Thursday, January 7, 2016

Home Improvements

We've worked on quite a few more improvements around our new old house.  We've been here four months now and are almost unpacked.  (I know--not impressive.  I did absolutely nothing for a month before the baby came.  And, to clarify, when I say "we have worked on improvements," I mean: "my dad came to town and did a ton of projects for us.")

The first thing he worked on was painting our wood panelling.  We had the paint all ready to go and we did our part by taking the four boys out of the house for a few hours!

 Dining area before.

Living room before.

Apparently, a fact I didn't know about my father (that my sister did) is that painting is his most detested job of all!  But you really can't deny the huge improvement painting the panelling was and how much it will, seriously, improve our standard of living in this home!  So, thanks Dad.

Living room after painting.  (We tried to choose a color that would go well with the brick fireplace--we're pleased with how it turned out.)

Dining nook after painting.

This wall separating from the kitchen was wood panelling as well.  The ivory paint is such an improvement.  We had only lived here two months when Dad painted but it was such a drastic change it took a while to get used to it!

Another idea that I dreamed up while we waited for the house to close was this bench.  It allows us to push the table much closer to the wall which really opens up the route to the kitchen and laundry room.  There is nothing we can "do" with the additional space--it just helps everything to not feel crowded.

Right now it is painted the same color as the wall, but I had envisioned painting it a certain robin egg teal blue color that I'm incorporating into my kitchen.  When I was telling that to a friend the other day she suggested I could paint my chairs the same color.  I hadn't even thought of the chairs and think that would be really cute.

When my dad first arrived I gave him a tour of the house and basically told him all the dreams and ideas we'd thought of for the house.  Short term/long term, big/small.  Other than the painting and kitchen bench, the only other thing I really wanted him to help work on while in town was the tree fort.  But he latched on to one of the crazy ideas I told him and decided to do it right away.

This is the infamous "stripey wallpaper wall" in the room that is off the front entry way on one side and the kitchen on the other, and is apparently intended to be a dining room, but is fully carpeted, and--frankly--not really dining-room shaped.  Right now it's main use is for homeschool.  Sometimes I call it the "reading room".

When we bought the house we still didn't know if we were having a boy or girl, and we thought that if it was a girl she would need her own room eventually and so we could convert this room.  Since Peter is a boy he can share with his brothers, but we still liked the idea of having a bed in this room for guests to stay in.  We considered a daybed to double as a reading couch, but also thought the stripey wall (that has no window because the garage is behind it) would be a good candidate for a fold-up murphy bed.

My dad agreed and built it right away so that mom can have a nice bed to sleep in when she comes to help out with the baby.  They sell expensive hardware kits with pistons and things, but we just used some heavy-duty door hinges, and made little swing-down legs on the side.  The bookshelves to either side really help integrate it and are super-useful.  And my dad left a nice big display shelf above the mattress.  We now have our double mattress in there all ready for my mom's visit.

We've done more outside the house as well, but I'll share that another day.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

And Then There Were Five

Reader discretion:  This is a birth story and will include frank descriptions of bodily functions and the birth process.

At 6am I was vaguely aware that Jeremy was up out of bed returning one of our kids to their own bed.  I felt a sudden wetness between my legs, and instantly wondered and hoped it was my water breaking.  

I've never had my water break spontaneously before, and I didn't feel or hear the "pop", but after sitting on the toilet a few minutes I was sure I wasn't just passing urine.  I had called Jeremy, and we just sat looking at each other.  He wondered what we do next, and I said, 'Wait for contractions to pick up.'  

We tried to go back to bed.  Twice I put on a pad and lay on a towel, to just quickly jump up out of bed and run to the bathroom!  Finally, I decided to just sit in the empty tub on a towel for a while.  After a little while the leaking slowed down so I got out to join the rest of the family.  Jeremy had already begun to tidy up the house, so we worked on that for a few hours and my contractions slowly started coming closer together and being stronger.  

At 9 we texted some friends about having the boys over and I texted my midwife about my waters and 5 minute-contractions.  She asked if I was ready for her to come over and I told her, "Not just yet."  

I had a couple of pretty serious contractions during breakfast, so we told the boys they needed to get dressed and clean up their trains and Lego's and then we'd take them over to friends' houses.  But during the hour it took to do that my contractions slowed down and got easier.  

At my midwife appointment the day before, she determined that my previously-optimally-positioned baby had slid towards my back to a posterior positioning.  I had spent much of the previous day on my hands and knees to try and give him the opportunity to align himself better, so I did some more of that.  But the contractions stayed sparse.  

We decided, since we needed a few things, to go take a walk around Target to encourage contractions.  It's just around the corner from our house and I packed a towel in my diaper bag just in case I ended up needing to wrap myself up in it and run out!

At 1pm we were in the Jimmy Johns drive through for lunch when my midwife texted me for an update.  She suggested I pick up some castor oil on the way home--since my waters had broken we really needed to have the baby "today".  

At 2pm I drank a fruit smoothy with 2 Tbls castor oil mixed in.  Around 3pm my contractions started to pick up just a little.  At 3:40 we decided to have Jeremy take the boys to friends' houses.  Rory woke up from his nap just in time to go out the door, and I had Jeremy take a picture of me holding him one last time as my "baby".  

As soon as Jeremy left the contractions intensified.  I went in to the bathroom and (aided by the castor oil) emptied my bowels through a number of contractions.

I texted my midwife that she could come over now because contractions had picked up and I was interested in checking on the baby.  (Though I really wanted to insert a disclaimer about not thinking it was really time yet.)  She and her birth assistant and a student midwife all pulled into the driveway at the same time as Jeremy right after 4pm.  The baby was born at 5:04.

They all came in and set up the room for birth.  Remade my bed with fresh sheets and a plastic shower curtain liner underneath.  Another shower curtain on the ground in front of my bed where they also put the birth stool I had mentioned at one appointment I might be interested in.  And pulled out the kit of supplies I had ordered and set everything up.

Meanwhile I had latched on to Jeremy who is always my rock during labor.  I squeeze his hands and pull on his arms and hang on him, and he just provides for me.  He comforts me and stands by me.

My midwife asked if I was starting to feel pressure.  I didn't really answer but in the next contraction at one point  let out a bit of growl with a grunt.  Jeremy (nervously) asked, "Are you trying to push?"

"Yes, she is."  My midwife responded in a pleased tone of voice that I was totally glad to hear--meaning she wasn't telling me to wait!  She asked if I wanted her to check where I was in terms of progress and I did.  So I got up on the bed and she said I was basically there.  I breathed through a few more contractions and then started pushing.

I was trying to push in a controlled manner (always hoping in vain to avoid stitches) but still trying to push hard, but wasn't making much progress.  (After Owen my kids have all come in about 3 contractions.)  We propped me up on some more pillows, she encouraged me to pull back on my knees more.  (At one point scolding me for trying to "run away" from that contraction--which was totally what I had done.)  Then she asked if I wanted to move to the birthing stool.  I did because I was really very confused at why the baby wasn't out yet.

I sat on the stool and the change of position was good just to help me get on top of the contraction and push from a different angle.  His head came slowly out and once it did, I said, "Oh, good!"  unlike Wyatt"s birth where I momentarily panicked in between head and body, this time I was just happy that it actually happened--the head was out, the end was here!  My body took a little pause and with the next contraction I pushed his body out!

He cried right away, and she suctioned his mouth and nose, and I delivered the placenta, then moved up into bed.

Peter Tom, 8 pounds 5 ounces, 22 inches long.  Born 11 hours after my water breaking, 38 weeks 5 days gestation

In this picture you can see a little bit how his head is misshapen from delivery.  He was born posterior (aka "face up", aka "the wrong way"!) But then his head also came through off-centered (I cant remember the technical term)  so his head was elongated to the one side.  Basically, both those things led to the increase in effort needed to push him out.

My midwife said she was wondering in the middle of it all if the baby had a hand up by his face or something, because it was definitely taking more effort and time than are generally needed for a 5th baby to come out!

Mom and baby getting checked out after delivery!

Apparently there was something different about my placenta as well, but I wasn't aware of the conversation going on about it--Jeremy caught a little of it.  But my midwife was telling the other two that they sure got to see a number of interesting things with my delivery.

So we've been recovering at home the last few days.  I'm sore from delivery, but frankly I just feel great not being pregnant anymore--it get's so painful and uncomfortable at the end!

The boys love Peter, and Jeremy is being a great dad--to all the boys.

Baby legs!

Sweet boy!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Wall-E Got it Wrong!

The dystopian future in the movie Wall-E imagines the "big box" stores we see all around us merging into a single entity the "Buy N Large" superstore("It's aaaall you need!"), that takes up the length of multiple city blocks.

(Only 1/3 of the building)
And in 2009 when the movie came out it was certain that this was where the future of shopping was headed.

But then it didn't--at least not for me.

See, it's shopping season again, and this is more what my "the future of shopping" has ended up looking like for me:


Things delivered to my door with just a few clicks of a mouse and keyboard.  And, believe me, I have a guilt complex about it... But it's just so much better!

The obvious reason that shopping anywhere with four kids in tow is no picnic.  But another reason being simply the massive selection that no local store can compare to.

Last year at Christmastime, I was shopping at a neighborhood store and saw something that would be perfect for Wyatt.  But we already had "enough" presents for him for Christmas so I didn't buy it.  When I went back to the store in April, they no longer carried "that version" of the item.   So I went home and ordered it on Amazon instead.  All the while shaking my head and saying "I tried!"

I'm just not going to spend money on something I don't really want simply because it's at a store in town, when what I really want can magically show up on my doorstep in two days.

So if you don't hear from me after this gift-giving season is over, it may just be because I'm buried under a pile of Amazon boxes. . . Or perhaps my giving up the weekly walks around the big box store in favor of sitting on my bum ordering things online means I won't be mobile again until I get one of those Axiom hover-chairs!

(Perhaps Wall-E was right after all.)

Saturday, October 17, 2015

In Our Kitchen

Here's a quick look at a few enjoyable things that have recently graced our table, not organized, but in the order they came off my memory card:

Curry chicken salad sandwiches were just something quick and easy I made for lunch one day. Shredded chicken and diced apples with mayonnaise mixed in until it is as "wet" as you like it.  Then season with salt, pepper, and curry powder to your tastes.  Serve between two slices of bread.

Corn Orzo Zucchini Salad except I left out the onion and jalapeƱo it called for because my kids and I don't like the bite.  (Jeremy on the other hand puts sriracha sauce on almost everything we eat!)  And even though I halved the recipe there was still enough leftovers to make the frittata noted in the recipe, however I was short on eggs that night so I made it into fritters instead and we enjoyed it a second time.  (Actually the boys probably liked it better as fritters, but Jeremy and I loved it the night it was salad as well--flavored with lemon, basil and goat cheese, it really was tasty. )

This was one of those bummer times when the person in charge of picking up groceries (we won't name names) grabbed one package of Cod, which was only two fillets, not even a pound total!  It was a real shame, because it was very good. We just doubled up on the veggies to fill our tummies with this Roasted Cod with Potatoes and Olives.

This Plum Bluberry Upside-Down Cake was a delicious seasonal treat, and the surprise flavor comes from a teaspoon of poppy seeds!  But watch out on the directions, because only half of the 1 cup of sugar is supposed to go into the bottom of the pan with the fruit--oops!  Our cake had a bit of a sugar crust on top--not that anyone complained. . .

I was hankering for some Molasses Sandwich Cookies to get me in the fall mood down here in 95 degree Texas.  I love the creamy molasses filling, but note that it usually makes more than I need for the number of cookies.

On night when looking through the fridge with no plan I looked up some of the ingredients we had and came across a recipe for these Stuffed Pepper Bites.  Although, I didn't go for the suggested filling but used a recipe for Teriyaki Meatballs instead, because that's what sounded good to me.  I made extra meatballs with the leftover filling, and my kids were loving all of it.

This Three Pepper Slaw looks a little boring but that's because It's only a one-color pepper slaw.  Because when I wrote "colored sweet peppers" on the grocery list, the person shopping (again, no names. . . ) brought home the bag of mini peppers that I ended up using to make those stuffed pepper bites above.  (Seriously, did I mention I'm pregnant? and feeling very lazy?  I'm not up to grocery shopping right now!  And actually totally grateful that Jeremy will go do it.) But the next week he brought home a three-pack of yellow peppers because they were on mark-down, so I made this salad that week with them.  It seems boring but the mustard dressing is what makes this so flavorful and fresh!

I don't have a recipe for this Stromboli.  We used our regular pizza crust recipe, and then rolled up what we wanted inside.  One was more pizza-like with tomato sauce, pepperoni, mozzarella, olives and mushrooms.  The other one was pesto, salami and ham, pepperoncinis, olives and mozzarella.  (Also, they were much longer!  We'd already eaten two thirds before I took the picture, but the heels are still there because, they're the heels of course.)

This final one is something I first threw together out of cupboard contents on a night when I was sure we were going to subsist on beans and rice for the rest of our lives!  We have since made it multiple times, because it is actually tasty.  I call it Tropical Rice because giving made-up recipes from the dregs of your pantry a "real" name fools the kids into eating it.

(Side note: When we moved onto the vineyard, we lived in a partially-furnished vacation home of a Chinese couple, and that was our first time ever using a rice cooker.  I always thought it was a "uni-tasker" and therefore had no place in the kitchen, but I came to see the errors of my ways.  So when we moved to Nebraska and I was buying Rory a "new" car seat at a garage sale, I had the woman throw in a small rice cooker to seal our deal.  Now we use it all the time.)

So to make "Tropical Rice" I use coconut milk to replace some or all of the water needed to cook the rice.  I usually throw in a can of white beans if I want it to be the "main" dish. Then I add some shredded coconut, and mix it up and leave it to cook in the rice cooker.  When that is done I add chopped pineapple (I think we've also used mango, and if either are coming from a can use the juice to replace the rest of the water for the rice), and sprinkle on some sunflower seeds for crunch.  This time (if you notice the char on the pineapple) was the night after we grilled on the barbecue, so we had a few leftover bratwurst sausages that I chopped up as well.

Well, those are some things that have been going on in our kitchen lately, we're almost to the change in seasons, which will really start to change things up in the kitchen as well!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

New House: Month One

We moved into our first home one month ago.

It's a nice little home for our family.  We chose a home well-within our current means with the idea of not taking 30 years to pay it off.  Also, with the idea that, since we finally have a real income, we'd like to be able to have some of that income available to make plans with and do things along the way to paying off the mortgage as well.  

That said--the home is a bit of a fixer-upper.  It's totally livable and we are so happy to have it.  We just also have lots of ideas for improving it.  

The project that I din't think would be first, but ended up being first, was some stripey wallpaper in the extra room.  

On day two, Jeremy said, "That's gonna be the first thing to go!" 

I was surprised, as I never dreamt of keeping the wallpaper, but hadn't realized it bothered him so much.  

On night three Owen was sitting in the reading chair in that room and said, "It's making me dizzy." And truth be told, it was sort of like one of those mind bender puzzles, "look at the dot in the center and watch as the outside begins to appear to swirling around the center point like a washing machine!"

So right then and there I started peeling off the wallpaper.  It took two nights and left a completely unfinished, unplastered, drywall with joint-compounded-seams wall. After a few days I searched the shelves in the garage and came up with some beige paint plus primer, and started painting.  

It looks much better now--in that "different colored accent wall" kind of way.  And it's perfect for waiting out further plans.

Then I tried hanging up our flower alphabet cards (as this is our "dining-turned-computer/school/reading room off of the kitchen), but since living in Texas requires ceiling fans running at full blast, half the cards fell down by the end of the first day.  It's now been two weeks and the rest have stayed put, so. . . apparently I need to come up with a plan to get the first ones back on the wall.

But the wallpaper removal and painting are all we have done so far inside the house.  We've done a lot more outside the house, though.

We have a 1/3 acre lot.

That's one of the reasons we bought an older house as well.  Newer houses are on much smaller lots, and have HOA's--Bleh!

The lot was one of the most important factors in choosing a house for us.  And we ended up finding a home on a third acre, mostly open lot.

After watching the neighborhood hummingbirds fight over our feeder of imitation nectar, we figured we could put in an actual pollinator garden for them.

This is the beginnings of that (with cardboard mulch to kill the grass) and I have already seen a hummingbird at that tall one in the center with the small orange flowers!

Speaking of killing grass. . . I layed out three beds for raised garden space.  It's time to be planting already, but I have plenty of experience with fall gardening and season-extending, so I'm not worried about it yet--just being patient.

This is the beginnings of our permaculture swale and berm food forest.  (More on that another day.) Jeremy and I placed our first order from a Texas nursery for trees and other edible perennials last week during a free shipping sale, but they won't come until planting season--probably November.

And this is the beginning of a homemade play structure.  We kind of planned something out, and Jeremy went and bought the wood, but came home with a bit of sticker shock.  So we looked up the cheapest play structure on and proved to ourselves that we were indeed doing it significantly cheaper as a DIY.  

The plan is to erect it under this oak tree, so that it is not really a "tree fort" but a fort up under the canopy of the tree--still fun?  We hope so. 

And those are our accomplishments of month one as homeowners. 


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