Tuesday, December 4, 2012

So far...

So far today, I have been snotted on, peed on, pooped on, and thrown up on. Ellie is teething and though she doesn't seem to be in pain, it's causing lots of mucus. Lots of mucus = lots of fun lots of grossness.

Ezra and I have learned about the month of December and the season of winter and changed out our classroom decor accordingly (a few days late, but oh well). We dug out all the Christmas books and have read 3 or 4 out of 30 something so far (can you tell I'm addicted to children's books, particularly Christmas ones?).

He loves to put the window clings on all by himself
(hence the upside down snowman, ha)!

We also made (Melissa and Doug) cookies in his kitchen and made a 'mailbox' out of an old cereal box and some tissue paper (the only wrapping paper I had had Santa all over it, and that was a bit much for a mailbox). He's been writing 'cards' and putting them in some old envelopes I had left over from last year's Christmas cards, adding 'stamps' (stickers), and 'sending' them to everyone he can think of. :) We mailed some things at the post office the other day and a very friendly mailman gave Ezra a USPS coloring book, so we looked through it and did the activities that were on his level together.

So the back had a spot where the tissue paper didn't cover...
thankfully, my 3 year old isn't a big art critic. ;)
Telling me how to send the mail...
I just cut some construction paper to size and he used those as his 'notes.'
The square stickers worked great for stamps, but any stickers will do!
We also used some stars for some of our letters.

Ellie has been playing in her seat, nursing plenty, and sleeping the day away (slightly jealous of her there, it's a great rainy-weather, sleep-in-all-day kind of day). She's been sure to get lots of cuddles too.

A small selection of Christmas books on our coffee table--
I like to keep the recordable books and pop-up books within sight
since Ezra can get a bit crazy sometimes and I don't want them to get damaged.

Christmas book explosion! (I left the room and he knocked down the stack.)
I thought about wrapping them and opening one each day, but we have more
than 25, and that would be a lot of paper...plus, I have to keep him occupied
long enough to get them all wrapped.

I've also managed to shower and get Ezra halfway dressed (this is a major achievement for a SAHM, especially on a day when I know no one will see him so it doesn't matter if he gets dressed, ha).

Oh yeah, sent out the Preschool Christmas party invites for church this morning (running late due to very sick baby girl, but at least it's been in the bulletin for a while). That's what got us on that impromptu mailbox and letters kick this morning. Thankfully, Ellie seems to be on the upward swing now and should hopefully be her usual happy-go-lucky self by the party Friday.

Well, Ezra just skipped into the living room singing, "You're my friennnnnd, You're my friennnnnd," and I have no willpower against that kind of awesomeness, so I'll get going. :)

Hope everyone else is having a great rainy day. Before kids, I might have spent it reading all day, and I'd like to get around to reading again someday, but this is pretty good for the interim. ;)


Thursday, November 1, 2012

You Are What You Eat Giveaway Hop: The Fresh 20 Meal Plan

You Are What You Eat Giveaway
Californians are going to the polls to vote on Prop 37, also known as the food labeling law. The Green Moms Network supports Americans right to know if their food contains genetically engineered ingredients and is committed to showcasing natural and organic eating. So, welcome to the You Are What You Eat Giveaway Hop, hosted by Happy Mothering and Marlie and Me . A team of 20 + green mom bloggers are giving away prizes valued at $20 minimum related to eating healthy. You'll find giveaways for healthful, natural or organic foods, cookbooks, kitchen gadgets and more! In addition, the hosts are featuring 3 fabulous grand prize packages from Kombucha Kamp, Cultures for Health, Green Pasture, Real Salt, Sante Bakery, Newman's Own Organics, Lucy's, Learning Resources, Green Kid Crafts and Mary's Gone Crackers! You’ll get bonus entries into the Grand Prize Giveaway for each giveaway you enter in the You Are What You Eat Hop! Click here to enter the grand prize. I'm giving away an annual subscription to The Fresh 20 meal planning service and one of their 6 week lunch books! For more information, see my review post here. A few quick facts about the program: - Offers classic, gluten-free, and vegetarian plus a lunch plan - Dinner plans will serve a family of 4, weekly grocery estimate if $75 for the whole weekly menu - 3 month subscription is $15, annual is $49 - We have gift certificates, an affiliate program - The Fresh 20 Cookbook is publishing in 2013 from Harper-Collins - Featured in The New York Times, InStyle Magazine, Prevention Magazine - Annual subscribers have access to the archives which contain over 100 recipes - At any given time, monthly subscribers have access to 3 weeks of recipes. - An email every Friday to announce the new menu and with any giveaways or other news to share Enter via the Rafflecopter form below: a Rafflecopter giveaway Be sure to check out the other giveaways as well!

"The Fresh 20" Review

I'm extremely pleased to give you my review of The Fresh 20, an amazing and affordable meal-planning service that I recently began.

As part of my "job" as a stay-at-home mom, it was very important to me to start cooking healthy homemade meals for my family. I thought that not working full time would mean I became an amazing chef overnight, but no such luck. With a toddler and a newborn to take care of and a house to (constantly) clean, I had little to no time to come up with culinary masterpiece recipes. Sure, Pinterest had plenty of enticing finds, but let's face it, I'm probably only going to end up making the desserts because they are simpler and only have a few ingredients. I even bought ingredients for a few recipes and never ended up making them.

I was tired of wasting food and time trying to figure out what to make for supper. I wanted to cook healthily and with fresh ingredients, but the fresh ingredients usually went bad before I even got to use them. Maybe you don't have this problem. Maybe you cook up amazing dishes from scratch without recipes and everyone thinks you are a cooking god/goddess. Awesome for you, but I'm just not a natural cook. Baker, yes. Cook, no. I can make some chocolate chip cookies or cookie dough brownies so good your mama will taste them when you take a bite, but I tend to flop when it comes to preparing meals. We typically end up in the "What's for dinner? Grilled chicken and canned vegetables." camp way too often.

Enter The Fresh 20. I gave a brief preview of this amazing service here. With simple shopping lists, detailed recipes, and even nutrition information for each dish, this meal planning tool does all the hard work for me. Not only do I not waste any ingredients, I also have occasional leftovers for lunch and many times part of the work you do for one recipe helps you with another later in the week. For example, I made braised vegetable lentils (which I wasn't sure about, but turned out wonderful) to go along with my oven roasted chicken on Tuesday and put some back to help make the Creamy Lentil Soup we enjoyed Sunday. It's nice to see your hard work pay off more than one night!

The Fresh 20 uses 20 staple ingredients from your pantry, 20 weekly ingredients (this may sound like a lot, but it's not for a week's worth of recipes), and 20 kitchen essentials (you probably already have most of these and can substitute some) and  to create fabulous, healthful dishes for you and your family each week.

Here is a picture of one of the fabulous organic roasted chickens I made last week (they were used for 3 different meals)!

It's nice to have all that preparation pay off not only the night you make it,
but also in subsequent meals throughout the week!
(Maple Glazed Sweet Potatoes in the background--YUM!)

Here is a list of pros and cons that I've found so far.


  • No more wasting of ingredients
  • Makes grocery shopping so simple and easy--the list is even organized by category and gives you details such as where to find some ingredients in your grocery store (Grocery shopping had become a major ordeal with an antsy toddler, and this helps me get in and get out before he gets too wild!)
  • I feel like a real, accomplished cook after making these recipes.
  • The recipes are delicious! Even my picky toddler has gobbled it all up!
  • The recipes are healthy--I feel so good about what I am putting into my family's bodies and am confident there aren't any 'mystery ingredients' since I add all the ingredients myself!
  • Cost--I have been under budget on my groceries! The grocery list has an estimate of the price of each item and so far, I've come out under the total estimate two weeks in a row, even when I needed to stock up on some of the 'fresh 20' ingredients for my pantry in the beginning.


  • The recipes do take a bit more time than grilled chicken and canned vegetables. However, the difference in taste and quality is more than worth it to me.
  • You will be chopping lots of vegetables. If you're great at this, it's not a concern. I've never been a huge fan of chopping veggies, but I think I'm getting better at it, and I have to admit they look so pretty and colorful all chopped up on my cutting board (yeah, I'm a bit odd, I suppose, but they do). I think I'll be adding 'awesome vegetable knives' to my Christmas list!
  • The serving sizes are sometimes less accurate than I'd like. The plan is designed for a family of four. Our family consists of myself, my husband, and our toddler. Most nights we do have leftovers, which we use for lunches, but others we clean the pan. If we went with just the serving sizes, we would be good, but sometimes those just aren't big enough (I think this can be true of lots of recipes, though, not just the ones in this meal plan). Also, you could avoid any problems with this by looking at the serving sizes ahead of time. If it doesn't sound like they will be large enough, you could just double up the recipe ingredients as you shop and cook.
There are 3 options for recipe subscriptions--Classic, Vegetarian, and Gluten Free. My family chose the Classic plan.

The following is a breakdown of the Estimated Cost of the grocery items and what I actually paid.

Item and Estimated Cost --- Actual Cost
2 whole organic chickens (about 3 1/2 lbs. each)  Estimated Cost: $24     Actual Cost: $14.74
(note: these were actually bigger than suggested because I couldn't find smaller ones)

4 Salmon Fillets (about 1 1/4 lbs.) Estimated Cost: $16     Actual Cost: $19.96
I attribute the price to my not being near an ocean. If you live closer to the coast, I'm sure it would be cheaper.

4 Sweet Potatoes/Yams (8 ounce potatoes) Estimated Cost: $3.50     Actual Cost: $1.25
I could only find larger potatoes, so I got 2 larger ones that equaled the same weight.

1 onion Estimated Cost: $1     Actual Cost: $0.43

Carrots (7) Estimated Cost: $2.50     Actual Cost: $0.78
I got a bag of carrots that had a few more than 7, but no worries--the recipes for the next week called for carrots too, so they won't be wasted! If the recipes for the next week didn't, you could always use them for snacks.

Celery (6 stalks) Estimated Cost: $2     Actual Cost: $1.24
Same story as with the carrots, but I knew I could use them as a snack if I had extras.

1 Lemon Estimated Cost: $1     Actual Cost: $0.39
I'm sure the $1 estimate is just done to make a round number. Most items in the produce section will run you less than $1.

1 bunch of Rosemary (to yield 1 tbsp chopped) Estimated Cost: $1.50     Actual Cost: $1.98
I ended up with plenty leftover from the package available at my grocery store.

Spinach (6 cups) Estimated Cost: $3     Actual Cost: $2.18
I bought a bag of salad spinach and checked the back for serving size to make sure I had enough. My husband made the extra into a salad for lunch. Again, no wasting!

Milk (1 cup) Estimated Cost: $1 (they are going by the portion you'll use) Actual Cost: $3.98 (for a gallon of milk)
I'd say the overall cost of the gallon of milk would mean the cup costs less than that. As mom of a milk-guzzling toddler, I always have this on hand and didn't even need to pick it up when I did my grocery shopping.

White Cheddar Cheese (1 1/2 cups, shredded) Estimated Cost: $4     Actual Cost: $2.08
My grocery store only had one option and it was a block, so I shredded it before supper. My son ate the leftovers as a snack.

Baking Soda (1 tbsp) Estimated Cost: $1 (see note on milk)    Actual Cost: ?
I already had some so I didn't buy any, but I'd say you can get an off-brand package for around $1.

Lentils (2 cups) Estimated Cost: $3     Actual Cost: $1.08
I admit I was not thrilled about trying lentils. They just didn't sound appetizing. Turns out, they were fabulous!

Chili Powder (2 tbsp) Estimated Cost: $4 (estimated for entire container)     Actual Cost: ?
I already had some chili powder on hand, but I believe you can buy it for cheaper than $4 here.

Corn Tortillas (16) Estimated Cost: $3     Actual Cost: $1.88 (for package of 30)
I usually use flour tortillas, and wasn't sure about the corn ones, but now I definitely prefer them!

Total Cost Estimate: $70.50
Cost Per Dinner: $14.10
Cost Per Serving: $3.525

Actual Cost: $51.97 (!!!)

I did have to add a few items to my pantry that I didn't already have (these are listed at the bottom of your shopping list, under the total estimate), but they only totaled $16.15, bringing the grand total to $68.12--still under budget!

Stay tuned, tomorrow is the beginning of the "You Are What You Eat" Giveaway Hop, where I'll be giving away an annual subscription to The Fresh 20, as well as one of their cookbooks! One lucky winner will get both prizes!

If you simply can't wait for the giveaway, you can go ahead and get your own plan here. You can do a 3 month trial for just $5 per month! If you get an annual plan, you get access to the archives of recipes, plus you save money--annual subscriptions figure out to $4.08 per month! Remember, there are 3 options--Classic, Vegetarian, and Gluten Free. Choose the one that best meets your family's needs!

Happy Saving,
Deidre :)

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Halloween Truth

I've spent the majority of my day sewing a Peter Pan costume. I've completely disassembled and reassembled my sewing machine numerous times. This thing had better turn out awesome. Pics tomorrow. In the meantime, some Halloween truth:

Gotta do this now while they don't know it's wrong of me, right? ;)
Happy Halloween! :)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Totally Shaken Tuesday

I was going to have a cute post today about funny toddler sayings and moments.

One of my best friends contacted me last night to tell me they were being admitted to St. Jude's because her 3 year old son, Ethan, had been diagnosed with leukemia.

We were pregnant together. Our boys are weeks apart in age. My heart is breaking for their family! Thankfully they seem to have caught this soon and there is a 90% cure rate for his type of leukemia.

I still can't imagine...or maybe I can because it hits so close to home. That could just as easily be my son.

Please take time today to squeeze your little loves extra tight and thank the Lord for their health and the blessing of them...and if you feel led, please say a prayer for the Melikians! Thanks in advance.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Freebies Friday 10/26/12

I haven't had tons of time to look for freebies this week, but I wanted to give you a head's up that a fantastic giveaway is coming next week! :)
I'll be giving away an annual subscription to the new, amazing meal-planning service I just started, along with one of their cook books!

To see one of my posts about this, click here. A more thorough review post is on the way, but right now I need to take advantage of the baby napping and the toddler watching a show to finish up the laundry and get the house ready for company tonight!

Happy Friday, everyone! :)

P.S. Feel free to share any giveaways or freebies (no spam) in the comments!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What's For Supper? Savings! (Think About It Thursday)

Since we decided I would be a SAHM (stay at home mom) and not return to teaching elementary school this year, we knew we would need to watch our budget a lot more seriously. We cut our income almost in half when I resigned. Thankfully, God has blessed our decision and helped us find ways to save money in different areas. One of those areas is our grocery bill/meal planning. 

When I was working, I would stay at school until 5, come home, fix something for supper, eat, do some laundry and other chores, and bathe my son and put him to bed. I didn't have much energy or time to cook, and it showed. Many nights, we gave in to convenience and ordered out or went to get fast food. Other nights, I threw together simple meals that were too repetitive and not especially healthy or tasty.

When I knew I was going to resign, I was so excited to be able to make home-cooked meals again! I dreamed of finally making all those Pinterest recipes I'd been pinning in vain and saving money in the process. Insert the reality of having a newborn and a toddler (aka, no brain left) here. Every store trip was a marathon to see what I could grab quickly before during a toddler tantrum and/or baby meltdown. Even when I tried to put together a few new recipes to try, I almost always forgot a few ingredients, and trust me, when you've been through the kind of trips to the store I'd had, you did not want to go back!

Another problem I kept running into was wasting food. I would buy basics, like chicken breast and ground beef, planning to use them with various recipes, but something would inevitably throw me off each week (eating at a friend's house or not having an ingredient I needed for a certain recipe in time) and I'd end up throwing out something. This was especially true with fresh vegetables and fruits, so I had pretty much given up on buying them. Fresh ingredients are usually more expensive, so I couldn't risk not using them, meaning I didn't buy them as often as I wanted to.

Also, with a newborn and toddler, organization is everything. A little bit of organization can give Mommy a bit of sanity in the midst of chaos. I've been doing different organizational projects around the house, and with each one, a small amount of burden is lifted from my shoulders and I can breathe a bit easier. (Note: I totally expected chaos with two young children and still plan on adding more with more children in the future. I am totally embracing this stage of life, but it's nice to have a bit of control every now and then.) :)

About a week ago, a friend of mine mentioned she and her husband were going to start hardcore budgeting and another friend commented that she had started using a meal planning service and it was the best thing she'd ever done. She said she was able to get groceries for a family of four for about $75 a week. We had been trying to keep it under $100 per week since I quit, increasingly spending less and less. I had been spending less than or right at $100 each week, but like I said, food was wasting, and I was not pleased.
oven roasted organic chicken & mape glazed sweet potatoes

closeup of the sweet potatoes

A few weeks ago, one of the blogging groups I am a part of announced that they were going to host a giveaway blog hop about healthy eating. When I saw the comment from my friend, I knew I had an opportunity here. I decided to check out the meal planning site, and I loved what I saw! I contacted them to see if they would be willing to provide a prize for the giveaway and they were very enthusiastic!

I started a 3 month membership that day. I will be sharing more info soon, but let me just say, so far, I have loved all the recipes I've made! I feel very accomplished with every meal. I feel like an actual cook instead of someone throwing random things together and hoping for the best. I am excited to be feeding my family healthy meals that don't have any artificial ingredients that are good for them as well as delicious. I've tried new things, and been surprised by how much I liked them. I was a little worried that my toddler might not eat the meals well, but he scarfed down the organic roasted chicken last night and thoroughly enjoyed the roast salmon tonight. Can you believe we are eating that wonderfully for so cheap?! I'll detail this more in my review, but the grocery bill actually ended up being less than $70!

Stay tuned for more information in my review and get ready for a fantastic giveaway coming very soon!

Do you think a meal planning service could help you? In what way(s)?

Wondering what to do with those disposables once you've switched to cloth?

The guys at howtobeadad.com can help you out!

lol.. random uses for diapers!

Anyone have any other secret uses?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

From the Mouths of Babes (Toddler Translation Tuesday)

Lately my toddler has started using new phrases and terms. This happens frequently, and it's always funny to figure out what he really means, since many times, he doesn't use them exactly right.
Here are the most recent ones...

"Yesterday"-any time in the past. Could be from his very first memory or 5 seconds ago.

"Tonight"-much like "yesterday," but for future tense. We could be talking about when he is old and gray or the next thing we are about to do, no matter what time of day.

"Three times"-For some strange reason, everything he has ever done has apparently been done "three times" lately. "You remember, mom? You remember when I saw that dog? Three times?!"

"You're makin' me nervous!"-I have no clue where he gets this. My best guess is that I said it to him when he was doing something on the dangerous side, like climbing on the back of the couch. He uses this phrase when I ask him a question he doesn't want to answer or interrupt him doing something he's not supposed to be doing. Not exactly the correct usage, but probably somewhat accurate when I interrupt him doing something that will get him in trouble, I suppose.

The vocabulary genius himself!

What funny phrases/terms have your toddlers used in less than accurate ways? Please share in the comments below!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Freebies Friday 10/19/12

Who doesn't love freebies?!

I love entering giveaways for great products! Freebies are even better!

Here are some great ones I've come across this week...


Thirsties Thursday #70 
Enter to win 2 Fab Fitted Diapers and 1 Duo Wrap!
Simply enter via the Rafflecopter form in the blog post.

Rhea Lana's RePin to Win 
Repin for your chance to WIN!!!    1. Go to http://Pinterest.com/RheaLanas    2. Follow Rhea Lana’s on Pinterest (Select the “follow all” option on the Rhea Lana’s page)    3. Click on the “Contests” board, select the image and repin it. The contest ends and the winner will be announced Monday, November 5th so hurry before it’s too late! #Moms #Children #Consignment
Enter to win a Kit Kittredge American Girl doll!
Learn more about RL in my blog post here.
To enter:1. Go to http://Pinterest.com/RheaLanas
2. Follow Rhea Lana’s on Pinterest (Select the “follow all” option on the Rhea Lana’s page)

3. Click on the “Contests” board, and select the image and Repin it.
The contest ends and the winner will be announced Monday, November 5th so hurry before it’s too late!

See http://www.rhealananetwork.com/blog/ for all contest rules. 

"Choose Your Charity" Cloth Diaper Charity Event 
Thinking About Cloth Diapers
Enter to win $300 towards the charity you choose (link to list of charities in the post) as well as $200 worth of cloth diapers and accessories for you! If you don't use cloth diapers, you could give the prize to someone who does!
Simply enter via the Rafflecopter form in the blog post.


For my teacher/homeschooler pals, here are some great freebies I've come across this week:

The Moffatt Girls Fall Math Pack 

This Fall Math Pack FREEBIE meets many common core standards while making math FUN!  This pack includes:
-Domino Addition Sheet

-Blank Domino Addition Sheet

-Large Domino Die to Cut and Roll

-Roll a Pumpkin

-Roll, Add and Color Fall Leaf Page

-What Comes Next Pumpkin Numbers

-1-20 Cut, Paste and Trace

-10-100 Cut Paste and Trace (count by 10's)

I love The Moffatt Girls! You can follow the blog here, and see all her products here, on Teacher's Notebook. She frequently offers freebies through the blog and has a Facebook page as well!

"Magic Tree House" Fact Tracker Activity Booklet
Click image to open PDF file.

This 27 page freebie from Barnes & Noble has some great MTH-themed printables, including mazes, word searches, crosswords, and code breaking riddles. Perfect for centers, fast-finishers, or anyone who enjoys the MTH books!

I hope you find something you can use! Let me know if you win something OR how you use the freebies! :)


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Think About It Thursday: The Beauty In The 'Ugly' Truth

Ever feel like there is no way you can live up to Pinterest homes, fantastically behaved, brilliant children who beg to do extra schoolwork and chores, etc.? These posts are for you!

From a friend and amazing blogger (after you read this post, you must find the one on dance jogging--you'll thank me), Heather at Cake & Green Beans...
"Real Life"
This post has been making the rounds, I believe, via Beth Berry at Revolution from Home...
"Let's All Compare Our Perfect Lives, Then Try to Enjoy Our Day"
Can I just say, I nearly cried when I read Heather's post? From empathy. From relief. From satisfaction that I'm doing ok, despite what Pinterest/Better Homes & Gardens/various crafting and birthday party throwing sites say!

Unite mothers! We don't have to be perfect. We just need to BE!

BE there for our husbands.

BE there for our kids.

BE open to what God is guiding you to do in your everyday, non-perfect, realistic, amazingly chaotic but still amazingly wonderful lives!

I'm praying this helps someone stop feeling overworked and overwhelmed and helps them feel contented and fulfilled.

Remember, you are not defined by your lack of Pinterest projects completed or the way your house looks on a regular basis. Do you really think the owners of those amazing houses you see online said, "Oh, come by anytime. It doesn't matter. It's not like anything ever moves out of place around here. It's always perfect." 

And if they did, they have pretty boring lives anyway. Don't you think?!

Note the clothes draped over the bed instead of put into a perfectly organized closet with handmade dividers.

A child's smile is worth much more than a "Pin-worthy" picture of your living room, just sayin'. :)

I'd rather have toys on the floor, chocolate on my toddler's face, and smiles on my children and husband's faces than a perfect house where no one is allowed to make a mess, wouldn't you?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Sleeping Through The Night...Or Not!

From one of my favorite bloggers, Dirty Diaper Laundry. SO TRUE!!

Click picture for the funny post from DDL

This has definitely happened to me. How about you?
Share your experiences in the comments!

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Toddler Translation Tuesday: Cereal

I'm revamping my blog to include daily features. They may not all happen at once, but here's what Tuesday will hold: Toddler Translations--I hope you enjoy!

What you say: “Do you want any cereal?”

What your toddler says: “No.”

What your toddler actually means:
“Not until you sit down with your cereal and start to eat it... Then I’ll want some. NO, not after you’ve finished eating that bite—IMMEDIATELY! You know what? Just make it easier on yourself and give me your bowl.”

Gotta love 'em. :)

Does your toddler instantly change their mind about food once you get some?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Dear Eliana (3 months old edition)

Dear Eliana,

How can you possibly be 3 months old?! It seems like you just joined our family a few weeks ago! I know this can't be right, though, since you are going through diaper sizes (or 'settings' on your cloth diapers) and clothes like crazy!

I can't believe you are already 3 months old!

How can I have possibly not written a heartfelt blog post or journal entry about your wonderful-ness yet? Well, that has a lot to do with a certain extremely active older brother and Mommy starting a new small business venture (educating people about and selling cloth diapers and other natural products and baby gear). I did manage to get a blog post about your birth written, but I haven't had much time for anything else while adjusting to life as a mother of two and learning about my business details so I can do a good job helping other mamas. :)

Annnnnnd here comes your brother to interrupt me...
Fast forward to the next day. You are sleeping and big brother is watching Shrek the Third for the zillionth time (he likes that Captain Hook is in it). :)
Back to you...

You are SO amazingly beautiful!!
Oh man. Your gorgeous eyes, your adorable little nose (seriously, this is possibly the world's cutest nose we're talking about here), your fantastic smile...This is not just Mommy talking here. You are genuinely beyond beautiful! I am praying that I can help you learn to love the Lord and become just as beautiful on the inside!!

I could write a whole blog entry on just your eyes--the way they light up, how bright they are, the preciousness of the way your eyelids curve just so, the luscious length of your lashes...absolute gorgeous-ness.

Libby Davis Photography

You have the best personality!
You wake up happy. Happy. Not screaming and crying like another kid I love and adore... ;)
You beam that big smile at me and I don't care how early we are up, how little sleep I got the night before, or how much I need to get done that morning.

Libby Davis Photography

Speaking of sleep...
You sleep!

Wait, I'm not sure you understand.


Showcasing your snoozin' skills on vacation...

*Note: Eliana only sleeps in 2 hour stretches, with occasional 3-5 hour stretches, but her brother never slept more than 30 minutes at a time as an infant and nursed every hour or so, so to me this feels like a vacation!

As a mommy, I am SO thankful to have a child that sleeps. It's new to me and I like it! It's such a blessing that you are as content as you are when I'm needing to chase your brother constantly to keep him from killing himself/completely wrecking the house!

The face of mischief (with his two frequent co-conspirators)
Libby Davis Photography

You make my day--every day!
Sure the dishes are up to the ceiling, along with the laundry, and your brother just destroyed the once-clean living room, and you just unloaded in your diaper and spit up on me to boot...but then you smile and coo at me or make a funny face, and it's all worth it! I love being able to see you discover new things. I think you are going to be a talker like your big brother and I couldn't be happier about that. :)

Just yesterday you found your feet. You've been eyeballing them for quite some time now, and were pretty impressed to figure out you could make your legs go up and down, but yesterday you got a hold of those things! You were beside yourself with joy (and so was I).

Don't you just love that extremely fashionable mix of patterns between your dress and your diaper? LOL

Mommy loves you so very much, princess! I pray that I can continue to stay home and raise you wholeheartedly for the Lord, along with your big brother. Your name means "God has answered," and He has. He certainly has.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Things I would have missed...

This year marks the only 'first day of school' I have missed since I went to Kindergarten (save the year when I was 7 months pregnant with Ezra--not very 'hire-able,' ha).
And I couldn't be happier. Or feel more blessed!

Here are a few things I would have missed, had I been at work today...

*Ezra waking me up by singing, "You're my best friend. You're my best friend!"

*Eliana waking up with a HUGE smile on her face, giggling away!

*A mini dance party with Ezra during the end credits of The Lorax (dancing during credits is a little tradition I started with him) :)

*Taking Ezra to the post office for the first time. He helped me by carrying one of the packages, and got plenty of attention from the postal workers as he stomped around his rain boots, which he insisted he wear.

*Ezra flirting with the Senior citizens at Walmart ;) {Another perk of being home is that I can go to the store during the day when it's less crowded, unless it's full of Senior citizens, and they are so sweet!}

*Eliana learning to splash in the tub--she loves it!!

*Teaching Ezra to sort his sorting kangaroos by color onto different pieces of construction paper (yay, homeschooling!)

*Having time to find preschool activities to do with Ezra (and actually having time to do them)

*Looking up plenty of ideas for Ezra's 3rd birthday party (Yes, it's early, but at least there's a possibility I'll get it all done this year!)

*About a million other sweet little moments that I couldn't possibly have time to list here...

P.S. My husband is ever-more my hero for allowing God to guide us into this decision of me staying home and for working so hard every day so that we can get by. I feel my love for him deepening daily! Every little sweet moment (and even the not so nice ones, like toddler tantrums and potty accidents) reminds me of what a great sacrifice he has made for us. Love you, honey!!

More posts on our preschool activities to follow...stay tuned! ;)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Vacation 2012, The Adventure Continues...

Day 3: Little Tadpoles!
Monday was mostly spent with the boys in the pool. Jack and Ezra suddenly decided they were independent enough to swim with their floaties by themselves. Ezra got enough confidence to use his new floaties instead of his younger cousin, Juliana's, swim trainer. Jack, who had panicked whenever he was let go of in the pool, finally realized he could float on his own! They were just so stinkin' cute swimming all over the place! They look too little to do that, but at the same time, they look so big doing it! I posted a video of them swimming, and Josh's grandma said they looked like little tadpoles--she was so right!
Eliana continued to enjoy her swing outside. She seems to be adjusting to being outdoors more. I worried at first, because she was so sensitive to heat. Her precious skin would start getting bumps as soon as it was exposed to the heat, but now it barely seems to react. I'm very thankful!
All the kiddos joined Uncle Jon (or, Dad, for Jack and Juli) on the small sand bar next to our house to look for seashells and crabs. At one point, Jon gave Jack and Ezra snails to hold, but they got pretty freaked out when the snails started to suck on their fingers. Ezra was telling everybody about the snail that 'bit' him...the story kept getting bigger and bigger until the snail was a crab that "bit his finger off," ha!
The kids on the sand bar (my camera fogged up, oops!)
Jon is constantly finding some sort of critter for the kids...snails, crabs, lizards...the list goes on!
Possibly the most 'chill' baby ever.
Monday night, we went to Nevarre Beach to do a short 'preview' trip with the kiddos. They seemed to have a blast, but Ezra got upset when his shorts/underwear got wet (which made sand stick to him, which made him pretty uncomfortable). I can't say I blame him, especially since he was tired too. The best thing about this trip was we found out baby powder works wonders at removing sand from toddlers (and grownups too)! Or maybe the best thing was getting "sno balls" on the way home. I got a 'dump cake' sno ball--cherry, pineapple, and cake batter flavors with cream on top--yum! We're going to have to get at least one more before we go home!

Ezra on the beach Monday night. He is obsessed with finding seashells--I LOVE it! :)
Day 4: "I think we've found paradise!"
On Tuesday, we were ready to hit the beach! We left around 8:30 and decided to try the state park stretch of beach, further down the island of Nevarre. We had to pay $8 to get a pass for the week, but it was SO worth it! There were only 4 other people on the beach besides us! And man, oh man, was it beautiful!! The water was perfect, it wasn't too hot, and we had a fabulous time.
I'd love to post the pictures I took. I have some absolutely phenomenal ones of Eliana looking amazingly adorable...but I forgot that my SD card was still in the computer from that morning's blogging/photo posting and the pictures I took were saved to my camera. The good news is, I can transfer them to the computer and share them with the rest of the world once we get home. The bad news is, you have to wait until then to see the cutest pictures ever. Sorry. I'm just as sad about this as you are...
Eliana did so well at the beach. She didn't fuss a bit! She may have been a little unsure at first, but she nursed right after we got everything set up, and I think she decided as long as the food was still coming with us, the beach worked for her. I laid her on my comfy beach towel under an umbrella and she chilled there almost the whole time. Towards the end of our time there, she wanted to be held, but no major meltdowns or anything. Side note: We used a cloth diaper that matched her swimsuit with no leaks or sand issues, yay! (I may do a post about cloth diapers at the beach sometime in the future.)
Ezra and Jack loved the beach, whether they were swimming or combing the beach for seashells or other treasures. Ezra did some body surfing, courtesy Josh's and Josh's dad's backs. I was informed that he did fall off twice. I'm just really glad I didn't know that until after the fact (and it still made me nervous/slightly sick to my stomach then).
Juliana was happier on the sand than in the water, preferably in her beach chair with a snack and some juice beside her mommy.
That night, Jack wasn't feeling too well, but Ezra and Juliana hit the jacuzzi tub, filled to the top with bubbles. I have some video of them dancing that is to soooo hilarious!
I'm aware that I'm still a day behind on this vacation log, but hey, that's pretty good for someone who is busy nursing, rounding up a toddler, making sure our laundry isn't overflowing (which it still is, unfortunately), and trying to relax as much as possible. :)
P.S. Thanks SO much to all the fabulous family members who have been helping with Ezra (I feel like I can actually pay Eliana some attention) or holding my sweet Ellie girl while I run to the bathroom or take a nap!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Vacation 2012: Days 1 & 2

We are currently on our yearly Florida family vacation. We travel with Josh's family each year and stay in a large house together for a week of fun and relaxation. This is the third year we've been at the same house in Mary Esther, Florida (near Nevarre and Destin). We started staying here the year there was an oil spill in the Gulf, because the house is on the sound, which wasn't as affected as the shoreline areas. We fell in love with the house because it has plenty of room and a pool. The pool means the kids can swim any time they feel like it without having to load everything up for the beach or deal with sand and salt in their eyes. We do still go to the beach, but usually just one or two days, and we are always glad to get back to the house, where we can go inside anytime the kids start to get too hot or tired. Maybe one year we will go back to getting a house on the beach, but we're all pretty happy with the arrangement we have now. It really is easier when there are small children, and we have 3 toddlers and an infant. There are also 10 adults (one of which is carrying the future newest addition, who should be around 9 months old this time next year). It makes for an interesting vacation! I'll do a quick sum-up of days 1 and 2, since I was too lazy to do it when they happened...

DAY 1: On The Road Again...
We started out the trip by meeting up at Walgreens at 5 am. Well, that was the original plan, anyway. Josh, the kids, and I were there then, but someone overslept and someone else had brake light issues, so we ended up meeting and leaving around 5:30.
We stopped for breakfast at an IHOP in Missouri. I had stuffed french toast for the first time ever, and I must say it was wonderful. :) 
The food was great, but the IHOP visit was a little weird...
First of all, when I went to the restroom to change Eliana's diaper, the changing table wasn't in the sink area of the bathroom. I assume it was in the handicap bathroom. I have to assume, because I never actually saw inside it. When I went in, I could see a person sitting on the floor. At first, I was scared and thought they needed help or something. I went back out and told my family what I'd seen and my sister-in-law said she hadn't seen them, but she'd heard someone in that stall talking on their phone. I had to use the restroom myself anyway, so I had Josh hold El and I went to the restroom again, hoping the woman had left. She hadn't. She was still sitting on the floor of this public restroom (ewwww, I still can't get over how disgusting that was!) and this time I heard her talking on the phone. I was thinking she must be either hungover or crazy, which was confirmed when she started making these really loud, gross burps as I was washing my hands. I got out of there as soon as possible.
Secondly, when we were seated, there was an older couple right behind us that kept shooting us dirty looks. I think we must have been too large a group and were being too loud for them. We weren't being 'loud' at all, but 9 people (Josh's younger sister wasn't with us yet since she lives in FL), 3 toddlers, and an infant can be loud as a whole. Some time later, the man yelled at the waitress to be seated somewhere else more quiet. It was very rude, and as I said, we weren't being rude or loud, just talking to one another normally.
Oh well, like I said, the food was really good and we had a sweet waitress. 
P.S. When we left I used the restroom again (it's a rule when you're on the road to always go or try to go, folks), and the lady was still in there. This time she was actually sitting on the toilet and was apparently choosing a new ringtone for her phone...or just letting it ring...I didn't ask.

The road trip had a few little bumps. We were nearly left at the gas station once and were left another time; our windshield wiper flew off right before we were getting near some rain (Josh had taken the car to Walmart for an oil change and we assume they didn't put them back on correctly after checking them, but thankfully he'd worked on the car the day before we left and had applied Rain X to the windshield; also, the rain stayed ahead of us for the most part, thank goodness); and we ran into plenty of traffic jams.
For the most part, though, I thought the trip went well. Ezra slept before we got to IHOP for breakfast and took a nap after breakfast as well. He was goofy, but in a pretty good mood most of the trip. He did have one difficult period where he really had to pee but we were stuck in traffic, but he made it! Eliana slept most of the way and was only up for short periods, mostly when she was hungry. We tried giving her a bottle, but she just can't figure it out yet (we've tried two types--one kept gagging sdeher, and she just couldn't get latched on the other either). I had learned two years ago how to lean over Ezra's carseat to feed him, so that's what we did this time, and it worked! She was a little gassy once we got to our destination since she didn't get to be burped after some of the feedings, but she was happy the majority of the time.

Once we got to the house, we got our bags to our rooms and let the kids run around outside and swim a bit (the water was a little colder than we'd have liked, so they didn't swim very long). We ate barbecue shrimp and the non-seafood eaters (like me) had hamburger gravy and mashed potatoes. We went to bed around 11 pm.

Eliana at the beginning of the trip
Ezra sharing his beach towel (blanket) with Ellie
Traveling newborn-chic
He was like this the majority of the time as long as he had snacks--and wasn't about to pee himself, lol.
She was like this unless she was hungry or gassy.
Day 2: A lot of R and R...
Eliana and I were the first ones to emerge Sunday morning, followed shortly by my father-in-law. We sat outside, facing the sound, and eating breakfast pastries and sipping juice and coffee, respectively.
Breakfast with my princess
People slowly trickled out of the house as they woke up. When Eliana needed to nurse again, I took her inside and ended up falling asleep with her for a few hours. As a mommy of a toddler and an infant, this is so rare! I was very thankful for the rest!
When I got up, I had lunch and we put the toddlers in the pool to wear them out for naps. Ezra is such a water baby! He LOVES being in the water, and is starting to do some real swimming with the help of Juliana's floatie/swim trainer (see picture below). We bought him his own floaties when Josh went on a Walmart run, so we'll see how he does with those today. Eliana rested in the shade in her swing.
Ezra on his 'boat.'
Eliana swingin' the day away...
When she wasn't swinging, she was doing this to stay cool!
That night we had hamburgers, french fries, and tater tots for supper. Josh's brother made regular, bacon and cheese, and jalepeno hamburgers. I had a bacon and cheese and it was really good! Ezra never did take a nap, so not long after supper, he passed out. Eliana followed her regular schedule of nursing and sleeping as Josh and I joined some of the vacation-goers in a game of Cranium. Josh and I were a team, and we lost. We did catch up some towards the end, though, which was pretty good considering we were waaaay behind the first half of the game!
Eliana and Daddy hanging out late last night
We went to bed around midnight and I got up around 6:30 to grab something to eat and write this blog. Now it's 8:15 and I'm about to go check on Ezra, get Eliana situated, and possibly grab a shower. I don't want to sleep today like I did yesterday, but soak in every precious moment of vacation with my husband and our sweet babies. :)

I'll try to do an entry for the other days as well, when I'm not busy living them!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

5 Ways to Help Your Local Community at 1 Event!

Ok, you've all heard me rave about Rhea Lana's before, but did you know that you can help your community just by shopping the event? I've come up with 5 ways shopping Rhea Lana's will do this, and I'm sure there are more!

Rhea Lana's is a premier consignment event! The fall sale will take place at the ASU Convocation Center, August 9-11. See their website for more information (including information on how to get into the sale early)!

Without further adieu...Here are 5 ways I've been able to help as a consignor, shopper, and volunteer for the past 2 years:

How shopping Rhea Lana's fall sale will help your local community:

1. You will be supporting local moms.
The items you'll be buying are being sold by local moms. Consignors make 70% of the proceeds from their sales. This means even more to me now, as a stay-at-home mom! You could be helping someone be able to remain a SAHM with their children, just by shopping!

2. You can support yourself too!
Speaking of local moms, why not support yourself too? Consign to make money for yourself, clear out all the clutter from your kids' closets, and find designer clothes for amazing prices to fill those closets back up again! Rhea Lana's is actually a "green" business, since it prevents tons of clothing waste each year.

3. Keep money in our community instead of traveling for certain stores or brands.
We are lucky to live in a community with plenty of businesses offering many different brands, but there are still some stores and brands that just aren't offered in our immediate area. Instead of driving a few hours to get Gymboree or boutique brand clothing (which would mean extra money spent on gas to get there), you can go to a true "one-stop shop" with access to tons of brands, all in one spot! Not to mention, you will spend much less (sometimes on brand new items). I have to admit, I have bought some high-quality items from brand names I'd never even heard of, only to find out later that they were an expensive brand! For example, I got a dress for my daughter for $10. It was originally marked $20, but the seller had decided to allow it to go half price during the half price sale. I was actually trying to stock up on as many items as possible at this sale, but this dress was just too adorable to pass up. After getting home, I looked up the brand, and this was a $70 dress. I didn't mind paying $10 after that!

4. Unsold clothes are given to those in need.
Consignors are given the option to donate unsold clothing on an item-by-item basis, so you only donate items you designate. Any items that are not picked up after the sale are also donated. The best part about this is that the donated items are given to people in need in your community. The Jonesboro Rhea Lana's event donates their items to Motherhood, the Pregnancy Resource Center, and The CALL.

5. Local businesses are featured at the sale.
Local businesses sponsor and are featured at the Rhea Lana's sale. Jonesboro Rhea Lana's is sponsored by Small World Big Fun, Pizza Works, Roman Touch Salon and Spa, and Dr. Ken Woods, DDS. In addition, Rhea Lana's will feature several vendors at the event. These will be small businesses with all sorts of products to offer, perfectly suited for moms and kids! Past events have featured everything from hair accessories to personalized lunch bags, and this year's event is looking to feature even more variety!

So what are you waiting for? Sign up to consign now, or at least mark your calendar to attend the fall sale event. You'll not only be scoring some incredible deals, but helping your community at the same time!

Can you think of any other ways that the Rhea Lana's sale helps our community? Like I said, I'm sure there are more--these are just the ones that immediately came to mind.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Eliana's Wonderful Arrival

I'll use my notes and texts from the day I was in labor to help me remember everything, as well as ask people who were there if I'm leaving anything out.I would have preferred to write Ellie's birth story closer to when it happened, but that first week was hectic enough as we all adjusted to life with a newborn, and after that, mastitis hit. Not very good blog writing situations!
Ellie was born on Saturday, June 6th, at 2:03 a.m. I knew I was probably going to be holding her soon about 25 hours before that, when I woke up at 1 a.m. Friday with what felt like menstrual cramps. I think I was in that half asleep/half awake mode for a little while feeling uncomfortable, when all of the sudden, it hit me--I can't be having menstrual cramps, I'm pregnant! I immediately started smiling and excitedly went to use the bathroom to see if there were any other signs. I got even more excited when I had some "bloody show" (part of my mucus plug). With Ezra, I'd had that around 1 a.m. and he was born at 10:34 a.m. I tapped Josh awake and let him know that we were probably going to have a baby today, and he may get to come home from work early. He asked what we should do now--pray and go back to sleep? I agreed, and he dozed back off.
We had gotten our smart phones (yes, we are officially caught up with the 21st century now) in just a few days before, and I used mine to download an app for keeping up with contractions. I wish I'd known how to take a screen shot, because it was basically a big button that either said, "begin contraction," or "stop contraction," with a list of previous times, etc. underneath. I thought it was very ironic that pushing "stop contraction" wouldn't actually stop a contraction, ha! Not that I wanted to stop contractions--I was ready to have this little girl! This was day 9 past her 'due date.' I had actually enjoyed the extra pregnancy time since I'd been so busy with school (school=work since I'm a teacher), but now I needed her to get going in the next few days so we could have the home birth I'd been hoping for (you can only have a home birth up to a certain amount past the due date). Plus, I'd been following "the plan" (see previous post), and the "nasty herbs" were getting to me!
Example of the 'stop contraction' screen
(my app actually had a big red button that said 'stop contraction')

At the time I was up downloading apps and such, my contractions were about 7 minutes apart. Typically, you hear that you should go to the hospital when your contractions are 5 minutes apart, so you might think I'd be getting ready to give birth right now, but I knew I could have a long while to go, especially since my contractions were just the mild, crampy kind right then. I decided to get sleep while I could.
When I woke up around 7, my contractions had all but stopped--until I started moving around again. They were typically 7-10 minutes apart all day, sometimes getting closer, sometimes getting further apart, but I knew they were getting somewhere.
When I woke up, I decided that we would just play it by ear and see how the day went. I had been wanting to make play dough with Ezra all week, so I decided it was now or never. After breakfast, we got to work making 'salt dough' (recipe here). The contractions were definitely present as I kneaded the dough, and I ended up sitting down to finish while Ezra watched cartoons--he liked the part where he got to mix and put the food coloring in, but the blending of the dough until the color was spread throughout got old fast for a two year old.
Ezra and his "cookies"

After that, we just did our day as usual--chores, lunch, laundry, etc.--and the contractions did what contractions do--made me a little uncomfortable every now and then and started to increase in intensity, but not to the point that I needed to call Josh to come home.
We had an appointment with our midwife scheduled for 5 p.m., so I started getting ready for that before Josh got home. I texted his mom just to let her know that I was having regular contractions (they were back to around 7 minutes apart again) and that she may end up watching Ezra soon. I also asked if she could watch him while we went to the midwife appointment. Shortly afterwards, Josh got home and got into the shower, and I decided to call our midwife, Tressia, to let her know I thought I was making progress. I gave her the update and she asked if we wanted to keep our appointment or just wait and see if we needed to call her that night to have the baby. I decided to keep our appointment, since we'd already arranged for Ezra and so I could see if I was really making progress like I thought I was. My contractions stopped at first when we were in the car, but I guess the change of scenery just affected me temporarily. By the time we got out of the car at Tressia's house, I had to stop for a moment or two before walking up her front steps.
Midwives are really smart. What I mean is, they can sense how far along you are by the way you are handling yourself, etc. When I walked in her front door, she said, "You aren't going to have this baby here, are you?" She was sort of joking--I think. Most people would have just barely guessed I was in labor. The only sign was me getting quieter when talking through a contraction. I kept trying to test myself by talking through them to see if I was getting closer to labor--this may not make sense, but with Ezra, the midwife on call at Vanderbilt had told me to wait until I couldn't talk through a contraction to come in (she knew I wanted to have an all-natural birth, so this was so I could be sure to avoid as many interventions as possible; the less time you are in the hospital=the less chance of unnecessary interventions).
For the longest time, Tressia just sat there in silence, looking at me. It started to unnerve me a bit, kind of like when you have an awful case of the hiccups and then someone demands you hiccup for them and you suddenly can't. The contractions were definitely there, though. We talked about what we needed to do next and I decided to have her check me there and we'd see where we were, then Josh and I would head home, grabbing some supper on the road. She was debating on whether to leave right behind us or wait a bit. When she checked me, I was dilated to 4 cm (I had been at 2 cm three days before) and my cervix was much thinner. That made me really excited. We had been discussing Ezra's birth story (remember it was about 9 hours from the moment I knew I was for sure in labor-I'd been contracting all day the day before-and him being born). Since second births are usually quicker, she estimated we'd have a baby in around 5 hours (around midnight). Cue the extreme excitement! :) We decided we would head home and she would leave in one hour to meet us at the house. That would give us time to grab supper, make sure Ezra was all arranged, and do a quick tidy of the house. Josh would go ahead and start filling the birth tub when we got home, since it would take 2 fill ups from our hot water heater.
We grabbed some supper on the way home and called our moms to fill them in. Once we got home, we tidied up the living room and Josh got started on filling up the birth tub, which was set up next to our bed (remember me mentioning how I woke up every morning to see an unused birth tub in a previous post?). We had gone to Lowe's to get an adapter for our bathroom sink so we could use a water hose to fill the tub earlier in the week. When we tested it the night we bought it, it worked fine. On the night of Eliana's birth--not so much. It started leaking at the faucet opening first, and Josh was trying to fix it and quickly getting stressed. Then I came into the bathroom to see what was going on and noticed the floor was wet. Somehow (we still have no idea how), the sink had started leaking underneath the cabinet. The only clue we have as to what happened is that a random rubber washer came out of the sink when Josh disconnected the adapter. We still don't know where it was from and are now using the guest bathroom sink until Josh's brother (a licensed plumber) can come take a look at it.
We ended up using Ezra's large toy bucket that we put his outdoor toys in to fill the tub (after we completely disinfected it). Once that got going, Josh was able to calm down more, which helped me (my contractions stopped during the initial panic mode).
My mom arrived, followed shortly afterwards by Tressia. Josh helped Tressia unload all of her supplies (I should have gotten a good picture of all the supplies midwives bring, to help settle the nerves of those who think I was putting myself in an extremely dangerous situation) and we explained the issue with the sink adapter. I had changed into pajama pants and was just laboring along, sitting on my yoga ball or the couch and visiting with my mom, Tressia, and Josh.
Not long after this, my mom got a phone call and announced that my grandparents were on their way. This was a bit unsettling at first, since I hadn't expected them to be there and my grandmother struggles with her memory, which gets worse the later she is up--and we weren't expecting a baby before midnight! She was just so excited and my grandpa wanted her to get to be there if she wanted to be there, so they got in the car and were on their way! I just decided to 'go with the flow' and didn't let it bother me. They actually didn't end up staying for the birth, but visited for part of the time I was in labor.
Some time after my grandparents had arrived, my contractions were getting more intense. Still not bad, but it was taking more concentration to breathe through them. Now, this wasn't the "hee, hee, hoo" stuff from birth classes or the movies...if you've ever done yoga, you will know the type of breathing I'm talking about. I would sense the contractions coming and start breathing in very slowly and relaxed, trying to time it so that it was time to breathe out at the peak of the contraction. It worked really well!
The contractions were starting to get more intense, though, as I said, so I asked Tressia if I should get in the tub now. She said it was totally up to me.
When I had Ezra at Vanderbilt, there was a birth tub available, but they told me I'd have to get out when it was time to push. This made zero sense to me--to go from relief straight to the most painful part of labor?! Didn't seem too thought through, so I didn't even ask for it. This time I could get in and out as I pleased, which was great. Home birth provides a lot of freedom in choices like these. They may not sound like a big deal, but it's really nice to not be regulated by someone else's rules when you know what will help you feel better!
I got into the pool for a while (sorry I can't be more detailed, but monitoring lengths of time weren't my priority, ha) and it was amazing. I wondered if my labor had stopped at first because the warm water helped so much! I was in there for a while, then felt like doing something different, so I got out, put on my robe, and laid down on the bed. Josh and Tressia were the only ones in the bedroom and Josh was joking around and telling Tressia stories from his Bathroom Reader books (he is addicted to those books, in case you aren't aware--he can tell you random facts about anything and everything). I eventually asked him to stop with the stories, when he started reading one called "Bouncing Babies" about incidents when babies had fallen, etc. (they were always unharmed, but it was strange to be talking about while I was in labor). Tressia left the bedroom for a little while and Josh and I talked and I just laid there trying to rest as much as possible. I would have liked to have slept, but I was too excited, so I just relaxed. After that break, I got back into the tub. I think this is when my grandparents left. It may have been the first time I was in the tub--I'm not sure. I just know my grandma came to tell me goodbye while I was in the tub. Side note: The midwife used the doppler to monitor Eliana's heartbeat periodically while I was in the tub (it was always just fine).
Ashley, our midwife's apprentice, came into the room when I was in the tub the second time. She and Tressia whispered quietly on the other side of the room while they got things ready (they could tell things would be happening soon). Josh sat on the bed and offered support. At some point while the girls were getting things ready, I started to feel like pushing would be soon. I didn't feel like I needed to push at this point, but I could tell that my contractions were getting closer together and when there is less of a break, there is more "intensity" (I know it sounds weird, or even like I'm lying, but I still wasn't in pain--just aware of these contractions because if I didn't breathe through them like I described before, they would take my breath away).
Tressia noticed the shift in my breathing right away (I started to make some noise--kind of like a sigh--when I was breathing out) and asked if I was getting ready to push. I told her I thought I might be. She came and asked if I would like to be checked and I said I would. (Note: I didn't have to get out of the tub to be checked=nice!) She checked between contractions (which took a few minutes because they were really close together by then), and I was dilated to 8 and completely effaced. She said I needed to wait through a few more contractions before I pushed. I wasn't worried about it, because I didn't have an overwhelming urge to push yet, just a sense that I would be to that stage soon. I'm not sure how many more contractions I went through, but I'd guess it was around 15-20 more minutes until she checked me again, and I was at 10 centimeters (complete=time to push). She told me I could push whenever I was ready, but I still didn't feel like I had to. My mom and Josh's mom came into the room as I got ready to push to offer support.
I remembered that during "transition" (the last stage of labor before pushing) with Ezra, I'd had to work really hard not to push--more evidence that the water helped tremendously! I had pushed while on my knees with Ezra, but wanted to see how I felt sitting in the water first this time, so I pushed that way for a few contractions. I felt like nothing was happening, so I re-situated into a kneeling position. My head and arms were resting on the side of the tub (where Josh was holding my hands as I pushed) and my knees weren't feeling tired or hurting at all, thankfully, because the bottom of the pool had pockets of air (really cool invention, this birth tub!) to cushion me. Several more pushes and the midwife, who was using a flashlight to see what was going on down there, asked if she could check me again. I don't think she could have tried to sneak it in between contractions if she'd tried by this point.
After checking me, she gave me some not-so-great news: as the baby's head had come down, it had kind of brought the cervix down with it, and I was back at 8 centimeters. This could have been devastating to me as a mother now in hard labor thinking it would all be over in just a few minutes, but she was so caring and gentle as she explained what was going on, and told me I just needed to go through a few contractions without pushing to let it open up again. She was very encouraging, and I knew I had made it through a stage of not being able to push with Ezra, so I would be able to do it again. It was not the most enjoyable time of labor, I'll admit. I had to resort to using the "horse face"--blowing air through your mouth in such a way to make "ppphhhbbbttt" (horse-like? think of blowing 'raspberries,' only a bit looser lipped) sounds. A midwife had told us about this before my labor with Ezra, and I'd used it during the transition stage when I couldn't push. The theory is, your mouth has to be relaxed to do this, which means you are more relaxed--strangely, it proved to be true. I had actually had the thought, Yay, I didn't have to use the horse face during this labor! Oh well, time to suck up my pride (you can't have worries about how you look or sound during labor, people--it's not about you, anyway--and, honestly, you don't care) and make ridiculous sounds!
My sister told me later that she and my sister-in-law heard me making these 'raspberry' sounds and that my sister-in-law didn't believe it was me at first. She said, "I told her it's part of your 'process' or something, but I couldn't remember why you did it." (Ha!) They were in the living room, which served as our 'waiting room,' I guess.
After a few difficult contractions (difficult because when your body says, "Push!" it's really hard to convince it otherwise), I got to the point I didn't think I could keep from pushing anymore. Tressia checked me, and I was almost there. She kept her hands on my cervix and helped it open through the next contraction or two (details are a bit blurry here as I was concentrating on not exploding, ha) and then I could push again. By this time the contractions had officially started to hurt. Josh stood on the other side of the tub and bent over into the tub some so he could apply counter-pressure to my hips. Counter-pressure=the next best thing to the water for pain relief (it had saved me during Ezra's labor too). I had held hands with my mother in law and my sister and then my mom over the back of the hospital bed when I pushed with Ezra, but there wasn't really a good position they could get in with me in the tub, plus I remember I felt guilty about crushing their hands, so I didn't want to hurt anyone. Instead I grabbed onto Josh's khaki shorts and just squeezed my fists together around his cargo pocket. He told me later he was afraid I was going to pull his pants off a few times. Sorry, hon! My mom and mother in law stood near the tub, encouraging me. Tressia and Ashley coached me along, told me I was doing great, and offered suggestions if I needed them.
This time around, I did much better during the pushing stage. With Ezra, I was so concerned that if I didn't progress according to the hospital's timetable they would intervene, that I pushed as hard and fast as I could. I don't think I even paid attention to when I was having contractions. This didn't have optimal results. I did deliver him after only 45 minutes of pushing, but I also ended up with a second degree tear and hemorrhoids. NOT fun!
I was so thankful to know that this time my baby's birth was on her own time and I could take my time and go with labor as it progressed with no worry of someone telling me I wasn't progressing fast enough and interfering. I waited for each contraction and pushed with them. I had hoped I'd have her within a few pushes (second babies are supposed to be faster, right?<--probably a myth), but this didn't happen. My water did break though (Finally! was my initial thought) and as the contractions/pushing intensified, I could feel that Eliana's head was moving downward. I'd read about women feeling their baby move down, and I thought they meant they felt the whole baby move (and maybe they did), but I didn't feel that. I did feel a head getting heavier and larger. I know her head wasn't actually getting larger, but the area where she was moving into was. I had this flickering of a thought: She seems bigger. I'm not sure the thought even completed itself since I was pushing almost constantly, but I remembered it being there after she was born and we were talking about how big her head (and the rest of her) was.
As she was about to be born, I didn't experience the 'ring of fire' you hear women talk about. I did feel some burning, but not nearly as horribly as I did with Ezra. Don't let me come across as "Superwoman" (I have an aunt who calls me this now, since she found out I had natural births)--it hurt. But I knew this was the shortest part and she would be in my arms very soon! That is the best motivation ever. :) It was hard to get her head out (it really only took a few pushes, but they were the most intense part of my labor).
Once her head was out, the midwife told the moms to go get everyone else, she was about to be born. Funny thing--I thought I'd just pushed her head out, but when I heard her say that, I thought maybe it wasn't and I almost panicked. I thought, "If that wasn't her head, I don't know if I'm going to be able to go much longer!" I asked quickly if her head was out, and was so relieved to hear, "Yes!"
My sister and sister in law came in, and I think my dad was in there too. I'd have been weird-ed out if I had cared a bit by that point (like I said, you just don't care during labor, and if you do, you're worrying about the wrong things), but I was just thinking about holding her in my arms, and I had no idea who came in and who didn't! One more push and she would be here! I waited until another contraction came (there was a break after her head was out), and pushed with all my might. That wonderful feeling of the baby coming out followed. I remember how amazing the relief was when Ezra came out. I didn't feel the same degree of relief this time because I wasn't in as much pain before. I was so excited to hold her and turned around immediately. She was just so beautiful!!
Ellie's first picture, taken by Daddy!
Into my arms she went, as someone handed me a towel, the midwife suctioned her nose and mouth, and someone added some warm water to the tub to help keep us warm (we had been adding pots of hot water periodically to keep the water at a warm enough temperature for a newborn). Josh cut the cord. Eliana and I stayed in the tub for a little while. Family members came and took pictures and talked about how amazingly beautiful she was while Tressia and Ashley got things ready for when I got out of the tub. Josh was given Eliana, all bundled up, and he went back into the living room so everyone could ogle her while I cleaned up.
Daddy showing off his baby girl

Most people would stop here, but I know some people are curious about home birth, so I'll continue. I started to have contractions again in the tub. It was shocking at first--I'd forgotten about the afterbirth! Tressia and Ashley helped me out of the tub--it took a few tries, since I was tired and trying to get out between contractions (by the way, these contractions weren't like the ones I had while giving birth, but milder). I sat on a little stool (a birthing stool) to deliver the placenta. There were waterproof liners spread out all over our floor around the tub, so no worries about a mess. Next, Tressia asked me if I wanted to take a shower or a bath. I opted for shower since it would be quicker and I could get back to Ellie sooner (not to mention, I don't know how easy getting up out of a tub would have been at this point--I felt short of breath since my lungs suddenly had more room--I know that doesn't make sense, but it's what happened). Tressia stood nearby the doorway in case I got dizzy or needed anything. I let her know when I was ready to get out, and she helped me out of the tub and had me sit on the toilet so I could get dressed easier. She helped me get dressed (had to situate those lovely, huge old lady pads) and get into bed. She checked me to see if I had torn. Remember, with Ezra I had a second degree tear and he was 6 lbs. 12 oz. Eliana was 8 lbs. 10 oz. I had a tiny tear that didn't require stitches (insert "Hallelujah Chorus" here), but I did have a varicose vein that was bleeding some. I had developed vulvar variscosities around month 5 of this pregnancy. Look it up if you want to, or just trust me that it is an extremely unpleasant condition in which your girly parts are swollen to the size of a grapefruit and there's nothing you can do about it except give birth (they don't mention this in the "Congratulations, you're pregnant!" brochure for some reason). Thankfully, the bleeding stopped on its own and we didn't have to take any further measures for my safety.
With all that out of the way, it was time to check out Eliana from head to toe. I didn't hear it, but when Tressia pulled her out of the water, she said, "That's not a six pound baby!" We'd assumed she'd be around the same size as Ezra (6 lbs. 12 oz.) or smaller, since girls are generally smaller. Now, she asked if there were any guesses as to weight, and said she was at least 7 pounds. I remember literally thinking, Psshh...yeah right. To me, she still looked like a tiny newborn! She put her into this lovely little baby weighing device (sorry, don't know the name, but your baby looks pretty adorable in it) and slowly said, "Okay.....eight pounds.....(my jaw dropped to the floor)....ten ounces!" I was still trying to pick up my jaw from the floor...I had no clue I could even make a baby that big! I really couldn't believe I hadn't torn from a baby two pounds heavier than my first.
Eliana being weighed

The measurements and checking went on, "21 and 1/4 inches long..." with Josh's sister recording for the midwife (our sisters had come back into the room during this time and the midwife's apprentice was off making herb packets for my post partum recovery--think of natural Tucks pads).
Aunt Sarah taking down measurements
(excuse the blurriness--someone else was using
 my camera and wasn't sure which settings to use)
After that, Tressia and Ashley cleaned up everything else--bagged up stuff for the trash, put towels, etc. in the washer, and drained, deflated, and packed up the birth pool. My family members came to my bedside to tell me goodbye, and we settled in for the night...er, morning. I think it was around 4 a.m. when we got settled into bed. My mom and sister went ahead and spent the 'night' until the morning since they live out of town, but everyone else lives in town, so they went home. My dad was going to work shortly, so he left too (he had slept in Ezra's floor for a few hours before Ellie made her debut). My sister's husband was there too, actually, but he slept in Ellie's floor the whole time (they didn't get there until 9 or 10 p.m. and he works in town). He barely remembered my sister letting him know Ellie had been born.
The thing I'd looked forward to the most about having a home birth was being able to cuddle up in my own bed with my baby and husband afterwards and go to sleep! It was pretty great, although the lack of pain trumped it.
Ignore the mismatched sheets...they were the ones on the bed just in case my water broke, etc.
The next morning (only a few hours later), I woke up really hungry and we let Josh's parents know we were up and ready to see Ezra whenever they were ready to bring him. Since Josh's mom had been there up until after Ellie was born, we knew she'd be tired. Oh, and funny story--Ezra kept Josh's dad up until 2 a.m. before going to sleep!! I think he just knew something was up, because he's spent the night there before with no issues.
He was protective of the donuts, lol.

A little while later, Ezra brought us donuts and met his little sister for the first time. His first question was, "where is her bottle?" (we told him she didn't need one right now). Then when someone else was holding her, he looked across the room, pointed at her, and said, "Ellie came out?" and grabbed my shirt and pulled it up and poked at my smaller belly, and announced more assuredly to everyone in the room, "Ellie came out!" He was also obsessed with her "tiny hands." He kept touching them over and over and saying, "She has tiny hands!" He also pointed out all her other parts and brought her one of his cars. The first few days he kept telling me Ellie wanted various toys of his, but he eventually realized she didn't do anything with them, ha. That first week was full of adjustment for him, but he's really doing a lot better now. Even now, he has some moments where he wants me to put Eliana down and hold him, and I do every time I have the chance. In the meantime, he's really become a daddy's boy, and the other night, Josh said, "I think Ellie being born is the best thing that could have happened for me and Ez." (aww...)
A morning during week one...ignore our messy coffee table!

One of my favorite pictures ever!
Ezra's first morning home with Ellie--can't you just see the love in his eyes?!

Ez and El

My two guys--best buddies!
Hope you enjoyed this long-awaited birth story post! I'll do a post shortly of cute pictures/moments of Eliana. She is one month old today! I can't believe it--I am pretty sure she was just born last week...time is flying by too fast already!