How To Go on an Epic Mini Adventure With Your Kids!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser.  all® free clear detergent is not intended to treat or prevent allergies. As always, All opinions are mine alone. #allfreeclear #CollectiveBias

How fun!! Great tips for fun with your kids that's cheap or free! How To Go on an Epic Mini Adventure With Your Kids!

The other day I walked into Tyler’s room to find him filling his backpack. He looks up and exclaims, “Mom! I’m filling up my pack with survival supplies, and then, I’m going to go *exploring*!! In the real woods! But….could you come with me, maybe? You know, to keep me safe?”

After this conversation, I told him that I thought us exploring in the woods was a great idea, and it was also a great idea to bring me along. I just love watching my kids develop their very own unique personalities which are now completely evident. Tyler especially has flourished in developing his interest and desires and communicating them in this past year and his “isms” keep me laughing daily! I am also always looking for ways to raise the kids to be sympathetic and respectful to others, and I believe family time together is a key component to all that!

Continue reading “How To Go on an Epic Mini Adventure With Your Kids!”

Best Laundry Detergents for Sensitive Skin

eczema, eczema free, tips for dealing with eczema
Look at those cute, eczema free legs!!


Legalese Disclosure Nonsense: I was sent some super great smelly fun Purex to help get my juices flowing (and laundry clean) for this post. All eczema babies, smelly good loving hubbies, and stunning pictures of, gasps, a laundry room are—as always, my own!
As you all know by now Amber has eczema. Though it’s caused by many different factors and each varies for each person who suffers from it, a big cause of it can stem from the chemicals, dyes, and fragrances in laundry detergent and fabric softener.
Once I figured out that our detergent was what was causing Amber’s flare ups to really increase I stopped using it right away—but then I was left with a dilemma—was there anything other than the way too expensive baby detergent I could use?
Thankfully there was! And many companies like Purex are listening to us and creating affordable Free and Clear detergents. Soon I switched all our laundry into “free and clear” mode and switched from liquid softener to vinegar and dryer sheets.
There was just one problem—while the free & clear did a great job and left Amber’s skin breakout free there was no scent to our clothes anymore. Now, depending on your personal preference this might actually be good news all around, but hubby and I both love good smells—we both love and wear perfume and cologne, light candles daily, and use good smelling sprays and diffusers in the bathroom. So after awhile hubby started reminiscing about the days when our towels smelled good to—instead of smelling “like nothing”
 Purex Natural Elements Tropical Splash Detergent, laundry detergent, laundry soap
Apparently the Purex masterminds eavesdrop on us because shortly after this discussion took place I heard about Purex Natural Elements Tropical Splash Detergent. It looks, smells, and washes just like the traditional kind of detergent—but with no artificial dyes and being hypoallergenic I can use it on all of our laundry, and it hasn’t broken Amber out!!
Tip: when trying to figure out what your child’s eczema triggers are, or when trying a new product with any type of smell be sure to use it on something like one blanket or a load of towels first. This way if there is a reaction it will be a mild one and you can know to stop using it before a real flare up happens.
Finally, I can have sweet smelling towels and a rash free girl all together—and it doesn’t get much sweeter (smelling) than that!!
Remember The Purex® brand is teaming up with Honey Bunches of Oats and Outrigger Hotels and Resorts to launch a monumental prize giveaway: The 2013 Tropical Trio Sweepstakes!
One lucky winner will be sent on a tropical paradise vacation to Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach! Enter to win a chance to spend your days relaxing underneath the warm, Hawaiian sun and your nights exploring Waikiki’s never-ending nightlife.

Even better — One Lucky Reader of mine will get to try New Purex Natural Elements Tropical Splash Detergent for themselves!

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Nicole Elliott

Pretty As a Princess

Pretty As a Princess Hair Products for Little Girls

Pretty As a Princess ~ Hair Products for Little Girls

“Aren’t I just SO pretty??!!”

That’s a pretty common saying around here these days–from Amber of course, and usually after she’s put on her clothes and brushed her hair by herself. So much the “big girl” now she is in that fun stage where everything is innocent and fun while being big enough to carry on an entire (if sometimes hillarious) conversation!

 Her “big girl” status also means that her hair needs some “big girl” shampoo & conditioner that works great since she insists on brushing her own hair and still cringes and “ows” at tangles. (Which her plentiful but very fine and silky hair gets *lots* of) Finding a great shampoo & conditioner for her has always been a challenge due to her eczema. Baby products no longer make the cut and it’s super hard to find “big kid” products that aren’t full of nasty chemicals and artificial scents that make her break out.

When I heard about Eco Princess products I knew I wanted to try them out! The line offers an organic line of kids bath time products and play makeup for little girls–very cool! We were sent the Detangling Conditioner and Citrus Shampoo to try out on Princess Amber. I love when companies take a few extra steps to make you feel like you’re getting a gift in the mail and that’s exactly what I received with Eco Princess as you can see in the picture above!
 I have been so impressed with the quality of these products! The shampoo has a great, fresh scent that lathers nicely (see above, haha) and, most importantly, it cleans well and doesn’t break Amber out–yey! Since I can only bathe her a few times a week (again–due to her eczema) it’s really important for the shampoo we use to work very well and this definitely fits the bill.
The conditioner is excellent as well–it’s super thick, rich, and creamy (see the top picture) and does a great job of leaving Amber’s hair soft, shiny, and tangle free! I absolutely love these products and just shot my mom and MIL an email asking that they add the Bubble Bath and Makeup sets to their Christmas list for Amber!
Country Baby Handmade Flower Hair Clips

Of course once her hair is soft and shiny I have to take it up a notch by using one of those uber popular bows and clips in it! (Headbands have never worked for Amber, but we love us some flower clips!)

The clips that I have the most of and that I have been the most impressed with consistently as far as adorable factor, quality, and durability are those from Country Baby Handmade — her Etsy Shop is seriously wonderful and if you look through any of my personal Facebook photo albums you’re bound to find at least one picture of Amber wearing one of these silk bloom clips! (you might remember them from her 5 Year Old pictures) Our most recent love from this shop is the Shabby Rose Hair Clip set–oh my soul–SO cute!!!! I love that these are really easy to dress up or down and come in colors you might not usually find. Amber wore the pale green one with her Easter dress then when we changed her to dye eggs it continued to look adorable!

In case your new to her awesome shop she has a code out right now for new customers:  NEWTOSHOP gets 10 % off of your total purchase before shipping!

Country Baby Handmade Flower Hair Clips

What are your best and favorite products to make your little one Pretty as a Princess–leave me a comment and let’s chat about them!

Nicole Elliott

Chemical Free Baby Products ~ Ology

Ology Products

More and more companies are jumping on the chemical free train and striving to make products that are green and free of harmful chemicals. As a mommy of two kiddos with eczema this makes me very happy! When Amber was a little baby in 2008 it seemed most of the only natural and chemical free products were all extremely expensive which was confusing and frustrating for me. I’m so happy to see companies like Ology who are making great, natural products both affordable and easily available as it’s offered exclusively at Walgreens-which has recently become one of my weekly shopping destinations now that I’ve jumped into the “drugstore game” as couponers call it.

Ology Baby
Even my messy monster loves the Ology Bubbles!

Ology offers everything from shampoo to light bulbs and 100% tree-free paper products. I opted to go for the baby products and conditioners, as that’s where I spend the bulk of my chemical free dollars! I was pleasantly surprised at how these brands cost as much as, if not a little less than, many of the comparable brands. At under $15 for 3 good sized bottles which included moisturizing conditioner, soothing baby lotion, and baby shampoo and wash my deep down frugal heart rejoiced!

Baby Lotion

A product is only as good as it works in my mind, however green, safe, or cheap it is. The value for the price is always the bottom line and while I usually shop deals I will splurge on items if I can’t find a better alternative that delivers the quality I expect.

The quality of the Ology products blew me away! The scent of all of them is light and great-and since it’s all natural I’ve been able to use it on Amber without it breaking her out (note: this is just the case for her, if your baby has ecezema always be extremely careful with any scented product-natural or not). The lotion is thick and rich-as you can see in the picture above, and I love that the body wash pulls double duty as shampoo and works great at both (which some multipurpose claims don’t really do).  The price, quality, and availability means that I will definitely be purchasing them to use for both my little ones in the future!

What is your favorite, safe Baby Product? Do you have any Tips for Dealing With Eczema I might have missed?

I was sent a Walgreen’s gift card for the purposes of obtaining Ology products to review. No other compensation was offered or received. No suggestions or requests to select specific products within the Ology line were offered. I was in no way obligated to write a positive review and all opinions are mine and mine alone.

Nicole Elliott

Tips for dealing with Eczema

So for my long time blog readers you probably remember that Amber has eczema. When she was a little over a year old we had a really hard time with it (as you can see in the pictures above) which resulted in a few Urgent Care trips, several Drs. visits, a trip to an allergist, and a trip to a dermatologist. At first I was very upset and confused because everyone kept giving me all kinds of conflicting information. One of the best things I did was to connect with other moms who had dealt with it, and then weed through all the information by trial and error. What works for your baby’s skin might not work for someone else-but this is what works for us and I hope it helps!

Here are my Tips for dealing with Eczema!

Bathing ~ one of the biggest things I got conflicting information on was bathing. Some of the Dr.s said to bathe her every day, for a long time, then slather grease cream on her as soon as she was out. Others said bathing her daily was the worst thing to do. Ultimately I figured out that lots of baths were drying out her skin, and that she does best with only one to two baths a week. The weeks she might need more frequent baths I use oatmeal to soothe her skin. You can buy the pricey oatmeal soaks but a great alternative is to just buy the cheapest kind of rolled oats in the breakfast aisle and throw a few cups into the bath. It works just as well! If you’d rather not have your child swimming in oatmeal (it is a little slimey), We have also had good luck using Adovia Dead Sea Bath Salts. There have been studies on bleach baths for treating eczema but we never tried them out. And last but not least I always use a special non-soap cleanser. Cetaphil has worked wonders for us!

Lotion ~ I’ve found that the best thing I can do for her skin is to keep lotion on her, and lots of it! Keeping her skin hydrated helps to prevent breakouts. We’ve had the very best luck with Aveeno Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream, 7.3 oz. It is really awesome! I’ve heard from other moms that Burts Bees or any hypo allergenic, all natural, high moisture lotion will work well though. When she was really broke out I used Eucerin and Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment any time after I bathed her and at bedtime. They got her way good and greasy and helped heal the breakouts quickly.

Of course you should always consult with your Dr. I still have to put Amber’s special medicated steroid creams on whenever she breaks out. If you are into more natural healing methods there is an essential oil mix that you can use for breakouts that aren’t severe. My sister-in-law made me one and it worked but only if I used it as soon as anything started to appear. For the bad stuff you’ll just need to go the steroid cream route!

Laundry ~ We ultimately narrowed down what caused Amber’s awful flair up was me using scented liquid fabric softer *once*–and it took months to repair that mistake (I felt awful!!!) Since then I don’t use any fabric softener on anything that touches her skin. Now that she’s older and outgrown it a little I use vinegar in place of fabric softener. It’s so cheap, really works, and leaves your clothes smelling clean, not like vinegar. Other options are getting the wool balls or dryer balls.

For the laundry soap these days you actually have a bunch of great options! My favorite is using this homemade laundry detergent mix. I leave out the Oxi-Clean as that’s too harsh for sensitive skin but the rest works great. I also buy already grated soap flakes so all I have to do is dump everything together, stir it, and I’m set for my laundry detergent for 6 months, it’s amazing!

I would also highly recommend both All Free & Clear and Purex Complete Free & Clear. Both do a great job of getting clothes clean while being affordable. (DON’T waste your time buying Dreft!!! This stuff is way cheaper and works so much better!)

Covering ~ When you have a baby with eczema break outs it’s so hard because scratching the area makes it worse–but it’s so super itchy they feel *compelled* to scratch it. Getting a product like the Kissaboo is a great idea! It stops kids from picking at rash areas by covering them up with a gentle and fun “boo boo” protector. (It also is great for those kids who want a band aid for every imaginary owie!)

So there you go! My top tips, I hope that they’re helpful!

What are your top tips? Do you have any questions of things I might have left out?

All Free Clear & How to Have Your Second Child *Review & Giveaway*

***This giveaway is now CLOSED Congrats to Comment #50 Nicole and Comment #1 MOMFOREVERANDEVER who won via***

I was *so* excited when I found out I was going to get to do a review of All Free Clear! Want to know why? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret! This is actually the laundry detergent I’ve been using for over a year now! So basically by doing a review I was just getting a free bottle of my detergent–Yey! Is that cheating??? I don’t really think so, I mean–who is better to give you a complete review than someone who’s been using a product for over a year right?!
As I’ve mentioned before during Amber’s nasty eczema flair up we finally narrowed the main trigger down to the laundry detergent I was using. At first I switched to Dreft but since it’s SO stinking expensive I had to wash Amber’s clothes separately from all of ours making for a ton of laundry plus the fact I had to buy 2 kinds of detergent every time we went shopping, it got to be a huge pain!
That’s when a friend of mine whose daughter also has severe eczema told me about All Free Clear. She said her dermatologist recommended it, it was half the price of Dreft, and it worked! Everything she said was true and I’ve used it ever since! Although I have tried other detergents and products that work for Amber’s delicate skin All is by far the cheapest, most effective combination! Plus it’s super easy to buy since you can find it in any major store anywhere. I use it to wash all our clothes in and I would highly recommend it to anyone with sensitive skin, babies, and especially if your kiddo has eczema!
I also was sent How to Have Your Second Child First by Kerry Colburn to review. I loved this book! As I’m about to have my second child all the bits of advice and wisdom made me laugh and nod and brought back great (and some not so great!) memories and helped remind me what all I’m about to be diving into again! I am planning on buying this as a baby gift in the future for sure! I think it would be so much more useful than any other baby book I’ve read because it actually tells you what life with a baby is REALLY like!
Because I am a “veteran” mom I decided I would give you a few of my own tips and tell you about which ones in the book were my favorite that I could relate to so well!
* Little babies are notorious for having “blow outs” you might not be able to imagine that gorgeous little princess you brought home can cover her entire back in poop-well think again! The very first time this happens switch up to the next size of diapers-regardless of what the weight limit is-it will save you many nasty, poopy outfit changes! (learned this the hard way!!)
* Even if your worst fear of labor and delivery comes true (mine was being in labor for forever and then having an emergency c-section, yepp sure enough it happened) as long as in the long term you and your baby are ok that is all that will matter to you and you just might be crazy enough to try it all again way before you think you will!
* One of my favorite heads up in the book was about “the witching hour” When Amber was around 1-3 months old she would scream non-stop every night for about an hour for no apparent reason. It was long enough for her to be considered a “colicky” baby, but it was long enough for me to about lose my mind. How I wish I’d known that this “witching hour” was completely normal, that almost all kiddos experience it, and some of the tips they gave in the book. What worked for her was playing a sweet, soft piano song over and over and over and over (seriously, I think the play count on my iTunes is up in the thousands….) and taking her outside. There was something about the cool night air that usually worked like a charm!
* I have always loved being a mom! While I hear many moms complain about going nuts staying at home, watching kiddy shows, doing the mundane tasks over and over again this has never, ever been the case for me! I didn’t have a touch of baby blue–never cried once or felt depressed after Amber was born.
That being said there was one point after Amber was born that I remember as clearly as if it happened yesterday. It happened somewhere in that first 3 months that are now an indistinct fog. I don’t even remember why we were having a rough day or what was going on but I do remember that for one brief terrifying moment I thought, “I don’t think I like being a mom as much as I’m supposed to, what if I don’t love doing this like I always thought I would???!!!!” I nearly had a panic attack. All my life the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do is be a stay at home mom. The thought I might not love every second was horrible! It passed as quickly as it came on and as I said-I’ve loved every moment since! Thinking something like this at some point is completely normal and I think it’s SO important to realize that we all have these moments-even if it’s just once!!! 
One lucky reader will win a coupon for a bottle of All Free Clear & How to Have Your Second Child First. A Second winner will win a coupon for a bottle of All Free Clear!
This giveaway is open to US residents 18 years and older only
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Back to square one…

So as most of you know by now Amber has a skin problem called eczema. It first started when she was itty bitty, in between 1 month and 2 months old. It was just a little on her face and we took her in and they gave us some cream to clear it up and some special hypo-allergenic body wash to use on her. They also had us switch to Aveeno lotion and not use anything on her ever again that had any kind of scent in it. That all worked great and cleared stuff up for a long while.

Once she got a little older it started to come back on her wrists and ankles so they gave us some thick greasy lotion to use on her in addition to the aveeno. All of the above seemed to keep it really well under control until last Fall. Her eczema started getting worse and worse, and as I mentioned before once we got back here it started really flaring up and causing tons of problems, which has lead to many, many trips up to the naval health clinic and now to a trip this week to the allergist.

I have a friend who’s little girl is just a few months older than Amber and she has had even more problems than Amber has with eczema. I talked to Elizabeth to see what kind of things they were doing for Kayda so I could get some ideas of what might help Amber. Kayda turned out to be allergic to several foods and once they eliminated them from her diet her skin cleared up amazingly. The only consistent factor I could think of with Amber was during that time frame she started eating “real” food and I weaned her. So I was sure that she was allergic to dairy, and possibly other (food) things as well. Yesterday they did the “back poke” test on her for the food panel to see what she was allergic to. The good news is they didn’t find anything, the bad news is…they didn’t find anything! :S Just to verify the results they had me take Amber to get her blood drawn today so they could test it. Poor baby! She actually did sooooo great though! She was better for that than she is when she gets shots so that was a huge praise. It doesn’t sound like she does have any food allergies though. Which on one hand is GREAT! I was so worried and I just can’t imagine what a hassle it is for people who are allergic to things like dairy or eggs or both! But that means there are going to be no “easy fixes” for this.

We have an appointment with a dermatologist in July but I have a feeling he’s not going to be able to tell me anything I haven’t heard or tried before. I feel like I’ve pretty much done everything I’m supposed to be doing or tried anything worth trying at this point. It’s frustrating!! 🙁 and I feel so bad for Amber because on one hand I don’t want to constantly be giving her medicine but on the other I can’t have her going around and breaking her skin open by scratching it so hard because it’s so itchy. I’ve also found out that this is probably why she has had such a hard time sleeping through the night, it makes their skin terribly horribly itchy especially at night, to the point of waking them up. 🙁

By going through all of this I’ve actually found out that several people I know have eczema, that it’s actually pretty common, and usually quite treatable although there’s no “cure”. Also it’s supposed to get better as she gets older, in the meantime though it’s making life for all of us a little rough. But anyways, I know lots of you I’ve told bits and pieces of what’s gone on so thought I’d just write down the whole story to get it off my chest. She has actually been better lately, and as long as I put the steroid cream on her when she does break out and keep her very “greasy” she seems to be alright. It’s a lot of work but we’ll get through it and hopefully it’ll just get better over time…

All sorts of not-so-nice things :S

This has just kind of been an all-around icky week. Poor Amber’s eczema started coming back in full-force only a little after she’d finished taking her medicine for it, so on Tuesday I took her in to get it looked at…again. As I mentioned in my previous post the oral steroids really wacked her out and it wasn’t much fun for any of us!! So I wanted to make sure it never got that bad again. This time we were able to get in and see a Dr. in pediatrics, which made me happy. I’d much rather go there than the urgent care clinic or the family clinic. I mean–pediatricians are the ones who are supposed to deal with babies, right?! Well the Dr. comes in and he’s this old, funny, kinda goofy guy. I tell him what’s been going on with her and then tell him that she just got off of oral steroids that they had her on for a week. He freaks out and tells me, “Listen to me very closely. I want you to promise me, never ever let them do that again!! Do you hear me? I’m serious!” and he was serious. He said she shouldn’t have been put on them and definitely not for a week. :S Oh dear… that then freaked me out. He then went on to tell me everything else I’ve been told up there was incorrect. Sigh. Gotta love military health care :S Although, to be fair, I think that this is kinda the case with healthcare in general!!! Anyways, the one thing he told me that did make me happy is he said that he was going to put in a referral for us to go see a dermatologist and get their opinion on her eczema since it might be linked to food allergies and it’s a moderate/severe case. Thank you!!! That’s definitely what I want! 🙂 So I need to call next week and get all that set up. I did a little research of my own on eczema on WebMD and figured out why I was getting conflicting information…other than the steroid thing :S Although it was really, really bad–pretty much covering her whole body 🙁 and it wasn’t until the end of the week when she was on the steroids that it finally cleared up. It had just started to come back when I went in last week, so if he had seen her before, he might have had a different opinion. Who knows? I will be more cautious in the future though!!!!!!!

After all of that shananigans, that night all three of us came down with a nasty cold bug 🙁 We’re still all really sick…every night I keep hoping to wake up feeling better and each day I just get worse…ick. We don’t think it’s the piggy flu, lol, as none of us have had fevers. So that’s one praise about it right? So just keep us in your prayers and Amber’s eczema as well. It’s hard because you can’t tell her not to scratch it or it will make it worse :S

Another thing you can be praying for is my father and mother-in-law to find jobs 🙁 The recession has hit them hard and Bob’s dad has been out of work for going on 2 months now. They are the sweetest, most generous people and it hurts to know they’re not finding anything. So please pray that God will provide something soon!!!! If you’ve read my previous posts you know that this year has been a very, very hard one on them already, without this on top of it!!

So anyways…..there’s my gloomy post. LoL! But God is good…and we know He’ll provide. My mother-in-law provided me with a quote recently she said has helped her during this time:

You’re born, and you die, and everything in between is just STUFF. 🙂

Easter Weekend

We had an interesting Easter weekend. On Friday night we got the call that Bob’s Nanny (John’s mom) had just suffered a stroke and her body was shutting down. The next morning she passed away. As most of you know, his Grandma just passed away also, so you can imagine how hard this is for him and his family 🙁 We weren’t able to attend the funeral, which was last Monday, so that was really rough on Bob as well. Please keep his family in your prayers!!

Then on Saturday we had to bring Amber to the Urgent Care Clinic for a really nasty eczema flair up. It’s been getting progressively worse ever since we came back to NC and got so bad I knew I needed to take her in. It was bad enough that she needed oral steriods and benadryll. Thankfully she’s pretty much all cleared up now–YEY! Although I think the medicine is really wacking her out. She’s been a very fussy very cranky baby all week :S Plus she’s sleeping all day and waking up 4-6 times a night so needless to say I’ve been quite groggy this week!!!! I’ll be happy when she’s off the medicine and hopefully life will start getting back to normal!!!

Easter itself, however, was very nice 😀 Sunday morning we went to church with Lara and Nate. I think Amber really enjoys being in the nursery with Cadence! Nice to have a friendly face around, even if all they really do is steal each other’s toys…haha! Then we went over to the Dickson’s house for Easter lunch/dinner. They made some delicious lamb! Plus it almost caught the back yard on fire while the boys were at the store so that was fun and exciting!!!! 😀 😉

Amber really enjoyed her very first Easter basket! Last year my parents flew out on Easter and arrived at like 3 in the morning so we didn’t really get to celebrate it as Easter. After I gave Amber her basket we went and had a quick photo shoot…you can see my poor baby’s eczema on her legs 🙁 It’s getting SO much harder to take pictures of her these days!!! She wants to explore everything, not look at the camera and “smile pretty”. lol.

Amber got sent to be at 6:30 that night because she was so tired from missing her nap and wigged out on the medicine. So me and Bob just relaxed and listened to a message from Pastor Bishop. We miss our church in DC SOOOOOOO much!!!!! As much as Bob hated DC he keeps saying we need to move back just so we can go to church there! 🙂 But they do have most of their messages online to listen to so we’ve been doing that quite a bit lately!!!! 😀 Pastor Bishop is one of the most amazing preachers I’ve ever listened too!!!