Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cleaning baskets

Now that there's two kids in the house, I'm seeing the need for both more structure and more flexibility in our day-to-day schedule. So I'm finally (hopefully) biting the bullet and scheduling chore times for both Ellie and me.

On a recent trip to the Dollar Store, I put together a couple Montessori-type baskets for window cleaning, dusting and sweeping.

Window washing: spray bottle with window cleaner, squeegee, window wipes.

Dusting: just a duster for now. When she's ready, I'll add furniture polish.

Sweeping: a mini broom and dustbin and "magic eraser" knock off for scuffs. I'm going to add Bounce sheets for baseboards soon.

Luckily, we're at an age where this is all SO MUCH FUN and she begged to do more and more windows and more and more dusting. The sweeping wasn't as exciting quite yet...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sam's birth story

Sam’s birth story

Sam was due on July 13, 2013 and arrived 11 days later, July 24.

I started having contractions on the evening of Monday, June 24. When I went into the doctor the next morning, I was at 70% and 2cm, which was more than I had ever progressed with Ellie until her induction. I continued having contractions on and off, and the next week, I was at 3cm. My doctor said there was no way I’d make it to my due date at this rate. We were just hoping to hold off until after July 4, so Ryan could finish out his holiday work schedule!

I spent the evening of July 5 timing contractions – I was having pretty mild contractions at regular intervals, about every 2-3 minutes, and lasting for 30-45 seconds. I called Dr. Gould and she said she expected it was early labor and to call her when we got to the hospital. But after two hours, they stopped. The next night, I had some more intense contractions, but they weren’t regular and again stopped before I went to bed.

My next appointment was on July 9, and I was hoping and expecting to be further along after another week of contractions. But I was still at 3cm, which is where I stayed until my due date…and well beyond. I wanted to trust my body to go into labor naturally when Sam was ready to be born, so we avoided any interventions or inductions. We did try a ton of old wives’ tales and natural ways of stimulating labor, but nothing worked. I continued having intermittent contractions, nearly every day, but wasn’t making significant progress. Ryan kept assuring me that all this “practice” could mean a fast and easy labor, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

The first few days after my due date were wonderful “bonus” days we got to spend as a family of three, taking lots of walks, swimming, and playing together. Ryan and I had a date night at the Muny seeing an amazing production of Les Miserables. Those bonus days were beautiful and I cherish them! But they were also emotional, as I went between feeling like my body was broken and didn’t know how to go into labor, and feeling confident that Sam would come when and how he was ready.

On July 22, after a great non-stress test that showed he was quite happy and healthy, we stripped my membranes to try to get things going. I had progressed to 4cm, but was still at 70%. I had a lot of cramping and a couple contractions, but no labor. At this point, I was getting more convinced we were going to end up inducing again. I had spent two weeks trying every method I could find to start labor, and I had barely even progressed! We scheduled an induction for Wednesday, July 24. We initially were leaning toward Pitocin again, but Dr. Gould suggested breaking my water instead, and promised we wouldn’t be on a 24-hour timeline. If I didn’t start labor after 18 or 24 hours, they would monitor me for signs of infection and start Pitocin.

We arrived at St. Clare at 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning, after eating breakfast on our deck on an absolutely beautiful July day with Ellie and our parents. They all came to see our room and wish us luck, and then let us get checked in and settled.

The floor doctor broke my water at 11:30 a.m. and said I was at 90%, 4cm, and -2 station. I started having contractions at 12:30. I was due for monitoring at 1:30, and while I had initially said I didn’t want to be checked every hour, I was curious if the contractions had gotten anything going or if they were unproductive like they had been at home. The nurse even asked first if I would be disappointed if I were still at 4 or 5cm, and I honestly said no. That wasn’t an issue, however, because I was already at 6cm. This was hugely encouraging, and the contractions weren’t even that bad yet – I was breathing through them and not wanting to talk, but I definitely wouldn’t have come to the hospital yet had I been at home.

Over the next 20 minutes, the contractions started getting much more intense, and Ryan asked if he should have the nurse come check me. I said no, but then started getting hot flashes and mild nausea with each contraction, and I thought I might be in transition, around 7cm. I told Ryan to go ahead and call the nurse. She came in at 2 p.m., just 30 minutes after my last check, and I was at 8cm! She called Dr. Gould and told her to head our way.

In the next 30 minutes, I started having very intense contractions. I was on the monitor for about 15 minutes, sitting on the birthing ball and leaning back into Ryan with each contraction. I started feeling like pushing was going to be soon, and a lot of my pain came from trying to stay tense and not push. I got on the bed and they set up the squatting bar, which I was moving around with trying to relieve some pain. Dr. Gould arrived around 2:30 p.m., and said I wasn’t quite at 10cm but if I needed to push, I could and she would help. I tried pushing in a number of positions but nothing was feeling quite right. Dr. Gould said his head was turned just a bit and asked me to get on my side to help rotate it.

I had been looking forward to pushing, because with Ellie, it was a huge relief and my body took over. This time was quite different! I wasn’t feeling the strong pushes coming naturally like I did with her, but my body was clearly trying to get him out. The nurse was helping talk me through long pushes and trying to help me orient my body so I could push effectively and help him out. It was SO much more painful than with Ellie! After about 10 minutes, I pushed hard and long at the end of a contraction and could tell his head was close but not out. The contraction was over but I instinctually knew I needed to keep pushing, so I bore down again (Ryan told me later that his head was partially out, but not far enough out yet to let his shoulders come out too). Another contraction started almost right after that, and I pushed one more time and felt his head slide out.

He was born at 2:54 p.m., fewer than 3.5 hours after my water was broken and 2.5 hours after labor started! Had we been at home in labor, I don’t think I would have asked to go to the hospital until I was at 8cm, and that was less than an hour from when he was born. My doctor certainly wouldn’t have made it, and we may not have either. So apparently God knew what he was doing by not answering that prayer!

I held him right away while the nurse stimulated him to get him crying. He felt so much bigger than Ellie had! He was so warm and had beautiful brown hair and looked a lot like his daddy. He snuggled right in and nursed just for a minute while they let his cord stop pulsing, collected the cord blood and clamped his cord for Ryan to cut. I handed him over to Ryan to hold and bring him over for his measurements and screenings while I delivered the placenta and got sewn up.

Sam was 8 lb., 14 oz., 21.5” long and had a head circumference of 14.75”.

After all of that, I started to get out of bed so they could change the sheets, but as soon as I sat up, I felt really dizzy and lightheaded. I stayed in bed while they changed the sheets and felt better, but as soon as I started to nurse Sam again the feeling returned. I handed him off to Ryan, laid my bed down and said I thought I was going to pass out. Ryan said I blacked out for maybe 10 or 15 seconds, my blood pressure had dropped to 70/30 and they started a bag of IV fluids. I started feeling better right away, but every time I would sit up or tilt my head forward too far trying to nurse I would get dizzy again. I ended up not getting out of bed until 12:40 a.m., after sleeping for an hour or so. We joked that we had to add some excitement since labor was so relatively uneventful and quick.

About an hour after Sam was born, Ryan went to the waiting room to bring Ellie in. She immediately was looking for Sam and when I went to say hi to her and give her attention (as we had been told to do to help her transition), she pretty much ignored me and asked “Where baby Sam?” Ryan showed her how I was holding him and I said, “This is your baby brother!” She said, “I know. Grandpa Bob and Grandpa Bruce showed me a picture on the phone.” She wanted to hug him and kiss him and touch every part of his little body, and was asking about his toes and umbilical cord. She “helped” give him a bath, swaddle him and get him warmed up in the warmer, then got to hold him with Ryan. It was the most beautiful thing to see her as a big sister.

He is such a joy already, and it immediately felt like he’s part of our family.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Adhesive bandage name art

Am I allowed to just say Band-Aid? My journalism background says no...sigh. Well, these are Dollar Tree 40-for-a-buck multi-colored adhesive bandages!

Ellie is WAY into the boo-boo stage. Like, the stage where she puts a bandage on a boo-boo and then when it falls off, the boo-boo has mysteriously traveled to the other leg. The stage where bruises, scrapes, blisters and sometimes dirt are cause to request a bandage. I mostly blame my wonderful husband, who bought her princess Band-Aids as a fun surprise. There's no going back from that, kids.

She's also way into "E for Ellie!" Every car ride is now a hunt for the letter on signs, the sides of trucks, etc. She gets SO excited to find Es on street signs when we're on walks, or in her books, or really, anywhere. Just this afternoon she was having M&Ms as a treat at Nana's, and she turned one sideways and insisted it was an "E for Ellie!" At some point, I guess I'll have to break it to her that the name of the letter is not, in fact, E-for-Ellie.

I decided it would be fun for her to get to use bandages in a different way, and to get to play with some of the letters in her name.

I wrote her name (luckily, her name in capital letters is all straight lines) on paper, and then let her put the bandages over the lines to make the letters. I had to show her the first one, and then she caught right on and loved picking the colors and lining up the lines. Plus, it was GREAT fine motor practice -- opening the bandages, peeling off the backing and sticking them down. She spent a solid 20 minutes on this, and then promptly hung it on our fridge!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Morning calendar/circle time bulletin board

I'm calling this circle time, even though the "circle" right now is just Ellie and me. She's started asking a lot about days of the week and yesterday/tomorrow. I decided she was ready for a calendar lesson! I started looking at preschool quiet time bulletin boards on Pinterest and ended up doing way more than I originally intended!

To help you out in case you want to do something similar, and don't want to spend time recreating the wheel, I included a PDF of all the (non-personalized) pieces I printed. They're at the bottom of this post.

Here is our new morning calendar/circle time bulletin board:

Here's the closeup of the pieces:
Seasons and weather

Emotions. I like how Ellie decided Sam, who is still in my tummy, was feeling happy, and Daddy, who was sleeping after work, was feeling silly! She also wanted to add our dog, all her dolls, and some other family members. Apparently this section should have been bigger :-)

Activities for the day

Calendar and verse

Everything is attached with Velcro instead of push pins. I want to leave this in her room for now, and do NOT want push pins everywhere! Plus, when Sam is born, he'll be joining our "circle," and I certainly don't want a baby swallowing sharp little pins. I picked these up from Wal-Mart:

They are perfect because both sides are the same, so instead of having pairs only (hook and loop style), each piece can be used individually to hook to any other piece -- so there was NO waste. I ended up using three packages for the whole project.

Everything is also laminated, so hopefully it will last awhile. I left a bit of space at the bottom of the board in case we wanted to add something else later! 

I wanted tags for "yesterday," "today," and "tomorrow," but all the ideas I was seeing were based on using push pins (like hanging key ring tags, etc.). I didn't find a perfect solution, but this works for now:

I bought big plastic paper clips, and then taped paper to the big section with the tags written on them. They easily clip to each day's piece. Again, not perfect, but workable!

I also debated about how to store the extra pieces. I tried envelopes (too fat with the Velcro on them) and bulldog clips (same problem), thought about hole punching and using binder rings (but I was worried they'd wear out too quickly and that Ellie couldn't do it on her own), and considered a sewing or hardware-type sorter (but wanted Ellie to be able to see everything at once). I settled on buying poster board, stapling it to the back, and putting down a spot of Velcro to store each piece. Tedious? Absolutely. But I'm really happy with the solution. It's very easy to see all the pieces and pick the appropriate ones, and everything stores in the same amount of space. 

Here's the back, unfolded:

Days of the week are across the top, then months under them. Each month has its "special" calendar days -- holidays and family birthdays -- beneath it, so when we build the calendar for the month, we can add our special dates. On the bottom flap are the emotions (four sets of angry, tired, silly, cranky, happy, excited, and sad -- one for each member of our family, in case we all feel the same way some day!), spots for unused calendar pieces, weather and seasons.

On the back of the bottom flap are the other pieces, and it folds up like so:

This has the days and years for the "Today is" part of the calendar, all our activity blocks, and an envelope that holds the verses for each month.

The best part is that after ALL this work, Ellie LOVES it. 

She loved talking about the season and why each season had a different image on it (summer was suns, fall is leaves, spring is flowers and winter is snowflakes). We talked about how hot it is, and how it can be sunny even if it's cold. She ran to the window to check the weather and declared it sunny, then grabbed the tag with no prompting and put it where I pointed out the Velcro was. 

We talked about emotions (she thought it was hilarious that Sam might feel angry right now) and why each of us felt the way we did today. Then we went through and talked about the plan for the day, and she picked corresponding activity tags. 

Then, we talked about the day of the week (she found the right green "Wednesday" tag by matching the letters to the top of the calendar!!), month, day and year, and how "yesterday," "today" and "tomorrow" work. Last, we said our verse together a few times. 

I am SO excited to continue this special circle time every morning. It only took about 10 minutes, but she talked about it ALL day and said she couldn't wait to do it again TOMORROW :-)

Here are the files (.pdf):

Friday, June 7, 2013

Busy boxes

I did these in a couple hours as an option for Ellie when I'm nursing Sam in a couple months. She is GREAT at playing by herself -- as long as I'm talking to her and paying attention (we're in "Watch me!" phase). So I am trying to get as many independent activities ready for her now! 

I bought six Sterlite snap containers from Target for $16 total ($8 for a set of three, one of which includes a divider bin). Each is themed:

Thick ribbon, thin ribbon, pipe cleaners, wooden beads (disks, spools, spheres and colored blocks), pasta, pool noodle slices, buttons, pony beads

Scissors, sandpaper, plastic mesh, ribbon, straws, pipe cleaners, rubber bands

Glue stick, glitter glue, tissue paper, googly eyes, poms, feathers, gems, paper (stored under the green sorter)

Plastic placemat with big holes, embroidery frame, plastic mesh, buttons, wooden spools, yarn, learning needles

Melissa and Doug baby animals set, handmade stamps (wooden "handles" with foam stickers), paper

Play-Dough, clay tools, colored wooden rods, PVC rollers, scissors (not shown)

I hope this is an indication of the future...Ellie played with the lacing box by herself while I put together the other five!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Quiet book

One word: DONE!

I'm not the most creative person. Or the artsiest. Or the best sewer. Or the craftiest. And I am not, it turns out, a perfectionist on everything. But gosh darn it, given enough time and Pinterest help and grace on imperfections, I made this sucker! 

Ellie won't get it until after Sam is born, but I'm really excited to see how she likes it. She's watched me work on it some and wants to play -- but I told her it's a special thing for when she's a big sister :-)

I'm not a tutorial person, but I'll link back to my original inspiration for each page...

These are just sticky felt letters from Hobby Lobby I sewed over two layers of felt.

Left: Mailbox (flag goes up and down, front flap opens to reveal "letters" inside. Inspiration
Right: Road. Mail truck can "drive" on the road and visit the houses. Inspiration

Left: Dress up doll. The doll is sewn in; all the clothes are separate. Inspiration
Right: Clothesline with clothespins; "washing machine" that can store clothes. Inspiration

Left: Noah's Ark. Animals store inside the ark (it zips) and snap in pairs on the boat or water. Inspiration
Right: Rainbow sequencing. The cloud is a pocket to store the pieces. Inspiration

Left: Tent flaps open to reveal a picture of Ellie camping. The marshmallow sticks are loose so she can "roast" them. Inspiration
Right: Picnic food stores in the basket. Inspiration

Left: Barn doors open to reveal pig, chicken and cow finger puppets. Inspiration
Right: Garden. The beets and carrots can be "planted" and "harvested." One of my favorite pages! Inspiration (I just cut slits in the felt instead of button holing and it works fine).

Left: Petal number matching. Inspiration (I used a paint pen for the outlines and the numbers, and didn't use Velcro. Ellie isn't ready for number sequencing yet but is getting good at identifying numbers, so I wanted this page to be a little easier for her).
Right: Butterfly building. Two sets of top wings and bottom wings, and lots of pieces to decorate. Good for practicing symmetry! Another favorite of mine. Inspiration

Left: Shape matching. Inspiration
Right: Puzzles. There's the flower (four squares), an apple ("jigsaw" pieces) and a fish (strips). They store in a pocket behind the flower. Inspiration

Left: Puppy. She can hook and unhook the collar and leash. Another favorite of mine even though pup looks slightly crazed :-) Inspiration
Right: a generic pocket for any pieces that want to fall out. Let's not even talk about how not-straight this guy is.

The major thing I would have changed is learning to use my button-holer to make button holes instead of just hole punching! I may get around to it at some point, since some of the holes seem likely to tear. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Aquarium sensory bin

We started with a simple bin of aquarium gravel and a LOT of scoops and containers -- including plastic, metal, glass and ceramic. This kept Ellie busy for about two weeks with nothing else in the bin. She loved filling the two glass jars -- we even talked about transparent, translucent and opaque, and she's used the words on other things since then! She also liked making a "shaker" with the lidded box, and of course just scooping, dumping and transferring. 

Later, I added more supplies for a second phase:

This included fish (Oriental Trading Company), "sea urchin" spiky balls (don't remember where I got these), shells (from our wedding six years ago!!), and sea glass beads (Hobby Lobby).

She loved the additions and switched to a lot of role play with the fish. She also liked matching the colors of the balls with the fish. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spring sensory bin

Easter grass (Hobby Lobby on sale), pinwheels (already purchased from Dollar Tree), two sizes of carrot ornaments (Dollar Tree), mini colored eggs (Dollar Tree), metal tin (already purchased from Hobby Lobby), silicone pinch cups (already purchased from Hobby Lobby), tongs (already purchased from Hobby Lobby)

She found chopsticks and used them to push the Easter grass away from the eggs and carrots

Sorting the eggs into the tin

Monday, May 27, 2013

Snow sensory bin

I'm in major catch-up mode, so forgive the lack of explanation!

This was just Insta-Snow. A little water and some of this powder, and all of us (Mommy, Daddy AND Ellie) were totally entertained. We brought in a couple scoops and containers eventually, but really, the "snow" itself kept us busy for a long time!