Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A 20 Week Secret

It's true, we've been keeping a 20 week secret! In late January to early February we are expecting a little sibling for Mr.Ben! (Gender reveal near the end of this post). We are so overjoyed to be growing our family! It has definitely felt strange to keep this exciting news off the internet for so long, but it has also been really special to not share quite so much online, quite so soon. With that being said, watch out, because ALL the pregnancy, birth, and baby posts are making a comeback! :)
We found out we were expecting at the end of our time in Belgium. I was surprised because the line on the test was super faint so I actually set it down after thinking it was negative and continued to brush my teeth and get ready. It wasn't until I went to throw it away that I noticed a second and very faint line appear! After quickly recalling how much wine I drank over the course of the trip, coupled with the mass doses of caffeine in the form of cappuccinos, and the cliff jumping in Iceland, I giggled thinking about how this child definitely got a more adventurous start than Ben did as an embryo. :)
Let me bring you up to speed!

Weeks 4-8: All a blur. A miserable, exhausting blur.

Week 9: We heard a tiny little heartbeat for all of 3 seconds. It was so fleeting I wasn't even sure I heard it. I started taking pre-natals 3x a day, DHA and omegas, vitamin c with flavanoids, women's probiotics, and 4,000 iu of Vitamin D. While I do think nutrition is the cornerstone of a healthy pregnancy, supplementing with vitamins and minerals is also important. I've got a stash.

Week 10: Continuation of the miserable blur, except now I know there is a baby in there, which makes the sickness and bloated fat feeling a little more worth it.

Weeks 11-12: I start to see the light. I only felt like puking if I got hungry...which was basically all the time. The baby is being grown on fruit and cheerios at this point. This is around the time we shared our announcement last time.
Week 13: I was so tired all the time, and so hungry all the time. Ravished. I think the little babe was going through a growth spurt. I started working out again, even though some nerve pain made it slightly uncomfortable. I also started having heartburn in the middle of the night. Who says you can't have Tums for a nighttime snack?

Summary of First Trimester: With this baby I had been dizzy and lightheaded since day one, which was actually one of the reasons I took a pregnancy test to begin with. Apparently this is a real thing...I had no idea! Did anyone else suffer from dizziness? It's unfortunate because I couldn't do any of my normal workouts for fear of passing out, and I had to lie down a lot and stay off my feet to help the feeling go away. I also suffered through the usual nausea, headaches, extreme fatigue, carb laden hunger cravings (bread, bread, bread). Anything healthy made me want to gag (hello, body, opposite of what we need!). Anyway, as most of you know, that first trimester is all about survival. And with a toddler running around, it isn't for the weak of heart.

Week 14: Into the second trimester. I look like I'm 20 weeks pregnant. I'm not even joking. Residual Ben belly, bread belly, stretched out uterus, and baby combined. I started feeling down about my body, after working so hard to lose weight and get in shape it feels strange to be going the opposite direction in terms of body shape. We had a tiny worry this week with a light bleed, which I know can be normal. My midwife said to take it easy, which I took to mean we should go for an 8 mile hike into the mountains.
Week 15: We got to hear the heartbeat again. Our midwife found it quickly. That consistent and strong rhythm brought on hot tears of joy. I distinctly remember hearing Ben for the first time, lying on my back with tears streaming down my cheeks. This was one of those similar moments that will be stamped on my heart forever.
Week 16: I started to get into a more serious workout routine with cardio, weights, and stretching (look for a future pregnancy fitness post). Ben points to my growing belly all the time and says, "bebe, belly, go-eeeng (growing)." When we ask him if he's going to be a big brother he says, "Nooooo!" :)
Week 17: I've heard you can feel the baby move sooner the second time around, and I definitely felt some flutters. It's surreal there is a small human in there, who will become just as big as our Ben some day. You guys, I'm going to have TWO children. I still feel like I'm 14 years old, how can I be a mother to two children!? We also went on a beach vacation to Cannon Beach for my 30th Birthday this week. I think I did a pretty stellar job of hiding that bump with the ergo for an online photo share! :)
Week 18: I will often go through much of the day forgetting I'm even pregnant, which is easy to do while taking care of a toddler 24/7 and running a household. We went to our hometown and spent a lovely weekend on the farm. Along with bringing home chicken, beef, eggs, squash, and tuna, I also brought home a deeeelightful sinus/ear infection/cold/flu something crappy that laid me up in bed for nearly a WEEK! I thought my ear drums were going to blow out and writhed around in agony begging for Nyquil or something to knock me out. But wait...pregnant. Being pregnant, and sick, with a toddler, is not fun. I'm grateful for my husband in all ways possible. 
Week 19: After surviving what felt like the plague, we had to skip out on a hike we had really wanted to do, which was a bummer, but we did spend a fun evening at a local park playing on the beach. I had my first two chiropractic appointments this week, and let me just say how amazing I feel already. I wish I would have had regular body care with my first pregnancy. My chiropractor is also a midwife and works mostly with pregnant mamas, so I feel super comfortable with how well she knows the changing female body. We already discovered my pelvis needed some adjustments, as well as my neck. I will continue care with her throughout the pregnancy and will have her assist during labor and birth if I need her for help with positioning. 
I also had a check-up with my midwife this week and everything is great. I just love when she puts the doppler on my belly and picks up that strong heartbeat right away. I had a complete mama/pregnant brain moment and showed up two days early for the appointment (yes, let's call it early, and not unorganized). Anyway, she was great and squeezed Ben and I in. Even though we had to wait a while, Ben played quietly with toys on the floor both while waiting and during the appointment.

Last but not least, we celebrated Ben's second birthday with an early party! It was a really great afternoon with friends and family, and you better believe I indulged in a cupcake. Or two.
Week 20: Well, here we are, going into week 20 and the big anatomy scan! I was mostly worried about whether my placenta was anterior or posterior, and I'm happy to report that it's sitting in a great position, and won't interfere with my scar. Baby has all fingers and toes accounted for, healthy kidneys, heart, and brain. I used to take for granted what a blessing a 'healthy baby' was, but now we are overjoyed the baby is healthy!! Baby was busy, busy, busy during the scan and I could feel all the rolls and bumps. This is probably the one and only time we will see baby on the screen before joining us in our arms in a few months, so we soaked up the experience. 
Okay,  I know what you are really all waiting for. You want to know the status of this babe's genitals. I tried (really) to do a cute gender reveal photo with balloons, but it just didn't work out like my vision. Haha! In any event, Ben enjoyed it because we let him pop the balloons with a tack, which he thought was great.
It's true! Ben is going to have a little SISTER!! Honestly, we are shocked. To the core. Shocked. We really thought we would be having another boy! Watching my husband's face when she told us 'girl', was quite entertaining! It took him a while to soak in the information, and the whole way home in the car we both kept saying, "oh my gosh, we're going to have a daughter!" Baby girl is estimated at 12 ounces, which is exactly what they expect for 20 weeks along. I was surprised because I felt like I was growing another ape child (Ben was 10.1 at birth) given the size of my ever-growing belly.  
If you're new here, you should definitely read the traumatic birth story of our first son, Ben. I suffered through PPD and struggled for months. I spent the last two years healing, both physically and emotionally. I did a lot of writing, reflecting, talking, and crying. I joined a cesarean support group, which was a Godsend from above. I began reading even more about birth, the process of pregnancy, the way our bodies are designed to work, and the healthcare system. There was never a doubt in my mind I would be planning a vbac (vaginal birth after cesarean). I suspect I'll be sharing and talking about that a lot here.

Needless to say, our approach to care is drastically different with this pregnancy. At this point in my pregnancy with Ben, I'd already been threatened, pushed into unnecessary tests, had three ultrasounds, multiple urine samples, blood draws, and weight checks. This time, I wanted to be loved and cared for as a person, I wanted my feelings to be honored, and I wanted to work with someone who truly believed in shared decision making, as well as a philosophy of hands off care. Other than today, we haven't had a single ultrasound. We have said no thank you to all the tests. My midwife hugs me, loans me books, asks about my whole life, and genuinely cares about me. She believes that even though my first baby was born through the scar on my stomach, there is nothing wrong with me and that I should be treated like any normal and healthy pregnant mother. She spends as much time as I need with her at every appointment. I don't have to pee in a cup, weigh myself, or get undressed. It's like a dream. I can't even believe how good it feels to know that I get to go into labor my way, with supportive women surrounding me, without a fight.

This is about me trusting and loving my body, to do what it was designed for. I don't need to be poked and prodded unnecessarily. I don't need to have someone induce fear in my mind. I don't need to be a 'patient number', being told which protocols to follow and lied to by anyone. I deserve honesty, and choices. Being pregnant isn't an illness, it's a natural process that women have done for thousands of years. It's wild, it's raw, it's mind and body. I'm focusing on letting myself feel as natural as possible, acting and doing however I feel comfortable this time around, without worrying about what society says I should do/think/say/feel.

The team we've put together for this pregnancy and birth are A+. Seriously A++. We have our midwife, midwife assistant, doula, and secondary doula who will also serve as a postpartum support person for me.

I feel so at peace in this pregnancy, and I can't wait for our journey to birth and the ultimate outcome of holding our second child in my arms. Definitely, more to come.

In light and love,

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Mini Home Tour

We moved into our new home at the end of May, and I just now feel like it's starting to come together more. It's truly starting to feel more and more like 'home' and the ache and longing for our old home is growing weaker. Now that we are filling this new space with memories, photos, and uniqueness that makes it our own, I thought it was high time to share!
I'm not going to lie, I think 'home tours' on blogs can be a little bit creepy. Kind of like, 'hey strangers..here's the entire layout of our house, just in case you want to break in and know your way around!' Another reason I don't really care for home tours is because they can come off as kind of braggy. Keep in mind that while we did have a kick ass view and piece of property where we used to live, it was an 800 square foot trailer. I would often look at the new homes my blog friends were posting about and find myself suddenly unsatisfied with what I had, even though I had more than enough to be thankful for. That isn't my intention, here. My husband and I have waited a long long time to buy a new home and we don't take that for granted. While we do miss having the sea right out our front door, we are so thankful for this home where our kids will grow up and we have truly enjoyed spending time together making it our own.

We've done a lot of work outside this summer, and are proud of it! That porch swing is the same one my husband proposed on. We were on the beach of the Columbia River, on a tiny place called Sauvi Island in Oregon. My Uncle has a farm there, and on our way home from a summit attempt of Mount Hood we stopped for the night. My husband had planned to propose on the top of the mountain, but bad weather forced us out, so he quickly moved on to Plan E. :) My Uncle hand made this swing, and decided to give it to us for a wedding gift. Talk about special! It's been sitting on our garage floor for 4 years, just waiting for a special place to hang.

We pulled out a bunch of old weeds and plants (keep in mind the house we moved into was foreclosed, so there was a lot of work to be done...not to mention the army of spiders I am still killing inside the house). We re-planted and landscaped small areas, brought in concrete planters, and got my small garden beds going. Next year we want to put in a greenhouse, fenced in garden, plant fruit trees, and build a chicken coop. My sweet man also bought me a weeping willow tree for my 30th Birthday this year, and we can't wait to get it in the ground. Along with Ben's play set from his Papa Rick, we also started working on making trails through the 3 acres of woods around our home. We spend a lot of time outdoors (and we are homebodies at the core), so creating a space where our kids can play, we can grow food, explore, and also relax is really important to us. We think having room for kids to be outdoors is really important, and feel blessed this piece of property will allow for that.
Inside, the entire living space has an open concept. This was something that was really important to us when we were house hunting (remember back when we saw nearly 20 homes!) We wanted the kitchen to be open to the living space so we could all be together, no matter who was cooking or cleaning. We really love this part of the home and I'm glad we stuck to our guns on what we knew we wanted. Also, isn't that microwave crazy? It looks like double ovens, but the top one is a microwave. Since the home was in foreclosure, we had to buy a few new appliances, but they did leave the dishwasher/oven/microwave which was really nice!
The 'living' room is where Ben spends most of his time playing with toys and reading books and we spend most of our evenings together. We decided we didn't want a huge tv to sit in the middle of our room and be the main focus. Beside the fact that we don't even have cable, we wanted the space to be cozy with an emphasis on family. I'm still trying to figure out where I like things/want things, etc. I decided to photograph it exactly as is, with little toys and a toddler lying across the floor.
I really value the raw talent and artistry it takes to photograph someone candidly and beautifully. I place a great emphasis on photography and find it to be one of the ways I love to decorate with. I've always wanted a canvas gallery wall and I'm super happy with how this one is coming together. I'm obviously hoping to add more black and white photos to this wall as our life moves along. As a side note, it's really hard to hang all these canvases straight and evenly spaced (even using a level and tape measure). I also take no accountability for the structural integrity of the hanging safety. ;-)
Our bedroom is one of my favorite spaces in the house, and I'm pretty sure our new bathroom is nearly as large as our entire old home. Ha! This is the first time we've had matching bedroom furniture, and we invested in new bedding as well. It's a really peaceful place to be. I've obviously got a ways to go in the decorating the walls department. I've got big plans. The budget says not for a while.
Ben's room was one of the first I focused on when we moved in. I tried to make things easy for him to access himself. He can easily get to books he wants to read, put toys away easily, and pick out his own socks. :) I tried to stick with a somewhat neutral 'theme' in here, with an emphasis on wildlife animals. As he gets older and his interests really shine through, we can change things around to make his space more unique to him. We all sleep the best in a dark room around here, so all of the bedrooms have darkening blinds, and heavy curtains that hang on top. It works incredibly well for a nursery and/or toddler room.
We have a strange little nook near the kitchen, so I decided to make that into a sort of a playroom. I'm not sure yet how we will approach school in terms of homeschool/private/public etc, but since I'm a teacher at heart, a learning chart here and there never hurt anyone. :) My dad made that chalkboard table for Ben by cutting down the legs on an old desk of mine from when I was a kid, and he just adores it! He loves matching the seasons on the velcro chart, using magnets, and reading books at his little $20 IKEA table. I like this area because he feels comfortable and confident to play here alone, and it's so close to the kitchen that if I'm busy I can hear him.
And just in case you do get any ideas about robbing us, please know we have a very vicious guard dog who lives with us. :)
Thanks for visiting! My husband and I worked hard and waited a long time for a home of our own and we are proud of this place where we rest our heads. I did a little 'home tour' of our old trailer a while back and I felt silly doing it at the time, but really what makes a home are the memories being made in it, no matter where you live. I'm sure as our home continues to expand and grow I'll be sharing more of it here. If you want to know any other details, please let me know!

The first song Justin and I danced to on our wedding was 'home', and I think it rings true. It doesn't matter to me where we are in the world, as long as I'm with that man.
"Home, let me come home/Home is wherever I'm with you" 
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Friday, September 12, 2014

Quinoa CrockPot Chili

Don't you dare go thinking I've forgotten about posting a yummy recipe around here from time to time! Make sure you check out the 'recipes' tab at the top to browse through some other eats and treats.

I want to believe it's fall around here, I really do. But it's been hovering in the 70s and 80s here in Western WA and putting on a scarf just isn't going to happen yet. I DID roast a home raised chicken and bake an apple pie the other night, but it was foggy so it seemed like it would be appropriate. Anyway, who are we kidding, it isn't quite autumn yet, but it IS right around the corner. Who doesn't love their CrockPot? Who doesn't love chili? That's what I thought.

This is a super quick, throw together meal that is easily modifiable. I put the whole thing together in 20 minutes when Ben first went down for his nap and let it simmer all afternoon. Toddler Ben loves it, husband loves it (annnd there's enough for his lunch leftovers). I decided to bake some homemade breadsticks to go along with, but you could just as easily do crackers or chips. I use the whole wheat bread recipe from the book Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. You literally mix, and let it rise for two hours, and then use...and you can store your dough in the fridge for a couple of weeks and pull off it as you like!

  • 1 can of organic black beans, rinsed and drained. 
  • 1 can of organic garbonzo beans, rinsed and drained. 
  • 1 can of organic diced tomatoes with juice (I like Trader Joes)
  • 1.5 cups of cooked quinoa (I cook mine in chicken stock for extra flavor) 
  • 2 TB garlic
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 pound organic ground beef or turkey 
  • Sea salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 TB onion powder 
  • Swiss cream cheese, to taste 
  • (Additionally, you could add carrot and zucchini, I just didn't have any). 
Topping Choices: 
  • Green onion
  • Cilantro
  • Sriacha 
  • Sour cream or yogurt
  • Cheese
  • Avocado 
  1. Cook quinoa and set aside. 
  2. Put onion in a pan and start to simmer before adding beef or turkey. Cook thoroughly, and season with onion powder, salt, and pepper. 
  3. While meat is cooking, put your beans, tomatoes, quinoa, and garlic in the crock pot. 
  4. Add your cooked meat, top with swiss cream cheese (I used about half a block to make it creamy). 
  5. Set crock pot on low (or really whenever you need it, since all the ingredients are 'cooked' it's really about warming and infusing flavors.
  6. After about an hour, mix the cream cheese in well. 
  7. When ready to serve, top with desired goodies! 
What else do you like to add to chili? I think sweet potatoes would also make a nice addition!
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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Don't Just 'Survive'

If there is one thing that has really been driving me bonkers lately, it's all the stereotypes surrounding parenting a toddler. I just can't stand that we (as a culture) assume that toddlers won't eat the food we make, refuse to take naps, can't learn to not touch something, throw epic meltdowns, and are overall very difficult creatures to spend time with. Sigh. I'm certainly NOT saying that parenting a toddler is a walk in the park, as it certainly can put a lot of strain on a marriage and can test our patience levels beyond extremes. I am however saying that these little years don't have to be just about 'surviving' while we dread the impending doom of 'terrible twos and threes'. This is a really fun age, and I think we can help our toddlers be their very best selves.
My husband and I are huge advocates of good behavior and discipline in our home. I've spent time with a lot of families and always watched closely with how different parents interact with their children. While there is certainly no 'right' or 'wrong' way to get this job done, I think there are definitely certain strategies and philosophies that make this parenting gig easier (in the long run). Sometimes that means making difficult choices and choosing the hard path for this instant, in order for great reward and pay-offs later on. Don't get me wrong, there are many times when we fail, every single day. There are days we struggle. We are by no means doing this perfectly.

Yes, I know I only have one child. Yes, I know he's two. Yes, I know that I still have some tough stuff ahead of me. (I can hear you all judging me as I type). And I recognize that being a teacher is definitely NOT the same thing as being a parent, but I do have a lot of experience with kids and families. I do have a pretty strong-will about me and have been graced with many incredible mothers around me whom I've watched and been guided by in the past two years.
Maybe it's my child's personality. Maybe it's our philosophies. Probably a combination of both. I do know that our son is thriving. People are surprised I can take him places and he will sit quietly in a chair and drink his water and eat his banana while I have a coffee with a friend. People are surprised we haven't 'toddler proofed' our entire home, and that we've taught our son the boundaries of what he can and cannot play with. People are surprised he sleeps well. People are surprised he eats spinach and fish. People are surprised we don't watch t.v. People are surprised when I give him a direction and ask him to say, 'yes mommy' and he does. People are surprised Ben has started to say "peease" all on his own free will. But why? Why do we have such a low expectation of our toddlers? They are incredibly intelligent, and capable of rising to expectations we set for them! If we assume they will only eat chicken nuggets, they won't sleep unless you x, y, or z, and say it's okay for them to run wild because well, they are toddlers...then that is exactly what they are going to do. We expect our son to eat what we eat, we've taught him how to sleep well and he does, and even if he carries on in a major fit over being told 'no', we stick to our guns and stay consistent with consequences.
So, instead of simply surviving, here's my advice. Stay calm, stay consistent, stay loving. (and keep a hefty stash of chocolate hidden somewhere, plus a friend or two whom you can cry with).

Here are ways my husband and I help Benjamin be his very best toddler self: 
  • Avoid asking your toddler yes/no questions when giving a direction. I know, this is SUPER hard. We still catch ourselves doing this all the time. Do you know what your toddler's favorite word is? NO. If you say "are you ready to go inside?" they will probably say "No". Whereas if you say "It's time to go inside now," it sets the precedent that you are the parent, making a statement with no room for negotiation. 
  • Transition time! In my classroom I would never spring something on my students. It's good to announce to your toddler that you will be leaving the beach in ten minutes, etc. Remind them and let them get ready for the change that is about to happen. 
  • I know I said to not ask questions, but it's okay to offer CHOICES. Sometimes we let our son decide if he wants to read books before his nap, or just go straight night night. He usually chooses night night. It's good to give power in small ways that help them feel in control of their world, 'do you want an orange or an apple?' 'would you like almond milk or water with your lunch?' 'do you want to wear your blue shoes or your black shoes?'
  • It's a given, but spending quality time filling that toddler tank keeps your child at their best, most fulfilled self. 
  • Keep your toddler within the 'funnel' of his age. It wouldn't be fair or appropriate to expect your two year old to be capable of something a five year old is doing. By keeping abilities at his age level, he succeeds and thrives. 
  • I'm wondering when someone is going to smack me over the head with a pan the next time I mention the word, 'routine,' but have I mentioned routine? Toddlers CRAVE this structure. 
  • Overtired kids are cranked out. A well rested child is (for the most part) a happy child. Sleep is important. 
  • Know your child's needs well enough that you can support them through meltdowns. If your child is physical, walking away might be the best because they need space to work it out. Maybe they need you nearby so you can hold them. Maybe your child does better with quick and to the point discipline, or maybe they need you to talk them through it more slowly. 
  • Please don't shame your toddler, or make fun of them, or find their poor behavior entertaining. It fuels the fire. 
  • You will probably say the same thing, a thousand times. Keep saying it. Consistently will sink in and pay off. I learned this one from the dog whisperer...your dog is either allowed on the couch, or he isn't. If he is sometimes allowed on the couch, that will be confusing, and he won't understand why he's in trouble for getting on the couch another time. I know kids aren't dogs, but same principle, right? 
I can't even express how much I adore the age my son is going into. I love getting peeks into his heart as his language grows. I love watching his imagination blossom as his interests start to take shape. Being a mama is hard, hard work, but I can't fathom spending my days doing anything else. My husband and I truly think our son is such a cool little person and feel so blessed by him.
As always, I intend my posts with a gentle and helpful heart. I know we aren't all the same, and that is a good thing. I've personally enjoyed reading parenting blogs that mesh well with how I parent, and I hope you do too. The more tools we have in our parenting toolbox the better!

  **Due to the nature of some of the recent comments here, I want to remind my readers this post is NOT meant to make anyone feel judged, inferior, offended, or defensive. I am in no way believing I am doing this 'better' than anyone else, this is simply a post about what WE are doing and what works for us, and maybe it will help you too. All of us have a different mish mash of parenting styles, mixed with our children's own unique characteristics and situations, and it's up to us to figure out how to navigate these toddler years with a happy heart. I wrote this post with the intention of reminding us all that toddlers are amazing, incredible, people...their brains bursting at the brim of learning, language, and understanding, and I think there are ways we can help them reach their best potentials instead of complaining about how hard it is. There are ways my child struggles, where your child does not, and vice versa. I don't have a Masters degree in parenting, but I do have one in Education, and a Bachelors degree in print journalism. Writing and working with children sits at the core of my heart, and I've spent a lot of years of my life invested in these areas. I hope you see this post for what it is...a fun, helpful, informative piece of writing, and if you knew me in real life, you would see it as such. My goal here is to create a community of people who support, help, and care for one another. This includes both what I share here, and how you respond through comments. We are real people on both ends of the spectrum. 

If you've heard about Love and Logic you might also enjoy this post by my friend Lena at Root and Blossom.

Here's to thriving, and not just surviving. :)
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