SELF-CARE: My Morning Skincare Routine

There’s something about starting the day caring for yourself that just feels right. I know to some that might sound vain, but in all honesty, if I don’t feel like myself, everyone and everything else around me do not get my best. And I’m not in the business of half-assing my day.

This is not a new thing for me to talk about. Since moving to NJ, I’ve been on the prowl for something that works. For some reason, my Philippine skincare routine didn’t work for me here. After some time, I have found that this combination has been working well! At least for the summer.

(And I mean for the summer because fall is around the corner and I’m pretty sure my skin would be like LET ME THROW YOU A WRENCH AND COMPLETELY CHANGE THINGS AROUND, so until then, I’ll go ahead and enjoy this for now.)

Side note: Some links below are affiliate links. I earn a small commission for each purchase made thru that link. It will not cost you any extra fees whatsoever. It’s just a little something to help me keep creating content for this site. No pressure to use these links, they’re just there for your convenience. Thank you.

My Morning Routine

First and foremost, I would like to give a special shoutout to Susan Yara, James Welsh and Lab Muffin Beauty Science (among others). Because of them, I’ve also learned to explore other resources (I’m looking at you, Paula’s Choice) and make a more educated decision for my routine.

Mornings for me are a bit of a rush ever since I gave birth. I’ve learned that mornings are focused on protection, even if I have been working from home for the longest time now.

Step 1: Water cleanse. Nothing else, just a splash of water. If I’m feeling extra clogged, I dampen a reusable cotton round with tepid water and swipe across the face gently.

Step 2: Rehydrate with Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner (Sokoglam, Amazon). I particularly love this toner because it’s just cool and slightly fat. A few drops on my palms, and I pat it on to my skin.

Step 3: A little pamper with Kiehl’s Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate (Kiehl’s, Sephora, Nordstrom) as my Vitamin C and Naturium’s Niacinamide Serum 12% plus Zinc 2% (Naturium, Amazon). I’ve recently been enjoying this combination even though in the past I have avoided mixing the two. In the past, I’ve had a reaction BECAUSE I DIDN’T READ THE INSTRUCTIONS CORRECTLY (yes, I mixed The Ordinary’s niacinamide and Vitamin C in one routine, and yes, it destroyed my skin for a good two months). I’ve only upped my Vitamin C concentration after using Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin C drop for at least 6 months. Naturium is also a recent discovery and unlike The Ordinary, it has a much better texture and dries down with a slight dewy finish.

Heads up though: the Kiehl’s concentrate is a bit warm when applied and has fragrance. If you have reactive skin or sensitive skin (or both), it might be best to look for an alternative.

Step 4: Moisturize with The Ordinary’s Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA (Deciem, Sephora, Ulta). I love this product. When I feel extra dry, it’s easy to layer it on. Plus, it doesn’t just sit on top of my skin. My skin actually likes this formulation and just gobbles it up. It’s a good bang for my buck too!

Step 5: Protect with Missha Soft Finish Sun Milk SPF 50+ PA+++ (Missha, Amazon). This is probably my third favorite sunscreen because it doesn’t give a white cast on my face and dries down matte, so I look a little more collected than I actually am. It layers nicely with my moisturizer too.

So yeah, I know no one asked (LOL) but I’ve been giving myself a little extra love since getting pregnant and so far, it’s been paying off.

How about you? How do you kick off your morning?

RANDOM RAMBLE #1

Just a few things off the top of my head that I’ve been itching to unload. If the Pensieve was real, best believe I would have owned one.

***

#SendMoreMail2020 has been such a release for me. While it’s still my way of showing support for USPS and their exceptional service, I find that it has nothing to do with me being a wife, a mom, or an employee. It’s just something that I do for me and that realization brought so much light in my heart.

Don’t get me wrong; I do put a lot of thought in the postcards I mail out. I even started taking photos so I would know how to continue the “stories,” mostly for my nephews, nieces and friends’ kids. But it’s just nice to know that I’m doing something that’s attached to me being me.

You know what I mean.

***

Does anyone else have a pen obsession? Or is it just me? I am sooo in love with this Muji pen but I haven’t found it anywhere else but Amazon.

Welp, I spoke too soon. It is now out of stock and no news of a restock. Ugh. Why oh why didn’t I buy more of this!? It literally glides on paper. Which paper you ask? Well, any kind of paper, my friend! It makes everything better and now, I have to ration that last two pens remaining.

This is me hoping my cousin who currently works in Japan reads this post and looks for it in Muji stores there. Come on, Bal.

***

I saw a bunch of people complaining about the Vanity Fair cover featuring Breonna Taylor. Some were saying that it’s making her image a commodity, that the magazine is cashing in on her popularity.

There have also been tweets (I need to cleanup my timeline) berating sports for boycotting games last night in the wake of Jacob Blake’s shooting. People were saying they should “do their jobs” and not meddle with politics.

I don’t know, man. When you have the platform, isn’t it just right to raise awareness about causes that plague your nation —- nay, causes that are dear to your humanity? When they don’t say anything, people shame them for their silence. But when they express themselves in their language, people say “no, not like that.” I mean really shaking my head here.

What about you? What do you use your platform for?

***

Low key reminder that Colin Kapernick’s protests began four years ago.

Image from NPR.org

Not familiar with their names and stories? Here’s where you can find out more about them.

***

End ramble.

TALK TUESDAY: #SendMoreMail2020

I don’t think I have verbalized it enough on this blog, but I’ll say it right now, out loud: I absolutely love the USPS.

Coming from the Philippines where we don’t even have mailboxes for mail drop off, the USPS for me is a breath of fresh air. I would choose it over private mail carriers; they’re just far more affordable that I would’ve expected.

I first experienced the beauty of the USPS when I ordered a few of our wedding souvenirs from Etsy. I think every single order I’ve made was fulfilled by USPS, within the timeframe committed and quite affordable too. I’ve been in love ever since.

And if you’ve been here long enough, I’ve talked about how much I love snail mail. Because I really do! They’re much better souvenirs for travels and trips, and far more affordable too. I’ve converted a few friends into the habit of writing mail, and I’ve been enjoying it.

I do admit that recent life events have made me slow down in my letter writing, but now that the USPS is threatened by certain powers in office, I can’t help but get back into the habit of sending mail.

It’s a simple thing, really, and maybe I won’t even make a dent in helping this valuable service to survive — yes, the same service that provides banking services to those who need it (though postal money orders) — but it just breaks my heart to see it suffering the way it is.

The USPS has served my family in so many ways: from my father-in-law being a retiree to driver’s licenses and immigration paperwork to filing taxes and even to sending in votes. It has never failed us. There may have been a hiccup or two — like a missed delivery or a lost piece of mail recovered 18 days later — but for the most part, it has been a joy with them.

So from now on, I am instituting Mail Mondays in support of #SendMoreMail2020. I will keep going as long as I can. If you’re interested in receiving a motivational postcard or a letter with a random trivia or perhaps to start a penpal relationship, I am more than happy to. Just send me a message on my Facebook page or through my Instagram and the rest will be mail history.

I’ve asked my friends on Facebook whoever is interested in some good snail mail, and in the last 5 days alone, I’ve mailed out 7 international and 7 local letters and postcards. Believe me, I’m the real letter writing deal. :)

To know more about the struggles of the USPS, I recommend the following resources:

I will also start posting “receipts” of my mail activity on my Instagram stories, so feel free to follow me there if you’d like to see how many I’ve sent so far. I try to be as creative as possible with my mail, particularly for kids, but I am more keen on sending out good vibes.

<3 You know it.

#SendMoreMail2020 #SaveUSPS

TALK THURSDAY: My GD Survival Kit

In the previous post, I had spoken about the lessons I learned as I navigated my way through gestational diabetes.  Today, I’m going to talk about the tools I used (and was given to me) to manage it.

The Meal Plan

Like I said in my previous post, meal planning was the highlight of this journey.  I believe I got very lucky with my provider.  My nurse truly took the time to learn what I eat regularly, my preferences and indulgences, and constructed my meals according to it.  Because of that, it was easy to follow and adhere to.

My initial meal plan started out like this. We adjusted and substituted once a trend started showing in my glucose readings.

Another thing that helped tons is My Plate.  For the days when my food options are limited, My Plate presented a plethora of substitutes for my meal requirement of the day.  It’s also available online, but my old soul really loved the booklet my nurse provided.

Glucometer

This is covered by my insurance, thanks to my OB’s prescription.  Surprisingly, my nurse also provided me with one, so I had one reader for the house and another in the bag I would bring whenever we would go out.

There are a lot of options out there but my insurance only covered AccuChek.  I ended up getting the AccuChek Guide.  It’s pretty easy to operate and quite compact.  It came with a carrying case that can house lancets and strips, as well as alcohol pads.

Apps

I downloaded two apps specifically for monitoring my glucose levels:  Glucose — Blood Sugar Tracker and See How You Eat.  I know AccuChek has their own app, but I liked that one better.

With this glucose tracker, I was able to set reminders when to take my readings.  I was also able to generate reports of my numbers that I would send to my nurse every week.

SHYE is to make sure that I am eating right.  It was something that my nurse looked forward to because she loved seeing how I plated my meals.  Because portions were very much controlled for me, I made sure to make eating a treat.  Seeing photos of my food also gave my nurse an idea of what I actually eat, allowing her to adjust my meal plan accordingly, removing my triggers and reducing my sugar spikes.

For both apps, you will have to pay for a premium subscription to keep all your data.

Insulin Pen

Unfortunately, even with my diet and 30 minutes of daily speed walking, my fasting number wasn’t going down.  It was the one number we cannot control through diet and I was referred to another maternal diabetes specialist, who decided to put me on Levemir.

I looooved this pre-filled pen.  I mean, it’s not like I was so happy to be put on it; I prefer pricking myself less thank you very much.  But push came to shove and it was the best thing for our baby at the time.  I would inject this in my belly at night, and it helps bring down my fasting blood sugar significantly.

Cold Pack

I’m not as brave as I make myself out to be, and the first few weeks of being on insulin, I was still scared to inject myself.  I had The Husband do it, and I can tell he was as nervous as me.  The cold pack helped numb the injection site for a bit, but I do have to emphasize that the needle is very short and thin.  After a while, I didn’t need the ice pack anymore, but it was nice to have it handy for the nights when I feel extra sensitive.

More Scans and Tests

Because of the insulin, my entire healthcare team has put me on close monitoring.  I would report once a week for an ultrasound to check the baby’s growth (if he’s growing too fast, I will have to be induced to deliver early), and some days I would go straight to a non-stress test for the baby.  I would also go in every couple of weeks for a biophysical profile.  Then another visit to the OB to check on my well-being.  I must have seen a doctor/nurse at least 3 times a week.

When I said in my previous post that I felt so safe, I was not kidding.  Every step of the way, I was monitored (and well poked and prodded within reason), making sure that the baby and I are safe and within the normal limits.  Because of this, they were able to catch my amniotic fluid levels on time, leading up to the delivery…

Which is another story for another time :)

How about you?  How did you manage your GD?

FEELS FRIDAY: Lessons from Gestational Diabetes

As I attempt to catch up on my blog posts, I will be talking about bits and pieces of my pregnancy journey. While we are not expecting again, I hope these bits will help the next mom — and maybe kind of remind me what I had gone through to try to replicate or do better in the future.

This was one of the hardest parts of my pregnancy so please bear with the lengthy post.  I’ve also included links to some additional reading regarding gestational diabetes mellitus. 

If there’s one thing I was dreading throughout my pregnancy, it has to be the oral glucose tolerance test. I had heard so many horror stories about it and I was not looking forward to it at all. But when Week 25 came around, I was given the go signal to head to a lab for the test.

The first time, it was a drink. And OMG WAS IT A DRINK OR WHAT. It was sweet af and I couldn’t chug down it faster. I was reminded yet again of why I do not drink soda — that was the worse than soda. After a few (or one???) hours, they drew my blood and I was told results would be sent to my OB within the next 2-3 days.

The clinic called and told me I barely passed. According to the Mayo Clinic, normal range for the one hour test is 140 mg/dL. I was probably at 139. The NP offered two options: (1) start treating me for gestational diabetes or (2) see if I can pass the three-hour test. This brings me to the first lesson.

Lesson 1: Just get treated as a gestational diabetic.  My ego was so determined to pass the three-hour test, so I opted for that one.  Another week passes, and nope. It was a massive failure.  I didn’t even pass the fasting numbers.  And I had to kick myself because the smarter option was to just go ahead with the diabetes program.

12-10-19_DN_OGTT-Gestational-Diabetes

As soon as we got the results, we were setup with a nurse specializing in diabetes management.  If I didn’t insist on that three-hour test, I would have started managing it sooner.  So if presented with that option again, I would just go ahead and choose to be treated with GD.  The sooner this is managed, the better for me and the baby.  Because…  

Lesson 2: Gestational diabetes can be manageable.  I thought a one-hour block was enough to meet with my nurse.  Nope.  I ended up talking to her for 2.5 hours.  I don’t think I’ve ever consulted with a health professional for that long in my entire life.  During that time, we talked about the following:

  • Frequency of testing my blood sugar level:  four times a day — upon waking up and an hour after the first bite of every meal
  • Required activity level:  30 minutes a day with heart rate at 100-150 bpm, preferably speed walking
  • Required caloric intake and portions
  • Meal plan from that point forward until 6 weeks after delivery

The meal plan was my favorite part of this consultation.  She took her time in asking what type of foods I eat, how frequent, and even asked about my indulgences (fast food, desserts, and the like), based my meal plan on my responses, and because of that, it was easy to follow.   The main thing she highlighted was portioning.  It’s the tale as old as time:  too much of something is not good, so every component of every meal was moderated.

AAA

Another thing:  because I was sending my sugar numbers every week, we were able to pinpoint the type of food that triggers a high glucose reading.  The meal plan was then adjusted accordingly, and we looked for substitutes that are as accessible and as tasty as the one replacing it.

One thing that that she emphasized was the importance of carbs in my diet.  We determined early on that rice is the main culprit of my increased glucose levels (ASIAN LIFE <3) so I started removing rice altogether from my meals.  I was able to meet my glucose levels, but she called me out for not substituting rice with another starch.  She advised that I cannot go into ketosis and start using my body fat for energy because the baby needs my body fat, so my energy has to come from carbs.  This is of course an oversimplified explanation of the whole thing, but that’s my takeaway from it.  Right after hearing that, I started substituting rice with quinoa.  All is right again with the world.  Or is it?  This diagnosis really fckd with my head until I came to realize…

Lesson 3:  It’s not my fault.  Did I welcome the diagnosis with open arms?  Of course not.  While I have not been the most consistent person in terms of physical activity/exercise during the course of our getting pregnant, I do make conscious decisions about my diet.  It was very hard to accept that I was a diabetic.  Even The Husband didn’t understand how I “caught it” because I’ve always made healthier choices.  My OB was quick to clarify that it is through no fault of my own.  She phrased it as another “mystery gift” of pregnancy.  She even went on to say she’d had patients who compete professionally in CrossFit turn out to have GD as well.  It is not my fault.

And I wish I accepted that sooner.  I wish I didn’t waste time thinking if I had continued going to the gym regularly or if I had gone meatless every other day or if I just didn’t have that last bubble tea.  I spent a fair amount beating myself up for it when I really shouldn’t have because…

Lesson 4:  There is an end in sight.  I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t eventually get sick of pricking my fingers.  At one point, I didn’t know where else to prick myself.  I even had to go on insulin because my fasting numbers weren’t ideal, so that’s another injection site that completely ran out.  But there is an end in sight… and it is childbirth.

Almost immediately after giving birth, they took my blood sugar reading and it was normal.  The woman’s body is insane.  Hahaha.  I swear, I don’t understand how that all went down but it did.  There are more details to come with my son’s birth story but yeah, everything pretty much went back to normal after he popped out.

Important thing to note though:  I was advised by my nurse to continue the course of my meal plan until I get tested again for Type 2 Diabetes.  She mentioned that some 60% of women diagnosed with gestational diabetes develop Type 2 Diabetes within 7 years after giving birth, a statistic that hit close to home when one of our friends hopped the diabetic train early last year.  She had advised if I’m breastfeeding, follow the current plan. Otherwise, slash 500 calories off of the daily meals.

Oh, and another thing!  Because I was diagnosed with GD with this pregnancy, my OB said they will have to test me earlier (like at least 20 weeks) for GD if I choose to get pregnant again.  Chances are, I will ride this train again, but there is no way in actual hell will I ever drink that nasty drink ever again.  I’d rather be categorized as diabetic and “endure” the pricking and dieting throughout my entire pregnancy.

Why you ask?  Because I have never felt safer.  Going into my pregnancy, I was experiencing a lot of anxiety and worry.  But when I got diagnosed with this illness, at least three more healthcare professionals are checking in on me, on top of my OB, every week.  And each week I was presented with numbers and images, each week I had solid proof that my pregnancy was going well and that my baby was safe.  I don’t know about you, but I absolutely loved the extra medical attention.  It kissed my anxieties away (at least for the time being).

There’s more to my GD journey than these four lessons, and those are reserved for another time.  But for now, if you are reading this and you are experiencing the same thing, hang in there and hang tight. Your medical team has you covered and this is but a bump in your journey to motherhood.

Thanks everyone.