Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A New Daughter: the Labor and Delivery--and some Pictures and Random Thoughts ;)

Well, to be honest, I'm sitting at the computer, with the background noise of Caroline wailing, so I'm going to quickly post some pictures, and copy my L&D description that I posted to facebook, and call it good. ;)

Pictures

38 weeks



Holding Caroline for the first time. Plus, in other news: I love water births.



Caroline and Mommy, a couple hours after the birth. We were both tired and happy. :)



The four kiddos.



Technically, 40 weeks. And C was already almost a week old! Hurray for early babies!



Sister love.



The Details

This labor felt, by far, the longest. I started contractions Monday at 6 AM, but they were very mild and far apart. I wouldn't have thought I was in labor because I wasn't really *in pain* except that the contractions never stopped, and slowly but steadily intensified. Around 2:30 PM yesterday afternoon, the contractions quickly moved from 5-7 minutes apart to 2 min. apart, AND they made me cry (always a good sign for me!). I kept trying to walk through the contractions as much as possible until maybe an hour before the birth, when I got into the birthing tub. Rachel and Jemima were my little helpers and encouragers, pouring water on my back, stroking my head, and repeatedly saying, "Mommy, it will be okay!!" The pain honestly wasn't that bad until the very end--when Caroline's head came out posterior (she was born at 5:35 PM). That explained the long, oddly-patterned labor. I stayed in the tub till the placenta was out (a first for me--as I had always moved to the bed already for that stage), and let me say: I LOVE water births and birthing tubs. It really helps the pain and uncomfortable-ness of all aspects in labor.

As usual my midwives and family were both amazing! I was thrilled that Rachel and Jemima were able to watch the birth. Everyone was so thoughtful and encouraging throughout the whole process--whether it was rubbing my back, babysitting the kids, buying pizza for everyone afterwards (!!), or supporting me through those last few painful contractions.

And as for #4: it is mind-blowing to me how difficult my pregnancy can be, and yet one little human can make it seem SO WORTH it... like, immediately. She's perfect and beautiful, and I loved her instantly.

Oh, speaking of my little girl... I think she needs her Mommy. :)

Friday, October 17, 2014

And then there were FOUR

Hey! I'm gonna be brief.

You read that title correctly. Caroline Victoria was born on Tuesday. She was my little pattern-breaker, coming 6 days early, after a long (but not difficult) labor.

I'll write more one day, and I might even post a picture or two (one day), but for now...

Some thoughts/advice on keeping a peaceful home--even a relatively organized home...

I know I wrote a post about this same topic recently, but I wanted to repeat myself, just for fun.

Ready?

Have as few toys as possible. Teach the kids to be responsible and hard-working and good helpers from the time they can walk!! Require times of quiet reading or playing throughout the day. One load of laundry every day. Figure out your priorities and don't worry about the other stuff. Plan, shop for, and prepare very simple meals. Have the kids put away their own laundry. Only keep in the house what serves a useful purpose at least once a week. If you don't have time for any other cleaning, just sweep the floors and wipe the counters. Keep smiling!! :-)

There you go. One day at a time...

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Patterns and Pregnancies

It's October finally, officially, and... happily. My due date month!! Woo-hoo.

My due date's October 20th, if you're curious, which means I have [approximately] 18 days (give or take) left of this pregnancy.

THUS... All things considered, it was time for another pregnancy/babies post. Right?!

Due Date vs. Birth Date

All three of my babies have been born four days late. Talk about a pattern! This time around, I WAS fairly convinced that my baby was going to be born TWO days late (because my cycle was slightly different), UNTIL I remembered that...

Odd Days vs. Even Days

All three of my babies have been born on ODD days. Rachel was born on July 15, Jemima on September 7, and Matthias on February 9.

So that throws my theory that Baby C. will arrive on October 22nd--unless she's a pattern breaker, of course. Maybe the 21st? 23rd??

Speaking of odd...

Odd Times vs. Even Times

Yup, R, J, and M were all born at odd TIMES of day, too. Rachel was born at 1 PM, Jemima at 7 PM, and Matthias at 1 AM. Freaky.

Rachel, a few days old



Short vs. Long Labors

I'd say, generally speaking, my labors are fairly short and sweet. Rachel's labor began at 6 AM, but I don't remember the pain being too intense until more like 11. And she was born at 1 PM.

As for Jemima's birth date, I'd had a midwife appointment that morning, and when the midwife left our house, she suggested that I have an ultrasound to make sure everything was okay. Of course I got super worried, and cried, and scheduled an ultrasound for the following morning. Then I started having contractions around 4 in the afternoon, but wasn't SURE it was actual labor until 5-something. Matt got home from work at 6:15, and Jemima was born a little after 7. She was completely fine, and I called to cancel the ultrasound. ;) I think I was scared into labor!

Daddy and Jemima, soon after birth



With Matthias, I'd been having contractions on and off all day long, but I didn't think much of it, considering I'd been experiencing Braxton Hicks for weeks! While Matt and I were watching a movie that night, my water broke, and then the contractions actually became painful. The midwives thought he was going to be born at midnight, but I was convinced he'd arrive at an odd hour, and he did (1 AM). Gotta love those patterns!

As for the Actual Births...

All three babies have been born at home, in our laundry room, in a birthing tub full of amazingly warm water. I loved these water births! If all goes well, we're planning another home/water birth for Baby C.--though since we moved, and our laundry room isn't an option, I'll probably be giving birth in the living room. :)

As for WHEN I Got Pregnant...

Matt and I had been married 3 months when I conceived Rachel Anne. Rachel was 4.5 months when I conceived Jemima Rose. Jemima was 8 months old when Matthias Honor was conceived, and Matthias was 11 months old when Baby C. came into existence. I'm almost certain that when I got pregnant was completely based on how I breast-fed and when I introduced table food each time. With each baby, I've waited longer to introduce table food--not to delay pregnancy, but because I really enjoyed exclusively breast-feeding longer each time.

Ultrasounds

Besides an ultrasound with Rachel when she was 11 weeks old, I didn't have any other ultrasounds with her or Jemima. So we were surprised at each of their births (though I did try a pregnancy indicator pee test with each pregnancy, and each time it predicted that I'd have a girl). From the moment I got pregnant the third time, I wanted to know the gender. I had an ultrasound at 17 weeks, and found out we were having a boy. :) As for Baby C., I wasn't planning to have any sort of ultrasound, but my friend convinced me to (and it was going to be free!), so we had a gender ultrasound with this baby, too. It's a girl--or so we certainly believe!

Weight Gain

Oooh yes, this is always a fun one. :-p When I was pregnant with Rachel, I walked a LOT. Relatively speaking, my life was fairly care-free. I could walk for miles, and not even consider if I should take a stroller or a snuggly, or both! Anyway, I gained 29 pounds, and lost it very easily, within a short amount of time. What can I say? I was young back then. ;)

With both Jemima and Matthias, I gained exactly 39 pounds. It was much more difficult to lose the weight, as you can imagine.

Matthias, 1 day old



So far (almost 38 weeks), I've gained 27 pounds with Baby C. I REALLY don't want to reach 30 pounds, but we'll see. I don't have much longer!

Adjusting to a New Baby/The Transition Time

So far, honestly, I think the hardest adjustment for me has been from 0 kids to 1 kid. I had a lot of the typical first-mom tendencies and fears, and it just seemed like So. Much. Work, and I was SO. BUSY. (Looking back, I'm sure I'd laugh at myself all day long... but hey, everything was a new experience.)

I remember very little of the transition to two kids. I can BARELY remember Jemima as a baby. I guess time was moving too quickly!

Going from 2 to 3 was VERY hard, for one month. That month was difficult, and emotional, and I didn't get much sleep, and then Matthias started miraculously sleeping through the night, on his own, at 1.5 months old! And after that, I feel like life with three just kinda CLICKED, and it felt normal.

So, of course, I'm very curious how transitioning to four children will be....


[As I'm sure all of you noticed, I'm posting on here only once or twice a month. I doubt the frequency will change--unless I post even more infrequently than that--after this baby's birth. I DO post on Instagram all the time, though, so if you're not already following, and you'd like to be... #littlehouseinthehills

And that is all. :)]

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sixteen Ways to Create a Stress-Free home [with Toddlers]

"Your hands are SO FULL!!" "You must be SO BUSY!"

I hear this from total strangers all the time. Why, yes, come to think of it... I AM busy. My days ARE very full. But just because I'm expecting a fourth child, which will give us 4 kids, 4 and under, doesn't mean that our busy, full days need to be stressful, overwhelming, and frustrating days.

I am shuddering just thinking of those words. Because I'm sure we've all been there as moms: we've all had those terrible, no good, very bad days where tears are shed by all (including Mom).

But that doesn't have to be the norm. I don't WANT it to be the norm.

That's why I came up with this list of ways to help reduce the stress levels in a home that is full of small children. Many of these ideas are just that--ideas, or methods... Some of them are all about Biblical character qualities. A few of them are super specific, and some are general. But all in all, I hope some of these suggestions might help you as you walk this busy-and-full journey as mommies with littles!

In no particular order... And without further ado.

1. Communicate with your husband. Strive in every way possible, even if you must compromise your perfect plans or ideas, to be on the same page when it comes to your children. This is going to be my only "husband-related" idea, but it's really a huge one. And that's all I'm going to say, because every couple's in a different situation. But yeah, basically: talk to your husband!! :)

2. Have [generally] consistent bed times, wake up times, and nap times. With my husband's crazy, ever-changing schedule, I feel like our kids' bed-times aren't often at exactly the same time, but it's in a general time frame. So is their wake-up time. And nap time. It helps everyone involved to know when the kids are going to bed!

3. Wake up in the mornings before the kids. Again, definitely not something that always can happen, because of pregnancy, newborns, etc. But when you ARE able to do this, it kinda works like magic. That way, you can shower and get breakfast ready while the house is quiet! If you need to sleep later for some reason, ask your kids to stay in their rooms and play quietly until you tell them it's okay for them to come out of their rooms. They'll get used to this pattern, and won't expect to do anything differently than this. It makes the mornings so much quieter and more peaceful!

4. After breakfast, put your littlest baby/toddler back in their crib with a book or toy for 30 minutes. This will jump-start your morning, and will teach your baby how to play by themselves.

5. Of course this leads to: set aside specific times for ALL of your kids to play by themselves. Or, if they won't fight, have your kids play something quietly together! We have a storage closet underneath our steps that's a "special" place for our kids to play, especially when I allow them to take a flashlight in there :).

6. Use a timer as a motivation--even for yourself! Example: when I'm feeling tired, but the dirty dishes are driving me crazy, I'll set a timer for 10 minutes, and then wash as many dishes as I can in that amount of time. You'll surprise yourself what you can do, if you're motivated, in a matter of minutes, and then sit down for a while!

7. Keep your house clean. Agh... this can be SO HARD when you're pregnant. :-X I don't have any cleaning routine right now, because my energy and pain levels go up and down so frequently. I will often make a list of my cleaning priorities for the day (or week), and then whenever I have a burst of energy, I'll tackle a very small task. Vacuum one room. Sweep the stairs. Use a baby wipe (there are always wipes an arm-reach away in our house! ;)) to wipe down the sinks, and then light a candle to make the room smell pleasant! It will make the whole house feel more calm and under control.

8. Set up times for the kids to JUST. SIT. and Be. Completely. Quiet. This IS possible, y'all, even when all three kids are under 4 years old. When I'm feeling most frazzled, I'll set the timer for 5 minutes (I'm serious), assign a seat for each child, allow them to pick a book, and we ALL have to sit, completely quietly until the timer rings.



9. Have a mandatory rest-time, for everyone in the house, for a long stretch of time. For us, it's two hours long. Jemima and Matthias still take naps during that time, and Rachel plays with something special (as in, things that she's not typically allowed to play with the rest of the day... such as her hair bows or coin jar). Unless I get huge bursts of energy and am DYING to do something active, I rest that whole time, too. It gives me SO much energy for the rest of the day, which is very needed around here!

10. I've mentioned several routine-like ideas here, so I thought I should throw in a different concept now: Be FLEXIBLE!! There are spills and messes and tantrums and tired mommies and sick children. When all (or any) of these sorts of things arise, BE OKAY with dropping your perfect plans for the day and gathering the kids to read books on the couch for an hour! I've had some days where I felt absolutely terrible, and we watched episode after episode on Netflix, because I didn't even feel well enough to READ to the kids. This wouldn't be a good situation if this happened every day, but there are some days that are just. kinda. hard, for whatever reason. Do the best you can, with what you've been given for that day!

11. If there are set aside times when the kids should be QUIET, then I say, there should be times when the kids are LOUD! Have them run outside and roll down the hill, and chase each other, screaming!

12. Prepare for your busy days by making breakfast a day ahead, setting out everyone's clothes the night before, and so on. Mornings are my most difficult time of day, even IF I don't have anything particular to do! So if I can plan ahead AT ALL, it helps keeps my morning stress-levels to a minimum. ;)

13. Keep messes to a minimum. Yup, there's that word minimum again. Maybe I should just say: figure out what are your stressers, and seek to eliminate them. For me, messes often equal stresses. That's why, at this point in our lives, we've reduced the kids' number of toys to four small fabric baskets. I actually dumped ALL the kids' toys in the middle of our family room, and timed how long it took them to clean up all the toys, including putting the baskets back on the shelves. You wanna know how long it took them?? Two minutes, 59 seconds. This told me two things: we have EXACTLY the right amount of toys for our life right now, aaaaand... if it ever takes the girls longer than 3 minutes to clean up their toys, then I know they haven't been going as fast as they could go!

14. Teach your kids to be attentive to your voice, and to respond immediately. We're in the process of teaching the girls that EVERY TIME we say their name, they need to look at us (or come to us, depending on the situation), and say, "Yes, Mom!" or "Yes, Dad!" It is soo difficult, as a mom, to feel like you're talking into a wall, whenever you say anything to your child. At least for me, it causes instant annoyance/frustration. We also just moved to a location where our driveway goes right into the road, and it is imperative that the kids HEAR us, and are ready to COME running if necessary.

15. Assign even your little kids to certain tasks that help out in the household!
Matthias is somewhere in the 1 1/2 year old range, and he can get his sleeper out of his drawer, put his dirty clothes in a hamper, and throw away his dirty diaper. Talk about Helpful!! It's amazing! And he doesn't mind at all. He loves clapping for himself, and hearing all the praise that gets showered on his head because we're proud of him. :) One of Rachel's jobs is emptying the bathroom trash can into the [much bigger] kitchen trash can. Just one more thing that I don't have to do! Your kids are definitely capable of SO much helpfulness, and honestly... I think the house runs more happily and peaceably when the kids feel a PART of what's going on!

16. One more, and I put this last because it's so very important: Pray daily for patience and kindness. Sure, your day can look all perfect with its routines and schedules and kids helping out, but if the Mommy's attitude isn't right, then everything will quickly fall apart. We as moms have a great privilege in setting the tone for our house, and we certainly cannot maintain a peaceful, kind, and patient attitude on our own strength.

I doubt much of this is new to you all, and I kind of felt like I was repeating myself a bunch, but at the same time, hopefully some of you will be encouraged nevertheless! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Details on the Living Room/Foyer

Our living room has had several, ahem, "looks" since we moved into this house in April. Now finally... FINALLY... besides some white trim work, I think we're nearing the "completely done" mark in this area of our house!!



For those of you who are interested in where we purchased each element of the living room...

Lamps: Walmart
Curtains: Target
Curtain rod and drawbacks: Lowe's
Couch: local furniture store
Pillows: T. J. Maxx
Large basket (for pillow storage!): Target
Blue coffee table: bought it second-hand, and sanded/painted it
Rug: Target
Chairs: Pier 1




We bought the end-tables from a neighbor of ours who was moving. We removed the handle (since there wasn't a drawer there anyway), and painted the tables cream.



Flower arrangement: T. J. Maxx
Coasters: Bed, Bath, and Beyond
Hydrangea: Michael's
Vase: originally a pickle jar, that we spray-painted




When we bought the house, our living room looked like this.



And Now...



Here's another before photo, looking towards the foyer...



View of the foyer now...



All the supplies for the railing came from Lowe's, as did that gorgeous new light fixture--an anniversary present from my parents. :)

I think I've covered everything! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. :)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Here Are a Few of My Favorite Apps... (and Sites)

Oh, hey everyone! Hope you're having a happy Saturday!

I was having waaaay too much fun with some phone apps, and I couldn't resist sharing them with you.

1. Free My Apps

This app FEELS too good to be true, until you're actually using your $5 or $10 gift cards... and then it's like, WHOA. This cash is for real, and it is awesome.

Basically, you're earning points, and the points turn into gift cards (once you have enough of them). You download apps, try them out for 15-30 seconds, and then... wa-la. You've just earned yourself some points. The points add up very quickly, and soon--you're earning gift cards.

After earning myself my first $10 (I traded my Amazon gift card to my sister, for cash :)), I went to Goodwill and bought myself two dresses and a belt for $6. It was my lucky day.

2. Shopkick

Another REALLY fun way to earn gift cards, except it takes a little longer to earn them with this app. :) You download the app, and then walk into stores that give you shopkicks (Target, Old Navy, Walmart, Best Buy...), and start building up to gift cards for those stores. I used my first $5 Target gift card the other day, when I bought a basket for our living room! (But more on THAT, later!)

3. Instagram

This isn't a money-earning app (sadly), but it's a fun app all the same! You can follow me if you like: littlehouseinthehills. Any of you on Instagram? Leave me your username in a comment, and I'll hop over for a visit!

4. Like Twice

I found this second-hand women's clothing site from Money Saving Mom. They remind me of Thred Up, except I was able to find more items on here that I liked (who knows why). Anyway, they offer coupons all the time, including free shipping on certain days, which is how I was able to buy this shirt for $0!!



They have hundreds of items for $7.95, which isn't a bad price, considering how expensive gas is these days to actually Go. Clothes. Shopping.

Like Twice has a sweet "share" policy, too. If you click on my link and buy something, I receive $10... So if you make a purchase, and consequently get your OWN referral link, then go ahead and share it with YOUR friends... am I seeing something awesome emerge here?! Maybe.

5. Ebates

I've recently become quite pleased with Ebates again because...

A. I received a check for $14 in the mail a week ago. Which reminded me how cool it is to buy stuff online, and receive cash back, SO...

B. Instead of driving to Wal-Mart with the kids the other day (or asking my sister or mom to pick up my long list of items), I decided to order my Walmart items online again, through Ebates. I did so when Ebates was offering 5% cash back, and I stocked up on toilet paper, paper products, diapers, wipes, shampoo, make-up... All from the comfort of my air-conditioned home, with my leg propped up on a chair. Woo-hoo!

So there ya go. Have fun experimenting with these apps (if you have a phone that works with them, of course)... and see you on Instagram (if you're there)... and earn a little cash on Ebates (ok, ok, I'm done).

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Day in the Life [of this Pregnant Mama]

Yesterday I woke up and documented--through pictures--my day at home. Every day looks different for us, depending on Matt's schedule, if we need groceries, etc., but this is generally how a "normal" day looks for us.

7:15 AM

I rolled out of bed. For those of you who have known me as an early riser, those days are no more--at least temporarily. ;) Not sleeping well seems to be a symptom of this pregnancy, and in order to feel rested, I've started sleeping in later.

I jumped in the shower, and by this time, the girls were waking up.



They looked at books and played in Rachel's room while I finished getting ready for the day.



While I dressed and put on make-up, I listened to my audio Bible. I'm working through Psalms.



I poured the girls some cereal, and then I changed Matthias's diaper and got him dressed.



Matthias and I ate breakfast, too. (Of course.) Paper bowls and spoons make breakfast clean-up easy...

8:26 AM

Matthias brings me his flop-flops every morning. I don't think he feels properly dressed without them!



I brushed the kids' teeth, and wiped off the bathroom sink. Then I lit a candle, and shut the bathroom door (so there's no danger of Matthias going in there).



We headed downstairs, where I set up a Netflix movie (101 Dalmatians, the real people version) for the kids, and I walked on the treadmill.





No surprise--Matthias lost interest in the movie fairly quickly, and contented himself with paging through books.



After 10 or 15 minutes of walking (that's all I can do, for now), I sat down with the kids with a stack of books. We read several Bible stories, a chapter from The Boxcar Children, and other miscellaneous stories.



9:05 AM

Time to start my one load of laundry for the day. The girls pulled the dirty clothes' baskets to the top of the stairs.



With the laundry going, it was time to clean up the kids' bedrooms.





The kids put away their clothes, toys, books, and anything else that has accumulated in their rooms, and they help make their beds.

I put some chicken in the oven for lunch and chop a few vegetables. Meanwhile, Matthias had fun in the utensils drawer. :)



And the girls played nearby.



10:10 AM

Half of Matthias's closet is filled with these gray bins. They store my maternity clothes, plus boys' and girls' clothes (the sizes the kids aren't currently wearing).



Every time there's a consignment sale, I go through all those bins, looking for clothes that I don't LOVE. Because if I'm not CERTAIN my kids are going to wear a certain shirt (or whatever) over and over again, then there's no point storing it. We have enough to store already!



I dumped, and sorted, and tried clothes on the kids to see what fits.



It was raining outside, but the girls played on the back covered porch. I have no idea what they're discussing here!



Oh yeah, and I drank a small cup of coffee. Soooo relaxing...



This is what I look like now, at 30.5 weeks pregnant. That's a VERY typical Tricia outfit these days. I wear that jean skirt several times a week, because it's so ridiculously comfortable and can go with pretty much any top.



My sister keeps dropping off garden vegetables at our house, and we've found ourselves with quite a few tomatoes. I chopped a few tomatoes, mixed in a tablespoon of pesto, and sprinkled some Parmesan cheese on top. The girls loved their snack!



Matt was home, and he and Matthias were watching videos on the porch. ;)



11:54 AM

Rachel washing herself up after her snack...



Daddy read some books to the kids while I worked in the kitchen.



My foot was hurting, so I sat down to rest, and the girls set up a "yard sale" next to me.



I caught up on a few of my favorite blogs.



Lunch time! We all ate chicken legs and cucumbers with Ranch, but I also ate almost an entire green pepper and onion, sautéed in butter. YUM.



Matt bathed Matthias, and I dressed him in clean clothes and put him to bed--along with the other kids.



Yeah, this is what our kitchen counter looked like after cooking + lunch, but I was in pain, and it was our "mandatory rest time," so I ignored the dirty counters and sat back down on the couch.



With a cup of delicious hot mixture. :)



1:04 PM

I made a phone call, sent a few texts, and generally relaxed. (This means: I don't remember what else I did. :O) All I remember is that at the end of those two hours, I happened to start watching a "Clean House" episode...



And it got me so motivated, I jumped off the couch and cleaned up the kitchen.



Then I wrote on this blog about when your "good" kids are [really] bad.

4:07 PM

The kids were all awake now. We folded that one load of laundry. The girls helped deliver their clothes, and Matthias played with the empty laundry basket. Good times.



Then the kids watched Curious George while I worked on tagging my items for the consignment sale.



By then, it was after 5 PM, and time to start getting dinner ready. And this is where my picture documentation ended. :)

So that, generally speaking, was my day. Keeping up with the kids, washing one load of laundry, doing a little bit of cleaning, preparing some simple meals, and washing dishes is pretty much all I can do these days. But instead of focusing on what I CAN'T get done, and what I CAN'T do, I've been reminding myself that I need to be thankful for what I AM able to still do every day!