Thursday, July 24, 2014

"Bad Days"

The bad days are the days I try (and usually fail) to see what God is teaching me through things like a feverish baby, food crumbs on the floor of every room, or changing clothes seven times a day (the babies as well as me) because of sweat, food, urine, or boogers. 

The bad days are the days when I look at my trials and sufferings and just ask God why. This sure isn't the plan I made for myself, God, so why are you so set on it. 

The bad days are the days when a clean house is so far out of reach that I stop chasing it and just sit on my butt with a whole lotta attitude. I snap at my kids and I feel frustrated and sorry for myself, and I'm definitely not gonna accept the fact that it's because I've shut down instead of being present and living in the present. 

The worst part is that, once I've decided that it's a "bad day," it's hard to be open to the good things that happen. Instead of accepting these moments of joy, it's all too easy to be wrapped in my selfish thoughts and miss beauties like this: 

Don't let bad days take away your joy. God is testing you to strengthen you for his purpose. See the day as He sees it and if you can't, at least take pictures...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why Not?

When it comes to parenting, when I am floating around aimlessly in an abyss of my own indecisiveness and insecurity, I try to doggie paddle over to the sunny shores commonly known as the "Big Picture." This is a beautiful place where you're not wearing rose-colored glasses, so much as you've been slipped something in your drink and end up dreaming a whole different, happier version of events than those which actually occurred. 

Some mothers seem to have the luxury of always living on Big Picture Island. You'll often hear these women saying, "It will all work out," "Cherish those boogers and crushed Cheerios while you can," or "I know he just poured out an entire gallon of milk into a box of cherished photos, but he's just such a blessing that I can't get mad." Secretly, we covet their ability to let things go and appreciate every moment of their children's lives. Also, secretly, we kind of hate them. But haterz gon hate, cause the big picture is what's UP. 

There are a million ways to lose your sanity as a parent. (75 pee stains on the couch, anyone?) Nitpicking over every little thing your child does shouldn't be one of them. Seriously. 

While there are plenty of things I say no to for my own sanity or for the well-being of our family as a whole, I say yes as often as I can. I just decide to be the grown-up, pray for peace, and look at the big picture. Whether my son asks me to do something specifically, or if I'm just overseeing something he is already in the process of doing, I make sure to always ask myself, "Why not?"

Use all the tattoos at one time...
Why not?

Blow colored bubbles indoors...
Why not?

Rub said "colored bubbles" all over your body...
Why not?

Eat "cold coin" (frozen corn straight out of the bag) every day for lunch for a month straight...
Why not?

Go commando...
Why not?

Make colored eggs. Every Single Time we make hard-boiled eggs...
Why not?

Play in the dryer...
Why not?

Have a ladybug birthday even though it's "for girls"...
Why not?

Close-up of the awesomeness of this cake:

Put stickers on mama and baby...
Why not?

Eat all the Easter candy in five minutes...
Why not?

Use adult scissors...
Why not?

Use the camera...
Why not?

Because honestly, this time with our children does just slip by. I want Lenny to remember that I let him run outside in the rain in his underwear and gave him a cookie for breakfast. I sure as heck don't need him to remember the time he took out a hundred tupperware and threw them all over the floor or the time he unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper and tried to flush it along with his underwear, and I flipped out on him. I read once that it takes ten positive encounters to counteract one negative one. How much more, then, must we do to maintain not just a neutral balance, but a positive one?

So step back, look at the big picture, ask yourself "Why not?" and just say yes.

One of my favorite things to read that I have hanging up inside the pantry door.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Carolina's Birth Story: My 1 Hour and 54 Minute Labor

This story starts with us trying to get pregnant so that our second baby would be born before we moved to Houston for Chris to start a new job after his graduation. So we are trying and five months go by before we see two pink lines on a pregnancy test. Before I was even due to get my period I knew I was definitely pregnant. I couldn't wait until the day of to take the test, so the day before I was due to get my period, on Christmas Eve, I took a test first thing in the morning. Of course it said I was pregnant and I jumped up and down on the bed to wake Chris up and show him. I was so happy I told all of our family the very next day as a Christmas present.

So then we found out that my due date was September 2nd, and Chris's first day of work in Houston would be August 12th. Commence panicking. Chris's health insurance plan was due to run out on August 24th so we figured we would get on his new plan through his work as soon as possible and that everything would work out just fine. Lenny was born 6 days late so I thought I would probably go until my due date at least. I looked for some doctors that accepted Medicaid, since we also had that for the pregnancy. I couldn't find anyone who would take me at 36 weeks, so we figured as soon as we got on the new insurance plan we would find a doctor then and still have a few weeks to spare before the birth. 

I did find an awesome birthing center about a mile away from the apartment we would be moving to, and they were happy to have me. Their fee would be a flat $5000, but Chris said his new insurance would cover most if not all of it. So once we moved, we visited them, loved the place, and planned to make an appointment as soon as the new insurance was figured out. I was 36 weeks and Chris was due to start his job (after a week of unpaid training) the day I hit 38 weeks. Since both of my pregnancies had been extremely normal, I wasn't stressed about missing any appointments. Besides, I felt no desire or need to get cervical checks after reading about their basic uselessness and potential for harm. So we started a little waiting game while my sister and I idled at the pool and unpacked our things. 

We kind of talked a bit about what we would do if I went into labor before we had everything straightened out, but we didn't really come up with a plan or worry too much about it. I knew for sure Carolina would come around my due date or after. I kept saying that she would probably come around two days after my due date. Cause, you know, I had one child, so automatically I'm an expert. 

At the end of our first full week in Houston, my sister Lucia calls and says that she found a super cheap flight for Saturday morning and wants to come visit. Of course I told her to come. So the next morning, on August 17th, my sister Maria (who had been staying with us) and I drove to the airport to pick her up. It was a bumpy drive and my Braxton-Hicks were acting up like they did any time I did any driving. Totally normal for me. Since probably around 30 weeks my Braxton-Hicks were strong enough to regularly wake me up at night and they got to the point where I was actually sort of breathing through them whenever I got them at night and whenever I was driving. This had been going on for several weeks so I really thought nothing of it. Everybody says they get worse with your second child, right?

Well, we all hung out for a while and I was grateful that I got to stay behind and take a nap while my sisters took Lenny to the pool. I didn't even make it upstairs to the bed- I just face-planted on the couch and passed out. I slept for almost two hours and woke up all hot and sweaty right as they were coming back inside. I went to the bathroom and noticed that I had lost my mucus plug. This was around 2:30 in the afternoon. For me there wasn't a noticeable plug. It looked a lot like fertile type mucus, tinged with a few tiny streaks of blood. I had to wipe over twenty times before I wiped it all away. I mean, it was a LOT. I was feeling a little bit worried but everyone knows you can lose your mucus plug weeks before you go into labor, and it will regrow itself. Plus, I already knew the baby wasn't coming for another two weeks. So we kind of freaked out a little bit, but Google and I managed to calm everyone down. Maria and Lucia decided to go out for a while. Chris and I sat down and went through all the "what-if's" just incase I happened to go into labor before he got us on the new health insurance plan. I had done a lot of research into the best area hospitals but we decided that we would just run directly across the street to the little medical center there. I called them about taking a tour of the facility and registering, but they told me to call back on Monday. I planned on doing that, and Chris was going to talk to his HR department first thing Monday morning to get the health insurance set up. He couldn't do it the week before, because he wasn't on the payroll yet. 

Maria called us after 7 and asked what we wanted from Boston Market. So at around 8 we all sat down and had chicken sandwiches. Now remember I had been having Braxton-Hicks all day. After the mucus plug fiasco, everybody was in my face every time I had one, asking me if I was ok to the point where it was getting a little bit ridiculous. I still didn't dwell on them because for the past three months I would get them randomly. Sometimes I would have five in an hour, then six hours would go by before I'd get another one. I never dwelled on them because I didn't want to freak myself out. Now all of a sudden while we were eating I got the real McCoy. At 8:30 pm, I was frozen over my sandwich with my birthing face on, breathing all hard and of course this time no one even noticed. 

The contraction passed and I said, "Uh, guys. Sh** just got serious." I immediately had to go to the bathroom and spent 20 minutes in there with labor diarrhea (sorry for the TMI) while my sisters are timing my contractions through the door. They are coming every five minutes. Maria and I are having a lively debate over whether or not I am in actual labor. Of course I wanted to be in denial but it wasn't possible. Meanwhile, Chris is absolutely freaking out. I actually had to tell him to calm down so he wouldn't stress me out. Once I was able to get up from the bathroom I basically barked out orders and got ready to go to the hospital. 

I didn't have a chance to get my group B strep test because I missed my 37 week appointment, but I had tested positive early on in my pregnancy, so I knew they'd need to give me antibiotics. We decided I should get there early on in my labor so they would have plenty of time to do the paperwork and hook me up to the IV. I was so blessed to have Lucia there, because I really wanted both Chris and Maria to be there with me at the hospital. I gave her the job of putting Lenny to sleep, while I went around the apartment amassing a collection of random things to bring with me. I think I may have grabbed four pairs of pajama pants. I was just power walking from room to room, grabbing anything and everything that I thought I might ever need. Apparently I planned on being there for a month. I was doing really well with the contractions, swaying and breathing with each one. I stood outside the car during a contraction, and when it was over we drove right across the street and parked in front of the emergency room. On the way over I felt kind of silly getting to the hospital so early. I was feeling fine, my contractions weren't really getting any closer, and I even managed to convince myself that my labor was stalling because I didn't have any contractions on the way over. (Even though I knew it was literally a two minute drive.) We got out of the car and I remember saying that I thought my labor was stopped. Then I got another contraction that was a bit stronger, and we went inside. It was about 9:00. 

I don't remember much about checking in, except that I thought everyone who worked at the hospital was extremely stupid. The hospital was old and ugly and it had that stinky motel hallway smell. Of course they forced me to sit on a wheelchair to go to the labor and delivery room, which is like the world's biggest joke. Every bump and jolt made me want to puke all over the nurse while punching her in the face. 

We got into the room and Chris was on the phone with registration answering a million questions. They sent me into the bathroom to change into the hospital gown and at this point I almost started weeping. I kept telling Maria that I didn't want to do it, that I wanted something to help with the pain. I suppose this was transition talking, paired with my anxiety over being completely mentally unprepared for birth. I didn't want an epidural, just a little bit of whatever they could give me. I told her, "I know I went all natural with Lenny, but screw that. I don't want to do this." So Maria asked the nurses about it and they basically said they'd get to it. 

They had me lie down on the bed and I asked if I could get up and walk around and take off the fetal monitor. They looked at me like I was an alien, and said they had to ask the doctor when he got there. I laid there breathing through my contractions, remembering to keep my lower half loose during contractions, and so I was pulling myself up while crushing Chris and Maria's hands during each one. My arms were aching but I felt like I was still dealing ok. I was breathing nice and slowly and my contractions were not that close together yet. The nurses asked me so many questions, it literally took them an entire HOUR. They even asked Chris when was the last time we had sex. I was laying on the bed like what the what can y'all just shut up and get on with it?! I had already told them about the group B and they were yet to hook me up to an IV. Finally at about 10:00 a nurse checked me and said I was at 9 cm. I was shocked. I even asked how that was possible since my contractions were sill far apart. I guess the nurses realized I was actually going to have a baby soon because they started moving around the room getting the antibiotics and other stuff set up. I was so anxious about not getting any pain meds and the nurse of course said there wasn't any time for that. I said, "Can I at least get a Tylenol?" She laughed and asked me what I thought it would do and I said "At least it will take the edge off!" Needless to say I didn't get the Tylenol. After this the contractions started getting worse. 

Around 10:15 a nurse told me to lay back so they could insert the IV into my hand. I scooted up to the back of the bed but then a contraction came that made me jump up on my knees, I reached forward and grabbed Maria for support and then my water broke. It was so heavy, I said, "What was that??" Even though I knew it wasn't the baby, I checked to make sure. It literally felt like a mini water bed fell out of my uterus. Maria was kind of shocked too. Chris was standing to the side, reaching out his hand ready to support me. They gave me about ten seconds to recover before having me lay down again to get the IV. Maybe one or two bad contractions passed. Just as I felt someone grabbing my hand to put in the IV, I jumped up again in semi-terror, and yelled out that I was pushing. The nurses told me not to, I guess assuming that I was doing it just for fun? I was trying to explain that I couldn't stop, and they were trying to tell me to calm down and lay back down. I felt someone grabbing at my hand again and I wanted to scream out for the love of God enough with the freaking IV!!! I pulled my hand away and tried to stand up on the bed. I felt a literal bowling ball in between my legs and felt my body pushing her out. There was no stopping this train. Still they were just uselessly telling me to lay down and then the doctor came in saying that I would hurt the baby if I didn't lay down. Well Maria finally grabbed me and said "Pant so you can lay down!" I had kind of forgotten you could do that, so I started panting and basically flung myself down on the bed with my butt hanging off the end because I was basically frozen and couldn't really move my body. 

The doctor finally sat down with his gloves on and I asked/screamed, "Can I push now?!?" He said yes so I stopped fighting my body and her head immediately came out. He told me not to push, unwrapped the cord from her neck, and then the rest of her popped right out. The time was 10:24 pm, and she weighed 5 lbs and 15 oz, born two weeks and two days before her due date. I was so relieved and I kept demanding to hold Carolina, but she wasn't breathing that well so they worked on her a little bit while I kept harassing them to give her to me. I felt so good and just amazed at how my body handled birth like a total boss. Chris looked at me and he was just exuding joy and relief, and he actually said to me, "Well, I'm not scared of birth anymore." To which I thought and may have actually said out loud, "Goooooood for you." (As sarcastically as possible.) It felt like hours but they finally let me hold Carolina and I fed her, then got yelled at by a nurse for "taking a huge risk by waiting til the last minute to come in." I wanted to smack her face off her face. Then they stuck me unnecessarily with a pitocin drip that I did not ask for or approve. We got schlepped off to another room where they made me wait for three. whole. entire. days. before I could leave even though everything was completely normal and fine. And that's it! 

I know it's an excessively long story, but I needed to write it all down so I wouldn't forget, and so that Carolina would be able to know all the details of her birth whenever she's old enough to want to know. It was an insane experience but I'm glad it happened the way it did. And of course my greatest happiness is in having a happy and healthy baby girl!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

HOW TO: Clean Your Kitchen In Five Minutes

Yes, it can be done.

Not the best picture in the world, but you get the idea.

Step 1: Put your kids to sleep. Now, tell yourself that you are going to clean the kitchen and that you will be quick about it. Envision exactly what you want to do and don't waste any time re-organizing your pantry or fridge. No distractions. Just go fast and get it over with.

Step 2: Tenderly gather all your dirty dishes into a bag. Now throw this bag in the trash.

Step 3: Just kidding! Now in order to speed up the time it takes you to do dishes, you should be rinsing every dish as it goes into the sink during the day and them placing all these pre-rinsed dishes on one side of the sink. This keeps food from sticking and makes it a lot easier to just shove everything into the dishwasher when you're ready. If you stick to this method dishes should truly take you no more than two minutes. Any dishes you have left over should be all piled neatly on one side of the sink until you're ready to do another load.

Step 4: Get your kitchen sponge loaded up with water and dish soap. Then get ready to scrub every single surface. As the sponge begins to dry out, just head back to the sink to rinse with water and get another squirt of soap. Don't bother trying to scrub anything unless the sponge is really wet- you'll just spend extra time and elbow grease. To make things quick, develop a routine and stick with it. This is the order I use when I wipe down my kitchen- sink, table, chairs, high chair, counters, stove top, trash can. (Throw the sponge in the dishwasher after this step.) Just make sure you are going fast. Wipe crumbs onto the floor and pull out things on the counter as needed to wipe underneath. No need to wipe off any soap or dry anything. That's in the next step.




Step 5: Take a kitchen towel and go over everything in the same order, drying, wiping off soap, and buffing any spots you missed. It doesn't have to be perfect! Wipe down everything but the trash can. Your towel should be pretty damp. If it's not, just add a tiny bit of water from the sink and use the towel to "spit-shine" your appliances. Refrigerator, outside of microwave, oven, etc. should all be cleaned pretty easily with a damp rag and with no streaks left behind. Steps four and five should take no more than two minutes. This is not a deep clean, just a quick run-through. Wipe down the trash can last and hang the rag up to dry so it doesn't mildew before you have a chance to put it in the washer.

Step 6: Sweep. Again, to make things quick, develop a routine and stick with it. You can easily waste so much time just deciding where to start sweeping. I always start on one side of the room and sweep into a pile near the middle, then move the kitchen chairs to one side of the table, sweep under the table, put the chairs back, then sweep the other side of the room. My mantra- it doesn't have to be perfect! Don't worry, the baby will eat whatever crumbs you left behind! (Kidding again!!) Sweeping should take just one minute.

Step 7: Mop. (Whats mopping?) If you have a dark floor you can just be gross like me and only mop once a month. Just wipe up spills with a soapy sponge as they happen during the day and you can wait longer before really needing to mop.

Step 8: Sit down on the couch with a glass of wine and look at your beautiful, shining kitchen. Be sure to do this immediately after cleaning so that it's actually still clean by the time you get to take a look.

No food crumbs on the table!

And there you have it!

Honey-Fig Granola Bars

I had tried a couple of different granola bar recipes a few months ago trying to save money at the grocery store and cut out all the junk in pre-packaged granola bars. I didn't really have too much luck, though, and it seemed like I was spending way too much money on the ingredients. I mean, I can get a box of 8 chewy bars for $1.88. So I gave in and have been buying the store brand recently. But have you looked at those ingredients?

Sorry for the semi-blurry photo quality. 

First of all, if there are that many ingredients, you already know they're no good. But more or less the ingredients are grains and sugar. Pretty much empty calories. So I decided to have another go at making granola bars today. I basically threw whatever I had in the pantry into a bowl and they came out great. 

So here's the recipe:

Honey-Fig Granola Bars

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup salted pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/2 cup puffed rice cereal
10 dried black mission figs
10 pitted dates
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup peanut butter

You can use any kind of nuts and puffed cereal that you want, and you could also add chocolate chips, dried cherries, shredded coconut, or any other healthy mix-in. If you don't use salted nuts, you may want to add about 1/4 tsp salt. You can also omit the chia seeds if you don't have any. There are just added for the health benefit since they don't add much to the flavor. 

First soak the dates in warm water for about ten minutes or until they get soft. 

Then put the honey and peanut butter into a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds or until you can mix it together easily. 

Next, chop the figs and dates into minuscule pieces. This should take about 8 hours. Or you can use a food processor if you have one. I do not. Don't forget to check the dates for pit fragments and the figs for stems. 

Mix all that stuff up in a bowl. You'll probably need to use your hands. If it doesn't seem to be sticking together all that well then you'll need to add more peanut butter. 

Line a small glass baking dish with plastic wrap and press the mixture down until it's flat. 

Leave some plastic wrap hanging over the sides so you can easily remove it.

Freeze for about 20 minutes or until it sticks together well enough that you can cut it without it all falling apart. Then place each bar into a snack size zipper bag. I like to store them in the freezer but the fridge is fine, too. 

This healthy goodness:



What was the cost for this? I bought a lot of these ingredients a while back so I can't remember the exact price, but I'll estimate. 

Oats: $0.25
Pumpkin seeds: $0.50
Chia seeds: $0.25
Cereal: $0.20
Figs: $0.50
Dates: $0.50
Honey: $0.55
Peanut butter: $0.50

Total: $3.25

This makes 8 big bars vs. 8 tiny chewy bars that you can buy. Now the store brand chewy bars I buy are $1.88 for 8 but the name brand is closer to $3. And if you look at the ingredients of the home-made bars they are all very healthy, especially the pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and figs. These granola bars are actually closer in nature to a Kind bar which cost $1.50 for one. So I'm definitely saving money and I need to stop being lazy and get back in the habit of making granola bars again!