Decorating pumpkins with a toddler (plus home made glue recipe)

18 10 2013

I love Halloween, of all the American holidays it is my favourite… I feel like I should say Thanksgiving, or 4th of July, but Halloween is just awesome. And I like it a lot.

I’ve always wanted to decorate the house, but being busy with work and on a student budget made me put it low in th priority list. But this year, Ignacio will be almost two and a half years and I want him to learn to appreciate the seasons and enjoy the holidays, so I am making an effort for getting into the spirit before the 30th.

Last week we made some plaster decorations, you can see the how to in my art blog. Be warned, anything I post that I do with my toddler looks like something that you do with a toddler, do not expect something beautifully airbrushed with a soft light background. It will not be Pinterest worthy. This week I decided it was time to decorate the pumpkin Ignacio and Greg bought, yesterday was rainy and I wanted to try the glue I had made a couple of days before, so I cut some leaf shapes in construction paper and we sat down to enjoy a laid back activity.

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For the home made glue you will need:

Wheat flour 1 cup

Water 1 1/2 cup

Vinegar 1 teaspoon

In a saucepan mix the flour with a bit of water until it’s smooth, then add the rest of the water. Boil and when it starts thickening remove from the fire and add the vinegar as preservative. You can keep this in the fridge. It is great for toddlers because there is nothing that could harm them if they decide to start eating it, it is good for the environment because it implies no toxic processing nor packaging, and it is good for your pocket because you get a load of glue for pennies.

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You will also need colored paper, we chose yellow, orange, red, purple and a bit of green to cut fall leaves, you could use anything you want. Some ideas: bats and cats in black paper, a moon and ghosts in white, cut shapes from magazines. Besides that you will need some brushes to spread the glue. I like to put the glue on the paper, but I found that for Ignacio it worked better if we applied it on the pumpkin and pressed the leaves to it.

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The glue might show through at the beginning, but as it dries your work will look tidier. That is it! Have fun with your kids with this simple activity!





Gardening: preparing my fall garden

22 09 2013

A lot has happened since I first started a garden. I have learned a lot, I have experienced the length of the growing season and started to ponder how to more intelligently garden. I have learned that most fruits have hairs but they are removed before they make it to the store, that the tomatoes trichomes hold the smell I like so well but also can sting and give me a rash if I get enough of them on me, and that bell peppers are expensive because they take forever to be ripe. Also, I am not a sentimental gardener, I found myself not feeling bad about cutting down plants I found of no use anymore.

 

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Radish plants, lovely and so delicious!

As the Summer officially came to an end with Labor Day and the temperatures dropped, days became shorter and plants started to struggle, I decided that it was time to plan the fall garden. So I set to research about what grows in colder temperatures, what do we like and what seeds I could find. I got arugula, spinach, lettuce, radish and peas… just because it was about the only things from my list I could find at our local Home Depot. I heartlessly tore down the plants that were not producing anymore, gone were my eggplants (which never produced!), two tomato plants from which I took green tomatoes which were not turning red and rotting instead, the corn that was standing pretty but dead, and put them all in a pile of debris that I believe is the composting pile of the communal garden. I also readjusted the support of the bell peppers and took off the floral heads that were coming in, they take so long in maturing that there is no way that any flower I have now will become a pepper, so I rather the plant to invest its energy in getting the peppers I have ready for the kitchen. I worked for about an hour in tearing down the plants, taking roots out of the ground, and raking the dirt. Then planted my seeds and strawberry runners.

 

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Likely, Ignacio’s plot will turn into a strawberry patch, I don’t think he’ll object.

 

 

The radishes grow fast! In three weeks I had tiny little plants ready to harvest. But surprise! No nice red radishes, which might be a problem of crowding. So we just ate the greens, now I have second set getting ready more spaced out, if again I have no red radishes underground it might be a problem of the soil, which I need to amend. I had already tried the lettuce, spinach and arugula, but the temperatures kept spiking here and there and nothing was growing, plus the tomatoes kept shading them and it seems that not enough sun was coming through. Now, I am just waiting, hearing the rain fall while I dream of chemically free grown spinach and arugula in my salads.

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This is how the garden looks in preparation for fall.

 





Some thoughts on my VBAC

11 09 2013

After going through a successful VBAC (you can read about it here) my thoughts are these:

  • I worked hard in preparing myself for this. I do not think I could have gone through physiological birth otherwise.
  • It is very doable. In no moment I felt it was impossible or beyond me. I never thought or felt I needed pain relief. If you think you can live with the pain during the recovery after giving birth, you can totally cope with the contractions!
  • If you feel comfortable and safe, labor as much as possible at home, one doctor praised us for this saying it had been the key to a successful and fast labor. Heck, if you have a good knowledgeable team *and* you feel safe about it, have a home labor! I did not want to deal with it really, the risk of a uterine rupture, the cats, the cleaning up, etc.  It was tempting once I was in labor, but then, I had not prepared for it.
  • The doctors and nurses were impressed and all had words of praise about me not using drugs, so know that they will respect you for that. I just wish they were more outgoing and supportive of it before and during labor, though.
  • I did not feel pain during active labor, which is the longest stage. Even when I did feel pain later, there is pain at the peak of the contraction and then you have resting periods in between, the total time of pain is very little. I fell asleep several times between contractions, giving me much needed rest.
  • In fact, I loved active labor, it is kind of trippy and it was a wonderful bonding moment with my husband.
  • Marissa, my doula, says physiological labor is addictive. I wouldn’t say I am addicted to it, but surely enough I would love to experience it again!
  • I hated pushing, but you might like it, in fact many women have told me it was their favourite stage… go figure! They say it gives them relief.
My sweet little boy.

My sweet little boy.

  • If you think you can raise a toddler and a newborn, you can totally tackle a VBAC! It’s a piece of cake compared to what comes next!
  • You will hear mothers tell you “I was in labor for SIX hours!!!!” with a horror expression and as if that was super long. My labor was about 10 hours, and it is still below the average of 12 hours or so. It really did not feel long, let your body lead and you lose sense of time, and remember it is not 10 hours of sustained pain, most of labor is “time between contractions”, so it is very manageable.
  • The birth was not “all I ever envisioned”. I tried to keep my expectations reasonable, I tried not to focus too much in details and I tried to define what things were important for me. I wanted no drugs so my baby would be born with no drugs in his system. I wanted to be ready to go home to my oldest child as soon as possible, therefore I wanted to avoid a C-section at all costs. With these things in mind I was ready to stand my ground about some things, and to negotiate and even yield others.
  • I hold myself responsible for everything that did not go as I wanted, even that asshole resident doctor hurting me during his examination. After all, I could have always refused treatment and done it my way, but I didn’t. I was aware, I was in full possession of my faculties, but I did not refuse certain things, nobody forced me to do anything.

How is your perception of your labor? Did you enjoy it? Would you do anything different?





My VBAC experience. Part 2

27 08 2013

This is the second part of my VBAC story. The first part is here

Transition
After some hours of active labor, being taken care of by Marissa and Greg, I started to feel different. We asked Marissa, my doula, if it was time to go to the hospital and she suggested to wait a bit longer. Maybe give it time till four AM, and then decide.
By four I was certainly feeling like things were moving along quite nicely, I was still not really tired and I had lots of energy in me. But contractions were much more intense at the peak and my deep vocalizations sometimes would reach a high pitch that meant that I was not keeping control so well; Marissa and Greg would remind me to keep it low and breath, and I would bring myself back to a controlled state. When we made it to four O’ clock I asked Marissa if she thought we should head to the hospital, I definitely thought I was entering transition and I dreaded the idea of going down three flights of stairs and the car ride. She agreed and we got ready to leave.
I was right… going down the stairs was very painful, I did not want to vocalize loudly because it was 4 AM and my neighbours already were putting up with enough (they got “thank you for putting up with the noise and I’m sorry about it” candies some days later) and that made it harder to deal with the labor. Outside it was so cold!! I really did not want to go in the car, I did not want to ride in the car and I wanted to go back to the warmth of my room… but c’est la vie… I placed a towel on the car seat to absorb leaks and off we went.
The car ride was very difficult. The pain was intense and I could do nothing about it but moan/scream, try to breathe and think to myself that it was actually a short ride because the hospital is not far and thanks God that there is no traffic at 4 AM. We arrived at the hospital and checked in at triage. That took a while… all the time I was chanting through contractions, holding on to Greg’s neck and hanging a bit to help release the pressure. I almost died when the check in lady said only Greg (and not Marissa) could go in, but then someone else stepped in to say doulas were allowed in the L&D area. Yay! I was offered a wheel chair, but there was no way I was going to sit through contractions again, so I chose to walk to my room so I could lean against walls or Greg when I needed.
Once I got in they helped me on a bed and they started asking questions. Greg answered as much as he could and I chipped in when he didn’t know the answer. I rejected the IV but accepted to have a port in my arm (not my hand so I could move better) got half undressed, which took a lot more strength that I would have thought of! (incidentally, I couldn’t gather myself enough to take my socks off, which looked really funny, I was that lady in a blouse and socks!) and the resident doctor came in, he needed to see how dilated I was. I asked if I could stay kneeling and he said no, I had to lay, I also asked him to be gentle (remember, I cry during paps?) and he answered “I will only be as forceful as I have to” making him the recipient of asshole of the year worse beside manners award. The examination was as painful as you can imagine, with me screaming in real pain (no contraction would compare to that!) and asking him to stop. I remember screaming “Enough! Enough!” and finally Greg saying in a very angry, low voice “OK, that was enough!” and the guy leaving.
I got back on my knees and tried to gather myself again. I asked if they knew how much I had dilated and Marissa said she thought she heard “seven”. I wanted to cry. For the first time since labor started I just wanted to cry. On one hand I was happy because my objective was to arrive to the hospital at least at 6 cm, however I was sure I had gone through transition for quite some time and I didn’t know how I was going to cope if I had to open four more cm, or how long it was going to take. Marissa saw my posture, heard me muttering “Oh, God!” and realized I was discouraged, she started telling me that she thought I was more than that but that the examination had tighten me up because of the stress, to keep thinking “ten cm”, that soon I was going to meet my baby and that I should keep doing a good job breathing and chanting. I just nodded, regathered myself and kept laboring.
At some moment they passed me to L&D and connected me to all kinds of things. They asked me if a wanted pain relief such an epidural and all I could say was “not now”, honestly I never felt I needed anything to control pain because the pain was bearable as long as I was off of my sacrum and I could move when the contractions washed over me. I did ask for wireless fetal monitors because I wanted more freedom to move, a nurse took off to place an order, but they never came (I think it is because my labor was shorter than bureaucracy, Greg thinks she never meant to bring them… but remember, I tend to think everybody mean their best) so I was plugged to the wired ones. I was not expecting the pressure cuff and the finger heart monitor they put on me, I asked if hey were really needed and of course they said yes, so now I was connected by three different points to monitors, which made moving freely challenging. I found the way to go on my knees again and kept trying to focus on laboring.
As Marissa kept encouraging me I had an image of my Infinity Lotus Knot burnt in my brain, I did not try to see it, it just was there. Somehow it made its way there, being a perfect representation of my want to open like a flower for the baby to pass. Suddenly I heard inside me a noise as if old wood was put in tension, a “crack”, like an old ship in the ocean, and I just had to push. I felt panicky. I could not push at 7 cm, that would make me swell up or tear! “I think I have to push!” I remember saying. I realized we were alone, and Marissa exited to find the nurses. The L&D doctor came in he asked to see my dilation and I felt I could cry. Marissa explained how the triage doctor had hurt me and  he promised to be very gentle and allowed me to stay on my knees. He was fast and I barely felt him before he declared “yes, 10 cm, you can start pushing”, I laughed of happiness, it was such a relief!

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Right after giving birth, so happy! (again, the nighty is courtesy of Photoshop)

Pushing
I started to push as the contractions came, and then the doctor told me that I needed to lay down because the fetal heart monitor did not perceive the heart rate as I was on my knees. I really did not want to lay down but this was one of the things that I had discussed with Greg and I was ready to compromise. I knew that by then the baby was going to come out, labor was not going to stall and I was not going to be offered drugs, I also knew beforehand that it was going to be more than likely that they were going to push for me to lay down at this stage, so I was ready to do so.
I hated being on my back still, but the pain on my abdomen and sacrum was nothing compared to what it had been before, now the contractions were working different and I just felt like I needed to bear down. I was terribly afraid of having a bowel movement in front of everybody but I just pushed when I needed to. Soon the doctors started to tell me when and how to push, I just wanted to not tear and I wanted to push as and when I wanted. Then an oxygen mask came on to me and I hated it. They all said that the baby was doing much better now, but the thing was too large for me and too loose, it would keep moving around my face and it was one more thing connecting me and making it hard to do my job. They placed the squat bar in the bed but I had a very hard time reaching it during contractions, so they took it away. I remember breathing in the mask, and taking it off while I was pushing, to then put it on back again and breath. I was very frustrated at it and getting rid of it for a few seconds helped me to focus… it is not like you breathe in while you push anyways.
At one moment one lady doctor placed her fingers on me as if she wanted to go inside me, it was uncomfortable and painful and I told her not to, she later touched me again and I remember shooing her hand away “Don’t do that!” I think I was more bitchy than during transition, to tell the truth. Eventually I felt the famous ring of fire, I felt I was going to be torn opened in half and that I was becoming undone pulled inside out… which if you think about it that is what happens. I can truly say I did feel a lot of pain during this stage, but still all the time it felt manageable. The problem with the pushing stage is that the pain does not subside once the head starts crowning, I mean, it is there and it stays there as you wait for the next contraction, unlike the rest of labor, in which you get a lot of rest in between contractions. Despite the doctor telling me how to push more effectively I couldn’t get myself to do it, when I did follow his instructions I thought I was going to tear up quite badly, so I pushed in a not so efficient way, allowing the baby to come out slower; there was one moment in which I started panting to pass the contraction without pushing because I really felt I needed time to let the skin stretch a bit instead of going all out as fast as possible. After a particularly painful moment in which I thought for sure I was going to be hurt beyond repair I shoved my hand between my legs to guard the area and I could touch the head of my baby! Talk about surreal! Soon after that, the head was born and they pulled the baby out, which I wish they didn’t because it hurt a lot! I pushed my baby out in less than an hour. Santiago was born soon before 7 AM, not even two hours after checking in at the hospital.

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Soon in our room, asking for an early release.

Afterbirth
They put the baby on my chest, which was exhilarating. I couldn’t stop thanking everybody: my husband for his support, Marissa for the great job she did helping me through this, the nurses and doctors for not trying to push drugs on me and doing their best to let me do things my way. Santiago was born alert, happy and hungry, he latched fast and nursed for fifty minutes straight; he was robust and with a head full of hair, almost no vernix on him.
One of the doctors started to pull the placenta out and asked me to give one more final push, the afterbirth was more painful than what I thought it would be, after all I had just passed an almost eight pounds baby, bones and all, and the placenta is soft and boneless… but at the same time, I had just passed an almost eight pounds baby, bones and all, and I was hurt. Then came the stitches, the doctor assessed me and declared that I “had been lucky” because I had torn very little needing only one stitch (I rather think I knew what I was doing to protect the perineum), I have to say that the stitches were probably the most painful part of the whole process. I rode the hormones surge for many hours and crashed at about 2-3 PM.





My VBAC experience. Part 1

22 08 2013

I have been asked several times by people to tell how my VBAC resulted, and since when I was pregnant I did feed my self confidence from other VBAC stories, I thought it would be a good idea to share mine for other women to read. It seems I am unable to write a short story :) so I will divide this very long post in a couple of shorter (still long, though) posts.

The days before
I started experiencing contractions that would wake me up at night months before Santiago was born. My doula reassured me that my body was doing its job, getting everything ready for the big event. Contractions continued to progress slowly and steadily and the baby positioned himself head down by week 30-32. As I mentioned before, I was doing yoga and keeping very active with all the running after a 20 months old and going up and down three flights of stairs daily.
Because I knew labor was going to likely be an endurance test, I prepared for it as if I was preparing for a long distance race. As I felt birth was coming close, I started to eat larger meals and load up in carbs. You can read about many things I did to prepare here.
My sister was arriving on February 16th and each day that we got closer I could feel the baby really wanting to be out sooner than his due date on February 24th.

Getting ready for having a baby! Only a few weeks to go!

Getting ready for having a baby! Only a few weeks to go!

Pre-labor
On the 20th, after dinner, I started to have contractions that felt like menstrual cramps but I paid no attention to them because I’ve had been having mild cramp-like contractions for a few days, they would last one or two hours and go away. By the time I put Ignacio to bed, though the contractions were actually regular and I told my husband and sister about them. We decided to go to bead early just so we could get some rest if I would go into labor the next day.

Contractions were coming every ten minutes. I was not tired enough to sleep but I wanted to catch some rest. I started to hear some gurgling and asked my husband if it was him, he said that it was me “What do you mean it is me? If it was my guts I would feel them! Could it be the cat?”, and then I heard a “pop!” and with the next contraction I heard a louder “POP!” and a gush of amniotic fluid came out of me. I had broken waters! It was 10:15 PM.

In my imagined labor, I saw myself emailing friends and family in the early stages “Hey, contractions coming every 10 minutes. Oh, they are now 8 minutes apart, this is happening!” but my water breaking made the next one came too fast “That was not ten minutes!” I said, “No, it was seven” Greg answered. Right after that “That was not seven minutes!!” I was a little panicky. No, it was four. My contractions started to come consistently every four minutes, and they were so much more intense! I then remembered a trick I had read about in some books, and went to the ground in knee to chest position, that puts gravity working against your contractions and slows them down. In my imagined labor I would not have wanted to do that, but in reality I needed some time to adjust to what was going on. Each time a contraction would peak I would kneel up and let it go through me. I was not in pain, but they were very intense.

Contractions every four minutes. We took advantage of the time

Contractions every four minutes. We took advantage of the time in between to give birthday presents to my sister!

Active labor
I kept laboring, moaning with each contraction. I never imagined I was going to be the vocal type, I am rather quiet in my life, so I thought I would just breathe and be silent. But I was moaning with each of them, I was able to talk between contractions and even when they were coming every 6-4 minutes I still didn’t feel in active labor. After a couple of hours though I felt I needed to get my doula, Marissa, with me, I thought I was in active labor now and I really wanted her home. My nose started to bleed copiously (scaring my sister!) while I was talking to Marissa, I was still feeling very well, but I was having a hard time keeping my thoughts coherent for a long time, couldn’t quite keep track of what I wanted to say. She heard me moan through a couple of contractions and then I told her I really would feel better if she was with me, she agreed to come soon.

I went to the bathroom and checked for blood (if your uterus breaks along the C-section scar you will bleed copiously) but there was only a bit of pinkish tinged fluid, so I felt at ease. After that I headed to the bedroom to keep laboring there.
My moans turned into chanting sometime during active labor, I can’t pinpoint when, but it was actually quite powerful. I found a low pitch that helped a lot to ride each contraction, making it bearable. From outside the bedroom, my sister says that it sounded like Greg and I were having a great marital time (!) but that it later turned into “Oh, dear, she is dying there!” Truth to be told, I felt really well and relaxed all the time, and there was no real pain so far, just a very intense feeling taking over my whole body.
At about one O’clock Marissa arrived. When she entered the room she smelled so good! It was lavender and other herbs, it really was wonderful… I should mention that the chemicals being released in your body during physiological birth make your senses wild. The light in the room was golden and our dull green speckled carpet was bright green in my eyes. It really is trippy! Marissa encouraged me to keep going saying I looked great and that I seemed to be handling things nicely. I remember riding the contractions, tucking my pelvis under my body each peak and doing cat-cow sometimes.
There still was no pain except in my sacrum area, my lower back really hurt, but it was not back labor. My sacral bone was risen because of the baby passing so Marissa suggested counterpressure, but it was really painful when they would even just slightly touch me. At some moment she brought in the exercise ball, which I always imagined I would like, but as soon as my belly grazed the surface of it made me hurt, so I pushed it away.
Marissa suggested to stop doing knee to chest, and to actually put my pelvis lower than my shoulders to keep labor advancing. I did so, using the bed to recline my body against something and rest. Greg climbed on the bed and I used him as my anchor, holding his arms and raising up and back each time a contraction would come and peak. He says I looked serene and beautiful, very goddess like (God bless good husbands! How sweet of him!) I just know that at the peak of the contractions, gazing into his eyes helped me feel calm and collected.
At some moment I felt the baby dropping. It was amazing to feel the sound and the actual shock of him falling against my bones. I told Marissa and Greg, I was so excited about having felt it! Many times I fell asleep between contractions, which helped me feel rested during the whole time.

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Second part here!





Dairy free brownies

12 08 2013

I am on a dairy and soy free diet because Santiago has milk allergies, this has put me on the fast lane to weight loss, but also on a tight spot for indulging. Since we cook most everything from scratch it has been not too hard to come up with ways to replace dairy, but the lack of milk in my baked goods has made them somewhat dry and not as rich and unctuous, not so satisfying. That is until I decided I wanted brownies for my husband’s birthday, and since I do not have a lot of time or patience lately, I decided for a very simple recipe. My recipe uses coconut oil, whole wheat and, as usual, less sugar than regular recipes.

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You will need:
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/3 cup whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 325°. Line an 8×8″ baking dish with foil. Coat foil with nonstick spray.
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Whisk coconut oil, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl to combine. Whisk in vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition. Add flour and stir until combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top.
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Bake until top begins to crack and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 25-30 minutes.
These were very thick and chocolatey. If you use whole wheat flour you will get a drier end product than your usual brownie, so if you want it more fudgey bake for a little less time.
We loved them! I baked two sets to share, but never got to! Ignacio just devoured them in no time!
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Thank you for the WordPress Family Award!

12 08 2013

wordpressfamilyaward3Thank you Nadine for the WordPress Family Award nomination! Thank you for taking me into account, with my lack of regularity it is great to still be recognized as a blogger :)

This award was started by Shaun  to recognize the community that has been forged by the WordPress bloggers. I don’t know if you can nominate back who nominated you, but I would like to start by nominating Nadine, who runs a fantastic blog for parents in Pittsburgh, which I follow happily to know what is going on around here that my kids could do… and which I wish I would have thought of writing myself!

Rules:

1. Display the award logo on your blog.

2. Link back to the person who nominated you.

3. Nominate 10 others you see as having an impact on your wordpress experience and family

4. Let your 10 Family members know you have awarded them

5. That is it. Just please pick 10 people that have taken you as  a friend, and spread the love

I now nominate 10 6 others:

1. http://pittsburghmommyblog.com/

2. http://quilde.wordpress.com

3. http://moxieminxdoula.wordpress.com/

4. http://fireoakstudio.wordpress.com/

5. http://www.hikingphoto.com/

6. http://gardenofyvonne.wordpress.com/

And me failing to fill the 10 slots goes to show how much of an introvert I am even online!!








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