Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My baby gets Glamour Shots by Deb

Deb would be (stoically) proud!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Guide to Trading Candy

I love Halloween. One of my fondest childhood memories is of the post-trick-or-treating candy-trade. My siblings and I would come home with a sack full of treats, dump them in our respective piles, and carefully organize them by brand, size, etc. And then the serious bartering would begin!

And that is why this I found this video particularly hilarious. Although even those unfamiliar with the age-old candy-trading tradition will probably laugh out loud a few times.  This is so good it deserves multiple viewings to catch all its subtleties. 


Monday, October 1, 2012

Mystery Solved!

Read the tale of The Mysterious Vanishing Gift which I posted a few days ago.

And now for the exciting resolution!

My sister (who is mutual friends with these folks) delivered their gift to me today. I was shocked when she nonchalantly mentioned who it was from, and related the entire unsolved mystery to her before she explained: they thought we had a baby girl. Oops!

My sister encouraged them to sneak the gift away during the party with the intention to replace it with a more appropriate choice. While I understand how my friends may have felt embarrassed, it would have probably been less awkward to just express that feeling at the time, don't you agree?  We would have all had a good laugh about it, and the entire debacle would have never been.

Just in case my lovely friends ever read this stuff, allow me to state for the record that their generosity and thoughtfulness is most appreciated, and their effort to attend our gathering and celebrate with us was the best gift of all. As far as the gender error, it is completely understandable and forgivable!

I am just so thankful to have the mystery solved!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mysterious vanishing gift

Last Sunday we hosted a Welcome and Blessing Ceremony for our dear baby August. It was the kind of event that left me beaming with joy for the rest of the day! The wonderful people who came to celebrate with us, the love that filled the space, delicious and beautiful refreshments, and our emotive, handcrafted ceremony made for a perfect afternoon.
At the conclusion of the blessing, I headed through the kitchen to bring dessert out of the freezer. On my way I ran into a couple of friends who had just arrived. Unfortunately, they missed the ceremony, but I was very happy to see this family who lived down the street from our old house. After exchanging hellos and hugs, the wife handed me a lovely gift bag emblazoned with the colorful word "BABY" on the side.

"Oh no, you weren't supposed to bring a gift!"

"I know, but we didn't go to any baby shower or anything and we wanted to give you something."

"That is really sweet, thank you so much! I'm on my way to get dessert ready, so I'll set it right here for now. Thank you!"

And I set the gift bag on the corner of my kitchen counter in order to be a proper hostess and serve the promised dessert to our patiently waiting guests.

The afternoon continued gloriously with visiting and laughter, and eventually people began to depart. This gift-giving couple was among the last few families to leave, and as I hadn't had a chance to talk with them much since they arrived, we spent a few more minutes happily visiting in the foyer before they headed home with their two children.

After the party was mostly cleaned up and bedtime routines underway, something reminded me that our thoughtful friends had brought a gift which we had yet to open.  But back in the kitchen, the gift was nowhere to be found. Not in the place on the counter where I left it, or anywhere else. I asked Gary if he moved it, and he didn't even remember seeing it. I called my mother, because she and my brother had been extremely helpful cleaning the kitchen, but neither of them recalled moving any gift.

The gift bag was not small, and it was obviously a baby gift--all poofed up with tissue paper. It could not have disappeared behind a counter appliance or slipped accidentally into someone's bag. After searching increasingly implausible places, I was at a loss. Now the issue was not so much about what was inside the gift bag as the mystery behind its disappearance!

I can come up with only two possible explanations, but would love to know if I've missed another:

1. A child became enamored with the brightly colored gift bag, stole away with it, opened it in secret and somehow destroyed all the evidence.
[But the empty bag and tissue paper would probably be somewhere, and once the child discovered what was presumably a baby item inside, wouldn't he/she abandon it? Or if not, wouldn't the child's parents notice an item coming home that they didn't have before?]

2. My friends were offended that I did not open the gift in their presence, and perhaps took this affront to mean I didn't care enough or want the gift, and so they took it home with them.
[But our friends departed in a very friendly and happy state, without any gift bag in their hand at the time. Could they have sneaked it out to the car earlier?]

I would want to express my gratitude to these friends for their generosity, but now I wondered how I could appropriately do so. And the possibility, even as ridiculous as it seems, that they could have un-gifted the item, made me worry that if I said nothing it would confirm the suspicions (which possibly did not exist) that I did not care about their gift enough to notice it was gone! So I texted the husband: "Am I going crazy? I went to peek at your gift and I can't find it! Did you happen to move it somewhere? So weird. Sure loved seeing you all today!"

No response. Even now, more than a week later.

My husband insists I'm  being paranoid to make the following connection, and he's probably right because these friends don't seem to be the grudge-holding type. But in the interest of full disclosure, I must share this: we attended this friend's 40th birthday party back in March, and Gary accidentally left the envelope I asked him to bring on the entryway table (we had to meet at the restaurant). I was embarrassed showing up to a birthday party empty-handed like that, so I apologized to my friend that his gift card had been left at home. Of course he brushed it off as no big deal.  The thing is, I never followed up and mailed it to him after the party. So I can't help but wonder if the bag's mysterious disappearance is their idea of retribution for my own gift-related gaffe.

What do you think? Foolishness? Perhaps, but how would you explain this bizarre phenomenon?

Monday, August 13, 2012

August's birth story

The Story of August Lincoln’s Birth
July 29, 2012

My intuition was that this baby would be born earlier than his due date of August 2nd.  I believe the feeling was more authentic than merely my desire to not be uncomfortably pregnant any more.  I prepared everything at home for birth in advance, but it wasn’t until some important tasks at work were complete that I was able to allow myself to feel truly “ready” to have the baby.  By Friday, July 27th, everything was in order and I welcomed labor to begin any time.

Since I was still pregnant on Saturday, Madelyn and I attended the Curves “Royal Tea Party” that Diana and our team member Norine had worked very hard to organize.  At first I was a little disappointed to be going back into work instead of having a baby, but I am incredibly grateful that I was able to witness this amazing event where about 70 of our Curves members came together to celebrate and share success stories. Their words were inspiring and reinforced the meaning and immaterial rewards of our work at Curves. It was a beautiful experience for me. As expected, I was frequently asked how much longer I had to go or if I was ready to have the baby.  I earnestly replied that I’d be happy to have the baby tonight. 

And that night, Saturday, July 28th, I began having mild contractions after Madelyn went to bed. I busied myself with some of the preparations on my “labor to-do list,” such as setting out tea and snacks, picking up clutter around the house, etc.  Around 11pm I realized that if labor was really starting, I would be in the throes of it through the night without any sleep.  I decided to lie down and try to rest, thinking that maybe the contractions would go away while I benefitted from some sleep. And it worked. I was able to sleep for several hours before a contraction woke me at 3am. Ten minutes later another one, and they were fairly strong. 

I was hesitant to page the midwives since it was the middle of the night and I wanted to be sure labor was truly beginning before bothering them. Gary practically insisted however, and we both agreed that they would at least want to know something was happening so they could be prepared, even if they didn’t come right away.  (Reading over Madelyn's birth story, I see the same situation: Gary had to insist that I page the midwives because I hesitated to bother them). I spoke with Wendy around 3:30am and she was glad I paged her. By 4am the contractions were definitely getting more powerful and regular, so I called Wendy again and she determined that they would head over.  At 4:15am I was on the phone with my mother letting her know that the time had come! She arrived just after 5am and the three midwives—Wendy, Merka, and Lauren—arrived about half an hour later. 

Gary took Loki and Kezia for a walk so they could expel some energy. When Madelyn was born it was their bedtime so they were very calm. This time, their day was just beginning and they were excited about all the new people in the house. I did not mind him leaving because I was surrounded by love and encouragement and Madelyn was still sleeping.

My mother was wonderfully supportive and helpful, and once again I was deeply grateful to have her by my side through this challenging experience. Mom is great at making notes of small details and she also captured some wonderful photographs of the morning.  I was also extremely pleased with the team of midwives supporting me. Each of these women brought a different style of support and they were absolutely perfect for me.  Merka and Lauren were especially helpful in suggesting different positions, calmly reminding me to relax specific areas of my body, and providing physical support through contractions. It was very special for Wendy to be with us again, as she also attended Madelyn’s birth five and a half years ago.

Labor was intense – the contractions seemed to be at full speed ahead right from the get-go. I sought relief from a heating pad early on, but mainly labored leaning over the bed. It felt best to sway my hips and have someone press firmly on my hips or lower back. Many times the contractions blended together – two or three crests in a row without a full break between them for reprieve. I don’t believe labor was any easier this second time, although it was 3 hours shorter.

When I felt the first urge to bear down, I was lying on my side on the bed, and couldn’t believe that I already felt “pushy.” It seemed as though the midwives had only just arrived and I doubted that it could be time to push already. But the thought elicited hope that this could all be over very soon. According to my mother’s notes, I had Lauren check my cervix at 6:23am and it was almost completely open and effaced.

I recall badly wanting my water to break – it felt as though something was “in the way” of the baby’s descent. Eventually the bag of waters broke while I was lying on my side; it felt like a POP with a big burst of fluid, although I don’t know if the reality was that extreme.

Gary woke Madelyn and brought her down to our bedroom at 6:30am. She looked adorable with her special doggy blanky on her shoulders, the one she was wrapped shortly after her own birth. One of the midwives commented on her blanket and five-year-old Madelyn stated, “I’ve had it my whole life.”

A few minutes later I was on the bed on my hands and knees pushing with each contraction. Just as with Madelyn’s birth, the productive pushing was a relief compared to the cervix-dilating contractions. I felt the baby move through the birth canal and was able to work with each contraction to bring him down and into the world. Madelyn sat on Gary’s lap near my head.  Gary says that she did great, although later she mentioned that she didn’t like the noises I made (my natural instinct has been to moan deeply with the pain). 

With one final push, baby August’s entire body emerged into Wendy’s hands and then she passed him into my arms.  It was 7:01am on Sunday, July 29, 2012. He was covered in vernix but had a healthy cry and soon his beautiful pink skin showed through.  His head is perfectly round and his tiny nose was squished to one side – I believe his hand was pushed against his face in the womb.

Madelyn was troubled by the baby’s crying, but we reassured her that he is supposed to do that.  We showed her the umbilical cord. Then the best part for Madelyn – she got to unwrap several “Big Sister” gifts we’d been saving for this special day, including some little toys that I’d intended for her to open during labor to give her something to do. But the timing of this birth eliminated that need. Madelyn was very excited about her little presents and forgot any concerns about the baby crying. 

August practically came out rooting, so I placed him to my breast soon after he was born. The little guy knew exactly what to do and started nursing right away. It was beautiful.

The placenta was delivered intact, and after the cord finished pulsing, Gary and Madelyn helped cut it.  My midwives noted three small, superficial tears, but determined that sutures were not necessary, for which I am extremely grateful. Gary made up a big batch of protein shakes for everyone who wanted one, and it tasted so good. 

It was precious to help Madelyn hold her baby brother for the first time. She was perfectly sweet and tender with him.

August Lincoln Winter weighed 8 lbs. 1 oz. and was 21 inches long. This is exactly 1 pound and 2 inches more than Madelyn at birth. The midwives completed all of the newborn care and screenings. He is tiny and perfect and we were immediately in love with him.

I took a heavenly hot shower, and when I emerged Lauren helped me dress and climb into the freshly made bed.  I was definitely tired but felt elated with the experience, now that it was over.

My dad and John arrived to meet the new baby. Gary had the brilliant idea to ask my parents if Madelyn could spend the day with them, if she wanted to go. Of course she did, so Madelyn got to attend part of their church and play with some cousins while Gary, August, and I rested for the whole day.  The midwives finished their work and left us in a clean, quiet house around 10am.  It was incredibly peaceful to be alone resting with our new baby and I am glad that Madelyn was able to have some fun instead of being bored at home! We are very appreciative of my parents for caring for her on this big day.

When my parents and Madelyn returned in the evening, my brother Bryan’s family was also visiting. Everyone enjoyed the jambalaya and rice that I’d planned ahead to serve the midwives (not a great breakfast food, but a delicious post-partum dinner to share with my family!).

Daddy read a special bedtime story to Madelyn and August called "On the Day You Were Born." This book was a gift for Madelyn when she was born. Gary got choked up reading the beautiful words about this little spirit joining our family and the world. It was a very touching moment. 

Because August slept so much all day, he had a little trouble getting to sleep when we were ready for bed. But eventually he settled down and we got a few hours of rest.

My dad returned the next night with a delicious salmon dinner to share. Afterward we celebrated with a small carrot cake decorated for August’s 0th birthday.  Uncle Randy started this tradition when he brought a 0th birthday cake over the night Madelyn was born.

We feel incredibly blessed to have this new, perfect little person in our family.  This labor was intense, but fortunately quite short (only four hours). And the end reward of a healthy, happy baby naturally joining the world in peace and love is worth every moment.

August Lincoln Winter ~ Born at home July 29, 2012

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Home birth to-do list

The original title of this post was slated as "Preparing for Home Birth," but that heading implies to me that a description of the philosophical and mental preparations required to birth at home will follow.  A post with such a label might delve into suggested research and knowledge to acquire, examine pain-coping techniques, address one's acceptance of responsibility, and/or promote spiritual enlightenment surrounding the rite of passage that is bringing a baby beautifully and naturally into the world.

This post, rather, is a look at the extensive and somewhat amusing list of logistical preparations I am making in anticipation of giving birth at my house. My Birth To-Do List resembles one for planning a large party or going on a big trip. I can't help but chuckle when I look at my list and then consider that many women's logistical birth preparations end right around having a duffel bag packed for the hospital and the infant seat installed in the car.

Let's begin with a look at the supplies I've gathered.  Of course the midwives provide all of the essential medical supplies, equipment, and emergency provisions. But they do require that I order their pre-specified Birth Kit from a local supplier. It includes such items as lubricating jelly, perineal instant cold pads, umbilical cord ring, sterile and non-sterile gloves, sitz bath herbs, a newborn hat, and more. If you're really curious, the whole list is here.

In addition to this kit, I have a whole page of additional items to gather--some required, some suggested. This list includes such items as a home-made birth blanket (for which I recently discovered instructions that do specify to tie the quilt!!!), towels, extension cords, flashlights (we definitely made use of these last time), plastic garbage bags, baby clothing, and more. There is also a list of specific foods and beverages to have available, including electrolyte drinks, protein drinks and clear protein shots, yogurt, fruit, popsicles, and a meal for the midwives, family, and post-partum mother.  Again, for those interested: the complete list is here.

Befitting my personality type, I have not only gathered the supplies, but carefully organized them. My midwives were very pleased to see this setup when they came for their home-visit last week.

What I find more amusing than these supplies are the To-Do lists I created. One for advance preparations and one for when labor begins. Here's a taste.


  • What to wear. No hospital gown here! Last time, after a brief soak in the hot tub (this was during a serious wind storm so Gary quickly ushered me back inside the house, fearing flying debris from our forested backyard), the clothes simply never went back on. I had no sense of a need for modesty under the spell of Laborland. I'm sure I will soak and possibly choose to birth in our large (indoor) tub, so I'll probably go with a bikini top and loose jersey dress (or muumuu as we affectionately call my favorite maternity wear). 
  • Slow-cooker meal.  Everything for my Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya is chopped up in a gallon Ziploc in the freezer so I can toss it in the Crock Pot when things get started.
  • Overnight bag. Yeah, I get to do this one too just in case we transport to the hospital.
  • Dog baths. Done yesterday - with a Living Social coupon, hooray! They look and smell so nice.
  • Activities/snacks/gifts for Madelyn.  We have discussed things Madelyn can do during labor if she gets bored or needs a break and I've hidden away a couple of surprises she'll enjoy playing with by herself (assuming she' awake). I even wrapped a couple of more special "big sister" gifts to open after he is born. One is a lovely silver bracelet specifically from the baby. 
  • Prepare Madelyn. Over the past few months we have looked at books and photographs and discussed how the baby will get here and what labor and birth might look and sound like. Most recently I screened dozens of home birth videos and selected a handful that were appropriate to share with Madelyn. I wanted her to see the facial expressions and hear the noises that sometimes accompany labor. I wanted her to see a baby being born into the water as well as on a bed. I wanted her to see the vagina stretching, the blood and amniotic fluid spilling, and the baby crying.  Because right now is the time to answer questions, reassure her of how normal this all is, and help her feel comfortable and even excited about witnessing the birth of her brother. 
  • Gifts for the midwives. I have no idea if it is customary to give a gift like this, I just enjoy doing it. I loved what I chose when Madelyn was born: a pair of warm, fuzzy socks for each midwife to wear in our house. It was December and we have hardwood floors throughout. This time I decided to get those travel beverage cups where you can insert your own photos inside. I created a design using the Vivante Midwifery logo and another image from their website. My intention is that they can use these for their ice water or tea while they are at our house and not lose their own cup.

When Labor Begins:
  • Page Vivante, call mothers, text close friends
  • Put jambalaya in slow cooker, set rice cooker on timer, and set out dishes
  • Shower, shave, brush teeth, change clothes
  • Weigh myself (I'm curious about my final weight gain and also how much I'll lose during birth) :)
  • Set out snacks, tea, fill my water bottle, etc. 
  • Tidy house, kitchen, bathrooms (I won't relax if it's messy)
  • Move laundry baskets into bedroom
  • Take bedding off of bed
  • Care for Madelyn 
Possible Labor Projects (depending on how I feel, time of day, etc.)
  • Bake "birthday" cupcakes. This would be fun for Madelyn to help with, fill the house with the aroma of baking, and is certainly appropriate for the occasion. 
  •  Make new blanket for Madelyn. My daughter and I have been working on a simple fleece blanket for the baby, as a gift from Big Sister. We also purchased the matching "girl" fleece print because Madelyn loved it and we're hoping to wean her away from the fleece blanket she's clung to since birth (literally--she even laid on this blanket during her Apgar Test).  I like the idea of concentrating on a gift for Madelyn during this time, emphasizing that my love for her is as strong as ever, even though most of the focus this day will be on bringing a new person into our family. 
I suppose many women (and men) would read this and wonder incredulously why anyone would create all this extra fuss when "they" take care of everything in a hospital. Again, that's an entirely different post, which I just realized, you can read in my own words HERE! "Worth it" almost seems like an understatement. I am very happy to be managing my own labor and birth process and all of these logistical preparations support my necessary mental preparations as well. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tooth Fairy

The Tooth Fairy visited our house for the first time a few weeks ago. My daughter is only five and unfortunately her first lost tooth did not occur naturally.  The experience was rather traumatic for us all, but thankfully our Tooth Fairy really came through.

I was pretty devastated when the dentist informed us in the fall that Madelyn's lower left second molar had a cavity. We have been vigilant about oral care since infancy so the news was shocking and disappointing. I take solace in the dentist's reassurance that this cavity was the result of some kind of "fluke," possibly a spot of weak enamel or unusually deep groove.

The cavity was filled by the dentist and his delightful assistant during this initial visit. The experience was uncharacteristically pleasant!  Madelyn breathed Nitrous Oxide and she was such a ham that she had all three of us adults cracking up. The challenge in getting her to sit still was not because she was uncomfortable or afraid, but because she was being so silly.  Three different staff members "sneaked" Madelyn an extra token for the prize dispenser because she was such a great patient. I left feeling triumphant over the stereotypically traumatic dentist visit, even under distressing circumstances.

But a month or so later, Madelyn complained again of pain near that tooth during brushing, so Gary took her to the "emergency" dental clinic. I wasn't able to be there but Gary reports that it was an entirely different experience. Infection was discovered under the filling (damn you, wonderful first dentist!) which meant it needed to be re-done.  They refused to administer Nitrous at this office because there were pregnant women on the staff, according to Gary. ?!? With no alternative option, Madelyn had to suffer those long numbing injections and the rest of her torture in full awareness. And she was NOT an easy patient this time around. To make matters worse, this dentist was impatient and apparently said the kind of things that only exacerbate Madelyn's fragile emotional state. I imagine all parties were completely exhausted by the end, and the dentist even stated that she wasn't sure if she was able to get all the infection out under the difficult circumstances.

Everything was fine for a few months. When Madelyn began telling us in April to brush that side of her mouth gently, I actually thought she just had a cut on her cheek at first. But when I got a good look, I saw the swelling in her gums under that same molar. So back to the dentist we went.

I declined returning to the emergency clinic, and the first dentist we saw is no longer at a convenient location. So we decided to establish a relationship with the office that is closest to our new home. So another new place and new face for Madelyn. After the last visit, Madelyn's opinion of the dentist was understandably maligned. Even the mention of a possibility of visiting the dentist brought tears to her eyes, I am not kidding.

The new dentist immediately concluded that the molar would have to be extracted. We set an appointment to return a few days later, and she suggested a Rx for an oral medication as an alternative to N2O. To me, extraction was the worst outcome considering our years of careful dental care. This molar is one that shouldn't normally fall out until a child is about 11 years old. So there isn't going to be a new one growing back any time soon. I felt defeated.

I knew this experience was not going to be extremely pleasant. My preparations took on the seriousness of heading into battle. And I feel like I was about the most well-prepared mother I could have been.  On top of the usual stash of books, coloring, stuffed animals, and her comfort blanky, I even thought to bring Madelyn's favorite (bordering on obsessive) CD (The Lion King soundtrack) and my old Discman! Not only that, but I packed extra batteries (which we did use!).  And knowing that one of Madelyn's advance concerns was the bright light in her eyes, I packed not only her cute pink sunglasses, but a surprise novelty pair with fish for eyes.  All of this worked very well to keep her in good spirits...until the work began.

The oral meds to make Madelyn "loopy" were administered about an hour in advance.  Even though Madelyn was not falling over in her chair as the dentist wanted, she decided to proceed based on her slightly slurred speech and happy disposition. Looking back, I think Madelyn would have benefited from a larger dose or more time. Because she was fully conscious of the three very slow anesthetic injections and the violent extraction of her tooth. The entire process was made incredibly challenging for the dentist because Madelyn was squirming, screaming, and trying to shut her mouth. Thank goodness for those little plastic contraptions that hold her jaw open--although I cringe at the idea of her being out of control in such a way. I had to leave the room for the third injection because my heart was breaking. I hope there weren't patients in the waiting room with a fear of the dentist that day, because Madelyn's tortured screams were not reassuring.

Madelyn's music was still playing on her headphones as her own personal background to her screams. I feared that she'd forever associate "I Just Can't Wait to be King" with agonizing assault and never want to hear it again (which I suppose could be considered a relief for Gary and me, but I'd feel awful since she loves it so much).

In the end, Madelyn's tooth came out and of course she was fine. The dentist explained that one of the effects of the medication is a sort of amnesia, assuring us that as bad as it seemed at the time, Madelyn probably wouldn't remember what happened. And this seems to be true. She was much more loopy after the procedure, stumbling around like a drunk 5-year-old (supporting my question of whether more time would have been beneficial). She had to be carried to and from the car to avoid toppling over onto the cement. From then on the focus was on her nifty tooth and the impending visit from Tooth Fairy. Her excitement about these elements seemed to replace all concern about how they came to be. I had told Madelyn that when your tooth comes out at the dentist, and you have to be so brave, the Tooth Fairy brings something extra-special.

So she dictated this letter to the Tooth Fairy and left it under her pillow with the tooth:

Our amazing Tooth Fairy left a note (complete with glittery fairy dust) for Madelyn in return, along with a tiny My Little Pony:

So all was well, except one more near-tragedy which occurred the following night. At bedtime, we couldn't find Madelyn's tooth, which she wanted to bring to Share Day at school the next morning. I'd put the tooth into a tiny plastic box with a clear lid, about the size of a postage stamp, cubed. All of us searched everywhere for this box, even in those strange places like the pantry.  When we were about to call of the dogs, so-to-speak (the irony is about to be apparent), I had a sickening thought.

Armed with a flashlight, I went outside to the dogs' area of the backyard in the dark. Sure enough, there was the little plastic box in the barkdust--now in dozens of shards and pieces. I picked up all the plastic bits and scraps of gauze--finding no evidence of tooth. I almost wanted to cry, thinking how after all we'd been through now we'd have to sift through dog excrement if we wanted to preserve this little piece of Madelyn's childhood. It was a pretty big "if."

Then walking back inside, something caught my eye on the patio. Six feet away from the box's destruction site lay a tiny white pearl with three pointy legs. It was completely intact (amazing because of the broken filling), but had been systematically licked clean by a Husky who we shall assume is Kezia, because she is the pest who does things like this. I was so relieved to have found it that I hardly cared about being mad at the dog (which wouldn't do any good hours after the incident anyway).  I was so happy to show Madelyn before her goodnight kiss that I'd saved the day!

Best Tooth Fairy Ever.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How to throw an awesome Easter party

I really love throwing parties, especially when I have a theme to work with. The Easter party I threw last Saturday for Madelyn and her friends was a huge success, so I've just got to share our fun ideas!

I do want to mention that this party involved a lot of advance preparation, and I "accidentally" stayed at work until 9:30pm the night before the event.  Because of this, I stayed up until 2:30am making food and preparing the house, then got up at 6:30am to make more food and complete the final touches. Thanks to my mom, dad, and brother arriving 45 minutes early to help, everything was ready to go at party time with very little stress.  That is usually my major downfall as a hostess--I want everything fresh at showtime but that leaves too many things to do at the last minute so I'm frazzled as guests arrive. It's frustrating, so I made a concerted effort to avoid that scenario this time.  It worked, and those first 20 minutes of this party were so much more pleasant than in the past!  And I didn't even feel very sleepy until the next day.

Two days in advance, Madelyn helped me make these adorable bird's nest treats. I found the recipe with Oriental Trading Co's free & fun Easter ideas right here. They are actually supposed to be Easter baskets, but the licorice rope handle proved difficult and took away from their finished look, in my opinion.  
See how cute?!

We also had Easter Bunny carrot cupcakes (sans ears--I never came up with a good idea for the ears) which look okay but the secret is that I have the best carrot cake recipe in the entire world so they are scrumptious! 

And I am SO pleased with the way these rainbow Jell-o cubes turned out. I modified a red-white-and-pink Valentine's recipe to create the rainbow layers. A little plain yogurt makes the Jell-o opaque so it looks super-awesome. And they're tasty too!

We served a full brunch spread too: fresh fruit tray including my favorite: fresh pineapple, a Dijon pasta salad, mini ham & cheese fritattas (made in mini muffin tin), and turkey & spinach pinwheels (I'm a sucker for anything made with refrigerated crescent dough).  

Everything looked so pretty and turned out mighty tasty. Which is a relief because I tried several brand-new recipes for this party!

While food is certainly an important element of any good party, it's not always the main attraction, especially when kids are the target audience. 

Late the night before, I had the table all set with the necessary supplies to make these adorable bunny pops.  Oriental Trading made this craft incredibly easy by providing a printable template for the bunny (but I typed up my own version of the instructions).  Madelyn and I had made samples to display in advance. 
I found the perfect pastel suckers at Dollar Tree without any logos on the wrappers, which I think makes them extra-cute (vs. Dum-Dum suckers in the original).

This was a great activity that kids and parents could do at their leisure. I've learned it's easiest to have do-it-yourself activities at parties like this to allow for freedom to mingle rather than a regimented agenda. 

For another simple come-and-go activity I set out Easter coloring pages and colored pencils on the coffee table (covered with butcher paper). 

The "main event" of the party was our Easter Basket "Hunt."  Since I wanted a game that was fun and fair for 16 guests aged 2 to 10, and without the assurance of a sunny day for an outdoor egg hunt, I had to find an alternative. I modified an idea I found somewhere online to create this concept.  I created a small Easter basket filled with little goodies for every child, then tied a piece of yarn to the handle. Then I weaved the yarn through the room--around chair legs, over and under the table, etc. and attached the other end of the yarn to the floor with an Easter nametag sticker on which I wrote the child's name. This was the project I was just finishing at 2:30am. :)
Here are some of the kids and parents lining up by their name in anticipation!

I could foresee the possibility of this activity being either utter chaos, or possibly worse: not very fun. Rather, it went smoothly and seemed to be a huge hit!  

It brings me a lot of joy to entertain friends this way and I am so thrilled that everyone had a good time. I got to know some other parents at Madelyn's new school a little better too, which was a primary reason I wanted to host this event. 

Happy Easter Party!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The end of running for two

The day before a Clear Blue Easy confirmed what I'd been eagerly awaiting for the previous five months, I ran a 10-kilometer race. It was a Thanksgiving Day "Give-n-Gobble" fundraising run. That means in preparation I had run up to 8-mile training runs while newly pregnant. Over the next few weeks I ran far less, in part because that's normal for me following a race, but mainly because I was very tired and the news of being pregnant made it easier for me to give in to the urge to stay in bed when it was dark and rainy outside. I also did not feel my best--not exactly morning sickness, because I never actually felt nauseous, just a nagging stomachache most days.

By the time I started feeling better and found a way to work some running into daylight hours, it was difficult to get going again. I still have no idea how much of that is attributable to pregnancy and how much a result of the large step back in training.  Most likely it was a combination: pregnancy creating a more significant barrier than usual to bouncing back from inconsistent running.

I continued running about 3 days a week (in addition to Curves and occasional jaunts to the Y) for the next couple of months. In order to stay motivated, I selected a 10k race to run on March 3rd. I always prefer creating a training plan to guide me versus "winging it" each day.  The latter option results in defaulting to the same 3 mile loop at the same easy pace--okay for maintaining fitness but not for progressing.  By mid-February I was actively resisting the increasingly apparent notion that I was not going to be that lady with her 3rd-trimester bump bouncing down the sidewalk.

The hip discomfort was quite minor compared to the havoc being wreaked on my mind.  I was bothered by my slow pace and how difficult running felt. It's as if I could not get enough oxygen or I was tremendously out of shape. Even though I knew I could easily run/walk the 6.2-mile race I'd calendared, a week or so beforehand I decided I didn't want to do that.

I am gradually accepting my body's reality.  Right now I can probably run about a mile and a half before I start requiring walk breaks. Uphill? Forget about it.  Truthfully, the better verb than "running" for what I'm doing is "lumbering."  I'm lumbering on fast-forward.  And it's not because I'm extraordinarily huge. (Side note: since my whiny post last week about feeling fat, I checked my records from the last pregnancy to learn I had already gained 10 more pounds at this point-yikes! I now feel like my bump is just about right, as long as I don't Google Image Search for bellies of the same gestational age because some of those girls don't have any right to even use the word "bump" to label these pics where their stomach is flatter than mine was pre-pregnancy.) The reason I'm lumbering is because the hormone Relaxin is coursing through my body as if it plans to deliver this baby next week. Which means the round ligaments holding my femur inside my pelvis are all loosy-goosy so each step seems to take twice the effort--both for stability and propulsion.

Yeah, I'm a little disappointed not to be a hot pregnant chick in a skort and sports bra who can still bust out a 10k in under an hour. But once again I ask myself, "why?" Who is it that I'm trying to impress or what am I trying to prove?  Other runners I've talked to are impressed I've even kept with it this long. A mother quoted in an article I just read offers this advice to pregnant women: "don't run just because you feel like you have to." I must let go of this self-imposed pressure and listen to my body. A good power walk is just as good of exercise as running and much more practical in my current state.  I am dreading the misery of starting basically from scratch when I'm ready to begin running again this fall.  But a few more weeks or miles now is not going to make that experience any easier.  It is time to go with the flow, accept my limitations, and release this delusion that I am Super Woman.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Be careful what you wish for

Having one and a half pregnancies behind me, I can say that I am one of those lucky women for whom gestation has been relatively pleasant.  For the most part, I actually like being pregnant. I find it absolutely thrilling to have a new, tiny LIFE growing inside of my body. And in everyday situations, a pregnant girl is kind of a novelty which can draw attention, and let's face it--I'm not generally uncomfortable with positive attention.

The problem is that for the first 3-4 months (at least, depending on her physique) no one can tell a gal is pregnant just by looking. Then for another month or two (or, again, often longer) no one would dare comment or ask for fear of the utter humiliation of being wrong.  So for half or more of my pregnancy, I wish I could wear a T-shirt like this:
I've never had washboard abs or anything, but I take pride in maintaining a fairly slender, athletic figure. So I start feeling "chubby" early in pregnancy.  In the first couple of months, the uterus may not yet have grown higher than my pelvis, but it is pushing everything else up and out.  My uterus pushes up my other organs which in turn push my layer of "soft tissue" (read: fat) which usually conceals itself pretty well by lying flush with the rest of my body out over my pants. So that's why long before people compliment that cute baby bump, I (and presumably many newly pregnant women) am struggling to button my jeans and can't stand to look down when seated.

For several months I pine for my flabby belly to round out and look pregnant so the world will know that I am intentionally knocked up instead of carelessly filling out. Of course my ever-rational husband wonders aloud why it matters what anybody else thinks. A valid query, certainly, and one for which I do not have a rational answer without exploring intense psychoanalysis and social commentary. And this is neither the time nor the place for such nonsense.

About three weeks ago I had three ladies ask me on the same day, in different words, if I was pregnant. These were all members of my Curves who know my pre-pregnancy shape, so they felt comfortable with the assumption.  Pleased that familiar people finally felt comfortable enough to ask, I still would not have expected a stranger to be so bold at that point. I don't mean any offense, but the fact is there are many women who carry the soft tissue around their midsection in much the same way that my abdomen was presently protruding.

Then, I swear over the course of about 48 hours, my belly popped out.  One day a couple of weeks ago I  suddenly looked officially pregnant.  I was thrilled at first to not feel so self-conscious and for maternity-type clothing to not look and feel so awkward. But now I'm wondering if it was too soon. Have I gained too much weight for the halfway point? If my belly is already this big, how uncomfortable will I be four months from now? And I am not so naive to think that the fetus is taking up the entire space in there, so I'm feeling a little bit guilty about the excess girth.

I gained about 60 pounds during my first pregnancy. Thankfully I was able to lose all of that weight, but it did take me 10 months and during the first few I felt very uncomfortable.  My intention was to reign in the weight gain this time around--but then I haven't made any concerted effort to do anything differently. And  at times I found myself rationalizing an extra helping or sweet indulgence with my desire to look pregnant! Can you believe that? I would justify eating more because I wanted my belly to show.

Granted, I love food and struggle with willpower any day of the year. When weight gain and major changes in my physique are as inevitable as in pregnancy, making the choice to limit calories or choices becomes even more challenging and I almost rebel against the idea. There is rarely a drawn out internal monologue, the doireallyneedthisbutyumiwanttoeatitandi'mgoingtogetfatanywayandicanlosetheweightlatersowhat'sthedifference thought process occurs instantaneously. 

I'm enamored by the idea of being one of those adorable pregnant chicks who wears her regular jeans through the seventh month and whose belly you might wager was just a volleyball tucked under her shirt. That just is not me. The question is whether that is due to a pre-determined physiological difference or, more likely, the choices that I make. Could I be one of those skinny preggers? Who knows. Maybe. Probably not. And why does it matter? It doesn't.

When my cylindrical reflection in the mirror mocks that area where a waist used to live, I am a little disappointed in myself.  Right now I've got that cute baby bump I longed for earlier, I'm just afraid it will be way too soon when people start quipping that I must be about to pop.  Or that when someone hears my due date her expression will betray to me her surprise that it's so far away.  Or that I will be miserably, uncomfortably large in three months, give birth to a giant baby (with only my body's natural pain relief mechanisms), or be unable to lose this weight afterward.

But I am aware that I am being unfairly critical and hard on myself. The most important thing in my life right now is nurturing the tiny future person growing inside.  It does no good to concern myself with such vanity. I share these personal feelings with you in case you can relate and wish to share insight or encouragement.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

New on the Las Vegas Strip

I encountered a strange new phenomenon on my last visit to Las Vegas (in November). Truly, Vegas is home to many strange phenomena, but by my tenth visit I was accustomed to most. 

I found them amusingly charming when we first happened upon these Hello Kitty characters as we started our tour of The Strip. My daughter happens to love HK, so Tanya and I posed for this photo op outside Caesar's Palace.  I had mistakenly assumed these two mascots were somehow connected to the hotel as part of a promotion or something. 

I quickly realized my error when the knock-off costumed characters grew ubiquitous along the sidewalk. A few were mildly interesting, such as the man on stilts disguised as part of a tree playfully startling passersby. And at least Bumblebee's costume is impressive and fairly relevant. 

Others were hideous and/or inappropriate, such as Garfield the loveable cat passed out to the tune of one too many (and sadly he wasn't the only character posed precisely the same way)...

...or this woefully homemade Spongebob costume.

This infestation brought me to realize that The Strip has been noticeably devoid of street performers in years past. I suppose the schmucks in horrible costumes plus a number of truly awful musicians are slightly less irritating than the "slap slap" of calling cards up and down the sidewalk. I'm just curious how they started and multiplied.  And also, who throws money into the bucket of a person sleeping on the sidewalk with a bunch of empty beer bottles, just because he/she wriggled into a dirty costume? It must be fairly lucrative or there wouldn't be so many...right? 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bun in the Oven

Gary and I found out the day after Thanksgiving that we are finally expecting our second child. Of course we are thrilled and had fun sharing the news with family and friends over the Holidays. 

We wanted Madelyn to be the first to know.  Assuming she wouldn't keep the secret, we told her the night before her 5th birthday, when we planned to share the news with the rest of the family. 

Gary read Madelyn a special book I made for her. It's a story about how much everybody loves her with a surprise ending which says, "because Madelyn is so very special...everyone knows...that the new baby will love her too." You can read the book here; it is pretty cute. 

It took Madelyn a minute and some additional explanation to understand. Her reaction is hilarious--make sure you hear her final comment at :35.

"I'm pretty nervous about a little leg poking out your...bagina." 

Madelyn asked each of her grandparents to read this book to her when they arrived before her birthday party. I wore this "bun in the oven" shirt I had made at the party to surprise the rest of our family and friends. 

And then our Christmas Card/Announcement spread the message far and wide. 

It's a happy 2012 so far in our new home with a baby on the way.


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