Papel Picado

Papel Picado

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Feeding Tools for the Tubie Kiddo

We are finally at a point where we are seeing some progress with our little one's feeding. Listed below are some of the tools we have used for her. I will add more as I think of them.

Boon PULP Silicone Teething Feeder: $5.99

This feeder is great because you can put fruits, some steamed veggies and our little loved hers because she had control of it! Not to mention it has a built in teether on the other end. We now use it to put popsicles (we just cut up the popsicle) and other frozen items like fruit in it. It can be messy, but it is fun for little ones, especially teeters.

Munchkin Miracle 360 7oz Trainer Cup: $12.64 for 2

A friend recommended this cup after she had success with her son. There is a version for big kids that does not have handles and can hold more volume, but this size is perfect for our 18 month old. It is relatively spill proof and easy to clean. It is also recommended by dentists. The way it works is fluid fills up the white part, and a small amount of suction around the edge allows it to flow slowly. 

Abilitations Speech Bin Mr Juice Bear Straw: $13.95 (prices vary on

This was a recommendation from the speech therapist who did our little one's swallow study. You can squeeze the belly and a little bit of fluid comes up through the straw, allowing your child to get a little bit of at a time. Eventually, it helps them with their suck and for us, helped out daughter learn to drink from a straw. 

This was a random stroke of genius walking through Ikea. Our daughter doesn't particularly care for the baby/kid flatware we had, but liked ours, so we got this safer option for her. I eat with it also, encouraging her to use hers. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Learning to Walk: Baby Steps

It was a Wednesday (yesterday to be exact). I helped her stand and she took a few steps in my direction without assistance. It was so unexpected that I didn't know how to react. Then it clicked what just happened. I yelled "MATT! Did you just see that? She took her first steps!" To make it even more special, she took the steps in the same park her father and I got married in 2 years and 10 months ago.

To give you some context, Olive, our daughter, is 18 months old. She was born 14 weeks early and that was after 6 weeks of not having any amniotic fluid to help aide her development in the womb. She never took a bottle and is still learning to eat by mouth. She has been dependent on a tube for her entire life to feed her. When she took a porkchop out of my hand recently and began chewing on it- I nearly cried with joy. 

We knew it would take her longer for certain developmental milestones, and to be honest, it has given me the perspective that we expect a lot out of our babies. It is okay if it takes a little longer to walk, to potty train or to eat. The important thing is that we are consistently encouraging them. 

As of two days later, it seems she has decided she does not even remember taking these steps, but I haven't forgotten. And I am so so proud of her. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

A Home Buying Journey Part One: Faithful in the Small Things

Co-Authored by Matthew Monk

When we signed our lease last year, we decided that we wanted to get out of the vicious cycle of renting. Each month as we have paid rent, it is as if we just see our money going down a drain.

For those who are unaware of our situation, when our daughter was born premature, we were advised to do what we can to keep her out of daycare. Not to mention, since I was previously a Preschool Teacher myself, we would most likely   barely break even to pay for her care with what I would make.

Being a one-income family is difficult and demands a lot of sacrificing from all parties. On the other hand, we have seen so much favor and have received provision when we needed it most. It is definitely a growth process.   But something about making a decision and being faithful to follow-through with it is so satisfying.   And to be honest, has added quality to our lives even though our finances on paper would argue the contrary.  Being a one-income family has forced us to crunch our numbers and really wrestle with the questions:  What do we really need?  What do we really want?   (And) What is most important to us?

As humans, we are called to be good stewards of our resources.  Having been married for almost three years and having paid rent for almost all of those three years, we gradually began to realize that at a certain level, having a big chunk of our monthly income being thrown into the black hole of renting was preventing us from stewarding our resources at a level we desired.  As our perspective shifted, renting seemed wasteful and buying a home became a necessity.

So we made a clear decision:  We are going to buy a home even if it’s on only one income.  Why?

1.     We are already making ends meet on one income.  In buying a home we put ourselves in a place of ownership, moving our mortgage payments into the realm of creating an asset for ourselves rather than someone else.  In our experience, renting is a perpetual liability and is an investment that creates no value.  Also, in buying we can potentially pay less per month to own a home than we currently pay in rent.
2.     Part-time and extra income goes towards enjoyment, luxuries and paying off other debt.  Since we already make it work on one income, we are not depending on other money to cover our monthly overhead.  Any other money whether it be from side jobs, stipends or part-time work goes toward expenses not included in our normal monthly budget.  The way we see it, even if we were a two-income household, we would not want to depend on the second income to cover our expenses.  Being a one-income household also provides us the opportunity to have someone at home with Olive during her crucial developmental years.

We began discussing our future plans for buying a home nearly a month ago. While we were actively making plans, we had a mutual feeling of waiting until after our vacation to make any moves. It all began at our overnight stay at Stefanie’s family’s house. A short conversation with her grandmother about her and Stefanie’s grandfather’s first home really resonated with us. They were a young couple with a baby. They were trying to get out of the cycle of paying someone else and get into a home of their own, so they did what people of their generation did. They started small.  They bought a two-room house that didn’t have a bathroom in the home (outhouse, anyone?).

Luckily, now days, there are much better options for starter homes, and we decided to cut our budget by over $50k- or roughly $300-$400 per month off of our would- be mortgage payment. Bringing it (hopefully) to a number lower than our rent payment.  As far as homes go, in most cases, though, it also meant cutting down our wish list. Square footage, amount of bathrooms, yard size, age of home and possibly a garage, storage space and so on and so on.

Our next stop was Jackson, Mississippi to visit some friends. When we go visit, we typically stay in a much older home with one to two bedrooms and very small living spaces. The home we were staying in this particular time was probably less than 800 square feet. While it was definitely not our dream home, it had a lot of potential. Not to mention it was a home. When we left we had a whole new perspective on how much space we actually need in our home.

Matt and I both can look back on the homes we grew up in. They were modest.  There wasn’t tons of space, but we weren’t uncomfortable.  We grew up with secondhand furniture, or furniture that someone else helped our parents buy and generally if there was a something that broke and needed to be fixed, our moms and dads didn’t immediately call a repairman.  They fixed it themselves.  We didn’t grow up in homes with the latest features.  But our homes were still that---they were homes.  Our families bought what they could afford, lived within their means, invested in their home environment, and eventually upgraded.  Neither set of our parents began in their “dream home.”  What we realized throughout the course of our vacation was that we were okay with not buying a “dream home”.

We are always ready for a miracle in our finances, but until then, we want to be faithful in the small things, because it is the small things, that grow and mature and become what we dream of.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

An Engagement Story, 3 Years Later

I briefly spoke with a friend a few days ago and she reminded me that it was three years ago that we were in Jackson, Mississippi on a mission trip. While I went with the anticipation of receiving something from God. What I never anticipated was coming home engaged. Especially since I was not dating anyone at that time.

While a lot of people get to tell an "engagement story", you know, like the couple climbed a mountain and right at sunset there was a proposal, that wasn't exactly our story.

If you would like to listen to the whole story, you can do so here:

For those who are still waiting, have hope, there is someone so perfect for you out there.

Our wedding day (September 2012): 

Leaving the hospital with our little one, Olive (June, 2014):


Sunday, May 17, 2015

My (Glowing) Coconut Skin

I think it started when I was about 14.  Christmas time.  I got chocolate in my stocking.  I ate all of it by week's end. My skin was never the same. It was probably hormones + an allergy, but whatever it was, it followed me into my 30s.

I have tried multiple harsh and various organic face washes, masks and toners. I've had facials and microdermabrasion, but while there may be a day or two of seeming like I had found a solution, nothing worked.

January 2014
Until about a month ago....

I began a beauty regimen of organic coconut oil + baking soda scrub, apple cider vinegar toner and lemon and raw honey to deep clean my pores.

Organic Oil + Baking Soda Scrub- morning + night

Organic, extra virgin coconut oil is the most common type mentioned in the various articles I've read.

My friend Brittany posted on Facebook that she began using coconut oil and the amount she gave me was "nickel size (of) coconut oil and a pinch of baking soda."

Another good resource is this blog I found via Pinterest: Bespangled Jewelry: How to Achieve Perfectly PolishedComplexion

I, personally wash my hands and then grab a teeny glob (probably about a nickel size) of organic coconut oil and then add baking soda until I like the "scrub" consistency. I do this without removing my makeup first!

After I have got in a good scrub, I take a wash cloth and wipe it off thoroughly with warm water.

Apple Cider Vinegar Toner-  morning + night

Next, to make Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) toner, I mix 1 part ACV and 1 part filtered water. Braggs Organic Apple Cider Vinegar WITH The Mother (that stuff that floats around in it) is the best option from everything I've read.  

This is the stuff! Found in most grocery stores.
That is it! I bought a small spray bottle from Target and I fill it up halfway with water, then top it off with ACV. I spray a regular old cotton ball with it and clean off any excess dirt left on my face. I have also read that it can fade lines on your face too.

Found in the travel section at Target.
Raw Honey/Lemon Mask- nighttime 

The last step is something that I am still experimenting with. 

I tried one mask from this Blackhead Clearing Mixes post once. This is the specific one I used (subbing lemon for tea tree oil):

"Mix 2 -3 drops of tea tree oil with 2 tablespoons of baking soda and 2 tablespoons of melted (but cooled) coconut oil. Mix this with just a bit of cool water — add a tablespoon of water at a time until you get a good, thick mask consistency going. Then scrub this on to your face. Leave this mask on for about 15 – 20 minutes and then rinse well with lukewarm water. The baking soda will dig deep into your pores and remove bacteria and buildup that can foster blackheads. The tea tree oil has amazing and natural acne and bacteria-fighting properties. The coconut oil will blend to smooth the whole mixture and deliver softer skin when you rinse it away.
An alternative to the tea tree oil is to mix lemon juice in with your baking soda and coconut oil. About a tablespoon of lemon juice added in to this mask base will help tighten up pores and penetrate the dirt that may be residing in pores. Allow this mixture to harden on your face, and then rinse well after it hardens."

To be honest, it was way too much and a little bit messy. It did work pretty well, and I will probably use it about once or twice a month. I have since began simply applying the lemon juice directly to my face using a cotton ball on a regular basis. I then usually rub raw honey on my face two to three times per week. Raw honey and lemon juice are both good for fading scars and can be used as spot treatment. 

Finish it off by using a tiny bit of coconut oil as moisturizer in the morning and at night. A small amount goes a long way. 

A bonus: I have also found that you can use aloe as a primer before applying your makeup! I apply a tiny amount on and then apply tinted sunscreen (I use an Aveeno variation, but there are many others out there). That is it for makeup... No powder or foundation! (Okay, a little bit of eyeliner and mascara... I am a Texas girl after all.)

Drinking water is definitely important. I have a personal goal of drinking 1 gallon of water per day, although different sources will recommend different amounts. If you aren't seeing the results you want, try eliminating items from your diet. Get rid of greasy foods, and foods that are high on the allergy list.  Stress also is a major cause of acne and no amount of face washing will completely clear your skin in these cases. In my case, dairy, wheat and potatoes as well as greasy foods give me bad skin days, but I always recover by drinking lots and lots of water. Detoxing helps, too! 

Various sites will tell you various different uses and benefits for each of the items above, and feel free to research any and all of the above listed treatments before beginning your skin regimen.  I am by no means a medical professional, just a girl in love with her skin! 

Today, May 2015- One month in!

I can't wait to see your results. Please share and give others with troubled skin the good news! 

Share your photos: #myglowingcoconutskin