Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Delivered

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One year ago on August 2, 2013, I had the honor and privilege of assisting my sister during her 24 hour natural birth to my beautiful (first) niece. This was a privilege to partake in for many reasons. First, that I made it! My sister and I live about 7 hours apart so the fact that I got my family of four packed up and there with enough time to be a part of the labor and delivery was a miracle! More than that the blessing of watching my niece come into this world was an experience I will always cherish and one that I hope will give us a special bond as she grows. The largest honor though was to be at my sister and brother-in-law’s side and watch them manage the contractions pain and pushing together. I was just the gap filler, I helped by fixing her hair, giving her sips of water and held a leg when needed, and I was also the photographer. What a JOY the entire experience was!

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What I didn’t expect from the experience was what it would do for my soul…the healing it would bring me. I was unable to experience natural births when I had my two kids. I had planned for natural births and I tried both times, but to no avail, complications arose with both and I had cesareans. I had almost come to terms with this fact before experiencing my nieces birth. I had two beautiful healthy children. What a blessing! But I still couldn’t help feeling like I missed out on something or that I had been robbed of something. Going through the natural birth experience with my sister allowed me to not only experience it first hand but to also find the true beauty in my own birthing experiences.

First, I feel blessed that I was able to experience going into labor naturally and laboring, even though this resulted in a harder recovery, I am still grateful to have experienced the rush of emotions and excitement and elation of having the “THIS IS IT” moment before my deliveries resulted in cesareans.

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With all of that said, here is a breakdown of I had to have a C-section let’s find some shiny list: 

The Calm During the Storm. The O.R. is a very calm place, at least in both of my experiences. My situations weren’t super urgent so once I was in the O.R. everything was nice calm and sterile. Controlled. The Dr.’s and nurses make conversation with each other and with you and your spouse. It’s usually pretty light and many times comical. Once the baby is out they make sure you can hear their cry and then they move them into the area to be cleaned and weighed, all of which I could see and observe. For the circumstances it was quite a relaxed atmosphere. Not what I expected. This calm and controlled atmosphere really allowed me to soak it all in. I have the images of both of my babies being weighed, measured, cleaned up and wrapped up like a burrito BURNED into my brain. I am so incredibly grateful to have those memories, I realized now that in a natural birth it may not be possible to “witness” this process as Momma is still VERY busy with final labor stuff and isn’t out of the battle field yet. Being able to just watch in awe as my children took their first gasps of air and entered this world is a gift I cherish.

Precious Moments with Daddy. Due to the fact that our children came into this world via surgery the process of it all happens a little differently. VERY Shortly after the baby is born the father takes the baby to triage while the DR’s finish the surgery with Momma. This precious and small sliver of time allows those new Daddy’s an opportunity to bond with their new child that they might not get otherwise. It gave my husband the opportunity to take ownership of this new life, HIS CHILD! For Father’s this can be challenging as they haven’t just cooked that baby. One day they don’t have a child and the next day they do. For the Momma’s we start feeling and bonding with that baby even before it’s the size of a grain of rice! Big difference. When a baby is delivered via C-section the Momma is literally strapped to a table so once the baby is out, cleaned up, weighed and Momma gets to give the little one a few smooches Daddy is holding and snuggling the baby from the minute they are out and then….. Dad is on his OWN! He gets to STEP UP and take sole-responsibility for HIS CHILD and head to triage while Mom is in the O.R. with the DR’s finishing the rest of the surgery. Dad must answer questions during this time and be the provider. Even though it is only 10 minutes in my experience it is a very powerful 10 minutes for the new Daddy to have.This empowerment continues for the entire first day as Momma can’t get out of bed for a bit after the surgery so Daddy gets to bond with baby through all the meconium blow outs, talk about on the job training! With a natural delivery those 10 minutes with Daddy don’t exist. I feel so blessed and grateful that my husband had these special first moments to bond with our children. 

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Nursing. I always thought with natural birth the baby would be pulled out put on your chest and would nurse within minutes of being born. I learned that many times this isn’t possible. The baby needs to be cleaned up and cared for, Momma needs to be tended to, cleaned up and cared for and it can be all a little chaotic as this is all happening at the same time and there is only one Daddy to hold Mommies or babies hand. I can see how in natural birth nursing may take longer than with a cesarean. I feel so so so incredibly blessed I was able to nurse both my babies about 20 minutes after they were delivered.

Six Weeks. So for all you Mommies out there, you know what six weeks means…..du dun duuuuunnn!!! It is the clearance (most of the time) the DR’s give the ok for normal marital relations to commence. After our kids were born and six weeks rolled around , I honestly didn’t think about it much, and I know I would have if my babies came out the OTHER way. Don’t get me wrong things were different but now having seen a natural birth and experienced it first hand I know that feeling this way at six weeks is a luxury most natural birth Mom’s probably don’t experience. As new parents we have a LOT of adjusting to do and it was a nice luxury to have that department relatively unscathed.

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The Recovery. Now the cesarean recovery is NOT a walk in the park, don’t get me wrong. There are parts of it though I think I would prefer to healing in the other region. I could see my battle wound easily, care for it and keep it clean. There is a lot that goes on in the other region and it’s not easily seen. So caring for that battle wound and keeping it clean would probably be a bit more of a task.

There is still obviously a whole list of negatives that come with a C-section  that I haven’t forgotten about like the major surgery, the lengthened time it takes for belly swelling to go down, the added meds, every pair of pants and undies sitting RIGHT on top of the incision, the scar, the risk of complications, being stuck in the hospital bed for the ENTIRE first day, the catheter, the extra night at the hospital, the tremendous pain a sneeze causes (for months), the simple task of getting out of bed to nurse your baby at night is NOT a simple task and is often times the most painful part of the day (for weeks), the possible delay of milk coming in.  I have not forgotten these negatives but I now know that natural birth has it’s own list of negatives and isn’t all moon beams and rainbows, I can now see the shiny in my own experiences even though it is not what I planned.

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This also made me look closely at what happened during my labor experiences and realize now that there was no other way for my kids to be born. I didn’t miss out, I was blessed with the gift of healthy and successful deliveries and children. I was told by my midwife and DR that there just wasn’t enough room, I need to accept that fact and be so grateful that surgery is an option we have in this country and realize that there are women TODAY who do not have this option. I am grateful.

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Watching my niece enter into this world was an experience that was so wonderful and provided some totally awesome acceptance and healing regarding my own birthing experiences. I couldn’t be more humbled or grateful that my sister and her husband allowed me to be apart of such a miracle. I’ve told her this several times since, that she did enough PUSHING for the both of us!

My own enemy is how I picture things in my head when in reality, true life happens so much differently and most of the time more beautifully than we could have ever imagined ourselves!

Happy Birthday to my beautiful niece! I am so excited to watch you grow. I want you to know that from your first moments in this world you were already teaching your Auntie something. Thank you for delivering me sweet little  cousin 3!

That’s my shiny ~

J

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Freedom in a Budget

About four years ago my family was adjusting to living on one income and grew from two to three with the addition of our son. This adjustment went well on most fronts but one area in particular had us crippled, and that area was making purchasing decisions. Reducing our income stream by one and adding one to our family all at the same time made us raise our white flag in surrender and realize that we had to get our financial life on lock down, get a plan. For me personally I literally had buyers remorse for EVERYTHING, even when I went grocery shopping I would feel guilty! This was largely due to the fact that I myself was no longer bringing in an income and hadn’t learned to value my new role in our relationship and family. So we heard our church was offering a Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class and we decided it was time to take the class. This was one of the best decisions we made for our family, for our relationship and for ME the family shopper!
Freedom Budget
Here are 11 Reasons Why Our Family Found Freedom in a BUDGET:
1. Agreement. My husband and I talk about finances just ONCE A MONTH! We don’t have disagreements or argue about money. After we have our initial budget meeting the first of the month we really never talk about it again, this is not an exaggeration! What freedom!
2. DEBT FREE!! We have been able to save and pay off our debt and not accumulate any new debt.
3. Focus. I can focus on taking care of my family instead of worrying about how much money I just spent on groceries.
4. Need. The budget has shown us the value of delayed gratification and has truly defined need vs. want.
5. Bargain. I’ve always been thrifty but now my inner thrifty girl is at a whole new level! Why yes, thank you, I love my dress too, I just purchased it for $6.99! Whoot!
6. Stress. I CAN’T stress this enough! WE NEVER NEVER worry about money. It is not a stressor in our life, this is not because we are loaded or have a ton of money, we are very blessed but we aren’t the swimming in the dough by any means. We do what we can afford. Sometimes we have to say no because we can’t afford things but that is ok. With a little bit of saving and planning we have been able to take vacations, have amazingly blessed Christmases, eat a largely organic diet and work on renovating our house (slowly but surely). All of these things are just JOY with the stress removed because we pay for them in cash and DON’T NEED TO THINK ABOUT IT AGAIN, like when the bill shows up in the mailbox.
7. Gratitude. We appreciate the things we have more. We realize the amount of time we actually had to save for something. This has given us such gratitude for the worldly possessions we have been so blessed to have.
8. Contribution. I no longer feel like I need to contribute monetarily to our family. Having this budget allows me to feel involved and having these discussions once a month has truly redefined the meaning of “our money”.
9. Giving. We have been able to give SO much more than we were able to give before we started following a budget. This is largely because we control our money and our money doesn’t control us. So our money goes where our hearts go. Having more gratitude for our financial blessings has also opened our hearts more to those who aren’t as fortunate.
10. Rule. We rule our money it doesn’t rule us. There are moments when I want to CURSE the budget and just buy what I want to buy but those moments are few and far between. The moment usually passes or what seems to happen more often than not is that item goes on major clearance or someone we know is selling that “thing” used or I happen to find that item on Craigslist for almost nothing. Honestly, this is one of our favorite parts of budgeting because it feels like God is giving us a little approving slap on the rear each time we score that “thing” at a price we can afford. Talk about a motivator!
11. Respect. Understanding the importance of each other’s role is extremely important for every family, when you discuss your finances side by side it brings to light the roles of each and in turn allows your spouse to understand all that you do for your family and vise versa. Being a one income family can add to that challenge increasing the divide between roles, you have one person working out of the home and one person working within the home. I guarantee when you start to discuss your purchasing plan together gone are the days of any “mine” and “yours” feelings that might exist. Not only does it get both of you involved it also brings forth all of the “duties” that each of you do that might go unnoticed otherwise like buying toilet paper or paying the trash bill.
These are just a few reasons why our family is in a better place because of budgeting. We don’t discuss our budget too often with others but there have been a few instances when someone notices we pay with cash or ask how we make it work on one income. Most of the time their first response is “What if you run out of cash” or “doesn’t that feel restricting”. The answer to both is YES, YES, YES we do run out of cash and when we do, we don’t spend any more. Now there are circumstances that may come up but for the standard monthly expenses once it’s gone, it’s gone. Yes, it can feel restricting at times but NEVER stressful or remorseful! From my seat I will always choose restricting over stress and remorse any day! When I do get to buy that colorful pillow or a cute top we have money set aside for it in the budget, I NEVER NEVER NEVER feel guilty, yes Mother’s out there I buy things for myself and I DO NOT feel guilty about it! This is solely because of the budget.
We have a few simple tricks on how we make this REALLY work long term for our family. It’s kind of like “dieting”, going on a diet will help you loose weight but ultimately you want to be free of that weight and burden for the rest of your life right?? So instead of a quick diet making a lifestyle choice is the best way to accomplish your goal FOREVER!! Structuring your budget so you can do it for the long haul will ensure that this won’t be a binge debt pay-off only to rack up more debt the next month, it is a long term lifestyle change and in the end you will have less weight to carry FOREVER!!!!
I’ll be back to share some of our tips and tricks on how we make it work soon!
That’s my Shiny ~
J

Monday, January 21, 2013

Green Salad with Salmon and Raspberry Vinaigrette

Finding meals that are quick to make, healthy and don’t have a billon steps and ingredients is always a never ending quest for families. This is true for our house. Since deciding to eat more whole foods there are honestly moments when we have nothing to eat unless I cook, like as in cooking from start to finish. This only causes a problem when for one reason or another cooking a meal from top to bottom just doesn’t fit in the agenda for the evening. I’m still figuring out a few simple go to recipes that can rise to the occasion on those nights without totally throwing in the healthy eating towel and this is one of them! We ate this about once every other week this summer and probably around once every 8 weeks or so since this fall. It is quick and delicious!

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Green Salad with Salmon and Raspberry Vinaigrette                                                                                           Cook Time: Around 15 – 20 minutes; Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  1. 4 fillets of salmon (I use frozen)
  2. Dried or fresh Rosemary
  3. Lemon Juice
  4. Leafy dark green lettuce (I get a 4 pack of dark leafy lettuce heads at ALDI)
  5. Veggies of your choosing ( I usually throw in whatever we have on hand but mostly carrots, tomatoes, celery and a bit of onion)
  6. Croutons
  7. Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing (I also get the dressing at ALDI, Grandessa Raspberry vinaigrette
  8. Optional Feta Cheese, if you have on hand or feel like picking some up, this adds a yummy flavor and texture

1. Defrost salmon. I usually run it under cold water for just a few minutes and start the cooking process before it is totally thawed. In a cast iron skillet (or stainless steal skillet) put a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in the pan and let heat. Sprinkle a little salt pepper and rosemary on both sides of the fish. Place fish in the skillet. Once the fish is cooked to your liking (usually takes just a few minutes per side, I hover around 4 mins, I like mine cooked through) add about a tablespoon of lemon around your fish. Swirl the pan around to disperse evenly. Remove the fish from the heat.

2. While your fish is defrosting and cooking start prepping your salad. Cut greens, and veggies place in a large bowl.

3. Prepare the plates by adding greens and veggies, gently break the salmon up with a fork and place pieces over the salad, add croutons and finally top with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing and feta cheese.

Enjoy! Our kiddos love this meal too, it helps that they are big salad lovers to start! I hope you find this meal as refreshing, tasty and simple as my family does!

That’s my Shiny ~ J

Friday, October 19, 2012

Second Day Hair: High Fishtail Pony

Wearing a high pony with a fishtail braid has been another go to of mine since early spring. I only wore it once or twice before the Summer Olympics started, but then! This type of tamed yet jazzed up pony was all over the courts, the volleyball courts! Indoor and sand volleyball and I do love me some volleyball and showing a little Olympic support, so during and since then I have found myself gravitating to this style a bit more. It easy and fuss free just like a pony tail but a little more polished.

Photos of the USA volleyball teams from the 2012 Summer Olympics

 

High Fishtail Pony

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High Fish Tail Pony - Steps:

1. Add some texture to the roots of your hair by using dry shampoo and / or spray hairspray or texture spray into the palm of your hands and then kind of comb it through with your fingers starting right at your roots. I’m not a back comber, it just makes my hair look frizzy and tangled so this is the method I use. But if back combing works for you for volume that’s a great option too.

2. Pull hair into a high pony. Leave a little room to go up. I like to get more volume in the front when I tighten my pony. I separate into two piece and while tugging to tighten I kind of pull up ward and the pony moves up and pushes more volume to the front. After I do that I usually use my fingers and gently tug and pull up at the front part until I get the volume I’m looking for. I kind of have a flat head, hehe.

3. Grab a piece of hair from the middle underside of your pony. wrap around your pony tail holder to conceal it. secure with a bobby pin and smooth with hairspray. Either spray on your hand and smooth or directly on to the wrapped hair,  smooth hair down with your fingers.

4. Separate your pony into two pieces. Grab a small chunk of hair from the outer edge of one side and bring to the other side. Repeat on the other side. The smaller pieces you grab the tighter the fishtail. I generally do it pretty loose so I grab about a third of the side before crossing over. continue until you get close to the bottom, I usually leave about 2-3 inches at the bottom.

5. Secure with a clear rubber band. Gently hair spray

Of course this would also look stellar with a regular braid too!

That’s my Shiny ~ J

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Even Better Fiber and Omega Rich Whole Wheat Banana Muffins (or bread)

You can find the original recipe here if you don’t have maple syrup on hand or if you would just rather use good old fashioned sugar! The morning after I posted this I actually made the muffins again and went for the less sugar option. I actually preferred them! The maple syrup almost made them fluffier. YUM!

Recipe yields 24 muffins or 2 thin loafs of bread

 

Small loaf with just a few pieces left

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Muffins

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Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour (I use Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat White Flour)

2 organic eggs

1/4 cup old fashioned oats

1/3 cup ground flax meal (optional, see note below)*

2/3 cup brown sugar (could even reduce to 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 1/2 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

1 cup mashed bananas (3 large)

3/4 cup sour milk or buttermilk (to make sour milk: add a little less than 1 T lemon juice in measuring cup, pour in milk to reach 3/4 cup, let set for 5 mins)

1/4 cup greek yogurt

1/4 cup butter softened

1 t vanilla

1.Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl mix dry ingredients together (flour, oats, flax meal, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt) mix well.

2. Make sour milk (see note above), crack eggs into same measuring cup with milk and whisk together with fork. Add milk and egg mixture to dry mix.

3. Add remaining ingredients to mixture (mashed bananas, greek yogurt, butter, vanilla, maple syrup). Stir together until well mixed.

4. Makes 2 dozen full size muffins or 2 small loafs of bread (or one of each). Scoop batter into greased muffin tin using an ice cream scooper (one full scoop per muffin). Or pour batter into greased and prepared bread pans. Bake muffins for 12-18 mins and bread for 30-35 mins or until knife or tooth pick poked in the center comes out clean.

*Ground flax meal is optional but I wouldn’t leave it out, this AMPS up the health factor by adding lots of fiber and Omega. I use Bob’s Red Mill Whole Ground Flax Meal, I think this also makes the texture and flavor extra yummy! Ground Flax Meal is also a great brain and heart healthy addition to any bread, baked oatmeal or even smoothie recipe!

Happy baking!

That’s my Shiny ~ J

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pitting a Black Cherry: A Straw to the Rescue

I’m sure all parents of little ones agree that feeding cherries to those little ones can become quite a chore. Frantically biting through half the cherry, removing the pit with your teeth and then giving over the other half to an almost in tears excited chubby toddler. With pits and juice flying every which way causing quite a scene with little to no enjoyment coming from one of natures most delectable treats all because of these pesky pits!

Now I know there are pitters you can buy but if you are like me buying a cherry pitter crosses your mind, mmmmm only when you are eye-to-eye with those juicy cherries with no additional thought before or after! Enter the straw!

I was battling the gruesome cherry scene with my littlest as she was squawking “bayeees” “bayeees” at me, and I was over it! I wanted to enjoy my OWN cherries and I wanted her to enjoy HER OWN cherries. This was the light bulb moment “if only I had a way to get the pits out”, I would need something hollow and round, BING!!! A straw!!! So I got the straw and with some crazy looks from the Hubs I proceeded to try out my newest “creative” idea. BEHOLD the straw quickly and fairly neatly removed the cherry pit!!

Hooray! One for team Mommy!

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That’s my Shiny ~ J

Friday, September 7, 2012

Fiber and Omega Rich Whole Wheat Banana Muffins (or Bread)

A favorite treat in our house is bread, and banana bread is at the very tippy top of that list. However, I wasn’t finding the “it” banana bread recipe that was the right combination of delicious and healthy. My main motivation for this was my little guy who almost always requests a third (or fourth) muffin for breakfast and I was tired of second guessing giving him more, with this recipe I stopped the second guessing and can now toss that sweet boy another muffin. We also have a MAJOR win in the delicious department, I have made this recipe three times in the last four weeks! The whole family has been asking for more!

I went to work using a banana cake recipe as reference that I have loved for years but tweaked or removed almost all of the not so healthy ingredients and tried to AMP up the health factor with add ins and substitutes. I do hope to tweak one more thing by reducing the sugar, I’m planning to use honey or maple syrup with a smaller amount of sugar. The amount of sugar does seem high but keep in mind this recipe makes 2 dozen muffins or two smaller (thin) loafs of bread. I’ll keep you posted and let you know how the next batch turns out after the sugar swap.

 

Small loaf with just a few pieces left

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Muffins

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Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour (I use Trader Joe’s Whole Wheat White Flour)

2 organic eggs

1/4 cup old fashioned oats

1/3 cup ground flax meal (optional, see note below)*

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 1/2 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

1 cup mashed bananas (3 large)

3/4 cup sour milk or buttermilk (to make sour milk: add a little less than 1 T lemon juice in measuring cup, pour in milk to reach 3/4 cup, let set for 5 mins)

1/4 cup greek yogurt

1/4 cup butter softened

1 t vanilla

1.Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl mix dry ingredients together (flour, oats, flax meal, brown sugar, white sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt) mix well.

2. Make sour milk (see note above), crack eggs into same measuring cup with milk and whisk together with fork. Add milk and egg mixture to dry mix.

3. Add remaining ingredients to mixture (mashed bananas, greek yogurt, butter, vanilla). Stir together until well mixed.

4. Makes 2 dozen full size muffins or 2 small loafs of bread (or one of each). Scoop batter into greased muffin tin using an ice cream scooper (one full scoop per muffin). Or pour batter into greased and prepared bread pans. Bake muffins for 12-18 mins and bread for 30-35 mins or until knife or tooth pick poked in the center comes out clean.

*Ground flax meal is optional but I wouldn’t leave it out, this AMPS up the health factor by adding lots of fiber and Omega. I use Bob’s Red Mill Whole Ground Flax Meal, I think this also makes the texture and flavor extra yummy! Ground Flax Meal is also a great brain and heart healthy addition to any bread, baked oatmeal or even smoothie recipe! 

Happy baking!

That’s my Shiny ~ J