Thursday, May 29, 2014

Gavin's Birth Story

I am delighted to share this birth story from my friend Jamie.  Not only do I love how she and I connect on so many things- cloth diapering, extended breastfeeding and following Jesus, we also have mirror families, as her daughter was born about 5 weeks before Esther, and her son (whose birth story is below) was born about 5 weeks before Hudson.  I hope you find this story an encouragement, no matter where you are at in life! :)

Our son was due on 2/12/14. At my 39 week appointment, they found that he was no longer in the head down position like he had been for the several weeks prior, but he was now in an oblique (diagonal) position. They threatened C-section if he didn't turn, but were willing to let me go into labor naturally like I did with our daughter Colbie. We started praying that he turn, as well as going on to find ways to have him turn at home- like hanging off the couch upside down. I saw a chiropractor, and went to get acupuncture. I also tried moxabustion! Thankfully, when I went in for my 40th week appointment, he was head down, so they let me be. 

Now I had to worry about when he would come. I told my midwife, Kerry, that I did not want to be induced, so they were going to let me go into labor naturally, as long as I didn't go too far past 41 weeks. So, I again looked online at natural labor induction techniques and decided to try a few harmless ones. I made a fresh pineapple smoothie, ate some spicy salsa, and the night before I went into labor- we went out to Italian and I ate eggplant parmigiana (which was quite delicious!) I hadn't slept well the previous few nights because I was worried about when I would go into labor- if it was the middle of the night how our babysitter would get to our daughter, or if our doula would get here in time. But, Sunday night after the eggplant- I slept wonderfully. Probably the best night of sleep I'd had in a long time. 

When I woke up around 7:20am on Monday, February 17th, 2014- I felt like I was having mild contractions. I immediately texted my doula, Bethany, and our babysitter, Claire, to give them a heads up. It didn't feel like real labor yet, but it was the first regular waves of pain I had experienced, so I wanted them to be on alert- just in case. By 8:30am, I was certain it was real labor. I had showered, eaten breakfast, drank water, and laid down- and the waves were getting stronger. I still wasn't sure how long I would be experiencing them, so no need for Claire and Bethany to come over yet. I did laundry, changed the sheets for Claire and her husband Randy, woke up and fed my daughter breakfast- just kept things normal as possible. At 10:00 or so, I felt like things were maybe getting a bit more intense. It was so hard to tell!! I figured, worst case scenario- Claire and Bethany come over and have to leave...but something in me just told them to come, and they did. I think they both arrived around 10:30am

Bethany started timing my contractions while Claire played with Colbie. My contractions hadn't been lasting the typical 60 seconds, but they were coming consistently at 2.5 mins apart for an hour or more. I was standing for all of them, it was the most comfortable position. I went in to go to the bathroom fairly soon after they arrived, and there was some blood- so I knew this was the real thing. I was having a lot of lower back pain. Bethany told us a trick to look at my lower back for a line coming up from my perineum- and sure enough, it was there! So crazy to see this line that had never been there before. Apparently it can give you a rough estimate as to how far you are dilated or how far the baby has descended. I can't remember exactly, but it was crazy!

Anyhow, I was beginning to feel a lot of pressure down below and decided I wanted to go to the hospital around 11:30. Bethany followed us in her car, and Claire stayed home with Colbie. The 20 minutes to the hospital were AWFUL. I thought I was going to have the baby in the car. SO MUCH PAIN. We got to the hospital and I hurried up to Labor and Delivery while my husband Taka and Bethany parked. Taka came into intake with me, but I immediately started having a contraction and the nurse let me skip all the paperwork and go into the intake room to be checked for dilation. To our surprise, the midwife I had been seeing the whole pregnancy was working! I was so happy. She came in to check me and I was at 9cm!! I was so surprised! It had been painful, but not unbearable. I was so excited that our son was going to be here soon. They rushed me into the delivery room. Some of the nurses commented as I was walking by, "That's the 9??" Apparently I looked pretty good for being that far along!

When we got into the delivery room, the nurses said they needed to take some blood and put in a hep lock, "just in case." I said, "Is that necessary?" They said, "yes." But I guess Kerry had walked in at that point and told them to skip it. Yay! We had been taught at Bradley class that it would be a fight not to get the hep lock, and I didn't even have to fight it. When Bethany told me later that Kerry had told them not to do it, I was so happy.

At this point, I was taking every contraction standing up, leaning on the rolling table they have in each room. It was the most comfortable position. I remember looking at the clock which was annoyingly right in my direct line of view from the bed around 1pm, and hoping our son would beat his sister and be born before 1:50pm because I was feeling the need to push really bad and wanted him out! With Colbie, I only had to push for 15 minutes, so I was hoping Gavin would be quicker! I was wrong. :( I think around 1:00-1:30 or so my legs were just done from standing up, and I wanted to get in the bed to finish pushing. Bethany suggested maybe I try getting on all fours to alleviate some of the back pain I was having. I felt super awkward and I only stayed in that position for one contraction- but it happened to be the contraction that my water broke! It was so crazy. With Colbie, my water didn't break at all. With Gav, I felt super intense back pain when I was on all fours and then all of a sudden this huge POP and water went EVERYWHERE. My hubby wasn't even standing super close to me, and it soaked his shoes and one leg of his jeans. Luckily nobody was behind me or they would have been soaked. It made a huge mess for the nurse to clean up. Once my water broke, it was immediate relief. Well, until the next contraction! It actually felt really nice having the warm amniotic fluid all over my feet and legs when my water broke. Makes me definitely see how people enjoy water births.

Anyhow, I knew that laying on your back was one of the worst positions for laboring, but I still wanted it. Bethany had the nurse get the squat bar, so I could try to labor in a squat position in bed- I probably did that for about an hour. Also, by this point, Kerry had discovered that I had a lip or rim of cervix that was making the whole thing more painful and taking longer. I was feeling like my pushing was ineffective since it was taking so long. Kerry ended up needing to manually push out the lip/rim which was so awful. She had her hand in my cervix during contractions, while I was pushing. Ugh. I ended up putting my legs up in the stirrups because I thought maybe I could push more effectively to try and get rid of this complication. Finally after some hardcore pushing, the lip/rim was gone! After it went away, it only took 3 more pushes and Gavin was here! There was so much excitement in the room once he was coming out. I felt like I had a million cheerleaders. Oh, and speaking of being loud...with Colbie, I don't think I made a single noise. With Gavin, the entire hospital probably could have heard me! I was so loud, but I couldn't help it. It was just such a different experience. When Gavin was born, he had his hand up by his head- yet another thing that caused the labor to be more painful than usual. When I was doing those final 3 pushes, I was just thinking to myself (and maybe even said out loud)- "Get out! Get out!" I was so ready for the labor to be over with. My body felt so beat up.

Like his sister, there was some meconium in the amniotic fluid, so Kerry did a quick suction, while the cord was still attached, and then put him to my chest immediately. I didn't get to hold Colbie until she was all cleaned up. Gavin was on my chest within a minute. I always thought it was a bit gross seeing this vernix and blood covered babies, but Gavin was really clean. And, he was so warm! Kerry let the umbilical cord finish pulsating before having Taka cut the cord right on my chest.

They gave me a shot of pitocin in my arm, which I had originally wanted to decline, but at this point I was so exhausted, I didn't really care. Bethany said it is pretty routine, and helps with hemorrhaging so I just let them do it without a fight. Soon after the placenta was expelled. I could see it laying on a table near the foot of the bed, pretty cool looking. They put it in a bucket and gave it to Bethany to take home. Crazy that some meaty looking part of my body was being sent home in a bucket with someone we barely knew. Bethany had been with us for about 4-5 hours at this point and I knew she was tired too, so we told her she could head home.

They let Gavin lay on my chest and attempt to nurse, and cover me in poop, for what seemed like forever. They said I needed to stay in the delivery room for 2 hours before being sent to the postpartum room, and I held Gavin on my chest for most of that time. He nursed really well, and then they weighed him and measured him and cleaned the poop off of him, did a few tests, etc. Taka was right next to him and I could see him the whole time. They brought me some nasty food to eat, and I drank SO much. Two glasses of orange juice, some other juice they had, and probably 96 ounces of water within an hour. My throat was so sore from all the moaning, etc during labor. I felt like I had been at a rock concert or something.

We went to the postpartum room and started to arrange visitors for the evening. We wanted Colbie to come by asap because we missed her! So, Claire brought Colbie by, and also Taka's dad came by. Good thing he did because he brought us some dinner and I was soooo hungry again already. I felt like I had ran a marathon. That night, the nurses came in every 1-2 hours to test Gavin's glucose level since he was close to being 9lbs. They said that he was a big baby (8lbs 15.5oz) and so they have to keep an eye out for low blood sugar. Ugh. So annoying. We probably only got 2 hours sleep that night with all the nurse visits. We were set on getting out the following day because we wanted to get home to Colbie, so I nursed Gavin as much as possible to keep his blood sugar up and he ended up passing, so we were good to go!

After a bunch of other vitals and tests, we were finally able to go home around 5pm on Tuesday, 2/18/14. Since Gavin was born at 2:51pm the 17th, they wanted him to stay until he was at least 24 hours old. Claire had made us dinner that night at home and we slept so much better our first night than we did at the hospital!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Trader Joes and Aldi's... My Two Grocery Store Loves

I was first introduced to Aldi's when I lived in Berlin, Germany for a year after graduating college.  After we got married, it became my main grocery store and I absolutely fell in love with it.  It never ceased to amaze me how much money we saved by shopping there.  When we moved to California, I was so sad to leave behind my much beloved Aldi's, but soon found a new love... Trader Joe's.  Our more recent move back to the midwest has left me an hour from my beloved TJ's, but I have fallen in love again with Aldi's, which is once again five minutes from our house.

At first glance, Trader Joe's and Aldi's may seem polar opposites.  One caters to middle to upper class white people, while the other attracts lower class people, including many minorities.  One carries organic, gluten free cookies in a whimsically cute box while the other has large, unattractive pallets of staples like white flour and (probably GMO) sugar.

But there is more similarity than meets the eye.  One thing the two stores have in common is the fact that they carry a limited selection of grocery items, which makes for smaller stores and lower prices.  Another similarity is that almost everything sold in each of these stores is privately labeled.  Neither store usually runs sale prices, most things (except for produce and dairy) are the exact same price every time you go.  But the reason for these unusual similarities isn't by chance, it goes back decades... Aldi's and TJ's were once the same company, founded by two brothers in Germany.  At one point they had a disagreement and the company split... and now decades later the result is Aldi's and Trader Joe's.

For those who are unfamiliar with the two stores, I want to share my love: comparing the things they have in common, as well as contrasting the ways they are different.

Low Prices.  This is obvious for Aldi's, but for Trader Joes?  This would seem hard to believe for a store that caters to the upper-middle class.  I remember the first time I went to TJ's was while I was in college, on the recommendation of a friend who told me how great the prices were.  I went in, looked around and picked up about 2 items and then left, thoroughly unimpressed with the prices.

The key is you have to know what to buy at Trader Joe's.  The produce prices are not impressive, though if you compare prices there are a few things that are a decent price (when we lived in Cali I regularly bought organic carrots and bagged lettuce there, and sometimes avocados when they are in season).  Packaged foods are likewise not that impressively priced (but we don't buy many packaged foods anyways, as they are pricey everywhere, at least compared to making food at home).  But they have a good number of frozen and dry goods staples that are very reasonably priced.  In fact, when we lived in Cali, most of their staple goods (things like pasta, flour, certain cheeses, tortillas, milk, frozen fruit and veggies) were cheaper than any other grocery store I compared their prices with (including discount stores).  I haven't done as much price comparison here in Indiana, but there are a handful of things I will pick up there still when we happen to drive in the direction of the TJs near us.

Special Buys.  Both stores have a very predictable repertoire of food items, which allows them to keep costs low (and makes shopping simple- yay!).  But both regularly get in special shipments of various specialty foods, which makes shopping there a bit like an adventure.  Its exciting when you see something new, and get to try it out.  Sometimes when they have a new items I really like I stock up because you never know how long they will have it.  Even better- when Aldi's doesn't sell their special buys quickly enough (they seem to want to have quick turnover of products) they put them on clearance for half price, which is why twice in the past 6 months I have come home with over 10 pounds of organic cheese for cheaper than conventional cheese (I bought every single bag they had on the shelf both times!).

Specialty/Healthy/Organic food. This is an area where these two stores part ways a bit.  TJ's definitely gets the prize for having more specialty/healthy/organic foods.  For example, I love their frozen, pesticide free spinach and blueberries, as these are cheaper than organic because they are not certified as such, but also don't have the nasty chemicals (conventional versions of these are very high in pesticides).  They also carry certain obscure health foods like almond flour, brown rice pasta and coconut cream (all three of these in particular are at really good prices).  They also have a fairly wide selection of organic foods.

However, Aldi's is catching up.  They recently expanded their selection of organic produce and have a few dry goods that are organic (cereal, salsa, spaghetti sauce, etc).  They have organic meat and cheese on special buy every once in a while.  They recently had a special buy of gluten free products, which was a blessing to us as it happened right when I started a GF diet for some issues Hudson has been having.

Shopping Experience.  Lets be honest.  Shopping at TJ's is way more fun than shopping at Aldi's.  TJs has free samples of food, incredibly overly friendly employees (they must give them the same drugs as Starbucks employees), coloring pages for kiddos, and a entry to win a gift card if you bring your own bags.

Aldi's has shopping carts under lock and key (the key is your quarter), bags for sale (or you can bring your own bag without the hope of a gift card drawing), employees who must be on a different kind of drug for how fast they scan your items, and a bag your own grocery policy.  However, though I like the experience of TJs, I will choose to bag my own groceries any day in order to save a bit more money.

The Cool Factor.  Shopping at TJ's is cool.  Aldi's is not cool. This is because TJ's has an advertising budget while Aldi's spends very little on advertising.  I am more inclined to mention my shopping trip to TJ's on facebook, than my trip to Aldi's, though this is a subconscious thing.

But this isn't a make or break thing for me.  Lets face it, I'm a stay at home mom and a Christian, I'm not the epitome of cool.

Have you shopped at either one (or both) of these stores?  What do you love about Trader Joe's?  What do you love about Aldi's?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Best Tape to Repair Books

I've had this problem for four years now.  Let kiddos play with books (to foster their imagination and love for books) or protect the books and keep them on a high shelf (so that they don't get ruined).  While the perfectionist in me screams out for the latter of these options, the mother in me usually leans towards the first, especially because I love to read and want our children to love books too.

But that leads to the inevitable problem: torn pages in books.  Recently, I discovered a great solution.  Well, the solution isn't really that unique, it merely involves taping the pages up.  But the type of tape is the critical point.  You see at some point in the past few years we acquired some Scotch brand "Silk" tape (I think it now goes by the name of gift wrap tape).  It is a more expensive version of normal Scotch tape that is meant to be used on gift wrap as it is less shiny and more invisible.  I think I got it on clearance somewhere because I know I wouldn't normally buy something like that (maybe it was put there when they changed the name?).  And I haven't even been really using it on gift wrap that much, as I don't really care if the already clear tape is slightly visible on a present.

However.  In a book, yes.  I don't want the tape to be a visible distraction to the pictures.  So my solution?  My clearance-rack-but-normally-expensive-name-brand silk tape.

So there you have it.  The best tape for repairing books.  And now you know.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Our Favorite Board Books with Non-White Main Characters

Being in a family of mixed ethnicities, and because we have welcomed 6 foster kiddos of different ethnicities than ourselves into our home and especially because we hope to adopt children of various ethnicities, I am very conscious about the skin tones of characters in the books we read and the toys we own.

Growing up, I had a few black and Asian dolls and went to a school with a lot of diversity (about half black, half white with a few Asian sprinkles, at the time these were about the only races represented our town), but I never thought much about it.  Different cultures and skin tones seemed normal to me, and I am blessed to have been raised by parents who didn't make skin tone a big deal one way or another.

Now as a parent myself, I want to continue in that pattern: raising our children to be exposed to many ethnicities without making a big deal out of it or patting ourselves on the back for being so open minded/diverse/multi-cultural, etc.  I want it to be natural for our kids to be use to people who look and sound different.  But I also find that I do need to be intentional in ways to make sure that this is happening.

One way that I do this is by making sure that we get books from the library with non-white main characters.  The vast majority of books that I see have white main characters, so I don't have to be intentional about picking those up, but to see anyone who isn't white is pretty rare.  And many of the books with non-white characters I do pick up end up being a disappointment (I wonder if they are only published as the token minority book and not because they have good quality writing and illustrations?).

Since we are still in the stage of life where many/most of the books we check out are board books, so I am most familiar with those.  I want to share three board books featuring non-white main characters that we have really been enjoying.

Waiting for Baby by Rachel Fuller - The first time I opened this book, I was so happy.  The child was mixed and the parents were of two different races!  This is the first book I have ever seen with that kind of family make up, and its close to my heart because that is how our family looks (currently).  It was also a very appropriate read for us recently, because it is about a family who is waiting for their second baby to come.  The writing style is very conversational, and makes it easy to talk about adding a new member to the family.  We read this over and over while waiting for Hudson, and had many conversations about him during that time because of this book.

Girl of Mine by Jabari Asim - Esther loves this book.  Every time we check it out, she asks to read it over and over again (good thing I also love the book!).  The illustrations are beautiful (I probably especially love them because they feature a lot of purple- my favorite color!).  I think she also really likes it because it has a song in the middle (Esther likes books with songs), to the tune of "Rock a Bye Baby", with different words.  This is a sweet, sweet book.

Whose Toes are Those? by Jabari Asim - This is a really cute book by the same author (and possibly the same illustrator?) as Girl of Mine.  Like Girl of Mine, it has a nursery rhyme in the middle ("This Little Piggy") and Esther always gets a kick out of the piggy going "wee wee wee".  The illustrations are gorgeous, and the writing very poetic.  This is another book that gets read frequently when it is checked out from the library.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a book (board book or paper) about another under represented minority... large families.  Almost every book I've seen has one or two kids in the family.  I think I've seen one with three children.  I'm sure books about families with more than three kids don't make it past the PC police at the book publishers, since those families are clearly contributing to world overpopulation...

What books would you add to this list?

Monday, May 19, 2014

April in Our Home

Life has been very full with a newborn, so I skipped updating on life in March, and am very delayed in writing about April, but I wanted to write at least something, and figure its better late than never.

We were expecting Hudson around the 10th of this month, but he decided to come about 2.5 weeks before his "due" date.  So, we took most of April day by day as we adjusted to life with a new little one in the house.  I was very intentional about resting much more this time around than with Esther's birth, and I am thankful I did so.  Recovery has gone well, by God's grace.

Our Rowdy Little Rhino, at 3.5 weeks old
The first few weeks of Hudson's life were pretty rough.  In the hospital, he had a possible infection that had to be treated and for the next few days the doctors kept an eye on him.  When he was a week old, he was diagnosed with a tongue and lip tie and had to have these surgically corrected.  Poor guy had the biggest fat lip as a result and couldn't nurse for almost a day, so we had to spoon feed him all of his meals.  He was very fussy for almost a week and was clearly in pain.  And if that wasn't enough, a few days after his surgery he came down with a cold that had been passing through our family.  It took several weeks to recover from all of these things, and he received chiropractic care and physical therapy for the whole month to help with his tongue tie surgery recovery, but now he is back to normal and nursing well.

Esther took the adjustment pretty roughly.  We have had two foster babies join our family since Esther was born, and she did well with both of those new additions.  But Hudson has been a bit different.  I think two factors have lead to it being harder for her.  First, because she's older now, and realizes how much attention she has lost. Secondly, because with giving birth, there is a physical recovery aspect for me, making me much less capable of doing things with her, whereas with welcoming a new foster baby, my physical capabilities remained more or less the same.  Fortunately as the month went on, she warmed up more to Hudson, and is now playing the big sister role beautifully (most days :) ).

Our church had a women's retreat scheduled the weekend after Hudson's due date.  I assumed all the way up to his (early) arrival that I wouldn't be able to go, but decided (in the hospital) to sign up since he would be nearly 3 weeks old by time the retreat arrived.  I am thankful that I got to go (just to the daytime portion of Saturday), enjoying a day to get away and focus on God and the other women at church.

April was also the month of planting our garden.  Another reason I was thankful for Hudson's early arrival: it meant that when our community garden opened mid-April I was in (more or less) good enough shape to be able to till, fertilize and plant (with the help of my mom, as we are venturing in on this together... thankful to not be doing this on my own!).  So far we have planted beets, peas, radishes, winter squash, pumpkins, melons, peppers (sweet and spicy), tomatoes (regular and cherry), swiss chard, spinach, parsley, zucchini, lettuce, basil and cilantro.  Writing this out, it seems like a lot of plants; however I really wanted to plant so much more, but we simply didn't have room (our garden plot is 10'x20').

Books I read this month:

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

The Railway Children by E. Nesbit (in progress)

The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs