Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Appreciating Christmas

I wrote and shared this devotion at my MoPs (Moms of Preschoolers) meeting last week, and I thought I'd share it here too, since I share so little on this blog these days.



Christmas used to be my least favorite holiday, so much that I've been called Scrooge. I'd be anxious over gift-giving (which probably started the year I forgot to give a gift to my mom), being at every holiday function, and basically making sure everyone was happy.

I hated Christmas as a whole and justified that dislike by questioning its purpose. Why don’t we celebrate Easter so excessively? Christmas originally was a pagan holiday that the church took over centuries ago. Where does Jesus even say “Remember my birth.”?

These may be legitimate arguments, BUT the birth of Jesus is the only pinpoint in time. We actually measure the years of history before and after His birth. The Old Testament stories all point to Jesus, and the new Testament and our lives today point back to Him. His life and death are both celebrated in Christmas because that was His purpose for coming to Earth.

The turning point for me in my acceptance of Christmas was in our church sermon this Sunday.
Luke 2:13-14 “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.’”

Our pastor said to imagine every angel. The birth of Christ is so important that all the angels showed up to worship God and celebrate.

Christmas is worth celebrating, even in the stress of seasonal expectations. And that’s what they are - expectations we put on ourselves to please people. Will our kids have a good experience? Will my parents be disappointed that we’re spending the holiday with my in-laws? Will my friends be hurt that I can only afford family gifts this year? Will Grandma gently disapprove of my choices in parenting? People are going to have expectations, but I discovered my anxiety came from expectations I put on myself to make the best dish, give the best gift, be at all the events. But not to give God my best.

This holiday is about Jesus. For better or worse, our culture has made it big and excessive. Some parts of that are great, like giving to toy drives and food banks, teaching our children generosity. Other parts are not that great, extra traffic and frenzy at the mall, worrying about entitlement.

Whatever you and I decide to participate in this season, let us calm our hearts and mediate on how we can please God. What does He want of us? Gifts, family, and food will never satisfy the longing of our hearts. Those things will never relieve us of our burdens. We’ll either be left with day-after-Christmas blues or be relieved that the season is over while missing the point.

Are we pointing our kids to Christ? Are we ourselves celebrating the moment that everything changed? The moment that God fulfilled His promise to Abraham, and Jews and Gentiles alike could be grafted into the family of God?

Galatians 10:1 says, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Let’s do our best to be servants of Christ during this Christmas season.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Moana Birthday Party


We just celebrated my daughter's 5th birthday. We let her choose between a hotel visit (like Disney resort or Gaylord Palms) or a party with friends. My party-loving daughter chose a Moana birthday party. 

I picked and chose ideas from around the interwebs, so I thought I'd compile them here for anyone out there who might be planning their own Moana party. 

Invitation


The only contact information that I had for all the guests were phone numbers, so I knew I was just going to text the moms an invitation. To avoid sending a group text and to avoid re-typing all the details, I found a printable invitation online, added our information to it and sent it as a photo to each of the moms. Here's the link where I found the invitation we used. 

Costume

We're big into costumes in this family, and somewhere along the way, a costume became necessary for a birthday party. I didn't want to shell out $45 on Disney for a screen printed costume that my kids would probably destroy after a few months. Unfortunately Amazon and Walmart didn't have anything either!! (Walmart sells them in store only, and the stores I visited were always sold out). 

I told this to my daughter, and she said, "You can just make one!" I appreciate her confidence in my abilities. I didn't want to make a Moana costume, because it seemed to complicated, but once I got into it, it was actually very fun. 

I used this YouTube tutorial by Sam Skyler as a guide and made adjustments like sewing the skirt and shirt together to make a one-piece outfit. I went with a tank top that we had from last year's Charmander costume, because a tube top like Moana's would just fall off my daughter. 

I have learned that if I want my kids to wear the things I make them, then those things must be comfortable and pretty. 

We did a beach photo shoot the week before her birthday.
Little sister was begging all week to wear the Moana dress. I finally let her after the party. The next morning I walked into the play room, and she already had it on.


I made two of Moana's necklace (one for each of my older daughters). I viewed two tutorials and chose the steps from each one that I felt comfortable with. The tutorials were The Sorry Girls and Simple Practical Beautiful. 

I couldn't find a suitable pendant at our craft store, so I used this modeling clay recipe from Family Education and sculpted my own. Then I painted them with acrylic paint and sprayed them with glossy acrylic sealer. 

Letting the blue paint dry before painting the top half gray.

I used the tutorial from Simple Practical Beautiful for the spacing and tying instructions. I didn't bother with the fringe part, but just did a single knot around the whole necklact. I used The Sorry Girls' tutorial's idea of using fishing line for the pearl beads (actually got the clear string in the jewelry section of Walmart). I broke an old play bracelet with pearl beads and used them on the necklaces. 
Using my childhood clipboard just like when I used to make friendship bracelets!
The final necklace turned out pretty great, but the hemp is a little scratchy, so my older daughter (whose birthday it was) only wore it at her party, because she's more sensitive to how things feel. My younger daughter wears it everyday. 

I also didn't bother with the etching on the top half of the pendant, but in retrospect, it would have been nice to at least add a little wave or something. Oh well! 


Cake

I did this cake more for me than for my daughter. Her top priority was that the cake have Moana toys on it. I bought this toy set with Maui and Moana, so that she could play with them later too. I had to order online and pick up at the store because every big box store was sold out in the stores. 


I used a couple different ideas from the internet, but mostly I used this tutorial from EzeBreezy to make the Moana cake. It was very simple, but after watching way too much Great British Baking Show, I wasn't 100% happy with my creation (the sponge was dense and dry...oh well!) I needed it to feed 30-40 people, so I plopped the round cakes on a 13x9, and we only had a little leftover. 


All the kids wanted "water cake," or slices with blue icing. If your party guests are the same, I suggest doing the entire 13x9 part in blue too! I only used two canisters of Pirouline cookies, but the tutorial called for three. 

Favors

The party favors were Hearts of Te Fiti, which the kids loved. Super simple project! I collected oval-shaped rocks from my garden, spray-painted them emerald green, then hand painted spirals on them in lime green. Then I sprayed them with glossy acrylic sealer.
I also had two craft stations set up. One with coloring pages of Moana and one with pre-cut hemp strings and assorted island-looking beads for kids to make necklaces. They loved that too! 


Pin The Tail Game

I considered painting a Hei Hei, but went with something more simple. I painted a basic palm tree and cut out green circles from construction paper. We played Pin the Coconut on the Palm Tree. No prize for the winner, just fun. 



Decorations

There were minimal decorations because our clubhouse doesn't allow you to hang anything from the walls. I make little palm trees from construction paper and toilet paper rolls and set them on the window sill above the food table. 


I looked at some Moana fonts online and created a welcome sign on our chalkboard. This was actually a bit difficult for being such a small detail in the party. 


I used this FontMeme to create the sentence in the Moana font, then I just free-handed it onto the board. 

Hope that helps inspire you to new heights as you plan your own Moana birthday party! 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Oswin's Birth Story

AB Mills Photography

I'm officially a mom of three. It hasn't fully sunk in yet. We found out we were pregnant in August, and I posted this announcement in December. Here we are on the other side at newborn life again, and I couldn't be happier.

*As with my other birth stories, this gets pretty real and raw. Read at your own risk. *

*All the awesome pictures in this post were taken by our videographer and friend, Alexis Mills, who also did our maternity photos. She can be found here and Facebook *

AB Mills Photography

Three things made my last weeks of pregnancy extra difficult psychologically:

1. My babies come fast, so we were instructed not to wait too long to get to the birth center. 
2. Despite my history of going past my due date, I had a false alarm at week 37, which put me on early alert for "any day now." 
3. Baby #3 gave me more false contractions than my previous two. 

I was anxious and irritable during my last two weeks of pregnancy. Sweet pregnancy moments like this maternity shoot were behind me, and I was more than ready for baby to come. 

AB Mills Photography


Thursday was Zane's first official day of advanced leave for six weeks. I had a my 39 week prenatal appointment. The midwife and I discussed membrane stripping the next week if I felt worse than I did that day. I was grumpy. I went straight to my chiropractor appointment and impulsively added on an acupuncture treatment, which aids in natural induction. I hate needles, but I was so over being pregnant.

Thursday night was awful. I was so stressed about baby coming or not that I sobbed myself to sleep. Not a pretty picture. 

Friday morning, still pregnant. We had a lot planned that day, so the day went by quickly. Determined to not repeat the previous night, I had a glass of red wine (scandalous), magnesium supplement CALM, and chamomile tea. I was relaxed and went to sleep easily.  

I woke up at 1:55am with contractions.  I called the midwife at 2:48am, after an hour of them coming 3-7 minutes apart and lasting for 1-1.5 minutes. We decided to meet at the birth center at 4am. 

Zane's mom came to stay with the girls, I texted our videographer, and we were off. I only had three contractions in the car. Every time one subsided, I worried that I wouldn't get another one, and this would just be another false alarm, which I don't know if I could have handled. 


The midwife and birth assistant had just discharged another mom, so they were exhausted from not sleeping all night. She took our vitals and said that given my history of fast births, I could labor there a few hours to see what would happen. 

Alexis (our videographer who also took these phone shots), Zane, and I hung out for a couple hours. Alexis timed my contractions for me, which was helpful because every time the midwife came to check on me, it seemed I was between contractions. She kept implying that it may not be real labor, which made me anxious to prove to her that it was, but I couldn't make my contractions come any more regularly. They were sometimes 10 minutes apart, but would last for 2 minutes. They gradually got more intense, which was reassuring, though painful. 

The midwife gave me a large dose of magnesium, but my contractions never went away. She suggested that maybe it was early labor. 


When the sun came up, we walked around outside. Alexis and Zane were both very convinced it was true labor, which was helpful, because I needed encouragement that I wasn't crazy.

Zane left for about 30 minutes to get Chick Fil A, during which time Alexis applied counter pressure to my back (Zane's job) during contractions. When he came back, I took one bite of the chicken biscuit, had a contraction, and put it aside. It made me want to vomit.



This position of me standing behind the couch and Zane pressing on my back was my preferred way to labor. There were some contractions where his counter pressure completely removed the pain, so much that I wondered if I was really having a contraction. I'd ask him to lift his hands, and the pain would return. Counter-pressure works wonders!

Oswin was ROT for the last couple weeks in the womb - Right Occipital Transverse, which is a type of posterior, which means back labor. I had done lots of spinning babies stuff to try to help her, but she liked that position. I only labored vertically and did lots of tummy lifting to encourage her to turn.



After three contractions in a row pretty close together, I got in the tub. A couple minutes later I had an intense contraction that reminded me of Amy's birth. I started crying and asked Zane to pray for me. I sobbed into a towel on the side of the tub, not wanting to feel the pain that was about to come.

These photos make labor look so serene and peaceful. Though it was painful, I wouldn't want to labor any other way. 


During my sob fest, the new midwife (on-call midwife changed at 9:00am) came in and said hi. The contractions picked up in intensity. She checked my progress. I was 8cm, and my cervix was stretchy, so she said to push whenever I wanted. The last time she took Oswin's doppler heart rate, Oswin was completely anterior, the perfect position for birth.

I tried a couple pushes, but it didn't seem like the right time. My legs were falling asleep from the kneeling position, so I sat back and stretched them out.

The midwife told me to let them know when I felt the burn so they could support baby's head.

I soon got a crazy painful contraction that included my first push. I moved back to my corner of the tub in my relatively comfortable position, and let the contractions come. I moaned and groaned and grunted through them, thinking, "I can't do this another time."

I heard many voices, including the midwife who caught Amy. Everyone was very encouraging. Alexis and Zane changed out the cool wash cloths on my head and neck.

I felt her descend through my pelvis and growled through the push to get her head out. I took a break, and the midwives said, "Don't stop!" So I pushed her entire body out in one push, which was unlike my previous babies. With my first two babies, I pushed out the head, took a break, then pushed out the body. Oswin came out in one long, exhausting push at 10:18am.

They said, "Deborah, look at your baby." But I was too exhausted from the push, so I said, "I can't. Give her to Zane."

Zane helped catch her, and he lifted her out of the water. He said it was the most amazing experience.

AB Mills Photography
I turned over and said some things about how much that sucked, but when they passed me Oswin, joy came over me. She was screaming! She has a great set of lungs. I kissed her head and told her I loved her.

AB Mills Photography
I had another contraction, which I had to breathe through. I had forgotten about after contractions. They were pretty bad.

The midwives drained the tub and helped me step out with Oswin still attached to me via cord. I felt a contraction coming and squatted down, worried I'd drop Oswin. I said, "I'm gonna poop!" They said, "That's okay!" But instead I delivered the placenta. They wrapped it up, put it in a bowl, and helped me to the bed. This was the first baby that we could delay cutting the cord, so it was strange for me to hold her with the cord.


Apparently when I took the break pushing her out, she was only out to her nose, so she had some light bruising on her cheeks that went away by her second day of life. 

I didn't tear at all, and my bleeding was very normal. Oswin was perfect and nursed within an hour, which helped the after contractions along. My tailbone has been sore ever since, most likely due to all the back labor. My uterus was sore for a couple days, but the cramping has subsided for the most part. 


We were discharged at 2:00pm. The girls were at home waiting for us. Zane kept them in their bedroom while I got Oswin out of the carseat and sat down with her. He filmed them running out to meet her. It was like Christmas morning. 


Daisy said Oswin was adorable. We asked Amy what she thought, and she said, "Good." Amy asked about her going back into my belly, and we explained it was a one-way trip. 

This recovery period has been amazingly easier than after my previous two babies. My parents have helped so much, and Zane is completely off work and school. He can focus 100% on us. Our 2-day postpartum visit and Oswin's first doctor's appointment were a breeze. It felt like Zane and I were on a day date.

3 days old
I'm not sure what the weeks ahead will look like when grandparents go home and eventually when Zane goes back to work, but I'm enjoying these short first days of life, knowing that Oswin will grow up too fast.

My other two unmedicated birth stories:
Daisy's Birth Story
Amy's Birth Story

Our amazing birth center:
Labor of Love

Our wonderful photographer/videographer:
AB Mills Photography
Oswin Peace's Birth Video on YouTube

Friday, March 17, 2017

DIY Foam Headboard

We recently upgraded to a king size bed. After two pregnancies in a queen, I knew I needed more space for the last three months. Plus, I like to cuddle, but not sleep and cuddle. I don't like to touch when sleeping, so I wanted more space between us. (Sounds so unromantic, but we really do love each other).

Our queen mattress was a hand-me-down from Zane's college roommate's parents, so we had been sleeping on it for nearly 10 years, and who knows how old it was when Zane inherited it. Gross.

We visited a mattress store and were hopeless about ever affording to upgrade. King mattresses are minimum $1000. I researched beds that ship to you folded up in boxes, like you get from Ikea. Sleep Like the Dead was a great resource because it has a bajillion unbiased reviews. We ended up getting a mattress and platform frame from Amazon for a fraction of the cost of a mattress store mattress.

Platform frames are pretty nice, because you don't need a box spring and there are several more inches of storage space under the bed. Win!

Our mattress: Zinus memory foam
Our platform frame: Zinus 14''
We also needed headboard brackets, which had mixed reviews, but we had no trouble with them.

We've been sleeping on this bed for several months and are very happy with it.

Let's get to the headboard. Our bed is under a window, and when we sold our queen bed frame, we were without a headboard for months. I apparently liked sitting up in bed, because I went through withdrawals for a little while, not sure where to use my laptop. (I'm currently writing at the kitchen table, so I obviously adjusted).

I knew I would want to breastfeed #3 comfortably in bed, so project headboard began.


We measured our bed, the height to the top of the mattress and the height I wanted the headboard, and did our calculations.

We bought a $30 piece of MDF board and a 2''x4'' from Lowes. They cut the board for us to 78x26'' and cut the 2x4'' in half to give us two 48'' long pieces.

In retrospect, I would have gone with 76'' or 77'' long because it does hang off the edge of the bed a little. I would also have done 20'' or even shorter. Our headboard is very tall at 26''.

Since everything was cut at Lowes, we only had to assemble at home. Zane screwed the board into the 2x4's.


We had a queen size memory foam topper with no queen mattress anymore, so I cut two pieces at 26'' wide. It is already 78'' long. I think we bought this for $70 on Amazon a while ago, so it was good to repurpose it.



We carried the board into the bedroom and set it next to the headboard brackets to mark where the holes needed to be. Then we carried it back to the garage, and Zane drilled holes for the bolts.



I used Gorilla Glue to glue down the bottom layer of foam. Zane got a nice shot of my 33 week baby belly.


We spot-glued the top layer of foam.



We used one of our old queen flat sheets to secure the foam onto the board.



I always wanted to have a staple gun, and we finally got to use it for this project.



We screwed on the headboard and slept with it for a few nights before I could finish a prettier cover. The nights without a pretty cover had me second-guessing the project. I looked pretty shabby, but after I finished the cover, I was happy with our decision.

This fabric was formerly the curtains in our bedroom, but I love it more as a headboard cover.


Someday I'll get prettier pillows and a fluffy bedspread, but for now, we're very happy with our new headboard. It's super comfy and I love the bright colors with our mismatched pillow cases.