Motherhood Parenting Products

My Healthy, Non-Toxic Nursery

October 24, 2019

Have you wondered if creating a non-toxic environment for your baby is worth the extra money and effort? Is it really necessary to spend the time browsing “GREENGUARD” or “Low-VOC?” Does it really matter if I find a cuter and cheaper crib that happens to be made in Asia?

Yes! It really matters!

I remember with my first baby, checking whether my nursery had products with harmful chemicals wasn’t even on my radar. I had new paint, new carpet, new mattress, adorable bedding, the cutest new crib furniture set…all coming together to produce an extra strength new-furniture/chemical/formaldehyde odor. Though I had good intentions, the amount of toxic chemicals I exposed my baby to was probably off the charts! (Talk about a baby in need of a baby-sized chemical respirator mask!) 

Fast-forward to two babies later and a bout with black mold that left our entire family incredibly sick and out of our home for nine months, I understand just how important a greener and cleaner home is to create and maintain. Our sicknesses, caused by the mold, dramatically improved when I did a complete non-toxic reboot to our home and lifestyle. Even now with all of us recovered, it’s impossible for me to ignore the information I’ve learned about the importance in shielding ourselves, especially children, from toxic exposures in the home whenever possible. Thus, by no surprise, when I became pregnant with baby #3, my top priority was creating a non-toxic nursery. Yes, it took additional effort and money, but for me it was worth every late night spent on my computer emailing my questions and concerns to various companies. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier with how it all came together for Ava’s travel-themed nursery. Below are the products that made the final cut…

Crib Furniture: Romina

When deciding on our crib furniture, I wanted to find a set that my baby girl could grow with, (i.e. one that turns into a toddler and full bed). As for my criteria, I wanted Greenguard Gold certified furniture, (as products with this meet the strictest standards for indoor air quality and chemical composition). In addition, I looked for furniture made of solid wood, meaning the furniture does not contain harmful glues, veneers, chemicals, and formaldehyde. Lastly, I only considered furniture made outside of Asia as it’s been heavily reported that furniture in Asia often times contains lead. Clearly, lead and babies do not mix!

I found three companies that fit my above criteria, including Romina (made in Romania), Natart Juvenile (made in Canada), and Green Cradle (made in USA). All three make exceptional cribs, but I felt Romina stood a notch above the rest. I am convinced that no other furniture brand matches Romina in terms of health, safety, and style. With several gorgeous designs to choose from, we went with their Imperio Crib in white, the matching three drawer dresser and nightstand. Yes, these non toxic crib options are pricey, but for me, knowing I’m getting something non-toxic AND bedroom furniture to last my daughter a long time (18 years would be nice) makes it well worth the cost. My favorite features:

• Their finishes have an organic vegetable based coloring agent and are either water-based or oil-based. (Our white paint is a water-based finish with a 10-step multi-layered application process.) 

• Their ENTIRE product line, not just cribs but everything, is Greenguard Gold certified. 

• Glues are tree sap based organic.

• No VOCs or formaldehyde (nor any toxic fumes). 

• 100% solid beechwood. (I discovered some companies that claim to use solid wood may also use wood veneers in their products, which takes some digging to figure out.)

• Most impressive safety features (i.e. baby proof gliding drawers, anti-tilting hardware, plastic safety triggers for removing drawers, etc.).

Romina is truly the best in the biz. Their health standards are as good as gets. They make high-quality products that your child can grow with for many years to come. Their safety features are phenomenal. And their designs are gorgeous! From the country known for Dracula, medieval fortresses, salt mines, and women’s gymnastics, Romania should also be known for making the best crib furniture on the planet.

Glider: Como by Monte Design

When searching for a new glider, other than being non-toxic, my main concern was comfort and smoothness when gliding. My old glider had an annoying clicking sound and a quasi-jerky motion that both of my boys never liked being rocked in as babies. When my research and multiple reviews kept steering me to Monte Design, I decided to go with their Como Glider with a steel base. Words cannot express how happy I am with this gem, as it’s the first time I’ve experienced a baby who loves being rocked. On top of that, it’s sharp! I love their designs and quality materials. Be sure to check out their website as they have some fabulous designs and options. Based in Canada, this amazing company has gliders with the following features:

• Uses only high-density foam, free of chemical flame retardants with CertiPUR-US certification.

• Their Italian-made fabric is untreated and natural. (I chose their natural cotton/linen line.) 

• There is no noise associated with the gliding mechanism, (hallelujah!). It moves very smoothly overtop of the stainless steel base and swivels 360 degrees. 

• All glues used are water-based, biodegradable, and made in Europe.

Note: These Gliders are LEED, rather than Greenguard certified, as all the wood meets the requirements of the LEED Rating System for wood adhesives (no urea formaldehyde added), and the glue used in the frame construction is the water-based kind mentioned above. 

Runner-ups: Dutailier (also made in Canada with similar certifications). I like Babyletto, but since they are made in Asia (Tawian), I shy away from products made there simply based on the known lead levels.

Bassinet: Rockwell by Monte Design

Also from Monte Design, I went with their bassinet after initially learning about it when I was researching gliders. Their Rockwell Bassinet caught my eye immediately as it is a BEAUTY! My baby girl has slept in this for four months now and she truly sleeps like a baby in it…so clearly she loves it too! More over, the sleek, modern/contemporary design is lovely! My favorite features:

• Comes with a waterproof mattress, which passes all US, Canadian, and European Safety standards.

• It’s super quick and easy assembly.

• Foam is free of any flame retardant chemicals and CertiPUR-US certified.

• Fabric (made in Italy) is Oeko-Tex Certified.

• Did I mention it’s absolutely beautiful??

Crib Mattress: Nest Bedding

Considering ALL of our mattresses in our home are from Nest Bedding (the Ribeiro’s are their biggest fans…check out my blog about them here), it’s no surprise that I went with Nest for our crib needs. Hands-down, the best mattresses EVER! Like all of their other mattresses, the crib mattress does not disappoint. My favorite features:

• Made of GOTS Certified 100% Natural Premium Sheep Wool and GOTS certified organic cotton lining.

• Breathable.

• Contains natural coconut coir to evenly distribute weight.

• Antibacterial and water resistant.

• Allows natural temperature regulation and cooling.

• Zero pesticides and zero toxins.

In other words, it’s top-notch and one of the best crib mattresses on the market. Compared to other mattresses with similar certifications, it is more affordable at $299. (Naturepedic Quilted Deluxe is $399 and the Soaring Heart Organic Mattress is $418.) And if it’s time for a new mattress in your room, I HIGHLY consider their mattresses for an affordable, non-toxic, and comfortable option! (Note: Their BKB – Big Kid’s Bed is equally amazing and starts at $299 for a twin size. We have these in my boys’ room and LOVE them!)

Paint: Benjamin Moore Natura

Zero-VOC paints can SIGNIFICANTLY reduce toxic exposure to your little ones, often times more than 90% in comparison to low-VOC or regular VOC paints. Since I had painted the kids’ rooms last year with a zero-VOC paint (Benjamin Moore Natura), I decided to leave the light grey color. Other VOC-free paints include: AFM Safecoat, ECOS Paints, Sherwin-Williams Harmony, Lullaby Paints, Earthpaint, Colorhouse, and Valspar Zero VOC. 


I’ve been using FLOR carpet tiles for years, as all of our bedrooms and living room have these. For the nursery, I went with the Made You Look in Bone. I am obsessed with them! Since I have littles, I’m constantly finding stains on my rugs. Thankfully, I never have to sweat it since I can easily wash or replace tiles if need be. My favorite aspects of FLOR carpet tile rugs are:

• Sustainable, non-toxic, hypoallergenic and meet or exceed the Carpet & Rug Institute’s Green Label Plus standards for VOC emissions.

• Their commitment to clean manufacturing is commendable.

• Simple installation with non-toxic adhesive dots that stick to the bottom of the carpet squares. (No worries…they do not damage your floors!).

Tip: They usually have good sales throughout the year. If it’s not a rush, wait for the sale! Also, if money is no object, Curran is an amazing option! Their wool Wethersfield rug looks stunning! Their rugs are hand-loomed, 100% untreated wool. It’s safe, natural, and eco-friendly.

Monitor: D-Link HD

Three years ago, I had no idea that EMFs were the reason for my sleeping issues. Once we had our bedroom mitigated of EMFs, I instantly slept like a baby…no joke! Thus, after learning about EMFs, I knew I wanted a low-EMF option for a baby monitor. After all, baby monitors that use DECT or FHSS use the same electromagnetic frequencies that microwaves, Wi-Fi routers, and cordless phones use. All of these contain high levels of radiation (research has shown that digital baby monitors placed one meter away from a baby’s crib emit similar radiation levels of cell phone towers 150 meters away). INSANE! This level of radiation is simply BAD for babies (and adults, it’s just amplified in little ones) as it impacts their brain development, sleep (and Lord knows how much we want and need our babies to sleep!), weakens immune system, and disrupts their reproductive system. Why do they make it so dang hard to keep our little ones, let alone ourselves, healthy???

The monitor we chose is the D-Link HD Wi-Fi Camera with Remote Viewing (DCS-2132L). It’s one of the few you can hook up to an Ethernet hookup (our TVs and computers are hooked up this way in our home) which means no Wi-Fi and no harmful EMF emissions. (Note: You are easily able to disable the Wi-Fi on the device.)

As for all of the travel theme wall decor, I purchased everything on Etsy. My organic bedding and changing pads were ordered on Amazon. And as for an air purifier, I’m using the brand I have in all of my bedrooms, IQAir ProHealth Series, and I made my own plant wall with air-purifying plants.

Overall, it’s clearly more expensive and timely to create a healthy, non-toxic nursery, but the benefits are great and many. These tiny humans need to live a long time and by helping their bodies develop in a healthy way without any negative disruptions from VOCs, chemicals, and other various toxins, they have a better shot at better heath. Even if you can make a few changes to reduce the toxicity levels in your child’s nursery, every little bit makes a difference! Even though our black mold experience was a nightmare, especially considering how sick we all got, I view it as a blessing in disguise as it pushed me to educate myself about this area of our lives that we often overlook. So when you start creating a nursery or even make a few changes to your existing one or your own bedroom, do pay attention to those labels like “Greenguard” or “Solid Wood.” It makes a difference!

Family Travel

10 Things To Do In Vegas With Younger Kids

August 24, 2019

When my husband informed me that he would be working in Vegas for a few weeks this summer, I have to admit…I wasn’t exactly excited to take my kids (including a two-month old) to Sin City. (Not to mention the crazy heat they typically experience in the middle of summer.) After all, I have never viewed Vegas as a kid-friendly town. However, after my first week of getting on a first-name-basis with the hotel concierge, I realized there’s plenty of awesome attractions catered to kids. Below are my kids’ favorite Vegas attractions and activities:

1. Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. When I asked my boys what their favorite part of Vegas was, they both shouted, “Avengers Station!” This amazing interactive experience involves filling out your own S.H.I.E.L.D. agent profile, answering questions through each superhero exhibit, watching videos, posing for photo ops on Captain America’s motorcycle, facing off as a team in a fight against Ultron, and countless more superhero activities. Also on display are a variety of the Avengers equipment such as Iron Man’s armor suits, Captain America’s shield, Black Panther’s mask, Thor’s hammer, etc. A must-do if you have superhero-loving boys!

2. Springs Preserve. This was my personal favorite excursion with the kids. This is where the legendary Old West explorers Kit Carson and John Fremont used to park their horses in the mid 1800s. It contains some fascinating museum exhibits (including a dinosaur exhibit, a gold-mining history exhibit, and a flash flood simulation), nature trails, a train ride, an impressive playground, an outdoor reptile exhibit, and botanical gardens. The historian in me loved learning about the Nevada history, especially the evolution of the area and the Hoover Dam. It definitely is something for everyone of all ages. (Tip: Go on a day that isn’t too hot as you’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors.) 

3. Adventuredome. Located in Circus Circus, this is an indoor theme park with rides and games (including an arcade, mini golf, laser tag, and 4-D movie adventure) for all ages. I would recommend visiting here during the week, as it can get more crowded on the weekends. Be sure to look in advance at the rides so you know if you want to buy individual rides or an all-day wristband. Prices are very reasonable and the best part? It’s an air-conditioned theme park!

4. Titanic Exhibit. Located at the Luxor, this is a fascinating exhibit for kids and adults alike. With lots of amazing artifacts, photos, stories, and an iceberg, it doesn’t disappoint! My kids favorite part was the ticket they give you upon entering. Each visitor is an actual ‘passenger’ on the Titanic, as your tickets provide you with a little bio about who your passenger was and why they were on the Titanic. At the end, you discover their fate. This unique touch made it more exciting for the kiddos as it kept them interested and focused up until the end. Though it has a bit of a somber feel, it’s incredibly interesting for everyone of all ages.

5. Mandalay Bay Shark Reef. This underwater world with 14 exhibits (ranging from sharks, rays, crocodiles, komodo dragons, and exotic fish) was a favorite with my boys, resulting in two visits. The polar experience was their favorite, featuring an IMAX-like experience watching a huge glacier break off.

6. Popovich Comedy Pet Theater. My kids LOVED this pet comedy show with the cutest pet tricks you can imagine. From cats pushing strollers to dogs jumping rope to lots of circus performing, this show is a home run for younger kids (approx under the age of 7 or 8).

7. Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat. Located at the Mirage Hotel, it’s a calm oasis away from the craziness of The Strip. The Dolphin Habitat is a massive tank that holds bottlenose dolphins who take part in various informal shows doing tricks with the trainers throughout the day. There is also an underwater viewing area where my boys loved watching the dolphins play and interact with each other. The Secret Garden is home to a variety of cats including panthers, tigers, leopards and lions. They have fascinating facts posted through out the garden about the cats, as well as incredibly knowledgable cat keepers who will answer any question your little ones can think up.

8. Top Golf. My kids are golf lovers, but even if you don’t play golf, this is still a fun place. They cater to everyone from beginners to advanced golfers, and kids to adults. It’s a great location as well with a good food and drink selection!

9. Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens. This is one of the few free things to do in Vegas. It is a beautiful glass dome past the lobby at the Bellagio. It consists of beautiful flower and plants constructed into stunning seasonal scenes. It makes for some lovely photos ops! Note: There’s a great ice cream shop down the hallway with an awesome chocolate fountain.

10. Free Circus Acts at Circus Circus. At Circus Circus, the free show area is upstairs in the Carnival Midway arcade section. You will need to check their daily schedule of acts, but they range from your basic silly clown acts to impressive acrobatic acts, trapeze artists, and animal shows. They’re short yet entertaining for the kids and a nice break from the arcade craze!

Products Toddler Products

Choosing a Non-Toxic Car Seat Without Harmful Fire Retardant Chemicals

August 16, 2019

When I was pregnant with my first child and deciding on the ever-important initial car seat, the only criteria that mattered to me were the safety ratings.  After all, the physical safety of your baby should be prioritized above everything else. Now with my third baby, my criteria spread from not only the safety ratings, but also finding a car seat that isn’t exposing my baby to hazardous chemicals every time she is in the car. Fortunately, there are now options for parents to choose a car seat with great safety ratings AND free of harmful chemicals. This makes mamas like me very happy.:)

Why is choosing a carseat without fire retardant chemicals important?

First off, car seat manufactures add flame retardant chemicals to car seats to slow the spread of fire and, thus, meeting auto flammability standards. However, these chemicals are very ineffective and highly toxic creating serious health hazards (i.e. impaired neurological development, impaired child development, and endocrine disruption, to name a few). In addition to fire retardant chemicals, there are PFCs/PFOAs (Perfluorinated chemicals). These chemicals work as water, stain, and grease repellants in the fabric treatments. Unsurprisingly, these chemicals have been linked to other serious health concerns. In short, the majority of car seats are INCREDIBLY toxic with chemicals we certainly want to avoid putting our precious babies near.

From my research, I have discovered four fabulous companies that manufacture car seats without fire retardant chemicals. Fingers crossed that more companies in the near future will follow suit. These companies include:

  1. Clek. I was first introduced to the Canadian-made Clek car seat in the parking lot at my son’s preschool. We were wooed and wowed by their heavy-duty nature and unique look. (Yes, a car seat can produce woo-ing, believe it or not.) Not only do they have great safety ratings on paper, they look it in person! In addition to their great safety ratings, Clek has been known for their eco-minded, high-quality car seats. Their Infant Liing Car Seat, which just debuted in April of 2019, was my first choice. Since I was worried about going into labor early and wanted a car seat at least a month before my due date, I did not purchase the Liing since it hadn’t come out yet. However, I have replaced all of our convertible and booster car seats for my boys in our vehicles with Clek’s Fllo Convertible and the Oobr Booster (with a back) seats and could not be happier. The non toxic material they use is 100% merino wool. (Note: The Clek Foonf is also another non toxic carseat available by Clek.) 
  1. UppaBaby. The infant carseat we chose for Baby #3 was the UppaBaby Mesa Jordan, which has a Merino wool-poly blend making it naturally flame resistant. (Both the Mesa Henry and Jordan models contain no retardant chemicals, nor perfluorinated chemicals.) I love that the wool is OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified, (for those of you like myself who pay attention to the always important certifications). Since we use UppaBaby strollers, it’s super convenient as it’s compatible with the UppaBaby Vista and UppaBaby Cruz models. Additionally, the NHTSA rating is 5 stars for ease of use. Note: UppaBaby just came out with a convertible carseat last month called the UppaBaby Knox Jordan.
  1. Nuna. This European-based, eco-friendly company makes an infant car seat, Nuna Pipa Lite, with fabric made from wool and TENCEL (made from wood pulp). The nice thing about TENCEL material is that it is biodegradable, moisture absorbent, and anti-bacterial. Moreover, the Nuna Pipa Lite weighs less than 6 lbs and is the lightest infant car seat on the market. Their non toxic convertible car seat is the Nuna Rava (with the exception in the Verona option). I love Nuna products and even though I don’t have their car seat, I appreciate how all their products are responsibly made with smart designs.
  1. Britax. I had an infant Britax car seat for my second baby, and I was very excited to see they were among the companies to join in on the new trend. Their chemical-free infant seat, Britax Endeavors in Otto Safewash, is made with a polyester blend. It is compatible with all Britax strollers, and their fabric is fully machine washable. They also make a convertible carseat, Britax Advocate ClickTight ARB in Otto Safewash, in the same safewash fabric without chemicals. 

It’s truly a shame that most car seats use these harmful fire retardant chemicals and PFCs/PFOAs. Not only are the chemicals toxic, but they also accumulate both in the body and environment overtime, creating even greater health hazards.:( Thank goodness we now have options from manufacturers who are making chemical safety a priority in their car seats. When you spend time everyday in the car with your ever-so-precious cargo, nothing beats having a peace of mind in knowing they are in a safe and non toxic car seat. Lets hope more companies will start making car seats free of harmful chemicals the new normal.


My Favorite Pregnancy Supplements

April 29, 2019

Even though I follow a healthy, highly-nutritional diet, it’s always challenging to consume enough of the necessary nutrients for pregnancy. In my first pregnancy, I didn’t do nearly as much research and wasn’t aware of how important the quality of pregnancy supplements are, including the form the nutrients come in. I merely thought getting a healthy prenatal and DHA supplements from Whole Foods was sufficient. I did more research during my second pregnancy, and even more so now in my third. Below are my favorite, most asorbic, and high-quality supplements that I swear by…

  • Thorne Basic Prenatal (containing Folate). It contains none of the additives found in mainstream prenatal supplements (i.e. artificial preservatives, stearates, hidden lactose, gluten, nut-based ingredients, etc.). It contains 1,000 mcg (active 5MTHF) as opposed to 800 mcg (metabolically inactive folic acid) found in many other prenatal vitamins. This prenatal supplement contains 5MTHF, which is the metabolically active form of folic acid. (This is important because three out of five Americans have a genetic inability to convert folic acid into 5MTHF, which I will further discuss in my Methylfolate section below). It contains 45 mg of Iron (well-absorbed and well-tolerated Iron Bisglycinate), whereas many prenatal supplements contain ferrous sulfate Iron, which is poorly absorbed and irritating to the gastrointestinal tract. It also contains higher levels of Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B2 than most other prenatal vitamins. You can find this on Amazon or here:
  • Wiley’s Finest Wild Alaskan Fish Oil. This is one of the few Prenatal DHA vitamins that is tested to be free of mercury. It is NSF third-party certified for quality and purity, and contains 600 mg DHA, 120 mg EPA Omega-3. I am a huge fan of Wiley’s Prenatal DHA.
  • Thorne brand 5-MTHF 1 mg (Methylfolate). Many individuals don’t get sufficient 5-MTHF (L-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate), the active form of folic acid, because they have intestinal or liver dysfunction, or as I said above, because they are among the three out of five Americans whose genetic makeup makes it difficult to convert folic acid into active 5-MTHF. (That would be me!) A deficiency of folic acid has been linked to low-birth-weight infants and neural tube defects. 5-MTHF also contributes to the production of serotonin, melatonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. NOTE: People who have a MTHFR defect will need to consult with a specialized practitioner. This can be determined by a blood test or simply a DNA sample result from 23andme and requesting the Raw Data.
  • Trubifido Probiotic. TruBifido contains 30 billion CFU of Bifidobacteria. Probiotics are critical, especially during pregnancy. During birth, babies culture their beneficial gut bacteria from what they receive from their mother when passing through the birth canal and from nursing in the months afterward. This is my favorite high-quality probiotic.
  • Thorne Magnesium CitraMate. Even though I take magnesium all the time, I find it especially helpful in pregnancy. Severe magnesium deficiency can lead to a number of complications involving poor fetal growth, preeclampsia, or even fetal death. Maintaining healthy magnesium levels can also help mom’s recovery during pregnancy and may help baby receive more nutrition through the placenta. It is incredibly challenging to get the necessary levels of magnesium from food sources anymore. I’ve been taking Thorne’s Magnesium for the past year as even before pregnancy, it seemed to help my quality of sleep and leg cramps.   

Note: Always consult your doctor before switching or implementing any new supplements.

Products Toddler Products

Ju-Ju-Be: Best Diaper Bag Ever

March 12, 2019

Being a mom and stepmom for the past seven years, I have lots of opinions about diaper bags. I’ve been through ALOT of them! I started with a shoulder bag and quickly changed to backpacks after realizing that although shoulder bags are cute and fashionable, they are soooooo inconvenient. As a mom, you need as many hands as you possibly can so a hands-free diaper bag is a MUST! Once I came to the realization that backpacks are the ONLY way to go, I soon became obsessed with Ju-Ju-Be’s line. These are hands-down my all-time favorite diaper bags. Some of my favorite features of their bags include:

  • Stain Resistant
  • Machine Washable
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Comfortable Straps
  • Insulated Bottle Pockets
  • Spacious
  • Easy to Stay Organized                

Below are my favorites and why…

Forever BackPack – Noir Rose Gold

This is my brand spanking new bag for my baby girl (due this spring), and I LOVE this bag. The main compartment has three open pockets, four gusseted pockets and one changing pad pocket. It also has a quick-each cell phone pocket, zipper side pockets and two insulated bottle pockets. Aside from the functionality, it’s gorgeous!!

Hatch – Gray Matter

My husband recently chose this as his ‘manly’ diaper bag. Personally, I’m not a huge hatch person, but my husband is and hence, why he chose the Hatch. Like all of their bags, it’s very organized with six mesh pockets and one zippered pocket in the main compartment. It also contains two insulated bottle pockets, microfiber glasses pocket, and a meshed diaper pad changing pocket. It’s definitely a clean, masculine-looking diaper bag with lots of organization and durability.

Be Right Back – The Monarch

This has been my go-to bag for the last three years. (We have two of them…one for me and one for my husband.) We have literally taken these everywhere and love the lightweight, number of pockets, and comfort with the padded straps. I can fit so much into this bag in an organized fashion, as this bag has the BEST pocket positioning and pocket sizes. In addition, this is an easily transitional adult travel bag when the kids are grown, as it doesn’t necessarily look like or scream “diaper bag.” I cannot recommend this one enough! LOVE IT!! I also have this one in the Black Ruby color which I enjoy just as much, (pictured below).

BFF Diaper Bag – Newport

I know I previously mentioned I am not a fan of shoulder diaper bags, but the BFF has the ability to transform from a messenger bag, backpack or tote bag with detachable, adjustable straps. Personally, I prefer the Be Right Back backpacks, but I do really enjoy this bag as well as I’ve gotten plenty of use out of it. It’s spacious, functional, and I love the pattern of this one.

No matter the bag, you can’t go wrong with Ju-Ju-Be. Their diaper bags, aside from the fabulous prints, are simply the most organized, high-quality, and functional I’ve found. I love the fact that they’re effortless to keep clean since they are easy to wipe down or machine wash. When mama life can get stressful and crazy, it’s nice to have products like a stress-free, organized diaper bag to help make diaper-changing and lugging around all of your little ones’ necessities on your back a little easier.

Pregnancy Recipes

Pregnancy Avoid/Remove Stretch Marks Salve Recipe

February 12, 2019

Statistically speaking, 90% of pregnant American women will get stretch marks (to some degree) during the third trimester. I admit, I was among the lucky 10% during my first two pregnancies. I managed to escape my 9 months without a single stretch mark. I used TONS of Shea Butter during my first pregnancy, while I barely used anything during my second. (However, I did hydrate far more during my second pregnancy.) Now pregnant with my third, I’m not assuming I will be as lucky this time around. Since Week 20, I’ve been using a DIY salve that I have been LOVING! It feels incredibly soothing and has helped tremendously with my itchy belly. The below recipe is from (which, if you haven’t checked out her blog, it’s a must!), but with a few modifications. Here’s an amazing salve recipe to avoid and remove stretch marks:


  • 1/4 cup Organic, Unrefined Shea Butter 
  • 1/4 cup Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
  • 3 Tablespoons Almond Oil (or Apricot Kernel)
  • 1 Tablespoon Calendula Flowers (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger

How to Make Stretch Marks Salve:

  1. If using the calendula and ginger, add to Almond Oil (or Apricot Kernel Oil) and place in a double boiler or bowl over a small pan of water.
  2. Bring to a simmer and heat for 30 minutes on medium low heat to incorporate the properties of the herbs.
  3. Strain through a metal strainer to remove herbs. (Be sure you still have at least 2 tablespoons of liquid oil left.)
  4. Return the oil to the double boiler. Add the Shea Butter and Coconut Oil.
  5. Heat until melted. Stir to incorporate.
  6. Remove from heat and store in small glass jar.
  7. Use as needed on skin before, during or after pregnancy to alleviate stretch marks and itchy belly.


Healthy & Delicious, Better-Than-PB-&-Banana-Shake Recipe

February 3, 2019

Who doesn’t love a great, refreshing shake? I’ve always been a huge banana and peanut butter fan. No matter the variation, if a shake contains these two ingredients, you can guarantee I will love it. Over the past year, I’ve dabbled with a healthier and lower-in-sugar version that I now make at least a few times a week. It’s literally sipping a cup of candy…it’s DELISH! Let me know what you think!

  • 1/2 or 3/4 banana (I usually do 1/2 due to sugar)
  • 2 Pitted dried dates, such as Medjool Dates
  • 1 & 1/2Tbs Sunflower Butter (or Almond Butter)
  • 1/3 Cup Kefir (Unsweetened)
  • 1 Tbs Hemp Seeds
  • 1 Tbs Ground Flax Seeds
  • 3/4 Cup Unsweetened Coconut Milk (or Almond Milk)
  • Optional (1 Tsp Raw Honey)

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Enjoy!


Mattress Review Update

January 30, 2019

Last year, I went on a mission to find a quality, non-toxic mattress with a strict criteria. It took me six months to research online, speak to mattress companies, and actually test mattresses. It was a long and exhausting process, but I was able to narrow our options down to a clear ‘winner.’ Nest Bedding came out on top for us with flying colors. (You can read about how we chose Nest Bedding for our mattress needs at the link below.)

After using the mattresses for over a year now, I wanted to provide a review update as I’ve had several inquiries asking whether we still like our Nest Bedding mattresses.

First, I’m proud to say that the Q3 we have in our master bedroom (although now it’s called the Hybrid Organic Latex), is still allowing us to get our best sleep ever! When my husband hurt his back and temporarily needed the mattress more firm, we simply took off our foam topper and it did the trick. Now that he’s better, we have the topper back on, and we couldn’t be happier. It’s honestly, hands down, the best mattress we’ve ever owned. (And a fraction of the cost to what we paid for our previous fancy, electric mattress.)

Hybrid Organic Latex

As for the kids room, they both have the BKB mattresses, and I’m equally as in love with these. When my husband and I lay down with the kids at bed time, even though it’s a different type of mattress, it’s so insanely comfortable. The kids sleep so well and we’ve never had any complaints from them. For the price of $299, it’s seriously the best deal for a non-toxic, comfortable, and GOLS and GOTS certified mattress.

BKB Kids Mattress

After ‘schooling’ myself about how important it is to have GOLS and GOTS certified, non-toxic mattresses, we decided to gift a couple of family members (suffering from sleep problems) new mattresses for Christmas. We bought the Signature Alexander Series mattress for them, with is more of a foam mattress but without the sink-into-the-bed feeling. When we tested it in their showroom, we had no idea it was a foam bed. Typically, I’m not a foam fan, but this bed has amazing support and a similar bounce to that of a traditional innerspring mattress. (Note: If you read my previous blog about how we chose Nest Bedding mattresses, you’ll see why we don’t use mattress with coil springs.) Needless to say, our family members said they’ve never had more comfortable mattresses and have been “sleeping their best sleep.” We also gifted them the Easy Breather Natural Pillows (made from Oeko Tex Certified Shredded Latex) from Nest Bedding. We have these as well, and they are unlike any pillow we’ve ever owned. They are adjustable as well, meaning you can make them more soft or firm to meet your preference.

Easy Breather Natural Pillow

In addition to the mattress and pillows, we also purchased our lucky family members with the Brushed Microfiber Luxury Sheet Sets for Christmas. We have the Organic Cotton Sheet Set, but after feeling the microfiber in their store, I honestly was just as impressed. Better yet, they are only $34.99. Don’t get me wrong, their Egyptian Cotton and Luxury Bamboo Sheet sets feel UNBELIEVABLE, but I would be more than happy sleeping on the Microfiber Luxury Set.

I recently bought my husband a couple of Nest Bedding’s new Easy Breather Side Sleeper Pillows. These are are truly the best design and provide great functionality for side sleepers! My husband LOVES them! And I’m using one in place of my pregnancy side sleeper pillow because these are that much more comfortable. (And, like the regular Easy Breather, it’s adjustable to fit your comfort level.) They run at $119 each.

Easy Breather Side Sleeper

It’s amazing when you spend the time to do your own research and invest in your sleep, how much of a game-changer it can be. We spend more of our lifetime in our beds than anywhere else. It makes sense to make our sleeping environment as comfortable and healthy as possible for our own well-being. We can’t thank Nest Bedding enough for finally helping us achieve the best sleep of our lives. I still HIGHLY recommend them for your mattress or bedding needs.


Things To Do In Orlando Besides Disney World

January 24, 2019

Since my husband’s work and golf tournaments bring us to Orlando quite often, my kids have enjoyed the perk of being able to take advantage of the many kid-thrilling adventures in the area. They have their favorite spots that we visit each time, but I also like to switch things up and try new places. We always do Disney, but typically, that’s at the end of the trip after my husband’s obligations or work is finished so he can join us. Until then, it’s just me and the kids taking our own adventures. Below are some of our favorite things to do in Orlando besides Disney:

Meet-A-Gator at Gatorland

Gatorland. This is truly the “Alligator Capital of the World.” We finally visited Gatorland on our most recent trip and were blown away! They have over 2,000 alligators on their impressive 110-acre theme park and wildlife preservation, including a collection of extremely rare leucistic white and albino alligators. There’s plenty to do here including gator-feeding, the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line, entertaining animal shows, a petting zoo, the Stompin’ Gator Off Road Adventure, train ride around the park, Meet-A-Gator (where your kids can sit on one while their mouth is taped shut and the trainer on hand), and a water fun wet park. (Note: Be sure to bring a change of clothes for the wet park!) My kids absolutely LOVED it, as we will most definitely be back next time!

Lego Store at Disney Springs

Disney Springs. We try to make at least one visit to Disney Springs each time we’re in Orlando. My kids have a blast in the Lego store, as they have impressive lego character displays, fun tables for the kids, and a build-your-own lego race car for car races. For my train-lover, we always visit the little train ride, which all the kids enjoy riding before checking out the nearby toy store. Even though the hot air balloon was down the day we visited, it looks mighty impressive. (It hovers 400-ft over Disney Springs.) They have an Erin McKenna Bakery which made my kids day considering my kids are gluten-free. (Erin McKenna is a DELICIOUS gluten-free, vegan bakery that the Ribeiro family all know and love.) They also have a luxury bowling alley, Cirque du Soleil shows, movie theater, popular restaurants, and plenty of souvenir shops. You can never be short of things to do at Disney Springs!


WonderWorks. This is a chain, as I know of a few others around the country, but if you have kids 5 and older, they will LOVE it! From a glow-in-the-dark ropes course, laser tag, the Wonderzones, a dinner magic show, and a 4D XD motion theater, this is an awesome place!

Monkey Joe’s

Monkey Joe’s. If you’re looking for 2-3 hours for kids to burn some energy, this is the place. It’s wall-to-wall fun…a great arcade, bouncy houses, inflatable slides, obstacle courses, and an impressive playground for ages 3-12. They also have their Mini Monkey Zone for toddlers under 3. (Note: Another great feature is the fact it’s located in the same shopping area as a Maggiano’s, where we always eat afterwards.)

Pirate’s Cove

Mini Golf. There are TONS of awesome places to take your kids to play mini golf in the Orlando area. Pirate’s Cove and Congo River Golf are our favorites. My oldest son is obsessed with mini golf so it’s no surprise that we play over ten rounds of mini golf per visit.:)

Turtle Trek at SeaWorld

SeaWorld. Despite the kids-ride area being down, they are opening a new Sesame Street area in the Spring that will have daily parades, Abby Cadabby’s Garden where you can meet all of the characters, Sesame Street-themed rides, and wet and dry play areas. (We will be looking forward to this next time!) Our current favorite rides and experiences are: Turtle Trek, Manitee Rehabilitation area, Antarctica Empire of the Penguin ride and Penguin Habitat, Dolphin Cove, Shark Encounter, Dolphin Days Show, and the Sky Tower.

Other options that we have enjoyed in the past include:

  • Renting a paddleboat at Lake Eola Park
  • Day trip to Tampa to enjoy the beaches, aquarium or children’s museum
  • Day trip to the Kennedy Space Center
  • Old Town Orlando
  • iFly Orlando Indoor Skydiving

Words Of Advice From My Experienced Mom Friends

January 7, 2019

Happy 2019! One of my New Year’s goals is to start writing more in my blog. I took all of the fall off to catch up on other projects that I was behind with (i.e. scrapbooks, Family Year In Review book, some home renovations, and lots of traveling with my family for my husband’s work while dealing with morning sickness…fun fun!). Since I’m expecting baby #3 soon, I figured a great post to start off the New Year is advice from my mom friends with older children. I love learning from my friends who have ‘been there, done that’ and who have raised some pretty remarkable young adults. A year ago, I sent an email to these amazing mama’s asking them three questions, never intending this to be part of a public blog. However, after reading some great insight, ideas, and advice, I thought it would be beneficial and fun for others to read as well. (I will refrain from using names, of course.) The questions I asked these awesome mamas include:

  1. What things do you wish you would have done differently in raising your kids?
  2. What things are you glad you did in raising your kids?
  3. What are your favorite family traditions (holidays, birthdays, etc.) that your children still love as young adults or enjoy reminiscing about?

Here are their answers…

What things do you wish you would have done differently in raising your kids?

  • I think mostly what I think I would have done differently is spend more time with them just playing either outside or inside. It is easy to have my endless to do list interfere with that. And I wish I had been more consistent speaking Dutch (her native language) to them!
  • I wish I would have listened more without giving my opinion unless I was asked. As the kids have gotten older, this is something I work hard at. We have great conversations, and I love hearing their thought process. They are smart and can make good decisions. We don’t have to tell them what to do all the time.  
  • One thing as our kids have hit the teenage years that we didn’t do well and are trying to do better is get to know their friends. It means a lot to them when we love their friends, take special notice of them, call them by name, treat them like our own. For a while, because our lives were so busy, I felt like I was doing all I could do to pay attention to my crew, but now after talking to our kids who are past the teenage years, they have told us that this (getting to know their friends more) really matters. We are working to do better now with the teens that are still at home. It seems like a little thing, but I think it tells them that they matter because we care about who they care about. Also, it’s a good way to keep them out of trouble if their friends love you too and always want to be at your house!  
  • I can’t overstate the importance of being watchful and careful with cell phones, social media, and the internet. The pressure is really strong because “everybody is doing it” to allow free reign on cell phones, video games, etc. There are so many good things about technology today, but also so many dangerous things. I feel like as a mom with boys, especially, you have to also be a tech expert, which is not really my thing, but I’m learning! In today’s world with access to the entire world in their hands, it can be really dangerous and not all kids can maneuver it well. We’ve done our best to shield them and still we’ve dealt with some bad things because of the internet and social media. I would be even more proactive and diligent with restrictions on phones and access to the internet.  
  • I wish I had taken care of me sooner. I learned that I can’t do gluten and had an autoimmune disease, and as a result, I was a very tired mom. I wasn’t as available to my boys and dreaded the park as the thought of it exhausted me. I had no idea I had an autoimmune disease and it just felt like I was walking through molasses. I was depressed and sad and didn’t know why. When I had my girls, I had it under control and felt wonderful. It was much easier. 
  • I wish I wouldn’t have taken things so seriously while in elementary and junior high. We don’t care if we take them out of school for two weeks now. Being at school isn’t worth missing out on a family vacation. I wish we wouldn’t have stressed about it earlier.
  • When my oldest was born, I had never even changed a diaper (is that nuts or what?!), so when she was born I was clueless. I was a very stressed out mom and sooooo wish I would have not worried about the small stuff. For example, every time she got a spot on an outfit, I would change her. What the heck was I thinking?? That just gave me more laundry. When I had my second baby 20 months later, I was totally more chill. I really enjoyed her as a baby. I wasn’t so stressed out. 
  • I wish I knew how to cook so they would have had special memories of meals I made.
  • I think I would have made reading a more important part of my kids lives at a younger age. My oldest HATES to read and I have to force her to do the minimum for school. My youngest used to read a book every 3 days but now her phone is way too important to her.
  • I’m glad we never had to put pressure on our kids for sports or activities as we left the decision up to them, but I regret we didn’t put more pressure on the boys. We let them give up too easily and now, neither are into sports. The hard thing about parenting is you just don’t know what’s the lesser of the two evils.

What things are you glad you did in raising your kids?

  • I am glad we have traveled with the kids a lot, snuggle a ton, our family traditions, talk to them a lot and have always tried to have one- on-one time with each one. When they were little, I would do 10-15 minutes with each child every day which we called “special” time where we would do whatever he/she wanted (except electronics/ tv) and nobody could interrupt. It was super helpful with them not fighting and misbehaving, because so much of that is really just wanting your attention, even if it is negative. Now we will take turns taking one child to the book store, a movie, the park, ice cream etc.
  • When I was young, my mom and I did so much volunteer work together, especially at nursing homes. I started going to nursing homes with my kids when they were 2 and 3. We continue to volunteer at hospitals and nursing homes. I feel that service work is so important to show our kids. We have so much love to give!!
  • We’ve always been really open with our kids. We talk about everything and I think they know they can talk to us about everything.  We always let them know that there is nothing they can ever do to separate them from our love. It is unconditional and never-ending.  I think sometimes kids need to hear that even though it seems obvious to you. With boys, I’ve found, it can be harder to get them to talk and the only thing I can say to help that is truly just time. The best way is to be with them, sit on their bed at night, drive them to practice or to get ice cream and eventually they will talk on their own time.  Patience 🙂
  • Something I think we have done well is encourage our kids to do things that are hard, things that make them nervous, things that scare them. I think kids need to get out of their comfort zone to realize they can do things they may not believe they can. We let them know it’s okay to fail. I love the quote, “If you try and don’t succeed, you’re not a failure, you’re a risk-taker.” We want our kids to be risk-takers!
  • I am grateful I let my kids be curious about things like astrology, various religions, different ways of thinking so they can have their own mind, and politics so they understand why their parents believe the things we do. I love that they see me working but yet available to them…they see what I do and that I’m contributing.
  • I’m glad that with my oldest, I never gave him food like chicken nuggets or french fries. At age three, he was eating artichoke, salmon, chips and salsa, etc. He has a very versatile palette, and I’d like to think it’s mostly due to what I fed him when he was young. Now when he travels, he tries and loves all different foods. However, with my youngest, I didn’t have time to be as vigilant with her food intake and all she wants is chocolate and red meat.
  • I love that I make them earn their trips to Disneyworld. We have a Disney Chart thirty days before we leave which involves chores, acts of kindness, getting an “A” in school, etc. However, if you get six black dots on your chart (i.e. misbehaving, doing poorly in school, etc.), the family has to vote and decide if you can redeem yourself or if you don’t go.
  • Sunday school and church is important, no matter your religion. As they get older, they may not go to church as much, but they want to go when they are home for holidays or just weekends. You will want that for your kids especially as they become adults. They say if you go as a child, you will go back once your an adult. God is Love and Hope. Teenagers often feel hopeless and it’s a bad thing if they don’t have some type of relationship with Jesus. 
  • I am glad I did not let them do sleepovers. It’s our job to protect our kids and putting them in other homes in vulnerable situations is not something I felt comfortable with. As they got older, I just didn’t like other parents ideas like, “I don’t mind if they drink under age as long as they don’t drive.” I disagree; it’s the law. If they really want it, they will get it, but we don’t need to make it easy for them.  
  • I think it is important for your kiddos to see mom and dad love each other and spend quality time together. I’m glad my kids know what a healthy, happy marriage looks like.
  • My kids are very fortunate that they make their own money, however, I give them a small allowance and teach them about the value of a dollar. I think kids need to learn responsibility at a young age. I tell them that I made $3.35 an hour at my first job to show them how things have changed. I have been teaching them how to balance a check book and manage their money. It’s actually really helped my youngest to not blow her money. They now sell their old clothes on Poshmark and really love to see the money they are making. Some of my kids friends come over and I see how they don’t clean up after themselves. I sometimes feel that parents do too much for their kids. I make my kids make their beds, clean their rooms and help with dishes. My mom never taught me how to cook, clean or do laundry. I didn’t even know how to make a baked potato when I was 21! I want my kids to be strong independent women!

What are your favorite family traditions (holidays, birthdays, etc.) that your children still love as young adults or enjoy reminiscing about?

  • One of my favorite traditions is our living wall. It’s a wall that changes with each holiday. Art projects go up at the end of the school year. In September, up comes 20 frames and Halloween-decorated pictures from past Halloweens…then the next day after Halloween, we make a giant tree out of paper and color it. We put a stack of cut-out leaves next to the tree and the kids or anyone who comes to the house, writes thankful notes on the leaves and sticks them onto the tree. After Thanksgiving, Christmas cards and past family photos go up, plus gigantic advent homemade calendars made out of felt with pockets for gift cards, t-shirts, etc. They all arrive December 1st from Santa’s elves.
  • I’m so glad that I created traditions. Every week, we would gather in a room and say “I love you because…” with everyone. You have to go around to each other and when everyone is done, we all would hug each other. It’s something they always remember.
  • We have a “Friendsgiving” every year at our house the day after Thanksgiving. We all wear jammies, play games, eat until we burst, watch old dance recitals. It’s one of our favorite days of the year!! At Christmas, my kids haven’t given me a Christmas list for years. They say they would rather give to kids that don’t have presents. We gather coupons and look at all the sale flyers. We take a day and shop until we drop. This year we shopped for the foster care kids in LA.
  • I love our bedtime traditions. When they were little, we sang “I’m a Child of God.” If you sing the same song every night, it cues the brain that it’s time for bed. When they got older, we sang other songs. I would also always read books about women heroes to my daughters. Every night we would read one story of a woman hero or a strong woman in history.
  • We have family meetings a lot which are very productive. We also do blessings on the kids before each school year, and my husband always says a prayer before every trip for our safety. Our kids never let us forget to do it.
  • Our favorite tradition is Halloween. We have their friends come over, cook different batches of chili at 5:30pm, and then we all go trick-or-treating. They come back and look at their candy, and when their friends leave, we offer 25 cents for each candy or $1 for big ones, until they have a little or no candy at all. They have to decide if giving up the candy is worth whatever it is they’re saving their money up for.
  • Every holiday we get together with their cousins. They do not want to miss it as they have become adults with spouses and boyfriends. It’s so great and as tired as we get hosting, we love having everyone together. It’s so special, but it has to be done every year the same time for it to be a tradition. I have Thanksgiving (both sides) and Greek Easter, my sister has Christmas Eve. Sometimes one or two can’t make it but they all know when it is. My brothers girls never miss. I keep the invite list the same every year with a few guests if friends or relatives are in town. 
  • Decorating for Christmas has become one of our favorite traditions!  We do it the Friday after Thanksgiving. We bring everything down from the attic, blast the Christmas music, make cookies, popcorn and hot chocolate, and dance around the house and all decorate together.    We have a big family and have lots of traditions with our extended family that are fun and that we love, but this one is special because it is just us, and we always have a blast.
  • One thing we have done since the kids were little is a family beach trip every year as soon as the kids get out of school. This is with our entire extended family so all of the cousins are there. We go to the same place every year and there have been years when I’ve suggested we go somewhere a little nicer, but I always get vetoed, ha! They love the tradition of going to the same place, getting Dippin’ Dots at the same place, same water park, etc. Each family takes turns cooking one of the nights so we all eat together. The cousins play and put on skits and performances. We’ve made this time a priority even when our schedules have been busy. It’s amazing how much kids need traditions. I think it gives them stability in their life, things they know they can count on.  I don’t think you need a ton of them, but a few special traditions can really bond you as a family and gives them memories unique to your family.
  • Some of our family traditions: breakfast in bed on your birthday (they pick the breakfast) followed by opening presents and no chores. On birthdays and random days we will go around the table during dinner and say something we love about each person. We also have dinner together as a family every night everyone is home with the tv off. 
  • When I am out of town for work for more than 7 days, I wrap a present for each day and number them. It gives them something visual for how soon I am home.