of this shift. A reminder of who you truly are." (He said that it couldn't be something that could go away - so no candles or incense or anything like that.)

That evening we went to a couple of our favorite local shops and browsed around. Nothing called to me. Nothing had that spark of "This is it!" And so we came home without anything. I'm not going to lie; it was kind of sad.

I was feeling pulled toward a ring. Something I could wear everyday and would see anytime I did anything. I took a peek on Etsy (my fave!) and quickly discovered that I loved the electroformed style with a raw looking stone or crystal. As I was browsing, I opened up a few different ones that I thought were really beautiful. I had decided beforehand that I didn't want to do any research into specific stone properties or meanings - I just wanted to intuitively choose a stone. 

I particularly loved a peridot ring I stumbled across. It was gorgeous and in the exact style I was drawn to. I knew that this stone was the right one for me.

Peridot (pronounced pair-uh-doe) is formed in molten rock on the earth's upper mantle and brought to the surface by earthquakes and volcanoes. Peridot is also found in comet dust! Aside from being drawn to it's beauty, I am also drawn to the properties of peridot, which I started researching after reading a brief Etsy shop description. Here are the ones that I felt spoke to me:

  • Peridot alives emotional burdens, guilt and obsessions
  • Peridot is beneficial in helping to overcome fear
  • Peridot is helpful in releasing resentment 
  • Peridot is helpful in instilling confidence in one's own abilities
  • Peridot is beneficial for reestablishing a sense of self-worth
  • Peridot is helpful in attuning to cycles and helping regulate them
  • Peridot helps dissipate negative patterns and vibrations 
  • Peridot is a stone of transformation 
  • Peridot is a vital guide in facilitating the healing process 
  • Peridot helps discharge emotional issues 
  • Peridot helps alleviate fear, guilt, anxiety, and impatience 
  • Peridot relieves the heaviness of the heart
  • Peridot relieves self doubt caused by betrayal in past relationships 
(For extensive reading on peridot, see this site!)

After a bit more browsing I came across the shop I knew I wanted to buy the ring from. (Check out RockDoveRings here!) I am excited to wear this ring as a reminder to my heart of who my truest self is.

I am still learning about self care and how to give time and grace to allow myself to explore this new area. I would love to hear about how you practice self care in your day to day life. <3 Do you have specific mantras you repeat to yourself or special practices that you do everyday? Aside from this ring, journaling is a big one for me. Getting all my thoughts and feelings out on paper is very therapeutic for me.

Happy journey, dear friend! 

Jul 8, 2016

There are no bad people

There are no bad people.

This is something becoming a mother taught me.

This is NOT something my previous religion taught me. Or my previous churches. Or my previous anything or anybody.
The opposite was heavily ingrained into me. And when we say "Please be good." or "Bad boy/girl!" or anything like that, we are further helping spread the lie that people are bad.

People are NOT bad.

There are no bad people.

People can do wrong, hurtful, awful things. And those things are bad. But the people aren't.

The people are hurt and sad and wounded. And just reacting out of a lifelong history of being told they are bad.

If I tell my children "Be good." what is that teaching them? It's teaching them that their "normal" is actually bad and that they need to fight against that to be good. When the truth is that they are already good. They are already perfect.

We need to start thinking about the way we talk to people, and especially our children since they are the folks that are growing up into the next set of adults.

When people are told something for long enough, it becomes their truth and their reality.

A couple years ago someone that I love a lot said in passing "There is nothing good in me."

That's the first time I remember pausing to think about that. To actually digest what I had been taught. And it was in that moment that I realized something was actually wrong with that way of thinking.

If a person believes that they are created in the incredible image of God(dess), then how is it that they can say that there is nothing good in them, and that people are not good?

I don't understand it any longer, and if I had allowed myself to think about it at all years ago, I wouldn't have understood it then either. But what I do understand is that we are GOOD.

People are inherently good. We are not born bad. We do not desire to do bad things. In the deepest part of each human heart, there is only a desire to love and be loved.

And when we love well, we erase any need or desire to do hurtful, harmful, awful things. Because then there is absolutely no void to be filled by doing those things.

Because isn't that why people do bad things? Because there is a void?

A void that can only be filled by L-O-V-E.

So if we want people to stop hurting, if we want people to stop doing awful things, then we need to start loving for real. We need to change the way we talk to our children, our friends, our partners, and maybe most importantly ourselves.

Because when we are so filled to the brim with love, there will be no space for hatred, no room for anything that doesn't belong.

There are no bad people.

There are no bad people.

There are no bad people.

Only hurt people.

Only people who need more love.

We can each heal the world and heal the people in our own communities with the thing that should be flowing most freely out of us.

Stop the fucking hatred and quit drawing crazy lines in the sand. Quit telling your kids that there is nothing good in them. Quit telling yourself that.

Love passionately. Love everyone. Love unconditionally.

‪#‎lovewins‬ ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬ ‪#‎prayerforthebrokenhearted‬ ‪#‎lovelovelove‬

Jun 24, 2016

Product Review: Pure Hazelwood Products (Necklaces, Bracelets, and Anklets)

I am SO excited to tell you about Pure Hazelwood's products! I know that by the end of this review you're going to be just as excited about these products as I am.

I was lucky enough to be able to review Pure Hazelwood's necklaces, bracelets, and anklets. Even my husband and children got to test out some necklaces! I'm doing this review mainly as a video because Pure Hazelwood asked me to. I'm a little nervous! It's unedited, real life here - seriously, you can see Q jumping on the couch behind me near the end.

A couple weeks ago I hosted an event at my house for the local Crunchy Moms group here in Bellingham. We had a lot of fun getting together and chatting about hazelwood and trying the jewelry on. A handful of folks even ended up ordering necklaces for themselves and kids!

Hazelwood is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and full of antioxidants as well. Pregnant and dealing with acid reflux? Have an irritable teething little one? Hazelwood may very well be your ticket!

If you've been thinking about trying out hazelwood, I promise you they really are as fabulous as they are made out to be. To see more real life action shots of the hazelwood during normal everyday life, follow me on Instagram @hippiemamatess.

Check out these links to order some Pure Hazelwood products for yourself and your family!

Pure Hazelwood Main Website
Pure Hazelwood Adult Necklaces
Pure Hazelwood Children's Necklaces
Pure Hazelwood Bracelets
Pure Hazelwood Anklets

And as always, I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts on these products if you decide to take the plunge! How have they been working for your family? Have you heard of wearing hazelwood before this? What were your first thoughts when you heard about these incredible properties? Tell me below!

Jun 23, 2016

Book Review: Faith Shift by Kathy Escobar

If there's one thing you take away from this book, it's that you are not alone. And that is one of the most comforting, reassuring things I can think of to tell someone going through a faith shift.

Kathy Escobar is writing from a place of understanding because she has been there - in the middle of her own faith shift. She shares her story as an encouragement to each of us, to let us know that we aren't alone, and that everything is going to be ok. Kathy is the lead pastor at The Refuge, a mission center and Christian community that she helped start as a safe place for faith shifters. And believe me, I seriously wish I lived close enough to be a part of that community!

The Refuge offers just that: refuge. It's a place where people are not judged or looked down on for having a faith crisis or for asking questions. I know that on my own journey, asking hard questions is seen as a bad thing, as "going off the deep end," or "straying," or even leaving "the flock" (how I despise that term!) altogether.  Since most of us aren't lucky enough to live in North Denver, Faith Shift offers us a bit of our own refuge within our own homes. This book is packed with snippets of stories from people's lives that are having spiritual shifts and feeling abandoned by the churches and people they grew up with.

My faith shift started about 4 1/2 years ago. I didn't realize it then. All I knew is that I was starting to think for myself and question things I had always believed. It wasn't until about 1 year ago when I started adventuring into seriously unknown territory that I realized something bigger was going on. I found a group or two on Facebook where I was able to connect with some like-minded people. More than the groups themselves (some of which I'm not even a part of anymore), I found a few individual people that I deeply connected with. They listened to my whole story, they understood, they offered me love and kindness and helpful advice. Without these people, my faith shift would have (would still be) the loneliest place I have ever been.

Luckily for me, I also somehow discovered books like Faith Shift which ended up impacting me more than I thought it would be able to. When I started reading this book, I couldn't get over how much I was relating to what Kathy was saying, and even more so, how she seemed to be literally telling my story back to me, and then predicting the future for me! It was SO freeing and comforting.

When you feel alone, the greatest gift that can be given to you is the gift of friendship and understanding. Of being told "Hey, I've been there. I know what it's like. It's going to be ok. Here's some helpful advice." There is nothing more comforting than knowing that there are actually real life people out there who get you.

Kathy has a really helpful diagram in her book that I wanted to show you.

from the book Faith Shift by Kathy Escobar
To fully understand this diagram in it's entirety, you'll have to read Faith Shift for yourself. But for now, you can get a pretty good idea of the faith shifter's journey from this picture. Personally, I'm in the unraveling stage right now most strongly, with a fair amount of severing going on, and just the slightest hints of rebuilding starting to bud.

In the beginning of the book, Kathy talks about how the point of the illustration above, and the book in general, is to give language "to our shared but individual experiences and identify the progression of a faith shift." This sounded awesome when I first started reading, and then the further and further I got through the book, I realized how absolutely needed it truly was and is! Having the words and the descriptors to explain where you are in life may be the single most important thing to making this journey easier for you and for others. It's like being handed a super bright flashlight as you're walking through the darkest of dark caves.

I'm going to say: I want to just put this entire book for you to read on my blog. There is so much I want to cover in this review and I truly feel like I'm just grasping at straws trying to figure out what to say where and how much to say.

I was excited that Rachel Held Evans, Brain McLaren, and Sarah Bessey all gave glowing reviews of Faith Shift. It majorly added to my excitement and I mean...when Rachel Held Evans recommends a book, you know it's gotta be good.

Kathy goes through each stage of faith shifting in great detail. I found this incredibly helpful in identifying certain areas of my own journey, and it was especially impactful in the area of offering me comfort. The constant reminder of "You are not alone. You are ok." was so helpful to me.

Probably my most favorite chapter starts on page 82, and it's called Soul Care for Unravelers. Self care (soul care!) has been such a huge theme for me lately. And you know that if you've been reading my blog for a while. Being handed some tools to make sure that my soul is being properly cared for during this season was really meaningful to me. Obviously I can't put the whole chapter here in a blog post (I wish I could) but here are some of my favorite parts.

Below are a handful of ideas that Kathy gives for keeping yourself together while you're unraveling. Now, keep in mind that under each of these points, Kathy goes into great detail to further expound on what she means.

  • Get used to blank stares and nervous twitches (from others)
  • Expect the unexpected 
  • Come to terms with negative emotions 
  • Consider the possibility that your soul is not at risk 
  • Accept that some relationships will fall away
  • Make time for safe, life-giving friends 
  • Treasure laughter 
  • Practice Serenity 
  • Try experiencing God in new ways
  • Trust the process
  • Swear if it helps!
  • Be selective in what you read
  • Be selective about which events you attend 
  • Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others 
  • Avoid big triggers if possible 
And then right after this list, Kathy gives a really, really refreshing list of "life-giving acts" that she personally found helpful. I LOVE how down to earth these things are, and how much I related to them. Having permission to actually do these things - being encouraged to do these things - this is huge! The basis for this list is "Does this help me feel more peace, love, hope, joy, and/or rest?"

  • Lighting candles (lots of them)
  • Watching movies
  • Turning off the radio in my car and putting my cell phone in the back seat
  • Taking walks in the rain or sun or snow
  • Making time for friends who make me laugh 
  • Reading only fiction 
  • Reflecting on art or poetry 
  • Writing 
  • Water skiing 
  • Hiking 

And for me, this list would look something like this...

  • Taking a quiet bath alone with candles, my cell phone or a movie on the computer 
  • Listening to music and singing and dancing 
  • Eating delicious food
  • Drinking a cup of coffee or tea that I prepared mindfully 
  • Meditating 
  • Walks and hikes or time at the beach with my family 
  • Reading
  • Having good talks with Chuck 
  • Dinner with friends 
  • Connecting to nature through earthing, stones and crystals, new moon rituals, etc. 
  • Smudging my house and myself 
  • Music and dancing 

Among the bazillion other things that stood out to me in Faith Shift was the fact that Kathy encourages you to explore things you may have previously been taught were off limits. She says (page 153) "Explore different ways to connect with God that your previous faith tradition might not have validated, such as nature, social activism, contemplative practices, and so on." This is in the section titled "The Art of Experimenting Spiritually".

Also, I don't think I mentioned this yet, but bullet points and lists in books are one of my ultimate favorite things. Faith Shift doesn't let me down in this area!! 

Continuing on in the section about experimenting spiritually, Kathy goes on to list a few possible practices that you might decide to try out (or not) in the process of rebuilding. Below is a quickly paraphrased version:

  • What makes you feel alive? Loved? What are you passionate about?
  • Put the Bible on the shelf and find something else inspiring and challenging to read. Many other faith traditions have amazing material worth bravely exploring. 
  • Practice reading the Bible for its beauty and inspiration instead of for study or knowledge. 
  • Consider other aspects of God's character. What part of God do you want to connect with, or do you really need, right now? Start there. It could be God as friend, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Mother, Creator, Advocate, and so on. 
  • Practice soul care (see above!)
  • Create something. 
  • Skip parts of church that you aren't ready for or don't like (or skip church all together!)
  • Have fun, lighten the load, laugh.

Following is a whole section called "Different Ways of Loving God". I loved this quote from Karl, the previous co-pastor at The Refuge: "Love God. The problem is that I don't know what love is, and I am not sure who God is...but other than that I've got it nailed down." It just sums up in total perfection that we kind of know...but we don't really know. What a perfectly confusing, comforting way to say that.

There is so much to say about Faith Shift and I just can't seem to get it all out here the way I want to. This book deeply impacted me. I am so happy to have been able to read it and learn from it, to find comfort and friendship in it. I can't wait to pass it on to others who will also find it helpful. Chuck is reading it right now, and then after he's done, I'm sending it to my good friend in Maryland. 

If you get a chance to read this book, do it!!! You won't regret it. If you have read Faith Shift I would dearly love to hear your thoughts on it and to hear how it affected your own shifting faith. Feel free to leave a comment below or to send me an email. I'd really love to chat. 

Lastly, thank you so much to Kathy for sending me a copy of this book for review. I had no idea it would be this good. Thanks for giving this gift to the world...and to me. <3 

Jun 16, 2016

When life feels overwhelming

Chuck and I were instant messaging back and forth this morning. We seem to communicate best that way throughout the day even though his office is only right through the kitchen.

"When do you want naps to be today?" I messaged him.

"When would work best for you? It sounds like the kids are being kind of crazy." he replied.

"Yes, they are. I feel overwhelmed. And like I want to be here so badly, but I can't show up the way I want."

The past week and a half I've felt so unbalanced. It's probably because I'm working hard to grow a baby, keep up with housework and cooking, bearing the weight of hard news - both personal and communal, going through huge faith shifts, putting effort and time into relationships, and have been forgetting to make time for self care.

I've been forgetting to take time to notice what Mandy Steward calls secret messages. I've been missing out on taking things slow. On softening. And I realized when I started writing this post how much this is affecting me and how much I need it.

When my self care practices get pushed aside (never on purpose) my whole life feels it, and my family feels it. I have less patience. I have less to give. I have shorter attention spans. I have harsher words and fewer smiles. I have more judgement and less grace.

All of this in the middle of trying to parent two beautiful toddlers. In the middle of dealing with the news of sickness in my family. In the middle of trying to wrap my mind around the massacre that happened on Sunday. In the middle of trying to feed myself and this growing baby and my children and husband healthy wholesome food. In the middle of judgement from other moms, self perceived or openly given. In the middle of tiring faith shifts with seemingly no end to them.

I want to be here. I want to be so present that I notice the bugs crawling around me on the grass and the laughs of my children as they play with their toys, I want to see the flowers like my boy sees them, and I want to pluck them up and give them as a gift to somebody, just like he did for me.

I want to be able to hold space for all of those who were hurt on Sunday and are trying to heal.

I want to be able to tell myself that it's ok to not be able to bear responsibility for all the things I want to do or can't do. And sometimes that's just making dinner. And on those night when we eat a frozen pizza from Trader Joe's, I will try my hardest to block out the voices of moms who (seem to) have it all together and who wouldn't feed their growing children frozen prepackaged food.

But for me? I've been realizing lately that sometimes survival and happiness is more important than pushing through miserably.

Because who wants to be miserable? Not me. And I know that when I am, my children are too (their sweet, sweet tender souls). They feel so deeply that even when I am emotionally distraught, they offer me hugs and cuddles. And it's in those moments that I know a frozen pizza (or a TV episode or water play outside or "let's pull everything out of the recycling bins") is indeed the right choice. It's the healing choice.

I'm writing this as a reminder to myself. To soften. To be present. To be mindful. To enjoy the moment - the living breathing moments and the living breathing souls around me.