Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Benjamin's Birth Story

This is (obviously) a birth story...if words like 'dilated' and 'cervix' make you squirm then stop reading now. ;)

I knew the moment I found out my due date that I'd go late, and sure enough, September 5th came and went with no sign of labor. Even though I was expecting to still be pregnant then, I was really, really wanting this baby to come. As much as I love being pregnant, I was exhausted, swollen, dealing with pregnancy carpal tunnel and did I mention exhausted? My doctor's appointment on Friday the 8th showed that I was about 2 cm dilated and 50% effaced. Baby was head down, and if I recall correctly, anterior (facing my back). All there was to do was wait to go into labor. The doctor wanted to do a non-stress test and talk about induction the beginning or middle of the following week, but wouldn't you know, the next Friday was the only day they could do all those tests? ;) I was miserable, but I absolutely wanted to go into labor on my own.

40 weeks
After my appointment, I stopped by Costco and WinCo and sometime at WinCo declared to myself that I wasn't going to a grocery store again while pregnant. Walking was so difficult, I don't think I would have made it if I hadn't had a cart to lean on. When I got home I told Chris that we needed to do something fun to take my mind off the fact that I was still pregnant, so we had pizza, homemade ice cream and a family move night that evening.

Sometime Friday night I woke up to pee and noticed an awful lot of painful pressure going on inside me. I didn't think anything of it, until it happened a few more times between 10 pm and midnight. Unbeknownst to me (because I hadn't turned on the light) I had some bloody show, which I realized around 1 a.m.

At first I didn't think I was in labor, because the pain was definitely not like my contractions with Timmy and Isaac. This pain was more intense and deeper, coming from inside me, not my uterus. Around 1:30 I finally realize that these pains were coming regularly--every 6-7 minutes--and that it might actually be labor. My water hadn't broken, which I sort of assumed would be my first indication of going into labor since that's what happened with Timmy and Isaac. Chris woke up and some point and asked if I was ok, and I told him I thought I was in labor.

He offered to pour me a bath and that was probably the most relaxing part of the next 14 hours. Sitting in the tub (in our recently finished master bathroom!) with a few candles lit, my birth playlist in the background and Chris holding my hands during contractions...I see why people want to have babies at home. :) After a couple hours in the tub the contractions spaced out a bit so I got out of the tub and we both tried to sleep some more. Around 5:30 they picked up again, both in speed and intensity. At this point I was moaning through the contractions and needed to focus on them. Chris texted our friend Abbi who was going to watch the big kids and let her know what was going on. She got to the house around 6:30 or 7 and loaded up everyone. We took off for the hospital not long after they left.

Side note: if you can't find your birth plan and ask your husband to grab the childbirth book, he may accidentally think you mean for him to grab the emergency-having-a-baby-on-the-side-of-the-road instructions and slightly panic. ;)

On the hour long drive to the hospital I sneaked a quick snack since I knew they wouldn't let me eat at the hospital and alternated between trying to rest and silently cursing a) Eve b) Cal Trans for the bumpy roads and c) the city planners every time we hit a red light (which was every.single.intersection in town). I told myself that I had to be dilated to at least a 3.

Better than photos of me in labor, of which there are none,
We got to the hospital around 8:30, parked and made our way inside. A lady walking out asked if I needed a wheelchair (at first I thought she was a hospital employee) but I told her I thought I could walk. She said she was dilated to a 4 and they were sending her home. I told Chris if they tried to send me home I was going to cry.

The person working the front desk asked if we were there visiting someone, to which Chris responded "No...we're here to have a baby..." Apparently the pregnant woman wearing pajamas and unable to walk through contractions wasn't very obvious.

We made it to the maternity floor where a kind nurse asked a few questions and admitted us. She checked me and I was 6 1/2-7 cm dilated. Considering that I'd only been in labor for about 7 hours, I was thrilled and everyone hoped we would have a baby by noon. The nurses had their shift change, and our new nurse was equally wonderful. She had been an L&D nurse for 43 years, taught childbirth classes, attended lots of natural births and had delivered over 300 babies the doctors didn't arrive in time to catch.

The next several hours passed with me laboring on the bed with the 'peanut ball' as she called it. (Here's a visual). The theory is that it opens up the pelvis and in her words "helps that baby just swim right now.") Apparently Benji didn't feel much like swimming, because noon came and went and still no baby. Progress was slow, and the pain excruciating, nothing like my labors with the first two boys. At some point they realized he was posterior, which explained the intense pain and the fact the he wasn't dropping. My water was still mostly in tact (may have been leaking earlier, and there was concern that there was meconium present). At this point I was done. I told Chris that at the end I knew I'd be glad I'd done this naturally, but right now I was really, really wishing I'd opted for a repeat c-section. I begged for an epidural or anything to make the pain go away. The nurse told me that an epidural would make my body relax too much and Benji wouldn't be able to get out, so if I wanted to avoid the operating room I needed to do this naturally. She reminded me that my body was made for this and that I could do it--in fact I was doing it.

Around 3 the nurse did ask if I would be open to a dose of fentanyl to "take the edge off the pain" and help me relax. I knew I needed to relax so this baby would come out, but relaxing when you're in the worst pain of your life isn't easy. We agreed and she started the medicine. Honestly, I barely noticed a difference. The details are a bit fuzzy, but the doctor broke my water sometime around then as well in an effort to help Benji descend. I definitely noticed the contractions becoming more intense and closer together after that happened.

The fentanyl lasted for about an hour, wearing off around 4 p.m. Pretty soon I had a slight urge to push, even though I wasn't fully dilated. Before long I couldn't not push, despite being told not to. There was still a lip of cervix in the way, so the doctor held it out of the way (that was...unpleasant ← understatement of the year) and I pushed. After 2 pushes I asked if he was here yet--only pushing 3 times with Isaac spoiled me, haha. After a few more pushes it was discovered that Benji's cord was around his neck and it was tight. I had to deliver his head, wait for the doctor to cut the cord and then finish delivering his body. Let's just say that was a few but very, very intense and painful moments. Because of the cord issue and the suspicion of meconium, they brought Benji to the warming table right away. He needed a little bit of oxygen but his Apgars were good. I'm not sure if there was meconium before he was born, but he definitely pooped on the way out, hitting the floor and narrowly missing the doctor's shoe.

We hadn't totally settled on a first name, knowing that we wanted to see this little boy before deciding for sure. Benjamin had been one of our top choices, along with Joshua and Nathan. Once I finally got to see and hold him, we decided for sure that he was Benjamin Lowell, named after Benjamin in the Bible and my maternal grandpa.

The Lord was gracious and sustained us through what was by far the hardest and most painful labor and delivery. Remember how I said I couldn't find my birth plan? I never ended up figuring out where it was, which worried me because I was trying for a VBAC and was concerned the nurses or doctor on call wouldn't listen to me unless I had that magic piece of paper with my doctor's signature, but praise the Lord I never once felt pressured for a c-section. We had a nurse who was incredibly pro natural birth (even when I was begging for drugs--ha!) and never felt like we had to fight to get what we wanted.

Family of six!
We've adjusted well to being a family of six, Benji is a perfect blend of all his big siblings, which is a remarkable feat since they don't look very much alike. He is relaxed, a good nurser, sleeps through noise and doted on by everyone. We are so thankful for our Benji Bear!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Baby Flip Flop is Here!

We welcomed Benjamin Lowell into our family on September 9th at 4:42 p.m. He was 8 lbs even and 21 1/4 inches. He is a very chill baby and we are all in love! Birth story coming hopefully soon...

Friday, August 11, 2017

Here We Go Again! (2017-18 Homeschool year)

I'm probably less nervous than I should be about having a fourth baby. I guess I figure that if the first three babies are weaned, potty trained and sleeping through the night I'll somehow manage to get there with the fourth as well. However, I am nervous about having a baby in the fall. Baby Flip Flop is due right around the time that Classical Conversations, Awana and Bible Study all start, so jumping back to our regular school year routine with a newborn is going to be a piece of cake, right? ;)

We started Math and Phonics last week so that we can take some time off once baby's born but not have to do school until the middle of next summer. We'll somehow make it to CC (I'm hoping) which will cover History, Geography, Art, Science and Public Speaking. For Awana, I'll be thrilled if all three kids finish their books this year. They'll all be in different books, and none of them can read, so having them all learn their verses each week is going to be a challenge. Timmy's well on his way to reading, though, and Isaac already knows most of his verses after hearing Timmy learn them last year, so that helps.

Here's what I have planned for each kid. Subject to change, of course.

Timmy (1st grade)
Math: Continuing with Math U See, he'll be doing Alpha this year.
Phonics: Last April we switched to Logic of English and we love it. He ended the year about halfway through Foundations A, so we'll back up a few lessons for review and keep plugging away.
Handwriting: We started Handwriting Without Tears last year and he is currently in the yellow book. I think he'll finish that and make good progress in the blue book this year.

Isaac (Kindergarten)
Math: He'll be starting Math U See Primer and is very excited to use the manipulative blocks.
Phonics: I bought him a copy of the LOE workbook last year, though he wasn't super consistent in sitting in on Timmy's lessons, so we're going to start again from the beginning.
Handwriting: I decided to have Isaac start LOE's handwriting since it's included in the phonics book. He's doing well, for a 5 year old perfectionist. ;)

Both boys
History: We're focusing on American History in CC this year, and I have some fun stuff ordered, like State Capital Sequence, a puzzle of the presidents and of course, lots of books.
Science: Anatomy and Chemistry are the focus, so lots of hands on models and activities will supplement our CC memory work.
Geography: We're going to work on drawing the US, and that includes me learning, so wish us luck.
Fine Arts: Included in CC this year. We may start the boys on piano lessons after Christmas, depending on how that whole 'life with a fourth kid' thing is going.
Read Alouds: I haven't planned them for the entire year yet, but so far we're reading Runaway Ralph, which will be followed by Stuart Little, Johnny Tremain (after I read it to make sure it won't be too far above their heads), The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Ralph S. Mouse. I'm hoping they'll fall in love with Narnia, and if they do we'll read more of those. If they're too scared (very possible) we'll shelve them for awhile. My guess is that much of the time I'm nursing the new baby will also be spent reading aloud, and I am looking forward to it.

Lydia (age 3)
I firmly believe that three year olds don't need formal schooling, but she was in tears this summer because she doesn't know all her phonics, so...we'll see. Maybe she'll teach herself to read or something like that.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

DIY Dry Erase Boards

Also known as How to Be Disproportionately Excited About Finishing a Project.

We do most of our homeschooling at the dining room table (or, let's be honest, the couch if it involves reading). We've got a good sized eating space and a dedicated school shelf so it works out well.

Awhile ago, we bought a world map from Amazon and Chris built a simple pallet for it to hang on. We really like it, and I always knew I wanted to add something to display our CC memory work on the walls as well. I wasn't in a huge rush since the kids can't read, but it's been on my mind for awhile, and I think it'll be a neat way for Chris to see what we're learning.

I toyed around with dry erase paint, but all my online research concluded that it was a) pricey and b) tricky. Apparently a lot of stores sell expired material which doesn't work well, so I kept hunting. I found dry erase vinyl at Hobby Lobby and decided to try that. So without further delay, here are my 6 steps to DIY dry erase boards.

1. Purchase small wooden plaques at Hobby Lobby in October. Occasionally see them on your craft shelf and think you know, I should really finish that project. Leave said plaques alone until July when you're trying to finish everything on your pre-baby list.

2. Sand the plaques and paint the edges. Here's where I messed up: I should have painted the entire thing. I mixed the paint color from a couple samples I had and probably wouldn't have had enough, but had I done so, it would have saved me a step.

3. Realize the adhesive dry erase surface is more see through than you thought. Also cut cardstock to fit each plaque, attach that to the dry erase surface and use glue dots to put it on the plaques.

4. Use Silhouette to cut out the subject names from vinyl and attach to each plaque. Mine are very obviously not perfectly straight, but we just hope people don't point that out. ;)

5. Hang with command strips.

6. Show everyone who cares (and even some who don't) because you are so thrilled to finally be done with said project.

The project ended up being fairly reasonably priced, which was nice. The plaques were $18 total and I used leftover paint and cardstock. The vinyl dry erase was $13, but I had a 40% coupon and didn't use all of the material.

Hopefully they hold up well. I can tell I need to add more glue dots, but I was running low and Hobby Lobby is an hour away (#smalltownproblems). Now to make sure I update the memory work each week!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Road Trip Activities 2.0

(Also known as The Trip For Which I May Have Slightly Over-Prepared.)

We just got back from an epic road trip (5,388 miles, to be precise) in which we saw much of the Western US and much of our families. We hadn't done a long road trip since Christmas of 2015 and I was a little worried about keeping the kids busy for that many miles When we first planned the trip, we knew we'd be caravaning with my parents for the second leg, but thought the kids would be with us for the first and third legs, so I maaaaay have over prepared. Maybe. (Pretty sure that when Chris reads this post, he'll roll his eyes and say "yes, yes you did,") Plans changed and Chris and I ended up driving the last leg kid free (which, yes, was as wonderful as it sounds). Don't worry, we didn't abandon our children; they spent a week with grandparents and great grandparents, going to the library, the pool and various parks and they arrived home safely yesterday afternoon.

Due to a last minute vehicle change we ended up taking Chris' Jetta station wagon, and I'm happy to report that it went much, much better than expected and we all still like each other. ;) It did make things a little cramped (all three kids in one row), so a few activities got left behind (roll of aluminium foil, extra sketch books and some construction magnets) but most of what we brought was well used

Last our last trip, I made road trip binders, which they asked for before we'd pulled out of the driveway (sorry, kids, I don't hand out activities until at least an hour into a trip). In the binders I put colored pencils (no crayons on a summer road trip!), a coloring page for each state went to, color by number, blank paper, dry erase markers, dot to dots, a map of our trip, etc. Restaurant bingo was a huge hit. It was pretty cute to hear "that's on my list!" from the backseat multiple times when they spotted one.

I also made travel trays and had some fun customizing them.

Pipe cleaners, strategically picked books (Where's Waldo?, a children's treasury, etc.), stickers and glow sticks (which, by the way, aren't really necessary on a summer road trip when you're not driving late at night) were all repeats from our previous trip. New this time were...
Finger puppets: The homemade Veggie Tales puppets from our last trip didn't hold up well, and I was lazy so I bought some from Amazon this time. They're super cute and are now in the game closet to be used for quiet time or future road trips.

Tic Tac Toe: I bought some colorful round magnets from Hobby Lobby, drew Xs and Os on them and then drew a tic tac toe board which I put into a page protector. Isaac and his Lovey played a bunch, which was adorable.

Plastic animals: I got some from Amazon and then printed off these landscapes, put them in page protectors and added magnets to the back so they'd stick to the travel trays. The kids ended up using them mostly without the pages, but the animals were definitely a hit. I found some road pages, too, for cars and airplanes.

Magnetic puzzles: I took a couple of jigsaw puzzles from the Dollar Tree and put a magnetic strip on the back of each piece. It would have worked really well if I'd measured and realized before we left that the finished puzzles were too big for the trays. Mom fail.

Target Dollar Spot Treasures: Several weeks before our trip (when we thought we were going to be in a van/have extra room), a friend and I went to Target in search of car activities. I left with a memory game, Old Maid and checkers (which we didn't end up playing), some sketch books, pirate magnets and some weird light up ball/Koosh hybrid things. 

Read alouds: I was thrilled that kids liked reading chapter books more this time around. We listened to Little Town on the Prairie, and I read aloud two Boxcar Children books (which I'd gotten on Kindle for a steal. I'm not a huge fan of eReaders, but I can't deny they're quite wonderful when traveling).

Would You Rather?: I printed these cards and put them on a ring, which was a fun thing we all could participate in.

Ice Cream Parlor: I cut cones, ice cream scoops and toppings out of felt. Nothing very exciting, but Lydia enjoyed playing with them.

Misc: The kids were each in charge of packing some toys in their backpacks (Timmy brought the necessary race cars, Isaac the airplanes and Lydia the dolls/stuffed animals). We also borrowed a couple Boogie Boards (LCD writing tablets) from a friend, though we only brought one due to space.

Also, kids are pretty content to just look out the window...who'd have thunk? ;) When your boys love building/construction and airplanes and your daughter loves animals, there's quite a bit out there for them to see. Isaac and I were excited to count the number of crop dusters we saw, and ended up with a whopping one. 

There are probably a few more that I forgot about. I'm not kidding when I say that I literally wrote down every activity so I wouldn't forget what all I'd brought, because pregnancy brain.  

Next time we epic road trip it will be with four kids. Not that we have one planned anytime in the near (or distant) future, but this baby is coming sooner than we think!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Lydia's Third Birthday Interview

1. What is your favorite color?
"pink and purple"
2. What is your favorite toy?
"Cash register" [she got a toy one for her birthday]
3. What is your favorite fruit?
4. What is your favorite TV show?
"Angelina Ballerina"
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch?
"ham sandwich and pineapple"
6. What is your favorite Bible story?
"Jesus died on the cross."
7. What is your favorite game?
[don't think she has one]
8. What is your favorite snack?
"I don't know"
9. What is your favorite animal?
10. What is your favorite song?
11. What is your favorite book?
"Ballet dancers"
12. Who is your best friend?
"Hailey. I just love Hailey."
13. What is your favorite cereal?
"Honey Bunches of Oats"
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside?
"Take the dirt off the ground"
15 What is your favorite drink?
"Orange juice"
16. What is your favorite holiday?
17. Who do you take to bed with you at night?
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
"I already told you!"
19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday?
"cake" [we had that...along with a BBQ]
20. What do you want to be when you grow up?
"A butterfly"

*later that day we had leftover pizza with pineapple on it, which she declared she didn't like. I don't understand three year olds, but I am highly amused by them.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Our Latest Volume

I put this on IG and FB but somehow forgot to announce it on my blog...

And we found out this week that it's a boy!

We're very excited to welcome this little man to our family. I'm also looking forward to seeing what name we finally agree on. ;) Thankfully the pregnancy is going well so far. The first trimester was far from pleasant, but by the grace of God we survived. I'm 20 weeks now and other than being exhausted at the end of each day, I feel pretty normal. The tiredness might also be due to having three other children. Maybe. Those three children are pretty great, though, and are looking forward to Baby Flip Flop joining our family.