PHANEROO \fan-er-o-oo\Greek: to manifest in word or deed.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Daughters, A Must-Read!

If you are a daughter, have a daughter, know a daughter, have a son who will marry a daughter then you must read this amazing article about modesty. The readers' comments below the article are enlightening as well. Many of us have probably missed the mark on this issue with ourselves and with teaching our daughters (and sons).

I used to believe modesty was a balance somewhere between pride and shame. I thought you should find a happy medium, a point where you aren't focusing so much on your appearance that it becomes pride (trying to earn favor with God through dress). But also not being motivated by fear of my femininity and trying to cover it up out of shame. I've probably spent a great deal of my days contemplating the midpoint on the modesty continuum. If on the modesty axis Pride is point X and Shame is point Y, then we are not even on the right axis. Turns out, modesty is not about finding a happy medium between those two points of sin, because it's not a point at all. But rather, it's the whole graph - it's about the glory of God! The aim in modesty should be to minimize our own glory, and direct focus on the Glory of God who is in all things, above all things, and creator of all things. Should it surprise me that it's about the glory of God? No. But sometimes we all get our motives off course and need a friendly nudge to get back on course.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Traditions

Traditions are such a neat concept. As a parents we hope to kick off some worthy traditions in our homes. But, what and how things end up sticking around is such a mystery. It's hard to say what we'll be doing 5 years from now...or even in 2 years. So for now we are test-driving some possible new Christmas traditions for our family.

It all began with my hope that we could celebrate Christmas all month long! Our family loves to celebrate birthdays, and who better to celebrate than Santa?! I'm joking of course! I lucked up when I found a downloadable advent calendar geared for young kids. I love finding resources where all the planning is already done for me (and free is a huge bonus). We haven't done all the activities listed on the calendar, but we have done quite few and we've tailored it to our family. The daily scriptures have been awesome in guiding our devotion time. BJ is heading up this time for the kids in the evening since they have to hear me talk all day. I didn't want this to fall into the category of "just another homeschool lesson lead by Mom." We want it to be (more) special. Not to mention, my brain is fried crispy by the end of the day and BJ can step in with a fresh new zeal (that word doesn't get used enough these days).

We are also making an advent paper chain. I can't remember where I saw this idea, but I loved it! Each night, after we read the scripture passage, Lily and Schaeffer decorate a strip of paper to be added to a paper chain (2 kids x 25 nights = 50 chain links). My addition to this activity: Box up the paper chain after Christmas and break it out next Dec 1 to begin adding to it again. Griffin will probably be old enough to participate next year (3 kids x 25 nights = 75 chain links). In 18 years we will have quite the paper chain - possible entry into the Guinness Book of World Records! Nonetheless, it'll be fun getting the paper chain out each year and looking at the links with their drawings and writings on each one.

Who says all the Christmas fun has to be focused on Santa? Jesus is the most awesome, exciting man who ever walked on earth! I cannot think of a better way to celebrate this magical season than to make it all about HIM!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Where Have I Been?

I don't know where I've been, but by the looks of things I haven't been at Phaneroo. So here's a quick update to get up to speed.

1. Phaneroo needs a makeover. I have 4 kids now and the banner doesn't reflect that.
2. Charlotte turns 9 months old this week. What?! 9 months you say? That's crazy! Yes, I know. I think so too.
3. Speaking of Charlotte, she is now 100% weaned from breastfeeding. It wasn't my idea, but my body just completely decided to quit producing. I guess after 7 years of either being pregnant or nursing my body decided it was time for a permanent hormone intermission. Part of me is sighing relief. The other part of me is sad. I cried when I realized that breastfeeding was coming to an abrupt end.
4. Our family is done growing in numbers, unless God decides to have a good laugh or he leads us to grow our family other ways. The baby-making shop is closed. Once again, I cried. Transitioning through stages of life is always difficult. But I shall look ahead to the glorious future God has in store for WWorldWide.
5. BJ and I are now on an animal-free diet. In technical terms it's called "vegan." I don't necessarily like the terminology because in general vegans are nutsoids. For them it's usually for religious, socioeconomic, animal activism, or environmental reasons and we don't fall into any of those categories. For us it's purely health. For BJ it's all about Rheumatoid Arthritis (dairy and meat are top 2 and 3 inflammatory foods). For me its trying to avoid what seems to be the inevitable heart disease that runs in my family, and which cropped up in the form of gestational diabetes in 3 of my 4 pregnancies. And honestly, I totally enjoy my new way of eating. It's easy, cheap, fun, experimental, healthy, light, guilt-free. (And, by the way, it's no way related to my breastmilk production issues. Production stopped well before I changed my diet.) Protein comes in many forms, but most people don't know that many veggies and grains have protein. I get more protein (minus the cholesterol and extra calories) in my breakfast oats than most folks get all day. The goal is to eat freely of vegan whole foods. I've learned that I really do like fruits and veggies just the way they are with minimal processing and no butter. My favorite lunch is a baked potato drizzled with olive oil, a dash of salt, and crushed rosemary and a side of steamed broccoli. I've always loved my veggies so now I get as many as I want. My grocery bill has been cut in half, although, the kids still have meat and dairy but they are getting exposure to a ton more fruit and veggies since they are in abundance in the fridge.
6. We are busy with school. Lily and Schaeffer are both at River's Edge 3 days per week and home schooled 2 days per week. I'm busy. And to top it off, I'm serving on the school's board of directors. I don't know what compelled me to say yes to that one. I'm learning a lot and enjoying meeting some new folks. I have been encouraged by the other board members who are trying their best to serve the school, the families, and staff at River's Edge.
7. We love having a live-in babysitter with us. Her name is Lana. She is a grad student at UT. She works part-time and helps with babysitting and chores 3 days per week here at home. I'm getting quite spoiled with this arrangement. BJ and I get date nights. Wow! What a boost to our marriage!

Well, that's the top items for now. Time to get ready for bed. A full day is ahead. I've really missed my Phaneroo moments. I shall return soon...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cruze Dairy Farm

I found a new blog that's fun, and about a local farm family who sells organic dairy. We will be visiting their farm in a few weeks during a Pre-K field trip with Schaeffer's class. Check 'em out, ya'll!

Saturday, August 6, 2011


If you are a shortie like me, then you have a difficult time shopping for clothes that fit proportionally. A lot of styles cater to tall and slender types - I'm more of the short & full-figure type (post-babies). There are a lot of clothes on store racks that just make me look dumpy. It's a struggle for us shorties to find outfits that flatter and that are cut to our proportions. So I was very excited to come across ExtraPetite. If you are a shortie then you will appreciate it too. (Although, the model appears to wear size 0 and 2, which I most definitely do not!)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

How safe are your personal care products?

I found EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database to be extremely helpful in finding natural and safe products. I was appalled that some of my so-called natural products are not very safe because of some of the chemicals in them. Check it out and search your every-day products and see how they score.

I was concerned that the Arbonne products, which claim to be pure, safe and beneficial actually scored worse than my cheap discount store brands. I will definitely have to factor that into my review once they arrive...I'm a little scared to use them now. And, this site is helpful in identifying products if you have a member in your family who has extremely sensitive skin, such as my Griffin.

Ciera and I was up late one night this week doing some fun girl time. We made our own skin treatments: sugar honey scrub, pore strips (made of gelatin and milk), aspirin scrub & mask, and my favorite, kitty litter mask. Kitty litter without additives is actually a natural occurring mineral bentonite which is great at absorbing oil and impurities. Unfortunately the kitty litter that I had purchased was a different kind of mineral and wasn't as great at dissolving into a clay so we'll have to try that again another time. Check out Michelle Phan for some cool skin care DIY's.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Lot Going On Around Here

So that you will be forewarned, this post will be full of randomness and it will probably end up being fairly long. That's so unlike me to be random and disorganized but that seems to be the flow of my life right now, so...we'll go with it.

Ciera has been with us all summer helping with light housekeeping (kids' laundry, vacuuming, dishes as needed, etc.) and babysitting. She has been a huge help! I DO NOT look forward to her returning to school, but she's a smart girl and her education is important. Working here probably reinforces her need for an education so that she's not stuck being someones maid or babysitter for life. I think our busy home wears her out.

Lily began therapy for Central Auditory Processing Disorder at the beginning of the summer. This disorder is very complex. She was recently tested by UT's audiology department, as referred by her therapist, so that we could get a baseline reading of her auditory system. She scored "severely" low when her left ear had to discriminate sounds that are very familiar: ba/da, chu/shu... She also scored low when her right ear had to listen closely to a voice when background noise was also present. This background noise would be similar to a classroom, restaurant, or even our home with 4 kids. It's amazing how in-depth the testing was and how revealing the results were. Based on those results, she will begin Fast ForWord on Monday at Parent-Child and will be there 2 hours per day, 5 days per week for 6 weeks. We will work around her school schedule when that starts up. But what's super exciting, this intensive computer program should help her auditory system mature quickly and she will no longer suffer from CAPD! What a huge praise!! Meantime, she will also continue to receive Occupational Therapy for some other sensory things. I am optimistic that all these things will help resolve some of her learning struggles this year.

Charlotte is almost 6 months old. I can hardly believe it! She's growing up so quickly. She is super sweet, laid back most days, loves lots and lots of attention from everybody, makes lots of noises, smiles and coos at us all the time, laughs out loud at our silly faces, grabs all sorts of toys and anything within reach not excluding my hair and jewelry. She is a precious blessing to our family.

We visited Nana Kaye and Nana Faye last week. The kids had a blast seeing the chickens, exploring the gardens, making a camp out spot on the floor (Doug style), and eating ice cream cones and the best iced lemon muffins you will ever put in your mouth. Nana Kaye's gardens are beautiful right now - green, blooming, lush, perfect.

I might be going vegetarian. I know that sounds weird and completely random. I started thinking back about my week and realized I hadn't had any meat and I didn't miss it at all. I then began to think how much I don't really love meat and in the past have just sorta ate it because I thought I needed to for protein and iron. I'm not opposed to eating meat, I just don't think I really love it enough to miss it. And besides, BJ avoids beef because his cholesterol had crept up and needed to cut it out. On my last grocery shopping trip I stocked up on a bunch of Tennessee homegrown vegetables and fruit since they are in season. And so this week I made meals around those veggies and not around meat. This week we've had vegetable pasta, black bean & homemade salsa burritos, sauteed squash & zucchini, rice, oven-roasted rosemary potatoes, harvest grain bread, corn, strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, bananas, SC peaches, and a bunch more things that I can't remember. I did make some homemade chicken noodle soup for the kids because they like it and I can sneak in whole grain noodles. I realized that I enjoyed cooking all those veggies this week and mixing up a bunch of fruit into smoothies. I know I could never go vegan because I still enjoy dairy and eggs. And I do enjoy salmon and some seafood occasionally. Maybe I'll say good-bye to beef and poultry (never liked pig anyway) for a while and see what happens.

I'm still on my quest for natural beauty products, but I'm happy to report I've found some things I really like:
Aveda Smooth Infusion Shampoo & Conditioner - These products are not 100% natural but I love how it smooths without weighing my hair down. It smells amazing too. I purchase these at an Aveda salon.
Tom's of Maine Moisturizing bar soap - It is, in fact, moisturizing & gentle and can be found at Target and Walmart.
Alba facial cleanser & toner - Effective cleanser that takes off all my makeup, even waterproof mascara. Found at Target and Walmart.
Fresh Sugar Body Oil - This is a splurge at $45 a bottle but a little goes a long way. It gives me super soft non-greasy skin. I detest greasy lotions and creams. Purchased at Sephora.
Arbonne RE9 Advanced - I have not received this product yet, but I placed my order and I'm excited to start trying it. My tired worn-out skin needs an anti-aging remedy. I will report back on this one but the trial of it was great. I'm really impressed that Arbonne is botanically based (non-GMO's) and vegan (no nasty road kill in their products). There are not many cosmetic companies that can say that.

School starts back in 3 weeks. Lily and Schaeffer will both be at River's Edge. I'm excited for them to start a new year and see how much they grow and learn.

I think that's it for now. Until next time...

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Brother's Wedding

My little baby brother got married 2 weekends ago. I guess he's not really a "baby brother" any more. We all made the trip down to Hackleburg, Alabama for the wedding. It was such a beautiful wedding. Here's a link to photos that my "Chinese sister" took and sent to my mom (the white fluff at the bottom of every picture are hydrangeas hanging on the ends of the pews). We are waiting for the professional photographer to publish her shots soon.

As for my crew, well, we survived the trip but we discovered that our kiddos aren't the traveling kind just yet.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A New Family Fav-o-rite!

I've been on the hunt-down for more nutritious foods to replace our less-than-nutritious foods. And here is one that we have been more than pleased with: Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat & Milled Flax Seed Brownie Mix. This stuff is good, ya'll! It's very deceiving because the batter is really gritty if you try and lick the mixing spoon. But once they are baked these brownies are quite yummy. The mix itself has only 5 ingredients: turbinado sugar, whole wheat pastry flour, cocoa, milled flax seed, and salt. The directions call for adding oil, 2 eggs, and 1/2 stick of butter. We like to throw in about 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips, too. Mm-mm, good! A scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side doesn't hurt either.


It seems like only a few weeks ago I was wondering what in the world the kids and I were going to do all summer long. Now I'm wishing our summer could be extended. Lily has begun occupational therapy and auditory therapy. And, she gets homework. Sorry, Lily. And then the co-director of the therapy center asked if Lily could be a peer model for one of their Peer Play Social Groups. It will serve as a dual purpose: help the two children with autism in the group see a "typical" child communicating and playing, and Lily will get extra language (aka auditory) therapy because she will be receiving the same therapy as the children with autism. I think it's cool that she will get to help out other children and be a role model for them. So for now all this therapy ties up 2 half days during the week. I always have to set aside at least one day for grocery shopping and restocking the cabinets and freezer. We have several doctor appointments scheduled and a family teeth cleaning appointment (should be fun!). I need to set aside time to re-organize my "school" desk to get ready for teaching 2 children, and order next year's curriculum. We have also talked about swimming, camping, biking, gardening, and traveling all within the next 2 months. I can only imagine that this summer will fly by so quickly!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Body By Vi Challenge Part 1

I have successfully completed my 90-Day Body By Vi Challenge! I am excited to report that I have lost a total of 8.4 pounds in 90 days ~ that's about a half a pound per week, which is exactly what I was aiming for. When I first started the Challenge I was losing about 2 pounds per week, which is really awesome, except I was also noticing a milk supply reduction. So instead of doing a shake every day, I started doing a shake 3-4 days per week so that I could ensure I was getting enough calories throughout the week. I eat about 4 meals per day so I was replacing one of those meals with a shake. It has been so easy - and so yummy - to do! And what's more important, I have lost inches from my waist and hips: a total of 2 inches from my waist and 3.5 inches from my hips! Whoo-hoo! I will admit though that some of the inches from my hips is probably due to my body shifting back to normal after giving birth 4 months ago. But certainly losing 8.4 pounds of fat has made a huge difference in my measurements as well. Because I still want to lose 14 more pounds I will start another 90-day Challenge. Anyone with me?!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Job is Becoming Obsolete

To all you breastfeeding moms out there, your job is about to become obsolete. Check out this story about China cloning cows that produce human breast milk. Before you get too excited about a new advancement in science, do you know what's involved in genetic engineering? Here's a clue: E. coli. Yep, good ole deadly E. coli bacteria. Maybe I'm a nut, but GMO foods scare the bee-jee-bees out of me. Just a few years ago you could hardly find GMO's on your grocery store shelves, but now it's everywhere because basics such as corn, soy, and rice are all genetically modified unless you are sure to purchase non-GMO (you might wanna put down that bag of Doritos). Do the research. It'll scare the pants off you! Another reason why I need a farm, or Jesus just needs to go ahead and return.

Oh, and while you're at it, do a bit of research on rendering plants. Find out what's in your soap (sodium tallowate, glycerin, etc.), pet food, and what producers are feeding to cattle and poultry. Yummy! I'm feeling a bit vegan these days.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Auditory Processing Disorder

Auditory Processing Disorder seems to be the diagnosis causing Lily's academic struggles. This is a new one for me so I don't really know much about this disorder. It's not an official "diagnosis" since an audiologist won't conduct the full battery of tests (10 altogether) until she is 7 years old. Meantime, her speech-language pathologist will be treating her for "suspected auditory processing disorder." And during her therapy sessions, the SLP will be doing diagnostic therapy to get a better understanding of how this disorder is affecting Lily specifically. Because APD affects children in so many different ways, it's important to know exactly how it is affecting Lily and what sounds her brain is able to process well and those sounds that she does not process well. The SLP will also be working this summer to devise a plan that we can present to Lily's 1st grade teacher to help her in the classroom and at home. I'm sure as time goes by I will begin to more thoroughly understand this disorder, but until then, I'm thrilled that we will be getting assistance with helping Lily cope and reach her fullest potential. Just from the short consultation with the SLP last week, I learned that APD is caused by the two hemispheres of the brain not allowing information to flow freely between the two. Sounds are stored in one hemisphere and images in the other. When these two hemispheres don't communicate well with each other, sounds are not easily connected to their images, such as with learning phonics and letter sounds, remembering words, recalling facts, explaining a sequence of events, etc. It affects so much! But on a positive note, and something that is amazing to me, Lily's hemisphere that is responsible for images has seemingly compensated. I believe it attributes to her artistic and creative abilities. Without this disorder, Lily just wouldn't be Lily.

She will begin occupational and speech-language therapy next week and it will continue through the summer. From there we will re-evaluate the situation and determine what else is needed.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Photo Update

Griffin celebrating his 2nd birthday with family.

Schaeffer being Schaeffer.

Lily adding her touch to the Sidewalk Chalk Art Festival in Market Square

Charlotte after a bath. So lovable!

Sisters, my lovely girls!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Body By Vi Challenge Party @ My House

If you know me well, then you probably know where I live so please drop by tomorrow night (Thurs) for my Body By Vi Challenge Party at 6:30 p.m. In 5 weeks, I have already lost 8 lbs and 1 inch from my waist and 1 inch from my hips using the Vi-Shape Nutritional Shakes without feeling sluggish, hungry, or deprived of essential nutrients. This has been by far the easiest way I've lost my baby weight, and I've been up and down 4 times. What I love about the product is that it's ideal for so many - young, old, athletes, diabetics, and more - and because it is just pure and simple nutrition that you can tailor to your own taste buds and nutritional needs. It contains no chemical stimulants, which is important to me as a nursing mom. My kids even love the nutritional shakes as a snack. I would not refer a product that I myself have not used or did not agree with. This one works and is a way to get healthy by losing extra weight while gaining lean muscle. Please drop by tomorrow night and try a sample - you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, May 5, 2011


As my brother Matthew and his sweet fiance, Abbey, plan their wedding in Hackleburg, AL in June they must also face the devastation there. Please remember the folks in Hackleburg.

Aerial view of what the tornadoes left behind:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Correct Me If I'm Wrong (and I'm rarely wrong)

Just joking on the title! Ha ha, funny, funny. But, really. I'm going out on a limb here, and correct me if I'm wrong. Has Easter Sunday become more like Mercedes Benz Fashion Week? If you go out into the various retail stores, and into a church on Easter Sunday, you might begin to believe that it is. Most everyone has become accustomed to the secular Easter equation: Bunnies + Eggs + Baby Chicks = Easter. It's fun watching the kids run across the yard hunting for eggs (weird tradition by the way). And then when they crack open the egg they find not a yolk but a bunch of sugar and chocolate (did I mention how weird that tradition is?). But seriously, another tradition that bothers me more because it is so popular, and expected, in church among Christians is the parade of Easter frock. It bothers me when the focus of this hugely important day of remembrance turns into a day to unveil a new summery, floral dress, sparkly new shoes, and coordinating handbag. Don't get me wrong. I'm a girl and I innately love all these lovely things. But if I'm not careful, my head and heart during the days and weeks leading up to Easter can drift more toward "What am I going to wear on this big day?" instead of "Praise you Jesus for victory over sin and death!" Therefore, I decided months ago, in a way to protect my straying heart and mind, that I would forgo purchasing any Easter-wear for myself and children. We will still be respectful and wear appropriate clothing to church - Schaeffer believes his Batman shirt is his "Sunday best." But, no new clothing for us. I will wait until it all goes on clearance the week after.

~As an aside, BJ and I were discussing Easter a few weeks ago. He said, "You know how people tailgate and camp out in the parking lot of the stadium before the Super Bowl? Well, since Easter is like the Super Bowl for Christians why don't we camp out and tailgate on Saturday night in the church parking lot?!" I love my hubby and his wildly crazy ideas. I honestly believe he would do it. Maybe next year when Charlotte is a bit older we can consider an all-night Easter tailgate party.~

A School Year in Review - Many Praises!

(Grab yourself a cup of coffee - this is a long one!)

Whew! Just 4 more weeks of school left before summer break and before we wrap up Lily's first year of school. In a lot of ways it has flown by. In a lot of other ways it has painfully dragged on. This year we faced a lot of challenges (and we continue to face some) that has tried to drag us down, slow our momentum, block our way. But we are prevailing in this first year of homeschool (with the help of a God-sent co-op program).

The year started off with Lily getting glasses just before school began. Her vision was worse than 20/400 in both eyes - that's beyond legally blind! And after a few months into school, and a few months into wearing her glasses, her vision strengthened to 20/70 with her glasses - still legally blind (considered low vision) but strong enough for her to succeed in school with no visual impairment aids. My little girl is a trooper! Now her vision with her glasses is 20/25 in both eyes. Dr. G is striving for 20/20 or better and he tells me we will get there by the time she is age 10-12 years old and that's without glasses. Praise Jesus that Lily's vision problem is completely correctable!

Just two months into school my pregnancy with Charlotte turned risky with threats of pre-term labor. I was sidelined many days with contractions coming 4-6 times an hour. When those occured I had to lay down and rest and hope they calmed down. School was placed on the back burner on many days. I was on medication and restricted activity to control the contractions. Praise Jesus that the pregnancy went full term and Charlotte is a happy, healthy, little girl!

And then a week before Christmas, Lily fell and broke her arm. This involved an overnight stay in the hospital and surgery the next morning to place pins in her arm and install a cast. She wore her cast for 3 weeks. During that time she struggled to bathe, dress herself, get comfy in bed to sleep, do school work, and many other things. We lost even more time doing school. Despite this hurdle, praise Jesus that Lily was able to keep up with her learning and continued to grow in her knowledge of math, reading, writing, science and social studies!

Just a few weeks ago Lily faced another hurdle when we were instructed to place drops in Lily's eyes to dilate them 3 days before her next eye exam. I don't know the exact reason this is needed, but Dr. G gave the orders and we followed them. Unfortunately, dilated eyes become very blurry and especially with vision up close. This added another challenge with school work. Her vision remained blurry for at least a week following her eye exam. We made some accommodations to help Lily see her school work. At home I wrote all her lessons very large on a dry erase board. We skipped handwriting lessons that week because it was a huge frustration for her. It was apparent that she couldn't see the lines on her handwriting paper. For her days at school, I transposed all the problems on her worksheets onto plain white paper with a very large, bold Sharpie marker. Her teacher said it really seemed to help her. Praise Jesus we got through that week and Lily even got a cute new pair of purple glasses with a new lower prescription (+6.50 instead of +7.50 as before).

During this school year, and even before then, we have observed Lily having problems with certain things. These problems have become more pronounced with the added expectations of having to learn to read and write and remember facts and processes. Her teacher at River's Edge is noticing and now even the room moms are noticing what we've observed for many months now. After being strongly advised by our pediatrician, we took Lily to be evaluated. The results are not complete yet because we still lack a language/auditory evaluation, but the preliminary results are pointing to dyslexia or some sort of auditory processing disorder. We praise Jesus for placing in our path the most fabulous, experienced, intuitive, knowledgeable, kind-hearted Occupational Therapist this side of the Mississippi! Her name is Mrs. Kathy. She explained that these initial evaluations are a process of elimination. Lily scored on a 5-year-old level for visual integration and a 4-year-old level for visual-motor integration. She is 6 years old. The language/auditory eval next week will help us get a fuller picture of what could be causing the delays. Kathy is familiar with Lily's history since she worked with her 3 years ago when she was going through feeding therapy and occupational therapy due to sensory processing disorder. Kathy observed that Lily could use a little bit more help in maturing the nervous system in regards to the vestibular system. Sensory therapy is an amazing thing! If you've never dealt with this sort of thing, it will blow your mind how complex the brain and nervous system are and how certain activities can greatly affect a child whose nervous system lags behind in development. I cannot explain it, but I'm so grateful to God for placing the right people in our path who have a very deep and thorough understanding of this and who have devoted their lives to helping "sensory" children. We praise Jesus that we will be on top of these issues before they cause major frustration and delays in Lily's abilities at school!

We look forward to summer break! I foresee lots of outdoor adventures and some lazy days (for the kids that is. I'm way too busy with 4 kids to relax). I was making small talk with the wife of our co-op's administrator today, Mrs. Moe. She spoke such truth, and I'm certain she didn't even know it was what I needed today. As she was walking away she said, "the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). This verse has resounded in my heart and soul all day as I have struggled with a mixture of thoughts and emotions about our first year of homeschool. Some of these thoughts and emotions are from the deceiver himself, some are from my weak sin-nature, and some are from the heart of a mom. I praise Jesus for surrounding us with amazing people who bring encouragement, understanding, and words of Truth at just the right time!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pretty Blue Nursing Dress

I'm working on losing about 25-30 pounds, thanks to Charlotte. Only kidding! It was my fault for putting on more weight than I should've during pregnancy number four. I've decided it was because I'm no spring chicken anymore and the metabolism isn't what it used to be. Nonetheless, I'm left with 25-30 pounds to lose and I'm hoping to do it before my bro-ham's wedding in June. If I reach my goal of 25 pounds then I am going to allow myself to purchase a new nursing dress that I found and really adore. I hope to buy a size SMALL. Since I'm only 5' 2" that should be a very realistic goal. The challenge is to cut out enough calories to lose weight, but not too many that it jeopardizes my milk production. I definitely don't want Charlotte to go hungry! Therefore, I have to be careful to get enough calories but focus on healthy ones. So, I've made two changes to my diet:

1) Eat whole foods such as vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean meat like chicken and fish. I eat 4-5 times a day since I get hungry often from nursing. For breakfast I eat a scrambled egg and 2 pieces of whole grain toast with a glass of skim milk. Then I make a smoothie (more about that in a minute) around 11 a.m. For lunch I've eaten a variety of things, such as, a salad or buckwheat soba noodles with snow peas, carrots, and red pepper seasoned with a bit of soy sauce. For dinner we eat a big variety of things. This week we had a new recipe called Sweet-Potato and Black-Bean Chili garnished with a tablespoon of sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh chopped cilantro. It was yummy! Other nights we've had a strawberry and spinach salad with chicken, walnuts and feta cheese. That's BJ's favorite. Some other favorites amongst our family include roasted chicken and steamed green beans or baked salmon with mashed sweet potatoes.

2) This second change to my diet has boosted my nutrient intake. I've started using Visalus nutritional shakes (or smoothies as I like to call them), which is mainly soy and whey protein that you mix with skim milk and fruit or a bunch of other choices like peanut butter and unsweetened cocoa. Wow! This stuff is so yummy. And, it helps to boost my protein intake since it has 20+ grams of protein per smoothie and contains 5+ grams of fiber, plus a whole slew of other great nutrients like A, B, E, and D vitamins, calcium, potassium, folate, niacin, and so many more.

With these small changes that I've made over the past 2 weeks, I've already lost 5 pounds. I've had more energy from eating more nutritious foods that my body must've been craving. Plus, I feel better about sharing those nutrients with Charlotte.

I've tried to walk or run at least 3-5 times per week to boost the fat burn and to get a break from kiddos, breathe some fresh air and clear my head.

I hope to hit my goal if I lose about 2 pounds per week.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Free Gifts at

Griffin is beginning to outgrow his size medium gDiaper covers, which come in sizes small, medium or large. No fear, Charlotte is waiting in the wings for his outgrown dipes. But, I was left with a delimma - do I purchase the next size up or do I purchase a one-size cover, such as GroVia or Flip? I decided to go with a one-size so that Charlotte and Griffin can share when needed. I chose the Flip Diapering System because it is a lot like gDiapers with the inserts and waterproof cover that can be used over and over. A little while ago I ordered one Flip diaper with one of their Stay-dry inserts to give it a trial run. I like them as well as the gDiapers and the inserts from the gDiapers can be used with Flip and visa-versa. Today I went online to Cotton Babies' website (they are the peeps who make BumGenius, Flip, and EconoBum) to order more Flip and they are running a special where you get a free gift of a pack of disposable inserts (great for traveling and no time to stop and do laundry), and when you spend $100 on their site you get free BabyLegs. I wanted to share this info with other moms in case you were looking into purchasing cloth diapers, specifically Flip, EconoBum or BumGenius because now would be a good time to buy from and get some free stuff.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A New Blogger Friend

I wanted to direct your attention to some friends, the Ellis'. I am so excited for them as they traverse the adoption journey.

P.S. Thanks for all the uplifting messages left in the comments from "I need to know...". It is so helpful to know that I am not alone, especially on a day when I felt like an island unto myself. I spent some time in prayer and asked God for calmness of spirit, peace, and understanding of how to deal with each individual little-person living under our roof. He fulfilled my requests and today was much better. Love all my sister-mommies out there!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I need to know...

I need to know that I'm not alone. Today was tough. I am not going to lie. All four kiddos were especially rotten or demanding today. I won't go into all the details but generally they were all acting their ages: Lily (6), Schaeffer (3), Griffin (almost 2), and Charlotte (2 months). With days like today, I need to know I'm not the only one who...
...sometimes wants to throw in the towel and give up on this parenting thing.
...wonders if my voice is being heard over all the craziness in our home.
...has sat in the middle of the floor and cried out of frustration.
...lost my temper and raised my voice one too many times.
...locked my bedroom door and got into the shower just to drown out the demanding cries for just a few minutes.
...wonders how I'm going to start another morning with a happy positive attitude on only 4 hours of sleep.
...begs for just a 2 hour break that doesn't involve thinking, reading, correcting, or wiping.
...has forgotten to take photos of the fourth child and then has realized she is 2 months old already. avoiding making any more appointments, promises, or anything else that would require a commitment of my time. missing alone time with a neglected husband.
...feels guilty for not doing more today.
...hopes to read a good book again one day. envious of people who tell me of their amazing "quiet times" with God and then feel guilty over my sin of envy.
...embraces any moment that brings me to my knees in prayer and then calls it a daily devotion.
...has researched how much a nanny costs.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Tools for Our Family

Last year we made a list of things we wanted for our growing family and began saving. And now we have just about procured them all thanks to a sizable tax refund (which really means we overpaid in 2010). The first on the list was a new dining room set (not my dining room pictured - I wish!). I need to finish getting my dining room in order and then I'll post some photos. I want to paint the room and hang more artwork.

Second on the list were these bad boys:

BJ really had to convince me that this would be a good purchase and worth the money. I have to agree with him now that I've used these for a few days. What would've normally been 7-10 separate loads of laundry in our older top-load machine, and probably 3 days of washing and drying, was 3 loads in the Samsung 5.0 front-loader. Just so you get an idea, BJ fit into this machine a set of queen-size sheets, pillow cases, queen-size fleece blanket, and a king-size quilt from our bed - all at one time! It completely fit inside this machine with a little room to spare. I am not kidding you! It's crazy how much stuff will fit inside this machine. And it's a lot more efficient because it uses about 15 gallons less per load than our older machine. Lovin' how this addition to our home has made my job a lot easier. Now if I can just find someone to help me fold all of the clean clothes that are laying around in the baskets.

And lastly, we want to put a freezer in our garage so that we can stock up better on food items and take advantage of good deals on bulk. We will be getting our freezer later this month. We hit a good deal when we purchased our washer and dryer. Lowe's was running a special with a tax refund gift card. When you make a purchase with a gift card during the specified time period, they would load 10% onto the card on March 18. So it works out that we get a freezer nearly free since the cost of a freezer is about 10% of the cost of the washer and dryer. Not to mention Lowe's matched a sales price on the washer and dryer when Best Buy was running a crazy good sale on them on President's Day. We saved over $500 for the set and will be getting a freezer out of the whole deal. I love a good deal!

In addition, and a surprise to me, BJ thought it was time to upgrade me to a MacBook Pro. Perhaps it was because I was whining and complaining about my PC. My PC was actually working fine, and it's almost like new, but after using his Mac that I got him for Christmas there is no comparison. I'm a Mac and won't turn Bac! I hope to learn how to use this fancy machine because Mac and PC do have their differences. After using a PC my entire life I'm going to have a huge learning curve but I'm already loving the intuitiveness and speed of the Mac.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Vacation Destination

You have to admit, East Tennessee is a beautiful place to live. To prove my point, check out Blackberry Farm. This would be a terrific vacation destination, or a great place for a romantic dinner date, if you don't want to wonder too far from home (if you live in East TN that is). This 4,200 acre estate is just up the road a piece in Walland. I want to go...please, please take me!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

New Dining Table & Chairs

At last, we have found a new dining set for our now family of 6. I almost gave up hope on finding something that would work for us that was affordable. What I liked about it:

1) Solid wood and durable (according to reviews)

2) Could expand to seat up to 8

3) Dimensions fit our dining room

4) Black chairs give a modern spin on an old classic

5) Will coordinate with our antique buffet

6) Under $1,000

Of all places, we ordered it from Sam's Club. And since it's an online only item, I haven't seen it in person which makes me a little bit nervous. It should arrive next week. Hope to post real photos soon after we get it all set up.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On My Own

Starting on Monday I've been on my own during the day with all four kids since BJ returned to work. We are surviving and thriving, although, it is busy, busy, busy! From the time I roll out of bed and my feet hit the floor I'm going like a mad woman - fixing snacks and meals, changing diapers, nursing Charlotte, getting out the Playdoh and paint, cleaning up the Playdoh and paint, wiping faces and hands, nursing Charlotte, putting on socks and shoes for outdoor play, holding, rocking, reading, breaking up squabbles, wiping hiney's (Schaeffer's particularly since he can't do that yet after potty), doing a load or two of laundry, picking up toys, nursing Charlotte, getting everyone down for naptime, preparing dinner, and the list goes on... It is non-stop. I cannot complain at all, though. Our Bible Fellowship has been bringing us dinner three times per week since we arrived home from the hospital. Huge BLESSING!! We will continue to get meals this week and some next week. Huge BLESSING!! And, I even got a 2-hour nap today. Yep, you read that right: 2 hours! I got the boys down for naps, Charlotte had been fed just before their naptime, and then I let Lily choose if she wanted to play in her room or watch PBS kids, and then I did a bee-line for my bed and napped for 2 hours. It was much needed. Now I'm getting a few minutes to update my blog and then get together Lily's schoolwork for tomorrow. After that it'll be a little quality time with BJ and then off to la-la-land and start all over tomorrow. The two things I haven't quite figured out how to do yet on my own: get a shower and do homeschool. Both of these are very important and will need to start happening, but I have given myself freedom from these two things this week while I see how our schedule plays out. Starting next week I will add these two things back in, I hope.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cloth Diapering: The Process

I've had a few folks ask me questions about how I go about cloth diapering so I thought I'd detail it here for anyone who is interested. (Here are my previous posts about cloth diapering: Cloth Dipes 101 , Cloth Diapering Review, and Cloth Diapering). I guess there's a million different ways to go about it and caring for the diapers, but this is what works for us for now. Griffin and Charlotte are both in cloth so my loads are a little bit larger but they are still very small for our top-load washer (we ordered a high-capacity front-loader just last week and it should arrive in late March so some of these details may change based on how the front-loader cleans).

1. For Griffin I have 8 medium gPants diaper covers and 18 gCloth inserts. For Charlotte I have 8 small covers and 18 inserts. I could probably use 2 more covers for Charlotte since being a newborn she poops quite often (6-8 times per day) and because they are runnier it can get on the cover more easily. It works out so I have enough that I can wash covers and inserts on the second or third day. If I've waited much longer than that between washes the pail starts to get really stinky.

2. For Griffin's dirty covers and inserts I have a small garbage pail with a lid that I keep beside the kids' bathroom potty for when I need to swish out the solids in the potty. The wet ones can just go directly into the pail. I was using a wet pail (half filled pail with water and about 1/4 cup white vinegar), but now I just use a dry pail with a small garbage bag to line the pail to keep it clean.

3. For Charlotte's dirty covers and inserts I have an inexpensive diaper pail that I use dry with a garbage bag as a liner. Because she is exclusively breastfed there's no reason to swish out poopie into the potty so I keep her diaper pail beside her changing table. (FYI...breastmilk poopies are water soluble and not stinky).

4. On the second or third day I dump the contents of Griffin's and Charlotte's diaper pails into the washing machine and throw away the garbage bag liners. If you wanted to be really frugal and "green" you could use a re-usable liner that you wash with the diapers. I do a rinse and spin cycle first then do a regular wash cycle.

5. With Griffin's eczema and very sensitive skin, I have found that the type of detergent does matter. I use Arm & Hammer Essentials Mountain Rain scent. Walmart didn't have the fragrance free when I purchased last time or I probably would've done that one instead. I found this website to be particularly helpful in finding detergent that was inexpensive yet good for cleaning cloth diapers for sensitive skin babies. Once we get our HE washer I will consult this website's HE list and probably try Ecos detergent because it can be found at my local Sam's Club.
6. After washing and drying (I air dry the diaper covers so they don't get worn out) I sort them out and put the covers and inserts into Griffin's and Charlotte's changing table. I put together a few diapers (inserts into the covers) for Charlotte in advance because newborns hate to be naked and it just makes things go more smoothly and easily, especially at nighttime diaper changes.

7. For going out, I have a wet bag for Griffin and one for Charlotte. They have a pocket in the front to keep clean diapers in. I carry scented plastic bags to put the dirty stuff into before I place it in the wet bag. This keeps me from having to wash the wet bag everytime I use it. The plastic bags alone do not contain the smell of a dirty diaper but once they are zippered up into the wet bags you don't smell anything at all. And even after a few days in the wet bag (I know, gross! But I forgot one in the van one day) you cannot smell the dirty diaper. However, beware when you open! When I get home I take the dirty diapers out of the wet bags and put them into the pail ready to be washed.

Well, I think that's pretty much it. Pretty simple and I am totally enjoying not having to purchase disposable diapers anymore.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Just Today

Now that Charlotte and I are getting all settled in at home, my mantra has been "just today." It helps me focus on what's going on today, not tomorrow, not next week. Just today. It's easy to begin worrying over tomorrow and how I will possibly manage this household on my own when BJ returns to work in a week and a half. But, just today.

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:34). God knows me all too well and has given me everything I need for each moment. I love Him and thank Him for His perfect thoughtfulness and provisions.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Meet Charlotte Gray

Little Miss Charlotte Gray was born yesterday, Feb. 3, 2011 at 1:56 p.m. She weighed 7 lbs and was 20 inches long. She has lots of dark hair and very dark eyes. She is as precious as I had imagined.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Handmade Gifts for Charlotte

Charlotte is a very lucky little girl already. She has received some precious handmade gifts just for her. Even though she is numero quattro in our family she is as precious and as special as numero uno and these gifts are a reminder of that fact. Thanks to my dear friends and family who are making Charlotte's grand entrance a special moment.

Items pictured clockwise from top left: Set of 3 personalized embroidered burp cloths from Amanda; Pink crochet hat from Aunt Heather; Pillowcase dress from Susie; Bib and burp cloth set from Staci

The next time you hear from me on this blog will probably be when I post photos of Charlotte Gray! We are arriving at our luxurious suite at the hospital on Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. to get labor and delivery underway. I am so excited to get to hold her in my arms for the first time.

And just in case you were wondering, Charlotte does not have a nursery yet so no fun nursery photos to post. She will be rooming in with BJ and me until Griffin is old enough to move out of his nursery and share a room with Schaeffer. That might be in 3-6 months or more. We will have to play that one by ear. But maybe meantime I can snap some photos of Charlotte's little set-up in our master bedroom. She is all set.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thrift Store Fashion

One of my favorite memories from college was going thrift shopping with BJ at local thrift stores such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, and AmVets. Sometimes we found nothing on these adventures, and sometimes we racked up. Back in my college days I worked about 20-30 hours per week waiting tables to earn enough money to pay for college tuition, books, car payment ($175/mo), and gas. I lived at home with my parents which saved me from having to pay room/board and meals. I went the entire 4.5 years to school without acquiring student loans. Yay for me! But after all those expenses on a server's income, I had very little left over for clothing, shoes, and accessories. And since I was a young college girl, afterall, clothing, shoes and accessories were still a necessity. On top of it, I hadn't completely snagged my husband yet. BJ and I were just dating so I still had to be on my best behavior and look cute.

The only way I could afford to go clothing shopping was to buy things on the clearance rack at Walmart (not so fun) or find unique stuff at thrift stores (much more fun and creative). On our thrift store outings, I remember finding cute, comfy, broken-in Levi jeans (I was in college from 1994-1998). I also found some funky jackets and coats in plaid tweed. One of my best finds was a like-new Kelty backpack which I used all through college to haul my 500-pound textbooks. Occasionally, I would find cute tops, skirts, dresses, shorts, purses, etc. It always brought me joy to load up a grocery bag or two with fun finds for only $10. Just a few years ago BJ finally tossed out a pair of pants he purchased while thrifting. The pants were definitely worn out by then, but it was one of his favorite pairs to wear around the house. Honestly he would probably still have those pants if he hadn't have lost 50 pounds and could still wear them.

I miss my thrifting days. It's difficult to do thrift shopping with little ones because it requires patience as you dig through racks and racks of clothes and stuff. And you have to keep an open mind about what you hope to find. You probably cannot go with a shopping list. I akin thrift shopping to oil painting - you know what end result you are trying to acheive, but you may not get there without being open-minded and creative. And then in the end what you acheive may be quite different than what you imagined but you feel good about it when it all comes together. And, you can be assured it will be a one-of-a-kind. For instance, you may head out trying to find a floral skirt or dress, but instead you find a cute jacket that inspires you to go searching for some vintage jewelry and accessories to make it work with a shirt and pair of pants you already own. The end result is fabulous but totally different than your original plan.

Recently I've heard a lot about re-styling, re-purposing, re-using, re-ducing, and re-cycling to be a better steward of our environment. I'm not against being a good steward, but back in the days when I did thrifting, there wasn't a lot of media chatter about "going green." Now thrifting seems to be a political statement. For me thrifting is about getting stuff for cheap and knowing that I am helping some charities in the meantime. One day I hope to do more thrift shopping. I like the creativity it unlocks in my head.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Two Things I Am Looking Forward To

I am looking forward to Spring and to being out of maternity clothes. I've spotted a few clothing pieces and accessories that gets me excited about Spring and wearing normal clothes:

Lands End Canvas: Hooded Cardigan

Lands End Canvas: Heritage Chino

Lands End Canvas: Heritage Ballet Flat

Dooney & Bourke: Large Nina

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Mother of Invention... necessity. In the past few weeks I've invented a couple of new routines around here. It has come out of necessity.

Do we want to eat dinner? Yes. Can it get made after 4:30 p.m.? No. For some reason the hours between naptime ending and bedtime beginning - around 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. - can be complete disasters. It has taken me a full year to figure this out. The disaster hours are fairly consistent. I dread those hours. Kids are hyper, hungry, temperamental, getting tired, bored, etc. And then the thought of trying to make dinner, sit down together as a family, and actually enjoy it is frustrating...for a lack of a better word. So my new plan has been instigated: start making dinner soon after breakfast. I know that sounds weird to begin making dinner at 9 a.m. but it is working for us. My mom gave me this really cool cookbook about 3 years ago and I'm just now using it. Stupid me for waiting so long! Mothers really do know best - so listen to your mom! The cookbook is the Busy Woman's Slow Cooker Cookbook. Most of the recipes call for only 5-6 ingredients that you throw into the slow cooker, set to low or medium heat, cook for 8-10 hours, and then enjoy by dinnertime. So far I've experimented with vegetable beef soup, sweet and sour pork, and a few others that I cannot recall at this exact moment. What's really cool about this cookbook are the number of options. There are at least 5 recipes just for meatloaf. So if you like southwestern flavors, there's a meatloaf recipe for that; and, if you like traditional, there are 2-3 versions for that. There are several versions of chicken and rice soup, chicken noodle soup, vegetable soup, etc. I like the versatility because most of the time I can come up with something from my pantry that will closely resemble a recipe (or combination of recipes) in this cookbook.

Another struggle in our home...Do we like cleanliness and tidiness? Yes. Can we achieve it? Not without everyone pulling their own weight. So to help resolve the problem with clutter, I have purchased each child a green bag (you know, those sturdy reusable grocery bags). I purchased these green bags at Toys R Us for $1.29 because each one has a fun design on the outside: a monster truck for Schaeffer, a dinosaur for Lily, and a lion for Griffin. At the end of each day before beginning bedtime each child takes a bag and collects up toys, clothes, dirty socks, etc. and takes the bag to his/her room to be emptied into their proper places. We've just started this new routine so I'm curious to see how well it works in the long run. Tonight everyone was very excited about going on a "hunt" for their toys and clothes and stuffing their bags full. It was a complete miracle to see our living room, hallway, and kitchen clutter free with minimal effort on my part. It was a beautiful thing. I sure hope this routine sticks.

I came across this really awesome blog, Smockity Frocks. It is geared toward sharing practical ideas for large families. I've already found some great ideas there that I want to try in our home.

Also, I would love to hear from you, my dearest readers, about anything that you've invented out of necessity. It can be related to your routine at home, or something you've made to save money or because you couldn't find in stores, or something you recycled or used in a different way to better meet your needs. Please share your inventions in the comments section.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Why do we have 4 children?"

I have been thinking about this clip from the Cosby Show for a while now. It really cracks me up! And now it is especially funny since I can totally relate. My favorite part, toward the end of this clip, is when Claire asks Cliff (Cosby), "Cliff, why do we have 4 children?" I love Cosby's response! If you get sucked into this episode and want to watch the rest you can search YouTube for Bill Cosby Show The Pilot part 2 and part 3. The rest of this episode includes Cosby's "economics lesson" given to Theo (hilarious), and when Cosby tries to teach his girls how to knock on their bedroom door before entering (another hilarious part). Enjoy!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Full Schedule

2011 has just begun, but our family calendar is quickly filling up. I guess when you have three kids and one on the way, your calendar takes shape around their needs. We've juggled a bunch of doctor appointments recently. Lily has had several appointments with the orthopaedic surgeon for her broken arm. She got her cast off yesterday! Whoo-hoo! She will return in three weeks for one last follow-up appointment and x-rays to ensure all is healing well. I've had an OB appointment every 2 weeks, now every week, to check on little Charlotte. Griffin cracked a front tooth so I've scheduled him a dentist appointment for next week to make sure it doesn't need to be capped or filled. Lily will go to a follow-up appointment later this month with her opthamologist to check on the progress of her eyes. She has been complaining of not seeing well and she is back to sitting a foot away from the TV in order to see it. Schaeffer had been complaining of pain in his ear, but I took a proactive approach at home and used some antibiotic drops in his ears that were prescribed by his ENT. He hasn't complained of the pain since. I'm hoping we've escaped another doctor visit on that one. And now Lily is exhibiting some learning issues with reading and writing. She is doing great with school. I am so proud of her and the progress she has made. But her teacher has commented about some issues she is struggling with that is beyond what the other children are struggling with right now. And, of course, I see the same issues at home on her homeschool days. Her school work is very fast-paced and each week she is learning new things that builds upon learned skills from previous weeks. We don't want her to fall behind, especially at such a critical time when she is learning to read. She is making up some serious ground with her vision correction so we don't want another issue to get in her way. I was able to discuss some of her issues with her past speech therapist, Dee, and Dee will be talking to an occupational therapist to see if she needs to be evaluated. Meantime I will discuss it with our pediatrician and we will see what is recommended, if anything, at this point. It might just be a wait-and-see type of thing. Oh, and did I mention that Griffin still has speech therapy every 2 weeks? He has made major progess in the past 5 months and I expect he'll be discharged from speech therapy in a few weeks once he gets re-evaluated to check on his progress so far. Whew!

We are facing a pretty full schedule in January and February and I don't expect things to slow down for the rest of the year...I need to put on some comfy shoes and be ready to keep up.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Charlotte Gray Getting Closer Every Day

I had a 36 week OB appointment today (I'm technically 35 weeks 5 days)! We are getting closer to Charlotte's arrival. I'm so EXCITED! I am now 1 cm dilated (and I think still 50% effaced, but I forgot to ask). Dr. B set a date to induce when I'm 39 weeks on Feb. 3 if she is not here before then. He didn't really give me an option on that, perhaps because my diabetes is getting tougher to control and because my blood pressure has begun to rise. I tend to do this at the end of my pregnancies. My bp today was 160/100 at a second reading which was higher than the first one. Yikes!! Luckily it went back to normal (128/72) after "relaxing" on my left side on one of the lovely examining tables for about 10 minutes.

The ultrasound revealed that Charlotte has lots of hair. Because we got a good look at the back of her noggin, we could see it floating around her head in the amniotic fluid. She may have thick hair like me and Lily. Unfortunately we got no face shots since she had her back turned to us the whole time today. Her measurements were perfect. She's in the 69th percentile at 6 lbs 9 oz which means she isn't growing too big too fast despite my diabetes. Although, it could mean she will be my biggest baby yet. Griff had been my largest at 6 lbs 14 oz. Dr. B said Charlotte may end up being around 7 1/2 lbs if she holds tight until Feb. 3. I think that will be just fine...and it could explain why my pelvic bones feel like they are splitting in two.

I will now begin seeing Dr. B every week until she is born. Meantime we will just wait until labor begins and pray for an easy delivery and a healthy little girl. Yay!!

Cloth Dipes 101

Now that I've had one month of experience with cloth diapering, I've learned a lot that I wanted to share for anyone out there who might be thinking about going this route with their baby.

1. It's not nearly as intimidating as I had imagined and the extra laundry is not as daunting as I had thought. I do about 1-2 extra loads - small/medium sized - per week. That's really nothing compared to the amount of laundry a 5 person family generates. Caring for the cloth diapers is not a big deal either. I've gone the cheapest route (Gpant covers for about $12.00/each and Walmart prefolds for $0.85 each) and it works just fine.

2. Cloth diapers don't leak. We have not had a single leak or blowout since using cloth on Griffin, and he's 20 months old and can generate a lot of waste through the night.

3. Swishing out the solid waste into the toilet is not nearly as gross as I had imagined it would've been. In fact, it's nothing compared to changing a nasty, squishy disposable diaper from a 3-year old. (Note: Schaeffer is now potty-trained!!). And for some reason the poopie diapers don't stink as bad in the cloth dipes.

4. A wet diaper pale contains the smell much better than a dry pale. Note: An exclusively breastfed baby's poop does not stink at all so a dry pale will work just fine for Charlotte in the first year. But for Griffin, I half fill a pale - an 8 gallon garbage can with a pop-up lid and handles that I bought at Walmart - with water and add about 1/2 cup of white vinegar. This keeps the pale from stinking. In fact, for the first 2-3 days the pale has no smell at all unless you hold your head over the open bucket. On the 3rd day I carry the pale to the laundry room, dump all the contents into the washer, do a rinse/spin cycle, and then a wash cycle (thanks, Mom, for the washing advice). Dipes come out clean and fresh.

5. I change diapers about as frequently as I did with disposables. Griffin gets his diaper changed about 4-5 times per day. We have not had to change this schedule since using cloth.

6. It's just as easy to do cloth diaper changes away from home as it is at home. I have a "clean" bag which holds the clean diapers, and a "dirty" bag which holds the, well, you know. When I get home I dump the dirty stuff into the pale. For Charlotte, I purchased a wet bag (hers is pink) that has an outer mesh pocket to hold the clean stuff. I may order one for Griff too since it will eliminate having so many bags to pack into the diaper bag. And then I can get them embroidered with their names - how cute would that be?!

7. The type of laundry detergent you use on the cloth dipes can make a difference if you have a baby with sensitive skin. Griffin's eczema on his backside and hips has completely cleared up, but I noticed he started developing irritation on his "under-carriage." After a little bit of research I learned that some detergents contain enzymes which are added to break down sweat, urine, and other bodily juices. This would normally be a good thing to get clothes cleaner except for sensitive skin babies. The enzymes are not fully rinsed off the diapers and when the baby pee's or poo's, the enzymes attack the waste on the baby's skin causing rash and irritation. All three detergents that I had in my laundry room - Tide Free, Dreft, and Walmart's Great Value Lavendar detergent - list enzymes in their ingredients. And most free & clear detergents contain optical brighteners which also lingers on the diapers causing irritation to sensitive skin. But, alas, I found this nifty website that has rated a bunch of detergent brands for use on cloth diapers. I found a very inexpensive brand, sold at Walmart and grocery stores, that works perfectly and received the highest score of 4 stars: Arm & Hammer Essentials (Mountain Rain scent is very clean smelling).

8. We will save big bucks! I did the math calculating the cost of the disposable diapers we normally had used and we will save about $1400-$1500 per year on diapers for Griffin and Charlotte combined. You can't deny those numbers! My initial investment in the cloth diapers and accessories was around $300 total for Griff's and Charlotte's. We will see an ROI in about 3 months.

9. The cloth diapers are really cute. Bonus! Griff looks super cute running around in his diapered bottom with his bright orange, red or green diaper cover. I bet Charlotte will look sweet wearing her pink ones and a matching crocheted hat (thanks to Aunt Heather).

To summarize, I should've done this sooner starting with Lily when she was a newborn. But, in my defense, with the first baby there are already so many overwhelming changes in the home that adding worries over diapers may have sent me over the edge. Disposables were probably the best choice for this new mom. Now I am much more confident and more relaxed about experimenting with different things. I hope this information helps a new or experienced mom out there somewhere.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Enough About Me

I think I've written enough about myself lately. I get sort of sick of hearing about myself and need a good distraction. That's when I get online and try to find some cool, funky, groovy, blogs with really cool style that I wish I had possessed. I'm too much of a traditional, conventional, practical kinda gal to branch out into my really artistic side (it's in there somewhere but I shove it back down into its rightful place). Anyway, like I said, enough about me. Here are two blogs that I enjoy because they mix the old and the new in a cool sleek sorta way.

Restyled Home

Door Sixteen

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Pressure is Mounting

The pressure is mounting, and I mean that literally. Boy am I feeling some pressure lately! The contractions continue to be frequent all day and all night. I feel like I've been in labor for four months now. Exhausting! Tomorrow, Wednesday, I get to stop taking the medications which have slowed down and weakened the contractions. And then we get to wait and see what happens. I am 35 weeks tomorrow and Dr. B would not go to any great lengths to stop labor at this point. I've fought this preterm labor jive long and hard, and I hope Charlotte holds on until at least 36 weeks but its now time to set the contractions free and see what progress occurs.

As of last week I was 50% effaced and not yet dilated. I would have to guess that things have changed this week. I have been taking my meds around the clock and it has been somewhat effective. But the contractions have not stopped over the past 3 weeks as they had about 4 weeks ago when I actually experienced a bit of relief. The contractions have noticeably picked up and are steady. Last night I had them every 10-12 minutes for 3 hours before they tapered off and I was then able to sleep...after 3 a.m. Like I said - exhausting!

Preterm labor is physically and mentally exhausting. As the word denotes, "labor" is just that. As the contractions get closer, like every 10 minutes, I begin getting hot and sometimes sweat as if I'm doing a workout even when I'm relaxing in bed. My body gets tired and some of my muscles get weak and sore. I notice my upper leg muscles begin to weaken and get shaky making it difficult to stand for a period of time. My back aches and my neck muscles get tense from the stress.

When I was first diagnosed with preterm labor around 22 weeks, each contraction was scary. I knew the baby's chance of survival would be slim. When I hit 30 weeks I was more at ease but still concerned about her being born too early. And now here I am at 35 weeks. I've been given permission to stop taking medication, but I've had a difficult time relaxing because I'm still trying to accept the fact that the contractions are now okay. Contractions like this, and being 50% effaced, are somewhat normal at 35 weeks. So now I'm trying to breath and relax through each one, remembering that it is good, important, and necessary. This week I've found myself trying to be more busy so that I'm not focused on each labor pain. Again, it is so mentally taxing. And then I wonder if I'll notice when it's time to head to the hospital. My biggest clue would be my water breaking. But as for these contractions, they have made themselves so much at home with me that I'm not sure I'll even notice when they pick up. Dr. B would have me call him when they get 5 minutes apart. I've learned to hate clocks! I've spent way too many hours the past four months checking the clock and wondering if today would be the day. Tonight and tomorrow, and possibly the next few weeks will be more of the same -- waiting, wondering, checking the clock.