Saturday, April 30, 2011

Homeschooling: Excited and making plans!

We went strawberry picking!
(Yes, this is related. Sorta.)

Suzi is going to be four a month from today. Four! She's come such a long way since I wrote this post on why I wanted to homeschool her. We've decided it's time to officially get started, and in the fall, we will. Here's what we've got so far.

1) Oak Meadow Kindergarten is the curriculum I've decided on. I ordered it and some of the books are already here. It was expensive, but worth it. I was public schooled and this is my first year officially teaching Suzi at home, so I have no idea what this should feel like. While Suzi needs flexibility to stay interested in learning, I desperately need a plan. Something to tell me yes, Jenny, you're doing enough. Oak Meadow will give us both what we need.

2) I love, love some aspects of Waldorf. I love the idea of having a color for each day and I am brainstorming ways to use this in our daily routine. I am thinking of making napkins in every color of the rainbow to use at breakfast each day. I have a good idea for a table centerpiece, too. It would be a wooden ring kind of like a birthday ring, only wider, and it would be painted in sections in all the colors. An adorable little gnome will sit on it and every morning we will move him to that day's color. A candle can go in the middle of the ring. Jordan is going to help me make this soon!

3) Nature walks. I want to do this more often, but for us it involves a car ride. We can't safely walk out of our neighborhood, but there are lovely botanical gardens just a few minutes away, as well as a waterfront park on the lake. Instead of a daily nature walk, it'll probably be a longer event taking place once a week and followed by a playdate. On the rest of the days we can just take a walk in the neighborhood or play in the yard. And some weeks, our nature walk will be replaced by a berry-picking day (see above) or maybe even a trip to the zoo.

4) Legal stuff. I've been over this before. Kindergarten is not required, but must be officially waived. Suzi wouldn't be going to kindergarten until fall of 2012 anyway. We will be using legal option 3 for homeschooling, which means that we will join a home school association and submit records and a portfolio of Suzi's work. (Standardized testing is offered but not required, and I'd rather not.) Oak Meadow uses something called a main lesson book in which all of the child's creative work and lessons are done. They sell books especially for this, but I am probably going to make my own. A three-ring binder filled with unlined paper would work. I am leaning towards doing official homeschool kindergarten rather than just waiving that year. In any case, we won't need to worry about it this coming fall. This first year we can just take it easy and get used to things.

5) You might be thinking what about Ivey? I plan to let her join in whenever she can, and when she can't I will try to find another (preferably related) activity for her to enjoy alongside Suzi. Robert, of course, will ride in a wrap or watch from his bouncy seat.

6) My biggest goal: Getting out of the house. Having more playdates. Making homeschool buddies. Blowing that irritating socialization argument out of the water. Discovering how many hands-on learning experiences we can come up with, at home and away. Going berry-picking, to the zoo, to the children's museum, to plays, on overnight trips. Letting life itself be their education, and their inspiration and their motivation. (Yeah--it's more than one goal. But for me, this is the heart of all of it.)

I love them. I love being with them. And I'm so excited!

Do you homeschool? What was your first step? What was the hardest part of getting started?

Monday, April 25, 2011

16 days old, plus random updates and pictures

I think this is going to be a ring sling baby.

See? He loves it!

Jordan likes the Moby, but today I tried the Maya Wrap Ring Sling and it worked much better for me. I took the girls out in the backyard for about an hour and a half, fixed lunch, and read a book to the girls with minimal interruption. See, I can totally do this. And not only that, but it's going to be awesome.

Carey came and weighed Robert again a few days ago and he was up, I think, 13 ounces? So he probably has gained over a pound by now. And he's working on a double chin.

Yesterday I was sitting in church just thinking about how amazing this all is. Three sweet children, and this little boy is just the sweetest, most wonderful little guy ever. I think he might end up looking like me after all, too.

I am so excited to get the homeschool curriculum we've finally selected and get started with Suzi. In one evening, I did several hours of reading and decided to go with Oak Meadow (kindergarten). We won't be starting until the fall because the first "trimester" of lessons is seasonally appropriate for that time, but I'm still excited to start going through the books. I'll post more about this later.

I need to go change Robert's diaper in a minute, but here are some Easter photos!

From the egg hunt on the 17th...

What the Easter Bunny brought...

Robert at the community sunrise service.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The sweet smell of Sculpey clay

The first time I can remember using Sculpey clay I was in elementary school and was supposed to make a diorama of ocean life in a shoe box. My mom bought me some Sculpey and helped me make a shark, a sea anemone, and a little orange fish.

The clay still smells the same now as it did then. Full of possibilities and so easy to bake in the oven. Suzi and I both love it and it's the perfect medium for a joint craft time. Suzi plays with the clay and makes many different things before finally deciding her project is ready for baking.

Not yet ready to bake, but she calls it "A Pile of Laundry"

It had been a while since I'd used polymer clay but I decided to get it out one day while we were waiting on Robert and Ivey was sick. It was the perfect quiet, not-too-messy craft activity. Suzi's final project ended up being something sort of abstract that she called "a car and a little man" and I made the three bellies pictured above. Later, I painted them with a satin glaze.

What is your favorite art or craft activity to do with your kids?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

WW: My favorite photos from Robert's birth

The ones I love but didn't put in my birth story posts.

This was actually during the most intense part, just a few minutes before Robert was born. I love this one so much!

Jenn did such an amazing job of capturing the love and excitement at our birth. I can't stop looking at these and every time I look I love them more.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Robert's Birth, part two: I have a place where dreams are born

If you missed part one, it's here. All the photos in this post are by my awesome friend Jenn.

It's a good thing we had the TV and DVD player in our peaceful birthing space because we ended up putting on a movie for Suzi. We chose Peter Pan, the old one with Mary Martin, which was my favorite as a child. By the time we were in the bedroom things were intense enough that I didn't pay attention to the movie. While it was an unusual choice for a birth, it wasn't a bad thing to have in the background. I tried again to do the rotisserie but lying down still stalled my pressure waves. Since the baby was already in a good position, Carey said I didn't necessarily need to do it anyway. I did several pressure waves on the bed in the beginning of the rotisserie.

Here I am doing the first position with a heat pack on the front and back, while Suzi watches Peter Pan. I think everyone should have two heat packs in their birth toolkit.

And the rolling pin came in handy for the hands and knees part. This position didn't feel so great and I was telling Jordan "no, stop moving it... just press down... a little lower..."

Soon we decided it'd be a better idea to get in the tub, but I wanted to put my hair up first.

The La Bassine was full and ready for me, but I didn't want to get in too soon. It's a psychological thing, I think--the tub is the last and most effective comfort measure and the baby's birthplace. I knew it would mark the end of my birthing time. I also knew I didn't want to get into the tub and back out before the birth. Since I didn't feel pushing was all that imminent, I went to the bathroom to try to pee first and stayed for a few pressure waves. I could see the movie from the toilet, but I sort of looked through it rather than at it. I could watch myself in the bathroom mirror, intensely swaying back and forth to whatever song I was halfheartedly listening to from the movie.

Robert wasn't quite ready to come out yet, but he almost was. I could tell. And I could tell he was going to come hard and fast. It was time to get in the tub.

I had a bra on that I thought I wanted to wear but as soon as I got into the water I realized I didn't. I'm glad I didn't waste money on a special bikini top or anything. The La Bassine was all I'd imagined and more. Deep. Soft, even on the bottom, but way more solid and supportive than you'd expect an inflatable tub to be. It insulated the water and kept it warm too. After the first pressure wave or two sitting in the tub, I was surprised to find myself in a kneeling position leaning forward over the side of the tub. We had discussed, and practiced, a squatting position leaning back on the side of the tub so I could see Jordan catch Robert, but in the moment, that was not what I needed. I used Julie's trick of putting a washcloth into a bowl of ice water with a few drops of peppermint oil and laying the washcloth over the side of the tub to lean on. I loved that because it was so refreshing and covered up any other scent that might have been in the room.

It wasn't long at all before I was pushing, and I was right--he was coming hard and fast. I managed to stay calm, but it was a lot to wrap my head around. This felt different from Suzi and Ivey's births. I pushed with both of them for well over an hour. I knew there was no way I could do this for that long. It's not that it was really painful, but it was intense and it would've been tempting to get it over with quickly by pushing as hard as I could. But one of my goals was not to tear if I could help it and I knew I had to give myself time to stretch. One of the things we'd learned in Hypnobabies was to "ahhhh" our babies out. Instead of gritting our teeth, holding our breath and pushing until we turned purple we were to breathe and say "ahhhh." Julie even told us to practice while going to the bathroom. Luckily that was one of the few things I had practiced. (Wow, I can't believe I just shared that.)

So when I started pushing just a few minutes after getting in the tub, I began vocalizing for the first time during the birth, breathing deeply and saying some version of ahhhh. It was around this time that Jordan got into the tub with me. He'd been wearing his swimsuit for hours, all prepared. Suzi was still waiting with us, either on the bed or somewhere near the tub. Every once in a while I'd hear her ask if her baby brother was coming out yet and someone would tell her it would be soon or "shhh, Mommy needs to concentrate."

After a couple of pushes my water broke with a little pop and I saw something dark shoot out and mix with the water in the tub. Carey and Crystal used the doppler several times to check Robert's heart rate, and sometimes with the position I was in it took them a little while to find it. I wasn't too worried because I could still feel him moving around. Specifically I felt a hand up near the top of his head, which was a bit unnerving. I'm pretty sure at some point that Carey asked if I wanted to try to get into the squatting position I'd planned, and I said nope. A push or two after my water broke Carey suggested I reach down and feel the head and I did. It had hair. I knew it wouldn't be long now!

Jordan was ready to catch the baby, and I continued to relax and ahhh during pushes even though I was really ready to have him out. A couple of pushes later, Robert's head popped out all at once, surprising me a little and Jordan a lot. This is the part where I figured I'd wait for the next pressure wave, push one more time and then Jordan would bring our son up out of the water. But Robert had his mouth open. Carey was worried he might try to breathe and told me to get up out of the water. Thanks to Jenn, I have amazingly clear photos of all of this. I won't share them here, of course, but they've helped me understand this part of the birth that I could not see.

Photo 1: Robert's head is out and his little face is looking up from under the water, his mouth wide open. His hand did not come out with his head and for that I am thankful. Photo 2: We are up a few inches out of the water and his mouth is still open. Carey's hands are preparing to catch. Photo 3: Carey is holding him by the shoulders and he is almost all the way out. He is already turning pink and is holding one fist up over his head like a superhero. But he is tangled, oh so tangled, in his cord. It's around his body and his neck and there is no slack anywhere. Photo 4: He is slightly further out, Carey holding him with one hand and untangling him with the other. Jordan looks worried.

And that brings us to this picture, in which Jordan is handed the baby.

I turned around and lifted my leg over the cord and tried to hold my tiny, slippery baby without dropping him in the water. I had to crop the next photo for it to be shareable on my blog, but I just love the look on my face. This face sums it all up.

I have three children! This one is so tiny! And he's a son! I had him! And he's here!

Seriously, birth is always a surprise. Even the third time. He was born at 7:17 pm, during one of the final scenes of Peter Pan, after about 20-30 minutes of pushing. It was about an hour and a half after we finished his birthday cake, which makes me laugh.

Suzi was present for all this and was so cool about it. I'm glad we had her at the birth. In this picture I'm saying something to Suzi about her baby brother being here.

Next there was the placenta and getting out of the tub and drying off and all that. Jordan held the baby for most of this. Here he is holding the baby in one hand and my placenta, still attached, in the other. Awesome Daddy. I love this photo.

And then Suzi cut the cord, with help from her dad, and Carey tied it off with the special cord tie we'd made at my Blessingway. I was lying on the bed right next to all of this, feeling so happy but also extremely sore. The after pains this time were pretty awful. If you didn't know, these are post-birth contractions which slowly shrink the uterus back to its usual size. They are a necessary thing, but they don't feel good, and they also apparently get worse for each baby you have.

Robert weighed in at 6 pounds 14 ounces, over a pound less than our first baby. So yes, he was small, but not too small. Soon my mom came and one by one our birth team left, and eventually we were left to love on our new little boy.

And it was beautiful.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Robert's Birth, part one: An ordinary Saturday

On Friday, April 8th, I didn't feel like going anywhere and decided the girls and I would just spend the day together at home. They were running around the living room playing when Ivey randomly sang happy birthday to no one in particular and then said "Ahhh want keck!" We needed an activity anyway, so I looked up a recipe for chocolate cake and we baked one together to save for Robert's birthday. Suzi and Ivey both sat on the counter and played with the ingredients and had a great time helping and making a little mess.

Photo by Suzi

After baking our cake I put one of the Toy Story movies on for the girls and Suzi fell asleep on the love seat. Weird. By the time Jordan came home I realized she had a fever. Since it felt like we'd been riddled with one illness after another for the last few weeks of the pregnancy, this was extremely frustrating! I was at 40 weeks 6 days and we had no idea what this moderately high fever meant.

We kept my appointment with the chiropractor that afternoon, and it's a good thing we did because I needed an adjustment. We went home and had dinner, careful not to have anything that might make Ivey throw up again, and put Suzi to bed. She had trouble falling asleep, so we put a fan in her room (it was pretty warm in there) and wiped her face with a damp cloth to keep her comfortable. After a couple of stories she finally managed to go to sleep.

The morning of Saturday the 9th, it was a miracle! Her fever was gone and she felt fine, so we decided to ride to a few yard sales and run some errands. If we had known how soon we were going to be having a baby, we might have stayed home.

We found an apple peeler/slicer/corer (yay!) and a couple other things including an oil burner I could use for the birth. Then we dropped by Bloom for a few groceries and picked out some spring clothes for the girls at our local consignment shop. Around 1:00, we headed to the Vitamin Shop for tea tree and lavender oil. I ran in while everyone else waited in the car. I called Carey, our midwife, while in the shop to get her opinion on vitamin D supplements, and we discussed when our next prenatal appointment would be since I was still pregnant. I told her nothing serious was happening yet and we decided she'd come over the next day. A few minutes after we hung up I had my strongest pressure wave yet. When I got back in the van I told Jordan I wanted to go home. NOW.

It occurred to me I'd hardly had anything to drink all day, so I drank what was left in the water bottle we'd brought. I wondered if this wasn't just a little dehydration. I was having pressure waves of varying intensity at irregular intervals, so I wasn't sure this was it yet. Just in case, I started telling Jordan all the things I wanted to do when we got home. Cleaning, for one. I also wanted to take a shower.

I asked Jordan to feed the girls lunch and headed for the shower almost immediately after walking in the door. By the time I got out of the shower I was pretty sure my pressure waves were the real thing because they weren't going away! I yelled for Jordan to call Carey while I dried off. He left a message and she called back a few minutes later around 2:45. I couldn't tell how fast things were moving, so I asked her to come over sort of soonish. I then called Jenn, our friend we'd asked to attend and photograph for us, and asked her to come over in an hour or two. Jordan called my mom and she picked up Ivey.

I put on a comfortable dress and spent a little time with Jordan straightening up, eating a snack, and putting out the birth food for everyone to eat while we waited. Suzi watched Cinderella as Jordan and I talked and worked. We were so excited to meet our son, and so happy that Jordan was around to share in the early birthing time. For Ivey's birth, he'd arrived home from work just an hour or so before I started pushing.

Photo by Jenn--my last belly shot

It was around 4:00 when Carey, Jenn and Crystal, a midwife apprentice who is also our Creighton Model instructor, arrived all at once. Carey and Crystal began setting up their supplies, and in the sudden flurry of activity my pressure waves came to a halt. I began to worry that I'd made my calls too soon. These poor ladies might be stuck at my house all night. And this was my third baby, so you'd think I'd have a better idea of the timing! No one seemed worried about it, and once the setup was complete they sat in the living room and talked while I tried to start the rotisserie upstairs in the bedroom with Jordan and Suzi. (The rotisserie is a technique to get the baby into a favorable position for birth.) But when I lay down, nothing happened, so I decided we should go back downstairs and stay busy for a little while.

My go-to technique for getting through a pressure wave (photo by Jenn)

We started by baking some brownies and working on a little laundry. It worked! My pressure waves came back and started to get stronger and longer. While we were running around in the kitchen we timed a few of them and they were about a minute long and 4-5 minutes apart. When I felt one coming, I'd lean on the counter and sway until it started to go away. Things were still so casual I decided we should make some buttercream frosting and ice Robert's birthday cake we'd made the day before. When I started working on it, Jordan said "we are NOT making frosting for a cake right now!" He thought it sounded ridiculous. But I told him we didn't have anything better to do.

My midwife Carey helps with the frosting (also by Jenn)

At this point everyone was in the kitchen helping with the cake. Suzi wanted to ice the cake herself. She thought blue would be a good color for decorating, and I only put the words on before letting her finish up. She then added blue sprinkles. We finished the cake at about 5:50 pm. By that time the pressure waves were feeling intense and getting more regular. I was finally starting to feel a sense of urgency. We wrapped things up in the kitchen and headed upstairs to our peaceful birthing space.

Stay tuned for the (somewhat more exciting) conclusion!