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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

My Favorite Baby Items As A 4th Time Mama

It's been almost 7 years since I entered into the black hole baby gear era! Despite having 3 kids in 3 years, I was shocked by how much baby items and gear had changed over that span. I have to laugh because most of the items I am using now for baby #4 weren't options or even on the horizon when I was a first time mom. I never gave into the big business marketing strategies that tell us we need wipe warmers and 15 baby towels and all of the latest and greatest technology but I did end up with a bunch of stuff I never used and quickly got rid of. I am by no means an expert on baby gear but I do feel well versed on what works, what you can skip, and what you definitely need with babies on the 4th go around. In fact, I kept barely any baby stuff after Gideon turned 1 even though I knew we would have more kids. I was done storing it all and knew I could borrow and buy what we needed when the time came (and knew it would be so much less than what we had!). This list isn't exhaustive but beyond diapers (Target or HEB brand), wipes (Kirkland Brand), and formula (Similac Advance), I can't really think of anything else we really use. I didn't add our swing, jumper, or exersaucer because those things are universal but I do suggest borrowing or buying those items secondhand.

Chicco Keyfit Carseat  
Chicco Keyfit Caddy Stroller
I had the Britax B Safe travel system with my first 3 babes and while I loved it, I got rid of it when Gideon out great it and wasn't totally set on getting it for this babe. I absolutely love our Chicco set, it could not be easier to install which is normally a pain to do and the snap and go stroller is a life saver. It has a huge basket and cup holders and folds really small. Nowadays I feel like first time moms are spending hundreds and hundreds on infant carseats which I know better it is not worth because you only use for a year. I am so happy with our choice for this carseat and stroller system! The fabric is

Boppy Lounger
I got this when my second, Lucy, was born and I don't know how you could live without it! It is the perfect "station" for baby and you can move it from room to room. Baby O would be perched on the lounger while we ate dinner, while I showered, etc. You have to stop using when baby starts rolling but it is a top baby product of mine for ages 0-6 months.

Lillebaby Airflow
I also got this carrier when my second babe was born and got rid of all of my other carriers. I prefer a structured carrier to a wrap and the Lillebaby has so much more support than its counterpart, the Ergo. I am barely 5 feet tall and broke my back when I was 14 so I need as much back support as possible. It is also mesh which is great for the Texas heat. I use it from the time baby is about 10lbs and don't use the newborn insert. My babies loved facing outward when they were about 4 months of age.

Baby Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit
ABSOLUTE LIFE SAVER! All 4 babes have used it and we are still using with Baby O. It is essentially like a thunder shirt/weighted blanket type contraption for babies to help with the swaddle transition. We've been using it for 3 months with O and trying sleep sack naps but he is addicted to the suit. We started using it during the dreaded 4 month sleep regression with the other babes.

Nuby Tuggy Teether
This is my first baby to use this toy and I have already bought it 3 times as a baby gift. It it stretches so you can manipulate it around the baby's hands so they can hang onto it. Best baby toy I have found.

I bought these with Gideon to use for introducing food and they just collected dust. I found them recently with Baby O and he has them in his hands at all times. Perfect little teether with ribs to soothe their gums. 

Homemedics Sound Machine
We own 4 of these and travel with them no matter where we go. Our kids sleep through the night no matter what and sleep like rocks even if we have people over because of the sound machines. I also use one when I sleep.

Baby Einstein Playmat
Baby O got this as a Christmas present and he is mesmerized! We had a different playmat that I got rid of with my first 3 kiddos and none of them really liked it. They would get bored and mad but O has a blast on it! He pulls on the toys, loves the music and lights, and has a grand ole' time.

Water filled tummy time mat
We also got this for Christmas and it has been fun! We use it in OT for baby O and it is a change of scenery for tummy time. It is cheap and easy to empty, fold, and store for future babies.

AngelCare Bath Seat
We got this when our 2nd was born and it is perfect for newborns to age 1! My sister uses hers in her big basin sink but ours is in the kid's bathtub so they can take turns bathing with the baby. It is plastic mesh so it dries easy and easy to store and clean.

Dr. Brown's Original Bottles
I exclusively nursed my first 2 kiddos and then Gideon and Baby O exclusively formula fed. I researched the best bottles for gas and Dr. Browns are always at the top of the lists. Some people complain about how many parts they have but I don't mind at all. I have 4 bottles and could easily get away with 2-3. They reduce airflow so babies aren't as gassy.

Boon Drying Rack (large
I think I may use this for the rest of my life, even when my kids are big! I keep it next to our sink to dry bottles but also use it to dry knives, kid silverware, toys, etc. It is two pieces so it is easy to soak and wash.

Burt's Bees Zipper Pajamas
These are my favorite for so many reasons! I love that they are zippered (who would ever make baby clothes with so many snaps?!) and also slim fitting. I don't like when jammies are baggy on little ones but these are slim and have thick, well made, organic fabric. I like that a lot of their patterns are gender neutral.
Itzy Ritzy Pacifiers
Baby O is my first baby to take a pacifier and because we didn't know what age child we were going to foster (we are certified age 0-2), I had a few different options at home just to be safe. These have the Soothie nipple like the ones at the hospital but are way cuter.

Backpack Diaper Bag
I want to kick myself for how much I spent on my very first diaper bag back in 2013. Petunia Pickle Bottom Bags were the "in" thing and I got rid of mine quicker than you can say baby. I hated it. It was a giant backpack with a crazy pattern. I used a slew of different bags and backpacks for #2 and #3 but ordered this backpack diaper bag on Amazon to prep for baby #4 and I love it! I love all the little compartments and it is slim. I am not one to wear bright colors usually so I really like the muted gray tone. And if it lasts 1 year, who cares?! It was cheap and I can replace it. We have been using it everyday for 6 months and it is in pristine condition. I've also learned by the 4th baby that I don't need to pack my whole life in the diaper bag. 

Shea Moisture Baby Wash and Lotion
I love this line for baby O. It is made by people of color, all natural, ethical, and smells delicious! I use some of their hair products as well.

IKEA Antilop Highchair
Another thing I could kick myself for buying is a Graco highchair that was $130. It was bulky and cheaply made and I got rid of it before Lucy turned 1. The $15 IKEA highchair is everything! The legs come off and it stores really  well. It is easy to clean and aesthetically pleasing. I even bought mine second hand for $5!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

What turning 31 did to my skin...

I turned 31 last year and had an "aha" slash "oh shit" moment when I realized I wasn't take care of my skin. I have been lucky enough to have never struggled with acne or skin issues and it wasn't like I had been in tanning beds or laying in the sun without sunscreen, I just realized I needed to be proactive with my skin now that I am in my 30s. The extent of my skincare routine was bar soap and Vaseline lotion at night before bed and even though it's been working for me for 30 years, other parts of my body were showing age and I knew my skin was next. I hate research and am very impatient but I wanted to actually learn what was best for my face and what were the best products to keep my face fresh and dodge Botox for a few more years. I'm pretty sure I am an influencer's dream because I went to my favorite people on the internet to do some sleuthing. Thanks to Jamie Golden, The Sister Studio, and Tried and True Moms, I finally have a routine that works for my pretty normal (not too dry, not too oily) skin and wanted to share my finds, not because I think it will work for everyone but because this is exactly how I found my routine, reading about others. I haven't gotten much sleep in the past 6 months with a baby yet I feel like my skin has never been softer, healthier, and happier. Oh and nothing I use is over $30! If the expensive stuff works for you, use it. If the cheap stuff works for you, use it. Again, I have zero expertise on skincare and the point of sharing is to give you a nudge to take care of your skin, it is your biggest organ. One way I HAVE been taking care of my skin is pretty much staying in the shade all summer long, wearing hats, and lathering 30-50 SPF often. Now that I've added a daily SPF, not just in the summertime, I am already noticing a difference in skin spots.

Okay enough talk, here is what I use, take or or leave it!

I never used to wash my face in the AM until I started my research and realized how yucky beds can be (even though I wash sheets every week) and how your makeup will go on smoother to a clean face. I wear makeup about 4 days a week and the other days I go natural so SPF is very important.  Washing my face in the AM helps me wake up after a not so restful night and jump right into child rearing.

CeraVe Facial Cleanser- $11- I love how soft this makes my skin feel! I keep one under my skin and one in the shower. It is smooth and lightweight.

Trader Joe's Rose Water Facial Toner- $4- I started using this last summer as a way to refresh my face after being out in the sun. I don't think I've ever bought anything from Trader Joe's I haven't loved. My kids also love using this.

CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizer with SPF- $14- I use this every morning, even if I'm not planning to be out in the sun. I also rub it on my neck and tops of my hands after reading about sun exposure while driving (look at your left hand in the summer and see how much darker it is than your right from driving!).

I am a night showerer so I keep a set of my face washes in my shower and under my sink in case I don't shower. This is my everyday list and I will add a few of my weekly products as well.

Botanic Tree Glycolic Acid Face Wash- $21- this face wash came highly recommended by Jen Reed (The Sister Studio) and she will constantly post comments she gets from people on how it has changed their lives and struggles with acne and different skin issues. It is lightweight with a little grain and helps work off my makeup.

CeraVe Facial Cleanser- $11- I dual wash and use the CeraVe cleanser again and it leaves my skin so stinking soft.

Palmer's Face Oil- $9-I can't believe I went 31 years without this face oil! I have heard it referred to as "Botox in a bottle" and I can see why. It wouldn't be ideal for oily skin but all I need is about 4 drops and my face and neck feel so moisturized and tight. I am noticing a difference in skin and age spots after using this for a few months too.

Jade Roller-  $10-  I keep my jade roller by my bedside and roll while Jon and I catch up from our days or watch a show. My sister once heard from a plastic surgeon that if everyone used a jade roller he would be out of a job because no one would need face lifts! I follow the included directions on what areas and how to roll.

Here are a few products I only use on average 2x a week, sometimes 3.
Palmers Coconut Sugar Facial Scrub- $8- I keep this in my shower and exfoliate 2x a week. It is made with coconut sugar and smells divine! It helps get the dead skin off my face and I dual wash with the CeraVe cleanser after

Baebody Retinol & Vitamin E- $20- I am so glad I learned about Retinol and how it increases the production of collagen thus shrinking fine lines and reducing wrinkles. I am at the age where I am noticing wrinkles pop up so I figured it would be better to be proactive than reactive in my 40s/50s. This is a strong one recommended by Heidi and Sissy at Tried and True Moms and I started noticing a difference within 2 weeks of using it! I use it 2-3 times a week after my dual wash and then follow up with the Palmer's Face Oil. Retinol can be drying for some people and make them peel but I haven't had that side effect.

Isle of Paradise Self Tanning Drops- $29- Also a Tried and True Moms recommendation and I LOVE them! I use 1-2 drops 2x a week and mix it with the Palmer's Face Oil and rub it all over my face and neck. One night I accidentally used 5 drops thinking it was my face oil and I woke up looking a tad like Donald Trump haha. You can even add a few drops into your body moisturizer.

Not exactly skincare but I can't NOT talk about one of my favorite prodcuts. I have been using Babelash since Christmas and oh my goodness my lashes are growing like crazy. Right now I am using it every night but will move to a few times a week once I finish my first tube. A $60 tube should last 3-4 months which is a heck of a lot more affordable than lash extensions.

I hope you enjoyed my edition of amateur skincare hour with Ruthie Hart! I am excited to get back into blogging, slowly but surely. I am working on a post of my favorite baby products the 4th time around.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Hart's Fostering Journey

It feels almost foreign to be typing into the Blogger interface. I hadn't planned on taking an almost permanent hiatus from blogging but life has gotten full in a way that I could have never expected. I hate to use the word "busy" because we are all busy and we all have the same amount of time in our days and the freedom to choose what we spend those precious hours on. In an attempt to update you on the past 2 years of life may be pages and pages of me rambling so I am going to try to be concise with the intention of being back on here a little bit more in the future. As you can probably guess from the title, we are fostering! We became a family of 6 in the fall when a sweet 2 day old baby joined our family through foster care and almost 6 months later we are head over heels, attached, and in love with a little boy we will most likely have to say goodbye to. I plan on writing a whole post about that part of foster care- loving and attaching knowing you will say goodbye- but that is a soap box post for another day.

So what led us to foster care? That is a loaded question that was years in the making. Since before we got pregnant with Ford, our biological son, we felt the conviction to grow our family through adoption. We started the adoption process when our daughter Lucy was just a few months old (my most recent adoption post here) and brought home our son, Gideon Aaron, through adoption in November 2016. To say we were overwhelmed physically and emotionally is an understatement so I we held off on adding to our family. In October 2018 I vividly remember how sick I felt reading the news that the state of New York passed a law to allow abortions up until 40 weeks gestation. A baby's heart starts beating at 6 weeks gestation and by 40 weeks most babies are already born and in their parents arms. We had started to talk about adding to our family and it was that day that I felt a deep conviction about foster care. There is so many layers to this story and how the Lord used our failed adoption match prior to Gideon to start to stir our hearts towards foster care. I started working at The Heart of Texas Pregnancy Resource Center shortly after we brought Gideon home because I began to feel this passion towards family preservation, not just fighting for the lives of babies. God was working and preparing us for our foster care journey years before we said yes. So that October day I asked Jon to pray faithfully with me about the possibility of foster care. Fast forward to January 2019 where we went to our first orientation with a local foster care agency and the stars aligned (pun intended because our agency is called STARRY). I was finishing up my last semester of an intense theology development program at our church and knew we didn't have the capacity for training until I graduated. We continue to pray, asked our community to pray, and started to research, learn, and ask for discernment and wisdom to move forward. We started our pre-service training in June 2019 and became licensed in early September. We knew it was going to be mountains of paperwork because we've adopted before but honestly nothing could have prepared us for the mountain RANGE of paperwork, training, background checks, rec letters, and other things we had to complete before becoming licensed. It is definitely not for the faint of heart... or disorganized person!

Maybe there will be a day that I go more in depth on becoming licensed and what is involved but in order to keep this post less than 1 million words, I will come to a close. Foster care has been so much more physically and emotionally demanding than I could have ever imagined but also 100 times more wonderful. Our weeks are filled with therapy, bio parent visits, phone calls, paperwork, home visits with CPS, attorneys, ad litems, and very little sleep but I wouldn't change it for the world. There is a chance we have to say goodbye to our sweet baby soon and I can see how people could easily throw in the towel after 1 go around. It is so much, so hard, so tender and emotional. I break at the thought of saying goodbye and not having that beautiful baby laugh to wake up to every morning. I crumble thinking of my forever kids giving the baby one last hug and kiss. I can feel my breathing pattern start to increase and a frog form in my throat as I type this but you know what? I will do this all again. I will sacrifice by time, sanity, emotions, heart, money, and family for the chance to love a child. We would have never met this sweet baby had we not said YES to foster care. I would not have cried out in prayer night after night and felt the love and closeness of my Father had we not said yes. The promises of God in scripture are more real for me than they ever have before because this world doesn't make sense and my God is the one thing that does not change. My heart will break, in fact it has already broken, BUT GOD. He is working, moving, shaping, and claiming so much glory from this season of my life. I will never be the same after foster care. Once your eyes are opened to poverty, injustice, and brokenness, you are never the same. I long for heaven and I know the Lord is using foster care to place eternity in my heart. This world isn't my home (praise Him for that!) but while I am here, I want to serve Him faithfully by loving His image bearers.

Night after night I host TED Talks in my head of things I want to say about foster care, Jesus, attachment, redemption.... if only I could record them into words. I hope to write more and answer questions more in depth to be informative and encouraging but also as a reminder to myself where God has me.

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