Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Little Bit of This and That

Can someone please tell me where this has been all my life? Do you have any idea how many years I've been putting vinegar on my popcorn?

It's so new, I couldn't find a picture of the stuff I bought (and too lazy to upload my own picture!) so this is the Canadian box. Mine's red. The salt and vinegar powder you sprinkle all over the popcorn is awesome. I really don't know why someone didn't think of this a long time ago. (And in case you're wondering, I know this isn't food. Just chalk it up to another Foodie Faux Pas. :)

Also, my awesome husband bought this Mama a few new toys:

a Bosch Universal Plus Kitchen machine (with blender and slicer/shredder)

and a Nutrimill grain mill.

We received a ton (to us) of money when we filled out our taxes this year, and Reed bought me these bad boys before we put the rest towards the student loans. When I thanked him profusely, he said he is proud that these are the types of things I want to spend money on, and it is a pleasure for him to buy them for me. I love having a husband that supports my role as a wife!

I hope you're enjoying this spring weather like we are! Just another reason I am so very thankful we live where we do... I have a very convenient sun/play room, a huge yard, and a playground across the street! What do you like to do in the beautiful weather?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

What Does Home Mean to You?

I've been slowly completing projects around the house when I have spare time. It's been wonderful having a creative outlet to enjoy after Abel goes to bed and Reed's working (though much of what I do as a wife and mom could be labeled 'creative.') While I don't have time to craft too often, I like working on projects like this in bits and pieces.

Our accent wall in the living room is a very dark brown. Since we moved in, I've been planning on having one of those large vinyl stickers made with Psalm 127:1a in bright green for that wall. Many of the websites I looked at were charging $100+ for the size I wanted, which was way out of our price range! A few people suggested I paint it right on the wall... much cheaper, but made me a little nervous.

Instead, I decided to buy four canvases, and paint them like this:

"Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them. Psalm 127:1, 3-5

"Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her... let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." Ephesians 5:24, 25, 33

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Deuteronomy 6:5-7

"My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. My inmost being will exult when your lips speak what is right. Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day." Proverbs 23:15-17 "Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right." Ephesians 6:1 "Sing to God, sing praises to His name... God settles the solitary in a home." Psalm 68:4, 5

Reed helped me pick Bible verses that were related to home and family, verses we wanted to be reminded of on a daily basis, which makes the project extra special. While I love all of the ones we picked, the last verse on the 'E' canvas brings me an extra bit of joy when I read it.

"Sing to God, sing praises to His name... God settles the solitary in a home."
Psalm 68:4, 5

I have seen this verse used many times in adoption blogs, books, and articles. Reading this verse not only makes me thankful that I am not lonely because of my wonderful family, but also reminds me to pray for the future of our family, that we may be the home a needy child is welcomed into. Praise God for settling the solitary in a home, with a family!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Abel's Birth Story

Abel Kenneth
Just a few days old

Abigail has inspired me to write up Abel's birth story. I've written about it here and there, but I wanted to have a concise, complete version on here. Sorry this is long, but Abel's birth story is pretty dramatic :)
Because of my high risk factors, I went in to have non stress tests done 2x a week to check up on Abel beginning in my third trimester. On Tuesday I went in for the testing when we discovered that my blood pressure was pretty high. I explained to the doctor that I had been having some sharp pains in my shoulder, but that I thought it was from lifting kids while I babysat. He explained that my BP was probably high because I was in pain. I also wasn't feeling 100%, and so I didn't go to work that week from Wednesday on.

Wednesday night was our 3rd wedding anniversary. I cooked a special dinner at home, but felt too nauseous to really enjoy it too much. I also had the dull ache in my abdomen. We took off to church to teach our children's classes, but by then end of the night I was crying for Reed to take me home. I felt awful.

On Thursday, I had another non stress test (NST) to check on the baby. My blood pressure was high again, but baby looked fine. I was feeling pretty sick by now. By Thursday night I was throwing up, and had a pretty awful migraine. I didn't think anything special of it though, because I had migraines and nausea all throughout my pregnancy.

By Friday, I was a wreck. I didn't sleep at all the night before. I sobbed when Reed left for work, and I think I was still crying when he got home. In addition to the nausea, the pain in my shoulder, and the migraine, the dull ache in my stomach was now this awful sharp jabbing. I was miserable! When Reed came home and found me in such pain, he told me I had to go to the ER. I begged him to let me go to the OB's office instead. I didn't want to spend the day at the hospital. So, Reed drove me to the OB's office where they did another NST, and more lab work. The doctor said it appeared that I had a virus, but wanted to check on something in my bloodwork. He would call in the morning if anything showed up in my labs, and told me to go straight to the hospital if I felt even a little worse.

The pain in my stomach was unbearable. I think I cried off and on all night. I didn't know what this virus was, but it was awful! As Reed was getting his shoes on to leave for work, my doctor called. He said to meet him at the Mother and Baby unit at the hospital right away. I remember driving over there, and all I could think was, "I just want them to knock me out and take this baby so they can fix whatever's wrong with me."

As the nurse buzzed us into the Labor and Delivery hall, I remember thinking, "We'll be back-- right here!-- in a few weeks to have Abel!" They hooked me up to another NST immediately. I was extremely uncomfortable due to the pain in my stomach, and the bands for the tests went right across the painful spot. It felt like we were in there for an eternity, and no one told us anything. We began pressing the nurse for more details; we knew she had to know more than we did. Finally, she told us that in her experience, we wouldn't be leaving the hospital without the baby, and that he would be born in the next day or two.

The nurse finally gave me some pain medication (Stadol).  I'm not even sure she had even finished giving it to me (through the IV I already had) and I was able to relax for the first time in days. I'm pretty sure I told the nurse she was my best friend as I drifted in and out of sleep.

The doctor came in, unfortunately after I was loopy from the medicine, to give us more details. I had severe pre-ecclampsia and HELLP syndrome. This explained the pain in my shoulder, my high blood pressure, the throwing up, the migraine, and the pain in my abdomen. To prevent my organs from shutting down the baby needed to be delivered, immediately. He would begin an induction after I got settled into a room. While most of this conversation is fuzzy in my brain, I distinctly remember him saying he could go over all the risks of my situation if we really wanted, but that we didn't really want to know. Reed and I took his word for it. Praise God that I was already in the third trimester, and Abel was just a few days from officially being full term. The solution for HELLP is always to deliver the baby, no matter how far along the baby is.

After being moved, they began another IV, a medicine called Magnesium Sulfate. Because my blood pressure was so high, they had to give me this to prevent seizures. I was on it for a few days, and it put me into the weirdest fog. Most of the memories I have while on this medicine are all jumbled up in my brain. I was aware enough to know that I couldn't process things very quickly, and my thinking was slowed down. I almost felt trapped, like I had no efficient way to communicate. It was very weird. My doctor gave me a cervix ripener (I wasn't due for another 4 weeks) that he said should induce labor after 8 hours or so, given in 2 doses. He also told me I would not be able to have the hoped for epidural, because I still had blood thinners in my system. Combining the two causes paralysis. This baby better be cute.

By this point, the stadol was wearing off, and I couldn't focus on anything but the stomach pain. Later, Reed and I were told that pain was my liver, throbbing. One doctor told me that if I'd waited any longer to come to the hospital, even one more day, my liver would have ruptured. That explained a lot!
After a few hours, my doctor came back in to check my progress, and to check on Abel. He shook the baby and was expecting to see his heart rate jump in response. It didn't. The doctor finished his exam, then told us I'd be having a Cesarean, that the baby wasn't handling the induction like he'd wanted him to.

Questions were floating in our minds, we knew it was a very dangerous surgery. Because of my clotting disorder, I'm not suppose to have surgery. (I even still have my wisdom teeth!) It puts me at a very high risk for lethal blood clots during recovery. But, I had taken my blood thinners that morning, which put me at a risk for bleeding too much during the surgery. And, one symptom of HELLP syndrome is the breakdown of red blood cells, which also put me at a very high risk of bleeding too much during the surgery. On top of all this, because I had taken my blood thinners and could not have an epidural, they would have to give me general anesthesia during the C-section.

I hate to end such a story so anticlimactically, but I don't remember much else! They knocked me out and delivered Abel. Because it was an emergency, they forgot to get Reed until after Abel was born. Reed says that when he came into the OR, he didn't know who to go to first, his baby or his new baby. During recovery, Reed was in and out of my room and in and out with the baby. My mom stayed with Abel, whose blood sugar they discovered was dangerously low. They gave him a few special formula bottles, and continued to check his blood for a few hours. He was a tiny little guy, only 5 lbs 5 oz.

When I finally met my precious bundle it was very late, actually the day after he was born. I remember that they wheeled my bed to the nursery and handed me my baby. I looked at him and said out loud, "I want another one." I wasn't given the option to care for him that first night, but soon enough he wouldn't leave my side! And at 14 months, he still hasn't!

I spent a few extra days in the hospital than most people, and was throwing up again by last day there. I felt like I was going to rip my incision open! Did I mention that in addition to all of this, they were still treating me for a virus? And that they put me back on blood thinners only 12 hours after Abel was born (for another 3 months)? I begged the doc to let me go home, that I would be more comfortable throwing up there.

Back at home I recovered from the emergency C-Section, the HELLP, and the virus. I experienced a terrible side effect from the surgery, transferred pain in my shoulders. It was awful, but thankfully it only lasted several days.

I am so thankful that God saw fit to keep me alive through all of this! I love my precious little one, and would go through it all again for him in a second. I am also so thankful that my mom was able to come down for a few days, and that the wonderful people Reed works with pulled together to cover his shifts for a week. Reed never left my side! And now for next time, you can be sure I am familiar with the signs of HELLP syndrome. But we're praying it doesn't happen again!

Before! About 1.5 weeks before Abel's birthday

After! Abel and Mama in the hospital

Friday, March 11, 2011

Menu for a Month- Month 1 in Review

In February, I decided to begin making my menu plans for one month at a time, and only do one major (3 store) shopping trip a month instead of one a week. We set aside a small portion of our grocery budget to be used every week on things like produce and dairy, which Reed picked up on his way home from work.

After doing groceries this way for a month, I'm planning on continuing to shop and meal plan like this as long as it continues to be beneficial. March is already all shopped for and planned out.

Here is what I learned from the first month:

  • we go through more eggs, milk, bananas, oats, and butter than I thought!
  • I always have to keep the kitchen stocked for times I need to bake a breakfast or dessert item. We bring food to church and church functions a lot, which I didn't plan for well enough.
  • When you and your husband both get the flu, pre-planned dinners go out the window. We went over budget by buying a stack of cold cut sandwich stuff to get us through the few days we didn't move from the living room. I don't always want to count on having exceptions from my meal plan, but it's good to be flexible.
  • I love how I can rearrange the meals from day to day if I want, and know I have everything in my pantry to make any meal on the calender.
  • We really do spend less the fewer trips I make to the grocery store. On Reed's short, baby-less stops after work, is able to pick up the 3 or so things we need that week. I, on the other hand, am not.
  • Planning meals out by month allows me to ensure that our overall nutrition is balanced. I really like this since we don't eat a lot of meat; with a monthly meal plan I can make sure things like lean proteins are spread out throughout the month.
This month should run smoother than last, with fewer last minute trips to the store. The one factor I am still trying to figure out are our veggies. Reed and I would love to join a CSA for our fresh produce, but having vegetables that vary from week to week would throw off my monthly planning. Maybe I can buy the produce that we eat the most (onions, celery, carrots--- for my spaghetti/pizza sauce!) on my monthly trips, then supplement meals with the produce from the CSA? The other issue we're having is finding an affordable co-op that has pick up times which work for us. Since I can't leave the house until after the babysitting day is over and Chase has been picked up, they have to have pick up times that work for Reed. Does anyone have any advice about produce co-ops? Which ones do you like? We're most strongly considering Lynchburg Grows, because of their pick up times.

At the end of February, I sat down with my monthly menu plan board to see what pantry items I had run out of, to add to my big stock up trip. I'm thankful that having a running list for the month works for my husband too, who adds items to it if he runs out of something. Do you see what he added? There on the bottom right?

Let me zoom in for you:
'Marital Bliss'

He told me he crossed it out because we already have it! What a sweet thing to find while I was making my shopping list. :)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Foodie Faux Pas

I love to cook.

I love creating a meal that brings pleasure to my family and friends.

I love trying new combinations, new ingredients, new utensils.

I have watched many cooking shows, learning techniques you cannot pick up from reading a recipe.

I have devoured (haha) many cookbooks, cover to cover, to learn about a new cuisine.

A common phrase in my house-'That's not food"-is used between Reed and I to describe everything from canned fruit cocktail (That's not food!) to McDonald's (That's not... well, you get the idea.)

Even if I am cooking the same dish over again, my food is never quite the same because I am always tweaking. And because I don't write down my recipes!

I am a foodie.

But, there is something I have to admit.

As much as I hate prepared and processed foods (I like my ingredients to resemble whatever they started out as), as much as I hate fast/junk 'food,' and as much as I hate the American tendency to sweeten everything, I have a confession:

I love ketchup. A lot. And ketchup's cousin, A1? I could drink it straight from the bottle.

Do you know what's in ketchup? A few spices, tomato concentrate, vinegar, sugar, and (in many brands) high fructose corn syrup. Who decided that we should mix those things together?

(My mouth is watering while I type this. For real.)

I was really hoping that I would not pass this American quirk on to my son. I have always made his food, and even before that I didn't shy away from anything spicy or strong flavored while preggo or nursing since I read he would be able to taste bits of it. He loves spicy curry, pancakes with oats and flax seed, plain Greek yogurt, and unsweetened apple sauce. He has spit out boxed macaroni and cheese the few times I've tried to serve it to him. (Okay, and homemade macaroni and cheese. I think he just doesn't like the noodles, but that isn't helpful to my point!) While he did go through a pretty short (though awful) picky stage, Abel really does eat a wide variety of flavors.

So the other day, Reed treated us to lunch out at a fine dining establishment Cracker Barrel. Abel took a few bites of the things we were eating, but wasn't too interested in having a meal. We wanted to finish our lunches in the company of a happy baby, so I tried to interest him on one of my fries to keep him busy. Curious, I swiped it in my ketchup before popping it in Abel's mouth.

My son swished the fry around, licked off all the ketchup, and spit the fry back out demanding more of that messy, red goodness. For the rest of the meal Abel tried his hardest to get at my plate, straining to dip his little fingers into this newly discovered sweet nectar.

I just hope I can still teach him to appreciate ratatouille. Sun dried tomatoes. Insalata Caprese. Balsamic vinegar. Pastisio. Chicken Florentine. And macaroni and cheese.

Even if he has to dip it in ketchup.