A Few of My Favorite Things

At times, when I find something I absolutely love, something revolutionary, impacting my life for the better, I simply cannot keep quiet -- the whole world needs to know!

This post is solely about that, five things I've been loving lately:

1. Marie Lynn Skincare
Ever since late last summer when I found out I was pregnant, my skin has been flaring up, like that of a teenager who overdosed on french fries. At first I blamed it on cashews. I'm allergic to those tasty little nuts; after I eat them I am left this tiny pin-head sized blisters all over the roof of my mouth. And each time I eat them it seems to grow worse. I had sneaked a handful of snack mix, and I know I wasn't cautious enough. A few cashews went through my system and suddenly my whole face broke out.

Then I blamed it on the winter, on the dry air and our wood stove heat source. I sampled some moisturizers from Bare Minerals, but they didn't work. I tried a line from Simple, a product designed for sensitive skin, and the condition only grew worse, my skin burned every time I applied the lotion. I tried pure avocado oil, which felt soothing, but left me shinier than a copper penny, and in the end, I still had acne and flaky patches.

Finally, in desperation, I did what I should have done in the first place. I bought a bottle of Radiant balancing oil from an Instagram friend of mine, Sara, of Marie Lynn Skincare.

I got to know Sara because of Noonday Collection. She was an Ambassador for the company, and when I was still deciding whether or not I wanted to join I reached out to her about it. Since then Sara has started her own business, making natural skincare products. I've been stalking her business Instagram account (follow... it's beautiful!) for a while. After reading reviews for her balancing oil, I knew it was worth a try.

I've only been using it for a week, but already I can see improvement. My dry patches are getting less and less, and the scaring and redness left from acne is fading. In fact, I skipped foundation all of last week, which is something I NEVER do. I applied the oil first thing in the morning, then spot treated my face with concealer, and finally dusted a bit of blush and bronzer on top. My freckles shown through, and my skin looked more alive than it has in a while. I am excited to see how it keeps improving!

2. Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen Powder
This goes right along with the skincare situation. I recently read that collagen not only is great for strengthening nails, but it is also wonderful for your skin and hair. I purchased Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen on Amazon (affiliate link) and began using it right away. I mix a tablespoon into my coffee every morning, along with a touch of cream and real maple syrup, or I'll throw a spoonful into shakes and smoothies. You can't detect it in the least, which makes consuming it easy.

A month later and my nails are stronger than they been in years. My skin is still a work in progress -- although I am 34 weeks pregnant with my second baby, and still no stretch marks. This could be the reason! Today I noticed a bunch of new hair growth, which means my already thick hair is becoming even thicker. My eyelashes seem longer too, but that could just be from mascara.

All this to say, if your hair, skin, or nails need some TLC, this stuff is worth a try!

3. The Modern Leather Tote
Noonday Collection just introduced their spring line -- which is absolutely gorgeous, by the way. While I didn't go crazy and purchase the entire thing, I did purchase their new leather tote with some product credit I had saved up. I didn't have any bags from Noonday for my trunk show displays, and I thought that of all of their totes and purses, this is one that will never go out of style. I'm hoping that my Noonday customers will see this tote and fall in love with it. :)

It is quite large, perfect to use as a brief case or diaper bag. (Husbands, I recently heard that "push presents" are a thing. Haha. Let me know if you need one for her!) The leather will darken as it ages, turning even more beautiful.

But my favorite part of all is the story behind this bag. This beautiful leather tote is handcrafted in India by one of the lowest castes in their society, the "Untouchables". These people face discrimination and poverty not because of things they done, but because of who they are, because they were simply born. Noonday Collection is helping these people rise above their circumstances by partnering with them to create jobs with fair, regular wages they can rely on. When you purchase and carry this bag, it isn't just a high quality investment for your wardrobe, it's the highest quality investment, you are investing into someone else's life and wellbeing. And that makes your purchase completely worth it!

4. The Help
This book is a must read. I've been listening to it on audio any chance I get, which means when I'm walking, or washing windows, or wondering what to make for supper. I watched the movie years ago, when it first came out, and I'm thinking that I'll probably watch it again, just as soon as I'm finished with the book

5. Schoola
Schoola is an online secondhand clothing retailer, selling gentle used items for women and children. All of their clothing is given by donation, and when you make a purchase, 40% of the proceeds go towards education for children.
If you sign up through this link you'll get $20 off your first order! And I'll get $20 too for referring you. The two items pictured I picked up completely free, thanks to a friend who shared her link with me. Now to see how many wears we can get out of this white tee shirt before Carson turns it into another color, because he's pretty good at that!

What are a few of your favorite, the whole world should know about, sort of things? I'd love to hear!


My Piece on Modern Love

Recently I discovered Modern Love: The Podcast while scrolling through the top charts in the iTunes app, hoping to find something new and interesting to listen to while I pump out slow miles on the treadmill. Almost immediately I became enthralled. The essays are brilliant, and without fail they leave me inspired, eager to sit down a write a modern love piece of my own.

But what story would I choose?

I think back over my life, over the events that shaped it and the moments that left me speechless, the times I spouted off when I should have stayed silent and the intensity it took as I worked up the courage to share my heart. I remember joy and heartache, laughter and mundane. I think of the stranger, who before boarding his flight handed me a torn off corner of his airline ticket, his name printed in block lettering; the cashier who complimented me on my well loved army jacket as I silently admired her sleeve of tattoos; there is the weekend I met Herm, and how almost instantly I knew he was the one I would marry; and I think back to that cold December morning as I packed several newborn sized sleepers, a few flannel blankets and diapers into my suitcase as we were heading out of town for a few days. My due date was still a few weeks off, but I had a feeling it was time.

Since I don't know where to start, I will just start. This may turn into a series, but perhaps it'll only be one piece. Nevertheless, here is my take on Modern Love.

The window panes were frosted over, and as if on the same team with a goal to keep us snuggled together in bed for a few moments longer, the air in our room felt frigged. I so desperately wanted to pull the down-filled comforter up, tighter around me, burrowing back under its warmth, and drift off to sleep again. But the annoying chime of my iPhone alarm sounded, reminding me that even though it was a Sunday morning we had an agenda for the day, and more sleep was not an option.

As I heaved my aching and heavily pregnant body to a sitting position, my husband was already up, eagerly throwing a few last minute items into our duffle bag. It was opening week of deer season in Pennsylvania. He had been counting down the days for months, watching hunting videos and washing his clothes in odd smelling solutions, as his excitement grew.

I longed to stay home. With just two more weeks until my due date, the thought of folding my swollen body into the uncomfortable passenger seat of our Ford Ranger for 2.5 hours, as we traveled up and down, through the narrow and winding mountain roads was less than appealing; it was appalling. I wanted the comfort of my bed, the roominess of our couch, and the stillness of our always quiet house. But I knew how much this meant to Herm, and who was I to argue? We had almost two weeks before my due date. More often than not first time moms deliver late; it could be another month before our child was born.

I stood up and stretched, and it was then that I felt something strange trickle down my leg.

With pregnancy, I've learned, you begin to expect the unexpected. You loose a sense of dignity, as your body changes and you are no longer in full control. But I hadn't peed myself, I was sure of it.

I casually mentioned something to Herm about it, though in his rush to get on the road, I'm not sure he really heard what I said.

Before our last bag was thrown onto the back of the truck, I silently tucked a few necessities into the side pocket; several newborn sized sleepers, a few flannel blankets and diapers. I was a first time mom who didn't know what was going on, but I had this strange sense. Jokingly, a few weeks earlier, I had told Herm the only way I would agree to go to the cabin with him was if he was willing to play the role of midwife, should the situation arise. I wasn't going to take any chances.

We traveled for about an hour before I pulled out my phone and began to Google what happens when your water breaks. Stories that I had imagined of a flood of fluids gushing everywhere was not the norm, what most ladies shared was that their water breaking happened in more or less a trickle.

I had felt a trickle.

When we arrived at the cabin, where the rest of the Esh clan was already gathered around the table eating breakfast, I took my sister-in-law aside. She had six children of her own, and I knew she would either reassure me all was okay or would tell me I needed to go home. Instead, she told me that she was going out to town because she needed to have cell phone service to reach someone, and that I should ride along. I could contact my midwife and get her advice.

My phone didn't have service, but when we pulled into the parking lot of the public library, I was able to get just enough of a wifi signal to connect to Facebook. Quickly typing a message, I briefly explained the situation and hit send... hoping, praying, there would be a response before I lost the connection completely. Almost immediately I got a reply. It read COME HOME NOW!

On the 15 minute drive back to the cabin, Anne and I chatted intently about labor and delivery, about becoming a mom, and the surreal-ness of the day.  I felt reassured, for she had experienced this six times over. I was eager to hold my child in my arms, but at the thought of labor, I didn't know what to think.

As he greeted me at the smudged glass door, coffee in hand, I told Herm we needed to reload the truck. Orders were to come home.

In a whirlwind of confusion and questioning glances, we bid everyone farewell, thanking them for breakfast, and explaining that today was most likely the day... and because of that I needed to get home to the comfort of my bed, the roominess of my couch, and the stillness of our always quiet house.

With that we were back on the road, going up and down, through the narrow and winding mountain, this time headed north. Our conversation was filled with wonder at what lay ahead as the app on my iPhone faithfully counted the time between contractions.

It was a lovely little two-hours-at-the-cabin sort of getaway, really it was. But as we got closer to home, the urgency to be there grew more and more intense.. The moment we stepped back into the house it was action time. Herm inflated the birthing pool, gathering the hoses, readying it for delivery -- I fixed the bed with an old sheet and pulled out the plastic container housing the alcohol, cotton swabs, adult diapers, and whatever else was on the list my midwife provided for me.

And then we had to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

We walked circles in a snow covered parking lot, stopping as I leaned into Herm for support through contractions. We looked like quite a sight -- for why else would a security guard come make sure everything was okay? We sat down to watch a game of football, which I don't even like. And finally, we began walking the stairs. Up and down and right back up again. When I could take it no more, I collapsed on the couch. And that is when we heard it: Pop! It sounded like a cork being pulled from a wine bottle, but the gush of fluid wasn't bubbly... And now I knew, without a doubt, that my water had broken.

Five hours later, he was placed into my arms, all 9 lbs and 3 oz of him -- Gazing at my son, his red and wrinkled face, his dark mop of hair, his perfect little body, I knew this love I was feeling, love that mothers have been feeling since the ancient of days, was my own little piece of modern love. 


Dear Mom, I'm Sorry...

Dear Mom,

This letter might come as a shock to you, but I have an inkling that you may have been expecting something of the sort of the past year or two.

Observing my journey into motherhood, from the first time you heard the exciting (and to me, sort of terrifying) news that you were to soon be a Grandma, to those wonderful but short weeks of newborn bliss as you dotted on your grandson, and into the current stage of terrific-two's, I know being a Grandma, and seeing me, your daughter, be a mom, has brought you great pleasure, albeit sometimes at my expense.

At one point in my life I thought you were simply over dramatizing the events of my childhood. You were quick to tell me, and whoever else might be listening, that you hoped someday my children would give me at least half as much trouble as I gave you.

But Mom, I wasn't a problem child, really.

Sure, I may have rubbed Vaseline in my hair and spilled baby powder on the freshly washed hardwood floors, but that wasn't so bad. And yes, I do remember biting holes into bags of Gummi worms and Good n' Plenty licorice candies at Oak Hill because I knew that was the only way I would be a able to convince you to buy them for me. And there was that time I weighed the consequences and decided that cutting my own hair would be worth that spanking I would receive for such an action, because while a spanking would hurt for a moment, it would take my hair much, much longer to grow back.

But a problem child? Who? Me?

You and Dad told stories of how I didn't always think through things well, like early one spring when the creek was rushing violently from a flash flood, and I decided that it would be the perfect time to try my hand a white water rapids. Dad still sighs with relief when he mentions that he caught me, inner tube in hand, near the mouth of a clogged culvert, where I would have surely been sucked in and drown had he not been there to intervene. Or how my brilliant idea to ice skate on the frozen manure pit resulted in poop up to my waist, and a very stern lecture from you on the reason why you insisted the landlord install a fence around the pit in the first place -- to keep children, like me, out of it.

You told me I was the reason for your grey hair, and I scoffed, not willing to take that guilt.

But Mom, now that I have a child of my own, one who colors on my walls and breaks light bulbs on the concrete floor and drinks from mud puddles and sometimes wanders a bit too close to the road, I sort of believe you.

And I'm sorry.

Just yesterday I had the biggest scare in mothering so far.

Carson went missing, I couldn't find him or his puppy Mia anywhere. It was after some time, after looking in the garage and old barn and by the road, after wearing my lungs out from calling their names, that I spotted Mia running back towards the house, alone. She was coming through the woods, wet from the creek water. In that moment I suddenly didn't care that I was barefoot or wearing a dress, and it didn't matter that I am pregnant and haven't ran in months. If I would have been timed, my pace would have broken all personal bests, for I ran as fast and as hard as a could. And when I arrived, breathless with feet bleeding to the creek bank, there stood my brown eyed, blond haired, beautiful little boy, completely unaware of the adrenaline pumping through my veins or the relief and tangled emotions flooding me. Look Mom, I found the creek! He told me enthusiastically.

It was in that moment, Mom, that I opened my mouth and you came out.

I squeezed Carson tightly, kissed him firmly, breathed a prayer of thanksgiving to my Jesus, and told him that he is the sole reason for the grey hair I found.

Barely two years into this mothering gig, and I completely believe you. Yes, I was a problem child. And while I know there were many days where you felt like you were barely surviving, and certainly not thriving as you mothered five loud and rowdy kids, I want you to know you did well. You kept us loved and alive, and that is reason enough to say that as a mother, you were very, very successful.

I am so grateful for you (and realize now that I probably owe a lifetime supply of hair dye to cover those greys).

Much love,


I've Been Everywhere, Man

It's been a bit of a whirlwind since I last shared a blog post, and I feel like a barely know where to begin.

This past month has been one of travel for me - and even as a homebody that has made me incredibly happy. People often say that once you get married and start a family your days of travel are over, or at the very least, drastically limited. But that certainly doesn't have to be the case! In my opinion traveling, even with young children, is always worth it. My sense of curiosity and adventure grows with each new place I visit. This world is much too wonderful not to explore and experience, and I want that for my children as well.

The first trip was to Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

While many people choose to head south for a mid-winter getaway, Herm and I have discovered that we absolutely love going north. Last year spent some time in Lake Placid, NY, where the temps dipped down well below 0* and snow piled thigh high. We cozied up in our little rental cabin, spending hours together reading, relaxing, and reconnecting. It was the most restful vacation we ever went on as a family. This year we wanted the same, a cozy place to stay and lots of down time.

Montreal is about a 5.5 hour drive for us. Neither Herm or I had ever been to Quebec, so of course we were excited about that. The area is heavily influenced by French culture, from language to food to fashion. It truly felt like we were in Europe, and not North America. We rented a small Airbnb loft apartment in Old Montreal, a part of the city boasting cobblestone streets and beautiful architecture and rich history.

We did spend a good chunk of time each day getting out to explore the area, visiting produce markets, coffee shops, ice skating on the river, and walking the streets, but we also spent a lot of time reading and relaxing in our loft on Rue Notre Dame.

Spring and summer are intense seasons for Herm's business, so a mid-winter getaway is very high priority for us each year. Montreal was absolutely lovely, and some day, perhaps in the summer, I would love to return there for another visit.

The second trip took Carson and I out to Los Angeles, CA, for a few days. My friend since childhood, Gina, and her husband and adorable one year old boy live in Tujunga, a suburb of the city.

A year and a half ago Herm, Carson, and I flew out to visit them for a few days before driving up the Coastal Highway. Our time with them was far too short, and I promised Gina that I would try hard to figure out a way to come visit again. I was planning to go last August. But life happened, and after my cousin and her baby passed away money was put towards a plane ticket to Wisconsin and my intentions of visiting Gina were put on hold.

Fast forward to about a month ago when I get a Voxer message from Gina, proposing an idea: Carson and I would come out to LA and spend a few days with them, then fly back to New York with Gina and her son Bryce. Gina's sister, Kaylie, is getting married this weekend, and Gina wanted to come spend a couple of weeks helping prepare for the wedding - her husband would be coming in just a few days before the wedding. Gina doesn't enjoy flying in general, but flying with a toddler made that thought even worse.

I mentioned the idea to Herm, and before I even had my sentence complete he looked at me and said "Go!"

That very night our tickets were purchased, and just four days after being in Montreal, Carson and I were stepping off of a plane into beautiful 75* weather.

Hello SoCal!

Gina and I took the boys to the beach one morning and went to World Market the next, but otherwise most of our time was spent at her house, soaking up sunshine in the backyard, visiting her neighbor friend, and just being together. This little trip was a dream come true - I am so, so grateful that it happened. Sometimes last minute plans work out the best, don't they?

And finally, the third trip was to a business conference in Toronto, Ontario, (which I have exactly zero pictures of) just last night. Carson went to Papa and Grandma's house for the night -- to him this is the equivalent of visiting Disney Land, so very, very exciting! -- and Herm and I made the short road trip to Toronto. We attended the event, which also included dinner, then stayed the night. This morning after a quick stop at a cafe, we were back on the road headed for home. Our total trip time from leaving home to returning was just over 24 hours.

As far as I know there won't be many more trips between now and when baby arrives in 9 weeks, give or take a few, but who knows? Is anyone from Hawaii or Maui looking for someone to help them fly to New York with their toddler? If so, send me a Voxer message and I'll mention it to my husband. :)