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! 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!

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