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 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.

Monday, November 16, 2015

My Highly Sensitive Child... 7 Years Later

Way back when I started my blog, I shared a little about life as a mom of a high-needs, highly sensitive child.  Owen has been sensitive to smells, colors, sounds, and other stimuli since birth.  For a bit of background, read this article that I shared on 5 Minutes for Mom in 2008.  I reworked that article for my own blog in 2010. You can read that version with updates here.  

One of the hardest parts of parenting a child with sensitivities is feeding them well.  Because Owen had a strong gag reflex, making him eat vegetables or meat or things with color was not simply a matter of insisting that he swallow what was on his plate. His pickiness was not a battle of wills (though it sometimes came down to that) or even a matter of preferences, but eating engaged all five of his highly-trained senses.  Owen was the child who could identify what we were having for dinner by what he could smell from his bedroom.  I'll never forget the day he asked if we were having peas because he could smell them.  Who knew peas had a distinctive smell?  The color of his food and they way it felt in his mouth affected whether he wanted to eat it.  (I wrote about our philosophy for feeding picky eaters here.)

Other people often took Owen's fear of crowds and people personally.  They assumed that if he wouldn't talk to them, he didn't like them.  They didn't realize that he did the same things with people he knew and loved.  Being in a group was an external stimuli in which he needed help to adapt.  We worked extensively with him on learning to make eye contact and answer when someone spoke to him, but those were difficult issues for him to overcome. (I have other children who are shy, but this went beyond shy.)

a photo from my sister's birthday 6 years ago:
All the kids posed except for Owen who could not look at the camera.

Seven years have passed since that original article from 2008. So how does life look with a highly-sensitive 9-year old?

Owen has learned to adapt to his own needs.  He cuts the tags out of his own shirts, leaves the room when I vacuum, and sleeps all night long without getting up.

He still feels things deeply.  He can be happy one minute and down in the dumps the next.  He has high highs and low lows.  He can be in a group setting, though, or attend a party, without a breakdown.  If he knows all the details like who is going to be there, what he'll be eating, and how long it will last, he thrives. 

Food can still be challenging, but he has made epic strides.  The boy who once liked only white or tan items (potatoes, bread, noodles, etc.) eats a variety of foods.  He shocked me last week when he said, "I LOVE carrots."  Yes, that's coming from the boy who ate no vegetable by choice until he was seven!  He takes far longer than the rest of us to eat his dinner, often because he is chewing slowly and picking specks (pepper or perceived "burned" areas) off of his meat.  (We insist it be done discreetly.)  He is open to trying new foods now, too.  He discovered  a few months that he likes coconut.

We eat dinner at church many Wednesday nights.  There is always a main dish and an alternate "kid-friendly" option.  More often than not, Owen chooses the adult main dish over nuggets or macaroni which would have been unheard of even a year ago.  He's sampled chili, alfredo sauce, and pork with no coaxing from me.  He doesn't  like everything he samples, but just the fact that he wants to try it is improvement.

Owen at age 9, gladly smiling and posing for the camera

Parenting Owen can offer challenges, but patience and time has proven to be just what he needed to become the vibrant boy that he is today.

By the way, he's not afraid of ceiling fans or flamingos (or much of anything) anymore either!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Pickles and Ice Cream and Pancakes

I've never been a fan of pickles, and ice cream is only mildly tempting right now, but I have had another pregnancy craving this week: pancakes. I've resisted for two reasons.  The first is that even though it turned out I do not have gestationsl diabetes, I still try to limit my simple carbs.  The second is that I wake up hungry so protein or complex carbs best keep me satiated through the morning.

My go-to breakfasts consist of things like overnight oats with whole milk Greek yogurt, crockpot steel cut oatmeal with chia seeds, hard boiled eggs, or these delicious sweet potato banana muffins that my friend, Allyson, gave me over the weekend.   So white flour with butter and maple syrup don't often make the cut.

Lest you think I deprive myself, Maddie and I made a s'mores cheesecake yesterday, complete with white sugar, butter, hot fudge sauce, and marshmallows.  We took it to share at our fellowship dinner at church this evening because the two of us are the only ones at our house who eat cheesecake, and we couldn't eat that much cheesecake alone if we tried!  It was divine (and that is not too strong a word).

Back to my pancake craving...when I saw a recipe for these cottage pancakes that were high in protein and low in carbs, I knew I had my answer.  The ingredient list was short and simple and things I often have on hand.

Except I didn't.

I was out of cottage cheese.

Enter Brian.  Yesterday he had a rain day from work and when he decided to head out to run a few errands, I asked if he would mind going to the grocery store to pick up only one thing.  Understanding my pregnant cravings (as well as a man can!), he obliged. 

While the cheesecake was cooling on the counter, I made a full batch of these.  I did all of my mixing in the blender. 

One batch of batter made 16 pancakes.  Some went into the refrigerator for my breakfasts today and tomorrow.  The rest I put in the freezer in individual portions.

This morning I enjoyed a delicious...and protein-packed...pancake breakfast!

So help a pregnant woman out: do you have a breakfast recipe that is high on protein or complex carbs? Share in the comments!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Pride Goes Before the Fall

Two weeks ago I went to my midwife for a routine prenatal appointment and to do my 1-hour glucose screening.  I wasn't worried at all because I knew I was eating well and exercising regularly.  I haven't had a soda in almost 3 years and I don't crave sugar so my indulgences in sweets are intentional.  I eat kale as a snack, much to my family's amusement and I limit my bread intake, aside from homemade sourdough toast for breakfast 2-3 mornings a week. 

(If you want to go down a rabbit trail, read this article on  the best breads for a low glycemic index or this one about sourdough bread and blood sugarOn the glycemic index, sourdough bread is a 54 compared to 71 for non-sourdough white bread, making sourdough bread a low GI bread.) 

So I was doing it
all "right" and I assumed I would breeze through the screening!  But pride goes before the fall.

Pride aside for this photo of me post-run: sweaty with dirty hair and no make-up

Last Friday morning, I got the call that I had "failed" the 1-hour screening.  While all pregnant women develop a degree of insulin resistance due to hormones, an hour after ingesting the glucose solution, my blood sugar should have fallen to 135 or below, yet mine sat at 143. 

In all my angst and stewing and fretting after the phone call, I settled on two things.  The first was medical. Despite preconceived ideas that gestational diabetes is fully preventable, there are risk factors for developing the condition and I had several of them:

  • Age greater than 25. Yes, I crossed that line a decade ago.
  • Previous baby over 9 pounds.  Two of my five kids weighed over 9 pounds at birth. 
  • Family or personal health history. I did not have pre-diabetes.  My blood sugar in pre-pregnancy is well within normal range, but my dad suffers from Type 2 diabetes. 

Gestational diabetes is hormonally charged and can affect the fit and the unfit alike.  Yes, the sedentary woman who eats a poor diet increases her chances of developing this condition, but any woman can have gestational diabetes.  

(For more reading on this topic, I found an excellent and informative article about the condition: The Truth About Gestational Diabetes {and Why It's Not Your Fault! )

The second realization was that despite my striving to eat well and exercise frequently, I was not in control of my health.  God knew my situation.  He had a reason and knew the cause.

Plus, the fact remained that the glucose screening is just that...a screening.  It is used to weed out low-risk mothers-to-be and find the smaller sub-set of women who could possibly have gestational diabetes.  That's where the 3-hour glucose tolerance test comes in.

28.5 weeks
My 3-hour test was scheduled for a Wednesday, 1 week after my 1-hour screening.  In the days and hours leading up to the test, I did a few things to help my body prepare to handle the influx of glucose that would be entering my system.  First, I upped my water intake.  (With the cooler weather, I have slowly and unintentionally started drinking less water.)  Before fasting 8-12 hours before the test, I made my last meals heavy on protein and vegetables instead of carbs. I made sure to include fiber because fiber helps prevent blood sugar spikes. I also prayed that I would be calm and not worry. (Stress causes blood sugar levels to go up as your body "prepares for action.")

The morning of the test I woke up hungry. I felt shaky and wondered how I would feel after a few more hours without breakfast. When I got in the car to drive to my appointment, I started guzzling water and tricked my stomach into thinking it was full. For the rest of the morning, I felt fine.  No nausea, no shakiness, no hunger pangs.

I had four blood draws: one when I arrived before drinking the glucola (100g sugar in a 10 oz. solution!) and then one at the end of each hour for three hours.  I made the best of my time alone.   I read a book, thumbed through magazines, and texted my husband at work with whatever was on my mind.  When the phlebotomist released me to go home, she said, "Now go get something to eat!"

I honestly felt as though I could drive the 45 minutes home before grabbing lunch, but I thought it wise to eat right away and not wait for yucky symptoms to catch up to me.  I bought a fiesta chicken wrap, filled with grilled chicken, beans, tomato, and a chili sauce (which satisfied my near-constant cravings protein and spicy foods).  The second I started eating, I realized I had been suppressing my hunger!

The ending of my story is that 48 hours later, my results came back normal.  No concerns. Nothing to worry about.  No gestational diabetes. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

6 Tips For Taking a Meal to a New Mom

These ideas apply to any situation when you bring food to someone in need: a family in the midst of a move, an individual post-surgery, someone who has recently lost a loved one...

All photos are mine, but the pale blue links lead to the original recipes.

1: Don't assume you have to bring the meal at dinner time.  Instead of arriving when everyone is already hungry, it might be more suitable to come right after nap-time or even in the morning. 

2: If you are not the only one bringing a meal, consider contributing breakfast or lunch items instead.  Any mealtime can be crazy time, but everyone still needs to eat.  Muffins, hard boiled eggs, cheese sticks, pancakes, fruit, soup, sandwiches-- great choices to help make the whole day run smoothly. 

3: Bring a pack of paper or foam plates along with your food items.  Even the environmentally-conscious mom or the mom with a dishwasher, appreciates an easy meal clean-up during a time of stress or transition.

4: Deliver the meal in disposable containers or containers you don't need to be returned. You can purchase foil pans for less than $1 a piece, perfect for baking casseroles or cakes, and also large enough to transport slices of bread or a batch of muffins.  I recently picked up 2 large plastic containers at Walmart, also $1 per container, each large enough to hold the contents of an entire pot of soup.  I don't care if I see the containers again...and I still have my soup pot available for my own use!

5:  Instead of a whole cake or an entire batch of cookies, bring a smaller portion of dessert.  This is especially relevant if you are not the only person delivering a meal.  While dinner leftovers can be reheated the next day, dessert leftovers sometimes spoil before they can all be eaten. And of course, if you deliver only part of the dessert you made, your own family can enjoy the surplus which is an added bonus!

6: If you don't like that idea, consider a dessert that doubles as breakfast, like muffins or a coffee cake.

Bonus tip: Get your kids involved!  My kids love being involved, it helps to share the workload, plus it teaches servant-hood at an early age.

Do you have any tips for bringing a meal to a new mom? 
Has anyone ever delivered a meal to you?

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