Monday, February 23, 2015

on body image

I've been hard on myself lately. At first, I celebrated because my physical recovery from labor and birth was easier than with my firstborn. I assumed that since it was easier, all the other things would also come quickly - like fitting back into regular pants.

And I've been disappointed and frustrated. I gained weight on my hips and thighs during this pregnancy, whereas I had not when I carried my son. It will be a longer process of exercise and healthy eating to get this weight off, and for now, it's not very possible for me to get much extra exercise in! And I'm sleep deprived and fighting a cold, so I'm resting as much as I can. Not a very helpful situation that way!

In the meantime, my husband has continued to praise me and say he loves the way I look. He likes the yoga pants. It's okay that I'm not the same shape. He loves me.

I know that I am loved and that my body did a beautiful thing in giving life to this little girl, and that it continues to do an amazing thing in nourishing her and providing the comfort she and her big brother need. The loads of laundry, hugs, diaper changes, clothing changes, swaddles, tossing footballs, coloring with crayons, cooking meals, wiping faces and dozens of messes are my gift to my children and my husband. Their clean faces and content smiles are the evidence of the work my body has done for them. Why should I be so hard on myself that it's not the shape I had hoped so soon?

I need patience and grace to wait and work through this time. I need to focus on the little things, the beautiful, good, wonderful things. The pounds gained by my chubby little cherub. The smiles and silly laughs of my toddler. The hugs and reassurance of my husband. The love and support of friends. The beauty of redemption and self sacrifice.

Breathing and trusting that things will be well. That all things are beautiful in their time, and that I will again reach my personal goals. All will be well.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Mara's birth story

We're so happy to welcome our sweet daughter to our family! Little Mara Grace has been with us for almost four weeks now - unbelievable.

I have rather prompt children, I guess! Both my son and my daughter were born on their due dates, an experience that I'm told is rather rare.

One day old!
On Friday the 16th, I had my 40 week obgyn appointment. My due date was Saturday, January 17th, and my doctor said she would sweep my membranes to try to get things moving. It was painless for me, which was great! I had a few contractions after that and throughout the evening, but they were inconsistent. My mom had come into town, as she had planned, and we had a nice time together. It was good for her to follow Joshua's regular schedule with me, as she would be caring for him when we left for the hospital.

I awoke at about 5:30 the following morning to real contractions. Time-able. Had to breathe through them. I woke Brad and had him pass me his phone so I could download and use a contraction timer app. As I breathed through the pain, the first words that came to mind were these from Isaiah 41:10: "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Over and over. I focused on those words of truth and felt peace settle over me through the pain. God is my strength. He is my help. He holds me. Do not fear.

I timed for about an hour before I realized that the contractions were already between three and five minutes apart - time to get to the hospital! 

Meanwhile, Joshie and Nana had already gotten up and started breakfast. The smell of coffee was familiar and comforting, reminding me of my childhood. I don't drink coffee, but it was calming. So good to have my mom here.

I dressed myself between contractions and got downstairs to the armchair to wait for the on-call doctor to return my call and to tell me to come to the hospital. I waited and breathed and centered myself on the scripture. Joshua looked over at me from the breakfast table and wondered if Mommy was okay. Mommy's belly hurts, I said. But everything is okay. The baby will come out today, and the doctor will help. Mommy and Daddy will go to the doctor, and baby sister will come out.

The ride to the hospital was a mere 20 minutes, but felt so long with contractions every three minutes or so. And oh, was it cold! But it was a clear, sunny day, with passable roads. Just what I had prayed for. And I remained peaceful.

The triage experience was less than fun. They require a urine sample as soon as I set foot in the door. That was difficult to manage during my frequent contractions! Then the belly monitors were put on me for a fetal non-stress test and to time my contractions. As I waited for that, they also tried to insert an IV. And failed. It took three attempts and two different locations and two different nurses to get my IV started! So frustrating. It became difficult to focus and center myself with the bright lights, people talking to me through contractions, and the extra pain from the needle pricks. And I was already at 4.5cm dilated - all on my own, with no drugs. I felt proud of that, but was already beginning to feel less than strong. It was probably about 45 minutes there in triage before we were taken to a birthing/recovery room and I was given a steroid to take the edge off my pain.

Since things were seeming to progress quickly, my epidural was started by about 8:30am. Instant relief. The anesthesiologist who gave the epidural was calming, confident, and quick. I felt so much better and slept a bit. I was able to read a book and text and laugh - and didn't feel a single contraction - until the insertion point got bumped and started to come out. I ended up needing a second epidural.

My water did not break for hours and hours; the baby was sitting so high, and hadn't descended into my pelvis to cause the water to break. The doctors didn't want to rupture it for me, as it could've caused the umbilical cord to get stuck in the birth canal and cause a dangerous situation for the baby. So we waited. And waited. The nurses were wonderful about helping me.

I was fully dilated by early afternoon, but was not allowed to push because of the baby's position. I was getting frustrated and tired, and felt emotional. I asked to sit upright, and had my feet lowered. A couple hours later, my water finally broke on its own, and things began to move quickly.

By 8pm, it was time. Nurses brought in the delivery items, spread out instruments on the tables, and laid out smocks for the doctor and nurse practitioner. The baby's isolette was brought in, as was the scale and other items to clean her up when she was born.

At 8:15pm, I began to push. Not more than eight pushes and four contractions later, little Mara Grace was born at 8:31pm! The cord was around her neck, so it had to be cut early. I'm glad for the doctor's quick attention to her and to keeping me safe, too. I didn't tear at all, and didn't have to have any stitches this time. So thankful.

Mara was whisked to the table and dried vigorously, and then she began to cry. What a strong cry! She was adamant about wanting to nurse. She weighed in at 7lbs, 12oz, and was 20.5" long. As soon as she was ready, I started to nurse her. And she nursed for an hour and a half! Poor Daddy didn't get to hold her for that long. He made many phone calls, though, and was elated when he finally got to hold his little princess.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

warm hearts

I've been doing some small projects as I wait for our baby girl to be born! It's helpful to distract myself with something creative when I'm feeling so ready to greet this sweet little one.

For a long time now, I've wavered between giving away and keeping a certain pink wool zip-up hoodie I've had at least since my freshman year of college. It's cute, cozy, and the perfect fit...and I've worn the elbows to death. I darned them multiple times, and it just was not working anymore. I'm not really into elbow patches, so that option was out. So I kept the sweater. And tossed it between the "mend" and "give away" piles. Until a couple evenings ago.

Joshie and I came in from a very cold day in the snow last Monday, and I heated up my big rice pack for him to warm his hands and to keep him snuggled on the couch for a few minutes. It was hard for him to hold the large hot pack, but he was soon warm enough to be happy. That sparked my thoughts...maybe he needs his own hot pack!

I also recently saw that a friend (and relative) of mine made a small hot pack for her preemie's belly; it has helped his tummy troubles to subside and allowed him to sleep! Baby Center also recommends a warm pack like that for soothing colic in newborns, and I thought I should make one.

The final push to get this little project done came when I saw someone's adorable heart-shaped rice packs, and I had to give it a go! I honestly don't remember where I saw it, so if it was you, please know that you inspired me.

Would you like to make some, too? They're quick and easy, and you can make them in any shape you'd like!

You'll need:

Paper for creating a pattern
Dry rice (not quick rice)
Sewing machine
Essential oil or dried lavender, if desired
A natural fiber fabric (cotton, wool, etc.)
Note: I used two fabrics, a wool sweater for the outside, and a 100% cotton tee shirt fabric (jersey) for the inside. You really only need one, but my wool sweater was worn very thin and needed some more structure.

Use your paper to create a simple shape for your pattern. I chose a heart shape, but it would be just as functional to cut a square, triangle, circle...or you could get fancy and do something else!

Cut two fabric pieces for each hot pack, and stack them with wrong sides (inside of fabric) together.

Using a zig-zag stitch, sew almost all the way around your fabric sandwich, leaving about 1" of the perimeter unsewn.

Using your funnel, spoon rice into your hot pack. My 4" hearts needed about 4T of rice each to feel full enough. You should have enough room to be able to shift the rice around a bit; don't stuff too firmly. At this point, you could also include dried lavender or a few drops of essential oil, if you'd like a scent other than warm rice.

Remove the funnel and sew up the opening of the hot pack. Be sure to start on top of the existing stitching so that there's less chance of the stitches unraveling.

Trim your edges close to the stitching so that they look neat. 

Microwave for about 30 seconds on high and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


Yet again! This is how I roll. Welcoming the new year, looking for deals, and thrifting. I have to bring my boy up right, you know? He got a little birthday money from his great grandpa, and so we went off to the thrift store.

When I go to the thrift stores, it's super dangerous (read: expensive) for me if I don't have a goal in mind, a specific item or two that I'm looking for. Sometimes it's jeans for Brad, a fresh new skirt for me, a certain size picture frame, or some clothes for this toddler that grows so quickly.

This time around, I figured I better start the size 3T stash of clothes for Joshie. My slim little guy needs adjustable waist pants, so that was on the top of the list. I figured that "Great Grandpa Ed" would probably want him to have some sort of toy, too.

Toddler shopping strategy is to ask for what you want immediately before or immediately upon entering the store. This time, it was a football. No football in sight, but a basketball sufficed. On to the toy section so that he could hold and play with whatever toy we were going to end up going home with.

Joshie spotted the vacuums. He wanted them.

And then the Little Tikes construction vehicles. The big, bulky, hard-to-hold kind. And he wanted that instead.

And then the vacuum again.

Then a transformer.

And then?

I saw two Little Tikes cozy coupe cars. They retail for between $45 and $55 new. And both were marked $4.99. Oh, okay, then. So out of the cart went the Josh, and into a car, and around the store. We parked one up front so that we could reserve it as ours.

Meanwhile, there was a $0.99 construction helmet that he fell in love with. Fine by me. I managed to find him a pair of almost-new Children's Place jeans, like these, for $3.99. Then a set of Carter's cotton pajamas, like these, for $2.99. And the icing on the cake? A J. Crew half-zip rugby-style heavyweight pullover, not quite a sweatshirt, but a thick tee with a cute little leather pull on the metal zipper...for $0.99. Hooray!

Then we were back to the toys again for another diversion so that I could continue to shop. I spotted a set of five wooden puzzles, marked $4.99, and added that to our pile. Heading toward the checkout, I saw a poor, lonely Nalgene,  for just $1.99.

And then I remembered that I had a coupon for $3 off a purchase of $10 or more. Woohoo!

So our entire pile:

Cozy Coupe Car - $4.99 (retails between $45 and $55)
Construction Hat - $0.99 (similar $5)
Carter's pajamas - $2.99 ($15 on sale right now, regularly $20)
Children's Place jeans - $3.99 ($10 on sale right now, regularly $16.50)
Crewcuts pullover - $0.99!! (similar $40)
Cute wooden puzzles - $4.99 (original price tag $23.95)
Nalgene water bottle - $1.99 ($9)
Minus the $3 coupon...

Just $20.17. Full price would have been $159.45. I paid about 13% of the full price value of these items.
Feeling very blessed!

Friday, December 12, 2014


Joshua is two!

It's unbelievable, really. My tiny baby is now a 35.5" tall, 25lb, talking and toilet trained toddler. What?!

The morning of his birthday, he had birthday pancakes. We sang the "Happy Birthday" song to him, and he got to blow out candles for the first time! He has been saying "Happy birthday Joshua, I blow fire," ever since. Too cute! 

Later in the morning on his birthday, some of our neighborhood friends stopped by with a gift for Joshua: a new dump truck! They also stayed and played for a little while, and enjoyed reading a book together with "Grandma Sue."
On Saturday, Nana and Grandpa were here all day! There was much playing, reading, jumping, and even a trip to Trader Joe's and Five Guys for lunch. 
He loves tractors and construction vehicles lately, so his party had to be full of tractors. I made cupcakes and a pan of brownies to stand in for a cake. Yes, I did buy the wrong boxed mix at the store. Hazard of shopping with said toddler.

"Digger" tractors like backhoes are his favorite, so I mixed up some yellow frosting and piped that onto the brownies. I crumbled some Wegman's brand "oreo" cookies into the front loader to stand in for rocks and dirt. Dirt was one of Joshie's clearest first words. A sign, perhaps?

Joshua again enjoyed having people sing to him, and the opportunity to "blow fire" with Daddy.

Joshie was excited about the paint he got from Brad and me, and asked to paint right away. That was a no-go, but he did get to play with the set of construction vehicles that Aunt Elizabeth sent! He didn't let go of the "digger" tractor for about four days straight, even taking it to bed and naps with him.

We had Joshua's good friend, Jo (and his parents and sister, of course), over for the party, and all of Joshua's grandparents were all able to be there this year. Much fun was had by all!
please note that Joshua and the tractors are inseparable
Still can't believe we've been parents for two years, and that our second sweet blessing is coming so soon!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

mini Captain America

This is probably the last Halloween that I can officially choose Joshie's costume without any input from him, so I made it a good one: Captain America!

The forecast for October looked chilly this year, and the trick-or-treating night proved cool and damp, indeed. I planned his costume to be cozy, using his snow boots and warm fleece pants. I put him in a thermal shirt and cozy socks, and used his navy blue fleece zip-up hoodie to complete the cozy. He absolutely loved holding "Daddy's" hand and running up to each door with his best buddy, JoJo. He quickly learned how to say "Trick-or-treat" and "Happy Halloween" and did a great job.

I ransacked our drawers for the right t-shirt material colors to make the stripey portions and the essential Captain America shield. Luckily, one of Brad's old undershirts, one of my red tank tops, and a royal blue onesie from the too-small, too-old-to-wear pile were just the right colors to use for the project. 

I made a "pinny" of sorts out of the undershirt, first, so that I could pull it on over Joshie's coat. I then used strips of red to make the stripes, sewing right onto the pinny.

The star was made of more undershirt material, but I first attached interfacing to make it stiffer. I then sewed around the shape of the star, cut it out, and cut it in half. I attached it to either side of the zipper on the fleece hoodie, using large stitches to make it easy to remove later. The letter "A" on the hood was made using the same process.

For the shield, I used a frisbee and traced a circle onto the red tank top fabric that was about 3" larger all around. I then made a channel to thread elastic through, and set that circle aside. I added two white circles and a blue one, with a final star in the center to complete the look. I threaded the elastic through the red fabric and stretched it over the frisbee. Hooray, a shield! I added two pieces of elastic to the back of the shield so that Joshie could wear it on his arm or his back.

Here's the whole look:

The red snow plow is an essential part of getting out the door. We always bring a tractor, truck, or ball when we go out!

"app-eee ah-ween!" "tick uh teet!!" says Joshua. :)

Monday, November 3, 2014

baby girl frills

I've been dreaming of putting flowers and bows and sparkly accessories on my baby girl since the first moment I found out about her!

A few weeks ago, I picked up some fold-over elastic at Jo-Ann Fabrics and tucked it into my sewing box. It really has taken this long for me to make it to the actual crafting stage. Life with a toddler, friends! It's beautiful, messy, full, crazy, hard, wonderful, and too busy most days for crafting.

But, today, I did a little bit.

Behold, the polka dot and floral cuteness:

Also, ignore the poor quality phone photo. This is life, currently - can't always pick up my nice camera!

What do you think? I can't wait to put it on my sweet baby girl!