Category: All Posts

37 Weeks!! …………………………………….Postpartum

37 Weeks!

That’s right, if I were pregnant, I’d like to think my baby would be knocking down my uterus door but she wouldn’t be and I’m not. My baby would probably want to hang out for another month in my apparently very comfortable uterus. And while I may not be 37 weeks pregnant, I am 37 weeks postpartum. Check out my baby bump.

37 weeks postpartum

 

My Baby Bump

It’s true. There is no actual baby inside of it. But it’s still a baby bump because it was home to two babies at different points. It stretched and ballooned up, and like a balloon, it just didn’t return to it’s pre-blown up state.

Balloon Blown up and released and new

I didn’t pop. The air, or baby and all of the gory, juicy things that came with it, went out of me. And what was left was my used balloon. I blew it up again. My mom blew hers up 5 times. I have a friend who’s mom blew it up 18 times. Each time, the balloon sustained some wear and tear, but weren’t the prizes worth the slightly damaged shell?

My Badge of Honor

I am still trying to lose weight and get in shape. I want to be healthy so, I’m eating healthier and working out. But even with all of my efforts to change, I don’t think I will ever go back to the pre-blown up balloon. My skin might be a little looser, I may not be able to jump on a trampoline and I can probably write off modeling as a future career option.

my little creations

But look what I helped to create! My body sacrificed and I paid the price to have these beautiful little humans in our family. I never want to go back to the pre-blown up balloon, because that me-balloon hadn’t experienced the strongest love that can only be brought about by the greatest sacrifice.

I am 37 weeks postpartum and my heart has never been more full.

37 weeks postpartum with my two babies
Grayson looks angry, but he is really just extremely focused on splashing.

 

Read my son’s birth story for a riveting tale of endurance, or my daughter’s birth story for an adventure of even more endurance.

God’s Love & Parent’s Love – Finding it

God’s Love

It’s usually a small thing. Sometimes I barely notice the trigger. But usually at some point throughout the busy, hectic, stressful, frustrating, fun, crazy day I have a moment where I remember just how deeply I love my children. It might be Siena volunteering to snuggle with me. Or my son, Grayson raising his arms as far as he can and looking at me as if I am supposed to know what he wants. I do. He wants me to pick him up. And if I take a moment and contemplate on my love, I am always left with a small impression of how great God’s love must be for His children.

The Deepest Love

I can’t even begin to fathom how anyone could love their children more than I love mine. And I don’t say that in an arrogant way. It’s more, I really cannot comprehend of a deeper love. My husband and I love each other. But I think that love is more built rather than instinctual. Loving your child has to be some sort of biological necessity, because even after the tantrums, the headaches you get, the sleepless nights, the bitten fingers and stressful talks, you are still hopelessly in love with your babies.

Deeper than My Deepest

Then to learn that God’s love is more than we can comprehend, is literally beyond comprehension. Now I know what it feels like to love someone so much it hurts. And I can’t imagine someone having that kind of love for me. I can’t fathom that.

God's love greater than a mother's love

God’s Love

At times I haven’t always believed that it is real. I have struggled and prayed to feel His love and been left with an empty feeling. Fear clutched at me as I thought that perhaps He didn’t love me. I kept praying. It has taken a long time. But in case you are feeling the way I have felt, I did receive an answer.

How I Know

It wasn’t a booming, in your face, heart warming expression of love. I kept waiting for something unmistakable. If he wanted me to know of His love, isn’t that how it would come? There would be no denying an answer to a prayer like that. Or so I thought.

As I’ve gotten older though, I learned that I can’t always trust the experiences that seem so crazy out of the ordinary. Because the further away I get from it, I question my own memory. It seemed real at the time, but it doesn’t always after coming back down to reality.

Instead my answer has been a constant flow of reassurance. I study my scriptures, I tell Him my doubts, my concerns and my emotions. And in response, He guides me to the correct answers. He helps me solve my problems. He listens to me even when I’m screaming at Him in my prayers. And after I have calmed down, He shows me the truth. God doesn’t tell me He loves me; He shows me.

God Doesn’t Tell Me He Loves Me; He Shows Me

God’s love is a parent’s love. Sometimes expressions or declarations of ‘I love you’ fall on deaf ears. Children forget. And after being a child and a parent, I know that as a child, you can never comprehend the love of your parents until you are one.

I don’t remember one time hearing ‘I love you’ that had a profound influence on me from my parents.

God and parents impress their love upon their children by teaching, guiding, correcting, and showing you the way to be happy. That’s what God does for me. That’s what my parents did and still do for me. So, that’s what I hope to do for my children.

God's love evident in our family

Healthy Popcorn Snack – Less Prep Time than Butter Popcorn

Delicious popcorn with my movies is something I could never live without. But buttery crunchy, poofy goodness is not exactly compatible with a healthy lifestyle. And because I have to continue eating this for the rest of my life, I had to come up with a healthy popcorn snack.

healthy popcorn snack

Tools for Healthy Popcorn Snack

Before you start, there is a tool you need. You need a hot air popcorn popper. This kind is important because air doesn’t add any calories and still gets the popcorn out of its kernel state.


I included all the ingredients I use. You could also substitute the Pam for an Olive Oil spray. I just haven’t tried it, but I think that would work fine and be a little healthier.

 

How to Make Healthy Popcorn Snack

Pour a 1/2 cup of popcorn kernels into the hot air popcorn machine. As the popcorn is coming out in the bowl, spray each layer of popcorn with the Pam. Usually I have about 3 layers.

Then sprinkle with sea salt. It is very important to use sea salt instead of regular salt. Iodized table salt is granular and doesn’t stick as well. Sea salt is more of a powder. When you sprinkle it, just rub it between your thumb and index finger. It will stick to the fine layer of Pam sprayed on the popcorn.

healthy popcorn snack

 

Husband Approved, but not Husband Adored

Austin likes this okay, but if truth be told, he would much prefer big globs of butter. He suggested spraying more of the Pam and adding more salt. You’ll have to play around with your own portions for taste.

With a little adjusting, I think Austin and I will have a healthy popcorn snack that we both adore, but for now, it is just approved.

I’m all about full-disclosure.

 

I have more yummy snacks to share with you too.

Potato Wedges

Spicy Fry Sauce

Power Protein Pancakes – A Staple for Healthy Eating

When it comes to healthy eating, Power Protein Pancakes are a staple for me. They’ve got protein, complex carbohydrates and fruit.

I’d be curious if adding some spinach to it would give you some added vitamins too without sacrificing flavor.

The Power Protein Pancakes recipe is SO easy. I will literally just block off a couple of hours to make 6 batches or so of this. Because once they are in pancake form, I just pop them in some gallon ziplocks and keep them in the fridge. To reheat them, just put them in a toaster.

They never get soggy and they never dry up. My husband likes these better than regular pancakes for that reason.

power protein pancakes with strawberries

Power Protein Pancakes

Ingredients:

3 eggs
1 cup oats
1 cup cottage cheese
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

Dump everything in a blender and blend. Use batter like regular pancake batter.

 

Healthy Topping Ideas

I like to put Unsweetened Apple Sauce on it and it is a perfect, healthy meal that I can eat a lot of. I usually make a ton of this recipe and then I have a really easy meal every morning when I wake up. There are so many yummy toppings that are also healthy. Try to skip the Maple Syrup and go for one of these instead!

  • Unsweetened Apple Sauce
  • Healthy Fruit Syrup
  • Honey
  • Peanut Butter
  • Almond Butter
  • Bananas
  • Cinnamon

Eating Healthy can be a challenge, but having some sure fire foods around the house at all times will guarantee a more successful venture. When we are trying to eat healthy, we always try to have easy-to-grab healthy food on hand at all times. Power Protein Pancakes are one of those things.

Give them a try and if you find more delicious things to add then please put your ideas in the comments below. New tips and secrets are always great from allies in the pursuit of health.

For more healthy recipes from One Helluva Homemaker!

Creamy Crab Pasta – Healthy & Delicious

Lately, I have been trying to come up with healthy, delicious recipes because my body is just not shedding weight as quickly as it has in the past. Creamy Crab Pasta not only is delicious, but it is also super healthy, despite it’s naughty sounding name.

This is not only one of my favorites, but it is husband approved. There are few recipes that get my husband to rave about it and then to be stuck in a dilemma. Eat it all now, or save it so that he can enjoy it again tomorrow?

So, because I want this to be super easy for you, the recipe is below. I’ll add pictures when I make it again. But, delicious!

If you’re into not having to go grocery shopping, I included all of the available ingredients from Amazon Pantry down below.

 

Creamy Crab Pasta

Ingredients:

  • Wheat Pasta (Spaghetti works great)
  • Salt
  • 2 cups Milk
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 4 Tablespoons Flour
  • Crab or Imitation Crab
  • 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Minced Garlic Cloves
  • Red Pepper Flakes

Directions:

Fill up a pot with water and salt it. Heat on stovetop until boiling.

1. Crab of the Creamy Crab Pasta

While it is heating up, Pour 4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil in a frying pan on low heat. Saute minced garlic until it starts to sizzle. Put crab or imitation in with garlic and allow the crab to absorb the garlic flavor.

2. Creamy of the Creamy Crab Pasta

Also, while waiting for pot of water to boil. Pour 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Mix in 4 Tablespoons of flour or until it starts to form a paste.

Once a paste has formed, pour in milk. Allow it to heat up until it thickens. Add in salt and pepper to taste and the red pepper flakes.

3. Pasta of the Creamy Crab Pasta

After the salted water has started boiling, pour in pasta and cook al dente.

Creamy Crab Pasta

Put the pasta on your plate first, then the cream sauce and then the sauteed crab on top. Spicy, creamy, sweet, delicious.

I included the Lindt chocolates, because first of all, DELICIOUS! Second of all, Stracciatello happens to be one of my husband’s favorite gelato flavors from Italy. And since this is Italian… enjoy your indulgence!

For a delicious Healthy Dessert!!!

Keeping Your Toddler in Bed – The SECRET!!!

Keeping your toddler in bed is no easy feat. I am no expert. In fact, as I sit here and type this out, I am literally sitting in my daughter’s room waiting for sleep to overcome her while she repeatedly asks me, “wha-doin’?” I have been doing bedtime battles since we moved the baby monitor out of her room. Unfortunately, baby brother needed more monitoring for safety reasons and now Siena thinks she rules the roost.

 

But, WE FIGURED IT OUT! I mean, I hesitate to even say such a thing, for fear of jinxing ourselves, but I really think we know how keeping your toddler in bed can be the easiest thing ever.

*You should know… this worked for about a month.

Our First Mistake

Our bedtime battles began when we thought, “we must be genius parents. We’re going to transition our daughter into a twin bed at the age of 18 months. That way we don’t have to pay for a toddler bed and our son can have the crib.”

Well, we ended up buying another crib anyways, because Siena’s was a piece of junk. Needless to say, she was a big girl now in a big bed.

And for the first 6 months, this was working out great. Not a problem at all. In fact, we still would pat ourselves on the back every now and again. “Geniuses I say!!”

Our Second Mistake

At some point, Grayson finally transitioned to his own room. Along with Grayson into his room went the video baby monitor. We loved the monitor for Siena and now that she was a big girl, we could use it for Grayson.

She had other plans. We underestimated her intelligence. She was very quickly aware that the monitor was gone and now we did not have eyes on her at all times. Within a matter of days, she was getting out of bed constantly, repeatedly, every night without fail.

 

Our First Attempt

Keeping your toddler in bed with threats perhaps? We decided to take away some of the toys that she insisted sleeping with every time she got out of bed. It worked for a couple of months. Again, we patted ourselves on the back. GENIUSES!

Of course there was always tears when we would take the toys away, but then that was the consequence, right?

Unfortunately, she must have started emotionally detaching herself from her stuffed animals. Inside of her little toddler brain, she must have been smart enough to realize, ‘if I don’t care about my baby, or the animals or my blankie, my parents have no power over me anymore’.

I would not have believed that such advanced rationale was possible for a toddler, until she really stopped caring about her toys. We’d take one away and she’d get right back up again. We could strip her whole room of happiness (we did on many occasions) and she would still get out of bed until we wanted to throw our own heads against the wall in frustration.

Something had stopped working.

Our Second Attempt

Maybe a combination of bribery and a threat to keeping your toddler in bed? Perhaps she needs some incentive?

Our next tactic was to tell her we would be doing something fun the next day and if she got out of bed we wouldn’t be able to do it. But if she stayed in bed, we would.

We thought we were geniuses with this one, until we tried it. She didn’t care at all. She acted like she cared when we told her but two minutes later she was up and at it again.

Broken

I didn’t know what to do at this point. Our toddler had broken us. We were pathetic shells of parents who had been defeated by a two and a half year old. We would just let her play in her room until she collapsed and then deal with the collateral the next day.

Obviously my husband liked this idea because he got to leave in the morning and I handled the aftermath.

It was at this rock bottom of keeping your toddler in bed battle that I had my breakthrough. And maybe not all toddlers are alike, and maybe this won’t work for all, but I thought, just maybe… this will work for Siena.

 

The Secret to Keeping Your Toddler in Bed

I tried putting myself in Siena’s shoes. If I kept getting out of bed again and again and again, there had to be a reason, right?

keeping your toddler in bed when they have a twin

 

The Problem

Then I realized how frustrating and depressing it would be to constantly be in trouble at bed time. At the beginning, toddler is not in trouble, but she is probably sad because she has to stop playing with mom and dad.

If your family is like ours, dad just got home from work not too long ago and now he gets to stay up with mommy.

So, what does she do? She gets out of bed. Playing sounds way more fun then sleeping at this point. Unfortunately, as she is getting out of bed, or playing in her room Mom and dad are upset and scolding her. She still wants to play, but now maybe she wants some validation too. The need to feel love is compounded with the want to play.

Suddenly it becomes this vicious cycle of mom and dad are getting more and more frustrated, toddler is feeling less and less love and no one is getting any sleep!

How to Fix it

I added a new phase to our bedtime routine. Prior to this discovery, the routine ended after prayers, lights out, kiss goodnight and toddler was safe in bed. But, the magical key to success for us was the first ten minutes after the toddler was in bed.

Step 1

Wait outside the door for about 30 seconds to a minute. It can be a little longer, but ideally you want things to be just the same as when you put them to bed.

Step 2

Open the door and peak in. Hopefully your toddler is still in bed. If they are, praise them for staying in bed. Ours usually sounds like this:

“Wow! Siena, you stayed in bed! Thank you so much for staying in your bed. You are so obedient and well behaved. I love you. Night-night, Sweetheart.”

If she did not stay in bed

“Uh-oh. You need to get back in bed. It’s time to go night-night.”

It is very important to catch your toddler IN bed. Even if keeping your toddler in bed was not successful for 30 seconds, wait another 30 seconds (or less, depending on your child), open the door again and try again. Do this until your child has done what you asked successfully for any length of time.

Step 3

After the first successful praising. Wait a little longer. We usually give it a couple of minutes and open the door again. Since we started doing this we have not had her get out of bed after the first praising. Every time, she has been laying in bed, sometimes playing, reading or just laying there. And we lay on the praise again.

“Wow! You are still in your bed. Thank you so much for staying in bed. You are so great! Night-night, Siena.”

Step 4

You are welcome to repeat step 3 if you are worried about the stickability of it. We’ve tried it up to 5 times and every time, she has been laying in bed.

keeping your toddler in bed until they fall asleep

Keeping Your Toddler in Bed

Maybe our child is an anomaly. Maybe this won’t work for you. But if keeping your toddler in bed is one of your battles, start where I started and try and put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself, why does he keep getting out of bed?

If this does work for your child, you can literally do it at any time. Sometimes we forget to show love or it’s the middle of the night and you are just now finding this article while you are in the throes of a bedtime battle. But, just give it a try. Show your child some encouragement.

After all, they are just learning these things. Maybe she really just knew what was a wrong thing to do, but didn’t know what was a right thing to do. This method also gives some clarity to what bedtime is all about.

 

Good luck Mamas!

When your child is just having a hard night…

When your toddler wakes up from bad dreams…

When your baby won’t sleep through the night…

Be Happy – 10 Ideas to Boost Your Mood

It’s hard for me to choose to be happy sometimes. There are times when I really just don’t feel like doing anything, don’t want to move, don’t want to talk and don’t want to think. I must have just snapped. I was so productive a week ago. Projects got checked off my list at lightning speed and then all of a sudden… nothing.

wanting to be happy but collapsed on the couch
What I look like when I get in my funk…

Granted, we all got hit with colds and I feel like I have a balloon swelling inside of my brain. If there is anything to knock you out and put you out of your element.

 

Choosing to be Happy

Because this always seems to strike every couple of weeks to me, I wanted to compile a list of things to help me combat the blues. I want a list that will help me be happy and feel like One Helluva Homemaker again.

1. Clean Your Living Area

I know this is a hard one to do. The very thought of cleaning made me want to burrow deeper into the couch cushions and cover myself with a blanket. But beginning to organize the clutter in your life can provide a lot of clarity and at least jumpstart the process to be happy again.

2. Shower

This one is actually not too bad. Even if you feel like poop, a shower is relaxing and inviting. It also can sneak attack you with feeling refreshed to help you make a little course correction.

3. Read from the Good Book

For me, the good book is the Book of Mormon. Other Christians might find a boost from reading the Bible. And if that is not really your style, finding a book that uplifts you and inspires you can help get the endorphins going again.

4. Call Someone

If you’re stuck at home, like I was, you will discover that we have these amazing devices called ‘cell phones’. Or even a house phone! With it we can connect with someone else even if they are not physically in your presence.

Sometimes I think about my Grandma. Once a week she would walk to a payphone at a scheduled time to call her mom in Canada. I can’t imagine not being able to call my mom ANYTIME. What a blessing! My mom knows she is my go-to-gal when I need to gab to someone to help me be happy again.

5. Say a Prayer

Even if you are not religious, trying to connect with a higher power can help you be happy by just trying to connect with something greater than yourself. I pray to receive comfort and guidance. I am not always happier after I pray, but I do feel peace.

6. Set a Little Goal and Do It

It could be as simple as getting off the couch, making a snack, getting dressed. Just decide to do something and do it. Accomplishing anything will give you enough of a boost to set a new goal.

7. Talk to Someone About How You Feel

Sometimes even just sending a text to a spouse or a loved one about how crappy your feeling helps validate the way your feeling. When someone else knows, it feels better. If there is someone who understands even just a tiny bit, it opens it up to you to be happy again.

8. Make a Special Treat

Today, I made brownies. I decided that we needed a little treat to boost our spirits. Even though we had done nothing to earn a treat, except for the mere fact that we were still alive, it felt good to be reminded that we were worth making a treat for.

9. Go Outside

Even if you can only make it to your front porch, the fresh air can do wonders for just getting your happy juices going. It can clear your head and give you the energy you need to be happy again.

10. Pump up the Tunes

Music is a soul healing wonder. Turn on your favorite jams and your sure to get a little pick-me-up. If you’re feeling up for it, turn it into a dance party.

 

Now!

Now you’ve got to get off your bootay and put away your phone, tablet or computer and go and be happy! Go get some happiness!

 

Still not Feeling It?

If you’re still feeling depressed, here is a more serious article to help you fight more than just the blues.

Or if you are wanting to laugh, you can check out my battles with my baby and trying to get him to sleep.

If this didn’t help and now you want to just shop away your sorrow:

Amazon is here to help!

 

Rough Night – Healing Your Child’s Soul

I sat on the uncomfortable rocking chair around 3 in the morning after the rough night. My son arched his back as if he couldn’t get comfortable. His head lifted away from my chest. Occasionally it would bounce back, and the cool tears on his face would wet my skin. After just a minute or two, the gas slipped up out of his stomach and his neck slowly relaxed as he rested his weary head on my chest. It got heavier and heavier and so did his eyelids.

rough night with an infant, mom cradling

After 4 hours of trying to help him, he finally succumbed to sleep, trapping me with 24 lbs of squishy baby weight. And in spite of my exhaustion, I sat unmoving and just held him. My cheek pressed against his fuzzy warm head. His breathing, remnants of sobs abandoned. My precious boy nuzzled against me. It was my reward for my toil, so I enjoyed every special second. Thirty minutes of quiet snuggles on a squeaky, unyielding rocker. I watched the shadows and breathed deeply. There aren’t many moments like this. It was just me and my boy.

At 3:30 in the morning I finally slipped between my sheets and my eyelids slammed shut.

My Rough Night

The Likely Cause

That day, we had gone to his six month appointment. We found out he was off the charts for weight and pretty big in all other growth aspects. And to top it off, he has got a giant head that comes from my side of the family. If you ever wonder why some hats are so big, it’s for people like me and my son.

grayson at the doctor, cause of the rough night

He got two shots. I didn’t think anything of it. With his first couple of rounds he had been fussy, but nothing I couldn’t handle. My daughter had never had many ill effects from the shots.

I put him to bed around 7 just like any other night. He fussed a little more before he fell asleep, but soon he was breathing out Zs.

 

I just had to…

As a matter of safety, I usually take the sound machine out of his room at night after the loud noises in the house have disappeared. He has a bad habit of putting a blanket on top of his face and if I’m asleep and he’s having a hard time breathing, I want to be able to hear immediately.

beginning of the rough night, he wakes up

My daughter was in bed, my company had left and I was about to sleep as well. So, like every night, I snuck into his room and took it out. Usually he moves and then goes right back to sleep.

On this particular rough night, he moved and then woke up.

Quick Fix

All right, this wouldn’t be a problem. I’d just give him a bottle, top him off for the night and that way I made sure we all got a good night sleep.

He drank about half of it and I thought that he probably wasn’t hungry because he’s been sleeping through the night for a couple of days now.

 

The 4 Hours

The rest of the four hours that made up my rough night are a little hazy. It all blurs together now. I know that some things happened during that time. Here is a list of all courses of action in no particular order:

  • Gave him Tylenol.
  • Rocked him.
  • Held him.
  • Sang “I am a child of God”
  • Left his room about 15 times.
  • Entered his room about 15 times.
  • Sang “I like to look for Rainbows”
  • Sat on the floor by his crib and held his hand while he tried to settle down.

  • Let him play with my face.
  • Sat on the couch and the living room while he looked at the lights.
  • Let him lay in mommy’s bed. (Austin was out of town.)
  • Burped him. And again and again and again. So many burps.
  • So much spit up.
  • Bottle attempts 1, 2 and 3.
  • Wrapped him in a semi-swaddle

  • Pacifier.
  • Reached under the bed for all of the pacifiers he had chucked by the wall.
  • Wiped his tears.
  • Gave him Ibuprofen.
  • Caressed his head.
  • Tried to let him ‘cry it out’. (I can only last about 15 minutes at the most.)
  • Bounced him.
  • Sang “Down in the River” over and over and over again.
  • Prayed for any possible relief about every 10 minutes.

There might be more. I don’t know. It was a rough night.

 

The Unexpected Reward

I know I am not alone in the ‘rough night’ department. Most parents get to experience this joy at some point or another. Most of the time, you are only rewarded with an hour or two of much needed sleep.

But sometimes, the world stands still and all is quiet as your little one finally falls asleep in your arms. The whimpers subside and you get a small glimpse at how much your baby must love you. His face is pressed against you, cheek smashed against your skin. The deeper he falls into sleep, the more his breathing levels out.

Only you could heal his whole soul. Not only have you labored to help his little body feel better, but you also kept his spirit full. He knows that you are there for him and that you love him and have taken the time to understand him.

You heal his whole soul regardless of whether or not he falls asleep on you. But if you are lucky enough to feel your trusting little one nuzzle in, you can take the time to pat yourself on the back. Because you did it. Even if it took you until 3 or 6 in the morning, you did it. You healed your baby’s soul.

 

More Rough Nights to Come

So I hope I can remember when I have another rough night and many more, that every time I choose their needs over mine I heal their soul. I heal their physical hurts and I show them for the rest of their life, that they are worth me climbing out of my bed.

And in the quiet moments when I have evidence in my arms of how much my children appreciate it, I hope I can remember that I am doing okay. I healed my baby’s soul and I think I healed mine too.

 

I’ve had many a rough night with my toddler too.

Baby Girl Birth Story – My Sweet, Bright Eyed Siena

Having a baby girl is hard enough. As a new mom, you have to worry about the last trimester, the delivery, after the baby is born and everything else that goes into having a baby.

However, throw in ‘move across the world’ and you have a whole new mess of problems to add to the list of ‘Things to Solve’.

 

Uterus Urgency

Austin got his masters at Duke University. We loved being in North Carolina, and the second half of his program was in Kunshan, China. Well, I was due to have a baby just 5 weeks before we were supposed to be leaving. Yep. You could have called us insane and you would have been correct. We didn’t even know how insane we were.

waiting in waiting room
When we first arrived in the waiting room.

We naively thought, “what perfect timing!” We’ll have the baby in December and then hop on a plane in January. However, aside from other aspects of our naivety, like being first time parents, we failed to realize that we wouldn’t be able to get her passport, visa or plane tickets until she was actually born.

Austin had to be in school in China on a certain day and as her due date approached we realized the timing might not be so ideal after all. We started panicking. It takes 6 weeks to get a passport… We have to get the Visa after that… So, there isn’t enough time. Fortunately there is an expediting option, which almost wasn’t fast enough.

The Study

Then, a tender mercy. Duke University happened to be doing a research study where they would induce your labor at 39 weeks. The purpose of the study was to determine if delivering at 39 weeks was actually more beneficial for both the baby and the mom. After 39 weeks the baby is fully developed, and history seemed to suggest that the mom’s health would decline after 39 weeks.

Unfortunately there was no way to guarantee we would be in the induction group. Because the study needed a control group, only 50% of the women in the study would be induced. But we decided to try our luck with the lottery. And another miracle, we were selected to be a part of the induction group. Hooray! Our induction was scheduled for December 9th.

 

No Surprises

Because we had a set day, it was very easy now for both of our moms to fly out to see the birth.

me and my sweet moms
I love our moms.

The ninth was a Tuesday so both of them flew in on Sunday. Austin took all of his finals on Monday and we were all set for our little girl to join us.

Tuesday morning I got up early and put on some make up, curled my hair: the works. I was in a rare situation where I could plan to look cute for semi-spontaneous event. Why would I not take advantage of such a thing? Obviously we were going to take pictures!

 

Excited Grandmas!

We arrived at the hospital at 7:15 in the morning and park in the parking garage (no valet parking if your birth is not an emergency…understandable). We took the elevator up to the tunnel, where Lori, Austin’s mom excitedly announced to the whole elevator. “I’m going to be a grandma today!”

The ladies on the elevator squealed with excitement. I smiled too. My baby girl would be here soon! Clearly I had no idea what was in store for me.

 

Waiting Room

We got to the maternity floor and were told to wait. So we waited… and we waited… and we waited…

waiting in waiting room
Growing a little impatient…

The thing about being induced, is it is not as exciting for everyone else. They can just put you on the back burner while all of the actual labors take precedence, which again, makes sense. My induction was scheduled for 8:00 am. We didn’t even get out of the waiting room until noon.

bored waiting in waiting room
BORED OUT OF MY MIND…

 

Waiting in the Delivery Room

Finally, it was my turn. Then the excitement rose again. All right baby girl, that was a long wait, but now… now we’re on our way.

get this induction going
It’s go time!

I donned my nice hospital get-up and the nurses came in and do their thing. Soon, Doctor Nieves came in. Yay! We finally get to know where I’m at and what the next steps are. So, he checks out how things are going. I’m dilated to a 2 and was like 80% effaced. And I’m thinking, ‘wow, 80%. I’m doing pretty good.’

last pic before baby girl is born
We’re both excited!

Then I found out he’s going to stick in a miso pill. Basically it is supposed to help get things going. So, he put in the pill and then we waited some more. The nurses tell us to get up and walk around to help get the labor going. We did. We walked and walked and walked.

walking to get baby girl out
I went through a lot of those waters.
through the fish tank walking around
We thought this giant fish tank was pretty cool.
talking with husband
Love of my Life

And then we started the “badger dance” (video to come). And pretty soon, we’re laughing and being silly until around 6:00 in the evening.

laughing with austin
He always makes me laugh.

At this point, Austin decided it would be funny if he laid on the bed. So, he laid there, my mom laid on the couch and his mom took the nice chair and I sat on the little fold out chair. We thought it would be funny to get our nurses reaction if I was on the hard chair and Austin had taken over the hospital bed. Well, it was also around this time that I could feel my labor actually start to kick in.

our funny joke
Our funny, funny, funny joke…

 

Labor Contractions

Now I was feeling contractions. At first they were just uncomfortable. And the nurse had said she would be back just a minute prior to our hilarious prank we were going to pull. So, we waited in those positions. And we waited… and we waited… She didn’t come back for about an hour.

And I was sitting on this hard chair and felt like I was dying a little more each minute that passed. Where on earth had the nurse disappeared to? Someone better be having a baby!

And by 7:00, she finally came through the door. We did get the reaction we wanted and caught it on video. But, by then, I was really feeling the contractions. She started checking on things. I tell her I want an epidural. I know… I’m a baby. The doctor came in and checked me out. I was dilated to a 3 and fully effaced. A 3?! That’s it! This is what a 3 feels like? But, my labor was in full swing. I was having regular contractions.

They let the anesthesiologist know that I am ready for an epidural and about an hour later, I get one. It was a little scary getting one, but the relief it provided was unparalleled. They had to readjust it a little bit because it was only working on one side at first. I’m glad I asked when I did, because the time from when you ask for an epidural to when you actually get one is quite awhile.

sleeping before baby girl is born

Water Breaking

After that, I felt great. In fact it was so great that it surprised me when I felt our baby girl kick rather violently and suddenly there was a gushing. Stuff was coming out!

I couldn’t stop it. It was a force that stopped for nothing. Once I thought the gushing was over, it gushed some more. My water broke. I was glad they didn’t have to break it for me. It was cool having it just happen.

That was exciting. Now we were all pumped up again! This happened around 10:00 pm.

 

Nausea

The epidural was still working, until I started feeling nauseous. Really nauseous. I woke up and couldn’t move from the bed, but I knew something will be coming up and out of me quickly.

I told Austin I have to throw up and was panicking because I had nothing to catch it with. BLEH… all over the left side of the bed and the floor. I looked over at Austin and he had a trashcan or something that I could have used if he had grabbed it ten seconds earlier.

I let the nurse know. She got me all cleaned up and then informed me they had drugs for that too. Really? Awesome! I did not want to spend the whole labor throwing up. I had done enough of that during my pregnancy. She warned me that it would make me sleepy. Double bonus! That meant I’d be able to sleep better.

 

No More Juice!

Not necessarily double bonus. Sometime in the early morning I woke up in agony. I could feel my contractions completely. We pushed the button for the nurse. I was pushing my pain button like nobody’s business trying to get more of the epidural juice into my body, but to no avail.

resting before baby girl

Thirty minutes later the anesthesiologist came in and said that the epidural had run out. He refills it and I am soon feeling much better again. Now despite the fact that I am sleepy, I am insistent on remembering to push the button, because I know I don’t want to feel that EVER again.

 

Mini Date

That night, Austin and I watched Pitch Perfect and Here Comes the Boom when I couldn’t sleep. It was fun just being with him. Our moms had gone to sleep upstairs somewhere. And we got to just hang out me and him before we got one more added to our family.

At some point, he had to help lift me up higher in the bed because my legs were completely useless and I had slipped and was very uncomfortable. And you would think that I could lift my body with my little arms, but my body was the biggest body it’s ever been. It was like trying to move a dead dinosaur.

 

Pushing Time!

Then around noon on the 10th, (yeah we thought we were going to have her on the 9th… laughable now) I was told that I was dilated to a 9 and we should get to start pushing soon. So exciting!

I was thinking, well, my mom’s whole labor with me lasted 5 hours and she only pushed for like half an hour. We’re going to meet our baby girl soon! So, the doctor, who is now a different doctor and for the life of me I can’t remember her name, starts getting things ready for the pushing part of the journey.

I started pushing around 12:45. The doctor told me that I could be pushing for anywhere between a half an hour to three hours. Three hours? I thought my baby girl would just come out. I started pushing and pushing and pushing.

It was so exhausting. I pushed and pushed and every time it felt like something incredible should be happening but I was seeing no fruits for my labors. I was so tired.

pushing out baby girl
You know that feeling when you want to cry, but even that is too much…

At some point the doctor said that I could take a break. I didn’t even know you could take a break in the middle of pushing. Wouldn’t baby girl suffocate in the birth canal? But then I remember that’s what the umbilical cord is for. And in retrospect, she probably hadn’t moved much at all. I wasn’t making a whole lot of progress.

 

Come on Baby Girl!

All right, it was time to start again. I pushed some more. Then I started feeling severe pain. *Contractions so intense that it felt like lightening zapping through my uterus and culminating right between my hips. Bearing down intensified the pain and then they wanted me to hold it there while the pain ripped through me.

I kept pushing my pain button but nothing was coming and nothing was helping. At some point, I accepted that the epidural was not going to help me through it. And then I also had to accept that the only way to get the baby out was to greet the pain instead of escape it. So, I focused on bearing down in a way that intensified the pain the most and those were the pushes that everyone shouted, “that’s such a good push!” “You’re doing so great!” “Keep doing them like that one.”

I did it again and again and again. And two and a half hours from the time we started pushing, at 3:19 pm, our little Siena was finally born. As soon as she was out, I remember collapsing on the bed with the most relief I think it is possible for the human body to experience.

baby girl brand new!

*I have since learned that they most likely turned off my epidural so that I could ‘feel the contractions’. NEVER AGAIN.

 

Scary Reality

We found out after she was born that her umbilical cord had been in a knot. If it would have tightened at all during the pregnancy, we could have lost our sweet baby girl. I am forever grateful that she was protected and watched over so that she could be in our family. She lights up our life.

 

Baby Girl, My Sweet Siena

My little baby girl was laid on my chest and I got to see her bright, big, beautiful eyes for the first time. At first she didn’t cry. She just looked around. She was so beautiful. I couldn’t believe she had been inside my body for the last nine months.

baby girl
Look how big her eyes are!
holding baby girl
I couldn’t believe my baby girl was already here… 30 hours later.

She had such long fingers, which as I held her I remembered them moving around by my hips when I was pregnant. She was chubbier than I thought she would be, especially at 39 weeks. But she came out at a healthy 8 lbs 8 oz and 19 inches long.

family pic with baby girl

looking at our creation

She weighed more than any of my mom’s kids had been. No wonder I had pushed for 2 1/2 hours! If I would’ve waited for her to come out on her own I might not have been able to push her out. I was really grateful that we had been a part of the study. A C-section could have really affected our trip out to China. So, grand total: 32 hours in the hospital, 20 hours of labor and 2 1/2 hours of pushing.

holding my baby girl

Me snuggling my baby girl

Afterthoughts

I remember being so tired, so shocked, so amazed, so out of it, and so grateful that it was all over. It was almost the feeling of, now what? I had been preparing to have a baby girl, but I wasn’t sure what to do with her now that I had her.

She was beautiful, but I didn’t know how to be a mom! I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I didn’t know how any of this was going to work. But it did.

I believe that Heavenly Father has been helping us throughout every step of the process. He loves His children and He would show me how to raise His child the right way, even though I am imperfect.

Cute Pictures Below:

first time daddy holding his baby girl
First time daddy holding his baby girl.
family pic with baby girl
Family Picture!
baby girl in daddy's arms
So cute in daddy’s arms
Grammy with baby girl
Grammy was in love with little Siena.
grandma with baby girl
Grandma loves Siena too!
cute baby girl
Look at her eyes!

baby girl

hearing test for baby girl
Hearing test
baby girl in daddy's Christmas stocking
Austin was born in December too and he was sent home from the hospital in this hospital, so obviously we had to put her in it and get a picture of her in his stocking. Our little December babies!
beautiful baby girl
This is seriously one of my favorite pictures of her.
first family picture with baby girl
Another Family Pic!

 

You can also check out my Son’s Birth Story.

It’s amazing how different they are!

Completely Broke in Italy, Best Time of Our Life

Birds fluttered to the ground by our feet. They could see us eating bread and the little crumbs that were falling in between the cobblestones below. Normally, I would have loved to throw a couple of pieces of bread at the birds. But as my feet dangled off the bench in the courtyard of the church, I clutched my bread in my hands and didn’t share a morsel. Because, if you can believe it, this piece of bread was my food ration for the day. We were so completely broke, that we couldn’t even share some of our bread with the birds.

We were in Padova, Italy, had just gone through a beautiful church and were eating before our next leg of the journey. I will never forget sitting next to my love, eating bread and denying the birds of any of our limited food.

Completely broke and traveling everywhere

 

How it Happened

Austin and I had been saving up money all year so that he could do an internship in Italy. That sounds amazing, right? We had it all planned out, to see as much as possible while we were there. After all, how often do you get to live in Italy?

He got an internship with the Monte dei Paschi bank in Siena. And with the $1000 they would be paying him, we had just enough money to fund the remainder of our trip. We were excited.

We flew across the world and landed in Torino, Italy. From there we went to a number of different cities in the North. The day before we went to Padova, we were in Verona, the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.

completely broke and completely in love
Leaving our mark on the wall of Love by Juliet’s balcony.

Right before we left for an opera, Austin checked his email. During the week that we had been in Italy, the bank had gone bankrupt and was obviously not going to be having any interns whatsoever. His internship was gone and our $1000 was gone.

Fortunately, our school was able to find him a new one. But this one was an unpaid internship and suddenly we found ourselves completely broke in Italy.

 

Completely Broke in Italy

If there’s one place that you don’t want to be completely broke, it’s Italy. The food is incredible, the sites are amazing, the history is rich and everything is expensive. Suddenly we had no money in one of the places where you want to spend money.

completely broke but can still see the sunset
You don’t need money for sunsets!

 

Spending Habits

We did the math. The amount of available money we had for our meals for the rest of the trip was $5 (3 euro) per day for both of us. Meaning we had 1.5 euro per person for the ENTIRE day (breakfast and lunch were already covered in our living expenses during the school week, but on days when we were away from Siena, we were all on our own). Our habits changed drastically:

completely broke in Verona
In Verona; we had just become aware of our financial situation. It took some time to look this happy again.

Grocery Stores instead of Going Out

We went to grocery stores to buy all of our meals. These meals frequently were things like rolls, cans of tuna, tomatoes & mozzarella cheese. There, the cheese was much less expensive than it is in the United States, and much better.

Non-Glutinous Gelato

If we ever treated ourselves to gelato, we got the smallest size and we shared it.

Towel Tale

In Milano, it was 90 degrees at night. We were sweating in our room. Our clothes were sticking to us. It was 10 euro for air conditioning. Do you think we got it? Nope. Instead we got the towels wet and slept with them on top of us to cool us down. That was my husband’s ingenious idea and I couldn’t believe it worked as well as it did.

Halvsies

We shared every meal except two. One was an incredible panzerotti place in Milano (Luini’s by the duomo, in case you are ever there) – Austin said this was one time we could not share. And on my birthday, I got my own gelato, which was my only request.

eating my only gelato that was completely mine when we were completely broke
Happy Birthday to me!

Feeding Frenzy

If a hotel ever had a breakfast (which was rare because we were staying in hostels), we ate as much as we possibly could and took whatever we could with us. We didn’t care who looked at us sideways. It was take the food or starve.

No Rest for the Weary

We walked EVERYWHERE. In Rome, at the very end of our trip, we had been walking forever. My feet were so sore I could barely put one foot in front of the other. Suddenly, Austin pointed at the metro. “Want to take the metro?” I think I started crying.

feet in a fountain to help the blisters
The day when I wore the wrong shoes to walk around. Blisters for days!

Rare Remembrances

Our souvenirs were extremely limited and we only bought what we had planned on buying. Because on top of being broke, we were also carrying everything on our backs everywhere we went.

completely broke with our only possessions in Italy
This is all we had for 3 months and we carried it everywhere we went.

We were literally, the epitome of starving college students.

Yep, that’s us with all of our stuff as we began our adventure.

 

Miracles

When you are in dire straits, you tend to see more miracles. We, of course, said many prayers pleading for help and we saw so many miracles that helped us make it through. Even if they weren’t critical to our well-being, they were all a reminder that God was watching us and He cared about his completely broke children.

walking to the nearest town because we were completely broke
When I say we walked everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE. This was a 5 mile walk I believe.

Advance Payday

One of our photography clients offered to pay us early for an upcoming wedding. We graciously accepted. (Unfortunately, on our way to the wedding, our cameras were stolen in the airport right after we got home from Italy. Gratefully, we had emptied our memory cards onto our computer just a half an hour before.)

Blessed Bracelets

There are people everywhere who are trying to get you to buy their products or souvenirs. In one such situation, the men were trying to get us to buy their bracelets. In an act of desperation, they pleaded, “One euro. Just one euro.”

Little did they know that one euro was 1/3 of our combined meal rations for the day. We both declined again and again.

Finally they said, “You can just have them. For free.” I don’t know why they both changed their mind. Maybe they could sense that they may have met a couple of tourists who quite literally did not have one euro to spare.

 

Whatever the reason, we kept the bracelets on the rest of the trip as a reminder that God was looking out for us.

Extra Tickets

Someone had extra tickets for a tour and they singled us out of a group of tourists and asked if we would like them. The tickets were only 2.5 euros each, but we could not have gone inside without that blessing.

Hop on, Hop off

A couple was going home a day early and had one more day of a Hop on, Hop off bus ticket in Rome. Guess who they asked to take it? We rode that bus, seeing a lot more of Rome than we would have otherwise and saved our feet some serious damage. Which, really could have changed the outcome of the story above when I could barely make it to the metro.

Vatican Visual

There is only one Sunday every month when visiting the Vatican is completely free. It’s the last Sunday of the month and guess what Sunday we were there. Yep, after standing in the pouring rain, we made it in and saw everything. It was incredible!

Dripping wet by St. Peter’s Basilica right before standing in line.

Christmas Present

An already planned, but a miracle nevertheless was a Christmas present we had received. Austin’s parents had used their points to get us two nights at the Waldorf Astoria in Rome. It was, in a word, exquisite. Basically, it was a good thing we had already seen everything we wanted to see in Rome because once we went into that hotel, we did not leave until we were forced out.

Marriage Magic

Being completely broke was one of the most stressful things we had done together up until that point in our marriage. We hadn’t even had our one year anniversary. But because we were going through it together, we leaned on each other and became stronger together because of the trials we faced.

completely broke and in love in Venice

We survived.

Three months later, our trip to Italy was over. We were exhausted, hungry and excited about hamburgers, but also devastated that we would be leaving. We had had so much fun. There were so many adventures, so many stories and so many moments where I grew to love my husband even more.

Didn’t cost anything to act like touristy fools in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

We worked through being completely broke and came out on the other side, albeit a total of 35 lbs lighter for both of us. (I lost 15. Austin lost 20.) It was hard going back to America and finding jobs again and ending our adventure, but after that I knew that Austin and I could get through anything together. We had endured a lot and relied on each other.

Dealing with the struggle of being completely broke in Italy, enabled us to travel to China later with a 6 week old baby. I couldn’t have made it through without knowing what I learned when we were in Italy. We may have been completely broke, but it was the best time of my life. My husband and I are imperfect, but we can get through anything together.

My best friend for-literally-ever. He’s stuck with me.