Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Pregnancy Update {35 Weeks}

How far along? 
I'm about 35 weeks.  I feel like I'm entering the home stretch. I visit my midwife next week and then it's weekly visits from here on out.

She's still a girl and her name is still a secret (we think).  Alaine slipped up once when we were in a group of people and no one noticed... or at least no one let on that they noticed.


Until recently when someone asked how I was feeling, I could honestly say I felt great.  But the aches and pains of pregnancy are upon me now.  My back has a constant low ache.  Contractions are beginning to take on a uncomfortable twinge. If it's after 4 pm, I'm no good at all because those symptoms are magnified.  I'm also incredibly hungry.  My appetite has reached a new level and my biggest craving is protein.

Still, even at my most miserable, I would not trade these weeks for the wretched month of morning sickness I experienced at the beginning of pregnancy. I'm trying to savor this time.

My best time of day is morning. I feel refreshed from sleep and full of energy.  (Well, I feel as full of energy as any almost 8-months-pregnant woman could hope to feel.)  I sleep soundly most nights so aside from bathroom visits, I'm getting 7-8 hours of quality sleep.  As a result, I enjoy getting up early to run in the morning.  The sun is rising later and later, but I'm not changing my wake-up time because I enjoy the few moments of solitude while I wait to leave the house.

Maternity clothes?  
It's some kind of pregnancy miracle that I'm not tired of my maternity clothes yet!!!  It's certainly more challenging to get dressed than in the 2nd trimester, but it helps that I can still use mix of maternity clothes and "regular" clothes from my closet.  For example,  these outfits I wore to church in December...only the green t-shirt and the black t-shirt are maternity-wear.


I've never done spring cleaning, but we plan a Christmas cleaning day every year on the day before Christmas Eve.  It's a mystery to my kids that I  look forward to this day, but I love knowing the house is all clean, all at once.  This year it will be especially lovely to have help with all the work.  Brian plans to wash the floors, even the dreaded bathroom ones.   I've even got Maddie and Owen lined up to cook dinner.

Getting ready for baby...

I washed and sorted the baby clothes and put them away in drawers next to the bassinet.  I also made a phone list of all the people to whom we want to text a photo after she arrives.  I also got a haircut and ordered refills of my contact prescription. Those are not technically getting ready for the baby, but  I can cross two things off my before-baby to-do list. 

Next up is making a hospital packing list. Owen (our 3rd child) arrived early, before I even thought about packing for the hospital.  I realized I enjoyed packing in early labor because it occupied my mind between contractions.  It's been so long since I've packed a hospital bag, though, so I decided I need to be prepared ahead of time or risk leaving something important at home!   

Birth plans
I've written birth plans in the past, but my midwives know what type of birth I want this time. I did use a free download to create a simple visual birth planI love that this download can be customized. It's a flexible plan and the subtitle promises it's a format the "nurses won't scoff at."

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Snapshots From December

A Christmas gathering at church...

Celebrating our new teenager...

Owen's daily countdown to Christmas...

Extremely warm weather...

Christmas baking and more Christmas baking...

...culminating with our extra-special family pretzel treat making.

The last day of school...

Our annual visit to the Christmas lights at the beach...

Rehearsing for the Christmas Eve service at church...

Adding a silly twist to his Santa garb...

Christmas gifting...

Getting ready to host a Christmas party...

...and fellowshipping with (some of the many) cousins.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Candy Cane Pizza

We are a pizza family.  It's not unusual for us to make and eat homemade pizza on the weekends.  It's part of our family culture. Last December we began an easy tradition: make-your-own candy cane pizzas

Apparently Ben didn't remember because when we talked about what we were having for dinner on Saturday evening, he asked, "What's that?  A pizza with candy canes on it?!"

Um, no.  But here is a quick run-down of a what we really mean by candy cane pizza: 

After lunch, I make a large batch of pizza dough and let it rise on the counter under a towel all afternoon.  When we're ready to assemble, I divide the dough in 7 portions and blend up a batch of our favorite (and incredibly easy!) pizza sauce.

I roll each dough portion into the proper shape and put everything on the table. Then each individual assembles their own pizza with sauce, sliced mozzarella, parmesan, and pepperoni.  A little pizazz on the crust never hurt either. Some people prefer to leave out the pepperoni and use only sauce for the red stripe.  (Some people also prefer to leave off the cheese but that's a topic for another day.)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Photo-Filled Pregnancy Update {33 Weeks}

I reached a mothering milestone this week.  I became the mother of a teenager.  Let that sink in for a moment.  The one who made me a mother is now 13!  And in a few short weeks we'll have a newborn in the house, too.

How far along? 
I'm about 33 weeks.  At 32 weeks, I started drinking a daily cup of red raspberry leaf tea, sweetened with honey or blackstrap molasses.  I bought my tea in bulk here.  It takes a lot of tea bags to drink a cup every day for 8+ weeks!  

(To read about the benefits of red raspberry leaf to pregnant women, click here.  To read about the benefits of blackstrap molasses to anyone, click here.)


I can feel my energy waning.  After breezing through the second trimester, I am needing to slow down.  It is difficult to be unable to maintain the pace I'm used to keeping, especially at this time of year.  My body is demanding it, though, and I'm having to rest between even the smallest of tasks.  Ironically I do better when I'm moving (walking, running, pushing a grocery cart, etc.) than when I am standing still in one place (washing dishes, singing in church, etc.).

I am such a morning person and it is only magnified now.  I wake early every morning to exercise or go for a run and I feel like I can conquer the world.  By evening,  I am exhausted, my back aches, and I wonder how soon I can get some sleep. 

There was a bit of concern that I had lost weight at my two prenatal appointments last month.  (Surprising after this post, huh?)  My fundal height is still increasing, but I have lost weight instead of gaining for too long, so after my midwife ruled out the obvious causes (vomiting and fluid leakage), she suggested drinking protein shakes to give my body all the good stuff-- protein, vitamins, fat, and calories-- in one glass.  Since I am uncomfortable with protein powders or artificial ingredients, I am making my own natural protein shakes

As a precaution, I had a growth scan today. My amniotic fluid level was normal and Baby is appropriate size for her gestational age so no worries.  I had gained a couple of pounds, too.


One of my unofficial goals for the year was to run 1000 cumulative miles.  At the beginning of the year, it was an abstract idea and I had no idea if it was reasonable to achieve.  Then I got pregnant and didn't know how long I could continue to run.  By fall, though, I knew I would meet my goal.  On Saturday, I did it!

Running is more cumbersome now than it was a few months ago, but I'm hopeful that I can continue in some capacity until the baby is born.  The most challenging part is that my legs and lower abdomen start to ache by mile 3 or so, due to the extra weight I'm carrying in my belly.  My support bandhelps immensely. I kind of wonder what the neighbors think when they see me slog by.

The girls and I attended a Christmas luncheon at my cousin's house last week.  Everyone brought gifts for our new baby girl.  Alaine already feels a little territorial about her new sister so she delighted in helping unwrap the packages and discovering what was inside.

And as always...

Monday, December 7, 2015

Sugar High

There is never a shortage of treats in our house around Christmas (see this post from 2013), but I had a plan to keep it simple this year.  I'm pregnant and trying to conserve my energy, plus I knew we'd have access to sugar from many sources during the month even if we refrained from the baking ourselves.

I asked Brian and the kids their must-haves during the season and the one thing that came up multiple times was the  holiday pretzel treats we make as a family every year.   I suspect that the tradition and the memories are a bigger factor than the treat itself, though we do love to eat them, too.  (You should click on the holiday pretzel treats link if only to see how much my kids have grown!) 

Other than these special treats, the plan was to bake only as we got the urge and to keep. it. simple. 

Yesterday we attended a cookie exchange at church.  Maddie and Owen made and decorated our standard shortbread cookies recipe with no help from me.  My contribution was a double batch of molasses cookies. After bagging up what we needed for the exchange, we had a few to squirrel away in cookie tins for our own Christmas guests.  Mission accomplished.  No more Christmas baking necessary.

But we got into trouble at the cookie exchange. 
The table was overflowing with cookies to sample and all of us tried different things which inspired us to want to make a few more things at home.  That's not a bad thing necessarily, but there are only so many cookies or pieces of candy one family can eat, even a family of seven. 

Brian, who is usually more level-headed and reasonable than I am and can talk me down from my overzealous plans, encouraged me to go for it anyway.  I'm not craving or indulging in much sugar this pregnancy, but I love the challenge and adventure of baking something new. We reasoned that there are many things we can do with excess treats:
  • give away as gifts
  • share with our Christmas guests
  • take to Christmas parties
  • freeze in gallon bags (and perhaps serve when people come to visit the new baby next month)
We made a dream list of things we'd like to try in December.  Note that the majority of our list includes nuts or peanut butter and chocolate!

Will it all get made?  Probably not!  But we'll enjoy what we can...and save the rest of the list for another year.

What are your family's must-have Christmas treats?

Saturday, December 5, 2015

School in December

Our school year is divided into two semesters.  We start at the beginning of August and go through mid-December.  Then we take a long winter break to correspond with Brian's time off from work.  We resume in February and work through May. That's what we've done every year since Gavin was in kindergarten.

This year we are expecting a baby at the end of January and I'm not sure how that will change our school schedule.  I know for sure that we are not starting back to school any earlier.  Brian asked me if that was my plan and I considered working through January this year,  but I decided we all needed the rest and extended break from formal studies.  Overall, I don't fine, but when we took a few days off for Thanksgiving, I was surprised how refreshed I felt.  I think I am more mentally and physically fatigued than I realize!

We've worked hard all fall for that winter break.  We always accomplish much in the first four months of our school year (August-November) and result is a lighter spring semester.  We've now entered the snowballing period of December.  That's when we finish one subject which leaves us a few extra minutes a day to devote to another subject so we can put that one to rest and spend even more time on another subject.  I love this time of year because I feel the academics winding down for a season and I look back at all the hard work that my kids put in over the past months.

Between a birthday, holiday events, and medical appointments, we have only 11 school days from Thanksgiving until Christmas break!  I am not a naturally spontaneous person.  I don't like to take unexpected time off from school, but I sat down with my calendar in November and penciled in our days off so that surprises are minimal.  Despite the busyness, each day that we do have school is intentional and purposeful.  

Here is a peek into our December school days:

Bible consists of reading our Christmas prophecy scripture cards (2 per day), plus reviewing our Bible memory box

All of the kids will plug away at their math books until the last day.  Owen, Ben, and Alaine love math so this isn't a problem for them, but Gavin and Maddie are counting down the days.

We'll be done with the history book we're reading together on Wednesday.  That leaves the remaining days for two of the boys to tie up loose ends on their individual history assignments.  (Everyone else will be done history on Wednesday.)

For English, each child will continue grammar work until break and also do this Christmas scripture copywork 2 days per week.

Ben finished up his fall science unit on weather in November, but the three oldest kids need to finish the chapters they are reading.  Gavin is reading about crustaceans, Maddie is studying turtles, and Owen is learning about barnacles.

Gavin is taking a break from his art book until February, but the other kids will keep working on theirs until break.  Alaine and Ben are enjoying Christmas crafts and coloring in December.  Alaine, especially, is enamored with  thisbook! We also consider baking a creative art.  Maddie and Owen are loving that.  Owen plans to make fudge this week, plus we have friends coming on Friday to decorate cookies with us!

Typing continues as usual.  (Two kids hate it, one loves it.)

Alaine, Ben, Owen, and Maddie are singing in the children's choir at church so we're counting that for music.  They'll perform one song on a Sunday and then another song or two at the Christmas Eve service.  Owen is singing a duet with a friend, and Maddie is part of another duet.

What does your school schedule look like in December?  
When do you start Christmas break?
Any special plans to make learning fun this month?   

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Meaningful Countdown to Christmas

This post is full of links.  Feel free to click on any of the light blue words.  Your internet browser will open each one in a new window while you continue to browse this article.

The internet is saturated with ideas for things to do from now until Christmas.  It is so tempting to feel like we have to do all the things.  Maybe we even want to do them all!  But a meaningful Christmas season is often a simple one.  Choosing one or two activities to do with your children will cement more happy memories than pages full of plans and a stressed mom. And, yes, it's okay if they only thing you are able...or want...to do is sing a Christmas carol in the car on the way to the grocery store or read a library book before bed.  The little things matter.

{If you have time, go read this:  Don't Have to Do Holiday List}

This holiday season I am 7 months pregnant and craving quiet and simplicity.  With children ranging from 5 to 13, I want to impart the meaning of the season so we are focusing on scripture

  • We are reading through these (free) Christmas ADVENTures in Prophecy Scripture Cards.  We are not following a timeline but simply reading 1-2 a day during our Bible time on school mornings.  Each card has an Old Testament scripture and its corresponding New Testament fulfillment.

  • During my personal devotions, I am reading Love Comes Near: An Advent Bible Study.  I purchased the PDF for $5 and transferred it to my Kindle for easier access.  It comes with ideas for including the whole family in each day's reading, but I've decided not to do that this year.

  • I loved the Thanksgiving copywork that my kids did throughout the month of November so I printed out the Christmas 31 Day Scripture Writing Plan for December.  Again, we don't follow the prescribed timeline.  On days when they do writing, they chose a verse to look up and copy.  I expect each child to complete only a handful of the listed scriptures before we stop for winter break. 

 :: :: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

I wanted to quickly share 2 things that have been meaningful to us in past years.  (Remember.  You don't need to do all the things.  Pick and choose what works for your family!)

  • Several years ago, we started studying the many names of Jesus.  My friend, Allyson, has the original set of Names of Jesus {Advent} Card on her blog and you can get the second set with different names, plus a 6-card expansion pack on my blog.  My kids have memorized all the names from the cards so we review them throughout the year.  They love to challenge themselves to remember them all. We also supplement with  7 scripture flashcards from What's in the Bible?  All of the above resources and printable are free!

  • Last year, I bought the Truth in the Tinsel  {affiliate link} eBook and found it worth every penny of the $7.99 I paid!  I used it primarily with my then 4-year-old and 6-year-old. They are still talking about it this year.  I knew doing a craft a day would be beyond stressful so I also purchased the printable ornaments to color (also worth $3.99).  I printed my friend, Allyson's, FREE tracing cards  to collect all our ornaments in one place since I didn't have a place to hang 2 sets of ornaments.  (Allyson recommended using a 1" book ring.  I simply stapled the pages together into a booklet.)  With the pressure off, we did end up doing a few of the crafts, too, 

Alaine and Ben; December 2014

Monday, November 23, 2015

Running and Exercising in the 3rd Trimester

Before I talk about running in the 3rd trimester, I need to give a recap of my running during the 1st and 2nd trimester.

From the beginning, it was my goal to run as far into the pregnancy as I was able.  This involved listening to my body at every stage and not doing anything stupid with something to prove!  As early as 5-6 weeks (before anyone even knew I was pregnant), my pace started to slow. I did some online research and found out that as blood volume increases during pregnancy, the heart  begins to work harder.  The extra strain on the cardiovascular system affects exercise.  It would take a much higher level of exertion to match my pre-pregnancy results.  Once I understood this, I felt the pressure melt away.  I determined to run for pleasure and health, not speed or results.

During the first trimester, I found that running every day, or almost every day, curbed my morning sickness.  I averaged about 25 miles a week.  I continued that routine through the 2nd trimester because it felt good to run, not always while I was running but always afterward! It kept my energy level up, controlled weight gain, and inspired me to eat healthier.  I ran a 5K during the 2nd trimester, too. 

Enter the 3rd trimester...

Two weeks ago, I was out for a Saturday morning run, and all I wanted to do was quit.  My motivation was a zero (well, maybe a two since I was putting in the effort), and I started getting a sharp pulling pain on the underside of my belly.  It continued to get sharper until I had to slow to a walk.  After it eased, I started running again with renewed energy and completed the run at a faster pace that normal.  That day was a turning point, though.  I knew that my body was requiring changes for the third trimester. 

I am focusing on three areas: routine, fueling, and belly support.

Brian suggested that I run fewer days to give my body a chance to recover, mentally and physically.   I'm loosely following this Exercising Through Pregnancy chart.  On the 3 days when it recommends 20-30 minutes of cardio, I still run 4 miles (which takes me considerable longer than 30 minutes!).  I also run every Saturday instead of the prescribed exercises. The remaining 2 days, I work through the suggested exercises (which take about 10 minutes) and then do portions of  Tracy Anderson: The Pregnancy Project.  Every Sunday, I rest completely.

Fueling:  I consistently eat something before exercise every morning, even if I don't feel hungry.  I keep a batch of granola energy balls in the refrigerator. (I make mine about the size of a ping pong ball and each batch yields at least 2 dozen.) The combination of oats, peanut butter, unsweetened coconut, honey, and ground flax seed gives me a needed energy kick without over-filling my stomach.  I prefer to leave out the chocolate and double the cinnamon for best flavor. I also drink 6-8 ounces of water before exercise.  If I drink more, my bladder rebels.

Belly Support:  The under-belly pain is a result of my growing tummy and the ligaments straining to support it.  Now when I run, I wear a maternity belly support belt.  (This is the same belt that professional runner Paula Radcliffe wore while running during her pregnancy.)  The belt supports the extra weight in front and keeps my belly from shifting back and forth while I'm moving. The lift is just enough to keep my belly up off of my bladder, too.  I feel a noticeable difference on days I wear the belt, evidenced by the pain I felt when I forgot to wear it during one run last week.

With about nine weeks to go in this pregnancy, I'm listening to my body and hopeful that I can keep active until Baby is born!

Friday, November 20, 2015


I remember when Gavin was a little boy and couldn't remember which shoe went on what foot.  To help him, I printed with permanent marker on the inside of each shoe.  On the left shoe, I wrote GA and the right shoe, VIN.  Before running outside, he would place his shoes so that his name was spelled correctly, and then he would be sure his shoes were on the proper feet.

Last week he started complaining that his sneakers were too tight.  The new shoes that we bought him are adult mens', size 9!  He is not a little boy anymore.

I am not overly sentimental and I'm one who longs for the days when my kids were tiny, but I am aware of the passage of time.  Gavin will be thirteen in a few weeks so the time with him in our home is fleeting. 

You don't even know what tomorrow will bring-- what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes." James 4:14 (HCS

I am savoring the days as I watch him grow into a man.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pregnancy Update {30 Weeks}

A few ladies from my church threw me a baby shower last Sunday afternoon.  It was a fun way to celebrate our new baby girl.  The theme was Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and it was decorated in turquoise (my favorite color!), silver, and purple.   Maybe it's stereotypical to say that it was special just to be honored, but it was!  Of course, the shower was helpful, too, because we received some things we really needed.  It has been over five years since we have had a baby in our house! 

How far along? 
about 30 weeks

I have 10-ish weeks to go.  I say 10-ish  because I'm assuming our baby girl could be born any time in the month of January.  I had two babies who were born late.  One of them was a week late (though looking back at my dates, I think maybe he was only about four days late).  And then I had three babies born early.  One of them was three weeks early.  I'm anticipating that this baby will be born close to her due date (mother's intuition?), but I have no way of knowing for sure. 

We're having a girl, which evens out our boy/girl ratio.


Will you hate me if I say I feel amazing?  I told my midwife last week that I am just waiting for the third trimester yuck to kick in but it hasn't. 

Any aches and pains?

nightly heartburn I was feeling at the beginning of the second trimester has vanished, thankfully, because just the thought of antacids make me ill.  I am experiencing mild lower back pain now, usually in the evening after being on my feet all day.  If I am ultra-conscious of my posture (shoulders back, bottom tucked, pelvis tilted) and avoid swaying when I walk, I can keep the achy back in check right now.  All bets are off as the pregnancy progresses.


I have had a couple nights of mild insomnia.  I fall asleep with no problem and then wake in the night, unable to fall back asleep.  If I lie there long enough, I eventually drift off, but regardless of how much (or little) sleep I get, I am awake with the sun (or sometimes before).  That's why Saturday morning was so surprising.  I slept until 8:30 am, the longest I've stayed in bed in months!

She is still most active when I settle down for the evening and am not lulling her to sleep.  Over the past few weeks, she has started jabbing me with an elbow or knee hard enough that I gasp with surprise. 

Food cravings:

Last week I ate kale almost every day with a splash of apple cider vinegar.  My other go-to snack is oatmeal with a spoonful of natural peanut butter and a few dark chocolate chips. 

I'm visiting my midwife every other week now.  It's a busy time of year to have another thing to add to my schedule, but it means the pregnancy is in the home stretch!

The short story is that I am still running but that I've had to modify my routine for the third trimester.  I'll save the long story for a separate post early next week. {Update: Running and Exercise in the 3rd Trimester}

Getting Ready For Baby:
I set up a online baby registry for myself as a make-shift list of things I need (or want).  As we are given things or purchase them, I mark the items off the list.  A bit unconventional but it works for me.

I had a scary episode around 28.5 weeks.  Brian was home and we were busy doing projects all day.  In the late afternoon, I noticed that I was having Braxton Hicks contractions.  That's not entirely abnormal, but when I had three or four in a fifteen minute window, Brian told me to go sit down for awhile.  I had just made myself a cup of hot chocolate so I drank that while reading on the couch.  I casually timed my contractions and saw they were coming three minutes apart.  They were not painful, but they were uncomfortable and the regularity was alarming. One of the kids brought me a full glass of water and I drank that.  It took close to an hour, but the contraction eventually slowed and then stopped altogether.

Labor signs:  
Besides those worrisome contractions, I found out at my appointment last week that Baby is already head down.  That makes things seem so real... and close!  Labor needs to hold off at least seven more weeks, though.

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