Wednesday, April 17, 2013

{ Oliver's Birth Story }

My son is six months old today. I cannot believe how quickly time flies past, and as it goes by I scramble: taking pictures, jotting down milestones and trying to soak up every minute of this fleeting thing called childhood. I have taken a 19-month hiatus from this blog (which is infantile anyway, at best) in order to do all the soaking that I can, drinking in my kids and being sure that my priorities were straight. I can't say that I am returning to write regularly, but my baby's half-birthday is today - and I want to share the crazy story of his entrance into the world.

October 17, 2012

It was Wednesday, exactly one week before Oliver's due date. Jonathan had the day off from work so we had spent the morning getting a little housework done, and then he had taken off to go golfing. I still needed to clean the bathroom (odious task) - so I remained in my sweats, a huge white maternity tank, and my Western sweatshirt. No makeup. Don't even think I brushed my hair. While Annie ate lunch, I plowed through a pile of mail, paying bills, organizing coupons, etc.

After her lunch, I was putting Annie down for a nap and I had a strong contraction that was more painful than any I had had in the previous weeks. I read Annie a story then nursed her, after which I had another strong contraction.When I got back downstairs it was 12:45PM. I took the dog pee and made myself some lunch - then read a Thoene novel while I ate. I had a few more contractions about 10 minutes apart and 30-ish seconds long. I contemplated skipping my bathroom-cleaning chore, but figured these contractions would turn out to be a false alarm, so I plodded up the stairs with my cleaning supplies.

While cleaning, my contractions got seriously intense, especially when I would get down on my hands and knees. But I couldn't nail down any regular intervals, so I still wasn't convinced that this was the real deal. However, by 2PM I was worried that I would be in too much pain to take care of Annie when she woke up, so I tried calling Jonathan. I couldn't reach him, so I returned to cleaning. Because my contractions were becoming alarmingly more intense, I gave up cleaning and kept trying to reach the hubby.

Sometime around 2:20 I got a hold of Jonathan and asked him to come home...he would later tell me that he ran from the hole he was playing and jumped in the car and sped home. Good thing, too. Annie was waking up as he walked in the door.

Jonathan nervously tried to help Annie while trying to assess what I needed. I called the midwife for the first time at 2:30 when Jonathan got home, but because I couldn't tell her how close my contractions were or how long they were lasting - she suggested I monitor them for an hour and call back...or I could come in and she would check me out. I told her I would call back in an hour. Then I called my parents and my best friend, Ann. I started out the call with an apology about how this may be a false alarm, but they may want to start the drive to Bellingham.

Within the next 15-20 minutes, Jonathan felt we should just head to the birth center (BC). I was in agony and by this point contractions were pretty much one on top of another. I threw together a bag of things while Jonathan called a dear woman from our church who happens to live in our neighborhood and PRAISE GOD - she was on our doorstep in less than 10 minutes! She also happens to not be intimidated by our enormous dog and Annie adores her. In fact, Jonathan and I were able to slip out the front door without upsetting Annie at all, even though she had never been babysat by anyone other than my parents.

The drive to the BC I will never forget. I could not buckle my seatbelt. I could not get comfortable. I tried kneeling in the seat and facing the back of the truck. I tried side-lying (gave that up quick!). I ended up perched on the edge of the seat, gripping that handle they have on the ceiling of big trucks (y'know, then one you grab to hoist yourself up into the cab?). I called the midwife from the road and told her we were on our way. I couldn't believe how much pain I was in. I felt very out-of-control, and it made me anxious. I didn't understand labor that progressed this quickly. I was worried that I would get to the BC and the midwife would tell me I was barely dilated at all. I was worried that this out-of-control fast labor would actually be drawn out for h-o-u-r-s like Annie's was.

We ran into some construction on the way there, and were held up by a woman wielding a stop-sign. I kept hoping she would see me...that she would be able to read in my face that she needed to just let us through...but alas...we had to wait just like two people on their way to a movie or something. Anyway, we finally arrived at the BC at 3:45. Ten minutes later the midwife checks me and lets me know I am dilated to 9. I cannot believe my good fortune. I jump into the tub at 4 o'clock and am so relieved. We're at the BC. The pain will be over soon because the baby will be here soon. Yippee!   

At some point I discover that pushing feels a whole lot better than laying in the tub moaning. So I do it. I push during contractions and at 4:22, my water breaks all by itself. Four minutes later, Oliver's head was delivered. At 4:28, Oliver Richard was born and placed in my arms.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

{ The One Where We Go Camping }

Last weekend was one of firsts. The first time just our lil’ family has gone camping by ourselves (somehow, in 7+ years of marriage, Jonathan and I have never struck out on our own to camp...probably because it’s just easier when my mom does the cooking. hahaha). The first time that Miss Annie has gone camping. And our first (and last) camping trip of the year. We spent two nights at Baker Lake in the Mt Baker/Snoqualmie National Forest, got eaten alive by ‘skeeters’, slept little, argued much, learned how to do it better next time, and made some memories.

must remember to bring playpen and toys next time(!)

I grew up camping with my family, but we had an RV and that makes things like cooking and sleeping and camping with a baby just a little bit easier. Also, I never really learned how to tent camp efficiently, so I am having to learn it all by myself…and at our once-per-year pace, I am not sure I’ll ever get the hang of it.
she ate dirt about 1.6 seconds after this pic was taken

Bear Grylls says that a bit of food and a fire does much to boost the survivor’s morale, but he probably wasn’t paying $6 for a miniature bundle of firewood. Dinner was delicious though.

Day #2 showed improvements over the previous night’s mosquito buffet with WeissFamily on the menu. We drove 20 miles on a (mostly) dirt road to the mini mart and purchased some kid-friendly deet-free insect repellant, and applied liberally before heading up a forest service road (once again, unpaved) for our hike. It was only 10 miles, but at 10 MPH up a winding, BUMPY, 4-wheel drive required road, it took nearly an hour to reach the trailhead. I was immediately discouraged by the swarm of flies that greeted us when we jumped out of the truck and by the signage suggesting that Black & Grizzly bears had been known to frequent these hills, and what’s worse, we should also be aware that it was bear hunting season and we should do our best to alert hunter’s of the fact that we were in the area.  This could be best accomplished by carrying on a conversation, singing, or whistling while we hiked. Jonathan may have gotten tired of the incessant noise I made all the way up the trail, chatting his ear off, whistling the Andy Griffith theme song over and over and over again, or making up silly songs about not getting eaten by bears, but I was going to be darn sure that hunters and bears alike were aware of our presence. And I guess it worked as we were neither shot by hunters nor made supper for bears.

Anderson Butte :: Where we had lunch!

"Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God." Psalm 90:2
Oh, and I have been working on a HUGE craft project that has been way more time consuming than I imagined. I can’t wait to share it with you, but for now, here is a little sneak peek:
If you follow me on Pinterest at all, you may have an idea what I've got up my sleeve. I will say that I am about half way through The Decline & Fall of the Roamn Empire Volume I. Hehehehe

So, for all of you tent campers…any tips on how we can make our camping trips a little more smooth in the future, I am all ears!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

{ Slow Cooker Sunday | Sloppy Jose Goes to Greece }

People see my mother and know that I inherited my looks from her. We get the “are you two sisters?” question a lot (which is either a stunning compliment to her or a hint for me to start using under-eye cream at night). We both love a good bargain, and enjoy making things with our hands. But what most people don’t know is that we have another shared trait, we both turn into complete ogres when we’re hungry. Not joking.

In high school I ran cross country, and by the time I got home from a two-hour after school practice, it had been a solid six hours since I’d eaten lunch. Mom would press the “express cook” on my dinner that was waiting in the microwave, and no one would even ask how my day was until I was halfway through my meal for fear of ogre-girl. Unfortunately, this tendency to be a little snippy when hungry rears its ugly head the worst on Sundays after church. I’ve just heard a great sermon, I’m determined to apply it to my life posthaste, everyone at church was super friendly and complimenting my new haircut and…BAM! It’s 12:45, I’m starving because breakfast was a half an apple nibbled while I applied my makeup in the car on the way to Sunday School four hours earlier, and everyone better just get out of the way because dinner will not be ready fast enough. Add to this the stress of a husband who needs to be out the door for work at 1PM and a daughter who is wailing for her own meal (that only mommy can provide)…and you can see where this is going: Ogre City.  

All this stress means we either end up in the McDonalds drive-thru (which is definitely not Food Revolution approved), or I hastily prepare a meal (whilst Annie screams in the background) that the hubby gets to eat before dashing out the door, and I get to eat alone. So…now that you know way too much about me (and my mom!), I’ll get to the point: I’ve found a solution! The slow-cooker, or crock pot, is a head-slappingly simple fix to the ogre infestation we have around here – but crock pot cooking requires a bit of planning and prep work, which I would surely fail to do except for now I am blogging about it and it is slow-cook or shame from now on.

Inspiration for today’s meal was found here, but I’ve added my own flare to this tex-mex-sloppy-joe/Greek concoction. I hope you enjoy it, but most importantly, may it keep your own ogres at bay.

Sloppy Jose Goes to Greece
You’ll need…
1 package ground turkey (20 oz or so)
1 eggplant, cubed
1 cup salsa
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
1 T chili powder
1 t ground cumin
1 t dried oregano
1 (10 oz) package frozen corn
8-10 Pitas*
Fresh cilantro or parsley
Sour cream or tzatziki sauce
Shredded lettuce
Olives, sliced (black or kalamata)
Shredded cheddar cheese

Combine turkey, eggplant, salsa, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and corn in crock pot. Add about 12 ounces of water, salt & pepper to taste, and stir well. Cover and cook on high for about 4 hours.

Once your crock pot meal is cooked, prepare pitas. We grilled ours for about a minute on each side, but you can wrap the stack in foil and heat for 10-15 minutes in the oven at 300F or just eat them straight out of the package. Now would also be a good time to stir in a handful of chopped fresh cilantro or parsley to your crock pot meal.

Spoon meat mixture over pita (tostada-style or taco style) and add toppings as desired. Enjoy!

*I cannot say enough wonderful things about Alexia brand Greek flatbread-style pitas. They are delicious and freeze well. At my market, they’re located in the bakery near the fresh bread

PS: There are no photos of this meal because we ate it too quickly. Sorry…will try harder next time.

PPS: For those of you who go to church with my mom or hang out with her afterward, I have it on good authority that she now snacks between services.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

{ When This Life Is Over }

Today was…hard. From the grueling 2-hour commute to the funeral to the exhausted drive back home a mere two-and-a-half hours later…I was ready for bed at 4PM. The young wife of a long time family friend passed away last week, and we made our pilgrimage to show our love and support to the bereaved husband…and the 11 month old daughter left behind.

Like most, I don’t look forward to funerals, and *shamefully* try to avoid them whenever possible. But attending this one gave me cause for reflection. Even though I spent the bulk of the service bouncing Annie on my hip outside of the church sanctuary, I could still hear the things said. The songs played. The stifled sniffles of friends and loved ones. In one hour, the story of a life cut short was shared. Pictures shown, anecdotes relayed. One last chance to say goodbye, then everyone filed out to have lunch in the gymnasium. It got me thinking…what will be said in my hour? When it’s my body lying in the box at the front of the church?

My husband and I talked about this very question on the way home (when it’s a 2 hour drive, you have time for deep, reflective conversation). I shared that my desire would be that testimony could be given of lives I’ve touched. Whether it was a simple gesture like bringing dinner to a family with a new baby, or babysitting for an exhausted mom while she got some R&R, or going to coffee with someone who just needed a listening ear…will those people be there? Will someone stand up and say “Ashley served the Lord by serving her family, her church, and her community. Without need or desire for praise, she worked as for the Lord and not for men.” Will another come forward, smiling through tears, and pray a prayer of thanks to God, thanking Him for using my life and my words to draw that person into a relationship with Himself? Will glory be given to the Heavenly Father for the life of servant gone home?

In truth, I won’t need accolades upon my demise – but I do want my God to be pleased with the life I lived. So what to do?

"And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18 (NIV)

A standard of living summed up with a few seemingly impossible sentences. But "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13, NKJV). I am completely dependent on my Savior for the grace I need to live a life that pleases Him - and dependence on the lover of my own soul is a good the only place to be.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

{ A Mid-Summer Night's Post }

Summer has finally made her grand appearance in the Pacific Northwest, and we have been out enjoying every drop of sunshine that we can soak up – which has left very little time for documenting our activities. But my baby bear is asleep, hubby is relaxing on the couch, and I have a moment with my thoughts and my laptop to share a little bit of what we’ve been up to.

We have waited with frustrated angst patiently through most of July to have any consistent warm, sunny weather. I thought if we had one more day of rain I would do something desperate. But slowly, beautiful days started to string together, eventually forming glorious summer weeks. It is so breathtaking to get up in the morning and peer out my window and see that we have blue skies and sunshine AGAIN!

This sweet little girl and I took a trip to Boulevard Park on the bay for a little stroll and to watch the sunset. It was so beautiful, and so much fun to spend time with Annie...away from the house and the day-to-day stuff we have going on. Just to sit and watch the sun go down and the water lap gently on the rocky shore. Annie practiced sitting up like a big girl, while trying to pull up grass and eat it like her big pup, Wesley.
Our big, sweet dog commands a lot of attention when we go out

I almost missed this moment. Annie has been taking 3-hour naps right smack in the middle of the day, normally getting up around 4:45. It is so easy to let opportunities pass me by, because by the time she wakes up, we have to walk the dog, eat dinner, play a bit, take a bath, and then off to bed. But I forced myself on this day to load up a baby, a Saint Bernard, a stroller, and enough belongings to keep us all fed and happy for a few hours into our truck and take off. 

Spontaneity is becoming less and less of a scary thing for me. I am a planner by nature, and like to have things on the calendar so that I can be prepared ahead of time. But with a baby who's need for sleep apparently changes with the wind, I am learning to roll with the punches a little more. Besides, as Annie grows I want her to see a mother who is organized, but will drop everything for a great trip to the park, or will drive the long way so we can see that field with the horses, or will linger on the Barbie aisle at Target for 25 minutes for her to pick just the right doll...You can't make plans for those memories. The opportunites just come up, and you take 'em, or ya don't.

Summer means dinner on the deck...and in the buff. Well...only people that smear their carrots in their hair have to eat in the buff. 
Trip to the doggie park
Park playdate
 What have you all been up to this summer? What memories are you making with your families? I hope your summer is beautiful, even if half of it does end up being rain.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

{ 6 Months: Looking Back | A Birth Story }

Sunday, January 16, 2011 – At 5:11am I woke up with a very painful contraction. My baby was 10 days over due, and I had been having mild contractions for several weeks – but this one was different. Far more painful and I couldn’t think about something else. After the contraction ended I tried to fall back asleep, but about 7 minutes later I had more pain and I woke Jonathan up. We agreed to try to sleep more, but we got up before 6am because the pain was too intense.

Downstairs I made a pot of oatmeal with diced apples and walnuts. Contractions continued to come on strong about every 6-7 minutes. At one point I dropped to all fours in the kitchen…Jonathan was sure that such intensity could only mean that the baby was near at hand, and he wanted to call the midwives ASAP. I convinced him that we should really wait. We played Yahtzee while we ate our breakfast. I only got about halfway through my oatmeal before another contraction came on. The feeling made me want to vomit, I couldn’t eat the rest of my oatmeal. In between contractions I felt great – and even scored an amazing 532 on one round of Yahtzee!
At 7:30am we called our doula, Erin, and put her on alert, but told her we didn’t need her at our house right away. We also called our midwife, Kristin, and let her know that I was in early labor. She wanted us to check in again when contractions were 5 minutes apart, one minute long, for one hour. At about 8:30am we called Erin again and asked her to come out to our house. She arrived about thirty minutes later. At this time Jonathan called my parents and told them to head to Bellingham. I text messaged my best friend, Ann, and she began her drive from Seattle.
Once Erin arrived, she began timing my contractions She helped me with different positions that encouraged bringing the baby’s head down on my cervix. She encouraged me to drink lots of water and eat when I could. When contractions were 5 minutes apart, I phoned Kristin again. We all agreed to meet at the Bellingham Birth Center (BBC) at noon. Jonathan called my parents and Ann and rerouted them to the BBC – asking them to kill time until we got there. I wasn’t feeling like visitors.
Erin encouraged me to use the last 60-70 minutes before we left for the BBC to rest. I would lay on my side in bed with a hot pack on my back, then rise up to my knees to work through a contraction, then lay back down. My sweet Saint Bernard, Wesley, would not leave my side and was quite agitated by my obvious discomfort. I was also moaning in low tones as a coping mechanism, which probably didn’t help with poor Wes’ nerves, either.
At 11:30am we left for the BBC, and arrived on schedule at noon. Kristin was there to meet us, as was the student midwife (Beth), my parents, sister April, and Ann. The midwives checked my blood pressure, fetal heart rate, and questioned me about how my labor was progressing. I chatted in the waiting room with my family for a few minutes, then went back to my room to be checked for dilation and effacement. This would be the last time I saw dad, April, or Ann before the baby was born. They will never know how much it meant to me knowing that they were in that waiting room praying for me and supporting me through my labor.

12:30pm – 4 centimeters dilated, but stretched to 5. I was a little disappointed. With how much pain I was in, I was hoping that I was at a 9 and getting ready to push. Boy was I kidding myself. We still had almost 11 hours to go! It is a good thing you don’t know how long the labor will be once it begins. It is truly a one-contraction-at-a-time sort of thing. You can’t look too far ahead, and you certainly can’t dwell on how long you’ve been at it. Just focus on getting through the current wave.
I spent time in the tub, changing positions frequently trying to keep the baby moving down. I was in the tub for about an hour and a half the first time – and I cannot report that it relieved my pain. I still hurt. A lot. I was moaning through each contraction. I felt like I must sound like a heard of lowing cattle. But it was the only way to get through. I felt bad for my family listening to me out in the waiting room…
Four hours after my last exam, the midwife checks me again. I’m still at 5 centimeters, but she stretches me to a 6. I look at my doula in despair, and begin to weep. Four hours! One centimeter? Quick math tells me the road to 10 centimeters could be a freakin’ long one. Jonathan holds me. Erin rubs my back. I boo hoo for several minutes, then pull myself together – my baby needed me.
At 5:00pm my family reports via doula Erin that they have dinner and are offering Jonathan some grub. I encourage him to eat (remember that 6am bowl of oatmeal? Yeah, that’s the last significant thing either one of us has eaten). Jonathan is reluctant to leave me, but I tell him to send my mom in. I know as soon as I see her that she has been dying in the waiting room listening to me in pain. And I didn’t know how much I needed her with me until she was there. Joking with me in between contractions. Breathing with me through them. Rubbing my back. Encouraging. Praying.

Still in pain (duh) I jump back into the tub at 6:00pm. At this point I feel miserable. I’m saying I want to be done. My stomach is rolling and I tell my mom I need to vomit. A large bin is produced. I fill it. Twice. Honestly, I felt like this is the worst thing that could’ve happened to me. I hate puking. But – my stomach felt so much better after the vomiting incident – and when I got out of the tub at 7:45pm, I had more good news. 9 centimeters! *insert fist pump here*
The downside was that this 9 cm was accompanied by a swollen cervical lip that just wouldn’t budge, and the baby can’t come out unless you are a perfect 10. Thus would begin the most painful two and a half hours of the whole labor. We tried everything to reduce that swelling. A natural anti-inflammatory. Side-lying with changing sides every two or three contractions (I wanted to hit someone every time they told me to turn over). Rupturing my membranes. Finally, my midwife decided enough was enough. She ‘manually’ reduced my swollen cervix while I was pushing (a practice that, simply put, is barbaric).
I started pushing at 10pm on the birth stool. Then on the toilet. Then on my side. Hands and knees. Finally they had me on my back. Apparently baby’s large head was reluctant to make its way out. I never felt a strong urge to push, something I think was a huge detriment. We’re not sure why I never felt an urge, but my doula was confident it would not be a repeat problem with baby #2 (ha! As if I was even thinking about pushing something else out of myself ever again at that point).  

Around 10:50 I was able to reach down and feel the baby’s head. Talk about second wind! I could almost taste victory. This marathon was almost over! The midwives were scaring me, though…constantly checking baby’s heart rate and then looking at their watches, then giving each other looks that made me feel like everything might go downhill in a big hurry. So when contractions rolled around, I pushed with all my might. When they asked me to do something, I did it quickly, even if it hurt worse than whatever I was doing before. Then they put the oxygen mask on me.
11:12. Ring of fire. I scream a pretty feral scream. And her head is out. I was ready to retire. Then we sit there for what seems like an eternity waiting for another contraction to help me push the rest of the baby out. It feels like forever, but a minute later…

11:13pm. Annie Joy draws her first breath. And then she screams for about thirty minutes. But I fall in love as I cuddle my new babe on my naked chest. She’s a little purple/blue, but obviously breathing fine. I think she looks so tiny. My mom confirms that the baby is, indeed, female. Jonathan has tears in his eyes as he kisses me, then Annie, then me, then Annie again. He has been on edge for the last 18 hours, and he is finally at peace to know that both of his girls are safe and sound.
Photos courtesy of Erin de Kock

Friday, July 8, 2011

{ A Nursery Tale }

I hope you guys had an awesome Independence Day (woo hoo for the long weekend!). Jonathan was working on the 4th, so Miss Annie-Bear and I hung out, just us girls. Ahem. And Wesley.


So ever since before Annie was born, I have been meaning to get pictures of our nursery up (on FB) and just never got around to it. I made this awesome video while I was still huge-o preggers, but never posted it either (until now). But lately I finished some final projects in the nursery-in-progress, and wanted to show it off…

I also wanted to inspire. You see, this nursery was done on budget smaller than our bun in the oven, so that meant a lot of DIY projects and thinking outside the box. So without further ado, the nursery:


I had no idea what we were going to do for a nursery. I knew I didn't want anything theme-y, and it would be a huge perk if whatever we chose would grow up well with our little girl. Jonathan and I had bought a Thomas Kinkade print of his painting of Cinderella Castle while we in Disney World in 2008. I knew I wanted to hang the print in the nursery, and make sure the colors we chose for the room would draw out some of the lovely shades in the print. I chose to make my own curtains, so mom and I spent a few hours in JoAnn Fabrics hemming and hawing over fabric choices. I knew that once we chose a fabric and concept for the curtains, the tone and color choices for the nursery would be firmed up.
When all was said and done, the curtains for both windows, ribbons, and rods set us back about $80. Not bad for custom, huh?
Our La-Z-Boy rocker/recliner was free from my parents. I picked up a sheet from Ross for about $10 to cover the ugly thing. The cute little nightstand was EXACTLY what I wanted. Originally $100(!) at Fred Meyer, I picked it up for $30 on sale. The lamp was a DIY project involving leftover curtain fabric, some ribbon out of my craft kit, and a couple of by-the-yard embellishments from JoAnn's. Oh...and let's not forget the cute lil' piggy bank I hand-painted myself to match the curtains.
Ahh the dresser. A labor of love, to be sure. Much like giving birth to a baby...
Okay, so it wasn't that bad, but it was a lot of work, mostly because it was our first refinishing project. We picked this little gem up at a garage sale for a mere 20 beans. After stripping, sanding, priming, spray painting, and putting down pretty contact paper in the bottoms of the drawers, we figured we were out an additional $30. So $50 for a custom dresser? Don't mind if we do.
Also - that gorgeous shelf? $3 at a garage sale (it was new in a Lowe's box, originally marked for $25. Score!) 

And all this fuss for this sweet little munchkin. Who, by the way, refuses to sleep in that crib.