Friday, December 24, 2010

What we MADE for Christmas: All done!

We are almost there, but I am scheduling this post for a little later (it is now only about 11:30 am) so by the time it hits we (hopefully) will be totally done!

Here's a shot of the girls' stocking loot--Suzi's on the left and Ivey's on the right. That doll drives me nuts but I think Ivey will still love her. As you can see, we caved and bought some Play-Doh and a book at the store. I don't regret either of those. The other two storebought gifts are for Suzi--a really cool German-made wooden fire truck (which we never could've made ourselves) and a Don't Break the Ice game, which is one of my childhood favorites. I feel pretty good about our gifts for the kids this year. Wow, have we come a long way from Christmases past. I know it looks like Ivey has more stuff, but Suzi has more--and wayyy more expensive--gifts to open.

These are gift baskets for a couple of the guys on our list. We were going to make the baskets but we didn't have time, so we picked a couple up at Goodwill yesterday and tied ribbon on them. We made our favorite chocolate chip cookies and beef jerky, and all that is missing is a cute little bird ornament. For Jordan's brother we made a cheesecake. Important note: If you plan to give cheesecake as a gift and don't want to give away the bottom of your springform pan along with it, research how to get the cake out of the pan before you bake it.

So far, this is all that exists of the bird ornaments. Some cut out wool pieces. I will finish these later at my parents' house and on the road tonight if necessary. I've made a bunch already so this is no big deal to finish up.

The other night we finished this Coke cap basket for my brother. It was about ten times more trouble to make than we expected. I wired one little row because it looked like fun and then said "no thanks Jordy, you can finish it!" He did a great job. I hope my brother the Coke enthusiast appreciates it.

And finally, the Wardlaw shield for my dad, who is really into his Scottish heritage and going to highland games events. Jordan cut it and sanded it and sprayed on the blue, and I insisted on painting it all myself, because I knew I wanted it a certain way and allowing anyone else to lay a paintbrush on it would only end in fighting and crying and drama. I am just like that. It might look simple but gosh this took some work. Those estoiles (the starfish things) had to be turned a certain way and spaced a certain way, at a certain size, and the mascles (the diamonds) had to line up right. I had to put four or five coats of paint on the things. Now it's done, though, and I'm so happy. I hope my dad likes it.

I am feeling so much better now. Ready to chill and open presents. I go through moments where I think no one is going to like what we made, our gifts are horrible, everything is awful, but then I think we did a pretty good job. I hope that even if people aren't necessarily giddy over the actual item, they can see that a lot of love went into them. We did our best and we did it out of love and because of this.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What we're making for Christmas 4: Fly Through My Window

Once I started making birds, I thought it might be fun to have a little set of different birds to go with Elizabeth Mitchell's "Little Bird" song. We love that song. So I made these for Ivey, along with a little nest for them to live in together. It was a major accomplishment for me to finish it today, but it looks like (as long as Jordan doesn't get sick) we are all getting better. Hooray!

Blackbird, cardinal, robin, and bluebird. Not claiming to be accurate or realistic in any way.

I'm glad I could make a nest out of this sweater, because there wasn't much else it would've been good for.

Whenever we sing the song we have to add the robin in, and then I joke that this spring a little Robin really is going to fly through my window.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

A stomach bug themed slumber party

So things have changed a lot since my last post. As soon as Ivey started getting better, I came down with it. I'm so happy it's just a stomach virus! The bad part is that Suzi caught it at the same time as I did, and she, unlike me, is vomiting. Ivey is not a dramatic puker, but Suzi takes after me and it's a major ordeal. She's actually even worse than I was when I was little. Hand over her mouth, doesn't want to go to the toilet, screaming, jumping up and down in a circle, shaking her head back and forth. Oh geez. I feel so bad for her. Right now we are letting her lie on the love seat and watch whatever movies she wants until she falls asleep.

Last night I knew we couldn't all sleep in our own beds, so I told Suzi we were going to all stay downstairs and have a slumber party. We'll all stay down here together, and watch Rudolph, and then fall asleep. Sound fun? She said yes. She's probably going to lie around and sleep on and off most of the day. I might go get back on the couch soon too. I really hope we are all better in time for Christmas, and I really hope we can finish making our gifts for people. All that may or may not happen, but at least we will all be okay in a few days. I'm still so happy about that, because for a while when Ivey was the only one sick, I wasn't sure.

Oh, and it's our anniversary today. Number six! Really, really romantic so far. Oh well. We did get our ornaments made for each other, but I haven't had a chance to take a picture of them yet. Maybe later. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The worst feeling in the world

Sitting on the couch playing with Suzi, seeming better

And not very much later, feeling awful again

Ivey has been sick, and although this is an inconvenient time to blog, I want to do it now so I can remember this later. It's funny how our lives can change back and forth so much in just a couple of days.

Right now I am holding Ivey in the ring sling (on top of my pregnant belly, not very comfortable) and placing a goldfish cracker in her mouth every time she says "moh." This is the only way we've found, for the moment, that she is somewhat happy. Like, not screaming.

About a week ago, I noticed she wasn't herself. She fell asleep in her lunch, on a day when we hadn't been anywhere or engaged in any tiring activity. She normally wouldn't nap until at least 2 or 3 pm, if then. Friday morning she had a little of what seemed like diarrhea, but nothing too bad, and then Friday evening she threw up at my parents and we took her home. She continued to vomit, but not with the force or frequency of a stomach bug, and there was no fever or anyone we could think of that she'd caught it from. We were going to go visit Jordan's parents on Sunday after church, but she threw up Sunday morning. We skipped church, and then when she seemed better we decided to leave on our two-hour drive after feeding the kids dinner and waiting a bit to see if it stayed down. Everything went fine at Jordan's parents. No vomiting, and she was even in a decent mood and seemed to be getting back to normal.

Then, around 12:30 am on Tuesday, she threw up again. We thought it was just that we'd started her back on regular food too soon. She threw up again around 11 am and I thought maybe I'd fed her too much applesauce. So we took her to the doctor, which was a mistake. It took several hours out of our afternoon, and we had to subject her to a chilly car ride and an hour long wait in a little exam room. We were then told to take her home and keep doing what we were doing, and charged $20 for it. Duh. Next time I'll know better.

Until last night, we really did think she was getting better. My mom came over yesterday and Ivey was playing with her and seemed to be more herself than she had been in a couple of days. And then we took her to bed and she barfed up her soup and some jello from the night before, around 1:30. I was really upset last night. It just seems so wrong that she would be taking this long to get over a little "stomach bug," and also have no fever, and not have spread the illness to anyone else. I mean, she's puked on Jordan at least five times! Right now I would love nothing more than to get this stomach bug myself, just to prove that's all it is!

And it's Christmas time, and I have no idea when she'll be better. I have no idea when we're going to finish making our gifts. I haven't even made Jordan's anniversary gift, and that's a priority for me, and it's only two days away. This is a horrible place to be. I have a new respect for people whose children are seriously ill. I just have no idea how they go through months, years of what I am having a hard time doing for a week. It sucks.

She got tired of goldfish and fell asleep as I typed this, so I am going to try to get some sewing done now while my hands are free. I don't really know where to start. Tonight Jordan will probably sleep on the love seat with Ivey, because lying flat in bed seems to make it more likely that she'll get sick, and I will sleep on the couch. We will keep on feeding her bland foods, and hoping she doesn't throw up again. We will watch her play and seem happy for a few minutes and then start getting lethargic and irritable again. Knowing that 24 or even 36 hours of no vomiting doesn't necessarily mean anything.

There are few times in my life I've felt so awful. All I want for Christmas is a healthy Ivey.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What we're making for Christmas, part three

The thing I made today was for Suzi. I made a cloak, using this pattern. Jordan and I spent all day at home with a sick Ivey, and Suzi has been at Grandma and Grandpa's, so it wasn't a bad time to work on it. I have to be honest, I did not have fun making this. It was so big, and I prefer to make things really little. I felt like I was playing Twister when I arranged and measured the fabric in the floor. Lots of pinning was involved, and in general, if you mess up something big you have a bigger mess. This cloak was only 32 inches or so long. I can't imagine making one for an adult!

I am fairly happy with it, all things considered, now that it's over. I hope Suzi likes it and that it fits okay. I may make one again someday, but if I do I am not going to line it. That was the worst part. I should have probably used crushed velvet like the lady recommended, but it's not my favorite fabric. I intended this to be an open-ended costume and also somewhat warm just in case Suzi wants to wear it to highland games sometimes. Probably she will mostly wear it while pretending to be Prince Philip. I do think this is a wonderful gift for a child, and it's empowering to know that it can be made at a very low cost. If you try it, be sure to take the tip at the bottom of the instructions page about folding the fabric in half to cut so the fold is in the middle of the back. It'll save a lot of trouble!

This doll, made by me and Megan on Friday, is not a Christmas gift for one of our kids. It's for a little girl who is in the hospital, but I do plan to make similar dolls for Suzi and Ivey. Megan already finished Evie's and it's adorable! These are not as hard to make as I thought they would be, and we managed to do pretty well for a first try even without all the recommended materials. I found a remnant at the fabric store for the face and hands, and we couldn't find wool stuffing so we used bamboo. Megan made Evie's doll hat and bunting out of a felted wool sweater, and it worked great. If you'd like to make a doll but don't really want to spend $15 a yard for two different organic fabrics, check out this lady's Dollar Store Dolly! Similar dolls retail for around $100, and she made it with stuff from a dollar store. Wow. Here are some good free instructions, too.

I have a long list of things to make still, but I feel ten times better having the cloak behind me! Now I can focus on arm warmers. An apron. Ivey's quilt. Flannel hankies. Finishing the girls' Waldorf babies. Pumpkin bread mini loaves. And I really want to try some felted wool slippers for the girls. As soon as I cross something off my list, it gets even longer. Oh boy, it's a good thing I'm nesting.

What are you making for Christmas?

Previous posts:
Part Two (and here's the pattern)

More later!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Losing count... 23 weeks? It's nesting time!

First, some unrelated pictures.

Our town's Christmas tree the night it was lit

They both want Daddy to hold them. People are asking how he's going to hold one more. We're not sure yet.

You're how old? Three?

Yep, three! And I want a fire truck!

I should be 24 weeks on Saturday. I had a pregnancy ticker last time that helped me keep track, but it annoyed me because once I passed my due date it started counting the days back up. I was a little insulted that the designers of the ticker hadn't thought of that. Women go past their due dates all the time! It should've gone down to zero and then been like "Jenny is ___ days past her due date! Give that lady a medal for patience!" But it didn't, so I didn't get a ticker this time.

I had forgotten how wonderful pregnancy gets about halfway through when I start really nesting. My house is clean and decorated for Christmas! The laundry and dishes have been under control and I am undertaking large organizational projects that normally I would put off forever. On Monday my parents took both the girls to their house for the afternoon and in about four hours I transformed our craft room from a disastrous, shameful mess into a space we can actually use! I wish I'd taken before and after pictures. That room was where craft projects went to die, but by Monday night it was nice enough that on Tuesday I had my friends Megan and Jenn over to make Waldorf bunting dolls. (Well, Megan and I made dolls and Jenn gave us advice and tried to get some knitting done.) Yesterday I went through all the girls' clothes, got rid of some and packed most of the rest away. I'm almost done with that. I washed Robert's newborn clothes too and they are hanging in the Robert section of the kids' closet. It's a little early but I figured I might as well since I was in the mood!

Our little house is going to require some work before this baby comes or it's going to feel super cramped. We have three bedrooms, one of which is the craft/guest room. There is no garage and very little storage space. But the other day when I was cleaning out the craft room, as I piled up at least four tubs worth of stuff to haul to Goodwill, I thought, even if I lived in a mansion with a craft room three times this size lined with drawers as far as the eye could see I wouldn't want all this stuff. And no matter how big the room was it would still be a mess. So we have been regularly and ruthlessly hauling stuff to the thrift store. We have a tub that we keep in the dining room and we keep filling it up until it overflows every two or three days. We'll need some extra space for when we bring in new Christmas stuff. We asked our families to please take it easy on us this year, especially when it comes to toys. Hopefully by the time Baby Robert arrives we'll have plenty of space for him and his stuff! Someday we'll have a garage and another bedroom, and perhaps a sunroom. Someday.

My belly is getting "out there" and it's a different, more bubbly shape. I've gained about ten pounds and it looks like I'll end up weighing a little less than I did with Ivey at the end. A lot of my maternity clothes that fit the two times before are too big this time, so I've had to buy several new things. Sometimes I think I haven't felt the baby kick in a long time and I get worried, but usually it's just because I've been running around too much and once I sit down I realize he's fine. Jordan's been able to feel him for several weeks, but not as much as he could feel the girls.

Overall, this pregnancy has been way nicer, especially when compared to Suzi's. Robert is a sweet little boy.

Monday, December 6, 2010

How to sew Ivey's dog

This is a follow up from my last post. I hesitated to share this because it's not a fully tested pattern. I didn't lay a paper template over the fabric and carefully snip it out; I just kind of eyeballed it. Please keep in mind that the pattern offered below is merely a loose suggestion of how you might like to cut your dog out. I wanted a somewhat longer, skinnier dog, so if you wanted a shorter one you could adjust for that. This is also not to scale, so be sure you cut your arms and legs and everything to be a good size for the body. Please do *not* try to enlarge this and copy it exactly, because that may not work. There's nothing here you can't just eyeball and cut out, or at the very least draw off yourself. The wonderful thing about this is that if it's a little off it won't matter much. This is just a sweet, silly little dog and it isn't meant to look realistic. I'd highly recommend felted wool for this, or at least another forgiving fabric such as fleece.

In cutting out pieces, a couple of tips: Cut the arms a little longer than you'd like them, so you'll have some options when sewing them on. Also, don't cut the back of head piece at all until the whole dog is together. You won't know exactly what size and shape to make it until then.

1) I did the head first. It's encouraging to see the head shape come out right.

Cut the ears a little wider than you think. I didn't cut mine wide enough and that is why they look like lamb ears. In case you didn't know, you sew right sides together and then turn them right side out using the blunt end of a chopstick or something. Not scissors, because they can stab through. Lay those aside for a minute.

For the bottom/sides of head piece, sew that little V together, and curve toward the middle as you do this (otherwise it'll look squarish, but if you don't get it right the first time you can easily go back and try again without having to rip out stitches). Your dog's nose will go where the top of that V comes together, and the mouth will go down the line you sew.

Now you will be sewing the top of the head point to the top of where that V came together, which is where the nose will be later. The ears go on with the top of the head. Here is the tricky part. Since you will be sewing right sides together (sewing the head together inside-out), you need to put the ears on the inside. The raw edges of the ear should be sandwiched between the raw edges of the top and bottom of the head. I like to hold these edges together and turn the whole thing right side out for a second to check if it looks right. If you think you've got it in a good place, pin the ear so it'll stay put until you sew along the dotted line. You could also sew starting at the nose, leaving the ear off and stop to put it on when you get to the right spot. Either way, depending on how thick your fabric is, you'll probably have to hand-stitch the ears and other parts on even if you have a machine. Four layers of wool can be really thick!

When you finish this step, you should be able to turn the head right side out and see the ears hanging attractively at the sides of the (almost) finished head. I suppose you could go ahead and sew on button eyes and nose before you stuff this. I didn't, because I wanted to pick buttons and where they went after seeing the whole dog. It would be easier to sew them on now, but it's fine to wait until later. I did go ahead and stuff the head, just to get a better idea of how she'd look. Putting the back of the head on is the last step.

2) Next, I sewed the butt to the back of the body. The tail goes on in this step, too. If you haven't already, sew the tail along the dotted line with right sides together and turn it inside out with a chopstick. (If you want the tail stuffed, you'll have to do it now. I did not stuff mine though.) Now, onto sewing the butt to the body. Pick one side of the butt and pin it to the bottom of the body's back. These parts will not sew together flat; you'll have to curve them a little. Just like you did with the ears, you'll be sewing right sides together with the tail flipped to the inside.

3) Now the front of the body will go on the other side of the butt, and the legs will go on too! We are getting there! Sew and turn the legs just like you did with the tail, but stuff these. It's handy to have a chopstick or something to push the stuffing down to the end of the leg. In placing the legs, I'd recommend putting them where you think they should go and then flipping the body right side out to check if it looks right. I wanted my legs pointed slightly outward, so that meant they were pointing together when they were on the inside. (Does that make sense?) Also, make sure they end up the same length. Mine didn't, but oh well.

4) The arms go on next, as you finish sewing up the sides of the body. Just leave the hole at the top for the head to go on. Be sure to make the arms a little longer so you can pick the angle at which they hang off the body. If you want them pointed slightly downward, you'll need to sew them on that way and that takes a little extra length so you can sew them on at an angle. I didn't cut mine very long so it looks like Ivey's dog is ready to give you a big hug. That's cute too if that's what you're going for. When picking a spot for the arms, make it just *below* the shoulder curve. I didn't, and it resulted in odd-looking side-boobs right below the arms. Luckily her dress covers them.

Go ahead and stuff the body and head to desired firmness.

5) Now you should have a complete dog body and an almost complete dog head and all we need to do is sew the two together! Yay! Go ahead and sew the dog's, um, chin/neck area to the top of the front of the body. It's hard to describe this part precisely, but just sew it together until you have a hole in back that looks about the shape of the back of head piece. Kind of like a railroad tunnel. Now you need to cut a piece to fit the hole. The curved top of it will be sewn to the top and sides of the head, and the straight bottom piece will go along the top of the back of body piece.

I had to try twice to get this piece cut out right. Then I started sewing the curved edge. I lined it up and pinned it about 1/3 of the way over, to be sure it didn't end up in the wrong place. Then I started sewing right sides together as best I could. You can't really do that the whole way along the curved edge, though. Around the halfway point you'll have to turn it over to where it goes, fold the edges under and pinch them together, and sew it as invisibly as you can from the outside. This is not my strong suit, but it doesn't matter much if you've picked a fuzzy, forgiving fabric like I told you.

Now you should have a hole several inches long where the body meets with the back of the head. Go ahead and add any stuffing you need to add to the body or head. It's your last chance!

Once the curved edge of the back of head piece and the top and sides of the head are totally together, you can sew the straight part together the same way you finished up the curve. Ta-da! Your dog is now together!

6) Now all you have to do is add a little flair. I used vintage buttons for the eyes and nose, and dark red embroidery floss for the mouth. I also sewed Ivey's dog a little dress out of the same sweater her ear tops are made of. You don't need a pattern for that--it's basically a tube with a halter strap to hold it on. I also added a belly button because Ivey loves belly buttons. You could do features totally out of embroidery thread for a safer dog, or if you do use buttons and are giving this to a young child, make sure you sew them on really well. Sewing buttons on an already-stuffed animal was a little tricky. You have to sort of pull the button up at first to get it going, and then take the needle only through the button and then through the fabric once you're a few stitches in. You'll see what I mean when you get there.

There are definitely more precise, tried-and-true stuffed animal instructions to be had for free online. One that leaps to mind is this Martha Stewart one, which I linked to earlier. But what I love about doing it this way is that this dog can take on a unique personality based on how you sew it. You could make a skinny dog or a fat one. You could modify it just a little and make a lamb or a goat. You could do a small one if you only have a little sweater to work with, or you could make one taller than your one-year-old, without having to enlarge the pattern and cut it out and lay it on your fabric. There's no need.

I'm sorry there are no pictures of the process. Suzi saw a picture I'd taken of Ivey's dog and said she really wanted a dog like that! Looks like I'll be making another one, so I'll be sure to take pictures when I do and I'll come back and add them.

I hope this makes sense and helps someone. If you try this and find a mistake, please come back and tell me! And definitely tell me if it works :-)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What we're making for Christmas, part two

It's hard figuring out what to get for a kid who only knows a few words. I know Ivey loves food, and she enjoys playing with certain toys we already have. But what could we get her for Christmas? Or really, what could we make her, because there's only so much money we have to spend and Suzi's big gift was a lot more expensive than we'd counted on.

For a while now, Ivey has liked to pick up a doll or stuffed animal or something and smack sweet little kisses on the top of its head. In fact, she was doing it while I typed that sentence. I thought it might be fun to make Ivey a special stuffed animal, but I didn't know what. Those little monster dolls are cute but I couldn't come up with a design I liked. I just got more and more frustrated trying. I was tired of making owls. They are wonderful but they are also two-dimensional and they don't have arms to hug you, either.

I started to think the thing to make would be a dog. I had a sweater the right color, and I thought I could probably make it work. I started looking around for inspiration and found this on Etsy. Cute! Just the type of thing I wanted to make. It was going to have to be modified a lot though, obviously. This Martha Stewart lamb pattern helped me figure out how to do the nose. I drew off a little plan for how to make one out of a flat piece of wool, and then started cutting a sweater up.

I wish I had taken pictures of the process but I really didn't think it was going to end well. I had no idea what I was doing. I broke a sewing machine needle in the process, but after a lot of machine sewing and hand sewing, she turned out okay after all. I got the dog part finished and thought I might as well make her a little dress. I used vintage buttons for the eyes and nose. The green eyes came off a card that had "Aug 1950" stamped on the back. Thanks for the buttons, Mom!

And look! Just for Ivey--butt-butt! (That is how Ivey says "belly button," for those of you who missed my previous post on that. She loves to poke people's belly buttons.)

Carried away much? I just couldn't stop.

Anyway, Ivey's dog might not look much like a dog, and she's definitely not perfect. She's a bit of a stargazer and one leg's a little longer than the other and her smile is crooked. Like I said, I had no idea what I was doing, but I did learn a lot. I don't think I've ever had so much fun sewing anything. I had to make lots of little adjustments and cover up mistakes all along the way, but I never knew how she was going to end up looking, so there was nothing to be disappointed over. There was no pattern to make me feel like a failure. I kind of like her and I hope Ivey does too!

If you haven't ever made a stuffed animal, I'd highly recommend trying it, especially with a low-cost material such as reclaimed wool. Felted wool is a very forgiving fabric. It stretches a bit and sloppy stitches get lost in the fuzz.

Have you ever made your own stuffed animal? Was it all you hoped it'd be, a disaster, or in between?

Here is my first Christmas craft post, in case you missed it:

There is lots more to be made!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

One $1 cashmere sweater, with a hole in the sleeve

Behold the pocket owl.

What is he good for? Absolutely nothing, other than looking cute and being soft, and fitting in someone's pocket. He will also fit nicely into my girls' stockings. Things like tiny fuzzball owls make them grin and squeal.

Also, finished my cashmere wrist warmers! Sorry there's not a decent picture. It turns out it's pretty hard to take pictures of arm warmers you yourself are wearing.

One $1 cashmere sweater from Goodwill. And there's still a bunch of it left.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What we're making for Christmas, part one

In years past I have not posted about things we've made for Christmas until after the fact, but this year I really want to do it now. Jordan and I are not skilled craftspeople in any area, and we used to say "oh, we'd love to make gifts but we CAN'T." Now I know with a little creativity and patience, that is just not true. Everybody can make something! I wanted to share ideas in case some people still want to do this but are stumped.

This also means that I am running the risk of telling people what they are getting for Christmas. That is why, if you are a friend or family member and we exchange gifts, I want to ask you to STOP READING NOW!!! If you keep going, you might see what you are getting for Christmas.

Just wanted to let you know.

I warned you.

I'm going to start posting pictures now.

Love you and see you at Christmas.

1) First up is the upcycled wool stuffed animal. These are quite popular at the moment and the professionally made ones sell for a lot. The owl on the left is made from pieces of two different sweaters, both purchased at thrift stores. There are all sorts of resources on the internet explaining this, but basically you buy a WOOL sweater (I prefer 100%, but some say 80% will do) and wash it on hot in the washing machine. It becomes felted as the fibers bind and blur together and should not unravel when you cut it. Some sweaters felt up nicer than others. Sometimes you can find them in the thrift store already felted.

The little bluebird is from a boiled wool vest, so I didn't have to do anything to prepare it. I used fabric from a wool blazer for the eyes, and some felt I already had for the beak and feet. It's a good idea to sew a little sack of flax seeds or something similar and place it in the bottom of your animal to weight it. I stuffed the rest of these with polyester stuffing. It's probably obvious how the front and back are cut, and the bottom is a football-shaped piece. If you need more info, I used a lot of the instructions from this Martha Stewart project and then got inspiration from pictures on Etsy.

2) I love using wool sweaters--you can make so many different things from them! Using the same sweater I used to make part of the owl, I made this hat for Suzi.

I literally held the sweater up to her head to measure it, cut straight up in what seemed like a good place, and then held it up to her head again to see how far to sew down on the top. Cutting a little high on the sides, one side being the already-sewn side of the sweater, and then closing with right sides together (inside out) in a u-shape will give you these sassy-looking little ears. There is no hemming necessary because the bottom of the sweater was already finished. Suzi loves her hat and it only took me about five minutes on the sewing machine.

From the same sweater, I made this pair of wrist warmers. I always wanted to make some wrist warmers because they look so cool and cuddly, but I can't knit as of yet. I don't know if I'll ever learn. This sweater felted up perfectly, and didn't give me any trouble when I carefully cut a thumb hole. That was a matter of snipping and pulling at one thread, as I did it on the seam, and then I sewed a little above and below the hole to keep it from going any further. I turned it under at the top and hemmed it. Done! There is still a little sweater left. This one is my favorite. I'm going to be sad when it's gone!

A couple other things I've learned about using upcycled wool: For a great deal, shop the clearance section of Goodwill, preferably year-round. The other day I found a gray cashmere sweater with a hole in it for $1. It's so buttery soft, even after felting, and the hole can easily be worked around to make a yummy pair of wrist warmers for someone with skinny arms (that would be me). I don't pay full price for secondhand sweaters, because that could get pricey, and also because someone might really need that excellent condition $7 sweater to keep themselves warm. That would be the better use for it. The other thing is that these things can get quite pilly after felting, and not only will you have to clean your washer and dryer out, you will also have to remove fuzz from your finished products to give them a more polished look. Right now I use a pair of fabric scissors to snip off excess fuzz, and then I lint roll them.

3) I'm not sure how you'll feel about this one, but at our house we love to avoid using disposable products, including tissues. Regular hankies seem like a good idea, but the storebought ones I've had have been neither soft nor absorbent--not to mention way too large. Small cuts of soft flannel in fun patterns can be found in the remnants section of a fabric store for really cheap. I bought some and sewed these. The corners are mitered, which is really easy with an iron and a little starch. A sewing machine makes short work of the rest. There are not many people on our list getting these. I wouldn't want anyone to faint, so crunchy/frugal family only. I did sew a couple for Suzi and she loves them.

We've still got lots of things to make and I'll try to post about them soon. We're making "man baskets" of edible items for a few of the guys, some polymer clay ornaments, and more. The girls' gifts are going to be almost all handmade this year, because Suzi asked for one expensive thing we can't make. Actually, it should be arriving today. I'm glad we were able to find a good deal on it. I've got to stop leaving the Nova Natural catalog lying around!

The little girls are getting antsy. I'd better go fix them lunch.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

The cornucopia we did for our church

We are at my mom and dad's today, watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV and helping with the cooking. I love Thanksgiving. No gifts and stuff to worry about, just family and lots of eating. I hope everyone likes the pie I made. Have a great day!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Baby Robin is a...

So he's Robert officially, but I am going to call him Robin at least sometimes. I am so excited to be having a boy! Maybe it's just because he's my baby, but I thought he was very good looking in the ultrasound. Also, his head and face look more the shape of mine and not Jordan's. Am I finally going to have a baby who looks like me? Is that oval head going to be easier to birth than an extremely round one? We shall see!

He seriously might have my nose! And we know he has my head!

We ended up not taking Suzi to the ultrasound after all. It was a tough decision, but I was panicked that they'd make Jordan wait in the waiting room with her. I also asked her if she'd rather go with us or to Grandma's, and she said Grandma's. That made me feel better about it. We had to drive for over an hour and wait an hour and a half past our appointment time, so I'm sort of glad we didn't take her. When we came home, I whispered in her ear that it was a boy and she told Grandma and Grandpa. Then she called Nana and Papa (Jordan's parents). And then we made a little video so she could tell everyone on Facebook. It's really cute when Suzi says Wrobert. I can't wait to see our baby boy in her arms. She's awesome.

Jordan took the whole day off yesterday, but today we were back to our normal routine. We met some friends at the park. I love this particular park because it's totally enclosed in a fence and I can just let Ivey run wild and I don't have to chase her. While we were at the park, Ivey sneezed cookie and grossness onto the side of the face of one of our little friends. Poor boy. And then I wiped the snot off the rest of her cookie and handed it back to her. I'm sure my friends were impressed. But you know, I figured it was her own snot, so why waste half a cookie? Decisions such as this will probably be more commonplace when I have three children.

Can't wait for my little Easter Egg to arrive.

Friday, November 12, 2010

15 months today (and other miscellaneous thoughts)

The girls love Grandpa

I've been meaning to blog but the opportunity hasn't presented itself. Actually, I did blog Tuesday night, but I didn't publish it. It was a horrible day and once Suzi was in bed I wrote a long, irritated post that I knew I'd probably never publish. Here are some excerpts:


I had to drag the girls to Suzi's dance class after nap. The car ride there and back was heaven, because the girls were strapped into their car seats the whole time and there weren't too many shenanigans they could get into. Well, I take that back. I'm pretty sure Ivey ate half a yellow crayon on the way home. We shall see in a day or two.

Upon arriving home from dance I so stupidly thought I could take both the car seats out and adjust them and put them back in before dinner. I unhooked them successfully, and even adjusted them and vacuumed all the nasty crumbs out. Things were going great. Then, while the girls played "airplane!" on the back seat, I tried to hook one back in. But the car seat company must have decided that it would be a real shame for a mom to be able to install a car seat all by herself, so they made the strap that hooks to the latch system too short to hook to both sides without superhuman strength. Now it is really dark outside and both car seats need to be put back in. At least it will
have to get done now. Getting Ivey into her seat has felt like a wrestling match for weeks.

I was once a silly little college student who thought I had
no time to do anything. And now I want to go back in time eight years, run up into my dorm where I didn't have a bathroom or a kitchen to clean and slap myself.


It's funny how things can seem so horrible one minute and then three days later you've almost forgotten about it. It's one reason I blog, so I can remember. Oh, and it turns out I was putting the car seat in wrong. Of course. I'm pretty sure it's Britax's fault somehow.

Today Ivey is 15 months old. She's decided she doesn't like wearing diapers any more than I like changing them, and for the past few days has been going in her potty most of the time. I've tuned in to her signals better, and she's gotten much better at telling me when she has to go. One time yesterday she removed her diaper all by herself, sat down on her potty and peed. Using the potty seems to fascinate her. She sits down and pees or poops (or both) and then stands up, points at it, and says "pu-uh." Right now I am letting her run around diaper-free because she'll usually just go sit on the potty when she needs to use it. It's about lunchtime and she hasn't had a miss yet.

Ivey just before she woke up this morning

I've been meaning to add Ivey's new words on here, too. She says apple and points to the Mac logo on the laptop. Daddy is so proud. She has been saying thank you for a while, but it sounds like deh-duh. So polite. And my favorite is that she's recently taken notice of belly buttons--her own and those belonging to others. She points to her belly button and says "butt-butt!"

Tuesday we are going for our ultrasound! I called earlier to see if they would record it and to find out what to bring (DVD-RW) and found out they don't really want us to bring our kids. We are bringing Suzi anyway. There is no way I'm letting her miss this. She already loves Baby Robin so much and I want her to be there when we find out if it's a boy or a girl. Ivey probably wouldn't be interested anyway, and at least we'll have the DVD to show her later. We don't have a DVD for Ivey's ultrasound.

I have to mention the new supplement I am taking. I called my midwife Carey the other day as I was walking through the vitamin section of Earth Fare and she told me to pick up some ChlorOxygen. You add 20 or so drops of it to a glass of water. The extremely dark green color scared me at first but it wasn't bad at all. I've never had much energy, especially not while pregnant, but these past few days I've felt great. I've started to crave a dark green glass of ChlorOxygen instead of a hot cup of coffee. It's actually better than coffee. Seriously, you've got to try this stuff. It also reminds me to take my prenatal vitamin and helps me drink more water.

Because I have been feeling so great, I've had the energy to do things I wouldn't normally do, like bake pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie all in one morning. I'm currently trying to figure out the perfect recipe for cute 6-inch pumpkin bread loaves. You know what I mean--dense, moist, the perfect pumpkin-to-flour ratio, with absolutely no regard to what would be healthier. We are making nearly all of our Christmas gifts (I'm getting scared) and edible gifts are part of this! I need to get to work on some of the things I'm planning to make but have never actually made before. Waiting until the last minute won't work this year!

I can't wait to find out if we're having a boy or a girl, but most of all just to see that little Robin is doing okay. I should have some pictures of him or her to share next week!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What all my babies are up to

Robin: 18 weeks, 4 days in utero
Ivey: Coming up on 15 months
Suzi: Almost three and a half

This pregnancy is flying by! Our ultrasound should be in a couple of weeks. Hopefully everything will be fine and I hope to find out if it's a boy or a girl. We haven't decided for sure on middle names yet, but it'll be Robin for a girl and Robert has really grown on me for a boy.

We will be tandem nursing this April. Ivey is not going to give it up. She comes up to me and says "mummah?" and gives me a sad face. I used to think she was talking to me, but then I figured out this is how she asks to breastfeed. We know this for sure because she asks one of our friends the same thing at church if she sees her nursing her little baby. Anyway, If I don't give her what she wants she'll start whining and pulling at my shirt. It's like an emergency when she wants to nurse. She gets panicked over it. When she can see I'm getting ready to pick her up and nurse her she giggles and jumps up and down.

Suzi is so theatrical. She puts on "shows" for everyone, singing and dancing like she's in a Broadway musical with a bowl or something on her head for a costume. I'd love for her to be in some plays if she's still into that in a few years. Jordan mentioned, and now we have this silly little fantasy, that someday she might play Toby in a local production of Sweeney Todd. It's the perfect part for her. ("Ladies and gentlemen may I have your attention puh-leeeaase!") But not until she's grown up, of course. It's a dark, dark play. She always wants to play boy parts. My little Suzi, the triple-threat performer.

This was Suzi's idea.

Robin is moving around more now. I felt it for the first time at 16 weeks and 5 days, and now there are usually a couple of episodes a day in which I feel movement for several minutes. The other day I was holding Ivey during her nap and Robin was kicking her.

Ivey is talking some now. Her words so far: Hewwo! Bye-bye! Puh-pie! (That's her version of peekaboo.) Ball, more, "gie dat back!" I'm sure there are others she doesn't use as much that I'll remember later, and there are lots of unintelligible sentences spoken. She still uses her pterodactyl screech to communicate frustration for just about any reason. She climbs the stairs and can come back down safely by herself, although we still stay right there with her.

Suzi's drawings are getting really fun now. She loves to draw people. One day she drew me getting angry in the van on our way to church because my cup of water tipped out of the cup holder and got my pants all wet and we had to go home for me to change. Then the other day she drew a picture of our family, and she drew each of us in our favorite color. She even drew a smiling little Baby Robin, who she insists is a girl. Maybe she's right. It wouldn't surprise me too much, considering she knew I was pregnant before anyone else.

It's quite busy around here, and it's about to get even busier yet, but I love it. I love them all. Not sure what we did before we had them.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My breastfeeding relationships: Hospital vs. Homebirth

Welcome to the October Carnival of Breastfeeding! Don't forget to scroll down to the bottom for links to the other participants' posts.

My older daughter, Suzi, was born in the hospital. My younger daughter, Ivey, was born at home. I definitely have opinions on how each experience affected the breastfeeding relationship, but instead of going through the stories (you can read my hospital story and homebirth story for that) I'd like to offer a point-by-point comparison. I won't try to assign fault to each difference; I'm sure some things made a huge difference and some things, at least directly, did not. It's difficult to know for sure which are which, but let's just say I won't be repeating any of the items from my hospital birth in the future.

1) Hospital: Epidural. Homebirth: A warm tub of water and a whole lot of good hormones. Although I didn't want one, in the hospital I ended up with an epidural. I don't think this helped at all with my breastfeeding experience. Most obstetricians will deny this (mine did), but I truly believe an epidural interrupts natural processes and interferes with a number of things. I shivered. I couldn't feel things I should have felt. However, by the time I opted for the epidural--around 7 cm--I felt I had no other choice. At my homebirth I didn't even think about an epidural (not that I could have had one at home, anyway) because I was so relaxed and things were perfectly under control.

2) Hospital: Baby was placed on my chest for a hot second, then whisked away. Homebirth: Baby was placed on my chest. I held her until I remembered Daddy might want to hold her for a minute, too. I quite honestly forgot about anyone and anything but the baby during this amazing hormone rush. I just fell deeper and deeper in love as I held her and looked into her eyes. Tests and weighing were done a little later, right there in front of us. In the hospital, it was upsetting to have my baby taken way across the room for all the hospital procedures. Things felt incomplete in several ways. I had to twist my head around nearly backward to try to see her, while a mean old nurse tried to squish me to get my placenta out. Again, natural processes being interrupted. Big time.

3) Hospital: Baby was quickly swaddled and had a hat pulled down to just above her eyes. Homebirth: Baby was totally naked, but covered with a towel. When I was pregnant with my first and the lactation consultant (and my friend) at the hospital told me to have skin-to-skin contact with the baby immediately following birth, I thought it was a little weird. This is something you have to specifically request in most hospitals, and I didn't. I thought maybe we'd do it at home later. I figured it was some emotional lovey-dovey thing that I didn't necessarily need. I was wrong. It's hard to objectively explain but, having experienced it both ways, there is a big difference.

4) Hospital: Baby was taken for a bath while I got settled in our room. Homebirth: Baby stayed "dirty" and we got settled in our very own bedroom together. The bath was one of the biggest after-birth mistakes we made in the hospital. Suzi had long, thick hair, and it took a long time to dry after her bath. I had been in the mom-baby room a few minutes when I started to wonder what they were doing with my baby, since they were supposed to bring her right back. Jordan nagged the nurses for over an hour, but they said her hair had to dry so she wouldn't get cold. It was around 3 AM and I had been awake for over 24 hours, but I felt wired and panicky. I should have been nursing my baby. She should have been there in my arms. I am still angry over it to this day! At the homebirth, Ivey was born in the water and our midwife rubbed her with a towel as I held her. She wasn't dirty, and really, you'll never convince me that any newborn baby is "dirty" in the conventional sense of the word. In a way, they are cleaner than they'll ever be again! We just dressed our homebirth baby in a little gown and put the bath on hold for a day or two. I remember saying how good she smelled to me. This bath postponement is totally doable in the hospital, as well. A friend of mine recently had a repeat cesarean after trying for a VBAC. She declined the bath until the next day when she and her husband were able to bathe their baby together. I think this is a beautiful family bonding experience, and it gets the baby into mom's (or dad's) arms or onto the breast faster.

5) Hospital: I was given a nipple shield by a nurse. Homebirth: I was given breastfeeding support and detailed information by the midwife I'd spent the past nine months getting to know. Oh, the nipple shield. Nobody told me to stop using it ASAP because it could lead to nipple confusion. Nobody told me it could hurt my milk supply. The lactation consultant would have told me but Suzi was born while she was on vacation. There is only one part-time LC at our local hospital. Several days after Suzi's birth our pediatrician clued me in to the truth about the nipple shield, and I struggled to wean Suzi from it. I still wonder if the stupid thing did us any good in the first place. The morning after Ivey's homebirth, my midwife was back at our house helping me and the baby get a deeper latch. She knew what had happened during my hospital birth and continued to work with us until things were going well. The lesson I learned? For goodness sake, find yourself a maternity care provider who is devoted to lactation support. One guaranteed visit with a lactation expert during your hospital stay is not too much to ask. No, your nurse doesn't count. She'll be busy with lots of other things besides breastfeeding support and she may or may not be experienced with it, anyway. Some nurses are a great help, but don't bank on it. It was a really sweet nurse who gave me that nipple shield with absolutely no instructions. Visit websites and call around to see what level of support is available at different places. There's a hospital about an hour from here with a lactation center and multiple consultants right there on the mom-baby floor! If you can't get reliable lactation support at a hospital you like, seek out an independent breastfeeding guru. Check on rates and add this into your baby budget. It'll be worth the money.

So what happened? Suzi and I worked things out, but it was a rocky start. We ended up having to supplement--not just because of things that happened in the hospital, but I do think the birth experience contributed. It was so hard on me emotionally. In the end, thanks to the help of the hospital lactation consultant (whom I went back to see and talked with at length over the phone) and some hard work, we had a long and happy nursing relationship. We weaned a few months into my pregnancy with her sister when Suzi was 21 months old. With Ivey I was much wiser in general, knowing which things to do and which things to avoid. With the exception of one or two minor issues, breastfeeding came naturally with her. We never had to worry about weight gain or whether she was getting enough milk. We practiced exclusive ecological breastfeeding for seven or eight months, at which time she started solids. She still nurses quite frequently at 14 months old, and I am currently about four months pregnant. This time we are hoping to try tandem nursing once the baby is born.

I think it's important for pregnant women to know, especially for a first birth, that these and other seemingly irrelevant factors can make a huge difference in giving the breastfeeding relationship the best possible start. More importantly, the mother usually has some degree of control over these things no matter what type of birth she has. Take a good childbirth class, hire a doula, and do your best to avoid interventions in the hospital if you can't have or don't want a homebirth. Insist upon skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible. Decline the bath and anything you don't want and delay everything else until you've had a chance to properly greet your baby. Perhaps most importantly, get professional breastfeeding support even if you have to spend a little extra money for it. I couldn't believe the difference these things made for us!

What made a big difference for you in your breastfeeding experience?

Be sure to check out these posts from the other participants in the Breastfeeding Carnival (links will be added as they become available):

Crib Keeper @ Tales from the Crib: On Not Being Discouraged
Suchada @ Mama Eve: Breastfeeding & Birth
Christina @ Massachusetts Friends of Midwives: Early Intervention Lactation Help
Jenny @ Chronicles of a nursing mom: Birth Experiences and Its Effect on Breastfeeding
Michelle @ Mama Bear: Long, wide shadow of bad births
Sarah @ Reproductive Rites: Fighting for Breastfeeding
Tanya @ Motherwear Blog: The Birth/Breastfeeding Continuum
Kate @ Tumbling Boobs: Nursing after Surrogacy or Adoption

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Christmas Morning Dilemma: Finding true joy at Christmas

Last night I wrote a different post about this same subject, and then slept on it before hitting publish. Jordan and I discussed. We discovered some things about our children and ourselves and Christmas morning.

When I was a little girl, I remember lying in bed on Christmas Eve unable to sleep, imagining Santa sneaking into my living room and leaving gifts for me. Would I get what I asked for? What surprises would be under the tree? In my stocking? And every Christmas morning I would drag my parents out of bed and run into the living room and I was always amazed at the treasures. I didn't always get what I asked for, but I was never disappointed. Never. I remember telling my mom as an adult how big and impressive Christmas had seemed each year, and she told me they actually didn't spend that much. Most popular Christmas toys only cost $10 or $15 back then. Now, though, toys are much more expensive, and it's the natural, beautiful, durable open-ended ones we want. Those cost even more.

Our three-year-old receives so many "just because" gifts all year round from grandparents and sometimes us that Christmas morning is not as exciting for her. We were disappointed last year when she was underwhelmed with her gifts on Christmas morning. Last night I sat and tried to figure out what we'd have to do to get that wowee, so excited you can't sleep, amazingly magical Christmas morning. Obviously the answer is to spend more and more money to top what Suzi is already accustomed to. We aren't willing or able to do that. It didn't take us long to realize that it would be wrong and probably harmful to do so. When I tried to type one last paragraph onto my post last night explaining why this tradition is important to me, I realized I couldn't justify what we were planning to do. It was very uncomfortable. I couldn't find one good reason for piling up a bunch of gifts in the most tantalizing way possible to impress my children at Christmas!

Not when there are children in this would who would never dream of coveting a frivolous toy for Christmas. Not when there are people without food or even clean drinking water. When I think about it, it's incredibly selfish of me to want some sort of "magical" Christmas even if the gifts are for my children and not me directly.

And it's not just selfish. It won't work, either. You cannot "make" anyone happy, especially not with things. True joy at Christmas is something children must find for themselves. I would even go so far as to say excessive gifts on Christmas morning are detrimental. I think that as gifts become a bigger and bigger part of Christmas, it becomes harder and harder to find true happiness in years when they are not plentiful.

Sometimes, even with loads of presents, I feel disconnected and sad around Christmastime. I asked Jordan if he had ever felt this way. I said, "I've thought I just needed to bake some Christmas cookies, or wrap some presents, or..." And he interjected, "direct a Christmas play?" Ha ha. Yes, Charles Schultz already figured this out. And Dr. Seuss. Loads of people. What can I say? I'm still happy I figured it out at 26 because there seem to be plenty of people who die of old age not truly understanding it. Jordan went on to tell me he feels uncomfortable unwrapping a huge stack of presents, because he doesn't "feel like he really deserves all that." Because, well, there are people who don't have anything. Two or three gifts would be better.

While Jordan and I don't have any desire to overspend our way to giddy children, we still want to do Santa for our kids. This year we are adopting something that's been suggested to me before: a three-gift policy based on the three kings' gifts to the baby Jesus. We are thinking of doing three gifts from Santa--perhaps counting the stocking as one--and then a gift from me and Jordan as well. I think this limit on quantity will encourage a focus on quality and meaning in the gifts that are given. I'm not going to worry about how bountiful the spread of gifts looks. There are only going to be a handful of them. Period. We will wrap them and the girls will open them. Hopefully they will love them. If not, there are more important things to think about on Christmas morning anyway.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

15 weeks pregnant!

15 weeks, 5 days. This picture looks foggy. Dangit! Which one of the girls stuck her finger in the camera lens this time?

I am 15 weeks pregnant, 16 on Saturday, and since Ivey is asleep right now (on me, by the way) I thought I'd take the opportunity to do a pregnancy update post. I went to see Carey and Jackie Robins (CNM) at Carey's office Monday. It's nice to have prenatals with sweet ladies like these! I had blood drawn; glad to have that over with. Carey talked me into doing a blood sugar check (the finger prick kind) later on. At least I won't have to drink oversweetened orange soda and get stuck with big needles twice. Hated that with Suzi! I'm not really worried about gestational diabetes after it wasn't an issue in my first two pregnancies, and my diet has actually been better this time anyway.

I haven't gained much weight. My weight at the appointment was 134.8, and I might've started this pregnancy a pound or two under that. I attribute this relatively small weight gain to eating hardly any fast food these days and having two kids to chase, but mostly to Ivey breastfeeding all the time! She's nursing as I type. I think she must know she's going to have to share soon.

I told Jackie how I didn't really feel pregnant, and she said she could definitely see that I was, which is what others have told me too, and yes, I am starting to really show. My uterus measures up where it should be. The heartbeat is always there when we check. I think this will feel more real to me when I get my ultrasound or start feeling the baby move. I have thought at least ten times that I've felt Robin moving, but I always talk myself out of saying I officially felt quickening. In a week or two surely I'll be able to say it was the baby.

I've thought it's a boy. Then, no, it's a girl. But, probably it's a boy. I don't know. I have never once been right on a guess, for anyone, and I don't really care either way but we do want to know. We were going to get a free ultrasound at Greenville Tech, but apparently they are booked solid through December. Since I will be ready for my ultrasound in about a month, and since we've met our insurance deductible, it looks as though we won't be going back to get a free one this time. Bummer. The ladies who do the free ultrasounds are always so sweet.

I've had the song "Rantin' Rovin' Robin" as performed by Coyote Run stuck in my head sooo bad. Love this song and this band. And it kind of, all by itself, makes me hope this is a boy. If it is a boy, maybe we will go ahead and name him Robert like Jordan wants, but I will call him Robin. The song was written by Robert Burns in honor of himself. Funny, huh?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dear AnMed Health: Breastfeeding support is important!

I recently heard that Jennie G's, the mom-baby boutique of the Women's and Children's Center of AnMed Health, will soon be closing its doors. I worked in this shop for several years and loved it. Mostly, I loved the ladies I worked with and I loved those times when a mother came in needing help and we were able to give it.

You see, this mom-baby boutique is not just a collection of baby clothes and knick-knacks. The ladies of Jennie G's--the ones who work in the shop every day and see the customers--have a common desire to help others, especially new moms. What deeply concerns me is the fate of the breastfeeding support that is available in Jennie G's. I don't think everyone is aware of all that is offered, so here is a detailed list of what I consider to be most important.

1) Hospital-grade breast pump rentals. When I was pregnant with my first daughter, a woman with tear-stained eyes and her husband came into our shop. They sat down at the table and as I prepared breast pump rental papers, she asked when my baby was due. I told her May 21, but that I hoped she might come a little early. "Don't say that," the mom told me. Her baby had come too early and because of this she and her husband were forced to go home with empty arms while he stayed in the hospital. She would have slept on the floor if they had allowed it. Going home without one's baby, for however short a time, is heartbreaking. It goes against nature and no one should have to experience it. But when a mother must experience it, shouldn't she at least be able to easily rent a breast pump so she can maintain the breastfeeding relationship she wanted? I don't see how a hospital can expect to gain a woman's trust for helping her to bring a baby into this world if they can't even be counted on for a breast pump if she needs one.

2) Nursing bras that fit. Some pregnant and nursing women require bras well outside of the size range available in most retail shops. Jennie G's carries nursing bras at least up to an H cup. Even in average sizes, Jennie G's carries bras and nursing wear which are extremely hard to find in our area. Bras are one of those items which must be tried on, so it is difficult to order them online. Also, a supportive bra is not something a breastfeeding mother should have to wait several days to receive. She may be uncomfortable, and possibly even in pain (mothers have come into the shop crying over this). She may not feel comfortable going out in public. She needs it as soon as possible, and over the past few years the ladies at Jennie G's have done their best to meet this need. Bra fittings are sometimes even done in the hospital rooms at the woman's request.

3) Breastfeeding supplies and accessories. Many things can be purchased at Target, but some things can't. There are certain obscure items that some women require to maintain their nursing relationships, and they can get these items quickly and easily at Jennie G's. Quiz: An adoptive mother is working to develop a milk supply for her newborn. Before welcoming her precious new arrival, she takes supplements and medicine to bring in a milk supply without having given birth, and she pumps frequently with a hospital grade pump. Finally, her baby is here! She desperately wants to nurse the baby, but she still doesn't have enough milk. How does she nurse the baby, get necessary nipple stimulation to increase her supply, and see that baby gets enough milk? Answer: A supplemental nursing system. You can't find these just anywhere. Jennie G's not only has them, they also have someone to explain how they are used--which leads me to number four.

4) A kind, compassionate certified lactation educator. Vicky Corbett of Jennie G's saw a need and wrote a letter explaining why she felt extra education in this area would benefit AnMed Health. She went to classes, read books, and received her certification, which has helped her help women with a wide range of breastfeeding issues. Yes, AnMed Health does employ a lactation consultant (IBCLC) and she is wonderful. She is a friend I met while working in the shop and her help was so valuable to me as I learned to breastfeed my first daughter. However, she is just one lactation consultant and she only works part-time. She happened to be on a well-deserved vacation with her family when my first child was born, so I didn't get the benefit of an immediate consult. I have friends whose babies were born on weekends or holidays and they did not get to see her either. AnMed Health is getting a super deal with Vicky Corbett and they don't even realize it. She takes care of Jennie G's and helps women with breastfeeding issues when the lactation consultant is not available. Sometimes the lactation consultant even calls Vicky to ask questions about pumping, because she's become an expert. She makes the hospital look, in my opinion, much better than it actually is. AnMed Health has not made breastfeeding support a high priority, but women come looking for help and they find it anyway. Taking Vicky's help away from women will send the message that AnMed Health is not interested in supporting a woman's breastfeeding relationship with her baby--and breastfeeding is a huge factor in preventing illness in babies. Since patient safety is something the hospital claims to be gravely concerned with, it has no excuse not to get on board with lactation support.

5) A safe, caring place for the new nursing mom. It's not always easy to be a new breastfeeding mother. The fitting room at Jennie G's has a comfortable rocking chair and offers the peace and quiet that some moms and babies need. Sometimes mothers are found nursing their babies in the restroom across the hall from Jennie G's and they are welcomed into the shop. Perhaps a mother has come to the hospital for a postpartum appointment and stops by the shop to chat about her breastfeeding experience. Within Jennie G's, stories are told, tears are even occasionally shed, and help is given. I realize no money is made off of this--not directly, at least--but it is impossible to place a price tag on it. AnMed Health should be grateful for this feeling of community that is fostered within its walls. This aspect of Jennie G's boutique exemplifies AnMed's tagline of "we're in this together" perfectly. You are hurting and I care. You are having problems nursing your baby and if I can't help you, I'm going to get you in touch with someone who can. I think this is about as close to the "art of caring" as one can get.

Jennie Gilmer, for whom Jennie G's is named, took a risk and pushed for AnMed Health to be opened so that women would have a safe place to have their babies. Important men laughed at her but she persevered to get women in our community something she felt they needed. She didn't do it to make money or to make herself famous. She did it because she made a promise to God to help women and their babies. Closing Jennie G's and depriving women of the support it offered is an insult to her memory.

So what do I think should be done? Jennie G's closing forever is sad, but taking away lactation support from women is inexcusable. There are some things you do not cut no matter how grim things get financially. This should be one of them. Keep the breastpumps and the supplies and a minimal selection of bras in the Women's and Children's Center. These few items will not take up much space; Jennie G's is mostly full of just-for-fun unnecessary stuff the managers pick up or order at market. If there absolutely isn't space inside the Women's and Children's, space should be made at the pharmacy on Greenville Street. Last time I visited, there were plenty of unimportant items on display there (candles, women's fashion accessories, other items that can be picked up at the mall). Space can be found if you look hard enough. It would be much better, of course, to have these things at the Women's and Children's Center for the mothers' convenience. If you've ever had to carry a fussy newborn across numerous parking lots while suffering from an episiotomy or c-section incision that throbs painfully with every step you take, you understand why.

Perhaps most importantly, Vicky should be asked to continue offering lactation support at the Women's and Children's Center. She has a passion for it, and AnMed Health has a shortage of it. This is one of those important things you make time and money for. Your patients--that is, your paying customers--count on it. A second lactation consultant should have been hired years ago, but Vicky's expertise in not only breastfeeding but also pumping and usage of breastfeeding accessories has done a great job of camouflaging this shortcoming. I believe women will notice a difference in quality of care when she is gone. Losing her to another location would be a waste.

I really don't think this is too much to ask, and I would be willing to bet a lot of women in our community will agree with me. It's not too much to ask at AnMed Health. Not of the hospital which wants to be "recognized and celebrated as the gold standard for healthcare quality and community health improvement." Do you think it is? I sincerely hope that soon I will have some good news to share about AnMed Health. I hope the sad loss of Jennie G's is met with a plan to create something new to benefit mothers. I hope there will be arrangements made for services that truly do exceed expectations. I know in my heart that this is possible, and I anxiously await the news. Until then, I hope you who are in a position to change things take the above listed needs of mothers to heart.


Former employee, mother to one baby born in the W&C, and concerned community member

If you are a local mom who has or may in the future seek care at AnMed Health, please join me in spreading the word and letting them know a removal of these benefits from the W&C is unacceptable. I would suggest sending an email or letter with your concerns to the patient advocate and asking to have it forwarded to a manager/director of home care and the Women's and Children's Hospital, as this affects both. Contact information can be found here.