Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Am I the Only Mom Who... Second Edition

(To read the first edition, click here !)

...loves reading aloud, but wishes Clifford had never been written?!

...uses nursing as an excuse to eat a second helping?

...hasn't dusted in 3 weeks?

...has been tempted to give in and let the kids eat cake for breakfast?

...sends the kids outside so they can run and I can crash?

...loves to inhale the powder scent of Pampers?

...has been tempted to cut my long hair because there is spit up in it yet again?

...wouldn't trade what I do for anything in the world?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Go tell it on the mountain
Over the hills and everywhere
Go tell it on the mountain
That Jesus Christ is born!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More Christmas Cheer

I love baking-- and Christmas wouldn't be the same without tasty goodies.  Well, that's not true, but I certainly enjoy the treats that come with the season.  With little children (and little time!), I need recipes that are simple and worth the effort.  Last year I found these in an old Family Fun magazine and they were such a hit, we decided on an encore for this years' cookie list.
Holiday Pretzel Treats

Preheat oven to 250 degrees (yes, 250). Put a single layer of bite-sized pretzels on a baking pan.  Top each pretzel with an unwrapped Hershey's Kiss.

Bake for 5 minutes, or until chocolates feel soft when touched with a wooden spoon.

Remove baking pan from the oven and quickly place a red or green plain M & M into the center of each Kiss.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then allow to see for 1 hour in the refrigerator (or eat warm!). 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Creative Christmas

I love that Maddie is old enought to join me when I work on projects now. It's fun to have a little helper that loves to create! We sat down one afternoon recently to tackle an idea I saw in a magazine.

First, I etched a simple design onto a white, unscented candle. (I used an empty lead pencil, but you could use anything with a dull point.) Since it is Christmastime, we decided to make tree and snowflake candles, but you could try other simple shapes.

Next, Maddie used a small paintbrush to color in the design. We used a wet Q-tip to wipe away any paint that went outside the lines.

We let our candles dry for 1-2 hours and voila!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Slingin' Saturday-- Rockin' Baby Pouch

It's time for another Slingin' Saturday! To read my intro on baby wearing, click here!

Thanks to Lisa McDaniel & Natasha Walsh at Rockin’ Baby Sling in Los Angeles for the donation of this week's sling!

When Ben was four weeks old, Brian and I had to attend a funeral. We decided to leave the older kids with my mom, but my little nursling needed to go along. Knowing my casual/trendy slings wouldn't do, I decided to try the classy Rockin' Baby Pouch. The sleek cotton looked dressy but not showy. Unlike the pocket slings I've tried in the past, this pouch required no folding. Baby simply fits inside the pre-shaped pouch opening. Great for babywearing newbies!

The feature I loved the best? The Rockin' Baby Pouch is equipped with a set of zippers behind the shoulder to allow for adjustment depending on size. The S/M sling I have fits those 5'3" to 6' and 120 to 220 pounds. You can also adjust the size according to taste. For example, Ben likes to be held loosely, not pressed tightly against my body so I let out some of the fabric and we were good to go! Best of all, after you adjust, the zippers are covered by a ring of fabric to prevent them from digging into skin or distracting from the look.

I also love that this sling is reversible so if I have a more informal occasion to attend, I easily switch to this more "splashy" print!

Rockin' Baby Pouches retail for $82-- a little on the high end of slings I've seen but expected for the superior quality of the fabric and the added features.

Like this sling? Keep checking back for my sling giveaway in February!

Friday, December 19, 2008


Maddie decided to channel our "inner Marthas" and make clove oranges to decorate our kitchen window sill for Christmas. They took a bit of time to complete because

  1. I was holding a baby while working.

  2. Those darn cloves bruise your thumbs!

The lovely fragrance and the precious mama/daughter time was worth it all, though!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Borrowed Idea

Allyson recently posted on her blog about making this lovely Names of Jesus garland. I loved the thought of incorporating the meaning of Christmas into my decorating. I originally decided to file this idea away until next Christmas (when I don't have a newborn!), but was so intrigued by the project that I worked on it in short intervals (with Maddie...and Brian's help) until I finished. We have it displayed in our upstairs hall.

2009 Update: Allyson is still willing to e-mail the PDF template for the names of Jesus if anyone is interested.  This year I used the template to make gift tags for my packages!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Nutcracker

Many have written interpretations of Tchaikovsky's ballet, The Nutcracker. I've found most of them to be tedious and wordy for young children. Last year, Gavin and Maddie were fascinated by a video of Mikhail Baryshnikov dancing in this classic ballet. I tried reading them a written version of the story, but they were bored before I finished. This fall while perusing the library shelves for books to take home, I came across this gem:

The Nutcracker

I was excited when it was finally the right season to check it out! Written and illustrated by Susan Jeffers, this book is perfect for the younger age group. Though a simpler version, it is not condescending! And what beautiful artwork! Maddie, especially, was captivated.

I was blessed to have the opportunity to take Maddie this year to a live ballet performance of The Nutcracker and was amazed how much of the story she remembered and pointed out to me!

(We also like Robert Frost's Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening with illustrations by Susan Jeffers.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Snuggly Soft

Prior to Ben's birth, I finished up all sewing and craft projects knowing my hands would be busy after he was born. Much to my surprise, we settled into a sleeping/living routine quickly-- much more quickly than I had with my other children. As a result, my fingers started itching.

A friend of mine had a baby in November so I decided that was the perfect opportunity to pull out the cloth and embroidery floss and get to work. I made a super simple no-sew fleece blanket and embroidered the corner with the baby's initials and a floral design. I am able to embroider while nursing which made things even easier! It only took a couple of hours from start to finish.

Friday, December 12, 2008

"Please, Christmas, Don't Be Late!"

Christmas 2005
Gavin (3), Maddie (16 months)

Disaster #1: One morning while I was still sleeping, Gavin tiptoed down to the advent calendar we had hanging on the refrigerator. He opened every door except one and ate the little chocolates hiding in each compartment!

Disaster #2: While I was upstairs, Maddie climbed onto the kitchen table and ate the candy off of our gingerbread house!

Disaster #3: Gavin climbed under the tree and opened one of his Daddy's presents.

Note to self: Keep kids with me AT ALL TIMES!

Christmas 2006
Gavin (4), Maddie (2 years), Owen (3 months)

Disaster #1: One day while I laid down with Maddie (who had a fever) and Owen, Gavin took advantage of my sleepiness and went up to the "no-no" room, opened up multiple Christmas presents and started playing with them!

Disaster #2: As if #1 wasn't enough, I awoke at 3 am the next night to more sounds in the "no-no" room. This time, he had the presents out again, but this time was trying to wrap them back up for me!

Reminder to self: Keep kids with me AT ALL TIMES!

Christmas 2007
Gavin (5), Maddie (3), Owen (15 months)

Disaster #1: Finally remembering to keep the kids with me AT ALL TIMES, we averted disaster until December 19th. I noticed "things" on the wall by the Christmas tree but paid little attention. When Brian got home from work, he looked closely and discovered the "things" were teeny-tiny praying mantises that had hatched from our live Christmas tree! After killing hundreds (!) on the wall, packages, curtains, etc., we dragged the tree outside and went to buy a new one to decorate 3 days before Christmas!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Shoe Winners

The results are in! I've chosen winners at random for my 3 shoe giveaways.

Giveaway #1(Dominic boots): Commenter 8-- Sarah McKelvey

Giveaway #2 (Julie boots): Commenter 6-- (another) Sarah

Giveaway #3 (Paul shoes): Commenter 8-- Maria

Didn't win? Check out See Kai Run for these shoes and more great styles. When ordering, be sure to say you heard about them from Bits and Pieces From My Life!

And be sure to check back for "The Great Sling Giveaway" in February!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

Today is Gavin's 6th birthday! Last week, I said to him, "Gavin, how can it be that you are turning six? I just brought you home from the hospital!" Ever the literal one, he said, "No, Mama, you did not!"

When I told him, I was going to take a special picture of him to put on my blog for his birthday, he said, "Special? Like this?"

That's a 6-year-old boy for you!

Seriously, though, time has flown and I'm happy to celebrate my energetic, math-minded, tender-hearted, not-so-little-anymore boy who six years ago today made me a mom!

Happy Birthday, Gavin!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Slingin' Saturday-- Hotslings

Welcome to another Slingin' Saturday! To read my intro on baby wearing, click here!

Thanks to Molly and Tickatoo for their generous sling donation!

This week I'm going to review the first non-ring sling I ever tried. When I wore Gavin and later, Maddie, I had a closed ring sling that I was given by my local La Leche League chapter. I also had a hand-me-down ring sling that my mom passed to me after my sister Bekah outgrew it. I wore Owen in those but never felt as though I had the right fit. I wanted something a little snugger. I did a google search one day for a fitted pocket sling and discovered Hotslings. It took a few minutes to decide on a size. Hotslings has a wide range of sizes, but since they are based on a combination of weight, height, bra size, etc., I wanted to be sure I was choosing the right fit. I ordered one and began using it as soon as it arrived on my doorstep.

Since Owen was no longer a newborn, I carried him in either a kangaroo carry (facing forward with legs crossed in front of him) or a hip carry. This sling allowed me to take all three kids out shopping or for a walk without worrying about a curious little one getting away from me. With Owen securely in the carrier, I was free to hold a little hand in each of my hands!

I was amazed at the comfort. Owen was a whopper baby-- 25 pounds at 9 months-- but yet I felt very little back or shoulder pain even when wearing him for extended periods of time. The sling certainly saved my tired arms since Owen was a clingy baby and enjoyed being carried most of the day. Despite its heavy (excuse the pun!) use, I found my Hotsling held up very well. If it got dirty, I washed it and hung it to dry, and then it was back in use.

Knowing I was expecting a fall baby this time around, I wanted to get a fleece sling for chilly errand-running days. Molly at Tickatoo donated an Oasis Fleece Baby Sling by Hotslings for Ben and me to try. I was immediately taken by the soft texture of the fabric. So cozy. I was afraid fleece might be too stretchy, but while it does give, the fabric is sturdy and durable. The pouch on a Hotsling is more shallow than some pocket-type slings so it took some getting used to, but with Ben tucked securely by my heart, he fell asleep quickly.

This fleece sling is so warm, I have no fear of Ben getting chilled out in the cool air. I did find that my fleece sling was cut a little smaller than my plain cotton one so choose a size bigger especially if you plan to wear it over a sweater or coat.

Hotslings range in price from about $35-$57. They even have a pool sling made of waterproof fabric with built-in UV protection.

Don't forget to keep checking back for my sling giveaway this winter where I'll be giving away one of the slings I review! Can't wait that long? Sign up for my shoe giveaway by Monday at midnight!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Works-For- Me Wednesday: 4 Kids, 1 Small Bedroom

We live in a 3 bedroom townhouse. With neither an attic or basement, we've chosen to use our smallest bedroom as a storage room. That leaves us with 2 bedrooms for 6 people. Gavin and Maddie currently share the "kid" bedroom. We have the little boys in our room-- Owen on a mattress of the floor and Ben in our bed. However, the "kid" room holds all kids' clothing and toys.

About a month before Ben was born, we realized we didn't have a place for his clothing and we set about looking for a solution. Gavin, Maddie, and Owen were currently sharing two dressers but they were at capacity. Not wanting to clutter the room with an additional dresser, we decided to start from scratch. We sold one dresser and moved the second downstairs. (More like an armoire, we decided to make it our TV cabinet.) We purchased one of these open storage units from Target. It fits into the closet so it takes up no space in the room. Each child chose a different colored bin and they keep their underwear, socks and PJs in their own compartments. (This system works well because Owen can put away and find some of his own laundry.)

We also purchased two identical "assemble-yourself" dressers for the room. We assigned each child two drawers and I painted the knobs to match the color bins they had chosen. Again, this makes it easy for Owen to find his own clothing. For that matter, color coordinating makes it easier for me, too!

For more Works-For-Me Wednesday, visit RocksinMyDryer!

Monday, December 1, 2008

You Can't Put Kids in a Box!

I feel so blessed that my children have the opportunity to be homeschooled. How wonderful to be able to learn at your own pace and not have the pressure to keep up with the rest of the class...or slow down with the rest of the class. You really cannot put children in a box and expect them all to conform!

Take for example my youngest sister, Bekah, who is 7 and in 2nd grade, and my two oldest kids, Gavin, almost 6 and in 1st grade, and Maddie, 4 and not formally in any grade yet. When this current school year started, Gavin began a 2nd grade math book. Bekah was finishing up the last chapter of her 1st grade math book. Maddie could count to 40 but couldn't identify written numerals. As far as reading ability, Bekah was starting to read a few books on her own while Gavin could stumble through and sound out a few words very painfully. Maddie picked up one of Gavin's phonics books and began reading on her own without any training!

In a classroom setting, would Gavin have been skipped ahead into 2nd grade or an accelerated group so he could excel in math or would he have been kept with his equals in reading ability and relearned math skills he was far beyond? Would Bekah have been held back since she had not completed her 1st grade work or would she have been allowed to continue flourishing in phonics with her peers? And what of Maddie?

A family member was telling me recently that her child was being made to repeat a grade because her reading was not up to par with the rest of the children her age. Her math skills were acceptable, but since she needed more phonics work, she had to be held back. The mother said it was upsetting to the child who wanted to move on with her peers and as a result, it was also upsetting to the mother. It saddened me to think of that little child becoming discouraged just because she was not moving at a predetermined pace.

It is not the public school's fault! How else can they handle classrooms of kids with varying skill levels? It is not possible to have one child in multiple grades. With homeschooling, there is freedom to let a child grow in their own timing.

Fast forward a few months. Today, Bekah is working in her 2nd grade math book and continuing to read more and more on her own (including words like "restaurant"!). Gavin hit a rough spot in his 2nd grade math book and took a break to try a book on counting coins instead. As far as reading, he suddenly caught on and is now starting to sound out and write his own stories. Maddie continues to amaze us with her ease in learning to read and continues to struggle to recognize numbers. Neither has felt pressured to slow or accelerate their learning.

Neither has been put in a box!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Fabulous Black Friday Giveaway!

Black Friday is all about the bargains! There is no better bargain than FREE!

Back in the summer, I reviewed a pair of shoes that See Kai Run donated to us for Owen to try out! He loved them and wore them until they practically fell apart!

Now the wonderful folks at See Kai Run are at it again! This time they've donated three pairs of shoes for me to give away to you! I've listed the contests in three separate posts so you can enter and have a chance to win all three! Contests close Monday, December 8 at midnight!

Giveaway #1

Giveaway #2

Giveaway #1-- Dominic Boot

This is the Dominic boot in black. It retails for $46, plus shipping. One lucky winner will receive this pair of shoes in Size 6. Simply leave a comment on this post. If you post about my contest on your own blog, leave a second comment with the link and you will receive a second entry. Contest closes Monday, December 8 at midnight. Open to U.S. addresses only!

Giveaway #2-- Julie Boot

This is the special edition Julie boot in pink. It retails for $46. One lucky winner will receive this pair of shoes in Size 4. Simply leave a comment on this post. If you post about my contest on your own blog, leave a second comment with the link and you will receive a second entry. Contest closes Monday, December 8 at midnight. Open to U.S. addresses only!

Giveaway #3-- Paul shoe

This is the special edition Paul shoe in blue, brown, and cream. It retails for $40. One lucky winner will receive this pair of shoes in Size 5. Just leave a comment on this post. If you post about my contest on your own blog, leave a second comment with the link and you will receive a second entry. Contest closes Monday, December 8 at midnight. Open to U.S. addresses only!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Photo Gems

Wanted to share a few memories !

Preparing sweet potato biscuits for Thanksgiving dinner.
We are wearing our matching aprons that my mom made us for Christmas last year.

Ben modeling his "Baby's 1st Thanksgiving" duds

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


It has become habit at our house to each take a moment at the dinner table each night to say something we are thankful for. (One of the kids, speaking in a baby voice, usually tells what Ben is thankful for, too!) It is a joyful time as we all take the time to think of all God has done for us. He has certainly blessed us this year!

We have felt especially blessed since Ben arrived almost 7 weeks ago. What a precious little person! During my pregnancy, I was worried about how I was going to care for four children under the age of 6! It seemed overwhelming, but the adjustment has been smooth. Yes, we have an extra person to dress and yes, the noise level has gone up a notch, but otherwise, it hasn't been much different than having three children in the house. Can I dare say four will be easier than three? I'm so thankful Gavin, Maddie, and Owen are willing and cheerful helpers!

May we all be truly thankful in all things! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Monday, November 24, 2008

The Look-a-likes

There is no denying that Brian is Gavin's father! They look just alike! Even people who don't know us can pair the two of them up in a crowd. They both have this trick/talent they like to perform that we call "triangle eyebrows." It showcases their similar faces even more than usual! Maddie looks a lot like Brian, too, although it is more subtle since she has a feminine look about her.

I was hoping that I could have at least one child who looks like me, but so far, it is not to be! Owen doesn't look as much like the rest of the bunch, but he looks like my brother! Go figure.

Owen with Uncle Ryan circa October 2008
Ryan circa 1984

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Slingin' Saturday-- Like Mama, Like Daughter

Maddie, like most little girls, wants to imitate her Mama. Since I frequently wore Owen in a sling and now I wear Ben, she wanted to have a sling of her own. Many of the companies that sell slings or other baby carriers also sell a child-sized version, but those were too pricey for my liking, not to mention she didn't want to wait long enough for me to order one. I decided to use what I had on hand to make her sling.

I used a piece of fleece since it is slightly stretchy and you don't have to hem the edges. I cut out a strip about 12 inches by 36 inches. I hand-sewed the two short ends together. After folding it in half long-ways (the same way you fold any pocket sling), it was ready to wear!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Benjamin's Birth Story-- Part 4 of 4

Carol asked me if I was ready to have my water broken and “have this baby.” Knowing how close I was, I agreed. Heather monitored the baby’s heartbeat with a hand-held Doppler while Carol broke my water. The fluid was clear with no meconium and Baby tolerated the procedure like a champ. Brian continued to apply a cool wet cloth to my neck and face.

I was unable to talk by now. I communicated only by nodding or shaking my head. I’m sure I was physically able to talk, but it would have thrown off my concentration. I was in a semi-sitting position. I know that it is best to be upright while laboring, but this was actually more comfortable and I was progressing well so I decided not to change. Heather asked Carol if she needed to break the bed down for delivery, but since I would have to be disturbed, Carol whispered that she would try to deliver the way it was.

Carol checked me again and said I had a bit of a cervical lip, but that it would probably melt away as I began to push. I started to feel increasing pressure and then the amazing urge to push. After the first push, Brian said, “You’re almost done.” I was surprised since I had just started, but it was encouraging because the pushing urge was so intense! With the second push, his head was out. I was clinging to Brian’s hand (and trying not to squeeze too hard) when Carol said, “Okay, Dad, are you ready?” With the third push, Brian was able to grab the baby’s shoulders and upper back and help deliver him! Less than ten minutes after I started pushing, Benjamin was born. I reached down and pulled Ben onto my belly myself. It was 7:33 pm on October 10.

There was no tearing so I felt very little pain as soon as labor ended. I wasn’t even sore. I kept Benjamin on my stomach while Brian cut the cord and while they wiped him off and evaluated him. I nursed him while Carol delivered the placenta. The room was still dim and peaceful, and I was euphoric (and hungry!).

When Ben was about an hour old, they weighed him and he came in at 7 pounds, 6 ounces. We were surprised since the other kids were so much bigger (even Owen who came early). He was 21 inches long. He had a perfectly round head, dark hair, and very long eyelashes!

I am so pleased with my labor and delivery. This was my most satisfying birth of the four. I may have started off nervous about not knowing Carol, but Brian and I agreed that we are glad she delivered Benjamin because she was in tune to what I needed and eager to help me achieve the birth I desired. We appreciated her lack of hurry and her laid-back manner.

While I’m not up for it again anytime soon, Benjamin’s birth proved to me labor doesn’t have to be frantic but can follow its own timetable and be calm and enjoyable.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Benjamin's Birth Story-- Part 3 of 4

Carol reviewed my birth plan, said it seemed reasonable, and went to get a LDRP (Labor/Delivery/Recovery/Postpartum) room ready. I gathered my things, took my chart from the nurse, and ambled after her. She laughed, “Here she comes! You seem like you’re out for a hike instead of in active labor!” My new nurse, Heather said, “And she’s even carrying her own chart!”

After getting me settled in my room, Carol talked to me about my options. Knowing I desired a natural labor, she suggested walking around the unit or relaxing in my room’s Jacuzzi tub. She pointed out that my contractions were still not coming as often as expected at this stage, “but obviously it is working.” She also said that since my water bag was bulging, she could break it and kick labor into higher gear. She left it up to me, though, saying she was prepared to stick around as long as it took to have a baby. Brian and I talked about it and decided that we would let my body continue to labor at its own pace since that fit with our plan to have things as natural as possible.

Midwife means “with woman” and Carol was good at her job! She would come in the room and chat quietly with me or even sit silently when I needed to be quiet. Instead of relying on monitors, she would feel my belly during a contraction to measure its strength. She asked me why I thought many women feel the need to carry on and make people feel sorry for them while they are in labor. I wasn’t sure how to answer because I couldn’t imagine being loud or laboring in any other way. She said, “I had four children and labored just like you are laboring. I try to empathize with those women, but sometimes…”

Around 4:30, Heather suggested I try the Jacuzzi tub. She said she had used it during her labor and enjoyed it. I’ve heard that immersing in water can reduce labor pain, but I didn’t realize the extent of that truth until I tried it. I’m not sure if it was caused by the weightlessness that came from floating or an improved ability to relax in the warmth, but immediately the contractions were less uncomfortable. With my belly entirely covered by the water, I could still feel all the pressure, but the pain decreased. Time went by quickly while I was in the tub. The contractions started coming closer together and I sensed that I was in transition though I was still able to talk and relax in-between. Carol came in again and suggested she check my cervix. I was at an 8. Carol put a cool rag on my neck. That helped me relax so Brian continued cooling it and reapplying it.

I was beginning to feel a lot of pressure and the need to leave the tub. The contractions were coming so close together at this point, though, that it took awhile to time my departure! I took my time getting out and walking to the bed. The room was dim. Carol and Heather were talking in hushed tones so as not to disturb the peaceful atmosphere in the room.

I labored for a short time sitting upright on the bed. Concentrating on my labor was taking up all my brain space at this point so I don’t recall as much detail from here on out. (Brian filled in for me what I don’t remember!) Though I still felt fine between contractions, they came so close to together, I stayed quiet to keep on top of it. If I lost concentration, I started to tense up which made it hurt more. I remember reading while I was pregnant that if you start to feel as though you can’t do it anymore, you are getting close to delivering. Once or twice, I felt this, but I reminded myself that it was almost over. Really the only part I had trouble with was the intensity at the peak of each contraction.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 4

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Benjamin's Birth Story-- Part 2 of 4

The alarm in our bedroom was set to go off soon so I trudged up the stairs to discuss options with Brian. We decided that he should go to work with the idea that I could call him home as soon as I felt I needed him. I also called my mom to put her on alert that I would probably need her sometime that day. At this point, I was a little down again. I knew these were labor contractions, but with them coming and going and varying their timing, I was afraid it would drag on for days. I got up to fix the kids some toast for breakfast—the easiest thing I could come up with that everyone would eat—and boom!, I had three contractions in a row!

At 9:30 am, I had a contraction strong enough that I had to concentrate to get through it. I was afraid to be alone with just the little ones so I called Brian and asked him to start preparing to come home. He had a 15-minute drive to return the work truck and then a 25-minute drive home. When he got home, we ate an early lunch and he entertained the kids while I laid down to rest. As I was drifting off, I kept hearing, “Where’s Mama?” Occasionally, I would feel a pat or a bit of breath on my cheek. Again, I woke up from sleep, having had NO contractions. I was fed up!

We decided to gather the crew together and take a walk around the neighborhood. It was a beautiful day for October—sunny and mild. I was barely out the door when the contractions started coming fast. I was able to relax and concentrate through each one, but it was difficult to maintain composure on a public street! Brian asked if I would rather go home, but I decided to keep walking since I seemed to finally be progressing. The kids had no idea what was going on. They kept stopping and asking me to look at leaves, feel the bark on the trees, watch the ants on the sidewalk, things we usually do on our nature walks. By the time we had circled the block a couple of times, I knew labor was steady enough to head to the hospital. As we continued to walk, Brian used his cell phone to call my mom to come over and we told the kids that this was the day their baby brother would arrive.

During the hour drive to the hospital, I was upbeat and talkative. During contractions, I had to hug my body pillow and close my eyes. I found that shutting my eyes helped me concentrate on relaxing all the muscles in my body. Relaxing my muscles reduced my tension which reduced my pain. As soon as the tightening ending, I was fine. All through the pregnancy, I had back pain—much more so than with the other pregnancies. My contractions followed the same trend. Even though they could be felt all over my abdomen, the majority of the pain was in my back.

We arrived at the hospital at 2:45 pm. As we walked into Admissions, we passed another very pregnant woman in a wheelchair, holding her back and breathing heavily. We commented that someone else would be having a baby that day, too. After getting my admissions papers, we headed up to the fifth floor birthing center. I was offered a wheelchair, but declined, knowing I was perfectly okay to walk. One nurse sat in the birth center’s nurses’ station so we walked up to her. She stared back at me with a blank look and said, “May I help you?”

I gave her a puzzled look, handed her my admissions papers, and said, “I have admissions papers.”

“For what?”

I stood there almost 9 months pregnant with my mouth hanging open! Brian jumped to my rescue. “She’s in labor,” he said.

“Oh,” says the nurse. “You’re here to be checked for labor!”

She ushered me into a bathroom to give a urine sample and sent Brian into a triage room—the same area where we ran into trouble with my previous labor! He could hear her discussing me with a second nurse. “She says she’s being admitted.”

“When is she due?”

“In 10 days.”

“Is she even having contractions?”

I emerged from the restroom oblivious to the conversation and the second nurse hooked me up to a fetal monitor. I was still talkative and smiling. My regular midwife was not on call that weekend and I found out the other midwife in the practice, Carol, would be with me during my labor. I was a little nervous since I didn’t know her or her philosophy nearly as well. She arrived on the scene within a few minutes, asked a few questions, and decided to check my cervix. “You’re 5-6 centimeters with a bulging bag of water!” The nurse seemed surprised. (Apparently the nurses had convinced themselves I was too calm to be in labor.) In the meantime, I found out that the other very pregnant woman we had seen downstairs in admissions was being sent home because she was 0 centimeters dilated! I guess demeanor isn’t everything!

Part 1
Part 3
Part 4

Monday, November 17, 2008

Benjamin's Birth Story-- Part 1 of 4

When I sat down to write my birth story, I decided I wanted to include as much (ungraphic!) detail as possible. As a result, this ended up quite long so I am going to publish it in parts. If birth stories aren't your thing, you may want to find another blog to read this week! :-) Enjoy!
My due date throughout my pregnancy was sketchy. I was still nursing Owen when I got pregnant so my cycles were on the long side. My due date ranged anywhere from October 18 to October 23, but my midwife settled on October 18 as the “official” date. Since Owen had come 2½ weeks early, this was a reasonable choice. She also assured me that she would not be quick to induce if I did happen to go overdue. That was a relief to me because even though no very pregnant woman wants to stay pregnant a day longer than she has to (!), I didn’t want my labor to be forced just because I was outside of the medical timeline. This left the whole month of October open as a possibility to have this baby!

I started having Braxton Hicks contractions at 4 months—not altogether unusual for a fourth baby. However, as my ninth month approached, they became quite frequent. I’m sure I was overly anxious, but there were many nights that I sat on the couch feeling my tightening belly and wondering if this could be “the night.” Every morning I would wake up still pregnant and a little grumpy about it, too!

I visited my midwife on a Wednesday morning 10 days before my due date and mentioned that though my baby was still wiggling around, he seemed to be quieter that particular morning. She told me not to get excited but that babies often settle down right before labor begins. The next morning, I felt the first “real one.” When “real” contractions hit, it’s an “ah-ha!” moment—the experience of labor comes rushing back and you feel silly for mistaking those Braxton Hicks for the real things. The problem was those “real” contractions continued through the morning and afternoon but stayed about 30 minutes apart. I was uncomfortable but not in regular, active labor. I puttered around all day—reading, taking the kids out to play (while I sat in a chair!), making pizza. My friend, Raya, called to see if the baby had been born yet, but I was too uncertain to tell her I thought I might be in labor.

I was really glad to see Brian come home from work! He was emotional support and another set of hands. The night was full of ambivalence. We kept saying things like, “If the baby is born tonight…,” and, “If I go to work tomorrow…,” and, “If we go out this weekend…”

After we put the kids to bed for the night, Brian and I decided to relax and play word games on the computer together. My sister-in-law, Sarah, and my friend, Lu, both instant messaged me to see if I had started having any signs of labor. I told them I was having painful contractions, but they were still far apart. They both told me they would be praying. Still not sure what to expect the rest of the night, I headed off to bed at 11:30.

I had a difficult time sleeping. Part of it was excitement. Part of it was fear that if I allowed myself to drift off I may wake up in the morning still pregnant! Part of it was Brian’s noisy snoring. (He was having no trouble sleeping!) Part of it was the fact that the contractions I had been having all day were quickly getting closer together. Around 1 am, I became wide awake and started timing them. They were 5-10 minutes apart! After visiting the bathroom for the 100th time that night, I decided to go downstairs to read. I figured if it was labor, I wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway. And if it wasn’t labor, I could catch up with a nap the next day.

I decided not to wake Brian. I figured I could labor on my own for awhile before getting him excited. I wanted him to be well rested before we made the hour trek to the hospital’s birthing center. I set a goal for myself to wait until 3 o’clock to wake him and to call my mom to come sleep-sit for the kids. Three o’clock came and went and the contractions were still 5-10 minutes apart! Then it was four o’clock and four thirty… Sometime in the night, I let Brian know there was no question I was in labor now, but that he should sleep until I needed him. At five o’clock, the contractions had slowed (ugh!) so I put down my book and decided to try to doze. As soon as I lay down, I had a whopper contraction grip me. I knew if they continued with such intensity, I would be back up within minutes, but the next thing I knew, I was waking up at 6 o’clock, having slept without one contraction! Talk about discouraging.

Part 2

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Slingin' Saturday-- ModMum Sling

It's another Slingin' Saturday! Coincidentally, this is International Babywearing Week! To read my intro on baby wearing, click here!

This week I'm going to review the ModMum baby sling, donated by Lisa at ModMum.

The ModMum sling is a pouch-style sling. You simply wear it over your head and one shoulder (like a messenger bag) and position your baby inside. There is no complicated folding or tying. After trying and loving several other slings of this variety, I was skeptical to try another brand. I figured since I loved the others so much, this one would be hard to get used to! I was wrong. This sling was so comfortable, I was hooked at once.

Just like with other pouch slings, Ben liked riding in a slightly upright position. The pouch was roomy enough that I could adjust him to his liking but secure enough that I never feared he would slip or fall out! Snuggled up to my body, I knew he was warm and comfortable, even outside in the fall weather. Once when we had to dash out in the rain, there was enough extra fabric to pull over his head until we got to (dry) safety. Though I've heard other moms rave about the convenience of nursing a baby in a sling, I've never had luck. Other slings held the baby much too tight against my body. But since this is a roomier sling, I gave nursing another go and succeeded! How great to put Ben in the sling to clean, take a break on the couch to nurse, and then return to my chore immediately without having to take him out or reposition him!

Choosing a size was easy. Sold in XS, S, M, L, or XL, sizing is based on weight and height of the wearer. I also love that this sling is reversible. I have the Taylor sling which is brown with colorful polka dots on one side and solid green on the other so almost every outfit I wear matches! I wore the sling out for walks, vacuuming, cooking dinner, and out to eat. There is really no end to the places you can wear your baby and since there is potential for getting the sling dirty, I was glad to know that since it is 100% cotton, it can be thrown in the washer and dryer to freshen it up.

The ModMum Reversible Sling retails for $54, plus shipping. Their other baby slings retail for between $38-$64.
Don't forget to keep checking back for my sling giveaway this winter where I'll be giving away one of the slings I review!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

We have a winner!

Random.org choose Comment #40 as the winner of the $30 from Expressiva! That honor goes to Rissa! Be sure to check out her blog here.

Thanks to everyone who entered. I hope some of you stick around. Be sure to check back at the end of November for my next big giveaway... and of course, my sling giveaway this winter!

***This contest was listed on Money Saving Mom. Crystal who runs MSM also runs Biblical Womanhood, an encouraging, God-honoring blog you should try!

***I was delighted to have my contest highlighted in 5 Minutes for Mom's weekly column "5 Minutes Around The Blogosphere." If you have never visited 5 Minutes for Mom, you may want to visit their Readers Blogs section to find other great blogs. The two moms that run the site, Susan and Janice, are work-at-home-moms who also run two toy stores: A Rocking Horse To Love and Pedal Cars and Retro Collectibles.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The "Giant" Phenomenon

I'm sure anyone who has had more than one child has experienced this! You know that your toddler or older child is growing up and you know that your new baby is going to be tiny. Whether Baby is 6 pounds or 10, he is still small! But nothing prepares you for the shock when you see the older sibling for the first time after having a baby! When Owen came to visit us in the hospital soon after Ben was born, he looked huge. Big head, big hands, big clothes. He looked so big, it was almost freaky.

Don't forget to enter my giveaway by tomorrow at midnight!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Daddy Survival Kit

This was a fun little idea Gavin and Maddie and I worked on while I was expecting Ben. I decided that it would be fun if Brian had a small "survival kit" to bring along the hospital with him when I had the baby. Obviously, I would pack a suitcase of things I needed during my stay, but what about him?

I love getting free samples in the mail so I started scouting out samples that he could use. I ended up with a travel size bottle of shampoo, travel size deodorant, individual-size lemonade mix, four Viva paper towels, headache medicine, and several other things.

To fill in the blanks, the kids and I visited the dollar store and picked up a few other things like a toothbrush, a bottle of water, crackers, and some candy. I put it all in a gallon storage bag and we presented our gift to him at dinner one night a couple of weeks before my due date. He loved it and it really did come in handy, too!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Just Slow Down!

I mentioned that while my sister, Kati, was here, she not only helped out, but she taught me a lesson, too. We tease Kati about how slow she is. She doesn't seem to be in a hurry for anything! (She has passed that trait along to Maddie who takes 30 minutes per trip to the bathroom!) I'm just the opposite. Sometimes I feel as though I'm always in a rush. Hurry to do this. Hurry to go there. I observed Kati while she was here, though, and was convicted.

One day, she made cookies with the kids. When I make cookies with them, we have fun, but I tend to hurry them along and not fully enjoy the experience. I'm usually thinking ahead to all the other things I need to get done. Or I'm trying to finish before Owen wakes up from a nap or Brian gets home from work. When Kati made cookies with them, everyone immersed themselves in the activity. It took them over an hour to mix up the dough and get it on the pan. (This didn't include baking time!) Did the laundry get folded during that time? No, but you know what? There was still plenty of time later to do it.

I'm working on slowing down. It is hard for me because it goes against who I am, but I believe it is necessary! Why hurry through one activity to get to the next? I posted a to-do list on my refrigerator to help me out. When I think of a project I want to get done, I write it down. Instead of all my ideas rolling around in my head and me rushing around trying to get them all done, I work on the list as I get time. This has helped me prioritize and de-stress.

It was a prayer of mine during my pregnancy that I would not be so overwhelmed with what needed to be done that I didn't take the time to enjoy my new baby (and the other kids, too). I pray that God continues to help me with this. Won't you pray too?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Slingin' Saturday-- The New Native Baby Carrier

Welcome to Slingin' Saturday! This is the first of my baby carrier reviews. In case you missed my intro on baby wearing, click here.

I decided to test The New Native Baby Carrier first. This carrier is a pocket pouch carrier. It is so easy to use-- simply slip it on over your head and one shoulder (like a messenger bag) and fit the baby down into the pocket. (There is a tacking stitch at the top of the carrier to aid in putting it on correctly and so the carrier cannot get unfolded.) There are multiple ways to hold your baby. For infants, it is best to cradle them so they get adequate head and neck support. (Ben prefered being cradled slightly upright.) As your baby grows, you can switch to a kangaroo hold in which your baby sits in the pocket facing out or a hip hold where the pocket supports him on your hip. All posititions allow you to have both hands free!

Benjamin and I both fell in love with this carrier right away! We started using it around the house in the first few days after we came home from the hospital. I put him in it to brush my teeth, get the older kids dressed, bake a cake, blow dry my hair, anything I needed to do while he was awake but I needed my hands. Often he fell asleep, lulled by my movement. At about two weeks, we made our first outing to Walmart and I did my shopping with him in the carrier. The same weekend, we took a walk in the woods and he snuggled in the pouch out of the wind and took a nap.

The New Native Carrier model that I have is black cotton and retails for $44 plus shipping. Sizing is easy. As opposed to other carriers that have complicated sizing methods, with The New Native Carrier, you simply choose a size based on what size t-shirt you wear! Everything about this carrier is easy. It can even be washed and dryed along with the rest of your laundry. I highly recommend this sling!

Don't forget to keep checking back for my sling giveaway this winter where I'll be giving away one of the slings I review!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Can't Get Enough of This Face!

For Amanda and others who have asked,
here is another picture of our sweet Benjamin!

Number Charts

Just like learning colors is more that just knowing color names, understanding numbers is more than just saying, "One, two, three." Last year, an activity in Gavin's math book had him making a chart to learn the numbers 1 through ten. For the number 1, he glued one Cheerio on the line. For the number 2, he glued two Cheerios and so on. He liked the activity so much that we also made a poster for the numbers 11-20. This really helped him connect the written numeral with the amount it represented.

It wasn't long after he made these charts that he began to grasp the pattern of numbers. He realized that after twenty came twenty-one and then twenty-two and then twenty-three... and that the same pattern held for the thirties and forties...

He made it his personal goal to learn to count to one hundred. Since charts had worked so well before, I made him a chart with all the numbers 1 through 100. At first, he used it as a cheat sheet, but within a week, he could count to 100 without looking.

(Another fun tool we used was Five Little Monkeys Play Hide and Seek which has the mischievous monkeys counting to 104.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wordless Wednesday-- Other Milestones

There's been a lot of baby talk around here lately, but we've had a few "big kid" milestones achieved, too!

First visit from the tooth fairy!
First day of ballet class!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mother's Helper

Along with our society's assumption that a woman will only have one or two children has come the idea that a woman can/should/must handle everything alone following birth. Those women in Colonial days had it right! When a woman was expecting a baby, her sisters, friends, and neighbors gathered around her to assist. First they supported a woman through her labor. (While today the concept of birth at home without a medical doctor is viewed as unusual at best and dangerous at worst, just a few years ago, this was the norm!) Then after the baby was born, the women stayed around helping to care for the mother, care for her other children, cook her meals, clean for her, gather things from her garden. Once a postpartum women had fully recovered, she was quick to return the favor. No one was expected to handle it all single handedly. People often lived in extended families (no nursing homes!) so women worked together within the home to handle the duties of the entire household.

When Ben was 10 days old, Brian had to go back to work so my sister, Kati, came to stay with me for a week. She was my Colonial woman! Having an extra set of hands was invaluable! She played games, held Ben, made cookies with the kids, washed dishes, folded laundry, read stories, changed diapers, worked on colors with Owen, got little ones dressed, helped us on an outing to ballet class and the library. The list goes on! If only I could employ her services full time! Even once a week! She even taught me a lesson, but that's another blog post!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Learning Without "School"

Having just given birth, I have had no time or energy to jump back into homeschooling the kids. We were prepared ahead of time to take a week or two off to recuperate and concentrate on life! However, thinking back on the past two weeks, I've realized just how much learning Gavin and Maddie and even Owen have been doing.

We read picture books while Ben nurses. We went outside and collected leaves, acorns, and an interesting feather. We read a biography of John Smith. After finishing a book about Francis, the kids had me look up badgers in our giant animal book. They played color games and strategy games. They colored and made crafts. They recorded the weather for each day on a chart.

Practical skills were honed, too. They helped give the baby a bath. They made cookies. They sorted and put away laundry. They learned to put a CD in the player and turn it on!

It goes to show you don't need textbooks and worksheets to get an education.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A New Adventure in Breastfeeding

I've always had a fairly easy time nursing my babies. Sure, I had some soreness when I nursed my first. And I did have mastitis when Maddie was an infant and I was tandem nursing two. (It is hard to not become engorged when you have that much milk!) However, I've never had real difficulties until Ben was born.

After we brought Benjamin home from the hospital, I noticed that he had a hard time latching on. The bit of soreness I developed in the hospital became extreme pain while nursing him. I used Lansinoh which helped slightly but not nearly enough. I started noticing that his tongue looked a little funny. My suspicions were confirmed when we visited the pediatrician to have Ben's cord clamp removed when he was four days old. The doctor pointed out that Ben had a short frenulum, also known as tongue tie. The piece of skin that connects the underside of the tongue to the mouth was too short, making him unable to stick out his tongue to get a proper latch. The pediatrician assured me that he would probably outgrow it, and as long as he was gaining weight (he was!) and I was not having pain with nursing (hmmm!), we could let it go for now. He added that some people feel it is better to not have their babies go through the trauma of having the problem corrected when formula is an option.

I went home and promptly did my own research. I found out that the tongue clipping procedure is actually very simple and almost painless to small babies. As a child grows, the frenulum gets tougher and therefore, more painful to cut. I also read a list of reasons to go ahead with a clipping as opposed to waiting it out. Several-- poor latch, pain while nursing, and making a "V" shape with the tongue while crying-- fit our situation.

Having successfully nursed my older three children, formula or bottles was not an option for me. But the pain continued to get worse until I was in tears at the beginning of each nursing session. I finally broke down and called the pediatrician's office and told them I wanted Ben's tongue clipped. They were very nice about it and referred me to an Ear, Nose, and Throat Specialist who gave me an appointment for 4 LONG, PAINFUL DAYS AWAY! Deciding to make the best of it and realizing the problem was a poor latch, I worked with him to latch better and the pain did decrease.

Yesterday, was the big day. The ENT doctor quickly agreed that we needed to clip his tongue. Ben slept through the beginning when the doc was examining him and applying a topical anesthetic. He whimpered when the doctor actually made the cut, but that was more from being woken from his nap then from pain. As soon as the cut was made and they made sure there wasn't excessive bleeding (there wasn't-- just a spot of blood), I was able to nurse him. Wow! What a difference. I am still having to be patient with Ben as he re-learns his latch, but my pain is almost gone! I am so thankful I did my own research and decided to have this done.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Life Around Here

Ben is now 9 days old! I can't believe how fast the time is flying. I told Brian before Ben was born that I wanted to take the time to really appreciate every day this time. With my other kids, I got so overwhelmed with housework and what needed to be done that the first few months passed in a blur. Thankfully, God is answering my prayer and I am loving every minute of this life with our new blessing!

The transition this time has been the easiest by far. The older kids are old enough to help and even hold Ben for short periods of time while I fix a snack or go to the bathroom. Ben is a very laid back baby. He is the first of my kids to not nurse every hour! It is more like every 2 hours for him. He is also the first of my kids to really sleep somewhere other than my arms. This morning, I put him in his Moses basket (or "Jesus bed," as Maddie says) while Brian and I cleaned the upstairs. After lunch, he took a nap in it while I bathed, too. What a luxury. He sleeps in bed with us at night so I'm right there if he needs to nurse. As a result, I feel rested during the day. Maybe this will all change tomorrow when Brian goes back to work and I'm on my own, but for now...

I am happy to report that there has been NO sibling rivalry in this house. The only rivalry has been the arguing over who gets to hold Ben next!! I believe that a lot of kids have sibling rivalry and jealousy because it is expected of them. Most kids love having a new baby in the house! My kids certainly do. Gavin has already asked when we are going to have another baby. He says we need 100 babies.

Holding my 2 baby boys

Bonding with Baby Ben

"Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!"

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