31 July 2013

ahoy, discoveries! vol. 11 [new mama edition]

So a while ago I told you about some of the things I've really liked for my baby. (You can add "large and absorbent burp cloths" and "a stash of bibs" to that list. Ellie loves to drool. And regurgitate. I need about ten more of each.)

But how about momma? What with pushing that kid out, feeding it at all hours of day and night, and swimming in a sea of postpartum hormones, you could use some nice things too!

#1 A good travel mug and something caffeinated to put in it. I have two mugs from Contigo (one for coffee, one for tea) and love them; you need one that will not spill and that will keep your drink hot for a long time, because as soon as you fix yourself a lovely cuppa you'll be distracted by diapers, crying, etc and it will go stone cold if it's in a regular mug. I think some babies are negatively affected by caffeine, but mine never was so I guzzled it every blessed morning.

#2 And why will you need all that caffeine? Because no matter how good your baby is, you ain't gonna be sleeping for a while. Even if it's only a month . . . a month of sleep deprivation is still no picnic. You want to take full advantage of any you do sneak in, and supplementing with magnesium oil makes a significant difference in the quality of my shut-eye. (Note: I make mine double strength, with a 2:1 magnesium-water ratio.)

Before I started using this, I would wake up constantly, even when Ellie was down the hall and sound asleep. Super annoying. After I mixed up a batch, though, I would stay sound asleep until she actually started making noise. Even now that she sleeps through the night (go baby go!) I still use it and can tell if I don't.

#3 Comfy chair. Very important. Also an ice pack to sit on, as in all likelihood you will feel somewhat . . . damaged. Take it as easy as you can and don't feel bad about asking other people to do all the work for a while. Also in the comfy category: sweatpants, old t-shirts, and really anything soft and stretchy.

#4 After a while, though, you might start feeling like a frump. You, like me, may benefit from a few pretty things to remind you that you are in fact more than a milk machine-- before the baby's born go get some new nail polish and a cute headband, and pull them out sometime in those first blurry weeks.

#5 This felt great while I was recuperating, and I also took some arnica. I recall popping a few Advils to deal with my headaches of sheer exhaustion, too. Floradix is good to keep your iron levels up; I'm still using it, as I tend towards anemia and don't want Ellie to deal with the same thing.

#6 If you're planning to breastfeed, get yourself some Lansinoh. It helps so much in those first weeks of ouch! and would you please just latch on correctly? and why does nursing feel like a piranha attack?! Also some nice soft nursing pads, and a really big water bottle. Feeding Ellie turned me into a saguaro.

#7 You're going to need some way to amuse yourself while nursing that baby for hours on end. How about a good long book and a funny TV series? Hulu has lots for free (I amused myself with the slapstick antics of McHale's Navy for quite a while, and I watch The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart in order to stay well-informed on current events, obviously). If you have Netflix, even more choices. As for lengthy books, I suggest The Poisonwood Bible, Vanity Fair, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Lewis' space trilogy. Just to start.

#8 Snacks. Even if you're a die-hard home cook, now is the time to take advantage of prepackaging. You will be extremely hungry but will not want to spend any unnecessary time preparing food! Make sure that it's good stuff: you'll need a lot of quality protein and fat to help you recover and to feed your munchkin. I stocked up on a bajillion Larabars-- I got them really cheap at a discount grocery store, though, and wouldn't pay the outrageous price they ask at a normal store. Banana chips, almonds, and individual cups of yogurt are also super.

p.s. Once you are feeling up to a wee bit of kitchen time, hardboiled eggs are another good snack. In those first few crazy weeks I cooked a dozen at a time, peeled them all, and put them in the fridge for later. I would also wash up cut up a ton of fruit on Sunday so I wouldn't have to deal with orange peels and shriveled berries on the spot . . . specifically in the middle of the night when Ellie was screaming and I was starving.

Linked up with Simple Lives Thursday

29 July 2013

it couldn't have been easy

I am a selfish person. I am. But for Ellie I would do anything.

I don't care how hard it is, how much it hurts, how much it cuts into what I wanted and planned. If it will make this beautiful little girl happy or make her life better, I'll do it.

Saying that feels very natural. She is my daughter after all. My body sheltered her for the better part of a year, and during that time-- while I had to give myself up for her whether I liked it or not-- I learned to do it in love. That was before I had a choice. Now I can choose, but it still isn't even a question, really. When she cries, my heart twists. When she needs me in the middle of the night, I go.

God made it easy for me to love Ellie. She is cute and sweet. She gurgles with happiness, flaps her arms when she's excited, and lets out hilariously loud burps after eating. How could you not love this?

So then I think: God ran after me when I wasn't the least bit lovable. He had made me, protected me, sustained my life, but I didn't give a rip. Ellie smiles when I pick her up-- until He opened my eyes, I wasn't smiling. I was scowling in His direction and trying to hide. It couldn't have been easy (at least in human terms) to love a rebel, let alone die for her. Yet here I am, enjoying life as His precious daughter, confident in His faithful care. That is amazing.

26 July 2013

Weekend linkage

Me: Ellie, you sure have a lot of personality for someone so little.
Jared: Look who's talking, mommy!


Life with Ellie: No sooner had I rejoined the gluten crowd than we discovered that Ellie reacts to wheat. She developed a dry, red rash on her upper arms a few weeks ago, and when I took her to my doctor (my dad calls him the witch doctor, I call him brilliant) he tested her for allergies and wheat came up. Sure enough, once I stopped consuming it the rash started to fade away. So it's goodbye to bread once more.

Not altogether a bad thing. Gluten gives me a brick belly if I eat too much, and I always end up eating too much. Buy me a scone and I'll take the whole bakery . . .  or something like that.


Wondering which Shakespeare play to read next? Of course you are! A helpful infographic.


"A Different Kind of Coming Out."

Ugh, I agree: "Terrible Things Are Happening to the American Girl Doll." I'm going to get my Samantha refurbished for Ellie in a few years. I loved (and learned a ton from) those historical dolls and think that the modern ones are just goofy.


Don't swim here.

Stephen Colbert has the definitive word on the royal baby, as he does on most everything.

25 July 2013

pretty happy funny real #4


Two weeks ago we (and by we I mean Jared) hung our chalkboard in the dining room. It's the only thing we have on the walls as of yet-- half our stuff still needs to be framed anyway.


I haven't made yogurt for, I don't know, probably a year. Once morning sickness started, I was in no mood to deal with hot milk and towels at 11 PM. And now that I am feeling up to snuff again, BB's has been selling perfectly good plain yogurt for cheaper than I can make it! This brand is excellent. Zero weird additives.

The best part, though?

Yep. Two for a dollar.

If you don't live in Lancaster and therefore don't have access to the marvelous thing known as Amish discount grocery stores, well, sorry.


This girl's hair. It gets better all the time.


About two months ago I took down the super-springy pastel wreath we had on the door, and set out to make a new one. This is how far I got. I just don't feel like buying anything else to put on it! Suggestions?

Linked up at Like Mother, Like Daughter.

23 July 2013

cucumber crunch

We planted two cucumber vines in our backyard (where, by the way, the veggies are doing better than the flowers. Next year we're turning most of it into a vegetable garden!) and they are as prolific as usual, which is to say that I have more cukes than I know what to do with-- one of summer's more pleasant problems.

Therefore a salad.


Creamy Cucumber Salad

2 fresh cucumbers, scrubbed and sliced thinly
red onion, sliced thinly (as much or as little as you like)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh snipped herbs*
salt and pepper to taste

1) Toss the cucumber and onion together in a mixing bowl.
2) Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over vegetables. Stir to coat.
3) Refrigerate for 6-8 hours and serve chilled.

*You're supposed to use dill, but my dill plant is not thrilled with life at the moment. So I used mostly basil and tarragon.

22 July 2013

when Ellie arrived, part III

Until transition, I would describe my contractions as decidedly manageable. Once I hit that point, though? Uh. On the whole, I am weirdly looking forward to giving birth again; it was exciting and intense, and an amazing thing to experience with my husband. But I hated transition with the fire of ten thousand suns.

The midwife then on call, Valerie, had done one or two exams just to make sure I was progressing, and everything looked great. A couple hours after midnight, I'd gotten out of the tub because it was starting to slow labor too much and we needed to keep things moving. Goodbye hot tub, hello 7 centimeters . . . 7 and a half . . . 8 . . . are we done yet?!!

I was now on all fours gritting my teeth during extremely hard contractions. Pretty soon I had lost all control and was screaming through them-- forget that steady breathing nonsense. (Jared says that at this point, he started to wonder how long I could keep going.) Those contractions felt like every muscle from my knees up to the top of my stomach was being pulled so tight it would break; think of the intense, radiating ache of a charley horse and multiply it by a hundred. At the peak of each contraction I found myself wailing like some wild animal, not caring who heard me or how crazy I sounded.

I suppose every woman probably has a moment during labor where she thinks "Okay, could we stop now? The baby can just stay in there. I don't really have to keep going, right?" I certainly did. I remember telling Jared that I couldn't do it anymore, though what I really meant was that I didn't want to do it anymore. I knew perfectly well that I was capable of going to the end, and I never even thought "I want an epidural." Good thing, because I couldn't have gotten one anyway! But seriously. It was horrible.

Valerie did another exam.

"I really need you to try not to push," she said. "You are at 9 1/2 centimeters, almost there, but you're a bit swollen from pushing too soon."

I thought Go jump in a lake, lady but I just nodded.

"I can give you an injection of Nubain right now," Valerie continued calmly. "That would not eliminate the pain, but it would take the edge off of your contractions and help you to relax. I could also give you Benadryl to help you sleep."

I decided that getting a bit of rest was more worthwhile than fighting for a completely drug-free delivery. (In any case, Nubain was unlikely to slow dilation or interfere with pushing, two of my concerns with an epidural.) So I said yes to the injection, no to the Benadryl.

Oh, did that needle ever hurt. The pain only lasted a few moments, though, and it helped me to relax during the last part of transition. I laid down on the bed with Jared and dozed between contractions while he held me and stroked my hair. I am still very thankful for some pain relief at that point. I'm glad I did it without an epidural, but I'm not sorry about the Nubain!

Valerie did one last exam and announced that I was ready to push: there was still a tiny lip of cervix, but she had slipped it over the baby's head and I could get started. Despite feeling slightly groggy from the Nubain, I was thrilled.

It didn't take long to figure out that during the second half of each contraction, my body was consumed by an involuntary pushing reflex, and all I had to was get behind it. (At first I pushed through the whole contraction, but then I realized that the midwife would only say "That's good, keep going!" during that second half, so I decided that the first part must not be very effective anyway and I might as well wait.)

Anyway, this part of delivery felt great. It took every bit of energy I had, but the pain levels had gone way down; thanks in part to the Nubain, and in part to how hard I was concentrating. I know that it looked painful (especially to my poor husband) but it honestly was not. Valerie and Diane, the nurse, kept encouraging me and letting me know how Ellie was progressing. "She has a lot of hair!" Valerie told me, smiling.

Feeling your baby slowly slip down the birth canal is . . . strange. And exhilarating. It took about 45 minutes.

I could feel Ellie getting closer and closer, and I realized that I was actually doing it. I was getting my baby into the world! Whoa! Then all at once, with a sudden stretch and burn, her head was out. A couple more pushes-- one extra for her chubby belly, they told me later-- and at 4:40 in the morning, WHOOSH. Onto that bed she slid, along with a sizeable gush of fluid. Gross.

Diane quickly picked Ellie up and placed her on my chest. The first thing I noticed was her incredibly long eyelashes. She hadn't made any noise, and I remember asking if she was all right. Valerie assured me that she was, and yes, soon she let out some indignant wails.

Squishy baby.

I was so exhausted by that point that I couldn't really think. I was just glad that Ellie was okay and happy to be done!

Jared snipped the umbilical cord once it stopped pulsing; he says he was surprised at how tough it was. I delivered the placenta and nursed my hungry little girl. When Diane finally weighed and measured her, everyone was shocked: 9 pounds and 10 ounces. No one had expected her to be that big. The midwives had estimated 7 or 8 pounds. Even once Ellie was born she didn't look huge, probably because she was so long and the weight was stretched out. :) Surprise!

Can you imagine how enormous she'd have been if she had gone full term? I shudder to think.

Things get blurry after this in my memory. We stayed at the birth center for about 5 hours after Ellie arrived. Jared held her, I got stitched up and took a shower, both of us napped at some point (Ellie pretty much slept the whole time), Diane gave us the run-down on what we should expect for the first few days, and I scarfed down most of the food I'd so sagaciously packed. Banana bread, yogurt, tuna salad, the works.

Once I felt up to walking, we slowly made our way out to the car . . .

Much the same way as we'd arrived, except this time there was a tiny person in the back seat.

19 July 2013

Weekend linkage

"Ellie, no complaining. Only Daddy is allowed to complain around here."
-to his fussy daughter


Life with Ellie: Nocturnal snacks have become a regular occurrence again: somewhere between 3 and 6 AM she wakes up, takes a bit of refreshment, and goes back to bed.

I don't really mind because it only takes twenty minutes, and besides, I think she is super cute when she's so drowsy. She keeps her eyes open just long enough to see me, then nestles up and starts nursing herself to sleep. During the day she never sleeps in my arms-- only in her carseat, her crib, or the Ergo-- so I enjoy these sweet moments in the (very) early hours. Anyway, she is such a little thing that I figure she can use all the milk she can get.


THis is a hilarious look at the United States-Canada border.

Enough is Enough: "'The internet really has changed the world completely.' Pray tell, what is 'the world'? Seriously, I want to know what people mean by this. If 'the world' has been changed completely, why does the silver maple outside my window still stand as it has for decades? Why is the gazpacho at Emilio’s as good as it was when I first tasted it, twenty-five years ago? Why does the prose of Sir Thomas Browne still delight me as it did when I first encountered it at age nineteen? Why do I still love my wife?"

17 July 2013

they are seeking a homeland

"These [saints of old] all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.

"If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.

Nomad tent, Nam Tso (Erik Törner, Tibet 2003)
image credit: Individuell Manniskohjalp

"But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city."

-Hebrews 11:13-16

16 July 2013

a moment of Eden

 I love Elizabeth's eyes.

They are big and blue and vivacious. They shine in delight as she peers at the strange world around her. They dart back and forth as her curious mind absorbs sights and sounds. They sparkle with good humor as she smiles and coos at us. Even when she was only a few days old, I looked into her eyes and saw them brimful with life.

One of the most awesome things to me, when I look at Ellie, is to think of her as a person and not just an infant. Yes, she is tiny, and her biggest accomplishments so far are to squawk, drool, and accidentally roll over. But she has an entire life ahead of her-- the intense, overflowing life I see in her beautiful eyes-- and who knows where it may lead? She has the same heart and soul of the woman she'll be in fifty years.

Maybe this is why I enjoy babies so much. They give us a moment of Eden: the hope and potential of a human life before any corruption creeps in. In a baby's round face you see the image of God in its purest form on this earth.

It's incredible to think of my daughter's whole existence bottled up, for now, in such a small body. Just waiting to unfold.

It unfolds a little more every day. I'm glad I get to be here for that.

15 July 2013

when Ellie arrived, part II

Before going to bed, I called my parents and did some laundry-- I had to get some of this baby's clothes ready! That night I slept remarkably well, only waking a few times. I felt a few minor contractions but nothing that prevented me from rest.

Incidentally, my two "requests" regarding labor were Please Lord, let me be well rested and Please Lord, don't let me throw up. Both were granted. :)

In the morning, I made myself a milkshake with bananas and coffee ice cream. I figured that I was going to need all the calories I could get since I was having a baby that day; if there was ever a time to kick off the morning with a glass of caffeine and sugar, this had to be it! Then I called the birth center and told one of the midwives that my contractions were 10 minutes apart, only mildly uncomfortable. She told me to come in so we could try to get things moving. My water had broken 12 hours before, and if I wasn't in active labor by 24 hours she'd have to recommend a hospital transfer due to risk of infection.

Okay. I packed up my bag (exciting things like a toothbrush and Larabars) and Ellie's bag (clothes in varying sizes, diapers, blankets, hat, and other sundries). Jared did a few things around the house and put the carseat in the car.

Earlier I'd also called my mom to let her know what was up, and soon she arrived with my sister Rachel get our house in order. While we were gone they cleaned, did laundry, arranged things in the nursery-- my dad even came that evening to put together the changing table and install some window blinds. I can't express how wonderful it was to have our family so close.

Anyway, off we went. It takes half an hour to get to the birth center from our house, and on the way we just joked and talked. We actually finalized her name en route. We checked in around 11:15. The midwife on call, Sabrina, took us back to one of the rooms and let us get settled.

Upon walking into the room, I remembered another reason why I had wanted to give birth here, as opposed to a hospital. This felt more like a bed-and-breakfast than a medical facility. Queen-sized bed, flowers, art on the walls, candles flickering, comfortable chairs, the blessed hot tub right there in the corner. No machines that went ping.

Sabrina suggested that I get a Foley catheter, a little balloon which would put pressure on the cervix and hopefully encourage my body to start dilating on its own. This sounded like a fine plan to us, so she inserted the catheter (it felt weird) and I also took castor oil (nasty but not quite as bad as I thought it would be-- we mixed it with a blood orange San Pellegrino!). My contractions immediately got stronger and closer together. Yay, I guess.

Sabrina told us that I needed to hit 4 centimeters to be officially admitted. In the meantime Jared and I walked a block up the street to a small cafe for lunch (salad, cheeseburger soup, potato chips, mocha cheesecake) and walked back, by which time I had to stop, hold Jared's hand, and close my eyes through each contraction. I knew that I still had some time before I reached the required dilation, but didn't want to go home because our still-messy house would be much less relaxing than the birth center

Sabrina agreed to let us stay. We waited in the quiet, peaceful room, working through contractions together.

Jared read me Psalm 139, which was a tremendous encouragement.
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
Maybe an hour and a half later, the catheter bulb popped out. Translation: I was at 4 centimeters and considered "in active labor," and I could get into the hot tub. Magic, I tell you. The water blunted the pain of each contraction significantly.

Speaking of pain, let me say that it was very bearable. Even at the worst, I did not freak out, lose consciousness, or want to die. The whole way through, I knew I could handle it. Mind you, I'm a bit of a wimp, so don't think of me as some superwoman immune to pain. :) It hurt a lot! But I was pretty determined to do it naturally and I was confident in my body's ability to deliver my child. God had given me a great deal of peace beforehand; I prayed like crazy while I was pregnant. Besides, I had an excellent husband helping me out. I never could have done it without that guy.

In fact, here's what Jared contributed, more or less in order of importance:
1) Kept me hydrated. I would have forgotten to drink if he hadn't been there handing me a water bottle every chance he got.
2) Breathed with me. Whenever a contraction started he would remind me to breathe evenly, deeply, and slowly, and he'd do it with me whenever I started to lose it. This conserved my energy and calmed me down-- and yes, concentrating on deep breaths really does take your mind off pain!
3) Told me over and over again what a good job I was doing, that we were going to meet our little girl soon, and that I was doing exactly the right thing to get her out. When Jared says things like that I believe him.
4) Put pressure on my hips and/or tailbone during contractions. Sabrina showed him how to do this early on in labor, and it was wonderful. I am thankful for a husband with strong hands.
5) Helped me make decisions when I was too tired to think, like Do you want the jets on in the tub? Do you think you should get out now and walk around? You look really warm, should I turn the fan on? Would a snack be good right now? I was the body and he was the brain.
This stage of labor lasted hours and hours. I wasn't watching the clock, so I can't give a precise timeline. Several different midwives and nurses popped in and out, taking my temperature and pulse, then listening to Ellie's heartbeat for a few minutes each time. Apparently she had a slight irregularity that concerned them for a while (you could hear her heart speed up and then skip a beat every so often) but they told me that there was no need for a hospital transfer yet, and as long as everything else continued normally they would not worry too much. Sure enough, her heartbeat settled down by the end of labor and she is fine now.

So what was I doing this whole time? Well, I ate some cheese and half a granola bar at one point, but mostly, I concentrated hard on breathing through contractions and relaxing between them. I spent plenty of time in the hot tub, especially when I wanted a "break"-- it slowed my contractions down, which I needed. (I suspect that Ellie would have been born even sooner had I stayed out of the tub. However, I am glad that I used it so often, because I think I had more energy for the final stage of labor than if I had just let things barrel along.)

Though I was tired and definitely wished that contractions wouldn't hurt so much, I didn't feel overwhelmed or discouraged.

Then. Oh, then. Sometime after midnight the fun began.

12 July 2013

Weekend linkage

"Where two or more are willing to drink coffee, there the Spirit gathers."
-Jared the sage


Life with Ellie: She gets funnier all the time. If I sit with her on the front porch, every car, bicycle, and basketball-bouncing teenager that passes by gets a wide eyed stare. She can follow moving objects pretty well but can't quite synchronize her neck muscles for a smooth turn of the head. So it's more like stare-jerk-stare-jerk-stare.

She is still rolling over in her crib on occasion, and once did it at 5:45 AM (I just nursed her and popped her back into bed, where she stayed for another couple of hours thank you Lord).

We seem to be raising a stringbean. This morning she weighed only 11 pounds 4 ounces, but she is already 24.5 inches long-- she's grown three inches since birth! Obviously she is not taking after her mother. :)


We are breeding the nutrition out of our food.

The most popular baby names . . . by state.

Living for the love of good things. "Love God. Love family. Love beauty. Whatever is pure, whatever is noble, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, love these things. Love passionately. Love deeply . . . You may never know who watched you love that thing and came to love it as well."

11 July 2013

pretty happy funny real #3


The lady who lived here before us loved flowers and left a lot of beautiful things in our back yard.


The tomatoes are starting to ripen! A cherry tomato fresh off the vine is practically like candy.


Ellie has started to do this thing where she puts her hands together and wiggles her fingers. It looks like she's plotting world domination. Which, probably.


You might not be able to see it, but these lovely roses have bug nibbles and brown edges. That's what happens when you don't actually tend your garden. :)

Linked up with Like Mother, Like Daughter!

08 July 2013

when Ellie arrived, part I

A note before telling Elizabeth's birth story: we made these decisions for our daughter. I would encourage any woman with a healthy pregnancy to take the same path, but if you decided to do things another way, that is okay! I think the most important thing is for you to do your own research, pray, and go forward feeling confident in whatever seems wise and safe to you.

So I'm not telling this story in order to inspire guilt in those who chose differently. Just to celebrate God's faithfulness to us, encourage other mamas-to-be, and explain why we did what we did. We think it was great. Maybe you will too.

Carry on.


We were convinced she'd be late.

All first-timers deliver late, right? And my mom had always gone past her due date, so surely I would. We had so much left to do, anyway-- purchase some furniture, find a washer and dryer, set up the changing table, get some meals in the freezer.

There had been no time for childbirth classes (not even the little one offered by the birth center) because remodeling our house had taken top priority for the past five months. No Bradley or Lamaze or Hypnobabies. I had a mountain of research under my belt and felt prepared intellectually; I trusted the midwives. But Jared and I had yet to walk through the process together. It was already March 27th and we still needed to figure out what we were going to do.

38 weeks and counting.

That was fine, though, because there was a week and a half until Ellie's due date.

I had enjoyed a wonderful baby shower four days earlier (as you can see in the pictures accompanying this post), and we'd moved into our house six days before that. Now that the initial whirlwind of unpacking had slowed, we'd find the extra time that had been lacking throughout my pregnancy.

Then my water broke.

We were at a friend's house, and I'd gone to the bathroom just oooone more time before getting ready to leave. It was around 9:30 PM. While washing my hands, I felt a sudden, well, wetness. 

Oh brother. I didn't just pee myself, did I? I don't think so. Nope. Hmmm . . .

I calmly went downstairs and we headed home. During the whole car ride, I kept feeling little spurts of water. This is surreal. Tonight? Really? As we walked from the garage to the house, I said: "Listen, don't freak out, but I think my water just broke."

Jared stared at me, with much the same dumbfounded, are-you-sure expression he'd worn when I told him he was going to be a daddy.


"Yes. But I'm going to wait a while and see what happens."


The water kept coming as I puttered around the house. Just tiny trickles, but no doubts now. At 10:30 PM I called the birth center and talked to Dana, one of my favorite midwives.

Presents!!! and Aunt Rachel.
To back up nine months . . . I had felt for a while that I wanted a delivery free of unnecessary interventions. A delivery that was treated as a normal function of my body rather than a medical crisis. I knew I had the best chance of that in a non-hospital setting. Midwife-led birth centers are very successful institutions (a study just came out confirming their impressive safety and effectiveness) and Birth Care is the perfect example of this model. The midwives take a warm interest in all their patients and give them a lot of individual autonomy, both during the pregnancy, for things like glucose testing and vaccinations, and during delivery, with minimal internal exams or stressful "bossing around." (Especially if you have your husband there. They let the two of you work without interference until it's actually required.)

Basically, they emphasize the natural ability of each woman to give birth, and provide a lot of encouragement along the way. But they are also medically savvy, equipped with everything but an operating table, and fully aware when a hospital transfer is needed.

The midwives at Birth Care happily attend home births should you choose that, but I decided to deliver at the birth center instead . . . I liked the idea of going to a prepared, peaceful setting to do the messy work, and coming home when it was over.

Also the birth center has a hot tub. Winning.

Back to the story. Dana asked the typical questions: Was the fluid clear? (Yes.) What time did I notice it? (About an hour ago.) Any mucus? (Yup.) Any contractions? (Not particularly.) She concluded that I should go to bed and rest, then call at 9 the next morning to check in. Sounded good to me. I hung up and told Jared the plan.

My dear husband, who knew how I'd struggled with the daunting prospect of an unmedicated birth, looked at me and asked, "Are you scared?"

I smiled. Now that the moment had arrived, I couldn't wait to get started and meet our little girl. We still hadn't done any official prep. So what. Hadn't women been birthing babies for centuries before me? I had butterflies in my stomach (that is, in what little space Ellie hadn't requisitioned) . . . and they were fluttering in anticipation, not fear.

"No. Just excited."

07 July 2013

Weekend linkage

{7 AM: Jared is about to leave for work}
J: Do you want a back rub this evening?
Me: Of course.

{7 PM: Jared is reading a book}
Me: So how about that back rub.
J: Oh, the one you were going to give me?



Life with Ellie: She has been babysat several times now. Always by one of her grandmas, of whom she seems to approve. I have a harder time with it than she does! I feel weird without a baby in tow. Something very important is missing-- it's almost like I forgot to put on my pants. :) And although Ellie likes other people just fine, only I am her mom, and only I know exactly what she'll want and what that particular scrunch of the forehead means. Even if I only leave for an hour, I keep thinking about her, hoping she is okay. She has worked herself into me and I can't ever leave.

Umm . . . happy Fourth of July?

She's really into standing up: she grabs my hands and pushes as hard as she can with those skinny legs, looking so proud of herself. Of course, she's also into chewing on things. If she can get it clutched in her fist, to the mouth it goes, whether it be a bib, a blanket, or Mama's hand! So her standing exercises usually end with her gumming industriously on my finger, which is so interesting that she forgets to hold her back straight and folds in half . . . still chomping away.

Today her naps have been interrupted several times by inadvertent roll-overs. She'll be sleeping soundly, but wiggling as usual (it makes you wonder what exciting things she could be dreaming about!) and sooner or later, her arms and legs get into the right configuration for a flip. Onto her back she goes, and then we hear surprised crying from upstairs.

If this continues, our nights of uninterrupted sleep may be coming to an end.


Ten lies about food.

Lovely article on the goodness of the home. "A lively home is built out of small things and sometimes we misunderstand, and we think that home is a small thing."

Just one letter can make all the difference . . .

Great Britain? England? The crown? Here's how to tell.

In case you ever want to pretend to be Gretel von Trapp.

03 July 2013

because apparently we can never have too many muffin recipes

I've hopped back on the grain wagon, in a manner of speaking. After more than a year of totally avoiding grains, I started experimenting with them again. It seems that gluten was my biggest problem, after all, but even that I can have in limited quantities. :)

Paleo eating seems to work perfectly for some people, and I do agree that grains pose dangers when consumed in American-style proportions (blood sugar rollercoaster, tooth decay, possible gluten sensitivities, you probably know the drill). For now, though, I am enjoying my oatmeal.

I know it sounds so trendy to say that I'm "low gluten" or "gluten free." Oh well, there it is. You do what works for ya. And I'm glad that I can still munch on a good piece of ciabatta or a slice of German chocolate cake when the occasion arises.

On one of my recent gluten-y baking excursions I came up with these delicious muffins. I made them to go alongside chili; they'd be good just about anywhere.

If you don't have a stoneware muffin pan I highly recommend getting one. If you preheat it along with the oven, it makes the most delicious, evenly baked, golden-brown muffins ever.


Cornbread Cranberry Muffins
(original recipe from Sugarcrafter)

2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/3 cup melted coconut oil*
1/3 cup honey
1 1/4 cups stone ground cornmeal
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup packed dried cranberries

1) Preheat oven to 450 degrees and prepare muffin pan.
2) In mixing bowl beat eggs until light yellow in color. Whisk in milk, melted coconut oil, and honey until smooth.
3) In smaller bowl whisk together remaining ingredients thoroughly. Gently stir dry ingredients into wet, just until combined (there may still be a few lumps).
4) Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. Bake for 12-15 minutes or just until muffins are golden brown at the edges and firm in the center. Don't overbake them. :) Remove to cool on wire rack. Serve with plenty of butter.

*Or butter if you prefer.

02 July 2013

you learn something new

Salted by Mark Bitterman
I'm compiling a mental file of Future Homeschool Projects. Our neighborhood has plenty of starting points. Graveyard: find the oldest or fanciest tombstone you can and research what was happening in Lancaster that year. Flowering trees in the park: perfect nature journal fodder. Asian supermarket: buy a different food every week, then learn about where it comes from and learn how to cook it.

(Dried squid . . . what could possibly go wrong?)

One reason I look forward to teaching my kids is that it will give me an excuse to learn new things. I love to research; I love listening to random stories on NPR; I love my books. Jared just got me this one. I've learned about history, chemistry, economics, and biology and I'm only a few chapters in!

I think it's important to keep learning. You're never going to know everything, or even most things. There is always some fascinating new tidbit to store away in your brain. Thankfully, though I seem to be finished with formal schooling (I fantasize about grad school sometimes but . . . babies!) nothing's stopping me from educating myself on any and every topic I please.

The laundry sometimes gets in the way, I suppose. Suzy Homemaker am I.

The wee gate.
{photo by triciamorimori}
One thing I enjoy about education is how it expands the world-- which was always so huge and so fascinating, of course, I just didn't know it. It's as if I have been walking down a wee country lane, hedged in by six feet of boxwood on either side, and whoa! a gate? a field beyond? what's all this? That approximates my mental state when I first read about an ancient culture in the Caucasus Mountains or see a picture of a far-off galaxy.

My parents did a great job of instilling intellectual curiosity in their six children; we all like to read and to tell each other about what we're discovering. (One of my brothers just started a thoroughly entertaining cooking blog. Go check it out and leave him a comment.)

One way Jared and I can do the same for our kids, I think, is to model an eagerness to learn. Another is to encourage their natural inquisitive bent. I know that someday Ellie will ask why? for the gazillionth time and I will answer because that's the way God made it and you may not ask any more questions for at least half an hour. But mostly I want to explain the world to her, and let her know that questions are good, and that life is a marvelous, befuddling thing well worth exploring.