Our Family

Our Mother's Day weekend: Cards, coffee, and chocolate

Homemade cinnamon roll
A cinnamon roll Joshua made (his always look perfect!)

Joshua and the children made sure I had a lovely Mother's Day. We spent most of the day at home together, which is what we usually do on weekends, but that's what I like. :)

Clay rose that Yehoshua made for me
A rose from Yehoshua

Last fall, I got a good deal on Sculpey III oven-bake polymer clay ($0.99 for a 2 oz. package) and bought quite a few colors. Then we searched for You Tube video tutorials for making things with polymer clay. The kids have really had fun making tiny objects and baking them. Yehoshua started making roses and those are his specialty right now. :)

Mille Bornes card game

I pulled out an old game called Mille Bornes that my grandma gave us but we had not yet learned to play. Joshua, Yehoshua (10), Eliyahu (8) and I taught ourselves to play it and we played quite a few hands over the weekend. The boys especially are enjoying it and started playing it together at 6:15 am today (Monday). :)

Chocolate, tea, and coffee

And Joshua of course spoiled me by splurging on some fancy chocolates, tea, and coffee. I can't wait to try these but they're so beautifully packaged that I probably will wait a while so I can enjoy the prettiness. :)

Now, it's back to the weekly routine of school, meals, and keeping up with the dirt. We're supposed to have lovely weather all week (70's and sunny!) so I am guessing a lot of dirt will come in, and a lot of laundry and baths. :) I'm thankful we have a back yard here for the kids to roam and play.

Foraging for Stinging Nettles

Moshe helps gather nettles

I took this little guy out to the back yard last week. It was a beautiful sunny day, just barely warm enough to go swearshirt-free. Sweatshirt-free is never a guarantee here, even in the middle of summer. We enjoy it whenever it happens, though!

We brought gloves and a grocery bag. What were we after?

Stinging nettles

Weeds! Actually, stinging nettles. The woodsy area behind our house grew some big tall nettles last year and I kept knocking them over so they wouldn't fall into our yard. I vowed that next year I'd be ready and pick them young so we could try eating them.

I have never been so happy about weeding before! I picked the fresh young green nettles and Moshe held the bag for me. He loved helping!

Stinging nettles

The nettles were washed (in a strainer with the sprayer) and then put in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Afterwards, their sting was gone and we all eagerly sampled the cooked greens for our first time.

Delicious! I thought the taste was mild and reminded me of green beans. I chopped up the cooked nettles and added them to beef vegetable soup, and no one could even taste them.

I used stems as well as leaves, even though my research indicated the stems were too tough to eat. I imagine the freshest youngest stinging nettles are the most tender and tasty, and ours sure were!

I can't believe I grew up on a farm overrun with nettles and never ate any of them! (We did eat gobs of dandelions though.) I think foraged food is my favorite... just pick and enjoy!

Now, I'm brainstorming how I'm going to get the kids all down the road to the woodsy park and go nettle-hunting. There just aren't enough nettles in my own backyard!

Tip: Cook stinging nettles and use them as you would spinach. Quiche, lasagna, soups, and more are all wonderful made with stinging nettles!

Have you eaten stinging nettles? If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts and more tips for gathering or using them! :)

Channah

Sweet Channah slept while we all played at the park last weekend. She sleeps best on/by/with me, which is part of my lack of blogging. (I am typing one-handed right now, but the slow pace is frustrating!) :)

Boys playing

We all soaked up the sunshine. Joshua played catch and t-ball with the older boys. There was bike riding, goat-feeding, and plenty of running around.

The Birth of Channah Shalom

Channah's foot

I woke up at 5:30am, and felt the dampness on my skirt. I could feel water leaking and as I headed to the bathroom, I mentally calculated... just barely 36 weeks.

I knew it wasn't time for my baby to come.

I don't feel unbearably huge yet. My babies don't come early. Joshua had brain surgery last week and can't lift or drive. And the house is a mess.

Despite my hopes that the "little leak" would just go away, it didn't. A visit with my midwife confirmed that it was really leaking (not that I had any doubts!) and also that...

"Your baby isn't head-down. And I can't change that for you."

Channah

No wonder I didn't feel any pressure. My midwife was concerned about the risk of cord prolapse, and had me lie down while we discussed my options. I decided to go to the hospital nearby and have the doctor there try to turn the baby. My midwife knew the doctor who was working that day, and said she would be understanding and accommodating.

While lying down after getting to the hospital (but before seeing the doctor), my water really broke, with several big gushes. My midwife felt my abdomen and exclaimed, "I think the baby turned! It feels head-down now!" And indeed, the baby had turned. I was so relieved!

I had thought that I would be ready to go home to have the baby, right then and there, and I could have. But I didn't.

I could spend paragraphs rehashing all the things my midwife and I discussed, about whether to stay or go. All the what-ifs and the things we just weren't sure about. She kept asking me what I thought and felt and wanted.

I knew I wanted to go home, but it wasn't about what I wanted, of course. So I did the grown-up thing and put my preferences aside and chose a hospital birth... because I decided it was the right thing to do.

Even though I chose to be there, it wasn't easy for me. For most of my very long and slow labor, I was on the verge of tears. I didn't want to talk to anyone.

Channah

The doctor working that first day was really nice. I was having very light contractions all day and tried to rest (and did nap some), thinking active labor would pick up before too long.

At about the 12-hour mark, labor was still not picking up, so we tried some natural things like walking (several hours) and nipple stimulation (4 hours) but neither was very effective. Slightly effective, but just nothing even close to active labor.

I was very conflicted this whole time, because I felt like my body just wasn't ready for labor. It seemed so wrong to be trying to encourage labor, but yet my water had broken (and was continuing to leak), and I was having bloody show. I was quite pessimistic about the whole ordeal, even though my midwife and the doctor seemed confident that labor would pick up and go just fine.

I was also very bored, in between periods of feeling hopeless. I wished I were at home, spending the long hours cleaning the house or getting baby stuff ready or just doing something productive besides resting and walking.

And I really missed my children at home! I've never been away from them that long (2+ days total) and I really, really missed them. I so wished I could have labored at home, especially for such a long and slow labor.

Channah

So at the 24-hour mark, labor was still very mild. I asked the doctor to check me (I had one other check when I first arrived), and the baby was even higher than earlier.

Both the doctor and my midwife thought that a small amount of Pitocin would put me into active labor. They encouraged me that it probably wouldn't be too bad (since I wasn't a first-time mom), it probably wouldn't take much, and my body might even take over and I'd be able to finish laboring without staying on Pitocin. That sounded appealing to me, especially since being on Pitocin meant they would want continuous monitoring.

Being hooked up to monitors and an I.V. felt confining, but they told me I would still be able to walk around and stuff like that. When I actually decided to walk around, I found out I would be pushing an I.V. pole with the Pitocin plus have two monitor cords going from my abdomen to the pole.

I felt a bit annoyed with all that... they call that "mobility" in the hospital?! ;) But, I got over it. Not without tears, but I did push past it and then I pushed that ridiculous I.V. pole around the hospital halls as I walked for hours.

We started with 1 ml of Pitocin, and increased it every hour by another ml. And I didn't start feeling truly labor-ish until we were at 13! The very nice nurse kept asking me how contractions were feeling and I kept saying "only slightly uncomfortable" which to me meant "not doing much". So much for just needing a little bit of Pitocin to get labor started... here I was napping while at 10 ml. Crazy, and only nice in retrospect.

But finally, at 13 ml of Pitocin, the contractions were feeling more uncomfortable. I did more walking. We left the Pitocin at 13 because the contractions were continuing to get more uncomfortable. (I refuse to say "painful"!) I stayed on Pitocin for the rest of labor, not confident that I would stay in active labor if we turned it down or off.

Channah

It had been about 36 hours since my water broke. I felt like I was really in labor. Walking was definitely bringing the contractions closer together, but also making them easier to manage. I decided to walk the halls until I had to have privacy.

So I walked for about 90 minutes. My nurse wanted me to stop at the nurses' station every lap to get a good reading of the baby's heart beat. I told Joshua "I am going to walk these laps so fast, she will get tired of me stopping." Haha! Each lap did only take about 3 minutes, but she never got tired of me stopping and her having to look at the monitor while it picked up a reading. ;)

Toward the end, I could hardly make it through contractions without crying (not from being in pain, oddly enough) and I couldn't talk without crying, either. I made my stops at the nurses' station and didn't talk. I tried to manage a fake smile each time though. :)

I stopped at my room, where Joshua was resting, and asked him to call my midwife, who wanted to be there, and tell her that I was in active labor. I started crying as I talked but wiped away the tears and went back to walking.

I only walked for another handful of laps before deciding that I probably wouldn't make it another full lap without embarrassing myself in some way out in the hall. Haha! So I walked into my room and used the bed for support as I had a couple more contractions. It was dark by now, and the room was only dimly lit. My nurse came in the room but kindly stayed way back in the shadows by the door and just quietly observed.

I didn't say much to Joshua, and he wisely didn't try to talk to me, either. ;) At one point, I asked him to close a drawer by the bed that had been hanging open a few inches. It had been slightly open the whole time, but at that point it was in my line of sight and bothering me. Haha! Joshua said when I asked him to shut the drawer he knew I was almost there. What sane person uses their last bit of energy to worry about an open drawer? ;)

Channah

I thought I would feel "pushy" for a few contractions before having to push, but without warning, my body started pushing during a contraction and right away I could feel the baby's head descending! That surprised me, and I said, "I can feel the baby coming!"

I wanted to labor alone, so up until that point I had tried to keep to myself and was so thankful for the nice, understanding nurses who left me alone as much as possible. But when I said the baby was coming, the nurse called in other nurses and when they saw I was pushing they called for the doctor. (Joshua told me he heard them discussing it and they said "We better call the doctor... we don't want to get in trouble for another nurse-delivery." I found that amusing!)

I hadn't even met this doctor, because the nurse just kept telling him "She's doing great, we're making progress" and kept him away. That was probably a good thing. ;)

The doctor came in and said "What is she doing?!" and the nurse said "She's going to give birth standing up." and he said "...oh!"

My midwife had gotten there a few minutes earlier and gave some helpful coaching at the end. "Bend your knees... relax..."

I didn't push long -- maybe with 5 contractions. The baby's head came, and then the shoulders and body. They unwrapped the cord from her neck, and then I must have heard them talking about cutting the cord, because I called out "Wait to cut the cord!".

Channah and Ruth
Ruth (4) with Channah

Talk about cords! I now had not only the I.V. and two monitors attached to me with cords, but also a baby! I managed to climb into bed and they handed me my baby.

They rubbed her back vigorously and she was breathing great. And for several minutes I just kept saying "Oh, my baby! My baby!" I had thought I would cry tears of joy when my baby was finally born, but suddenly I didn't feel teary at all, only happy. :D

The doctor asked me, "So what did you read on the internet about the cord?"

I was very confused. Huh? "What?"

"How long do we have to wait to cut the cord?"

"Oh, um, just until it stops pulsating." I wasn't prepared to have to explain that one, and the part about the internet really threw me off. This was not the same doctor who had been there my first day... obviously. ;)

Joshua cut the cord, and then the doctor told me he was going to deliver my placenta. What? My midwife said "You can push with this" which I had forgotten, and it came right out.

THEN, the doctor told me he was going to put his hand in and clear out all the little clots still inside me. WHAT??!! I've had 4 other babies and no one's ever needed to do that.

Since he was telling me, not asking, I tried to be polite (as I started pulling my knees together, haha!) and said "What are the risks of just letting them come out on their own?"

"You could hemorrhage!" I looked at my midwife for input.

"We usually just massage from the outside." She reached over and gave a few pushes on my uterus and some blood and clots came out.

"See! That was still inside," said the doctor. Umm, okay, but now it's not. :P

Then the doctor looked to see if I had any tears. Joshua says he was just doing a thorough job of checking for tears, but ouch! My midwives have always been very gentle doing that. No tears, and then I was left alone. :)

(I am appreciative of the doctor's expertise, should there have been complications, and thankful that he was respectful of my requests to do things different from his "normal".)

Channah
Channah (1 day old)

The nurses left Channah in my arms, skin to skin, for over 2 hours after birth! I loved that they didn't try to hurry with weighing her, etc. She never even left our room, which was very nice.

Channah weighed 6 lbs. 5 oz., and the doctors estimated that she looked about 37 weeks gestation. (My other babies weighed around 8 lbs.)

From the time my water broke, labor was 38 hours, with Pitocin for 15 of those hours. Truly intense, active labor was only about 3-4 hours.

We went home late the next morning. It was so nice to be home! Channah is doing well, and gets lots of love from all of us.

Eliyahu (6) with Channah
Eliyahu (6) with Channah

Recovery has gone amazingly well, despite Joshua's limitations in what he can do to help (he wasn't supposed to lift or bend over). I think a big part of that has been our oldest boys, Yehoshua (almost 8) and Eliyahu (6). They have stepped up and done so much more than normal, and mostly without complaining.

With minimal supervision, they've done kitchen clean-up, vacuuming and mopping the floors, gathering, sorting, folding and putting away laundry, taking trash and recyclables out, checking the mail, helping with showers/baths and diaper changes for Moshe, filling the Berkey with water, starting beans in the crock pot, and helping keep the house tidy. Normally they wouldn't have quite so many chores, but their extra help has been a blessing during a time when Joshua and I can't just "do it all". :)

Yehoshua and Channah
Yehoshua (7) and Channah

Here are a few more notes about my birth and hospital experience.

Clothes

I stayed in my own clothes all during labor and delivery. HUGE plus in my book! I was comfortable, could walk the halls without looking ridiculous (well, any more than normal ;D), and it just helped me feel NORMAL.

Food

I also ate and drank during labor. After I started on Pitocin, the doctor there that day didn't want me to eat (only clear liquids), so I ate the stuff they gave me (chicken broth, jello, fruit juice) and then snitched some oatmeal and fruit from the breakfast tray that had been mistakenly delivered to my room. I didn't eat a lot, but it was enough to give me some energy for the rest of labor. Later in labor, I didn't feel like eating anyway.

"My babies don't come early"

Channah's arrival at ~37 weeks was such a surprise to me. I have been used to waiting on babies that took much longer than 40 weeks to be ready to be born, and I really never entertained the idea that it was even possible for one of my babies to come early. In the future (if we are blessed with more children!), I will be more prepared sooner.

And part of "being prepared sooner" will mean making sure I have the Group B Strep (GBS) test at 36 weeks rather than waiting longer. (I had an appointment scheduled for the day after Channah's birth, when we would have done the GBS test.) With an early baby and premature rupture of membranes (PROM), having the GBS test results would have been helpful information in our decision-making process.

Channah and Ruth
Channah and Ruth (4)

Postpartum

I feel like my body has had an easier recovery this time. The after-pains, which I expected to be horrible and last for days (as they have before), weren't nearly as numerous and only lasted a day or two. Nice!!

I also didn't spend days painfully engorged when my milk came in this time, and Channah is nursing well with a minimal adjustment period of soreness.

And, Channah is such an agreeable baby. She eats well and sleeps well, and since I sleep great on our couch's recliner with her in my arms, we make a great pair. :) Joshua has been caring for the other children each afternoon while I take a nice long nap, which is also a tremendous help. :)

I can't believe Channah is almost 3 weeks old already! I told Joshua, "I thought time wouldn't pass so quickly if I held Channah every minute... but it's still going too fast!"

My (unused) home birth supplies
My (unused) home birth supplies

The "hospital experience"

I have always said we were "planning" to have a home birth with each of our babies, because I do know there are no guarantees of a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy. I feel so thankful each time we are blessed with a beautiful birth experience and a healthy baby!

I feel like I had a very good hospital experience. Looking back, I wouldn't change any of my decisions, because I feel like we did our best with the information we had and the given circumstances.

I definitely prefer giving birth at home (when possible), but yet I also can say I had a good hospital birth -- and I have a new understanding of why people would prefer a hospital birth. :)

Channah and me, just waking up
Waking up my first morning back at home :)

Baby Stuff: Channah Shalom

Sisters
Ruth (4) holding Channah (2 weeks)

It's nap time / quiet time at our house right now... we'll see how much typing I get done before Channah wakes! :) At 2 1/2 weeks old, Channah is probably my most content baby ever. She's nursing great and sleeps a lot, mostly with me. I figure since I'm supposed to rest and take it easy for a few weeks, I may as well rest with the baby in my arms! :)

So let's see... where to start. With a little about her name, I guess! :)

Channah is the Hebrew name of Hannah in the Bible. The "ch" is a soft "ch" sound like in the word "Chanukkah" or "challah" or "loch", and the "a" sounds are like the "a" in "father". Channah means grace, or compassion.

Shalom is (of course) the Hebrew word meaning "peace". When we were expecting our first baby, we decided we wanted to use Fruits of the Spirit (from Galatians 5) for girls' middle names. Ruth's middle name is Patience, and for Channah we decided to use Peace -- but liked the sound of the Hebrew word Shalom better with Channah. :)

Yehoshua and Channah

During rest time one day, when both Ruth (4) and Moshe (2) were asleep in their beds, I put Channah by the window for some sunshine. I came back to find Yehoshua (7) had gotten his camera out and was taking pictures of her as she slept. So sweet!

Channah's bed

Here is Channah's bed, in Ruth's room. Currently it's mostly being used as a changing table. A friend gave us this pack'n'play with the bassinet insert, which replaced my old pack'n'play that we had used for Moshe. Having a pack'n'play has been so handy! The boys helped me set this up the day I came home from the hospital with Channah. I was not very ready for her yet!! :)

Girls' dresser

Ruth and Channah will share this dresser now. I will probably need to hang a few things in the closet to make room for both girls' clothes, but I haven't gotten much arranging done yet. I also want to swap where the dresser and bassinet are currently placed, but am waiting a few more weeks to do any furniture-moving. ;)

New car seat!

The week before Channah was born (!!) I got an infant car seat for her. My old one had expired a year ago. I didn't spend too much time agonizing over all the infant car seat choices: I knew I wanted something with a handle/carrier feature and 5-point harness, and I liked the last SungRide I had. Then I splurged on one with an easy-adjustment strap and a fabric print that I liked. :D

Even though we don't travel much (in fact, so far Channah rode home from the hospital but that's been it!), I will use the car seat in the house as a rocker if needed. I don't have a swing, bouncy seat, etc. etc. -- so aside from being in bed or in a carrier (like my Ergo or mei tai), the car seat is the other option for a temporary safe place to put the baby. :)

Our comfy couch :)

This is where I get to spend time resting: on our wonderful comfy couch with a nice fluffy pillow (and as many kids for company as will fit). :) Two and a half years ago, before Moshe was born, we replaced our broken falling-apart futon with this couch and I LOVE it. It's my favorite place in the house to sit or lay and gets lots of use for nursing babies, naps, reading books, watching movies, etc... :)

Notice cute little Moshe sweeping the floor in the background? :) He's so helpful... always willing to try to clean up the messes he just made... ;)

Cloth diapers

Amazingly, I had pulled out baby clothes and diapers before Channah was born. Honestly, I looked at my long list of "things to do before the baby's born" and all of it sounded like too much work. Haha! So I decided to wash baby clothes, since that sounded like the most fun. :D

I have lots of thoughts about Channah's birth (and my hospital experience!) but I think I'll save them for the birth story. Which WILL come! :)

Our little surprise...

Channah

Just when I thought life couldn't get any crazier!

Channah Shalom was born this weekend, weighing 6 lbs. 5 oz., our smallest (and by far, earliest!) baby and with the longest labor (but thankfully not the hardest labor).

Our planned home birth ended up a hospital birth when my water broke and the baby wasn't head down. Several hours later, she did turn head down, but labor was very, very slow.

After almost 24 hours I used pitocin to (gently!) get labor going, and she was born 15 hours later. Phew! I had a really great hospital experience. While I would much rather labor at home (especially with a long, slow labor!!), I chose to be there and was blessed with nurses who left me alone as much as possible, and my midwife who provided moral support and coaching at the very end.


Yehoshua took a picture of me waking up this morning :)

I'm so glad I started early on my freezer meals, and just last week I washed a load of baby clothes and got a car seat (to replace our expired one).

Pretty much everything else on my "want to do" list didn't get done, I missed my kids like crazy during the 2 days at the hospital, and I had a very emotional labor (I just wasn't mentally prepared for an early baby with a labor that needed augmentation, etc.).

We're getting lots of family time and pulling together to share new responsibilities. Joshua is only 2 weeks post-op from his second craniotomy, so now we're both on 10-lb. lifting restrictions and our boys are getting to exercise their strong muscles! ;) Everyone is in love with little Channah and now, life really does need to slow down for a little bit!! :)

I will eventually write Channah's birth story and share it here! Until then, here are the announcements from Ruth and Moshe's births:

Ruth Patience (2008) (birth story here)

Moshe Paul (2010) (birth story here)

Update: Here is Channah's birth story (with lots of baby pictures!)

Your questions answered: TV, coupons, gardening, FoodSaver bags... plus a family update!

I've got a bunch of questions to answer, plus it's been way too long since I've done a real family update-type of post! So, here is all of that... plus the first pregnancy picture of myself with #5 (thanks to my cameraman Yehoshua)! :)

Having fun in an indoor tent...
Moshe (2), Ruth (4), Yehoshua (7) and Eliyahu (6)

I was wondering if you could tell us what you do for entertainment without TV and netflix. I know its possible but just curious.

As far as "screen" entertainment, we have an Xbox360. We use it to watch DVDs, and we have a small selection of our own DVDs. Some are educational (like Planet Earth or Matthew) and some are just for fun (like Up). :) We do let the boys play video games on the weekends (usually not on school days).

Pretty much any day of the week they are allowed to play games that use the Xbox Kinect (camera) because those are indoor exercise games (Fruit Ninja, Kinect Sports, etc.). With the weather being rainy so often, it's really nice to have an indoor exercise option for the kids (and me...) that is FUN! :)

And aside from that, we do things like board or card games, puzzles, books, drawing, play dough, building blocks, Legos, coloring books, Duplos, making tents with blankets, all that good stuff. :)

Tammy, do you ever use coupons? You can really save money on personal items like deodorant, shampoo, any vitamins or medicines.

I do coupons occasionally. We honestly don't purchase a lot of personal care items, but when we do (like for toothpaste -- since I'm partial to Crest Original) I usually have a $0.50 coupon which does help. And I try my best to wait for the Costco coupons to help lower our grocery budget for things we'd be purchasing anyway! :)

One thing I found for us personally was that since we don't use most of the items, even if it was free-after-rebate or coupon, we still pay 9.5% tax on the pre-coupon pre-rebate prices here in Washington and it just wasn't worth my time and gas to make a stop for items that we might end up needing (or might not use at all before they expired!).

I used to regularly do Rite Aid's single check rebate program and get some good deals on toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc. but they've changed that program and I wasn't finding good enough deals to warrant going often enough to use the "rewards" before they would expire.

I'm also a homebody, we just have 1 vehicle (so any errands have to be done at the busiest traffic times of the day/week -- and take away from our family time), I have 4 young children, and we eat a lot of plain "ingredients" like milk, butter, cheese, veggies, beans, etc... The store sales here usually are within pennies of what I can pay at Costco, and I admit I really like Costco. ;)

So... that's what has shaped my grocery shopping method for this season of our lives. :)

Have you considered teaching beginning music to a few outside kids for some extra spending money?

Yes, I have! I haven't advertised for any music students in recent years, though. I love teaching but don't feel that it's a good time for me to pursue it as a business.

Also, do you garden? Even a small vegetable garden can make a huge difference in your grocery bill.

I had some herbs in pots last summer, and hope to grow more herbs and some lettuce this year! We don't get a lot of direct sunlight at our house/yard due to all the trees nearby, and our summers can stay on the cool side (highs of 65-70 degrees) so that can make it tricky if you live in a shaded area. ;)

I also have a food saver and I LOVE it, but I find the bags to be pricey and felt guilty about throwing them away.... I now wash and re-use them repeatedly!! I write on the edge just like you do so when I cut them open to use nothing is written on the useful part of the bag. I have been doing this for more then a year now and find the bags work fine used repeatedly. I was wondering if you did the same thing?

Yes! I definitely re-use my FoodSaver bags, because they are really expensive. I bought my last box at Costco with a coupon, but it was still expensive! It's worth it to me that we *love* our freezer meals/food, though, and don't have to "endure" them. ;)

Even better than washing the Food Saver bags: if I've just frozen a casserole and then vacuum-sealed it, the FoodSaver bag doesn't get very dirty at all (since the food is already frozen when it goes in). When I take the food out, still frozen, and put it into a baking dish, I put the empty nearly-clean FoodSaver bag back in the freezer without washing it, to save it for later use.

This seems to put even less wear on the bags than washing them... and makes me a lot more comfortable with the amount of bag it takes to FoodSave a casserole. ;)

Yehoshua
Yehoshua

Yehoshua is 7 1/2 and is in second grade. He does part of his homeschooling with my mom on the phone each weekday. It's a big help to me and gives him some extra accountability, too. :) Yehoshua loves Legos, math, art, RC cars, sports, science, and video games.

He's a great big brother and shows such kindness to the younger children (in-between the moments of rough-housing!). Some of Yehoshua's chores are folding laundry, vacuuming, clearing and washing the table, dishes, picking up, and yard work. :)

Eliyahu
Eliyahu

Eliyahu just turned 6! He's a big boy (nearly the same size as Yehoshua) and is constantly melting my heart with the cute things he says. Eliyahu is in kindergarten (homeschooled) and loves drawing, starfall.com, puzzles, games, cooking, riding his bicycle, Legos/Duplos and RC cars. His chores are the same as Yehoshua's. :)

Ruth
Ruth

Ruth just turned 4 and is our sweet smiley sunshine girl. Ruth loves doing preschool work (at home), dolls, coloring, stuffed animals, Boggle Jr., babies, the color pink, Hello Kitty, her quilt, organizing things, and anything "baby" or miniature. Ruth's chores are sweeping, cleaning her room, setting the table, and putting away laundry. :)

Moshe
Moshe

Moshe just turned 2 years old. He's a cuddly little guy who runs around the house getting into mischief or joining in whatever everyone else is doing. Moshe is starting to talk and his little uh-huhs and thank-yous are heartwarming. He loves his stuffed tiger and orangutan and usually takes a good nap every day.

Moshe is also my early riser, usually by 5am daily! His "chores" are helping to clean up whatever mess he's just made. ;) Moshe loves hanging out with dad, even if it means sitting quietly on dad's lap while reading the news.

Baby...??? :)

And the new baby! We're all getting excited to meet him or her. Late March is the estimated due date, so I've got a good 8 weeks left... which doesn't feel like very long when I start thinking about all the things I'd like to get done before then. :)

...one of which is to be as much help to Joshua as possible! He is recovering well from his first surgery (a brain/nerve surgery for Trigeminal Neuralgia) and getting lots of rest. He still has a headache (surgery was 9 days ago) but the doctors are impressed at his recovery so far. We're so thankful there haven't been any complications at all!

In 2 weeks, Joshua will have a second surgery (involving the inner ear and brain, but for an unrelated condition). So, we'll be having a long stretch here of keeping the house calm/quiet and making sure Joshua gets as much rest as possible. :)

I had no idea Joshua would be off work for 4 months! Is there anything you guys need? Prayers to you all. And you are doing awesome. --Katie

Barring unforeseen complications, Joshua should be able to return to work after 10-12 weeks. We've been blessed with help from family and friends -- and I'm thankful that (despite feeling like a whale much of the time!) I still feel pretty good and am able to keep things running smoothly while Joshua gets better. :)

And, since we've known for a while that these surgeries could become necessary, we've been putting aside anything "extra" to get us through Joshua's time off work. I'm just so thankful that we have insurance and that Joshua can get the medical care he needs! :)

Homemade cloth baby wipes


One of my projects recently: making cloth baby wipes! I pulled out my hand-me-down sewing machine and some hand-me-down fabric and made some really affordable baby wipes (I bought thread only!).

I'm not an experienced seamstress by any means, but baby wipes are simple and fun and something I am constantly using... now I have some soft new ones for the new baby. ;)

What kind or brand of covers do you use for your CD prefolds?

I really like the Dappi brand nylon pull-on covers. (That link is to the best price I've found for them. I've ordered a couple times.) They're affordable, last a long time, are soft and comfy, and are quick to pull on. :)

I also have a few knitted wool soakers, which I LOVE, but only use when my baby is "predictable" enough to not need to wash them. ;) They're great for overnight wet diapers... SO nice!

And, I have a few miscellaneous covers (Thirsties, Bummis, and Flip) that were given to me. They all work well; Bummis are probably my favorite brand for wrap-style covers (that I've tried).

I like having wrap-style covers for younger babies; at Moshe's age now (2), the pull-on Dappis are my favorite. :) Actually -- I just really like having some variety, because sometimes different things work best depending on the baby/age! :)

Snow, candlelight, leftovers, and grocery shopping

Yehoshua with the snow man

We're having an exciting week at our house. It's been snowing off-and-on since Saturday morning!!! Snow is exciting when it's a maybe-once-a-year event, and the kids have been playing in it for hours every day.

The very first day, the boys built two snow men (one shown above) and had fun rolling huge snowballs. The next day, they started on a snow fort in the back yard. The following few days were too cold to pack any snow, so they just tramped around in it and searched for icicles. :)

Sandwich by candlelight

Joshua stayed home from work yesterday and we had a fun "snow day" together at home (we still did school though), topped off by losing our power about 5pm for a couple hours.

I had made a big lunch (macaroni and cheese and veggies) and dinner was just going to be a cold-cut sandwich. So, we ate our sandwiches by candlelight and then sent the kids to bed with their flashlights. :)

Leftover chili and baked potatoes

For lunch, I found leftover baked potatoes and leftover chili in the fridge from earlier this week, and combined them for a yummy, filling meal. I need to plan to have these together more often! :)

Tonight was scheduled to be our bi-weekly shopping trip, but instead of the snow melting today as predicted, it's just piling higher! (I think we're up to 10+ inches at our house now, with a frozen layer of slush at the bottom.)

So, I'll adjust the week's end of my menu plan and hold off for a bit on shopping -- probably at least until Sunday or Monday. I pulled the milk I froze out of the freezer, and we're still good on eggs, cheese, and most everything else. I have fresh carrots and celery, and we're eating frozen veggies and canned fruit.

I'm so thankful to not have to go out when the weather is bad -- OR in the crowds that were out getting groceries last week when the weather was predicted to get snowy and icy! :)

I have some projects to work on while Moshe's still napping, but my plan is to get back online tonight to share a new recipe/pantry meal when the kids head to bed. Barring power outages or exhaustion. ;)

Summertime Pantry Challenge: Fridge picture, new mattress, and bedrooms re-arranged!

Today (July 31) is supposed to be the last day of the Summertime Pantry Challenge, but I'm not nearly ready to be finished yet! (I'm moving at a turtle's pace compared to Jessica and the others!) I don't have my freezers organized yet, so I'll share pictures in a few days when I do.

Here's what my fridge looks like right now:

We made beans and rice (a really yummy pantry meal in my opinion!) for today, and this week for dinners we'll be grilling chicken and fish from the freezer, mostly served with rice, salad greens, and vegetables.

See my lovely fresh parsley on the top shelf?! A friend started some herbs from seed this year and shared some with me. My pot of parsley is doing great and I just clipped all the biggest stems. I'm planning to make some Tabbouleh this week.

No, I don't have most of the vegetables for Tabbouleh... so I'm debating asking Joshua to pick up 1 tomato and 1 cucumber when he goes to the store today for bananas. (Joshua takes 2 bananas in his lunch every day so a weekly banana trip on Sunday evenings is routine for us.) :)

See, that's my trouble... I have fresh parsley to use and I am craving my Tabbouleh with ALL the "right" ingredients. Substitute canned tomatoes or leave out the cucumber? That just doesn't seem right! This is why I kinda stink at doing a "real" pantry challenge. :P :)

I also got a little side-tracked this week when my pantry challenge included getting a new mattress and re-arranging the kids bedrooms! With reducing my grocery shopping this month, we spent some of the savings on a new twin-size mattress for Ruth (3).

The bedrooms: Before and after!

Along with demonstrating my lack of photography skills (except in the area of food!),  these "before" pictures are a bit embarrassing because we didn't clean up the rooms first. I figured we could just clean while we moved furniture and stuff, which we did. So anyway, here is how the kids bedrooms were arranged earlier this week:

Moshe's room before

The smaller of the two bedrooms was Moshe's room. He slept in the Pack'n'Play, and the long dresser is my changing table (also has Moshe's clothes and diapers stored in it). I loved having a room just for "the baby" and he usually napped pretty well as a result! :)

Moshe's room before

There was also a futon mattress on the floor in Moshe's room, which I used when I nursed him during the night, or for napping during the day. (The futon frame had broken, but we kept the mattress. It works great for a guest bed when an air mattress is placed underneath it!)

Moshe's room before

And, there is a closet behind the door. (You can also see how small this room really is!) The closet has a few tubs of outgrown kids' clothing and some toys.

The NEW LOOK for this room? Instead of "Moshe's Room", it's now "Ruth's Room"!

Ruth's new room!

Some friends generously gave us this bed frame and matching dresser for Ruth last year. We just needed a mattress, which we got this week! Here is Ruth trying out her new bed. :) The tote bag has all her dolly and Build-A-Bear stuff in it. :)

Ruth's new room!

The matching dresses, which holds Ruth's clothes, hair stuff, and extra bed sheets. (I had gotten a few twin-size bed sheets at GoodWill in anticipation of setting up Ruth's new bed!)

Ruth's new room!

And the other side of the room, we moved the kitchen playset out of the closet and into the room! :) So cute... and it looks like a real little girl's room. :) The kitchen set was a hand-me-down from one of our friends when we moved out of our apartment, and the kids have played with it tons!! :)

Ruth's new room!

The happy girl in her new bed! When I asked her to smile, she scrunched up her face... :P :)

Now, for the boys' room. This is before:

Boys room before

Yehoshua (7), Eliyahu (5), and Ruth (3) shared this room. The boys have bunk beds...

Boys room before

...Ruth slept in the crib...

Boys room before

...they each have a dressers, and the closet doubled for toy storage. (We try to just have one or two "sets" of toys down at a time, to make cleanup more manageable!)

Boys room after

The bunk bed and dressers stayed in the same place, but Ruth's dresser moved (obviously!) and the only really good place for the crib was back in this corner. It works pretty well though!

Boys room after

There's just enough room to squeeze between the two beds. I think there's actually more floor space with this arrangement! :)

Boys room after

I moved the clock radio over by Eliyahu's bed. The boys like to listen to classical music while they're going to sleep or playing. Now Moshe gets classical music for his naps! ;)

Boys room after

And where the crib used to be, we put the changing table. The door *almost* opens. It's a pretty long dresser and tricky to place without covering a floor vent, doorway, etc. :)

Moshe cuteness!

And this is the cute little Moshe who now gets to sleep in a room with the big boys! :) I asked Yehoshua what he thought of the new room arrangements, and he said he was happy because he has wanted to have Moshe in his bedroom too. :) The boys' room is only a little bigger than Ruth's, and a whole lot more crowded, but I was blessed by the big boys' cheerful attitude about making room for the big changing table and a little guy in their room! :)

And I'm extremely thankful we're not trying to squeeze everyone in our 2-bedroom apartment any more! :) Ruth's room will double as a "guest room", as we have a spare crib-size mattress and she can sleep on that on the floor in the boys' room when we have overnight guests. :)

From the past: This post has photos and a video of what the kids' bedroom looked like in our apartment. :)

My final goals for the Summertime Pantry Challenge:

Organize the freezers (they ARE getting emptier!) and take pictures

Make split pea soup with the split peas I bought and never used a while back

Eat beans (or legumes) in some form every day this week

If I were really ambitious (and I might be... or I might not be...): Wipe down the tops of my food storage buckets in the garage. They're kinda dusty!

...and update next weekend with my progress report! :)

Some other great ladies are joining in the Summertime Pantry Challenge! Visit them for more inspiration:

Quick and cool summer snack: Fresh veggies and dill dip (Plus: more about my family in Ohio)

One of my school friends gave me this recipe for Dill Dip in third grade. My mom never bought veggie dips, so I was excited about being able to make my own! :) (As a side note, I went to public school until 5th grade, when my parents started homeschooling me.)

My mom grows fresh dill in her garden, and while we were visiting this year Yehoshua got to pick some dill and, with a little help, make some fresh dill dip! If you don't have fresh dill, you can use dried dill weed, making this a pantry-staples recipe for me.

Dill dip is quick and easy to make, and we all love dipping veggie sticks in it! Carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, or bell peppers with dill dip makes a great snack or side dish, especially if you're serving lunch to guests. :)

Tracy wrote,

I would love to hear more about your family in Ohio.

I don't have any recent family pictures, but this post has one from a couple years ago when we were there. :)

My two sisters still live at home with my parents. Bonnie is 20 and Amy is 18. Both have been studying piano and are very talented (and practice tons). :) When we visited this year, we got to go to several concerts (orchestra, band, etc.) that they performed in and it was so fun to hear live music. Not to mention being privy to their practice time at home! ;) I have a video of them uploaded at Facebook, from one of their recitals (I think it was Amy's senior recital, but I'm not sure... I wasn't there.).

Here is the video. Enjoy! :)

Also in Ohio, I have two brothers. (The other brother lives in Eastern Washington.)

Phillip is 26 and got married last year. He has a blog here. He's very inventive and is an electrician at a robotics company in Toledo, Ohio. (Not that I really know anything about it aside from that!) His wife is a violinist. :)

Boys with Reuben
Yehoshua and Eliyahu with my brother Reuben

My brother Reuben (23) is married and he and his wife are expecting their first baby next year! They live just a few blocks from where we lived in Ohio. :)

So that's the basics... if you have more questions, just ask! :)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Peanut butter and honey sandwiches made easier

With the advent of nicer weather, we've been spending every morning possible outside! While the kids ride their bikes, chase balls, or play in their "clubhouse" (a big bush in the yard!), I mow the grass (we have a reel mower), pull weeds, or hang laundry -- in between breaking up quarrels and capturing escapee Moshe!

When it's time to come inside, we're HUNGRY. I mean, who wouldn't get hungry driving a car on foot:

...or playing with a snail:

...or improving soccer skills?!

If I don't have beans cooked, PB & Honey is our go-to lunch sandwich (except for the baby). The only problem with PB & Honey is that it's sticky and gooey and I don't have a honey bear so it's just plain hard to do, especially in a hurry.

Peanut butter and honey sandwich shortcut

My solution? Mix the peanut butter and honey together in a bowl before spreading onto bread. It thickens up nicely, no longer being greasy from the natural peanut butter that I just haven't stirred well enough OR drippy-sticky with gobs of honey. Perfect! :)

Peanut butter and honey sandwich shortcut
So much less messy! :)

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, we need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. How to de-gas beans (Adrienne at Whole New Mom)
2. How to season an iron skillet (Stacy at Stacy Makes Cents)
3. How to tell if an egg is bad (Living So Abundantly)
4. No-touch bread making method (Georgia at Georgia's Cookie Jar)
5. Stir-fry is faster than drive-thru (The Local Cook)
6. How to make a butterfly cake (Purposely Frugal)
7. Tips for homemade bread (Laura at The Frugal Kitchen)
8. Tip for making multiple batches (Cheryl at The Bz House That Love Built)
9. Freeze raw ground beef in meal-size portions (Nony at A Slob Comes Clean)
10. Mass-produce sandwiches for a crowd (Jessi at Quirky Cookery)
11. Canning and pickling beets (Jodi at LG Family Farm)
12. Lacto-fermentation tips (Kara from Taste is Trump)

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