Tuesday, May 28, 2013

2 recipes for laboring and post-partum moms:

1.  Laborade -- This is a great drink not only for moms in labor, but for anyone who does sports activities or works out.  I drank this after each contraction and also the first week of nursing when I am ever so thirsty.  I got the idea from THIS original recipe, but added it to coconut water instead of plain water for extra electrolytes and potassium.  It was very easy to throw together... Mark made it for me in just minutes at 3am while we were waiting for his parents to get to our house to stay with the girls so we could go on to the birth center!  I don't love coconut water by itself because it is a little too sweet for me, but the lemons added a nice sour flavor that made this drink the perfect "labor-ade" for me.


3-4 lemons
1/4 cup raw honey
1/2 tsp real sea salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Coconut water or just filtered water 

Directions:  Mix well; can keep in fridge and add to 1/2 gallon of coconut water when needed.  Or just add a couple of Tbs to a cup of coconut water.  I'll be honest, we didn't really measure and I think we added more than that.  But it was good and really worked!

2.  Home-made Frozen Witch-Hazel Pads for Postpartum Healing -- My friend gave me this recipe and these are awesome and really help promote healing.

For 4 Pads:4 Tablespoons of witch hazel1 tsp. teaspoon of aloe vera liquid12 drops of lavender oil. 

Directions: open the pad up and then pour the mixture on along pretty much the whole length of the pad. Fold, wrap individually in aluminum foil, put in a ziploc bag, and stick in the freezer.  Use one every couple of hours. The comforting sensation/healing lasts for a good half hour or more with each one

Thursday, May 23, 2013

My 4th Birth Story

My baby's birth story starts back late Tuesday night, May 14th (her Daddy's birthday).  He had gone to a late movie with a friend and I had a nice, calm peaceful evening.  I was having a bunch of Braxton Hicks, but I'd been having them for the last couple of months so I really did not think much of them.  2 out of 3 of my girls had been overdue so I really wasn't expecting anything a week before my due date.

  I went to bed earlier than normal (since Mark wasn't there to keep me up) and fell sound asleep.  He woke me up going to bed around 1:30am (Wednesday by this point) all excited about his fun night and promptly fell asleep.  I never did go back to sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time because I started having super strong Braxton Hicks and the baby was kicking and punching me all over and I kept having to go to the bathroom because my body was apparently cleansing itself for labor.  I started getting really scared at this point, because I had not yet re-tested my iron level and knew that if I went into labor, I would have to go to the hospital instead of the birth center.  I was supposed to test the next morning, so I just prayed over and over and over that night that I wouldn't go into real labor until I was cleared for the birth center.

Wednesday morning I was feeling icky and miserable because my stomach was still not right and I had no sleep.  I rushed out to the lab as soon as it opened because I wanted the results of that iron test as soon as possible in case real labor started.  With my other pregnancies, the "cleansing" period had preceded real labor by less than 24 hours.

My OB appointment was at 10:30 that morning and we were taking the girls with us because they wanted to meet the midwife and see where I would have the baby.  I was in so much pain in the car on the 35 minute drive because I had worn my maternity jeans (which I usually love) and they were too tight for the contractions I was experiencing.

My OB appointment went well and my midwife thought I looked great.  Even though the iron results would not be in until the following day, my midwife's assistant did some other checks (eyes, fingernails, etc) and said she thought it must be up so if I went into real labor that night, I could come to the birth center.  I cannot tell you what a relief that was to me!  My midwife asked if I wanted her to check to see if I was dilated but I declined.  I know how quickly that can change and that it is not a good indicator of labor prior to being in real labor.

So I took a nap, took a shower, and went to the chiropractor, fully expecting to go into labor that night. Mark and I enjoyed a nice date night and got some last minute baby things at Target, but I was having too many contractions to sit down and relax when we wanted to get a bite to eat or go look at baby names at Barnes and Nobles.  And I was exhausted by staying up the night before so we went home and I went to bed early.  And my contractions completely stopped!

I woke up the next morning think surely I must be going into labor but it had all stopped.  I panicked a bit, because my parents were going out of town for the weekend the next day and I really wanted my Mom to be at the birth.  But God had given me a little break before real labor began and I just had to accept that.  I started praying that the baby would wait until after my brother's graduation so my parents would not be in another state and miss the birth.  

No contractions on Thursday and I was so thankful.  But Thursday night they started up again and that was the one night that I really did not want to go into labor!  I went to bed early in hopes that they would stop and prayed and prayed that this baby would wait for Grandma to get back in the state.  It worked and Friday and Saturday I felt great with hardly any Braxton Hicks at all!  I thought for sure labor had stopped and this baby was going to join the ranks of my other overdue babies!  We had a lovely afternoon and evening at Mark's parents house and went home and I went to bed without any contractions, getting ready in my mind for church the next day and Karis's birthday celebration that we had planned a little early since I am usually overdue.

Saturday night, I slept soundly until 2:30am (Sunday) when I woke with a start because of a contraction that actually really hurt down low like the real thing!  I was utterly in shock and could not believe it!  I had another one a little bit later and then got up and went to the bathroom to see if they stopped when I walked around.  Nope, they only got stronger.  So I had to wake Mark and start calling everyone.  And he had actually taken a half of a sleeping pill around 1:30 am because he hadn't been able to get to sleep!  I was worried I wouldn't be able to wake him, but once he realized I was serious he sprung into action.  We were all in disbelief because I really had not experienced any labor symptoms since Thursday night. My parents had just gotten back to VA late that night and then I woke them up at 3am telling them to come to the birthing center.  This baby had just been waiting for Grandma!

We tried to take a quick last belly shot before heading to the birth center, but the lighting was weird and this fuzzy picture was all we got:

We got to the birth center around 4:15 and my midwife (Karen)  checked all my vitals and said the baby and I both looked good.  So I started walking around.  My doula got there soon after with her assistant, as well, and things started falling into a routine.  Karen raised the bed so that it was the right height to lean against when a contraction hit.  I would walk til I felt one coming on and then fall against the bed and my support team would spring into action.  They were amazing!  Mark and my two doulas did most of the pushing on my back and hips.  As I was moaning on the bed, one of them would grab one hip and one would grab the other and one would press a hot heating pad on my lower back as hard as possible.  I honestly don't know exactly all they were doing but it really helped.

I cannot state how wonderful it was to have such a nice support team.  My midwife was so calm and supportive, making sure that everything was going smoothly but also pretty much allowing me do my own thing.  My doula was amazing at helping me remember to vocalize really low, relax my shoulders, etc.  And of the course the heat and counter pressure on my lower back and hips helped tremendously. Another thing my doula really helped with was to remind me of my goals.  She knew I wanted to labor in the water through transition but not before because I didn't want to slow down labor.  And she knew that I wanted to turn around so that I could see and help catch the baby.  I would never have done those things without her encouragement because when I am in labor, I kind of get stuck in my routine and find it hard to change.  My doula had to really firmly remind me to go to the birthing tub and then again remind me to turn around when it was time to push so I could help catch the baby.  And I was so glad that she did!  

When I finally got in the water tub, it felt good.  Mainly because the weightlessness of being in the water helped to take some pressure off and the warmth felt really good.  But I have to say that it is not at all the pain reliever that many seem to think... I was glad to be in it but definitely still overwhelmed by the pain and wondering if I could do it by the time it came to push.  But I do not think I could have given birth in the squatting position and helped catch my baby without being in the water so I was very thankful for it!

I was so thankful and proud of my doula and her assistant because I know it must have been hard to reach me and put pressure on my hips and back when I was in that tub, but they sure did!  They worked so hard!  Karen brought out a pitcher and they poured the warm water over my lower back with every contraction.  (I labored in the hands and knees position until it was time to push because that seems to help my back the most.)  We would relax in between contractions and talk about the progress I was making and what was coming next, and then I would moan, "Here it comes!" and they would spring into action.  My doula was ever so encouraging.  I tend to doubt myself and my capability of pushing the baby out when it gets really bad and she was so encouraging and knew just want to say to keep me going.

When the contractions became utterly unbearable and I didn't think I could stand it any longer, I finally asked my midwife to check to see how far I was dilated.  I hate to do it in the beginning because I don't want to be disappointed if it is low and it can change so quickly that it is pointless.  But when I started feeling the urge to push, I wanted to make sure I wasn't going to be wasting my energy.  So she checked me and I was at 9.5!  So Karen said just to start pushing whenever I felt like it.  My doula reminded me to turn around and squat so I would be able to see.

When I finally pushed the baby down low enough to see her crown, we were all amazed that her water bag was still intact!  I could feel it with my fingers and they brought me a mirror so I could look.  It was amazing!  This was really an encouragement to me to keep on pushing!  I felt like this was the hardest baby yet to push out and I didn't realize at the time it was because she was my biggest!   Her head was 14 inches and it did not mold at all... (my dad is a numbers guy and somehow did the math and said that in order to push that out, I should have waited til I was dilated to 11 centimeters instead of the normal 10... that explains my stitches this time around!)  When I finally got her head out, her water bag finally broke and it was the most amazing thing to see that head sticking out!  But then I panicked because I kept pushing but couldn't get the rest of her out!  Usually once the head comes, the rest comes out with just one big push so I couldn't understand it.  But we found out later that her chest measured 14.5 inches -- even bigger than her head!  So that was my trouble.  She finally came out and I got to help catch her.  It was the most amazing moment of my life!

I really think she liked the waterbirth because she came out just as calm and happy as could be.  She was very alert and looking around with great color but it seemed like she hardly even cried about it.  (My dad was in the next room waiting to hear a cry and he said it made him nervous because it just never came!)  But she was perfectly healthy.  She breathed well and didn't even have to be suctioned or anything.  It was amazing.  She also came out looking a lot cleaner than my other babies.

I snuggled with her for about 5 minutes and then we cut the cord.  

After another 5 minutes or so, I needed to push out the placenta.  So I gave the baby to my midwife's assistant (an RN) for measuring and delivered the placenta.  Unfortunately, I had a lot of bleeding so they immediately laid me down and gave me a shot of pitocin, which worked immediately.  (For those of you who might be worried about the safety of a non-hospital birth, most certified midwives keep an arsenal of medical supplies handy in case they need it: pitocin, fluid for dehydration, antibiotics, etc.)

I could look over and see them measuring and checking the baby and my family's excited shouts of "she weighs 9.26 pounds!" and "she got an apgar of 10!" kept me happy til they let me get up and go to the bed to finally have my baby to myself.

I snuggled with her and nursed her for a while and then Karen said that she needed to check my bleeding and see if I needed stitches.  Unfortunately, I had a 2nd degree tear and did.  But Mark got to spend some quality time with his new girl while I got stitched up and cleaned up again.

I cannot begin to tell you how wonderful it was to give birth at the birthing center!  I trusted my midwife so much and it was such a relief to know that she knew my wishes and would only suggest something contrary if she really thought it absolutely necessary.  At my other hospital births, I always felt like I was fighting the doctors (particularly the pediatricians!!) to do the natural thing and with Karen, I knew she actually agreed with my desires and would do her absolute best to fulfill them.  She was such a blessing to me and I am so thankful that God worked everything out so that Susanna came after I was cleared to give birth at the center and that my Mom was able to be there as well.  It was a crazy week for me but I am so thankful the way things worked out!  

Monday, May 13, 2013

Some Random Favorites

This is going to be quite a random post, but I just wanted to share a few things that have made my life easier lately:

1.  Bandette Cup Labels -- I've gotten rid of most of our plastic ware and my girls primarily drink out of  8-oz. glass jelly jars.  They are heavier and thus tip over a lot less than my stainless steel or leftover plastic cups.  We have found that we have ten time less spills with these, as well as being more healthy to drink from.  However, the biggest problem is that the girls would forget whose glass is whose and I would end up washing them at every meal.  I stumbled upon these cute drink bands on Amazon and they have been a life-saver!  Now each girl has her own color and I only have to wash them once when I fill up the dishwasher at night.

2.  Boon Animal Bag Stuffed Animal Storage -- This one is a little pricey, totally worth it because it serves 2 purposes:  We had been going crazy with stuffed animals all over the place.  My girls LOVE their stuffed animals and sleep with many and play zoo/ pet shop with them all the time.  But we get so tired of finding them all over the house!  In addition, I've thought many times about buying them a bean bag for their reading nook.  This is less expensive than most of the nicer (won't burst easily) bean bags. So I decided it was worth it.  We probably stuffed 50 stuffed animals into one of these and then the girls had a blast jumping onto it from their bed :)  Very cozy!

3.  Knot Genie Detangling Hairbrush -- This hairbrush is amazing!  It totally works better than any other hairbrush I have tried on my girls' crazy hair.  Now it does come apart easily (like if I drop it on the floor) but goes back together very easily.  

4.  Fossil Key-per large shopping tote bag/ purse -- my awesome sis-in-law told me how wonderful this purse was and how handy it was and I am so glad I listened to her!  This bag is the perfect solution to someone who doesn't want a diaper bag but still needs some extra space.  I can easily throw in a sippy cup, Abbi's bear softy, my smaller Bible for church, a book to lend to a friend, my planner, water bottle, an extra diaper and small bag of wipes, small medicine kit, etc.  And it wipes off easily if I set it down somewhere dirty.  I've been using this purse for about a year and a half and it has been a lifesaver!  But don't pay full-price for it... I found my on e-bay for a great deal!  And I looked at the Fossil website and  don't like the newer versions as much.  

5.  Norwex cleaning supplies --  These are also expensive but I have been slowly building up my supplies over the last few years.  These are perfect for my girls to clean with because the silver and microfiber make them naturally antibacterial without the use of chemicals.  Each day my girls have "chore time" and I set them to work with these things.  The household package is the perfect starting set.  My girls love the mitt for dusting, they go all over the house wiping down baseboards and door knobs and cabinets with the everyday green enviro cloth, and I seriously have never had such streak-free windows as when I use the purple shine cloth. My husband was a skeptic but now borrows them to clean the windows in his car :) 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tips for surviving (and loving) the 1st year of Classical Conversations

Well folks, we made it through our first year of Classical Conversations!  And truly, we loved it.  I cannot think of a better program for my girls and me.  We learned so much and had so much fun!  My girls love to sing and each week's memory work has a song to go with it, so they learned the info almost effortlessly.  I am amazed and impressed with the program and thought I would share what I had learned to help my girls learn such vast amounts of information.  I have tons of friends who are considering the program and they have all asked what we do at home to supplement the one morning a week that we meet with our tutor and friends.  So here are my thoughts:

There are 3 basic things that we do: our Memory Board, our itunes playlist, and a summary binder of all the weeks' information. 

1.  Memory Board.  This has been so helpful!  We only go over CC info about 2-3 times a week and only for about 20-30 minutes.  That is truly all it takes.  And the girls are always excited to take a break from our tablework (math, phonics, handwriting, etc) to pull out the board and start singing and dancing to our songs.  Even Abbi loves to do our memory board.  For great instructions on how to make a tri-fold memory board, visit THIS LINK.  But you can really make it however you would like.  I ended up putting 2 weeks of history, science, math, and geography on the board at a time (one for review and one for new information).  This way I made sure that the girls did not forget anything from the previous week.  I started out by printing off the week's information every Sunday, but sadly did not always have time to do it and we got behind.  I finally stumbled across power point posters for the entire semester on CC Connected and printed the entire second semester off at once.  Let me tell you, that is the way to do it.  It was so nice to have everything ready when it was time to update our memory board each week!

2.  Binders of the year's information:  I originally did this for my own sanity, so that I would not lose any of my timeline cards or posters for the memory board.  I was surprised to find that Karis and Karlie loved to pull out the binders and just sing through them!  It turned out to be a great way to review.  I did not mandate a time for reviewing in this way, but the girls usually did it on their own at least once if not twice a week.  I tell you, they love those songs!

This notebook is organized very simply... I didn't even use tabs to divide the subjects.  I basically just put all 26 weeks in order by subject together.

I just put the binders on the shelf with all their other favorite books so they could get them whenever they wanted:

3.  ITunes Playlist:  CC has provided songs for all the history, timeline, and some of the math information that the girls memorize.  CC Connected has songs uploaded by other parents for everything  else. (Some of them are great and some of them are really annoying.)  Since my girls love to dance around and sing so much, I uploaded a song for each and every piece of memory work.  Then I would randomly play the playlist throughout the week as they were playing. 

Extra helpful information:
1.  Mystery of History audio Cd's --  My girls learn so much history by doing the timeline and history sentences that there is no need for me to try to fit in another history curriculum with our other homeschool work.  However, The information they learn is short and concise and it is up to me to flesh it out and help them understand it better.  I know a lot of other CC families use Story of the World to complement CC history, but I decided to try MOH because it was more biblically centered and at this point I felt like my girls needed that.  We will probably use SOTW CD's also when they are in Middle School, but I wanted a firm foundation for the younger years.  And I have been so pleased with it!  My big girls listen to books on CD every day at naptime (since they no longer sleep) so these CD's were perfect to give them that historical background to what they were memorizing without taking any extra time from our day.  Karis really enjoys these CD's and will choose them at least 3 days a week.  Karlie chooses them every now and then also.  The first set is absolutely wonderful, beautifully intertwining Biblical History with Secular History.  The second set containing the early church and middle ages does contain some violent descriptions (martyers, battles, etc) so even though it is from a great Christian perspective, the parent will want to preview before deciding what is appropriate for the children.  All in all, though, we have really enjoyed these CD's and can't wait for the 3rd set to be finished!

2.  CC Connected: Only $6 a month and super helpful.  All CC parents can upload their posters, videos, songs, and helpful tricks for memorizing the informtaion. This is where I find all my posters for our memory board and my songs for our itunes playlist.
3.  CC iphone or ipad App -- I didn't get this until the second semester because I didn't have a smartphone until we moved, but my girls loved this!  I let them play with the app each morning while I brush and fix their hair and even Abbi loved to see the pictures and hear the songs.  Honestly, if you download the app, you don't even really need the teacher's book.  It is fabulous for reviewing old material especially.
4.  Half-A-Hundred Acre Wood blog -- there are tons of blogs out there with lots of CC info, but if I had to pick just one to follow, I would choose this one.  She has great ideas and also does a lot of link-ups so you can see other bloggers' ideas easily.  She has planning pages, booklists for each cycle, review games, and much more.

5.  "Blobbing" the continents:  After reading Leah Bortin's book, "The Core," (which I HIGHLY recommend if you really want to catch the classical education vision) I decided to have the girls start practicing drawing maps.  I was surprised at how much they enjoyed it!  I had seen Book 7 of the Draw, Write, Now series recommended and it did really help the girls in the beginning.

Here is Karis' very first freehand map.   Very basic, but she actually really enjoyed making it and showed improvement each week!

After a she got good at the basic map, we added in the 5 major circles of latitude

Her first map with the 5 great circles:

We will gradually add more and more detail to our maps and begin making the continents in their actual shapes :)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Kindergarten and Preschool schedule/ ideas

A friend recently asked what I do all day with my girls because she was wanting to get an idea of pre-school for her older toddler. I thought I'd share my response here:
Our general schedule is very flexible -- I learned not to write specific times because nothing ever goes exactly as planned with so many little ones:
1. breakfast, clean up, get dressed
2. Breakfast notebooks -- I've made notebooks for the big girls with things they are working on: daily calendar counting, weather graph, tracing names and addresses, map tracing, numbers, shapes, colors, etc. Most of the pages I put in sheet protectors and they use dry erase markers everyday and then erase. My Kindergartener also has handwriting, phonics, and math worksheets. My toddler does any number of things during this time: drawing on our dry-erase board, puzzles, taking all the tops off our markers, etc
3. Classical Conversations review - I have a display board that I put their memory work for the week. My toddler actually likes to do this because it is mostly songs to go with each poster and they dance around and sing.
4. Outside time, lunch
5. Naps -- the big girls listen to books on CD for the first hour and then I do the eldest's reading lesson and practice while my toddler is still napping. If she naps long enough we do spelling on the dry erase board which they think is great fun (with my preschooler I usually just give letter sounds or blends and I help her write the letters)
6. Free play or outside time while I cook dinner.
7. eat dinner, clean up for Daddy, play with Daddy, bedtime routine
So that is the general routine (only about 3 days a week, really, because of CC co-op, our mommy playgroup, Sunday, and my husband's day off). My preschooler is at the point now where I write things with a highlighter and she traces it and will attempt a few letters but tires easily and that is fine. The early Bob books (Alphabet and Pre-reading skills) are great for toddlers as well. My girls always loved the tiny books with funny pictures so she might sit for those even if she is not that into reading. Also, my girls loved the Sound Box books by Jane Moncure and they were all at my library so you can probably request them here. You could get a couple a week and focus on those letters with your toddler if you wanted to. But honestly, I've found the easiest way to teach letters is by doing a letter puzzle with them. They learn it without even trying! And then just practice counting up and down in games like hide and seek and whenever you see multiple objects in books. And then just keep lots of books on hand and read as much as she will allow so it comes naturally when she is older. And thats all I can think of for the littles. They really don't need to know much and do too much schoolwork. I personally think playtime is very important at that age! The main thing you need to do is read, read, read to build her vocabulary. Since she doesn’t have a big attention span yet, use books as a transition... one or two before and after naps, mealtimes, playtimes, etc. It helps with the transition to different activities (which is difficult for that age) and soon her attention span will grow and she will be asking you to read more and more books at a time. And really, that is all she needs at this age. Nursery Rhymes are great at this age because it teaches them rhyme and meter. A lot of them don’t make a bit of sense, but the little ones love them, especially if you check out a book that is illustrated beautifully. Also, there is a Wee-Sing nursery rhyme Cd that my girls absolutely LOVE. It has made road trips so much easier and they have memorized tons of them effortlessly.