Sunday, February 3, 2013

Emmeline's Birth Story

This is the story of how Emmeline came to join us on this side of the womb. Many people have asked us why we chose to have her at home rather than at the hospital, so I’ll address that as well. 

When we found out we were pregnant back in March, I panicked a little because we had  recently switched insurance and didn’t have any maternity coverage. I would never encourage someone to have a home birth just because its cheaper, but it was really the best option for us. I had been interested in doing a home birth for quite a while, and I had done my research on it. I particularly love the documentary “The Business of Being Born,” which can be streamed on Netflix right now if you’re interested in learning about the history of obstetric care in America! 

So anyway, we hired a midwife who had excellent birth statistics, more than a decade of experience, and with whom we felt comfortable.

I was due December 28, and was really hoping to not go over this time (if you’ll remember, Asher came 9 days past his edd- I didn’t care to relive that experience!). For whatever reason, I really felt that this little girl was going to come early. I had gained a substantial amount of weight (about 55 lbs)- more than with either of the other 2. I had regular Braxton Hicks contractions since around 25 weeks, and I just felt “ready.” I woke around 2am on the morning of the 23rd with a contraction, but I fell back asleep. This happened a few times until 4am, and then I couldn’t sleep anymore. They weren’t regular- probably 30-40 minutes apart, and ended up falling back asleep from about 6-8am. I sent Derek to church with the kids- which I felt kind of guilty about. The contractions still weren’t regular at all, but when they came they HURT! I wasn’t convinced I was in labor at all, which is why I felt guilty about not going to church with them. But I rationalized that the contractions hurt enough there was no way I wanted to try to sit through them. 

I had been working on sewing some cute bibs and burp cloths to keep me busy the last couple days, so I worked on those all morning. Whenever I had a contraction (still 20-30 minutes apart), I would just stand up and lean over the table through them. I still didn’t know what to make of them since they weren’t getting more regular, until my body decided to start “cleaning itself out,” if you know what I mean. I texted Derek excitedly- “Woohoo, diarrhea! I might actually be in labor!” Haha. 

Once he got home and saw that I was still having contractions, he told me he wanted to set up the birthing tub. I tried to talk him out of it because I didn’t think I was actually in labor and I didn’t want it set up for days beforehand. He, however, made the executive decision and started setting it up. I think he remembered how fast Asher’s birth went and didn’t want to wait unitl it was too late! So the kids and I sat on the bed in the playroom and watched him set it up and start to fill it (you know, “just in case!” :) Silly Derek, who knows me better than I know myself!. I texted my midwife at this point- “may be baby day, I’ll let you know” (I was still so casual at this point!). She called me immediately and wanted to know details. She didn’t seem too convinced it was “real” labor until I told her I’d been having diarrhea (sorry- TMI), at which point she got excited and said she would come into town and stay nearby until things picked up. We also called my mom and told her she’d probably want to head up our way soon. 

We ate lunch and I put Asher down for his nap. At one point during a contraction I was leaning over the kitchen counter and I told Derek, “Ugh! I always forget how much this sucks! And it’s only going to get worse!” He laughed at me! 

I continued to sew while Annabel watched a movie downstairs and Derek watched the Colts game upstairs. One of the best parts of laboring at home? Being able to eat! I snacked on oatmeal cookies all afternoon, which seemed heavenly at the time. Before Asher woke up, I asked Annabel if she wanted to go for a walk. I was hoping to get the contractions to pick up a little. So we bundled up and went out. I started timing contractions and they were coming regularly 6 minutes apart and were about 1.5 minutes long. We walked several blocks and I just had to lean on a tree or people’s banisters during the contractions. I’m sure I looked funny if anyone was watching! I called my midwife to tell her they were picking up and she told me to call her again either when they were 4-5 minutes apart or getting more intense in nature. She also said that this likely wouldn’t happen until the kids were out of the house. This was about 2 in the afternoon. I called my mom and she said she would be at our house around 4. 

Once we got home Asher was up from his nap. The kids were acting pretty obnoxious and I was getting very aggravated with them. At one point I was in the middle of a contraction and Asher got in my face and growled really loud- I almost threw him across the room! (I didn’t- but I think I pushed him out of the way and yelled at him!) Since being back in the house, my contractions slowed back down to every 10-15 minutes again. Derek suggested that he take them upstairs to watch the football game and give me some space. I thought that was an excellent idea. ;) Once they were out of my hair I started sewing again and the contractions picked up again. Then I had one contraction around 3:30 that lasted almost 10 minutes and was flippin’ intense. I yelled up to Derek to call our midwife to come. After that contraction I basically sat on my knees with the top half of my body draped over the couch and waited for my midwife and my mom to get there. They both pulled up at exactly 4:05 and there was a flurry of activity. The kids were excited to see their grammy and their Uncle Gareth, my midwife started setting up her stuff in the playroom, and Derek was joking and laughing with my mom and trying to help the midwife at the same time. My mom left quickly with the kids- thankfully. I was done being casual and told Derek that I had a feeling the baby would be here before 6:00. The midwife said she was betting on 8:00. 

She checked the temperature of the water- it was only 90 degrees. She told Derek it needed to be about 100 degrees to be comfortable for me, so they had to pump some of the water out. While they were doing this, my contractions really picked up in regularity and intensity. And the midwife was right- this happened within minutes of the children leaving! She helped me get comfortable on the bed and I asked Derek to find my iPod and headphones. At this point I was in so much pain and I was feeling very overwhelmed that I started crying. The midwife didn’t say anything, and I wondered how many women cry while they are in labor. :) Our hot water heater wasn’t able to keep up, and Derek was boiling water on the stove to try and get the tub heated up as quickly as possible. I was able to get in (finally!) about 4:30 or 4:45. It was SUCH a relief. It felt so amazing and comforting. 

I should mention that a few days prior I put up Christmas lights around the top of the room and set up the iPod docking station. So the room now was dark except for the Christmas lights and a small lamp, and we had my labor playlist playing. It was so cozy and just the way I had envisioned it. For the next 45 minutes or so I just sat in the tub and had contractions! Our midwife was sitting off to the side knitting on a sock, and Derek was sitting on the bed just staring at me- haha! At one point I apologized to him- “gosh, I’m sorry this is so boring!” And he laughed and said it was okay. Derek says they were closer than this, but to me it felt like the contractions were still 4-5 minutes apart. They never really got super close together and were never on top of each other like they were during Asher’s birth. I think I still somewhat doubted that I was in actual *labor* and was thinking how silly I was going to feel when it turned out to not be the real thing. 

The contractions took on a pattern of sorts- I would have one that was super strong and painful- I’d have to hold on to the edge of the tub and really breathe through them. Then a few minutes later I’d have a mild one that was much easier to handle. The midwife said this was really normal. I was thankful for both the milder contractions and the space between them that I could talk and joke with Derek and rest. All of a sudden I felt the urge to push! I feel like I got all wide-eyed and panicky- like, “oh my gosh! I’m really going to have this baby- right NOW! I’m not reeeeeaaaady for this!” The midwife urged me to try and breathe through as many more contractions as I could before pushing. The next few contractions really SUCKED! I feel like I had been a pretty good sport up until this point, but now it was time to express to everyone how much having a baby really sucks. Considering my "expressions" include very liberal and creative cursing, I’m sure Derek was thankful this phase of labor did NOT last long!

I had about 2 contractions that I consciously tried not to push- but at the end of them my breath would catch because my body would push involuntarily. After these 2 I remember just nodding at Derek- my way of signaling to him that it was time. He nodded back to me and moved from the bed to the edge of the tub. He asked if I wanted him to try and rub my back- I think I about bit his head off! The next contraction came and pushing was not an optional. I pushed as hard as I could and I felt her move down. I felt but I couldn’t feel her head yet. My midwife urged me to get up on my knees so the baby would have room to be born. I pushed again and I could feel her head. Everything felt like it on fire and I remember thinking, “I am never, EVER going to do this again!” One more push and her head slipped out! I was completely astonished, though I’m not sure why. Maybe because it seemed to happen so fast, or maybe because giving birth is always incredible, no matter how many times you’ve done it. My midwife urged me to push the rest of her out and get her out of the water. So I waited a few seconds for another contraction, then she slipped easily into my hands. I pulled her up out of the water and held her against me. The feeling of relief when there is no longer a baby inside of you is so, so amazing. It is the best feeling in the world- nothing else I’ve ever experienced compares to it. All the pain and hard work you just did seems worth it and you are filled with joy and elation. I know I kept saying over and over, “She’s OUT! Thank you, God! Thank you, baby, for being out of me!” Haha! She was born at 5:34pm. 

I could tell right away she was smaller than my other two- and I was right. She was 6 lbs and 14oz- a full pound small than the others. She was also only 19" long, 2 inches shorter than the other two. 

Once Emmeline was out of the water, she was awake and alert. She never cried, she just kept looking around. I kept asking the midwife, “is she okay?!” and Derek asked why she wasn’t crying. She just said that often babies who are born in the water don’t cry right away. She let me hold her for a few minutes and then suggested that we try to get her to cry. I’m not sure what she did, but the baby let out a wail! I held her in the water until her cord stopped pulsing and then we got out of the tub to deliver the placenta. 

Around 6:30 my mom brought the kids in to see her. They were so excited and my mom couldn’t believe she was here already! My mom stayed at a hotel with the kids that night and we had a nice little “babymoon” with our new little sweetie. Derek and the midwife emptied the pool and cleaned everything up. She commented that she couldn’t believe how clean and easy this birth was. I felt great afterwards and never was in any pain, besides the “after pains” that come with nursing. Those are never any fun. 

Some people have asked questions about having a home birth, so I’ll attempt to answer a few that have been asked of me.

“What about the mess?”
-We had bought 2 shower curtains to contain the mess. One went on the floor outside the tub (where I delivered the placenta) and the second went on the bed where I first sat after the birth. We threw the one on the floor away ;) but the one on the bed was just fine and now I have an extra shower curtain! The tub was double lined with disposable liners, so after it was drained those got pitched, too. There were two paper grocery sacks full of birth-related trash and that was all the “mess” there was. We used about 10 towels and 3 receiving blankets to dry and clean me and the baby afterwards. Derek did all the laundry that night and by the time the midwife left about 2 hours after the birth you couldn’t tell anything had ever happened! 

“Didn’t you miss the ‘vacation’ of being in the hospital?”
-I think there’s something to be said about having someone wait on you for two full days after having a baby. It is nice. But between Derek and my mom, I felt well taken care of and “waited on.” What I didn’t miss was being woken up by nurses every 4 hours, being chastised for falling asleep while nursing, hard tile floors, hospital food, hospital germs, harsh lighting, an uncomfortable bed, other babies crying and an endless stream of people coming in my room. Oh, and not to mention we got to avoid being in the hospital on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!  

“Is it difficult getting a birth certificate?”
-I was worried about the paperwork; we had heard some horror stories about different counties’ processes. Our county, however, was incredibly efficient and new exactly what they were doing. We had to fill out a 5-6 page questionnaire about the birth, and it took about 30 minutes for her to put everything in the computer. We got her birth certificate that day and a social security card about  a week later. 

“What about all the newborn tests they do in the hospital?”
-We weren’t worried about the Vitamin K or Hepatitis B shots, or the eye drops, since we had refused those even when we  delivered in hospitals. Our midwife did the newborn screen (for genetic deficiencies such as cystic fibrosis, maple syrup disease and sausage fingers) that is required by the state and our pediatrician completed the hearing test. 

"Would you do it again?"
-Well, technically NO, because I am DONE having babies! But I loved what Derek said when I asked him how he thought it went… “I wish we would have done all 3 that way!”  He has said over and over again how it was our best birth experience and how peaceful and calm it was. So yes, if (knock on wood) I ever find myself needing to give birth again, I would do it at home if possible. 

“Do people look at you like you have two heads and three nipples when you tell them you had your baby at home?”

"How is natural childbirth different than having an epidural?"
-I had an epi with my first labor. Obviously, it is nice because you don't feel the pain of the contractions and I can definitely appreciate that. Contrary to some beliefs, women who give birth naturally don't have a super-high pain tolerance or love being in pain. I'm the first one to say that it really, really sucks and I really hope to never have to do it again. But with that being said, I think giving birth naturally is *easier* because of this reason- when you can feel your contractions, especially when it is time to push, you know exactly when and how hard to push. There is no doctor staring at a monitor saying, "Okay, here's a contraction- PUSH!" And I think when there is an epidural, the woman ends up pushing harder than she actually needs to- which leads to more tearing and other unsavory things. That's just my own theory based on my own experience, but it makes sense, too. Not only that, but when there's no epidural and you can move around, gravity is able to do a lot more of the work for you. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that laying flat on your back is not an optimal position for pushing out a baby, right?!

Anyway, that's our story, and I'm sticking to it. If you have any other questions, please ask me! I obviously have no problem baring all the gory details, haha! 


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Lazy Mom's Guide to Being a Supermom

              Something interesting happened at our recent Thanksgiving family get-together. Actually, let me back up a little. A few weeks ago, my cousin Meg had a baby. My mom called me and asked if she could pay me to make a baby gift for her. I suggested a baby quilt- an easy design- and we agreed on it. I was planning on making a baby quilt for my own upcoming baby, so I figured it’s not much more work to cut out squares for 2 quilts than one, right? Haha!  So anyway, that’s what I did, and that brings us back to Thanksgiving.

                After receiving the quilt, my cousin was talking to me about it and she casually asked, “How do you do it all? You must be one of those supermoms!” To which I’m pretty sure I gave her one of my famous cocked-head quizzical expressions that I inherited from my mom… what in the world are you talking about?! I had to laugh. “Supermom” is so far from how I think of myself- in fact, I’m sure you can relate, but I’m probably much harder on myself than I need to be. But after thinking about it for a while, I thought I’d share The Lazy Mom’s Guide to Being a Supermom!

                So in case you didn’t know me, here are some things that might trick you into believing I’m a supermom:

1)      I have two, soon-to-be-three, preschoolers. All of them are super-cute, well-dressed and groomed, and typically well-behaved. And smart!

2)      I work part time. At least for a few more weeks.

3)      I coordinate our local MOPS group (though really, not very well. But that’s a different post!).

4)      I’m crafty. I’m a glue-gun wielding, sewing machine operating, knitting fanatic. We even have a spinning wheel in our bedroom, how many people can say that? :-P

5)      We eat real food, made from real ingredients.

So what’s the secret to doing it all?!? Keep reading, dear friend, and I’ll provide you with some fantastic shortcuts and easy-way-outs.

1)      Don’t clean your house. Oh, I try to keep it to the standard of “clean enough so no one gets sick,” which generally entails no food lying around, no rodents in the house, bathroom hardware disinfected, and no visible mold or mildew. But the rest- nope. If you drop by our house unannounced you will see toys on the floor, fingerprints on the windows, dishes in the sink and probably a pile or two of laundry that needs folded (which, if you drop by unannounced, feel free to fold some of that laundry!)

2)      Have enough clothes for yourself and your kids that you only have to do laundry every 3-4 weeks. You think I’m kidding? Take another look at that giant pile of laundry over there- and then start folding!

3)      Teach your kids to do things for themselves. Both of my kids can get their own snacks, use the bathroom themselves, dress themselves, etc. Sure, it may not be perfect- but we’re not aiming for perfection here. It also helps that my daughter seems to have a natural eye for what matches and looks good together, and she helps her little brother get dressed.

4)      Rely heavily on other’s natural abilities and willingness to help. Like my husband, for instance… he makes dinner every night. He’s really good at it and it gives me an extra hour or two in the evenings to devote to supermom-dome (i.e. my sewing machine). And my MOPS steering team- if it weren’t for all of them, our MOPS group would go to pot pretty quickly.

5)      Don’t actually bathe your kids. Oh sure, I stick them in the bathtub almost every night. But real soap and shampoo… that’s a once-a-week indulgence. And the amazing thing is… they never look dirty! Water actually does a really great job of getting kids clean. Then I can devote that extra 10 minutes a night I would spend washing them to another row or two on my current knitting project.

6)      Make lists for everything. Then lose the list in the chaos of paper that’s taking over the dining room table. Try to remember what’s on the list, then realize you weren’t going to get it all done anyway and forget about it. Pick up your knitting project instead.

7)      Take an antidepressant. It curbs that I’m always going crazy! feeling that comes with being a supermom.

       Okay, obviously I realize that this list is totally lame. I’m not a supermom in the least. I’m late to everything, my house is a wreck, half of the time I feel like I’m losing my mind and I half-ass all my commitments. But I do love my kids, I try to provide a rich learning environment for them, and I make pretty things. I’m okay with that. The true secret is making time for the things you enjoy, which is really no secret at all. We all do it. I am creative because it makes me happy and it breathes life into my soul.

        Wait, did I tell you about my cousin Meg? She’s an amazing artist and a beautiful, patient, and caring mama to two preschoolers, one of which is a newborn with special health needs. She lives across the world from her family- in Hungary- to minister to Hungarian people. She is raising her kids to be bilingual, and is bilingual herself. Not something I could do… but I’m guessing she does it because it makes her happy and it breathes life into her soul. To me, she’s a supermom.

        There are so many incredible women I see taking care of their homes and families- and so much better than I- while still taking time for themselves and their passions. It always inspires me. It was kind of amazing to think that I might actually stir up that kind of inspiration in another person. *NOT* that I plan to think too much about it... afterall, I just have to remember how late I was to work this morning, or how I had to eat easy-mac because I haven't been to the grocery store in 3 weeks... to bring me back down to earth. ;)

      I would encourage you, though- If there is a woman in your life that you see doing a good (or good enough) job at whatever it is she does... tell her. Tell her you admire her and ask her how she "does it all." It will make her day! We all need to feel like a supermom every now and then. As for me... I'm just going to pretend that this maternity shirt is a cape and wear my label proudly!


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Little People.


I know it's been forever since I've blogged. I wish I felt more motivated to keep up with it, but I just don't right now. And I know that's okay.

I've had an idea of a post running through my head lately, so I'll try it now. I've been thinking about how different my kids are from each other, and I thought it would be fun to talk about it here. A nice, light-hearted post, if you will.

Annabel, my dear firstborn, all of 5 years old, is so  much like me in many ways. Quite possibly an INFP (Myers-Briggs Personality Type if you're unfamiliar) just like her mama, which is summarized as thus:

"Idealistic, loyal to their values and to people who are important to them. Want an external life that is congruent with their values. Curious, quick to see possibilities, can be catalysts for implementing ideas. Seek to understand people and to help them fulfill their potential. Adaptable, flexible, and accepting unless a value is threatened."

My Annabel, sensitive and thoughtful, flexible and easy-going, full of big ideas and plans. She LOVES to make friends, is loyal to the friends she's made- even if she hasn't seen them in a very long time. My girl loves to read, and can often memorize a book after reading it 2 or 3 times. She loves any kind of story about kids or animals, and some of her more recent favorites are Winnie the Pooh (classic stories), Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little. She is full of questions about the bigger picture of life- relationships, people who are hurting, her future, her body, rules of the house, of science and of nature, and of course God, heaven and religion in general.

Annabel likes to play outside with her dog, taking him on walks through the yard and trying to get him to eat vegetables out of the garden. She also loves to ride her bike up and down the sidewalk. But really, if I'm honest, she is much more of an "indoor" girl. She can sit on the couch for hours reading or watching a movie, or drawing in her journal. She LOVES to spend time with adults- she enjoys the conversation and often interrupts to ask for details of what we're talking about. :)

She is truly my "easy" child. She understands what is expected of her and (generally) does it without a fight. She understands natural consequences. She appreciates (and demands!) respect, and her biggests upsets are when she feels she's been treated unfairly or has been misunderstood. She fights HARD for justice in her little world. However, she's a people-pleaser, and is often the first to back down in a fight, just to keep the peace.

My dear girl connects with physical touch, and just melts into you if you let her. She loves to snuggle up and be read to, and she wants to hold hands all the time. Her need for physical affection can be too much for me at times, and I really have to remind myself that this is her primary love language right now.

Now on to Asher. :) Asher is so different from me, so it's a little harder for me to describe him. I see a lot more of Derek in him... which makes me wonder what Derek was like as a little kid. I also feel like I see a little of my dad in him as well, and maybe some Gareth too. Words that come to mind when I think of Asher are wild, goofy, crazy, loud, naked, determined, stubborn, and mischevious.

He is a super funny little guy. His facial expressions are priceless, whether he is rolling his eyes at something or giving his "goofy" look... he always makes me laugh. He already makes jokes about things, and loves to "trick" people. He is as extroverted and out going as a kid can be. He loves going places where there will be lots of people and noise- so large-group worship at church, preschool, and the children's museum are some of his favorite places. Both kids fight over who gets to go to the store with me or Derek, but while for Annabel it's because she just adores the one-on-one quality time, Asher thrives on just getting out of the house and seeing new places and faces.

We call Asher our "big feeling" kid. None of his emotions are mildly expressed- he's either wildly excited, enthralled, heartbroken, or furious. Sometimes I feel like Annabel and I both tiptoe around him, because we're both the type that don't really enjoy big confrontations or displays of emotion, but luckily Derek seems better suited to understand and meet him at his emotional level. That's not saying that Derek handles his fits very well, ;) but he seems to understand better what it's like to feel that strongly.

I hate using terms like "stubborn" or "strong-willed," because I feel like they have such a negative connotation in today's society (thank you, James Dobson!). But truly, I have never met a child with a stronger resolve or more determined personality than my son. When he sets his mind to something he wants, Lord help us if he doesn't get it. This is probably one of the areas in which he butt heads the most- and I have such a difficult time finding the balance between nurturing his independence and then just feeling like I'm "giving in." Obviously, he has to learn the tough lesson that we can't always get what we want in life, but then I also feel that there are so many opportunities life gives us to learn this without me forcing it on him. If there is anything Asher is teaching me, it is that being a (good) parent requires humbling myself and a constant reevaluation of my own heart and motives.

One thing that sets Asher apart from everyone else in our family is that he is always naked. :) Lord knows I try to keep clothes on this child, but it is just futile. We compromise and I tell him he needs to wear at least underwear- and he seems okay with this (most of the time!).

Asher is always active, always moving. His favorite games are rolling cars and tractors and making a huge CRASH! He also climbs and jumps from any surface he can get to- his high chair, the back of the couch, the top of the porch. His energy is boundless. He requires very little sleep and has a really hard time falling asleep. Lately, though, he's been sleeping all night (most nights), which has been a HUGE blessing to me. One thing I love about Asher is that even though he seems so "boy" in so many ways, he really loves playing with baby dolls and dress up clothes, and always wants his hair in pig tails or his fingernails painted. Anything that has to do with pretending!

Unlike his sister, he's not a huge physical touch guy. A few months ago he decided he hated kisses of any kind. If I kiss him, he says "blech!" and wipes it off. If I ask him really nicely he might kiss me on the cheek, but I am not allowed to kiss him at all. The most physical touch he asks for is to hold my hand while he falls asleep at night. Unless, of course, that physical touch involves wrestling, tickling or rough-housing in any way, then he's all over it. ;-)

One thing that makes Asher "easier" than his sister is that he will eat anything! He is not picky in the least, and his appetite is astonishing. He is SO SKINNY, yet he just eats and eats. The only thing he decidedly does NOT like is nuts of any kind. He also lets me dress him in anything I want, which is a nice change from his sister! Little boy clothes are just. so. cute. - Plaid button ups, sweater vests, strategically-ripped jeans... :swoon:

I'm not sure what Asher's primary love language is, but he seems to connect best when we're playing some kind of game- hide and seek or crashing cars together. Would that be quality time? He also loves to be read to, as long as the books are short and silly. :)

Anyway, that's all I've got for now, thanks for reading along! I'll try to update again soon!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Birthdays, Swimming, and Zucchini Recipes!

Happy July! We have been having such a great summer so far, with lots of swimming and playing outside! We had Asher's pirate birthday party a few weeks ago and it was so much fun, complete with a treasure hunt and walking the plank! But the best part of summer is the complete lack of anything pressing... no early mornings, no lunch boxes to pack or permission slips to sign.... just us and endless possibilities. :)

Another fun thing this summer, Asher has basically potty trained himself (with a little help from sissy :)! I couldn't believe it! I thought he might be more difficult, but I should have known better. This is my child that can't stand the feel of anything wet or messy on his skin, so it shouldn't surprise me. But one morning I put his new big boy undies on him, he peed in them twice, and then decided he would go in the potty, haha! Now he both pees and poops and is so, so proud of himself. :) What a smart little sweetie!

Annabel is swimming! We had "swim camp" earlier this summer (our neighbor's 5yo granddaughter was here for a week, so we went over there every day and swam for 4-5 hrs each day) and by the end of the week both girls were jumping in without any floaties and were doggy-paddling around the pool! Asher has been going off the diving board since the beginning of swim season, but Annabel just went off for the first time yesterday- boy, was she proud of herself! Now she won't stay off! And she loves to do "belly slops," lol.

In addition to our big garden out at camp, we have three raised beds in our backyard. Our strawberries did really poorly this year, but the pickling cucumbers and squash and zucchini have all done really well! We also got some broccoli and peas earlier in June, but we didn't end up doing much with them. I'm not sure why we even plant broccoli, nobody really likes it! But oh, the zucchini. That humble, hard working vegetable of late June... how I love it. I love it breaded and fried, roasted, grilled, in casseroles, and in yummy breads and pies... the list goes on. Anyway, I wanted to post two of my favorite recipes for zucchini and squash this summer. The first recipe is courtesy of my friend Jennifer from church, but the second one is all mine. I hope you will enjoy them as much as we have!

Zucchini Quiche
1 c. corn muffin mix
3 c. sliced zucchini/yellow squash
1 med. onion, chopped
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1/3 c. veg. oil
4 eggs, well beaten
salt and pepper to taste
1 c. cream (or half and half)
1 Tbsp. dill weed

Mix all ingredients together and pour into pie pan. Bake at 350 for 45 min. or until set.

Summer Vegetable Alfredo
1 zucchini, chopped in bite-size pieces
1 summer squash, chopped
1 c. chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp. minced garlic (or to taste- we love garlic!)
6-8 rashers bacon, cut into bite-size pieces
Enough pasta to feed your family (I recommend shells, fettucini or angel hair)
1/2 c.-1 c. cream
1 c. freshly shaved or shredded parmesan (NOT that powdery stuff!)
salt and pepper
Additional seasonings of your choice- I use one called "Bombay Vegetable Blend" by Tastefully Simple that is kind of like a curry seasoning- it's amazing.

Use your biggest skillet- preferably cast iron- and saute up the bacon and vegetables, until bacon is done and veg's are tender. This will take about 15-20 min. You may need to add some of the pasta water and cover so that the veg's steam, if they aren't getting done fast enough. Meanwhile, start your water boiling in a separate pot. Add pasta and cook until done; drain. Return pasta to the hot pot. Add enough cream to generously coat the pasta. Add your parmesan and salt/pepper. Stir until cheese is melted. **(Look! You just made alfredo sauce from scratch! Wasn't that easy?!)** Add the pasta to the vegetable blend in the skillet. If the mixture looks a bit dry, add more cream. The sauce will thicken a bit upon standing. Serve and enjoy the quiet that a good pasta dish brings to your family- because everyone's mouth is too full to make any noise!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Recipe for Leek, Garlic and Bacon Soup

Roasted Leek, Garlic and Bacon Soup

1 Tbsp olive oil
20g butter (I have no idea how much this is...)
2 rashers bacon, chopped
3 leeks, chopped and washed
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
2 zucchini, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
6 cups chicken stock (I used turkey broth)
1/3 cup cream
1/4 c. finely chopped parsley
2 rashers bacon, to serve (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 315*. Heat the oil and butter in a large roasting pan. Add the bacon and stir over medium heat for 1-2 min. Add the leek, garlic, celery, zucchini, and bay leaves and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes, without allowing to brown. 

2. Transfer the roasting pan to the oven and roast the vegetables and bacon for 40 min., turning a couple of times. Cover with foil is starting to brown. Transfer to a large pan, pour on the stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 min. Cool slightly, strain and return the liquid to the pan. Remove the bay leaves.

3. Put the vegetables and bacon in a food processor with a ladleful of the liquid and process until smooth, adding more liquid if necessary. Return the puree to the pan with the liquid and add some pepper, the cream and parsley. Reheat gently. 

4. To make the bacon garnish, trim of excess fat and fry until crispy. Drain off grease, then crumble and serve on top of soup.

Serves 4-6. Prep time: 30 min. Total cooking time: 1 hour 30 min. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A thought on.... SUMMER!

Yay, summer is upon us! I worked my last day last Wednesday, and the kids' last days of preschool is tomorrow. For awhile I had contemplated finding some kind of job to keep me busy this summer.... but naaaaah. Who wants to work when there are bike rides to take, beaches to visit, pools to jump in, and cookouts to be had?! :-D

For the duration of the summer (so until Labor Day) this blog will take a much lighter feel. I do most (all) of my writing in my down time at work, where its nice and quiet, and I have both my book and online journal library at my fingertips. Writing at home feels almost impossible! (Not to mention not very enjoyable.) But I do want to keep up with my blog so I've been thinking about what to write about that is both interesting and easy. I know... food!

I am so very blessed with an amazing, talented husband that cooks for us (almost) every night. This man gets up at 5:30 every morning to go to his first job of the day, continues to work 8-5, then comes home and whips up something amazing for his family. THEN he helps with cleanup and baths, and almost every night falls asleep while reading to Annabel. ♥ And I'll be completely honest... he doesn't even complain about it. I actually have tears in my eyes while I'm writing this because I know just how lucky I am. It is humbling to be loved so very much.

So anyway, the point of that is, while I'm home this summer I want to make HIM the lucky one. I want to have dinner at least started when he gets home, so he can just relax, or work in his garage, or play with the kids, or WHATEVER. It will be challenging me for me. I'm tired, a LOT (did I forget to mention I'm currently incubating baby #3??). I'm not confident in the kitchen and I get overwhelmed easily. Even just the thought of cooking dinner kind of makes me want to curl up in a ball under the table, lol! But darn it, with the help of Regina Spektor, the Pioneer Woman, and an awesome apron, I'm going to do it! I've gotten pretty good at making a meal plan the past several months, so this time I tailored it to fit my cooking abilities. Mostly the means soups, because soup is one of the things I enjoy making and feel like I'm halfway decent at. It will also mean a lot of vegetarian meals, because I don't cook meat (except bacon, lol). So, by writing about it on this blog, hopefully I will stay accountable and stay with it!

Tonight the plan is for a leek, garlic and bacon soup. It looks really yummy, so I'm excited to see how it turns out! If it is good, I'll take some pics and post the recipe! Stay tuned!

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Thought on Sensory Play

Sensory play is something that’s been on my mind lately. Probably due to the long Indiana winters and most recently this chilly spring. I know I should complain about 50 degrees, but really, people… BRRR! I’ll be honest and say that you probably won’t catch me outside recreationally until it hits at LEAST 65… and then it’s a gamble. ;) Annabel is good about bundling up and going out by herself, but Ash just isn’t there yet.
So, while we’re stuck inside (“stuck” being used loosely, of course!), I am always trying to come up with things to stimulate and entertain the kids. TV is such an easy fallback, but I try to stay away from that option as much as possible.
So why is sensory play important? Because kids- especially preschoolers- learn primary through their senses. Anyone with a toddler or preschooler knows that you can tell them something a  million times, and it may or may not stick. They just aren’t developmentally at the point of being able to learn (effectively) by being told something. That’s why modeling good behavior is so important- but that’s a different post. ;) However, if you take the time to teach through the senses- allowing them to touch, smell, see, etc… -and involving as many of the senses as possible- they are much more likely to remember the lesson! This is one of the reasons I love the Montessori method of teaching so much- it is very hands-on and sensory-focused. Think flashcards with the numbers and letters in sandpaper so the kids can feel the letter- rather than just seeing it (just one example). Sensory play is very calming and therapeutic for kids as well- many physical, occupational and mental health therapists use sensory play when working with autistic, learning disabled kids, or other special needs kids, or kids who have been through a trauma. But neurotypical children enjoy sensory play just as much, I guarantee!
Side note- we also try to involve the senses in our discipline of the children as much as possible. For example, if I tell Asher he needs to touch the kitty gently, I take his hand and show him what a gentle touch actually is. Several times. When I tell him he may not touch something, I reinforce this by physically taking his hand and walking him away from the object. But again, another post!
This brings me back to my original post- indoor sensory play. Recently I made a “bean box” for the kids. I took a small clear tub and filled it with black beans and Great Northern beans (so black and white). Then I put in other fun sensory objects- purple feathers, a spiky ball that flashes, a sand timer, little animals, pipe cleaners, shells, etc. And of course things to scoop and pour- measuring cups, funnels and bowls. The only rule about the box is- ‘beans stay in the box or the box goes bye-bye.’ Even Asher understands the rule and is awesome at picking up what he spills. And I don’t mind spills- I mind dumping and throwing! Its fun to see how they play differently with the box. While Asher generally just digs and pours, and loves to find the little treasures, Annabel is more likely to put all the beans in one long line across the floor (which I allow b/c she picks them up!) or sorts them by black or white. Our bean box is kept up high and only comes out at certain occasions- like when I’m trying to make supper or I have one kid by themself. (another tip- they play much better in the bean box when they’re alone- otherwise it generally ends in a bean fight **sigh**).
Another thing I’ve made recently – and this is an outdoor activity for us!- is a water table. I used a long flat tub and our wagon- VERY simple and mobile! The water table has sponges, nesting cups, mini water guns, floating dolphins that make different tunes when you bop them on the head, and water flutes. Oh- and of course a funnel! We fill it from the hose, but sometimes I boil water in the kettle and pour it slowly in so they can feel the water go from cold to warm. And sometimes I make ice cubes out of colored water for them to play with in it. Kids love water play so much, and this is a great way to keep it contained and use limited water (as opposed to filling up the kiddy pool).
This week I gave them each a pie tin filled with a shallow layer of baking soda. I gave each of them a dropper and a small cup of vinegar. They were enthralled! Annabel kept telling people she “did a science experiment!” Along the same lines, I had a bunch of those little “bath bombs,” so we’ve been using them in the bath occasionally- Asher was freaked out at first, but they eventually both loved holding the fizzing bar and feeling it tickle their fingers!
The bath is a GREAT place for sensory play. Some of our long winter afternoons were spent in the bathtub- with no water! The tub is a great place for finger painting and shaving cream painting- it rinses right away! Both kids love to paint their entire naked bodies like little tribal warriors. J
Other ideas for indoor sensory play- homemade “gak”- which is made from a mixture of Elmer’s glue and borax (or corn starch) and food coloring if you want. I haven’t done this yet, b/c it will definitely be an outdoor project at our house! Also, edible playdough (google recipes), finger painting with pudding, cotton balls soaked with essential oils and put in cheapo salt shakers (they can find the matches!), anything with glow sticks (think in the bath with the lights out!), indoor hammocks, a large tub filled with Easter grass (most places have it on clearance right now!), and so many others. If you are wary of the mess some of these things cause, buy each of your kids a mini broom and dustpan combo, and write their names on them. If you make it a routine, they will enjoy the cleanup (almost) as much as the play itself. I only have one mini broom/dust pan, and I swear to you that they fight over it every time. IKEA has really cute, affordable ones.
Of course, being outside is the ultimate sensory play. We only have 1/10 of an acre, but even our backyard satisfies so many of the senses. I’m thinking… soft green grass to feel on bare feet. Spiky, fragrant pine needles. Trees to climb in and hang from. Loose dirt in the garden to dig through (and the occasional earth worm to dig up!) and flowers in the garden to feel and smell (and eat…). Vegetables in the garden to feel and smell (and eat…). The sand box with its endless possibilities. The spigot and dog’s water bowls to get wet in. The rough concrete to draw on and feel on your skin. The lovely, fragrant dog poop, lol!
There are so many ideas on Pinterest or if you google “sensory play.” Your children will love it and you will get 30-40 minutes to do the dishes in peace (or whatever floats your boat!). Leave in the comments what you have done sensory-wise with your kids and what they liked or disliked… I’m always looking for new ideas!

Pssst…. I will add some pictures to this post once I’m home tonight….