Thursday, January 28, 2016

Preschool and Toddler Activities!

One of the challenges of being a stay-at-home-mom is finding activities for your little one to keep them  engaged, entertained, and learning throughout the day - especially when you have children of varying ages! These are a few of our current favorite activities:

Bouncing Egg Experiment: You may have seen this one on Pinterest, as I did. We just couldn't wait to give it a try! There are a number of sites with directions for this activity, but we found ours here. For this activity, you only need two jars, enough vinegar to fill those jars, and one raw and one hard boiled egg. Place one egg in each jar, and fill to the top with vinegar. Mason jars work great because you can put a lid on them and then avoid the vinegar smell in your house for three days! Let your jars set for three full days - pouring out and refilling with fresh vinegar after the first day. It was fun to watch the changes in the eggshells as the days passed. And of course, the kids were amazed at the bouncing eggs! BONUS: You can make a colored bouncy egg by adding food coloring to the vinegar!!

Tape Art: I'd love to take credit for this idea, but we actually did this project at a friend's house. The kids had a great time making pictures from the tape. Emma was extremely proud of her finished products! All you need is paper and different colored masking tape or washi tape. This is a great activity to practice those fine motor skills, like cutting or tearing the tape, and placing it just where you want it to be. There's also a very little prep and clean up needed! I think next time we'll also practice making shapes and letters/numbers out of tape.

And, of course...

Read: Reading is one of the best activities you can do with your child at any age!

A few of Emma, Bryson, and Sophia's current favorites are:
My 3 good things for today are: 
  1. I am the mother of Emma.
  2. I am the mother of Bryson.
  3. I am the mother of Sophia.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sophia: A Birth Story

Like Bryson's birth story, this is a few months late. But when you're a mother of a rambunctious four-year-old, a stubborn two-year-old, and a newborn, time passes a little differently. So, without further ado, this is my birth story (starring Sophia).

For my entire pregnancy with Sophia, I had measured perfectly in accordance to my due date. In fact, when we had our 20-week ultrasound, after all the images and measurements, the technician calculated the due date based on the baby's size and it was exactly on my due date. (She said that had never happened to her before - it was always one or two days this way or that.) As I got further along and my midwife would measure my abdomen and uterus with her hands and a tape measure at my weekly or biweekly appointments, and I was always spot on. If I was 36 weeks and 4 days by the calendar, she would announce that I was measuring right at 36 1/2 weeks. 

So when my water broke during the night (just as it had with Bryson and Emma) two days before my due date, my husband and I laughed that after being spot on through the whole pregnancy, her due date wasn't going to be her birthday after all. Little did we know...
Much like my previous two labors, I woke up wet in the middle of the night and my labor progressed slowly. In fact, I let Derek sleep for a couple more hours and waited until a reasonable hour of the morning to call my mom to come watch the older two kids and called the hospital to inform them that my water had broken. (I only felt comfortable waiting because this was my third time around, I had not lost a lot of fluid at this point, and the fluid was clear and didn't have a bad odor - there were no warning signs. I would generally recommend calling your doctor or midwife right away if your water breaks.)
Because my contractions were not strong or close together, my midwife suggested staying at home for the time being, with a plan to come in around 3 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon if nothing had changed. By then it would be 12 hours past the time when my water broke, and they wanted to examine and monitor me at that point. I paced around the house, bounced and swiveled on my exercise ball, and tried to stay in motion as much as I could. But labor progressed slowly. When 4 o'clock had come, we grabbed the hospital bag and headed out the door. We were admitted into Triage and Derek walked the halls with me as I sipped ice water. 
This next part of the story is short, although the hours were long. Nothing happened.
That's it.
Nothing happened. We stayed in Triage overnight and walked the halls and moved around and tried every natural, homeopathic, approved method (considering that my water had already broken) that we could do to kick-start my labor, but nothing worked. 
When 24 hours had passed since my water broke, any possibility of a water birth was gone. I don't know if it was because I had had next to no sleep for the past two nights (one because my water broke, and the second because we were in a tiny hospital Triage room), or because I'd been wearing enormous, soggy diapers for the last day, or if - with my type-A personality - any change in a set plan (at least in my mind) is difficult to work through, but I really had a moment of grief when we were given this news. It was not what I wanted.
I was allowed to labor in my own way until that afternoon - when the ever-present clock hit 36 hours. At that point, my midwife checked my cervix (for the first time, as there is a risk of introducing infection) and I was at two centimeters. I had been at 1 centimeter at my regular prenatal appointment a few days earlier.
Although my contractions hadn't been particularly painful, and had been spread out, it knocked the wind out of me to find out that I had just labored for the last 36 hours to gain 1 centimeter! We were told that Pitocin - which is a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin used to induce or progress labor - would be my next option, followed by a c-section if my labor didn't quickly pick up. 
For anyone who has ever had Pitocin without an epidural, you will believe that my labor did "pick up" quite quickly and intensely. I will spare you most of the details of the bone-crushing contractions that followed, but they were more painful anything I experienced during my other two labors. My body - which shook uncontrollably - seemed to be trying to make up for the time it had previously lost and I went from being at 2 centimeters to having a baby rip through my body and be placed on my chest a mere hour and 45 minutes later.
She came about an hour shy of her due date.
It was not an easy experience. It was not a fun experience. But it was a good experience. 
It was painful, but eye-opening.  
I feel like labor and delivery is one of the big battlegrounds of the Mommy Wars. It is so easy to judge someone for making different 'choices' than you've made - whether it is a natural birth vs. c-section, or breastfeeding vs. bottle, or cloth diapers vs. disposable. But very few times do we actually know the story behind someone's choice. And sometimes, it wasn't their choice at all. My experience was a strong and lasting reminder of that.
If nothing changed in my labor after the Pitocin, I was probably a few hours away from an unscheduled c-section. And if my contractions hadn't been coming so fast and so strong that I couldn't speak, I probably would have asked for an epidural if they'd gone on much longer. 
We use cloth diapers at home because it works for our budget. But if we lived somewhere without our own washer and dryer and I had to go to the laundromat, I absolutely would use disposables. 
We've been able to budget and manage our finances so that I can stay home with our kids. Not everyone has that option.
Staying home has made it much easier to breastfeed my babies. I went back to work after Emma was born until she was six months old, and had to pump at work. Even though I had a very understanding employer and supervisor, I don't know if I could have done it long-term. 
In the end, Sophia is healthy and had no complications through the labor and delivery. I actually had a faster recovery than either of my other labors and was out and about sooner. (I can't say whether that is due to my body actually healing quickly, or because when you have two other little ones, you kind of have to suck it up and keep going even if you would much rather just camp out under your covers for the next month.)
Even though it turned out the same as my other two deliveries, I think this experience is going to stick with my longer. And maybe that's a good thing.

Emma's Frozen 4th Birthday!

Does anyone else feel like Frozen fever is never going to end? It's still a pretty big deal at our house. So when I asked Emma what kind of birthday party she would like to have, I could've guessed the answer.
However, I was about 8+ months pregnant at the time of her birthday, so her party was a pretty casual, low-key event. 

We did a photo booth with a big blue sheet and a couple signs made out of cardboard. I printed off some fun quotes-on-a-stick from the movie. As always, everyone loves a photo booth! 

I made a few large 3D paper snowflakes to hang from the picnic shelter (you can find the instructions here) and I also found a couple of Disney's Arendelle promotional posters online, and printed them off for decorations.

We did a simple ice cream bar, with a few of Emma's favorite toppings, as well as melted snowman (water with a carrot and some big chunks of ice) and blue frozen punch.

For activities, we had a snowflake toss. (You can find the instructions for making a snowflake or water bomb here.) 
We also had a little craft area where you could decorate a crown, or make a beaded bubble wand out of pipe cleaners. 

 All of the supplies were from the dollar store, so it was very inexpensive, and easy to put together.

The birthday girl had a great day!


Bryson's 2nd Dinosaur Birthday!

At the moment, Bryson is all about animals and dinosaurs. So we decided to host his second birthday at our local zoo, and the dinosaur theme was a given. 

I made about a half-dozen dinosaur signs to decorate the picnic area by searching 'dinosaur silhouettes' on Google, and created the signs in Microsoft Word.

Our menu included such delicacies as stegosaurus sandwiches, herbivore veggies and dino dip, ferocious fruit, Jurassic gelatin, and - of course - fossil cookies. 
The kids had a lot of fun helping me with the cookies. We just did a basic sugar cookie recipe, but made dinosaur footprints in the dough with a little plastic dinosaur, and then sprinkled some cinnamon sugar on top to help the footprints stand out.

To drink, we have bottled Hot Springs water, and green swamp juice. For dessert, dinosaur cupcakes. 

We had a pretty small crew, so I packed individual picnic lunches in white paper bags, and I printed the menu on each bag. 
After opening presents, each of the kids got to crack open their own dinosaur egg. We got a package of little plastic dinosaurs at the dollar store, and the eggs were made using the recipe below:
  • 1-cup all purpose flour
  • 1-cup coffee grounds 
  • 1-cup sand
  • 3/4-cup salt
  • 1/2-cup water
  • four to five small plastic animals or dinosaurs
  • a large bowl and a tray or plate to set the eggs out to dry
Mix the flour, coffee grounds, sand and salt together thoroughly.  Add water. The less water used, the faster the dino eggs will dry. Form your sand mix into an egg shape around your dinosaur. Let dry. Ours took about 3 days on the counter to dry completely on the outside. 

Afterwards, we all had a blast exploring the zoo!

New Year's Resolution!

So one of my New Year's Resolutions is to get back to blogging again since I didn't do so great in 2015...

I'm going to post a few updates on some of the major events I've missed, and then I'll hopefully get back to posting our regular activities each month!

Happy 2016!