Monday, October 22, 2012

Old School Rules In The Technology Age

Ok, I've seen posts about Amanda Todd a lot this week, a girl who is only the latest in a stunning number of bullying-related suicides. I read these stories of heart ache and evil and, as a human and a Christian, I am outraged. That any one child would go out of his or her way to harass another is bad. That mob mentality so readily takes over, peer pressure and the evil enjoyment at causing someone else to feel so alone and so hopeless, that it happens this regularly, I find even more concerning. You may argue that bullying is nothing new. Perhaps this is true. Today, however, with the internet and social media so accessible to most kids, the potential for the harassment multiplies. Your home is no longer a guaranteed safe haven from the evils of the world. They come right in with the push of the "on" button, or worse, directly to your wifi ready smart phone. Bullying can reach victims 24 hours a day with no intervention.
So, what can we do? How can we protect our children? One way is to be the security that your child needs. Make sure that they have no doubt about your love for them. Tell them from the day they come into this world, who they are, what they can achieve, why they matter! And it is equally important to tell them who they are in Christ. Let them know that they are precious, and unique, and that they are safe to be who they are around you. Little girls who are told that they are special and beautiful and worth more than diamonds to their daddies, they don't have to look for that love in boyfriends. Little boys who get quality time and training on how to be a man, a gentleman and a honorable warrior, they don't have to join a gang or just listen to the loudest voice at school, to know how to be "the man." Fill them with so much love, that they overflow into others around them.
Another way to protect them is to fight the old evil with new, current rules. The internet and social media should not be freely accessible and should not go unmonitored, for children of any age. It should be limited and treated as a privilege, not assumed as a right. And never assume that other parents will take the same care with your child that you do. Kids do not develop the kind of long-term reasoning that they need to be on their own until almost after they are legally considered adults. They are short-sited and it doesn't matter how smart and responsible you think your child is, they could cave to temptation and curiosity, given the right opportunity. So, do everything in your power to remove temptation and limit opportunities. I look at Amanda Todd's story, in the very beginning of her tale, when she says she was with a friend, video-
chatting and was asked to do something revealing. I was horrified that this meeting strangers via web cam was a frequent hobby for these 7th graders. That is so dangerous and it is obvious that they had no parental supervision and no fear that they might be interrupted by adults while behaving in such a way. I cringe when I think of how her dad, who I gather was separated from her mother, probably gave her permission to go to her friend's house, thinking it might be safer than being home alone while he was at work. I'm sure he never could have dreamed that she was participating in something so dangerous, something  that would ultimately ruin her life.
Teach your children about internet safety. Monitor their web searches and text messages and social media. It should be understood before they are given access to such things that you can and will, at any time, look at their communications. Let it be known if that is not acceptable to them, they can live without cell phones and email. The term is "deal-breaker." This is for their safety and your peace of mind. And have them bring friends home, rather than go visit. Unless you really know the other family, it is just safer to keep them home. Plus, you can meet and get to know their friends. This may sound too strict to some, but is it really too much to ask when you love your children. This is where the real parents are separated from the rest, when it takes extra timeand effort. I  would rather have my kids safe and annoyed, than at risk and thinking I'm cool. Don't be afraid to turn off the data plan and confiscate the laptop. I wonder if Amanda's story would have a different ending if she no longer had access to Facebook, where her tormentors kept finding her. What if her cell phone was turned off, her Facebook page deleted? Would she have found a moment's peace if, even though it sounds extreme, she had gone media-dark? Maybe it seems like punishing her to take away her phone and computer, but is it really punishment if it stopped the harassment from reaching her? We will never know, but if one of my children was in that much pain, I would go to the ends of the earth to stop it, so canceling my data plan and removing computers from our home would be nothing. I wouldn't give it a second thought. Radical? Maybe. I am, by no means, passing judgment on any of the parents who have suffered such a loss. I'm just proposing a return to "old-school" parenting. Kids are less capable of taking care of themselves than they were 100 years ago and yet they are given much more freedom in a world far more dangerous. I don't care if every other kid at school has a smart phone, a Facebook account and their own laptop! Mine will survive with a family computer, and when they are older, cell phones and social media will be earned and monitored.

Friday, September 28, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons, Try Wilted Kale

I failed to start the bread machine yesterday morning, so we didn't have much bread for lunch. I had other options, but it would have meant repeating a recent meal. I decided to get a little crazy. I sliced the bread as thinly as I could, then quartered it, to make tiny little slices. I then piled on roasted turkey, turkey bacon, sharp cheddar and baby spinach...twice! I broke a couple of skewers in half, since tooth picks were too small. Ta-da! Little turkey club stacks with a sneaky bit of leafy goodness. The kids were so excited by the presentation, they ate the whole thing with out snubbing the salad.

Today, I started to get out some salad and top it with tuna. Edyn made a face about the tuna and while my first instinct was to say, "Get over it," I started looking at the fridge and the wheels turned in a different direction. I had bought some kale to experiment with and hadn't tried wilting it yet. There's no time like today, so I heated my saute pan with olive oil threw in done chopped onions, then in with the kale. For any kale novices, I take the center rib out. I read that if eating it raw in salad, you take the rib out, so I thought I should here as well. It is very firm, so I was concerned it wouldn't wilt. Once the kale wilted and softened, I threw spinach in and let it wilt briefly. Mean while, in another pan, I crisped some turkey bacon. I chopped it up and threw it in with a dash of vinegar and topped it all of with shredded parmesan.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Process

In my last part I talked about the road to more natural and healthy living. Here's a confession: my desire for keeping the budget and my strong belief in the "waste not, want not" philosophy has delayed our change over to 100% real food all the time. I just don't have it in me to completely empty our pantry of everything in a box or can. We have a few dwindling items, like canned tuna, beans, instant potatoes and instant macaroni and cheese. Many of these items have been given to us and the rest are just leftovers from our "survival mode" days while my hands were full with the new baby. I also have several pounds of white flour and sugar that I'm whittling down. Long story short, I'm trying to use these items here and there, while introducing more fresh and home made meals in between.
Tonight, I sauteed some chicken breast with garlic and Italian seasoning and wrapped it in a tortilla with parmesan and spinach. At least that is what my husband took to work for dinner. It was a bit of a stretch for the kids, although we could have made it work. Then, I decided to let loose and use up a box of macaroni! However, I could never make it per the instructions and still respect myself in the morning. Instead, I threw in the butter, and instead of milk, I added some ranch dressing, some chopped turkey bacon, some of my Italian chicken breast and a dash of parmesan. My only regret is not tossing in some spinach to make a more complete meal. Huge hit! We called it chicken club Mac n cheese and every one cleaned his/her bowl.
Now for the real fun...I don't have any popsicle trays, but that would not stop me. I mixed up some Jello (another hanger-on in the pantry) and I poured equal portions into snack size zipper bags. I then folded the bags over, making sure all the Jello lined the bottom of the bag. To help form a popsicle shape, I gently wrapped the extra bag under the bottom, so the Jello couldn't spread out in the freezer. Finally, I stuck them in the freezer and hoped for something fun. What happened was perfection. Once the "zipper pops" were frozen solid, I could peel the bag away and the kids used the bag to hold the popsicle, like a wrapper. I am more excited about trying this method with other recipes, like mixed yogurt and fruit. Jello just happened to be in the pantry, so it made the trial run for us.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Trial and, Sometimes, Awesome!!

This is my lavender scented olive oil. You can see a purple band
around the neck...this is a twist tie I put on to avoid any mix-ups
in the kitchen! A pretty ribbon would also work,
and be more aesthetically pleasing. 
I started really reading labels a few years ago and found that, even with an A in college chemistry, I don't recognize most of what I find in our every day foods or toiletries. So, I am slowly trying to integrate new habits and move toward a much more natural, and healthier lifestyle. Last year, I started using extra virgin olive oil for a moisturizer in place of lotion. What? You mean, the kind that you use for cooking?  Yes, that exact same one. I just bought an extra bottle to keep in the bathroom. It doesn't spread as easily as lotion, and takes longer to soak in, so you want to allow more time before you get dressed if you decide to try it. The benefits are that your skin stays soft without all the chemical conditioners that actually interrupt your skins natural absorption and regeneration. Your body should, ideally, have everything inside it necessary  to keep its balance. Ideally is the key word.
WARNING: SOAP BOX ALERT!  We don't eat well now days and, with all the beverage choices, we certainly don't drink enough water. So, instead of changing those habits, we come up with ways to treat the side effects of an generally unhealthy life style. Ok, now I'm done ranting. I am not pointing any fingers, because we are still a long way from where we need to be. It's a process.
Back to the olive oil. I decided that just smelling like an Italian restaurant wasn't enough. Also, it made me want fresh bread all the time, whatever that was about. So, I decided to experiment with adding fragrance. Still keeping to all natural and DIY theories, I headed off to the local natural food shop. After a few minutes of essential oil heaven (me standing in the isle and sniffing all of my favorites), I came back to reality and recognized that I was not ready to spend between $10 and $30 for a tiny bottle of smelly oil for an experiment. Then, I moved to the bulk dried goods and found that dried lavender and rose petals, among others, were rather inexpensive. The price per pound was negligible when you consider that even half a pound of dried flowers is a big bag full! I took my bag of lavender and went to Wal-Mart. There I bought a package of cheese cloth, which is sold in pre-cut lengths of 4 yards. I googled how to fragrance olive oil and found several options, but I'll share what I found to be the easiest. I came home, opened a new bottle of olive oil and spooned the lavender buds directly into the bottle. I was so excited, I didn't really think it through. I then closed the bottle tightly and put it in my dark pantry for ten days. Those ten days felt like an eternity! After opening the bottle, it smelled good, but I wanted more, so back in for another ten days. Bingo! It smelled fantastic! Now, when I realized I had to get all the lavender out of the bottle, I recognized my folly. Next time, I'll pour the oil into a wide mouth, air right container. However, I was not giving up. I poured the oil into a large glass bowl that I had double lined with cheese cloth inside of a strainer. Then came the messy prospect of pulling up the edges of the cloth, gathering it and wringing out the oil. Once I was satisfied that I had every precious drop I could get, I took an empty olive oil bottle that I had saved, made a funnel out of wax paper and slowly ladled the lavender oil into the bottle. It was so worth it! I just found that first bottle I made this morning, still half full. When everything  happened with my last pregnancy and I suddenly had to stay off my feet, my routine went out the window. I fell back to old, convenient habits. What I realized this morning is that, after a year of sitting (inside a dark green bottle) it smells as good as ever!
Now, for those less adventurous, go buy your favorite scent in an essential oil and just slowly add a few drops to the oil at a time until you reach the fragrance for which you are trying. You can also use sweet almond oil or jojoba oil, which are suppose to scent well and be nourishing to the skin. My mom has used coconut oil also, which has its own delicious scent. You wild-at-hearts like me, if you want to experiment like I did, here are a few tips:
1. Get an airtight, wide mouth container, glass, not metal. A large canning jar would work.
2. Choose your scenting agent, herbs or flowers, but dried. I've learned by using fresh rose petals that the added moisture can cause mold.
3. Cut about 3 layers of cheese cloth and make a sashay, or think tea bag, with the scenting agent in the middle, gather the edges and tie tight with string, so that you have a little pouch.
4. Buy a funnel!
5. Have a dark, glass bottle for the finished oil washed and sterilized with boiling water. You want to sterilize to ward of any bacteria that can lead to mold. If your bottle is clear, plan on storing it in a dark cabinet, because light and heat are the enemy with  fragrances.
6. Place your sashay into the wide mouth container, pour your oil over it, close the lid and put it away in a dark place for at least 20 days, longer if you have the patience. The longer it sits, the more fragrant the outcome.
7. When it is time, you can squeeze out the sashay and have scented oil, ready to funnel into the storage jar.
I hope you enjoy this as much as I have! Next, I'd like to try rosemary and mint, or maybe almond and vanilla. I would like to experiment more and then make some up for gifts. I will be sure to take pictures each step of the way and post them ASAP.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Gift of Giving

Today my husband was showing me a new apparel website he found that sends  proceeds to a support program for military families. It reminded me of another site I had heard about that sells lounge pants and tee shirts made by women rescued from forced prostitution. We talked about how we both would rather have a gift purchased from one of these sites than any thing else. Then, I had an idea. What if we decided, from now on, that we as a family would only give each other gifts that somehow helped some one else? Maybe I should buy one of the tee shirts from Wounded Warrior Project for Rich's birthday instead of a book, CD,  tools, etc. He could buy my favorite lounge pants from Punjammies. What if we made the commitment to always make a difference, even one dollar at a time, in the world around us? Did you know that you can buy a cow, a goat or a chicken for a needy family on the other side of the world? I would love to get that for Christmas: "This cow, that will feed a hungry family for six months, had been donated in your name." Just a thought. Here are some ideas:

To help feed hungry families you can try:

Or, if you like tangibles, you can buy t-shirts, hats, etc. and still get money to someone in need:

I'm sure there are more out there. Please, feel free to share any that you like. We would love to hear more ideas about giving and making a difference as a family.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Uh oh...Now What?

Well, this morning I thought I'd be nice and make pancakes for breakfast. When I told the kids, they were ecstatic. Then I realized, as I was mixing up the dry ingredients, that I had run out of baking powder. I'm still no expert, but my guess is that leaving out the baking powder would decrease the "cake" part of pancakes significantly. So I Google "out of baking powder" and found several links explaining that you may substitute two parts cream of tartar and one part baking soda. The caution with this substitution is that you must use it immediately, because the chemical reaction when added to the wet ingredients is temporary. This matters little if you are baking or preparing right away, but you wouldn't want to save left over batter or prepare ahead. Anyway, we had vanilla oatmeal pancakes and they were so thick and fluffy, I may use the "home made" baking powder from now on, at least in pancake batter. I haven't baked anything with it yet, so that will be my next experiment. Tune in next time for more "uh oh" quick fixes!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Men, Don't Read Further

No, that was not a ploy to get you guys to read this post. It was a warning that I'm about to get real with all my ladies out there who may relate. So, do yourself a favor and go look at ESPN or something and leave us girls to talk, or else you'll ruin the illusion that your wives are just effortlessly beautiful and good at their roles as wives/mothers naturally and everything goes smoothly when you aren't looking.
Anyway, we are on day four of our new, trial schedule. It has gone pretty well so far, except for our evenings, which we are going to have to iron out a little more. So, on day three, I was feeling like a champ and by 9, the older kids had gone out for a brief bit of fresh air. Ella fell asleep for her usual mid-day nap and I thought, "Yes, maybe twenty minutes!" I told the kids to keep it down since she was asleep and I jumped in the shower. Oh to have a moment to shower without a)someone flushing the toilet, b)a three year old barging in c)a baby fussing at me to hurry... It was so exciting! Also, very daring, since I rarely get me time when the sun is up.  
So, I turn on the hottest shower I can stand. I get out my Dead Sea mineral mask and slather all over my face and neck. I lather up my hair and leave the shampoo on, just because it feels good to take my time. I lather up and shave one leg, without even cutting myself. I lather the other leg and then it happened...the first whimper. I froze, almost as if caught in the act of eating ice cream out of the container. Then, when there was silence, I went about trying to shave again, for at least 10 more seconds. Barely finished, this time with a few nicks and here came the siren: that sad whaling from the baby monitor that says, "I'm awake for real this time. I'm not going to go back to sleep, no matter how much you hope, so get in here before I start in with the real hysterics!" Ugh! I love ya, kid, but I'm still covered in mud mask and shampoo! Needless to say, my anticipated twenty minutes was a mere twelve.  It was a miracle that I got all the mud off and didn't end up scaring little girl when I picked her up, still shower fresh and hair in a towel. 
I hope this story does not offend anyone's sense of propriety, but I figured it might make someone laugh. I had to laugh at my own optimism. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Homeschool: Day One

Ok, we're not actually doing any school work today. This is just the first day trying out our routine. I woke the kids at 7. They got dressed, straightened rooms and made beds. If they had time left over, they read their Bibles while waiting for breakfast at 7:30. After breakfast, we had a quick devotion, then I allowed an hour for chores. We kept the TV off all morning, which was so nice. I wanted to give us a couple of weeks to get into this habit, that way we could start our school day at 9am. I am so excited by the prospect of our new found freedom outside of the traditional school day, which took up 8 hours. Of course, this is our first year, so we are keeping our minds open, trying to keep our expectations realistic.
My main goal, other than to meet the educational needs of each of my kids individually, is to make this school year completely different from our experiences in the past. It seems like, since my children first started school, our afternoons have been hectic, stressful and less productive than we'd have liked. Every day we had 5 hours from 3pm to bed time, but it never felt like enough. I always fought for balance between allowing the kids a chance to decompress from 8 hours of school, without losing them to the afternoon slump. Snack, homework, chores, dinner, bath, bedtime...oh, and did we leave out some not-so-quality family time? I struggled to enforce chores and homework at times, because frankly, my heart wasn't in it. It didn't help that the school my kids were in didn't have any accountability for homework. They stopped buying text books so the kids only had worksheets and busy work sent home. As far I could tell after 3 years, no one noticed if the kids completed their homework and no one cared if their handwriting was legible. The main focus the school had was studying for the annual standardized tests. They spent months in advance working on how to fill in the circles, how to solve multiple choice questions, etc. not to further my children's education, but to reach a certain standard in test scores for the state.
Needless to say, I am looking forward to much nicer evenings, where I can go back to enjoying the act of cooking dinner, without feeling like a task master the whole time. I can't wait to do some actual school work,  utilize our time on the fundamentals, then walk away from it for the afternoon and go to the grocery store, the park, the library or wherever we want without feeling like there is something else we should be doing. So, I'm counting today as day one, and so far, it's really great to look at the clock, see it is almost 3pm, and not have a feeling of dread!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hello, World!!

Once again, I have been so busy that I have failed to fit blogging into my schedule. I am making a resolution, though, to get back on the horse, or something like that! I have been inspired by some really great pages on Facebook, and now, with our next adventure on the horizon, I feel like sharing again. We are buying ten acres in the country, building a house and looking for every way to make the land pay for itself. We will be growing as much of our produce as we can, keeping free range laying hens for fresh eggs, raising grass-fed cattle for meat and milk, and my dream is to also board horses. Of course, it is a process and nothing will happen overnight, but our family is so excited!
So, our summer is in full swing and it has been in the high 90's until evening. Because of this, I have been challenges to make meals without heating up the house. I still want to do as much from scratch, and as economically, as possible. Yesterday was our big, biweekly shopping trip, then last night we were busy until late, so today I was feeling less than excited about making breakfast. I thought about oatmeal, since it's pretty quick and easy. The drawback is that my daughter just almost won't eat it. Then, I had an idea that saved the day, and me from standing on my feet over a hot stove.
I only use old fashion rolled oats. It doesn't take much more time to prep, and it goes much further. We have used Irish oatmeal, which is awesome and even better for you, but it is a bit labor intensive and I can't really spend most of an hour making breakfast. Maybe when my kids are older and less needy. Anyway, this morning I remembered how much we loved the instant oatmeal with all the fruit growing up, and my kids used to love it, before I decided that it was full of sugar and pretty expensive! I came up with our own, very tasty version. I cooked the oatmeal per the directions, but I chopped up strawberries and threw them in while it was cooking. As the berries warmed, they naturally broke down a bit and sweetened the oatmeal. To finish, I just added a touch more sugar and some milk for that extra creamy texture. This was so easy, but it was a big hit with all the kids. This may not seem like a true revelation, but it helped us start our day off happy. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Coming Up For Air

Our bright-eyed little girl, always
 alert and trying to figure us out.
Wow! I never meant to let it go so long, but the days all bled together until I realized it's been almost three months since my last post! Things have been a little hectic around here. We have had quite an adjustment since little Ella came home. She had several issues with her reflux, lots of spitting up and a few rather startling choking incidents. I can speak about it now, because she is doing very well, but in the moment, in the wee hours of the morning, it was very scary! The kids were all so excited to have her home, but that certainly didn't mark the return to normal. Because she slept about two hours at a time, I slept even less because by the time I fed her, burped her, held her upright for at least 30 minutes, then got her down to sleep, I still had another twenty minutes of pumping for her next feeding before I got to rest. That was only the first few weeks, though, because we finally learned how to nurse! Thank God, because that changed our whole relationship. Plus, it meant that she swallowed less air and had fewer digestive issues, and I could sleep when she slept. The kids became very accustomed to Mom sleeping on the couch with Ella sleeping on my chest. They just went about there day whenever we both passed out. My beloved oldest, Edyn, has really stepped up her game. She loves to make breakfast (oatmeal or cereal) and lunch (hot dogs) whenever she can. She just turned nine and would prefer to no longer be considered a kid, so any of the "grown-up" tasks that she can take on, she's glad to do it. I try not to take advantage, but it is good to foster that nurturing spirit in her. She will hold the baby for me sometimes when I'm making dinner. In her words, "this is my heaven." Edyn will be an excellent mother.
Cayde also wants desperately to hold Ella and has gotten to several times, but because of her fussing and discomfort as her reflux has continued, its difficult for him to enjoy her. He has been a trooper to grab a rag or blanket and try to offer her passy whenever asked. Declyn wants to hold her and love on her, but is still learning that she is delicate and his enthusiasm is sometimes overwhelming for her. He tells me all day how he loves her, her tiny feet and hands and nose, and his first question when he wakes up is always "how's that baby doing?" He does ask me sometimes if I can put her down to help him with something. This is heartbreaking, because I know he misses having my undivided attention.
Recently, we have had a breakthrough. We have found a homeopathic medicine that helps with Ella's tummy troubles and it just came in the mail yesterday. Last night, although she woke up to nurse twice, she immediately went to sleep after and didn't cry once all night. We actually slept in and barely got the kids to school on time! For those of you interested, it's called Colic Calm. I was ecstatic to find it online and after reading several reviews on the home site and also on Amazon, I order two bottles.
So, while I can't promise a completely normal schedule, I'm very optimistic today. Well, today is the first day I felt I had the time and energy to blog, so that's something!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

And Now...The Rest Of The Story

Edyn and Cayde, holding Declyn as a newborn, in 2009.

All three, much bigger, riding a turtle sculpture,
last fall.
While Ella has been the focus of my recent posts, she's only the most recent addition to our family. It would be inaccurate to tell only her part of the story. When I was first put on bed rest, it was like a call to arms. With an army of adults rushing to our aide, Edyn, Cayde and Declyn had a daily decision to make: to join or not join. Most of the time it was at least two out of three, but not always the same two.
The kids all knew that Ella was coming, that she was a "she" and that we would be expecting her in February. So, it has been difficult to explain concepts like hypertension, bed rest, premature delivery, etc. They are very smart, though, and capable of rolling with the punches most of the time. It never quite sunk in that I wasn't supposed to be up, getting snacks, checking their chores, tucking them in... I often felt like I was hurting their feelings by saying "No, I can't do that, but you can ask_________." Declyn seemed to adapt better in the beginning, though. He loves to cuddle with me and loved to rub my pregnant belly and talk to Baby Ella. He continued to do this, almost like he was happy to take whatever he could get. Edyn, my oldest and a classic first child, was eager to jump in with things she thought were fun, like making dinner with Uncle Marc and helping with Declyn. However, like any normal 8 year old going on 15, she realized that other not-so-exciting-tasks needed to be done, like dishes and laundry. Cayde pretty much acted like nothing had changed. Things went on almost without interruption, until I was admitted into the hospital. Then, with my husband at my side, my brother truly took over as the full time caregiver. Marc brought them up to the hospital the first night, so they could see me and I could try to explain what was happening. It was hard for all of us. I wanted to show them that I was fine and reassure them about Ella. Declyn had been with us all day, so he was getting testy. Edyn had questions that seemed beyond her years, specifically about my blood pressure and the baby. Cayde cried. Remember, he's the one that acted like nothing had changed. He's also the most sensitive of them all. My Cayde is this loud, funny, rough-and-tumble boy, but he's also the one that feels everything the deepest. You just wouldn't know it until he opens up. I held him and told him it would be alright. Then, my Mom took them home to bed. So, we were in a holding pattern until Ella was born. I saw the kids every other day. We filled the gap by talking on the phone, and at nap and bedtimes, I got a special phone call from Declyn, so that I could sing his good night songs.
When the news that Ella was born reached the kids, it was very anticlimactic, because they weren't able to see her. The baby sister that Edyn has been dreaming about, that Cayde has been curious to see, that Declyn has been talking to, the full size baby that we were to meet in February, came out too small and early. We had her 6 days before Christmas, but it was like a big Christmas surprise that no one could open. The kids couldn't even look at her through a window, because she was in NICU. We showed them pictures, but it's hard for a kid to get excited about a picture. In the mean time, I was finally discharged home. Things were far from back to normal. With twice a day trips to the hospital that, because of gas consumption, turned into me spending seven hours a day gone, it's like not being home. I leave mid-morning and get home just before dinner. The kids have taken it all in stride and, at least now, I can tuck them in at night. A week ago, I was allowed to take Edyn with me for a visit. We dubbed it our first girls' night with Ella, since my husband and the other boys stayed home. Edyn was so fascinated by her, touching her little hands and asking questions. Then, I took Edyn for a frosty and fries. It was nice to have some time alone with her. I know it was good for us both. Edyn finally got excited about her new sister.
Cayde broke my heart by telling my brother that he was sure he wouldn't be allowed to touch Ella because everyone kept telling him to settle down and be gentle while I was pregnant. So, I took him aside and told him how important he would be as an older brother and protector. I explained that in the beginning we would have to be very gentle, the way we are with eggs so we don't crack the shells. A little light bulb went on and I think he's a bit less apprehensive about this tiny thing coming home. He wasn't happy about Edyn going with me to meet Ella without him, but I told him he was just too young.
Declyn still tells me he loves my belly! It's funny, because my belly is shrinking. One day last week, though, he was looking at my belly and asked to see my "boo-boo" (we showed the kids my incision). When I showed him my now healing scar, he asked again what happened. I explained that the boo-boo was how we were able to get Ella out. He became very offended and demanded to know why we took her out. My husband and I made eye contact across the room, then we very gently explained that I was sick and Ella needed to come early. Then we reminded him that she was too little to come home, that she would stay at the hospital until she ate enough to get bigger. He accepted this explanation, as he accepts almost everything we tell him. Thank you, Jesus! He's at the age now where he will accept most anything we tell him as the final word.
Thankfully, throughout most of this experience, Rich has been off of work. Once I came home, he was able to resume full-time parenting and things at home came closer to routine. We are about to lose him to work, this next Monday. Edyn and Cayde will be back at school tomorrow, so that leaves Declyn and me. We will have to do some creative scheduling starting next week. I'm sure it will involve Uncle Mom again. The only thing of which we can be certain: this is all temporary. We will get back to normal, or rather, the new normal, where we are truly a family of six.

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year's Resolution I Can Get Behind

Daddy got to hold her for only the
2nd time last night.
Kangaroo care.

Caught her smiling today.

Yesterday, I went to my 11am appointment with Ellowyn and found a bottle warmed and ready. I was apprehensive, because last time we tried a bottle feeding, she sputtered and choked and held her breath, causing her heart rate to drop, along with her oxygen saturation. I have to add that those are normal set-backs, because of her age and development. The pediatrician said it was fine and not to rush. That was on the 29th. So, yesterday, I gingerly offered her the bottle and she started sucking it down, swallowing it like a pro! It was like she'd resolved to learn to eat like a big girl this year. She got down over half of her bottle, then passed out, like a toddler face plants in a plate of spaghetti. Then, today we tried again, and she managed to take her whole meal from the bottle. I am so proud of my little girl.
The other fun development in our routine is once a day kangaroo care, or skin-to-skin contact. In the evening, when Ella tends to be more drowsy, I get to hold her against my chest. She is undressed to her diaper, so that we are "skin-to-skin." This is more than just a bonding exercise. Research has shown that kangaroo care actually stabilizes a baby's heart rate and respiration, while aiding in brain development. It also helps baby grow because while snuggling with mom for a nap, a baby's body doesn't have to work as hard to stay warm and burns fewer calories. Kangaroo Care, offered by the Cleveland Clinic is a great source for more information.
It made me a little nervous the first time we tried it, because Ella seemed unsure of the point, and took a little while to settle down and get comfortable. I just knew she was going to start crying and call the whole thing off. Then, she suddenly stopped moving and I realized she'd fallen asleep. It was so precious and now she seems perfectly happy to snuggle up with Mama. Everyday is a new experience for us both, and the speed at which she is growing is almost shocking. I am still curious to see how she transitions to coming home. I want her to be happy and feel safe when she gets here. I don't want her routine to be too disrupted, but I'm not sure how to avoid it. Our house isn't exactly quiet. But I am trying to subtly introduce elements in her current environment that can be part of her new one. My aunt and cousin bought this precious little, plush lamb that plays different soothing sounds. I took it this morning and put it in her isolette and turned it on after I put her back to bed. I did it again when I saw her this evening. I thought maybe, if she becomes familiar with the sounds from her little lamb, then maybe that same noise will make her comfortable at home. The nurses and doctor say that it's usually at their original term age, or 37 weeks, before preterm babies are ready to go home. Ella is officially 35 weeks today, so that's really just around the corner. As of this afternoon, she had gained half a pound from her birth weight, bringing her to 3lb 13oz. Also, she has grown three inches, to a whopping 17 inches long! Who grows 3 inches in two weeks? That's my miracle baby.