One Thousand Gifts-Week 50

holy experience

 Babymoon, when you are supposed to relax and enjoy your new baby and get strong and recover. Unless, you have to deal with document problems with the insurance company and the DMV that didn't surface until 2 days after you gave birth and can't wait, or finding out that someone somehow has managed to use a fraudulent copy of your bank card and has been draining your bank account for a week starting the day your baby was born, or everyone coming down with the flu just ten days after he is born, or a tired, sick husband sliding into a major depressive episode for almost a week while you are still in the middle of hormone flux, or going back to work as the administrator of your non-profit corporation within days because there is no one else out there crazy enough to do what you do for free, at least not yet, and there are orphan kids who need rice this month. Someone has to keep it going. Some days it's really hard to remember to notice the gifts all around. The temptation to lay in bed with a pillow over my head sobbing is much more tangible. Yet, the gifts are still there. I don't want to miss any, but I do, so often, I do.

I managed to catch these ones though.

That Jellybean slept all through the night while I took care of sick kids with flu, and then slept some more when I came down with it a day later.

The strength to keep going and not feel stretched too far.

Beema just picking up the big kids some days and taking them to the beach so I have time to rest, or do whatever.

Little grabbing onto the Boy's arm and looking up at him while laughing, "You're my big lovey!"

The Girl sitting on the couch holding little Jellybean and soothing him to sleep like she's done it all her life while the Boy reads to her.

The screams of laughter as they play outside together.

The flush of pride around the Boy when he gets to do meaningful work that's actually helpful.

The way Little asks if she can hold the baby all the time.

Waking up to find all the children dressed and breakfast prepared and eaten, courtesy of the Boy and is big brother cooking skills.

When children come home.

Little carefully folding and putting away all of her clothes by herself, and then asking for more work.

Remembering to stop and enjoy the finally sleeping baby cuddled against my collarbone. He's most likely my last newborn to snuggle with.

Aaron working on a project in the back yard. That he can do it at home now.

Planning this year's school schedule, and seeing once more how much routine and having a plan makes everything manageable.

Succeeding in speaking calmly when tiredness and stress make it so difficult.

The Girl sweetly giving me a massage when I lay on her bed one night waiting for story time.

My children know how to play and have fun together.

Grace, that carries us through to reconciliation after a misunderstanding.

Spontaneous learning, identifying leaf types on trees and flowers, breaking rocks apart to find crystals inside, and running inside to regal me with tales of the wonders they have discovered, all by themselves.

the gratitude community is here.


7 Quick Takes Friday-All about the baby

1. This is going to sound weird, but, I ALMOST like the smell of baby poop. Not from an 8 month old baby eating solid foods, but that newborn, nothing but breastmilk sort of cheesy yellow poop. Admit it, you've smelled way worse. There's something almost comforting, familiar and fond about it.

2. I haven't got cloth diapers yet, though everyone tells me to get Fuzzibunz, and by everyone I mean the moms I know who have cloth diapered a lot of babies recently. They had me at "washes the easiest" and "leaks the least". Anyway, in the meantime I have been using disposables, and let me just tell you, I will never buy Pampers swaddlers again. They got all filled up with these gross little gel balls filled with pee that would build up inside of the diaper and then fall out and make a mess all over the place. They were nasty to wipe up and I'm not even sure I want to know what they are exactly. I switched to Huggies Supreme. They don't have gross bubbles, and they can go several hours through the night without leaking. Bonus.

3. I posted about how I make my own baby wipes this week. It was going to be a quick take, but then it got long enough to be a stand alone post. So I published it already and I'll just link to it instead for those who want to know how to make them. Or at least, how I make them. They don't take much time at all.

Here's my super awesome recipe.


Photo by Andreas Levers

I use olive oil in my wipes. Actually, I use olive oil for pretty much everything, from washing my own face, taking care of diaper rashes, curing cradle cap, to baby's first bath and as a moisturizer for baby skin... you're getting the idea. Olive oil has the same ph as human skin. It is a natural moisturizer and cleanser, it dissolves sebum gently and naturally. I've seen family members with really bad acne have it clear up remarkably using olive oil. Once I heard about using it for cradle cap I never had scaly headed babies again.

After our babies are born we lay them out on a mat and rub them down head to toe with olive oil and wipe it away. It's great for that dry flaky newborn skin and cleans them off gently. After baths I'll rub them down with olive oil again to moisturize. Yeah, I sound like a freak, but it works for me.


I have completely won the newborn lottery. He is so peaceful. Even awake he's usually content. In fact, in the past 2 weeks since he's been born I've lost less sleep with him than with his 3 older siblings. They got the flu last week and kept me awake several nights catching vomit, while he slept through them. They wake up in the middle of the night yelling for mommy or wetting the bed and needing a bath and the bedding changed, one, after the other, after the other, all. night. long.

6. I find it funny how people exclaim about how I'm out and around with a newborn already. (I mean, the first few days after giving birth, yes. But it doesn't take me all that long to recover. I think having a natural birth has something to do with that.) Once my body has recovered sufficiently getting out and about with a newborn is the least of my worries. He doesn't wander off and get filthy 30 seconds before we have to walk out the door, or collapse in despair at the grocery store when I refuse to buy coveted item X, or torment his sister in the car until she screams in frustration, or lose his shoes in the back yard. The worst he can do is a blowout diaper just as we head out, and I can deal with that. It takes less time than finding an errant sandal. Ask me how I know.

When I talk to people with 1 who are in awe of the number 4 I'm sure to remind them that I didn't start out this way. I got them one at a time to build up my endurance. The surest sign that I have gotten stronger is this. If Aaron had taken off to do something fun and left me alone with our oldest all day when he was a baby I would have been furious, and overwhelmed. Now, If he were to take the oldest 3 away for a day and leave me alone at home with the baby I would view that as a vacation.

7. No one tells you, when you're expecting your first child, about how messy your body will get after the baby is born. I mean, there's the blood, that's one thing, but there's also the milk dripping everywhere, and the hormonal hot flashes in the middle of the night that have you wake up drenched in sweat, and milk, and maybe blood. It was a total shock to me the first time.

I am, of course, a little more accustomed to it this time, but some things still surprise me. Last night while I was sitting at my computer, baby safely away in his bed, recently nursed, I noticed suddenly, as cold drips landed on my arm, that I'd soaked my pajama shirt in milk somehow. I couldn't figure out why I would be squirting milk so vigorously right after nursing until I realized... I'd been looking through photos of the older kids when they were smaller, Little as a baby, the Boy and Girl as toddlers. I responded to them hormonally the same last night as I would have 4-5 years ago when they were that little. What can I say? Want milk?

More quick takes at conversion diary.


Homemade Baby Wipes

I started making my own wipes many years ago. That way I know exactly what's in them and don't have to worry about what's on my baby's skin. (Or mine. There have been train trips where access to a baby wipe sponge bath has come in handy.) The wipes that I make are strong enough to clean up the mess but they will actually degrade in a land fill, unlike most commercial wipes I've encountered. Oh, and they're way cheaper and only take a few minutes. Honest. You can do this in the time it takes for a diaper change.

You need:

A roll of Viva paper towels, cut in half. (A bread knife works for this. Yes, they need to be Viva in my opinion. Other paper towels fall apart because they aren't strong enough.)

A container big enough to hold half a roll of paper towels. Yogurt or cottage cheese containers usually work.

1-2 tbsps glycerin hand soap. (I like the lavender scented one from Avalon botanicals, or I snag a bar or two of my MIL's homemade olive oil soap and use a small chunk of that.)

1 tbsp Olive Oil (Olive oil has the same PH as skin and it's really good for cleaning and moisturizing.)

1-2 cups water

Mix together oil, soap and 1 cup water in container. Pull the cardboard tube out of the center of the paper towels. Stick the paper towels in the container. Flip the roll over and stick them back in so both ends get wet and have a chance to soak up the liquid. Add just enough water to soak through the paper towels. I like to squeeze them a bit to distribute the water more evenly without getting them too soggy.

And then you are done, just pull them out from the center as needed and tear at the perforations. If you want to be really fancy you can cut a hole in the center of the container lid and pull them out through there. Just cut an x through the middle with scissors or a knife, and then snip the sharp points off the little triangles that appear so they don't shred the wipes. To be even more fancy cut some self adhesive shelf paper to size and wrap it around the outside of the container to make it pretty. You can even put some on the lid.


The Birth of Jellybean-Part III

Part I
Part II

Beema's house. The kids go straight to their beds there. I go straight to the couch while Milly gets her room ready. They aren't that hard, the contractions, but I do vomit, a lot, until I'm completely empty, and yet I still feel nauseous. I'm still not convinced that there's very much progress yet. I'm pacing myself for the long haul if necessary. I wish I could get some rest.

Finally I opt for getting in the bathtub. Milly's bathtub is gigantic, deep and big enough for two people, which works out well in the end. If I'm not very far along, the contractions will probably slow, in which case I'll get some sleep. Or they'll speed up and we'll get this done. I want the solace of water now, the support of it against my body.

Walking to the bedroom the contractions subside again. I can brush my teeth, talk and laugh, look at how silly I look in the mirror with my hair pinned out of the way. I wonder again if this is really active labor, or just a precursor. The Boy you see had me vomiting and miserable while technically not even in labor yet, and it was mistaking that for labor that ended me in the hospital with a C-section, instead of at home in the bath or with a nap.

But I get in the bath in the end. Milly has set candles everywhere. It's lovely. I smell lavender she sprinkled somewhere, I want some more.

The water does it's magic. I can take these contractions with now back pressure or help at all, yet they are stronger and closer together now. After a while they get stronger still and I want Aaron in the bath to support me while I rest. Still they get stronger, and I am surprised this time by how intense, how fast, how long. I want another pause, a chance to rest. But there is no pause, no rest. After a really hard contraction I finally make the adjustment I need. This baby is coming. There will be no rest now until the end. I get to work instead.

The intensity still is surprising me. It wasn't this way last time. I'm holding on as the waves come and move this baby lower. I feel my water break.

The next contraction is so intense that I have to move. NOW! Somehow in the middle of it I pull myself up onto my knees, leaning forward against Aaron, butt high in the air. The sounds coming out of me have, I'm sure, never come out of me before. I am growling with the effort of moving this baby down. I start pushing, little short bursts at the end of contractions.

In the background I hear my FIL. He's worried because he can hear how far along I am, and there is no midwife yet. I think someone must have called her.

I wonder if she'll get here before the baby does. I know it's going to be soon.

Now I'm squatting on my knees and pushing, bracing my hands on the side of the tub. I feel like the pushing will never end. I want to blow my nose, but there is no time.

I hear Michelle beside me. She tells me to reach down on the next contraction and see if I can feel the head. I can feel it moving down so strongly on the next one that I expect to feel crowning already, but he's slid back.

We wait for another contraction and when it comes his head clears my pelvis and I can feel the stretching burning as he crowns. Michelle's voice comes again, "Blow through the burning, support your perineum with your hand."

Now the pause I've been longing for comes. Only I don't want it anymore. The stretching feels so uncomfortable, and I remember how the Girl stayed that way so long I needed an episiotomy to get her head clear. I blow, and wait for another contraction. I can hear people talking quietly nearby as we all wait. Soon, so soon.

It takes two more contractions and his head is born with a little pop and such a feeling of relief. I feel his face under the water as we all wait for just one more contraction and then his body slides out of me and I lift him up and out of the water into the air for the first time.

So tired, so relieved, so glad.

We wait for the cord to stop pulsing while we look at him and he gurgles and breathes, and even yells once or twice.

But it's not over yet. This is where it all went sideways last time. Will the placenta come out on it's own?

My uterus is still contracting, it's uncomfortable. The cord stops pulsing and Michelle clamps it. Aaron cuts it and we hand the baby to his Beema so I can stand up. There's the business of getting cord blood for blood typing and then I push and out it comes, right on cue, amid a few shouts of relief from bystanders.

Now we're done and it's shower, with Aaron holding me up because I am shaking, and bed and baby and rest.

I remember again how good it is to have Michelle there as she weighs and examines him, and then me, and tidies up before going home to get what rest she can before a 10 hour clinic day, or another woman goes into labor.

Then it's sleep and quiet until our other children quietly peek in in the morning to look at him laying fast asleep between me and Aaron, all of us tired from the previous nights work.

That day Aaron's brother and girlfriend come. They help bake the birthday cake. Another friend arrives bearing gifts.

We have a birthday party in the afternoon.

He is not impressed.
 The next day I call and ask if I can come in for my scheduled OB appointment to get my Rhogam shot. The receptionist is confused. "They should have given you that at the hospital," she says.

"But I've not been to the hospital." I explain again, "He was born at home."

In another second the OB is on the phone. "You need to be examined!" she exclaims. "Wow, you got your home birth VBAC after all."

When I go in, I tell them, truthfully, that I didn't think I was that far along. I omit the part about not planning to come anyway. They are all amazed. I think it's funny, that they are so surprised that I could give birth on my own. But it's sad really, a birth like this could be normal for a lot more women than it is, used to be normal, is normal in many parts of the world still.

I'm glad that I got to give birth this way. I know to do so has healed and strengthened me, as a woman, in ways that I'm not sure anything else could.


The Birth of Jellybean-Part II

Part I is here.

After dinner I have the kids each pack a bag for a stay at Beema's house. Just in case we need to go there tonight. I call Milly, I call Michelle. After all, we all know that I can go from something to SOMETHING quite quickly, so I give them the heads up.

Kids tucked in bed, I take Aaron up on his offer to clean up dinner and the kitchen. Which he doesn't do immediately. I'm feeling like he had better hurry up and do it, because I may need him soon, which should have been a clue, but I was still able to do things, so I was.

I start in on my labor project, which is to sew myself a baby sling. Note to self-If you are going to sew in labor, at least try and get all of the items assembled ahead of time. Mid contraction is not a good time to need to climb a step stool to figure out where the sling rings are stored. But I am going to get this thing sewn!

The contractions are harder, they press down against my chair as I work the machine, feeding bright fabric beneath the speeding needle. I stop and breath now when they hit. Aaron asks if I need help. I stubbornly refuse. I think of the women in the rice paddies, giving birth at the side of the field. If they can work through labor, so can I. It's not that far along yet, I still haven't lost my mucous plug.

Then the machine skips, the thread tangles, gnarls and mats on the underside of the seam I am reinforcing and the sling falls to the floor as wave after wave of pressure slams into me and I yell for Aaron to bring a vomit bowl as they pin me to the chair and knock the breath right out of me. Two like that, back to back, and I am done sewing.

I tell Aaron it's time to pack up the car and I go lay down. And they are easy once more, barely there again. I wonder if I'm mistaken. Maybe we should just stay home and try to sleep. But the memory of that one big one, and the lingering nausea spur me to get there. I don't want to do that again in the van.

It takes at least an hour to take care of all the details and get ready to leave. Aaron does it all while I lay and doze between contractions. I call Michelle. "Do you want me to come now?" she asks.

I'm still not sure. I promise to call her again when we get to Milly's house. The kids are all awake and in the van. They are grinning. They may meet their new baby brother or sister tonight, or tomorrow. I lay the seat as far back as it will go and shiver beneath a blanket. The Girl strokes my hair from her car seat. I do end up vomiting again in the car, good thing we brought a bowl with a lid.

Part III


The Birth of Jellybean-Part I

 It starts Sunday night. At least, I'm hoping it's a start. They could be real contractions, but it's so mild I can't really tell. The hospital monitor showed several while I was in there two weeks ago but I haven't felt any of them. Whatever is going on, I sleep quite easily that night, a welcome change from all the getting up and going to the bathroom, or walking off leg cramps, or taking care of Little when she wakes and calls for me.

Monday there are contractions. But there are things to get done. We need to go and get supplies for a birthday cake. I need to finish assembling the birth kit. I deal with contractions all day but they aren't enough to stop me.

Yes, I'm planning a home birth. In a way I'd always been planning a home birth, I just didn't tell anyone. I didn't want to hear all of the doubt filled nay-saying that would inevitably come. Aaron and I are quite comfortable to stay home unless it becomes obvious that we need the help of a hospital. My MIL, (milly) the best doula ever, is on board with that, but slightly more nervous.

Two weeks ago she talked to Michelle, and she asked after me and the baby. Michelle was our midwife when Little was born. She was also present at the births of the last three of Aaron's siblings, 15, 17, and 19 years ago now. She is forever intertwined with our family and birthing babies. Milly tells her our plans and she says, "I told her, she must not have heard me, if she wants me to come, I'll come. Just tell her to call me."

Michelle doesn't work for free, one can hardly expect her to. She has a living to make, and her skills are invaluable at twice the price, still less than a day in the hospital. I'm overwhelmed at the offer. I go to see her right away, and order the birth kit, which I had sort of forgotten might be useful to have on hand.

With cake supplies procured we head home and I bag and label the clothes for the baby, stuff for me, blankets and towels to warm etc. Then I make soup and salad for dinner. I'm cleaning out the fridge, just in case. There are more contractions.

Part II
Part III


One Thousand Gifts-Week Whatever, New Baby

holy experience

Catching my own baby as he was born with the loving support of family and friends nearby.

Michelle, our midwife and friend, coming to help at the end for free.

The Girl putting her hand gently on my head as I lay in the car to comfort me every time I had a contraction on the drive to Beema's house.

Falling asleep exhausted with him and waking to find every detail taken care of and attended to.

The big kids quietly sneaking into the bedroom one at a time in the morning to get their first look at their new baby brother.

The girls placing little tiny vases with flowers they picked at my bedside while I slept.

Family who will take their whole day off to come and meet the new baby, and help the bigger kids bake him a birthday cake while the rest of us rested.

A tireless, tireless mother in law who not only gave up her bedroom so I could have a baby in there, and attended me all night in labor, but took care of my children for another 3 days while I rested and made sure I had everything I could possibly need during that time.

A strong husband.

Caring friends who arrive with perfect gifts and meals, and even better, stuff for the big brother and sisters to play with that keep them busy for hours. Like Lego pirate ships.

A youngest brother in law who leaves a night of fun at a friend's house to come home and help take care of his nieces and nephews.

Little pulling up a stool next to where I sit nursing the baby with a pile of books to "read" to him.

Baby snuffles and "kisses."

That expression on the Boy's face as he holds his baby brother for the first time.

I feel good, strong even.

Little singing her made up song about "all the animals in the forest" in the car.

The way the Girl understands how to actually help now, and does what is needed, even if it's not as exciting.

Watching Aaron with his son.


This family I have been given, all of them.


I can see my feet,

and they are a whole lot smaller too.

For those of you not on Twitter or facebook, Jellybean was born Tuesday morning, Aug. 10, at 4:05. 8lb 11oz, 20 7/8 inches long.

I'm working on putting together the whole story soon with pictures.

In the meantime....

Just look at that face.

Also, he needs a blog name. His real name means "give thanks God is with us". Not sure what to call him here. I'm taking suggestions.


Still Pregnant

Today marks the longest I have ever carried a child, 39 weeks, with nary a contraction in sight. I am tired.

Also, very uncomfortable and big footed.

Random strangers like to accost me in public places to tell me I'm "ready to pop". Aaron tells me I'm missing a golden opportunity to mess with them. I should stare confused and say,"What? What are you talking about?... Oh, I'm just fat. Thanks for pointing that out." Or, even meaner, "It's cancer."

Also, you know that thing that some people like to do, where they turn their head sideways and eye your belly before confidently declaring what your baby's gender will be? Usually the people who do that are pretty evenly split, girl or boy. I have not had one person this pregnancy declare that I'm going to have a girl. I wonder if they are all right, or all wrong. I lean toward wrong.

We don't know what we're having, obviously, we have never wanted to find out. "Oh, you like it to be a surprise," people usually say. If Aaron is around he says, "Surprised!? Oh no, I don't want to be surprised. Boy or girl, that isn't a surprise. Not human, or mixed race, that would be a surprise. I don't want that."

I finally packed the baby bag today. I forgot how tiny newborn diapers are, and clothes. SO CUTE! I'm gonna have a baby soon you guys. I almost forgot with the trying to get ready for it and all. Whoot!


Making it up as we go

Ten years ago today I married Aaron in my little Canadian hometown. This week I read Tamra's post about weddings which I loved, and it reminded me of my own wedding. Particularly it reminded me of my mom, who over the years had managed to equate everything that went wrong with her wedding day as the harbinger foreshadowing all that would go wrong in her marriage. She spent a lot of our wedding planning time telling me she "just didn't want me to be disappointed the way she was."

That lasted until the day I turned around and said, "Mom, I want a marriage, not a wedding. As far as I'm concerned, if he shows up, and his dad shoes up to marry us, and I'd like him to think I look fabulous as well, it's a good day."

Credit to my mom, she listened.

So, I've told the story of how we met and got engaged, but I've never written about our wedding day, which was far from "perfect".

First of all, we were married in a soup kitchen. Well, it was a church on weekends, but all week that main sanctuary held tables and chairs and served meals. There were educational posters on the walls with graphic images of frostbite damage to limbs and stuff. This was my home church so we were using the space for free, but we had to  fix it up ourselves. We were going to go in the day before and take those down in order to transform the room into something pretty. Only one of the homeless people who was a regular at the soup kitchen died that week. After the funeral the soup kitchen, of course, held a funeral reception. We didn't get to go in and do anything until dinner time the day before our wedding. It got done though. I didn't sleep until 4am that morning, I don't think my mom slept at all, but it got done. Everything was ready for our big day... almost.

See, we planned to take communion together after our vows. We bought pretty dishes to serve it in. They were laying together on the table my little brother built out of willow trees. It looked so pretty. Only, it wasn't until we got to the table, in the middle of our ceremony that we realized no one had thought to put anything in them. There is a picture of me laughing as we first realize that it's missing. We have lovely photos of serving each other communion from an empty cup. We had to fake the whole thing.

Then our plan to wash each others feet, as a symbol of the kind of servant hood we believed we were entering into for each other in this act of marriage, was derailed by the fact that there was no water in the basin. We again improvised, sending our friend Journey Mama, who was also our photographer, to get some massage oil Aaron had packed in his bag in the side room just off the platform. So we oiled each others feet instead. Yes, the photos looked lovely.

It was the hottest day of the year, the mosquitoes were at their height. We had to beat them out of my veil in between photos they were so thick. My uncle spiked his 1 gallon big gulp and got thoroughly wasted by 2pm. The reception started late and my grandpa complained, so parts of it were rushed because "old people need to eat". Since he eats dinner every day at 6pm and it was only 5 I'm not so sure he was actually hungry...

Then a certain few brothers in law, who were supposed to be MC and DJ for the dance went a bit AWOL. So the dance was kind of lame too. When we saw our car later, we found out why. Let's just say we couldn't drive very far without stopping to remove most of the stuff tied to it. As for the "illustrations" in soap on the exterior, thanks to the input of so many... well, I started to get self-conscious about the number of people honking as they passed us. Though the funniest part was that most people honking were driving minivans with kids in tow.

And I actually forgot about the top layer of the cake doing a slow slide during one of the speeches before it hit the table upside down. Did I mention it was hot? without AC? it melted the icing.

But by the end of it I got the marriage that I wanted. Things still have rarely gone according to plan for us. There have been starts and stops, and massive unexpected detours along the way and we're still improvising most of the time, and making things up as we go. I've even occasionally been disappointed. Yet, just as on our wedding day, we've been able to look back and laugh at most of the disasters, and keep going together.

It's not a perfect life, but I wouldn't trade it for any other. It's been a good 10 years. I'm looking forward to the next 10.


holy experience

Playing battle ship with the Boy.

More roses than vases to put them in from GG's house.

The Girl's "hide the flower" game that she made up for me to play with her.

The elaborate pretend games that keep my kids busy together for hours at a time.

The Girl's "new" boots that she wears everywhere. ($5 leather gap boots at the thrift store.)

The way I can see my belly move now when Jellybean moves.

Little was complaining one day while trying to do something hard. The Boy ran over to her and started bowing repeatedly while saying, "Boy here, at your service."

How proud the Boy was of his $1 purchase of 3 water guns, one for him and one for each sister. "Because it's getting warmer now mom and we can play with them."

Rubbing noses with the girl as she smiles up at me, smelling of watermelon.

Watching a humming bird out the kitchen window while doing dishes.

Little laying on her belly on the floor coloring while her feet dangle in the air.

Girls sitting side by side on the couch looking at a picture book together.

Hanging laundry on the clothesline Aaron put up for me just outside the laundry room door.

Porch Swings.



Swimming Pool

Floaties to help her be brave.

Sunsets at the Beach

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