Trials and the Strength to Endure

IMG_9929bw

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the hard stuff that we all go through: the emotional and physical and mental struggles that are just part of life. I guess pushing out a baby will do that to a girl.

[Read more…]

Baby Marilyn Newborn Photos

My neighbor and friend Lindsey is an amazing photographer.  She knows how to capture the perfect moments and masters light like a pro.  Um, maybe that’s cause she IS a pro.  She took these newborn pictures of our sweet Marilyn June and I’m in love.  Hope you enjoy!

 

P.S. If you’re in the Phoenix area, check out Lindsey’s website!

IMG_3948ed  [Read more…]

It’s a GIRL!

 

AAIMG_0047

BIG news around here…we had our baby and it’s a GIRL!  I had myself convinced we were having a boy, partly because I really wanted little Finn to have a buddy of the same gender next to him in line, just like the other kids do.  But now that she’s here, I couldn’t be more thrilled that I have another little girl to dress up.  Admittedly, I was getting a little panicked that all my girls were growing out of the toddler section at Target.

[Read more…]

Keeping It Real

 

You know how everyone’s always saying that nobody’s genuine on the internet anymore?  Well, I’ve got genuine right here for you.

IMG_2203

This is what crazy looks like, people.

I have been completely, frantically and exhaustingly (that’s a word) overwhelmed.  Apparently homeschooling 6 small children, trying to finish a huge creative project, keeping a house clean, children fed, church obligations covered and a husband happy, all while carrying your 7th child is enough to do that to you.

Strange.

[Read more…]

The upside to carrying your 7th kid

_MG_0957

Expecting baby #2. We were so young, so…sane.

I realize that the decision to have 7 kids isn’t really an idea the majority of people will ever entertain (well, sane people, anyway).  But just in case you ever wondered if there’s any benefit to being pregnant while there are 6 diminutive maniacs running around your house (all.  day.  long.), there ARE!  Read on.

1.  You’re too busy to think about being pregnant. If you’re an OCD planner and dreamer like I am, then a first pregnancy literally feels likes it’s 27 (thousand) months long.  Researching cribs and strollers and baby baths, panicking about what baby carrier is safest and having meltdowns about the nursery theme filled every minute of every day of that first gestation.  During THIS pregnancy however, I generally abide by the following motto:

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

[Read more…]

The Epidural: Making an Informed Decision

 

Yay for a new year and getting back to the swing of things and regular schedules!  That is, after getting my family over all the yucky sicknesses making the round this winter…it’s been like Pukefest 5000 around here. 🙁

Now back to one of my favorite topics…birth!  And on to the second installment of my series on this wonderful topic.

C (14) copy

[Read more…]

How to entertain a toddler on a plane!

IMG_8726pin copy

 

A couple weeks ago I got to take a quick little trip to northern CA with Finn to visit my grandparents.  Not only had they never met Finn but my extended family was throwing a party for my Grandma’s 85th birthday so it was a perfect time to visit!

I was super jazzed to get my dose of fall colors, enjoy cooler weather and visit with family.  Oh, and only be in charge of one kid.

IMG_8641e

IMG_8674ee

 IMG_8682e

This is one of my favorite special occasion cakes ever…soooo good!

IMG_8694e

Classic grandparent shot 😉

I was less than thrilled, however, to handle an 18 month-old through airport security and keep him contained on my lap for the flight.  I brought a couple of toys for him but if you know toddlers, you know that they have the attention span of a gnat.

I had to get really creative and so I came up with a handful of games to play with him.  I also thought of some other great, common, household items that I’ll bring next time to help him stay focused on my lap (and not on running down the aisle during major turbulence).

Bonus: airplanes make lots of white noise so chances are good that no one will care how loud your baby gets while playing.  Anything other than ear-splitting screams is quite pleasant, actually.

IMG_8726

PACKING LIST:

Sharpie
small toy your child enjoys (i.e. doll or car)
popsicle stick 
masking or electrical tape (wound around the popsicle stick)
clothespin
string or twine
5-6 dry noodles with a hole through them (penne or macaroni work well)
pipe cleaner
1-2 plastic cups (or get them from the flight attendant)
balloon (in a light color, preferably)

Plastic baggy to hold everything

The list of games you can dream up with this great group of tools is nearly endless!  Desperation is the mother of invention so I’m sure any mother could come up with a dozen or so to keep baby occupied.  Here are some of my (and Finn’s!) favorites:

1.  Use the cup and small toy to play hide and seek.  Put the toy on your fold-down tray and then cover it up with an upside down cup.  Turn another empty cup upside down as well and move them around.  See if baby can remember which cup his toy is under!

2.  String the noodles onto the twine and make a necklace out of it.  See if baby can thread the noodles onto the pipe cleaner himself and then pull them off and let them drop into the cup.  Cover the opening of the cup with your hand and rattle the noodles around!

3.  Set up a little town (for a doll) or racetrack (for a car) on your tray.  Use tape and popsicle stick to make roads, stores, gas station and the cup as a garage or bed.  Get creative making accessories for the doll or ramps for the car!

4.  Shove a couple of noodles into the uninflated balloon and help baby do the same.  Then blow up the balloon a little bit (don’t tie it yet!) and rattle the noodles around.  Clip the balloon closed with the clothespin and show baby what happens when it’s released a little at a time.

5. Draw a face or other cartoons on the balloon and show baby how the pictures change when the balloon inflates.  When baby tires of this game, inflate the balloon all the way and tie it.  Let baby go crazy.

6. Wrap the tape around the cup and draw pictures or write messages to your baby.  Let him peel the tape off and stick it on his hands and face.

7.  Make a mummy out of the small toy with tape and let baby peel it all off.

8.  Tie the string onto the toy and hang it off your tray.  Make a game out of pretending to rescue the toy dangling from treacherous heights!

9.  Draw a face on the closed end of the clothespin and pretend to eat your baby with this “monster”.

10.  Pin the clothespin to your baby’s shirt and let him figure out how to get it off.  Teach him how to open and close it and clip it to the cup, noodle, pipe cleaner, etc.

IMG_8750

Hopefully this helps maintain some sanity during this season of holiday traveling.  Let me know what other game ideas you dream up!

The C-Section: Making an informed decision

 

I’m so, SO excited for my first post in a blog series on birth!  I LOVE babies and I love talking about birth.

I was extremely nervous and scared for my first two births but since then I have learned and experienced so much that it is now my favorite part of pregnancy…and not simply because I get to meet my sweet baby! (and sleep on my back and stomach, and go longer than 30 seconds without peeing, and fit into tight spaces… you catch my drift)

c-section decision

I’m grateful that my birth experiences have been extremely varied.  Because of that, I am very empathetic to all mothers and their births, both those that go as planned and those that don’t.  My first baby was delivered by emergency c-section after Liam’s heart rate kept dipping dangerously low.  I fought like crazy to get a vaginal birth the second time around and I succeeded; Toby was a VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean) in the hospital, induced with Pitocin and I was given an epidural.  Juliet and Finn, my 3rd and 6th births, were water births at home, and 4th & 5th births, the twins, were natural and vaginal in the hospital (and also my biggest triumphs!).

The thought to write a series on birth popped into my head one day but I wasn’t sure what direction it would take.  Then the idea to write specifically about c-sections literally woke me up one night.  I couldn’t get back to sleep, thinking about all the women who face this decision and how scary it can be.

DysonWeb7
This photo is of my little sister in the throes of labor with her first baby.  This was taken at a birth center but she ended up transferring to a hospital and delivering by cesarean.

No one can tell you what birth is best for you and your baby…or what unanticipated twist might occur to change your best laid plans.  But it IS important to plan.  If you read and research and become as informed as possible, then, if life does throw some crazy curve ball at you (twins anyone??), you will be prepared to change plans with minimal stress and still end up with an amazing and beautiful birth!

finn1
This priceless photo was taken just seconds after I caught my 6th baby, Finn, who was born at home, in the water.

The reason I named this blog series “Making an Informed Decision” is because YOU get to decide how to birth your baby.  Yes, even if it ends in a cesarean.  Be very wary of any medical provider who tries to make every decision for you.  In some situations you will weigh the information given to you and it will be very clear that a c-section is the best choice.  In other situations, perhaps not.  But don’t forget that YOU have the last say!

Another important thing to understand about c-sections is that they are not a normal birth outcome.  A cesarean section is major abdominal surgery and has major ramifications for both baby and mother (both in the present and future).  In other words, it is not a decision to be taken lightly.  That being said, let’s all recognize what a miracle these life-saving surgeries are! Millions of women and babies would have very different, possibly catastrophic, birth outcomes without this amazing intervention.  C-sections have saved the lives of many babies and mothers.

Interestingly, the rate of c-sections has been on the rise for the past decade.  It’s currently close to 30% in the US (and 40% in the Arizona county where I live).  While there are lots of arguments regarding an “ideal” rate of c-section, it is widely believed that this surgery is often done unnecessarily.  See some great sources at the end of this post if you’d like to read more.  A cesarean can result in some scary stuff: placenta accreta, infection, blood loss or uterine rupture.  In short, it’s not a procedure you want to elect for if there’s a way around it!

C (8)
All the twin pictures in this post are of Vivian and Kira.  I love these shots so much!  Our girls were born vaginally but most of the doctors I interviewed preferred to deliver multiples surgically.

So the question is, why so many c-sections?

There are definitely some clear-cut medical reasons to get that baby out fast.  Some of these include eclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure in mom), problems with the placenta, and other serious medical conditions.

But there are also situations where the decision is less clear and it’s up to both the mother’s discretion and doctor’s opinion.  Some of these include a baby deemed larger than average, a breech or other poorly positioned baby, and previous c-sections*.

In these situations. it’s crucial to be informed and aware of your options.  Below are some great questions to ask your doctor if you’re facing either a planned or emergency cesarean (CS).

Why do I need a CS?
What are the risks of getting a CS?
What are the risks of delivering vaginally?
What happens if we wait and see (i.e. attempt a vaginal birth first)?

By the way, these questions are also a good thing to remember when facing any intervention (induction, epidural, episiotomy, etc).  A “cascade of interventions” is often blamed for leading to an emergency cesarean (i.e. too much “stuff” done to mom and baby).  Experts also blame changes in medical malpractice insurance and hospital policies for the rising rate of these surgeries.

DysonWeb1

My last piece of advice is this: don’t be afraid to get a second opinion!  If your doc is telling you something that just doesn’t sit well with you, see another OB or midwife for his/her opinion.  For some reason we often hesitate to second-guess our doctors, but getting another opinion just means you want the very best for yourself and baby.  There are a lot of forces at play in America’s maternity system and sadly, not all providers make decisions that are in the mother’s best interest.  YOU are your own best advocate.

When we trust our bodies and our babies and assume they will do their jobs just fine on their own, chances are good that they will!  If for some reason something goes wrong, be educated enough to ask the right questions and have a birth advocate help you (if you’ve never considered a doula, look into it!  They can be wonderful).  Lastly, if a c-section is necessary, we can be grateful that we live in a country that offers access to this life-saving surgery.

Birth is an amazing, miraculous, spiritual journey and I hope you enjoy it!!

C (21)

*I am a huge advocate of VBACs, and I’ve fought tooth and nail for every one of mine (5!).  If you’ve already had one or more c-sections and are interested in learning more about having a vaginal birth, check out ICAN online or email me! I’d love to share what I’ve learned.

Sources:
International Cesarean Awareness Network
Brazil isn’t the only country with high c-section rates
Why is the US c-section rate so high?
C-section by choice

You can find all my posts in the series on birth HERE!

Note, this post is not meant as a substitute for medical advice.  Please consult with a qualified midwife or obstetrician in regards to your prenatal and birth care.

 

Girls’ Room Inspiration AKA Early nesting

If you missed the announcement on social media, here it is again, in all its camera-phone glory.

insta anncmt

Everyone is SUPER excited about another baby.  The kids watched Cheaper by the Dozen the other day and then announced that we need to have 5 more kids.  Uuhhhhh… I’ll have to think about that one.   This feels completely normal to me and like I’m fulfilling my destiny by having a big family…but every once in a while I catch a mental glimpse of myself from other people’s perspectives and it’s kinda scary.  No wonder I get googly-eyed stares when we go anywhere.
We are so weird!  hehe

After seriously YEARS of having little to no motivation to do things around the house (I blame having twins), I woke up the other day with this burning desire to finish all the little nagging things that whisper at me every time I see them: missing closet doors, unpainted bathrooms, crappy towels, etc.

The first room to feel my wrath has been the girls’ room.  It was adorable in pink, black and white damask for Juliet’s nursery, and then in bright pinks, greens and turquoise for the twins but I haven’t really done anything to it since all three girls moved in together after Finn was born.

What stays: a set of white bunk beds, this lavender/blue bedding and white and lavender desk that my mom gave us.  I also have a child-sized rocking chair given to me for my first birthday (dumpster dived for back in 1981, no less) that I’m contemplating painting turquoise as well.

IMG_8499

IMG_8509

I found this fabulous vintage dresser on craigslist (along with another amazing vintage campaign dresser for the boys’ room!  One of these days I’ll get around to finishing and sharing their room too) within 5 minutes of searching so I decided it must be fate.  It’s much smaller than their previous dresser but I consider that a good thing.  Major clothes purge needed around here.

You can see my paint swatches in the corner…I ended up going with a lighter version of that dark taupe.  Although now that it’s done, it almost looks like a lighter shade of the nasty beige that’s on it here.  Ugh.  Whatever, I’m SO not painting again.

photo (16)

 

 

 

Some of the inspiration I’ve found lately is just to die for.  Here’s hoping I can put stuff together with minimal expense and make it look as cute as some of these rooms!  Check out my Pinterest board for it here.

pin1
land of nod

 

pin4
shopgirl maria

pin5
centsational girl

This last one is probably my favorite of them all (or the land of nod room…can’t decide!) I was going for this taupe-y/gray on the walls and don’t think I got it, but regardless, it’s a fabulous room! You have to see the other pictures…follow the link underneath.

pin2

mini style blog

My only caveat is that I need a spot of black or something to ground the frou-frou colors.  I love matchy-matchy rooms but the BEST designs always have some contrast to them.  I’m thinking about adding this rug!

You really can’t go wrong with black and white striped anything, amiright?

ikea
ikea

Homeschool vs Hawaii

We had a fantastic summer of traveling this year.  I made the rash, irresponsible, more-than-partially-crazy, super exciting decision to take a road trip with my 6 kids by myself from Arizona through Vegas, Utah, Idaho, Montana and Washington…and then all the way back again.  3000 miles of screaming, road-side diaper changes, crumbs up to our shins and lots and lots of fun!  It was seriously my favorite road trip to date.  I obviously much prefer the job of driving with my headphones in to snack-passer-outer and baby-calmer.

Then Luke and I got to go to Ireland with a great group of family and friends.  After that, we took an “official” 10-year anniversary trip to Hawaii which was absolutely breathtaking.  Even better was the fact that most of the trip was free because Luke won a raffle through a business partner.  Yesssss.

So, I have these gorgeous pictures of Hawaii sitting around on my hard drive, just waiting to be shared and enjoyed.  But I’ve been slightly preoccupied with all the things and bodies that need me here at home.  I thought I’d put together a quick recap of home life, in relation to a tropical vacation getaway.

 

not hawaii4

not hawaii2

not hawaii3

I think you get the picture.

Reality is reeeeally cute, no doubt about that.  But messy.  And less… beachy.

In all seriousness, the summer of relaxation was just the thing to prep me for this year of homeschooling.  We’ve had a great start to the “school” year and just this week I found the most magnificent resource for any parent interested in their kids’ education.

nbts logo

This homeschool summit put on by The Home Education Council of America is the coolest collection of webinars!  They’re airing 3 talks a day by prominent, amazing educators and leaders in the homeschool community.  You can watch them live or stream them for up to 48 hours after the live session.  It’s all month long, all online and it’s all FREE!

Seriously!  I’ve watched 3 of them already and they are chock full of incredible information for any parent wanting to be more involved in their kids’ educations.

Today, I listened to Andrew Pudewa talking about how the physiological differences between boys and girls are essential to address in the way we educate our kids.

Did you know that most boys can’t hear sounds as soft as most girls can?  Girls see colors and textures with more distinction and boys see direction and motion with more clarity.  Anyone noticed that their boys draw predominantly verbs (flying, shooting, running, fighting) and girls focus on nouns in their artwork (animals, people, houses)?  These were just a few of the amazing eye-opening ideas he talked about and there’s plenty more coming.

Good luck this year to all the parents out there who are trying to give their kids the best education they can, at home or at school.

I hope more moms and dads can take advantage of this great conference!