Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Waldorf Wednesday.

That's right, I'm changing things up a bit. As of late, I've been lazy and used Wordless Wednesday as an excuse to just throw a few pictures up here and be done with it. However, I've also been working hard on integrating some Waldorf-inspired activities and concepts into our home, and as my children are currently busy painting, I have a few minutes to jot down one of the ways we're doing that.

I'm currently reading through School as a Journey, and am at times both inspired and frustrated. I'm inspired by all the amazing activities the author describes in the book, and frustrated at the same time by the challenge of adapting those activities to the home setting. One of the ideas that really appealed to me was frequent breadmaking. However, a few things occurred to me: how am I going to find the time to make the dough in the morning? How can I make this fun and not a chore? Can my family really eat that much bread, seeing as most recipes make two large loaves? 

Luckily, I'm already in the habit of baking bread almost daily, albeit by myself. A few months back I purchased a book called "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day." This no-kneading-necessary recipe makes enough dough for 4 loaves of bread, but is easily divided to make two. I can make the dough in just a few minutes, and once it's done and has its initial rise, it keeps in the fridge for up to two weeks, gradually taking on a sourdough flavor. Although it's not whole-grain, I do use unbleached flour, and it makes a delicious light bread with a crisp crust. 

Now, up until yesterday, I'd never tried playing around with the recipe. In the back of my mind, though, I wondered if I could adapt it to make it both kid- and mom-friendly. Surely this recipe was my key to fun, not pain-in-the-butt baking with the kids. I could potentially make enough dough at one time for a couple loaves of bread for dinner AND a week's worth of child-sized-creations. 

So I took the plunge. I made the dough and let it rise. I then chilled the dough in the fridge per the recipe- as the dough is much wetter than normal bread dough, chilling makes handling the dough easier. After it had cooled sufficiently, I took out a portion for our meal and prepared it as I normally would. I also took out enough dough for two smallish balls for the girls, which I then rolled in additional flour and placed on a floured table for them.

They were so excited to get to work. I'm not exaggerating when I say this activity kept them occupied for about 30 minutes. The girls shaped, smooshed, re-shaped, and smoothed their bread. Lucy found some sprinkles in the cabinet, which added rainbow colors to her bread. I'm happy to report that will the additional flour I added to the dough and the table, the dough didn't stick at all. Once they were satisfied, I placed the bread on the breadboard, let it rest for about 45 minutes, brushed it with butter (a step not in my original recipe), and slid it onto the pre-heated baking stone as usual. 

I was amazed to see the rolls rise beautifully during baking. Our experiment had worked! Our no-knead bread dough was worked over by four small hands for quite a while, yet still yielded light and delicious bread. I am so happy to know that with little effort, I can stow away dough in the fridge for fresh bread anytime. 

Now, if only I can remember to integrate a fun baking song! 

Can't get enough Waldorf Wednesday? Get more here at Seasons of Joy

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Camille's Birth Story, Part 1 (Rough Draft)

To backtrack….

At my 40 week appointment, I asked my midwife to do a vaginal exam and check my progress. We had been very hands-off until that point, but I had prodromal labor that week, and really felt like I needed a little encouragement that something was going on. Additionally, my mother was visiting, and although she had planned to leave the same day (we never thought I'd go past my due date- haha!), we thought that if there was something cooking, she would change her plane tickets. I was truly very surprised to make it to 40 weeks to begin with, as both Lucy and June were early.

In fact, looking at my old blog posts, I was 4 cm by 37 weeks with Lucy, and the same by 38 weeks with Junie. So naturally I expected that my midwife would examine me, find me similarly progressed, and we’d be on our way.

Imagine my surprise when I was found to be 1-2 cm at most, with a cervix that was thick and long. I about died. I requested that my midwife strip my membranes still, hoping that it would help things along, and she did her best- despite the fact that I was still posterior. That done, I drove my mom to the airport, said goodbye, and headed back home pretty down about everything.

That night, I lost my plug and had another round of contractions. I was SURE this was going to be it. Alas, the contractions died out after an hour or two.

The next week-and-a-half were pretty freaking miserable. I was discouraged, I was sick of being pregnant, and I was too uncomfortable to even sleep. My back and pelvis hurt the most (more on why that was later), and made it impossible to lie down without pain. Emotionally, things were even worse. Without getting into much more detail, I felt like I was in a 24/7 pity party. People who were due after me were popping babies out for heaven’s sake! I spent a lot of time researching and trying every labor induction method under the sun, and NOTHING worked.

Although we hoped I wouldn’t need it, we had scheduled a 41-week appointment with both my midwife and a perinatologist. Sure enough, I was still pregnant the following week (and more grumpy than ever, I might add), so off I went for my ultrasound and non-stress test. Thankfully everything looked great, so I got the go-ahead from the perinatologist to continue on with my home-birth plans. I headed from there to the midwives’, hoping for a better report than the week before- especially since I had ANOTHER round of prodromal labor that very morning. Sure enough, I was 4-5 cm, with a much more favorable cervix. Cue another attempt at stripping, more cramping, and more optimism on my part. This all occurred on Thursday.

Friday came and went. I was really starting to feel the pressure, as I wasn’t exactly sure what our game plan was going to be if I made it to 42 weeks the upcoming Monday. All I knew was that I was going to avoid an in-hospital induction at all costs- however, I was concerned at the same time that we were running out of more natural options, as I had already tried just about everything, to include the cohoshes, with no success. 

Saturday morning I woke up with a purpose. Despite the nausea that just LOOKING at the bottle inspired, I was going to do it. I was going to go back to old faithful- the castor oil. Off I went to the store to buy the CO, something to mix it with, and snacks.

I decided that I wasn’t going to mess around and sip the stuff with a straw- I needed it to be over and done with. So at approx. 11 am, Brett mixed 2 oz (half the bottle) of CO with an equal amount of orange juice, and I shot it. I shot it and drank more OJ and wiped my mouth out and gargled mouth wash and brushed my teeth and climbed into bed and prayed I could keep it down long enough to be effective.

Once I felt a little better, I had a small snack. Bad idea. My apple and peanut butter came up about an hour later. Still, I had a few small contractions following my puking episode, and noticed that no OJ/CO came up- which left me feeling optimistic.

At about 4 pm, I realized that the cramping was stronger, and I was feeling some decent (albeit irregular) contractions. Off I went for a walk and to basically distract myself from what was going on. Given my history of prodromal labor, I was NOT about to call it and jinx myself.

By 8 pm, the contractions were regularly 4-5 minutes apart, and I was not able to distract myself anymore, so I called my midwife but told her to take her time.

My midwife arrived at about 9:45, but things hadn’t really changed. Contractions were still 4-5 minutes apart, lasting about 45-60 seconds.

…Cue Junie waking up and refusing to go back to sleep without Mama…

…Cue Mama getting frustrated because she CANNOT have contractions while laying down in bed…

…Cue Brett loading Junie in the car and driving her around the entire Loop in Athens before finally returning home with a sleeping child…

While Brett was gone, I was busy having a pity party for myself. Contractions were lasting longer, I could feel baby moving down, and things were getting really, really difficult. It was evident to me that this wasn’t going to be the same easy-breezy type labor I had with Lucy and Junie. At the very least it was going to be much longer.

As things progressed, my back labor increasingly become worse. Instead of having contractions with a break between them, I had constant, unyielding back pain that was always there- and only got worse with contractions. I literally could not stand upright. Although squatting and rocking were my go-tos with my first two labors, they were completely unhelpful this time around, as squatting only put more pressure on my tailbone. Hence my beautiful labor swing got very little use.

A few hours of this had me cussing and wishing I could escape- two things I had never done in labor before. I realized that I felt out of control, and if I didn’t get things together, it was going to suck. At this point, I retreated to my bathroom and wished I had ordered a birthing tub. Still, a hot bath helped a LOT- even if it wasn’t a cushy birthing tub. It took enough pressure off my back to help me think, and I managed to give myself a pep talk. I felt exactly like the midwife in The Business of Being Born, specifically the part where she mentions hitting a wall where your only options are to either decide to stop fighting the pain, or stay pregnant forever. I drug myself out of the tub and returned to my room with renewed spirit. 

After that, things went pretty quickly. I found that I could cope in the all-fours position on my bed with my wonderful, amazing, heaven-sent midwife putting as much counter-pressure as possible on my lower back/pelvis during contractions. It wasn’t too long before I was moaning and feeling a little pushy.

I felt the siren’s call of the toilet, and after sitting for just a moment with my feet raised on the tub in front of me, I felt my first uncontrolled push- which broke my water. I called my midwife in, who pointed out that the layout of my bathroom made it impossible for her to catch the baby in there. So off I went into my bedroom again, and my midwife went to wake Brett up and tell him it was time. (Yes, Brett slept through most of my labor- but it was my plan and my choice. I wanted to labor alone.)

Brett sat in our bed with his back against the wall and I sat in front of him, leaning against him. I tried to take my time pushing, as I knew this baby was bigger than my first two and I didn’t want to tear. Pushing was also MUCH more intense this time around. As a result, it took longer than the 1.5 pushes I gave for Junie to immerge. Still, I felt absolutely giddy and remember smiling and joking, because I was SO GLAD it was all almost over. I love, love, love pushing- being able to actively move baby down and out, feeling like you’re thisclose to meeting baby. I think one of the best parts of having an unmedicated birth is getting to feel pushing 100%- although I know lots of people probably think this is nuts. As much as I had fought the pain of labor this time, I embraced it during pushing. It's like running a race (and we all know how much I love that!) and turning the corner to see the finish line- time to sprint it out to the end!

Before I get to part 2, I want to note that the big reason this labor was different was that Camille was positioned LOT, or Left Occiput Transverse. This basically means that she was neither anterior (facing my back, which is ideal positioning and the way my other girls were born) nor posterior (facing my front). Instead, she was looking at my hip- meaning her head was basically wedged length-wise between my hips. Luckily she managed to rotate just in time- some babies actually require c-sections in this situation, as they are unable to do so. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

We're ready.

The tub is filled with my birth kit (red bag), just-in-case prescriptions (methergrine and cytotec), towels/sheets/linens/baby's first clothes (plastic grocery bags), and various birthing goodies, to include my necklace, essential oils, etc (brown cardboard box). 

Once baby is here, this area will be my second changing station (see cloth dipes in basket, changing pad). I found this indispensable when Junie was first born- enables me to change the youngest in our room without having to go into the girls' room and wake them up. Perfect for nighttime/nap time. There is now a second diaper pail here as well. 

And yes, those are disposable diapers you see hiding. My kids so far have been barely 6 lbs at birth, and I'm too cheap to buy a stash of itty-bitty baby cloth- so they wear 'sposies until they reach 8 lbs or so.

Labor swing! 

Trying it out- ignore the half-nekkid toddler behind me.

Safe place in the living room in which to put down a baby. Contrary to popular belief, I don't hold or wear my kids *all* the time. Emphasis on *all.* 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Too good not to share.

Since I've been so lazy in posting, I'm going to buck the "Wordless Wednesday" trend and actually post something useful. 

Last year, Brett and I had a lot of fun making Christmas gifts from scratch: knitting (well, that was just me!), making ornaments, and brewing up our own versions of Limoncello and Bailey's liquors. This year, money will be significantly tighter- meaning that we will again be looking to make the majority of our gifts.

Bearing in mind that many homemade projects take some time, I was skimming the internet for ideas last week when I stumbled across an awesome idea: homemade vanilla extract! 

Now, those of us who bake know that *real* vanilla extract is expensive but irreplaceable in recipes. I learned, however, that making your own is both inexpensive and easy. Additionally, you can have fun mixing various liquors with many varieties of bean to create different flavors. The result? A Christmas gift perfect for the bakers in your family that beats the store-bought stuff and is relatively cheap to boot. The only drawback is that it requires preplanning- vanilla extract takes a minimum of 8 weeks to develop, with many recipes recommending upwards of 6 months! So if you want to get started, now's the time. 

I found lots of primers online, and a few different suggestions for how to brew the stuff. Essentially, you'll need 3 things:

1. Liquor- vodka is most often used, but bourbon and rum were also suggested. Basically it just needs to be at least 40 proof (80% alcohol) to be effective. I decided to try a dark rum. 
2. Vanilla beans- I found mine on Amazon, but look around to find a good deal. Most of the tutorials I found said you'd need roughly 3-4 beans per cup of liquor, but some people claim they made it successfully with fewer beans and a longer brew time. I filled two quart jars mostly full using 3 cups of liquor and 12 vanilla beans each- for a total of 6 cups of liquor and 24 beans (close to a 1/4 lb). Since vanilla beans are generally sold in 1/4 lb increments, this worked out perfected for me. 
3. Something to brew the extract in. I think mason jars are perfect! You can divide it up into smaller decorative containers and add cutesy decorative stickers when you're ready to give them.

The process:

1. Slit vanilla beans lengthwise. Some recipes recommended scooping the seeds out into the jars as well, but that would require further straining, and I'm lazy.
2. Place vanilla beans in jars or container you're using. 
3. Cover with the appropriate amount of liquor (you may need to cut the beans in half), cover, and put in a cool, dark spot.
4. Wait.

Miscellaneous notes:

- I made a jar for us as well, as we go through a LOT of vanilla around here. I actually read that you can keep the vanilla indefinitely, topping off with alcohol as it gets low and adding additional beans once in a while. 
- After the vanilla is ready, you can remove the beans if you wish and place them in sugar for a few days. Voila- vanilla sugar! 

Helpful links:
Joy the Baker
Naturally Knocked Up
Alexandra Cooks

If you decide to try it, be sure to let me know what combination of beans and liquor you used, and how it turned out.

Monday, August 27, 2012

We've been busy.

What have I been up to lately (aka why is my blog so behind)? 

....prepping veggies for storage (these are roasted poblanos).

....filling the freezer for winter.

....knitting up a storm. Isn't this a cute little wool sleep sack? Perfect for nighttime cloth diapering! Junie is partial to her honeybee hat. Just two of the many projects I've finished lately. 

....hunting eggs- the hens have been sneaky lately. 

....chasing after my kids (shown here with their cousin).

....taking our first long roadtrip to PA.

 ....gestating! (35 weeks here- but I'm technically 36 weeks today.) 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Monday, July 2, 2012

Time does fly.

I was just, I need to update the blog! I had thought it had only been about a week since I had written last- and was surprised to see it had actually been more than two. Story of my life!
Anyway, lots of changes and general busy-ness around here.
Pregnancy news:
- Just entered my third (and longest?!?!) trimester. 28 weeks today- wahoo!
- New fun symptom: carpal tunnel. Apparently it's one of those weird preggo things- but I'm sure lots of kitchen/garden work and knitting haven't helped things. I have a brace, but it's a PITA to wear, so I don't wear it as much as I should. Cue curled, numb fingers when I wake up in the morning and annoying burning sensation throughout the day. 

Household news: 
- Now on WIC and taking advantage of a fridge bursting with milk. Cue reminder for upcoming post on what I'm doing with it all, and healthy eating on a budget (not like there aren't a million other blogs about that or anything.)
- Garden is going gangbusters. Blueberries, green beans, and cucumbers are done, but not before I froze 12 quart bags of blueberries, 20+ of green beans, and untold numbers of quart jars of both sweet and dill pickles. Squash is still here, so I'm busy both sautéing for dinner almost nightly and dehydrating. Peppers are being diced, tray-frozen, and bagged for the freezer. Tomatoes, watermelon, and potatoes are staples as well. I had planned on dehydrating most of the tomatoes, but it's a bigger pain than I expected, so I'm freezing most at the moment. Discovered an amazing tomato/watermelon salad with a balsamic reduction that we've been really enjoying. Corn is tasseling, we have small ears, and should be enjoying it soon.
- Already planning both a second planting of some of the above, as well as the fall garden. Think kale, spinach, swiss chard, pumpkin, broccoli, etc.
- Going to check out chickens tomorrow- possibly picking up two more hens and a rooster.
- Trying to talk Brett into a dairy goat :-)

Lucy news: 
- Thank you, thank you, thank you to the person who mentioned a "pacifier box," aka a special place for a toddler to stow his/her pacifier during the day. I covered a small shoebox with construction paper, Lucy decorated it and lined it with tissue paper, and now the pacis all "live in the paci house" whenever Lucy's not sleeping. We've had it two days so far, and we've been paci-free during the day with absolutely minimal whining. Plan is to have it gone completely for her third birthday.
- Lucy is reliably potty-trained. Wahoo! Still wearing pull-ups at night, but she's dry consistently enough that we're going to ditch those soon, too. 
- Lucy is sleeping through the night in her toddler bed, in her room. Big girl!

(note: take and insert cute pic of Lucy here)

Junie news:
- Junie is talking up a storm- short sentences now. After having a speech-delayed kid first, we get such a kick out of hearing her little voice- especially "wuv you, mama!" She also frequently reminds Lucy to, "share, please!"
- Junie is now napping in her crib, in the girls' room. I try to move her there at night, too, but if I'm too tired, I don't bother. Trying to take it slow, but hoping to have her completely transitioned in a few weeks. 
- This crazy girl loves her baby dolls, all animals, and imitating everything I do. 

...and I think that about does it. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Waste not, want not.

The past few months since I've left the military have been a real adventure. New home, new job, new circumstances. To put it bluntly, we are attempting to live on Brett's PhD assistantship alone. Yes, I am marketing for doula clients, but networking is hard work, and I'm not having a lot of luck so far. The birth community is a lot different here than in Florida (likely at least partially due to the crappy homebirth laws here).

What that means is that we are bringing in approximately 1/5th of the income we were a couple months ago. That's just gross income- doesn't include the loss of my commissary benefits, health insurance, etc. 

Now, we are very lucky in several ways. First, we don't have a house payment. Brett's parents decided to invest in a rental property, and that's where we're living now. After we move, it'll be rented out to college students here. If this wasn't the case, there's no way we could be making it right now- our income likely wouldn't even cover the rent on a house. Second, we own our vehicles and thus don't have car payments. We also don't have much in the way of student loans (Brett has none, and mine are very nearly paid off), and we don't carry credit card debt. Just wanted to explain these points, as I'm sure some people will argue that it would be impossible for most to live the way we are now. Given the average debt load that most families carry, they're probably right. 

I admit that although I am absolutely loving the stay-at-home-mom gig, I would be even more content if we made just a bit more money- you know, to pay for things like better health insurance and the occasional vacation. I grew up in a very, very modest home and am used to getting by- but it's a little harder for Brett. He's a bit spoiled :-) 


I've been making a game of finding little ways to save money and still enjoy the things we enjoy: time together, good, nourishing food...Those of you who know me in real life know I'm a Little Women freak, and probably romanticize the idea of being happy with the little things you have. So here are some of the things I've been working on:

1. Things I refuse to buy (as I make them myself):
   a. Yogurt and kefir
   b. Ricotta cheese (important, because pasta is cheap!)
   c. Bread (if you haven't already, PLEASE check out "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day").  I also buy bulk flour and other essentials at Sam's. 
   d. Expensive clothes for the girls (sewing most of the cute dresses is fun and easy)
   e. Most processed foods in general (pasta and granola are the exceptions)
   f. Disposable wipes. I DID buy pull-ups for Lucy's potty-training and it killed me. Spending that money every week hurt, and reaffirmed my preference for cloth diapers. However, Lucy was big on the pull-ups and it really helped.
2. Other money-saving strategies:
  a. Getting the girls signed up for Peach Care (Ga's insurance for kids)
  b. WIC (hopefully taking care of this this week). Not ashamed to take advantage of it if we qualify. 
  c. The garden. This is huge. And time-consuming. And saves a CRAPTON of money. Also helps with forcing us to eat seasonally, preserve food for later, etc.
  d. Getting Brett used to the idea that the a/c doesn't need to run ALL the time. Luckily he is working all day, so I can get away with cranking the thermostat up.
  e. No cable. We do have Netflix and internet, though. 
  f. Home birth! My planned home birth cost a fraction of what a hospital birth would. Money wasn't the driving factor here, of course, but it's a very nice perk.
  g. Making a menu for the weekly, shopping once a week, and sticking to the plan! I used to be terrible about running out to the store for every little thing. Now, if we run out of something or I forget to buy it, we improvise. 


I'm sure I'm forgetting lots of things...will try to edit as I think of them.

What does your family do to save money?

Can you tell I'm excited for tomatoes?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

From two to one.

Lucy weaned.

For all intensive purposes, anyway. She still asks maybe 1-2 times a week, and I humor her, but she seldom even latches anymore.

Our first nursing session. It was so cool that everyone wanted to watch.

I wish I could tell you a sweet sentimental story about her last "real" nursing. 

But the truth is, it happened so gradually that I don't remember it. 

We nursed everywhere- like on a plane.

I think that's the beautiful reality of extended breastfeeding and child-led weaning. Nursing has become so ingrained into daily life that you don't think about it- it just is. Because she's not dependent on you for nutritive purposes, you're not keeping track of when she nursed last. Then sessions are occasionally dropped as her interest in everything else grows. Still the nighttime and morning nursings hold her close.

Then she starts falling asleep on her own, and creeps into your bed for a morning nurse less and less frequently.

I was nervous to start you on big-girl food.

One day you realize you can't remember the last time she was at your breast. 

Thank you, Lucy, for the journey. The past 32 months have tested me, taught me, and brought me more joy than I could have ever imagined. We nursed despite the necessary pump and bottles, despite my pregnancy with Junie and the formula supplementation that came with it. 

We even nursed at Clemson baseball games!

I'll never forget the first time you nursed after Junie was born and my milk came back- the joy on your little face. 

Some tandem-nursing love.

And I'll always remember how gracefully you shared your "nums" with your little sister, who, at 18 months, looks as though she is dangerously close to following in your weaning footsteps. I love how you finished your most recent nursing attempt with, "Junie's turn next."

One of our daily before-work nursing sessions.

Please, time, slow down. 

All grown up!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Lots o' Wordless Wednesday Love.

Dresses I whipped up for the girls.

Baby Nolan #3 at 22 weeks.

Junie likes to garden...

...and so do I!