Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Amazon Gift Card Giveaway ($25!!), Plus How We "Do" Christmas

Hey, everyone! So here's something a little different [and super FUN??!!].

Excitement aside ;), a friend of mine--who also happens to be a talented writer--has a fun giveaway on her blog! All you have to do is join her email list!



So there you go. Take a moment to enter the giveaway, and browse Katie's blog, and then head back here to read what we DO and DON'T DO for Christmas!!

*****

"How do you guys DO Christmas?"

Have you heard that question a lot recently? I have, and [gulp] I've been asking other moms that exact question, too. I love the idea of Christmas traditions, and some general round-a-bout "Christmas cheer," and yet I'm not very creative, and I have a hard time deciding what traditions to actually DO, y'know?

Besides, I'll admit... life is just a teensy bit busy around here, without adding anything to our "normal" activities. I'm sure every Christmas season will look different for us, but here's what we've chosen to do THIS year.

DECORATE!

We set up our big, fake tree (that a friend of mine snagged for FREE at a yard sale!), covered it in lights and ornaments, and bought a few other decorations at the Dollar Store.

[[dining room at night. nice and cozy!]]



One day, I'd really love to have more ornaments, and maybe some ribbon. But it took plenty long-enough to hang the ornaments that we had, and it will be relatively easy to remove them all from the tree once Christmas is over. Besides, I think I want the kids to be old enough to actually HELP, before our Christmas decorating gets any "bigger."

BUY GIFTS!

This year, Matt took Jemima, and I took Rachel (on different days) to the Dollar Store, so they could choose a couple gifts for the other siblings. The girls had SUCH a good time with this! As for Matt and me, we're focusing on not spending a ton of money right now, which means a few meaningful but inexpensive gifts for those on our list.

WATCH MOVIES!

This is one of the joys of Netflix! There are SO many Christmas movies on there right now! MOST of them are super cheesy (at best), but we've found a few new ones that are fun.

[[watching a Christmas movie on my phone]]



Besides It's A Wonderful Life (which we own), my favorite Christmas movie is *definitely* Mistletones. I discovered it this year (on Netflix), and have already watched it several times. It helps that the girls really enjoy it, too!

SING CHRISTMAS SONGS!

A daily event at our house--usually when I'm feeding Caroline. The girls know the first verses of maybe five Christmas carols, and most of God, Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (because we've been singing it at church every week). Talk about spreading Christmas cheer!

READ CHRISTMAS STORIES!

We just got a STACK of Christmas books from the library, and we've been snuggling under blankets and reading stories. It's AH-mazing. I love reading to the kids, but sometimes our stash of books can get a little old (especially after reading the same stories over and over). It's nice to have some new ones, that are all Christmas-y!

Okay, as for what we DON'T DO?

We haven't baked any cookies yet (though we will, for my family's Christmas Eve celebration!), we're not sending out Christmas cards (though we did take a semi-good-mostly-blurry picture at Thanksgiving--see below)...

[[only family photo that includes Caroline, on the outside]]



We didn't decorate outside at all (one day, one day), or hang a wreath. We're not filling stockings, or talking about Santa or the Elf-on-the-Shelf. Though we DO have a chimney that the girls say a "pretend" Santa will come down... but most of the time, they just say that "Daddy and Mommy are giving us presents!" :)

The kids don't have matching Christmas outfits. The girls kind of did last year (because that's what we had), but this year... I think all three girls will be wearing purple for Christmas (because 80% of their wardrobes are purple. I wonder who dresses them?!), and Matthias will be wearing his nicest non-purple outfit. ;)

Most importantly, we are talking about Baby Jesus, who was born a King, and that HE is the REAL reason we are celebrating this year, and every year to come!

If I don't write here again before Christmas, Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Just For Mommies: Belly Bands, Dieting, and Losing the Baby Weight

Well, here I am again, not pregnant... and back to the fun to losing weight. ;) I've become increasingly more interested in this whole "getting my body back" idea since I've realized that...

A. I get pregnant again FAIRLY quickly after each baby,

and

B. The weight is increasingly harder to get rid of, after each baby.

Which is why, I've tried to lose the weight between pregnancies. My pregnancies have been close together, and Lord willing, we will continue having children for a few more years! I've never had any idea when the next pregnancy will happen, and I want to make sure the weight doesn't slowly start building up.

My maximum amount of weight I wanted to gain this past time was 30 (though honestly, I was shooting for between 25-30, because that's what I've read is the healthiest for Mom and Baby), and I gained 31. Within a couple days, I'd lost 10 (for obvious reasons :)), and since then, I've lost another 7.

How? Basically... few carbs, and little sugar. Sugarless coffee, oat pancakes without syrup, lots of meat, salads, eggs almost every morning, lots and LOTS of water, no desserts except on Sundays...

I still eat plenty of awesome food--just not bread and potatoes! :)

Moving on... I thought it was about time to let you all in on a little "secret find" of mine. It's something that I only recently heard about, and I decided to try it... and I NOW KNOW that... Post-partum belly bands are AWEsome.

As soon as I read the word "compression" (and around your sagging tummy?!), I was sold. A few HOURS after Caroline was born, I put on my first belly band, and I wore it *almost* 24/7 for the first month.

[on the left: one DAY after Caroline's birth. on the right: one MONTH after Caroline's birth]



But these belly bands are NOT just for weight loss and tightening your belly. After my last births, I had weeks of *terrible* after-birth cramps--to the point that I was on my hands and knees in pain. And after Matthias's birth, I went to see a chiropractor because my back hurt so much.

This time, I had TWO DAYS of after-birth cramps, and the belly band took care of the rest! :) Besides, it just feels marvelous to have that firmness around your belly.

Now as to what I specifically used...

The Shrinkx Belly I've just told you about all the PROS to the belly band. The cons are that eventually, the velcro began wearing out (you have to remember, I was wearing it ALL the time!), AND I grew out of it, so that it didn't really work comfortably anymore. (But is that really a con?) I bought a small/medium (smallest size they had), and I grew out of it within 3-4 weeks. The thing I LOVED was that it had two adjustable straps (besides the thick band) so that you could make it as tight as you wanted to (for a while).

YES, you can see it underneath your clothes, because it doesn't rest perfectly against your skin. I would either not care and still wear it OUT anyway, or I'd only wear it at home, and then put it back on as soon as I returned from errands/church/etc.

Last week, I bought an XS Belly Bandit. I was "done" with the Shrinx Belly, AND I'd heard other moms raving about the Belly Bandit, and I wanted to see how it worked. I like it, too. The velcro seems stronger on this one, but it doesn't have the straps. It's definitely comfortable!

So there's where I am, with this whole weight loss and tummy tightening thing. Now you know all my secrets! :)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Quick [Updated] House Tour!

I'm on Instagram (littlehouseinthehills), as many of you know, and the last few days, I've been enjoying this "Christmas House Tour" that numerous bloggers are participating in. Basically, I'm scrolling through picture after picture of perfectly decorated houses--y'know, with the chalkboard paintings and the blankets draped JUST SO.

The more I look at these homes, the more I'm realizing that my home ISN'T perfect, but it doesn't have to be perfect... because what's perfect anyway? I can't have white couches at this point in my life, and white curtains, and white rugs, and white blankets. My kids don't even wear white socks or white shirts! [But that's another conversation, for another day.]

I LOVE my house, and I want my family to love LIVING in it. I love beauty and order, and I want my house to be beautiful... and comfy... and orderly... and LIVED IN. I'm trying to find a balance between stressing over my house being *perfectly clean and neat,* and my kids having a blast making a MESS in that house. All that aside...

In the general idea of everyone putting their houses on tour over the holidays, I thought--perfect decor or not--I'd give you a quick tour of our house, in its present, working progress.

*deep breath*

Here's what we have so far...

[[living room]]







[[foyer]]



[[laundry room]]



[[family room]]



[[upstairs bathroom]]





[[girls' bedroom]]





[[matthias and caroline's room]]





[[our house]]



Almost all the decor you see throughout the house came from Michaels, TJ Maxx, and Target (mostly the latter two). I'd say most of these items are fairly unbreakable, though the kids still know not to play with the decorations. That's what toys are for! ;)

The kids play, build tents, move around the furniture (after asking, of course ;)), dump their toys everywhere, spill their drinks... which is why I like to keep their rooms simple. Not too much to clean up, or rearrange, or fix. And yet... it can still look nice in the mean time!

Okay, house tour over. We have about a gazillion projects that we're in the middle of/haven't started yet, so I will continue to post "progress" pictures along the way.

Come again!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I'm Not a "Super" Mom

There's been a lot of honesty going on around the internet these days from moms. Moms all across the country are posting pictures of their houses a total mess, their dishes unwashed, and laundry unfolded. I've heard countless tales of moms who just can't find the time to shower anymore, who are exhausted from night after night without sleep.

Well, here I am, sitting at my computer, at 1:32 in the afternoon. The counters are wiped, the floors are swept, and the laundry is put away. The four kids are asleep or quietly playing, and I lit a cinnamon-smelling candle. The house is calm.

Did all of this happen magically? Definitely not. Do I have super powers? NO. No, no, NO!!

I've been telling people that four kids has been easier than one--or two, and that is oh-so-true. When I just had Rachel, I was hesitant to even change her diaper, afraid that I would somehow "do it wrong." Jemima used to "explosively" spit-up, and I remember the day that she spat up all over me and the floor, and I had the phone in my hand, about to call Matt to come home from work, because I didn't think I could deal with a 1-year-old Rachel AND cleaning up after Jemima. I would call my mom or sister to help me take my ONE child shopping, because I couldn't picture how I could do that.

There were many days that I was tired, and overwhelmed... and I had two. And then I had three, and it took about one month of adjustment (and crying) before I felt like, "Wow... I can do this!"

Enter Caroline, and thus four kids in less than five years. It's easier now, and better. I'm not saying that everything is easy (I'm still super tired from having a one-month-old!), but I'm also having more fun with these kids than I've had before. I'm able to enjoy Caroline more than I enjoyed my other newborns, because I'm more relaxed.

All that aside, how do I do it? How can my house be "picked up," when my oldest is 4 years old? How can I be showered and dressed every morning when I have a newborn? With two kids in between...?!

I've written so many of these ideas before, but recently, I've heard more than ever the response "You must be a super mom," as if I've reached this level of perfection that is unattainable for the average mom. That is SO not true, and I want people to know that! It's been a slow, growing process, and I've learned so much along the way. Some things are simple, and others take more sacrifice, but really... it's about pushing through the hard times, with a little bit of perseverance, and whadda-ya-know, things start getting easier.

A couple weeks ago, I was at the dentist's, and he asked me (as I was getting my mouth worked on) what was my biggest piece of advice for having "four kids" and keeping my sanity.

Being a bit sleep-deprived, and having dental instruments in my mouth, I couldn't think super clearly, so I said the first thing that came to mind, and that was: Teach your kids to obey--the first time.

Basically: expect obedience. It's a command from God, and it relieves an incredible amount of time and stress (on the part of the parents). It might even save their lives one day.

Kids need to know that when you speak, you mean what you say. So when I say to the girls, "Clean up your toys," they understand that I literally mean: "Clean up your toys." Like, NOW.

We don't have a set routine right now, but we have general guidelines in our house. Such as, when the kids wake up, they stay in their rooms until I (Mom) get out of the shower. They have a few books and a few toys, and they have their imaginations. They can do this.

When I'm cleaning up the house, I expect them to help me. Often times, the messes are caused because of something they did anyway (like eat breakfast, or dirty their clothes...), so I want them to be helping me clean UP what they created. It's simple tasks, really. "Carry the dirty laundry basket to the top of the steps." "Unload the [unbreakable] plates from the dishwasher into this drawer."

It always helps when the messes are prevented in the first place. The girls are almost to the point where they can take off their nighgowns and put on their clothes in the mornings. So we expect them to either... Put their nightgowns back in their drawer (immediately after taking it off), or throw them in their bright pink hamper.

Even Matthias knows how to throw away his diaper, get out his sleeper, put away his shoes, and so on. Kids don't need to play all day. Seriously. I can't entertain them, and they're happier when they're not entertained all day long. Helping can be fun!

Of course it helps if Mom has a good attitude. ;) A friend of mine was telling me (years ago) how much she hated cleaning the bathroom, and I told her (blunt Tricia that I was) that she was going to be cleaning her bathroom for the rest of her life, so she might as well start enjoying it--at least as much as she could. LOL.

I think many tasks sound worse than they are--even getting out of bed in the morning, after being woken up several times in the night. If you keep laying there, thinking about how much you DON'T want to get out of bed, how will you ever be able to actually... umm... roll over and get out of bed?! And then walk into the hallway, with at least half a smile to greet the kids. :)

Here's what I am slowly learning: this housework, these pregnancies, and childbirths, and everything wife and mommy-related are my life right now. I'm busy with my children all day long, day after day. This is the work God has given me to do, and He expects that I do it cheerfully. I cannot do anything on my own power, which means that every morning, I need to pray and ask God to give me the strength (HIS strength) to make it through that day. Everything we have is from Him anyway, and He can give us the wisdom to train our children, and the courage to greet each day--and each child--with joy.

A few more practical things I do... I read an article recently about moms of littles doing "less stuff" over the holidays, and I couldn't agree more--except I'd apply it to my life, every day. I'm involved in very few activities, and I rarely "go out" except for shopping once or twice a week. This may change as my kids get older, but right now, loading the four kids up in their carseats to go anywhere seems pretty much unnecessary, especially when it's winter time. The few times I've gone somewhere with all the kids, I've asked someone to go with me. Yes. So this hasn't changed--but the number of kids has. ;)

I also think that times of quiet are absolutely essential to the general peace of the household. I feel most frazzled and unfocused when I haven't been able to rest all day long, which is why my goal every day is that all four kids sleep at the same time. Caroline's not on a fixed schedule yet, so there have been afternoons when I'm feeding her while the other three are asleep, but that's still peaceful... all snuggled up with my baby girl. :)

When I get to the point that I can't hear myself think (which happens at least once a day!), I have all the kids sit down in the living room, and we're all quiet together. Even if the house isn't completely silent, it's CALM. The kids are memorizing Psalm 23 (which is a peaceful Psalm, by the way! :)), and we practice it multiple times a day. We are slowly teaching the children that they don't always have to be silly, that they can quote Scripture or sing Christmas songs confidently and calmly.

After the kids wake up from their naps, and I'm feeding Caroline, we've been singing Christmas songs. It's a very frugal way to create some Christmas cheer (!), and I absolutely love all these Christmas songs. I want to pass that on to my kids! We haven't had a day yet that singing song after song does not produce happiness and smiles all around.

And one last thing: towards the end of the day, when I'm getting last-minute-dinner preparations ready, or paying the bills, or finishing doing whatever I need to do, the kids are allowed to watch a TV show or movie. I'm trying to limit it to the afternoons, because by then, the kids have had hours of imagination-play, school time, and plenty of helping me. It's been a nice way for all of us to unwind and finish off the afternoon/early evening with some fun (as long as the show is decent!).

I've been typing for a while, and Baby C is just waking up. I hope these thoughts have been encouraging or helpful to some of you!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

My Version of a Capsule Wardrobe

I have a problem with maternity clothes--and, going even further, post-partum clothes, too.

But let's start with maternity clothes. Besides the fact that they're sometimes (often?) hard to find, uncomfortable, and expensive (for starters), they only last you a few months anyway.

With Matthias, I was bursting out of my normal-sized jeans somewhere in the first trimester. My belly band wasn't cutting it, and I already needed... maternity jeans. But I was still skinny everywhere BUT my belly, which meant that I got away with wearing very small-sized maternity jeans.

But time passed, and I gained some weight, and eventually... I needed a different size maternity clothes. Now that's just ridiculous. TWO sizes in MATERNITY clothes?!

It gets better.

Once my babies are born, I can still wear my "bigger" sized maternity clothes for a week or two, before they start looking like, "Oh, Tricia's still wearing maternity clothes--and they're a little big."

Which means that... I go back to my "smaller" size maternity clothes, or--as I did with Matthias--I went to Goodwill and bought whatever size in "normal" clothes that I would've worn at the time.

But then I lost weight. So one or two months later, my "transition" clothes were too big. So I bought *another* transition size.

Which led to my owning two FULL boxes of maternity and post-partum "transition-y" clothes... quite a bit of which, I didn't really like. It's just what I was able to find for a reasonable price.

So this time around, I finally decided upon a completely, totally different idea with my wardrobe. It was simple, and fairly inexpensive (because it was simple), and "worked" from PRE-Pregnancy, all Through The Pregnancy, and now, Post-Pregnancy.

It looked very much like This:



I call it my very own version of the extremely popular "Capsule Wardrobe," or...

My Solution to Maternity Clothes. ;)



Are you noticing a theme? It's called a Maxi Skirt. ;)

It helps that I wore stockings every day, so I honestly preferred to wear skirts every day versus jeans or pants. And once you've tried a maxi skirt while pregnant, and felt how comfortable that panel is on your belly, there's no going back to jeans. At least there wasn't for me. :)

So. I had a couple maxi skirts, and I bought a few more, in my pre-pregnancy size. I started wearing them pretty much as soon as my jeans stopped feeling comfortable--and I've worn them almost every day, ever since.

Ok, besides the skirt... my non-maternity "Maternity" wardrobe consisted of:

Plain-colored or polka-dotted or flowered top: bought mostly from Target, Goodwill, and Rue 21

LONG tank-top: this is how I was able to pull off the "normal" sized knit tops, because I bought extra-long tank tops to wear underneath! My current favs are from Forever 21 ($1.90 each!!)

Maxi skirt/skirt with super-stretchy waistband: Amazon, Gap (the best quality by far), Target, TJ Maxx, and second-hand

As for shoes, well, my foot hurt all the time, so I bought a pair of $20 slipper-like silver shoes from Target, and I wore them EVERY SINGLE DAY for about 6 months. So, yes, wearing only one pair of shoes--like, EVER, can be done--though it's nice to be out of pain now, and be able to wear heels, or boots, or flip-flops!

Accessories: Scarves (Walmart, Rue 21, gifts) and Jewelry (everywhere--but I especially like Rue and Forever 21's collections now)



Mixing up the accessories and shirts significantly helped with the "I'm wearing the same skirt to church three weeks in a row" situation.

The maxi skirts grew with me, and now, instead of trying to fit into jeans already, I'm still wearing those same skirts. They just look a little different! :) The advantage to this "capsule maternity wardrobe" is that I didn't have to buy any special maternity clothes, and now I don't have to buy any transition clothes.



Yes, I still have a small collection of "Skinny" clothes--the clothes that I wear for a few months, when I've lost all the baby weight, but that "wardrobe" really doesn't need to be extensive, as I don't last in that size long before... I start growing a baby again.

Ok, so I know this sort of idea will definitely NOT work for everyone. I was even wondering to myself why I'm all about simplifying, to the point of wearing only a handful of skirts over such a long stretch of time. What I came up with: for me, every child I have adds MORE to my life--more of my time and energy and thought... So every area that I can somehow TRIM down, really helps me!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

When You Don't Want to Spend [Much] Money on Your House

...but you DO want it to look awesome.

Or, at least... BETTER... than it did before. ;)

We moved into this house in mid-April, and it needed a LOT of work. The first month or two, we spent somewhere in the $2000 range, doing some remodeling and updating work (think: floors, drywall, painting). Since then, though, we've been trying to stay within a much smaller budgeted amount per month.

So while it would be NICE to just snap our fingers (written another way: spend a bunch of money) and renovate the entire house until it was "perfect," we are having to restrain ourselves and do a little bit of fixing up here, and a little bit there.

In the mean time...

I thought of some ways we've improved our living space, without breaking our bank account. :)

First off, we cleaned everything. This house hadn't been lived in for a year, and even when it WAS occupied, it wasn't well-taken care of. So... it needed cleaned--and badly. But beyond that, I'd just say: KEEP it clean!! Even a yellowed, out-dated floor can look WAY better if it's swept and washed.



Secondly, we organized our STUFF. So here's something that came to me in the middle of the night (more like, while I was cleaning up the living room): I think a HUGE way to keep a house looking decent (besides keeping it clean, and not having too MUCH stuff) is that EVERYTHING has a designated place. Because when there are toys in the bathroom, food on the couches, cleaning supplies in the oven (you get the idea), a room can look pretty bad, really fast.

So give everything a home, whether it be a box or basket, or shelf, or drawer!

A house that's "picked up" (or organized, in some fashion) goes a loooong way.

Thirdly, we did a lot of painting. You can paint walls, furniture, cabinets, concrete floors, paneling... We're talking only the cost of primer and paint--and if you use the same color on both a few walls AND cabinets (in different rooms, preferably), then you're fixing up TWO spots, for the price of ONE gallon of paint!

Lastly, we've purhcased small, less-than-twenty-dollar items that will brighten our home. I love pillows, rugs, candles, curtains, flowers... I've laid several rugs on our "old" floors now, and it REALLY disguises the fact that our floors needs changed!

Okay, those are all my ideas. ;) As for the future... I'm reaaaaally hoping to get back into writing more frequently on this blog, now that Caroline's "out" and I'm feeling more motivated...and comfortable! We'll see if that happens. Stay posted!



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!