Bishop Arts Brunch

A few Saturdays ago, my family and I decided to visit the cute part of Dallas known as “Bishop Arts”. We went to brunch at a neat little cafe, and then walked around and visited a few of the individually owned boutiques nearby.imageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageimageWe had such a fun time visiting this neat part of Dallas! If you haven’t been, you really should!

We’re Having a Baby! (and why I haven’t blogged about it)

Baby Duckpack 14.5 weeksFor most of the people in my life, the fact that we’re having our third baby this upcoming December is old news. I’m already almost HALFWAY DONE, for crying out loud, and I still haven’t written about it! I think you’ll see why, however, when you read on.

About a year ago in the Fall of 2015, Jesse and I started discussing the possibility of adding another child to our family. Our oldest was about to turn 5, our youngest was 3, and we finally felt that we had emotionally recovered from a few rocky experiences as foster parents.

But after discussing it for a few days, the timing just didn’t seem right. We were about to fly to South Africa for a wedding (but the morning sickness won’t be too bad this time, right?), and the baby’s due date would have to be timed for a large break from Jesse’s grad school. Teaching full-time plus taking 2-3 classes/semester in his PhD program doesn’t leave a lot of time for helping out with two rambunctious boys and a newborn! We decided to revisit the topic in the spring, which, at the time, was a very emotional decision for me. The moment we started talking about babies, I suddenly really really wanted another baby! Just talking about waiting to have more kids made me not want to wait. Why do things work like that?

But then, by the time spring hit, I was actually pretty set on not having another biological kid.

Why the change of heart?

Well, if you’ve been a follower of this blog for any length of time, you know that ever since a few of our more traumatic foster care experiences, I’ve had major auto-immune issues and spent years rebuilding my health. After bleeding ulcers, panic attacks, severe anxiety, crazy infections, going on complete elimination diets, and finally, finding a naturopathic doctor here in Dallas, I finally got a grip on everything and found a new sense of “normal”. I realized that getting pregnant would upset all of that, and I wasn’t willing to risk it all.

I started researching adoption through foster care, and found that our state, in particular, has a HUGE need for families willing to take babies straight home from the hospital. It still falls under the category of foster care, and as such, there is a lot of emotional risk involved, because many of the babies end up going back to their families after 6-12 months. But emotional risk seemed more desirable than losing all of the physical normalcy I’d finally achieved, so research it I did. I even pinpointed a few summer classes for us to take in preparation (none of our CA foster parent certification counted– we would have to start from scratch, essentially).

And then, the morning of my now-4-year-old’s birthday, I woke up feeling sick. “Oh great,” I thought. “I must have eaten gluten last night.” I also wondered if I had a tummy bug.

But I checked the calendar. Hmm. One day late.

So I threw the kids in the car to go get a “special birthday ice-cream!” for AJ’s birthday, knowing that there was a dollar store across the street. I was so sure that I wasn’t pregnant, I didn’t even want to spend more than a dollar on a test, haha!

The boys eating ice-cream, while I was freaking out about my inconclusive test.

The test was inconclusive (aka, a faint line instead of a bold one). “OH COME ONE!” I pretty much shouted in the bathroom. “Hey kids, wanna go to Target and pick out a special birthday present for AJ?

And so that’s how I wound up taking a pregnancy test in the Target bathroom, because by this point I was freaking out a little. It was a definite positive.

Being that this was the third child, I came up with a totally elaborate and creative way to surprise my husband……

Nah, just kidding. I texted him from the Target bathroom, right as he was headed in to teach a class. Poor guy, he had to sit on that for over an hour before he could call.


I was still feeling sick, so we cancelled our plans for the day and just hung out at the park. Later that night, we met my dad for dinner and told him the news. We started calling family that night and were feeling pretty ecstatic. I was surprised at how much joy I was feeling, despite the fact that I had wanted to adopt instead of having another kid.

AJ's birthday on swings

Being only 4 weeks and a day, I was also surprised that I already felt sick. With both boys, I didn’t get my first hint of morning sickness until 6 or 7 weeks, and it was usually gone by 13 or 14. Even then, I felt sick and miserable, but never actually threw up. I could already tell, however, that this was a whole different level of sick.

As the days went by, I start feeling worse and worse. We had AJ’s birthday party with just a few friends scheduled for two weekends later, when I was 5.5 weeks along, but I was feeling too sick so my dad stepped in to host and make dinner.

Little did I know that the few bites of food and sips of water I had during the party on a Saturday were the ONLY things I would be able to keep down for the next 3 days. After the party, I started vomiting non-stop, night and day. I couldn’t sleep because I was too sick. I was taking advantage of the 15 minutes of feeling “okay” after each vomit session to move to a different location, or, once, to shower because my own smell was making me throw up.

By Monday evening, we decided that it was time for me to go to the ER. I felt that this was more from sleep deprivation than anything else, honestly, because I hadn’t slept since Friday. But I also couldn’t keep down anything, including liquids, and I was not able to stand at all.

The moment the IV was put in and the Zofran hit my system, I started bawling. I cried to the nurse, “Thank you SO MUCH!” and just couldn’t stop saying how grateful I was. I realized, looking around the ER, that I was finally seeing in color again, something I hadn’t done in days.

While in the ER, they also discovered that I had a bad UTI (bladder infection), and hadn’t even realized it because I was so sick. They sent me home with antibiotics, and, strangely, Promethazine for the nausea instead of Zofran.

Turns out, the Promethazine was almost worse than the actual nausea. I was so dizzy, I had to crawl around the house on all fours. I would hold my hand up, and it was fuzzy, because I couldn’t see straight. I was so sleepy on the drug, I could only stay awake for 2 hours a day, if that. And while I slept, I would have horrible night terrors. All of this, and it didn’t even take away the nausea– just took a slight bit of edge off. I still struggled to get down more than a few bites of food every day.

After a few days, I couldn’t it anymore and I finally got in to see the midwife. They don’t usually see patients until 8-9 weeks at the latest, so being that I was only at 6 weeks, I had to convince them that I really needed an appt. The midwife was able to give me Zofran instead, which was a huge lifesaver, especially considering all of this was happening during Orthodox Holy Week, right before Pascha (Orthodox Easter).

Pascha asleep 2016

I slept with the boys on the floor for most of Easter

While Zofran made it possible to finally keep down food (yay!), I still felt sick ALL.THE.TIME. On some days, I could only manage to eat a few things for dinner, although I was trying to eat at least a bite of something every 30 minutes to keep the nausea at bay. I basically lived on eggs, fruit, salad, yogurt and rotisserie chicken for 10 weeks, since these were the only things I could manage to find an ounce of appetite for.

For Mother’s Day, I spent most of the day crying/vomiting while my family went to church. When they got home, I requested that we try to at least go to see Jungle Book (my first non-church outing in weeks!).

Mother's Day Jungle Book

7 weeks along. Before this picture, I had not showered or left the couch in 5 days.

And then at 8 weeks, I got another UTI, along with an h pylori infection (pre-ulcers), along with 20-25 canker sores in my mouth from eating too many sour Preggo Pops (OK, so I was basically eating an entire package per day). And anyone who has ever been on Zofran can also attest to the fact that it comes with extreme constipation. I was up nearly every night holding my stomach from all the pain, crying on the bathroom floor since I didn’t want to wake up Jesse. No matter how many over the counter supplements I tried, I could only manage to “go” once or twice a week, at best.

You might ask to yourself, where were the boys during all of this? Who took care of them?

To be honest, we watched a ton of TV since all I could do was lay down (I almost passed out at a friend’s house, the ONE time I tried to go somewhere!). I couldn’t make them food, because any smells would trigger more vomiting. I couldn’t even open the fridge to get the Brita water filter, since the smell of the food was too strong. Jesse still had 2 weeks of grad school plus 4-5 weeks of teaching left, so he took “Incompletes” in his grad classes to give him more time. Every morning before he left for work, he would make food for the boys and leave it on the counter so they could grab it on their own throughout the day. He rushed home every day at 3pm so that he could change AJ’s pull-up or care for the boys.

It was definitely one of the worst things I’ve ever been through in my life. I had so many scary feelings, just wishing I had never gotten pregnant at all. I felt ZERO connection with the baby inside of me, which was completely disconcerting and disorienting since I had such strong feelings of love and attachment towards both of my boys. I was so relieved at my 8 week ultrasound, because I finally felt love when I saw the baby’s arms and legs kicking on the screen.

Baby Duckpack 11 weeks

11 weeks

At around 16 weeks, (last week) I was finally able to start weaning off the Zofran, which felt like a huge triumph. I’m now at almost 18 weeks, and while the nausea still lingers throughout the day, sometimes worse than others, I would say that I’m eating mostly “normal” amounts, and that most of the intense food aversions have died down. I am already feeling kicking too, and getting excited about the fact that this is actually happening! We even have a mini crib set up!

There are still a few worrisome things that remain. I am very tired and achy, having heart palpitations and feeling out of breath after just 5-10 minutes of standing, which we just discovered is partly due to the fact that my blood work showed I have severe anemia, probably due to HG. So I just started a supplement for that, which should help a lot.

I debated for weeks about whether or not to write about any of this, since it was such a dark 3 months. Part of me wants to pretend it never happened and wants to make sure this baby never knows. But I think it’s important for people to be honest and not hide behind perfect lives curated by social media.

So there you have it– my first trimester in a nutshell! I am hoping that the rest of the pregnancy goes smoothly, and looking forward to the prize at the end of it all! <3

Easy Gluten Free Lemon Drop Cookies


For the past few days, I have been CRAVING sweets like nothing else. The problem: in the Orthodox church, we are still in the middle of Lent (we operate on an older calendar for our holidays), so all of my usual treats and sweets are out.

But the craving was still there, so last night, while Jesse and I were finishing up the season finale of Daredevil (SO GOOD!), I got up and started to throw ingredients together to attempt easy gluten free lemon drop cookies. I had NO idea how they were going to turn out– I mean, I have a few tried and true tricks up my sleeve, but I didn’t really “know” how they would taste. The whole thing took about 10 minutes, start to finish.

And then I pulled them out of the oven, took a bite, and said, “uh-oh, Jesse, these are REALLY good. Like, REALLY good.”

…and then we proceeded to eat the entire first batch before I could even pull the second out of the oven!

In order to preserve this recipe I stumbled upon (and to share with all of you!) I decided to write things down here. You know, for the sake of the whole world that NEEDS these cookies.

(Side note: I am also giving alternate suggestions for those that want to make this recipe vegan and grain-free as well!)

Easy Gluten Free Lemon Drop Cookies: makes 2 dozen cookies


2 cups of gf flour (or almond flour, if you are grain-free/paleo)

1/4 cup of xanthum gum (skip if you are paleo)

1/4 cup of coconut flour

(Note: if you are not gluten or grain free, skip the above and just use 2 1/4 cups of your normal baking flour!)

1 cube of melted butter (runny!)

1/2 cup of coconut oil, warm and runny (make it 1 cup if you are vegan and subbing out the butter)

1 MUSHY banana– the browner the better! (this was accidental– we left our avocados next to our bananas overnight, and they all turned brown! But it WORKED!).

2 eggs (or the flax-seed oil equivalent, which is 2 tbsp. of flax-seed + 4 tbsp. of water, microwaved for 20 seconds to encourage thickening)

1/8 cup of sugar (or maple syrup, if you are wanting a healthier version!)

1 tsp. of baking soda

1/4 tsp. of salt (or saltier, if you want– I actually prefer the contrast of the sweet and salty in this case!)

5 drops of  Young Living’s Lemon Essential Oil ** (note: for those “concerned” about ingesting essential oils, it takes 75 lemons to make a 256 drop 15 ml bottle of essential oil– if you are okay with squeezing 10-15 lemons for a big batch recipe, you will be okay with this 😉 My kids ate them too, and we’re all dandy and fine, other than the fact that we can’t stop eating cookies).



1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine all the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt) in a pyrex bowl. 2 minutes of sifting with a fork should be enough!

3. Combine all the wet ingredients in a mixing bowl.

4. Combine the flour into the wet ingredients, mix mix mix.

5. Let sit for around for a few minutes (the coconut flour needs time to “soak” in some of the liquid– if you are using normal or gf flour, you can skip this)

6. Use a cookie dropper to spoon the cookies onto sheets.

7. Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes! Check that they are lightly brown on the rims, which means that they will be soft and chewy at the center!


And voila! Delicious! Now, if only I could stop eating them…

The next time I make these, I will probably add an extra step and press and indentation into the middle of the cookies, then add lemon curd in the hole when they’re done cooking! YUMM!!!!



**Any suggestions made on this blog are very specific to Young Living essential oils and should not be used with oils from another source. I can only speak for the quality of Young Living, and do not want to infer that I feel all essential oils could/should be used in a recipe, given that there are most likely unknown additives in them. 



Natural and Safe Makeup


Did you know that the UK bans close to 1,400 different chemicals from being used in their cosmetics?

Can you guess how many are banned in the US?


Yikes. When I read that number a few years ago, I decided it was time to take drastic action in my own life! How many girls do you know that are slathering their skin and eyes with cancer-causing ingredients, every single day?

I first started looking for natural and safe makeup back in 2010, when Gregory was a baby. Target had a few all natural makeup products I was willing to try, but they didn’t perform very well (aka, globby, messy, no pigment, etc.), and were not easily found in stores. I quickly turned to Tarte and Bare Minerals through stores like Ulta, but they were expensive and only eliminated 2-3 of the most harmful and carcinogenic ingredients. But they were better than nothing!

And then, in the past 2 months, I’ve been introduced to a few makeup and skincare lines that I absolutely LOVE! I can get behind every single one of their ingredients!

My top pick of the moment is Root Pretty. Their eye shadows, blushes and tinted lip balms are amazing. $5 shipping gets you everything (free shipping over $75!), and you can even have them send you $1 samples to color match! Not only that, but they have lots of different You-tube tutorials, so you can see exactly what each shade could be used for, and how they look in real life.

And don’t get me started about their mascara! It’s amaze-balls! Mascara is one cosmetic that I’ve been DYING to find an all natural/vegan alternative to (did you know that drugstore mascaras use PIG-FETUS in their formulas? ewwww).


And take a look at those prices!? Cheaper than the drugstore! Sign me up!!

Unfortunately, I don’t do “powder” foundation well. It settles into lines I didn’t even know I HAD, and I look instantly about twice as old as I really am. Truly. So Root Pretty’s mineral foundation is a no-go for me.

And, truth be told, I don’t even like foundation, so I decided to try my hand at tinted moisturizers. I hate caking makeup all over my face, so tinted moisturizers seemed to be the next best solution!

Unfortunately, Root Pretty’s tinted moisturizer (I got a small $1 sample to try) was pretty much JUST a moisturizer, minus the tinted part 😉 It almost didn’t even matter the shade– they were all so thin, they pretty much evaporated, color-wise.

Enter Beauty Counter.


A friend of mine is a consultant for Beauty Counter, a brand new cosmetics line based in CA, and she gave me a few samples of their award winning tinted moisturizer called, “Dew Skin”. It just won Allure’s “Best of Beauty” awards, and I can definitely see why! A huge plus– it smelled faintly of flowers (due to the black currant and peony flower extract inside!), instead of having that awful chemical smell that most foundation does!



Beauty Counter’s price point is a bit high, so I will just be sticking to their foundation and tinted moisturizers for right now (since everything else I buy is so affordable, I can splurge on ONE item every 6 months or so, am I right?). But I’m loving what I’ve tried so far!

Last but not least, skincare! Lately, I’m all about Young Living’s Wolfberry eye cream, and I also have been using Frankincense essential oil on my face for any wrinkles (or pre-wrinkles? haha).  I also found this eye primer/nourisher at Whole Foods with some birthday gift card money, and I’m really loving it!



As far as facial moisturizer goes, I make my own for both my husband and myself! It works better than anything I’ve bought in the store anyways, and I can add essential oils as I feel like it!


Leave me a comment below if you have any suggestions to add about your favorite natural and safe makeup!