Plus Plus Turkey

I’ve talked about Plus Plus tiles before because we love them around here. They’re fun and versatile and open-ended, and easy to clean up into a basket at the end of day and still look tidy. Basically all the things I love most in toys!

Whereas I originally purchased a box of both small Plus Plus pieces and a box of large Plus Plus pieces, I super adore the mini maker tubes of the smaller Plus Plus tiles that come with instructions for making specific creations. (Also, hint hint, these tubes of Plus Plus pieces fit perfectly in a stocking, and they’re cost-friendly!)

Miss H and Mr. B recently had the opportunity to check out the Plus Plus Turkey, and they were quite pleased. I decided to give it to them as a team effort, which worried me only slightly since they’ve entered this d e l i g h t f u l stage of squabbling. About everything. You know what I’m talking about.

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But I was pleasantly surprised, and instead of using their leadership and delegating skills on one another (see how I can make that a positive spin), they worked collaboratively following the directions. They even made Plus Plus people with the extra tiles in the tube when they had finished the turkey (honestly, I don’t know if there were supposed to be extra pieces or they didn’t follow the directions to a T; but they were happy so I didn’t question it.)

So if you are looking for a fun way to entertain kiddos on Thanksgiving, or really anytime, I would definitely check out the Plus Plus Turkey, or any of their other fun maker tubes!

 

***We were given a Plus Plus Turkey tube in exchange for this review, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are genuine and mine alone.

Almost 4 months in

Bean has always been precocious for her age, and that’s saying a lot coming after her big sister and big brothers. I’m always a little surprised when people comment on how mature Mr. B is, because I’m often, unfairly, comparing him to Miss H and she is even more mature.

Yesterday at the B’s visual therapy appointment the receptionist told me how she is always so surprised and pleased when B walks in and gives her his name and tells him he’s there for his appointment with Miss Jackie and then quietly takes a seat in the waiting room (I often walk in a few minutes after this because I’m corralling tiny humans). She said there aren’t any other kids who come in and check themselves in, or who are as naturally sweet and polite as he is. Which of course makes my momma heart sing because I never really knew if the whole modeling manners and not forcing manners thing would work out since I was kind of trudging through unknown (to me) territory when I became a momma and decided to try a different parenting path from what I knew.

Even so, Bean is barely two and she speaks in sentences and even M’s therapist remarked at every. single. session. about how very, very precocious she is. Add that to her fierceness, fesityness, and feralness, and she’s a real amazing piece of work to say the least.

So I guess it should have come as no surprise that she would be the one with a few struggles becoming a big sister.

I know everyone has their own opinions on the spacing of kids, but I’m telling you, for us, 18 months or closer has been best. Miss H becoming a big sister to Mr. B was a breeze. She never really cared, had no real regressions, and pretty much forgot he hadn’t always been a part of her life after a few days. It was essentially the same adding Bean beneath Sweet M.

There were 4.5 years between Mr. B and Sweet M though. And though it wasn’t terrible – there were a lot of pros – it was harder for me starting all over with diapers and sleepless nights.

Bean was only 22 months when we had Ave, which doesn’t seem like a huge difference when you consider Miss H was 17 months old when B was born, and M was 18 months when Bean was born. But holy moly.

She misses being the baby. She went from fully potty learned to requesting diapers again (but thankfully that has mostly surpassed us). She wanted to sit in a high chair again. She’d request to be spoon fed. She used to rarely let me carry her, now she always wants to be carried.

And while I am pretty lax and go with the flow and just embraced it as it was, it was the biggest adjustment out of all the kids having a new sibling. I was definitely thrown off kilter because I just didn’t expect all of this.

What also made it tricky is that Bean and Sweet M are so close, which is obviously beautiful and everything I hope for for my kids. But when one is feeling off or in a funk, they feed off of each other. So although M hasn’t had any adjustment issues with Ave – he adores her to pieces and is basically the sweetest big brother (tied with B, of course!) – he empathized with Bean so hard that it made him a little more cray cray than usual there for a hot second as well.

Fortunately, they seem to have themselves together again, and things finally seem to be finding a new balance of normal, and I am finally starting to feel like it’s okay to breathe again. At least a little bit.

 

 

 

Photo credit to the amazing Ashley Athey

A Whole Bunch of Feelings

Holy Cow, do my kiddos have a lot of big feelings. And we’ve been feeling them hard lately in all directions.

Luckily, I am typically pretty good at embracing those big feelings. I say “typically” because I’m a human too, and some days I probably don’t embrace them as I should. I want them to know that all those big feelings are valid, even if they don’t make sense to me. I want them to express them, even if it sometimes means I have to battle my own inner voice that wants to shut them down because it’s what it learned long ago.

Bean’s current favorite bedtime book is “A Whole Bunch of Feelings.” We, of course, don’t read the whole thing every night, because it’s much too long for Momma, but I read a few pages to her, and it’s so interesting how she just curls up on my lap, even at just 2, and seems to really get it. I mean, she is the one requesting this book each night.

Because we are such a bookworm family, it should come as no surprise that it’s just one of the many ways we discuss all the feelings. “A Whole Bunch of Feelings” is a great book for helping discuss past emotions and situations, and a way to think about feelings and moments to come.

This book discusses many of the same feelings that can be found on our feelings flashcards I previously wrote about, as well as some that aren’t on our flashcards. But “A Whole Bunch of Feelings” goes a bit more in depth, giving short little story scenarios in which each feeling may arise. Although this book is geared for the 5-8 crowd, and Mr. B (age 8) and Miss H (age 9) have both definitely enjoyed it, it is very well loved by Sweet M (age 3.5) and Bean (age 2). Especially by Bean. So I would probably expand that age range myself.

The book has beautiful illustrations filled with diverse characters; my children were definitely excited to see all shades of people, including people that resembled them and their papa, which isn’t always the norm.

“A Whole Bunch of Feelings” is a beautiful book for your library collection, and I would definitely recommend it for all families. The more we understand and accept all of these big feelings, the easier life is to process and muddle through. And who doesn’t want that?

 

***This post is sponsored by Timberdood, but all thoughts and opinions are mine.***

For the love of God, can we just listen to women when they say something is wrong with their body?

I’ve been kind of muddling over the past few weeks.

The thing is, I’m really lucky. I’m lucky things weren’t worse. That they didn’t get worse.

But I’m also feeling pretty angry.

I know it’s said time and time again that the healthcare system in the US is atrocious. And the truth is, we’ve always had great care. Great doctors. We’ve been fortunate to have good health insurance where we never have had to question if we should take our kids to the doctor or not due to costs, etc. We’ve always been seen immediately when needed.

We’ve been lucky.

A few weeks ago I drove to Minnesota with 4 of my kiddos (Miss H stayed behind with J). Without going into too much graphic or gory detail, what I assumed was my menstrual cycle returned while on this trip, but in a semi-terrifying way. I’d never lost this much blood, even post-partum, but I was in no pain so I simply accepted it and made it work, including making the 12 hour drive home that Monday.

I assumed it would pass, as it was worse in the mornings, and then seemed to taper out by the afternoon, but it wasn’t letting up. On Tuesday, day 4 of this, I finally called my gynecologist’s office. Since I had three babies in 3.5 years, I had not been into her office in over four years, as she was not my back up doctor if I had needed to transfer to the hospital for any reason. Because of this, I was not considered an active patient, and was told I would need to re-establish care with that office, and they could get me in at the end of December. It was the middle of September. And I was hemorrhaging now.

They encouraged me to go to the ER with my presenting symptoms.

I then called the obstetrician’s office whom I had used for pre-natal care and who would have delivered my babies if I’d needed to birth in the hospital for whatever reason. Since I was more than 6 weeks post partum, I was no longer considered a patient at that office either, and again, was encouraged to go to the ER. With my symptoms they insisted I would need an ultrasound and they were not certain if walk-in clinics would have the equipment, so the ER would be my best bet.

So I called my husband home from work. I left my tiny little baby. And I went to the ER.

Hemorrhaging, y’all.

So in the waiting room, where I waited for nearly 2 hours (this isn’t a thing in Hawaii, by the way. Like they are calling you back before you are even fully checked in and are the most efficient doctors and nurses in the world. And it’s not because they aren’t busy, they just have a stellar system that other hospitals could adopt, but don’t because, I don’t know why. They suck.) I’m pretty certain a gentleman had a full fledged heart attack in the waiting room, but no one with medical training seemed alarmed, so there was that. They finally called me back.

I tell three different people what’s been going on before I see the doctor. No problem.

The first thing the doctor asks me after introducing himself and making me tell him the whole shebang again, is if I have anxiety. He fucking asks me if I have anxiety while I’m literally hemorrhaging on the table.

He then tells me he’s going to check things out. I have blood clots the size of the palm of my hand. This has been the norm now for four days.

He assures me there are no tears on my cervix.

And I look at him like he’s lost his mind I’m sure, though it’s not intentional, and ask him if that’s a serious concern we currently have because I’ve literally never heard of that nor was it a concern I personally had. I do refrain from telling him I’d had waaaay too much time in the waiting room to confer with Dr. Google, and there are a solid 2,938,473 reasons why this could be happening, tears on my cervix is not one of them.

He tells me I’m just having my first post partum period and it’s a little heavy and I’m just overly worried.

For fucking real.

I assure him that I’ve done this a few times and know my body fairly well, this is something more.

Again, he tells me I’m just having my period and I’m fine to go home.

I tell him that my mother has a history of fibroids and could this maybe be something I have and be causing the hemorrhaging? He shrugs and says maybe, and then tells me I should make an appointment with my gyno. (I did. But remember, she can’t see me until December). 

And he leaves.

And I leave. In my hands are discharge papers that state all the symptoms in which I should return immediately to the ER if I experience; literally all the symptoms I am in that moment experiencing as I’m being discharged.

The week goes on. I keep hemorrhaging. I’m tired. Everything I own is now ruined. Sheets. Pants. I’m afraid to go anywhere because when I least expect it I find blood gushing down my legs.

I call doctors. No one will see me. I’m not an established patient. It will take months to get in.

The ER keeps telling me to just go see a gynecologist.

No one is listening.

It’s like being in a wind tunnel. I’m screaming at the top of my lungs that something isn’t right, but no one is listening to me. No one can hear me.

I feel desperate.

But I’m also super healthy. I’ve never really needed a doctor.

I start to second guess myself.

Maybe that ER doctor is right. Maybe it’s just a normal post partum period and I’m building it up to be something more than what it really is. He deduced me to a hysterical little girl, and maybe he was right.

But also. No.

Just no.

J leaves early Sunday morning. Over a week since this all began.

Huh. Over a week.

It dawns on me that even if it were just a heavy post-partum period, it shouldn’t last more than week.

Okay.

One more time.

I call my mom to come stay with my kids, cancelling plans we’d had for that day. I go to a walk-in because I need different results than what the ER keeps giving me. I need someone to listen to me.

And you know?

The fabulous PA in the walk-in that literally got me back within minutes listens. She hears me. She nods her head and shakes her head, her eyes wide. Not once does she think I’m being silly.

She tells me she wants to run a few blood tests and give me an ultrasound. Something is not right with my body.

Finally. Some one is listening to me. 

First though, she has to call the OBGYN who is on-call and confer with him.

No problem.

She steps out of the room for a few minutes and then comes back in. I know it’s disappointing news all ready.

“I’m really sorry,” she says, “But Dr. X says with your symptoms, you really just need to go straight the ER.”

BUT I HAVE. 

I start to cry. I really don’t mean to. And I’m not a crier. But oh my goodness. How long is this going to cycle back and forth? For how long can I do this? At what point will I just bleed everything out? I’m really tired now.

So I leave, and I do not go to the ER.

Another gynecologist can get me in the day after Thanksgiving.

Okay. That’s the soonest. It will have to be good enough, I guess.

But Monday morning whirls around and my original gynecologist’s office calls to make a follow up. What? Great! The PA from the walk-in sent them my info. Perfect.

But then the lady on the phone goes to make my appointment and tells me I’m not actually a patient, so she can’t. But she’ll patch me through to the nurse so I can talk to her.

Sweet Baby Jesus give me strength.

I relay everything to the nurse on the other end of the phone. And she tells me what I’m all ready anticipating: “With those symptoms you need to go straight to the ER.”

The ER won’t see me. They tell me to go to my doctor. My doctor won’t see me because I haven’t needed her in the past few years.

So I tell this nurse that they called me to make an appointment, not the other way around. They needed to see me. Now. Today.

I’m sure I sounded desperate at this point. I’m all alone with five little kids. My husband is an ocean away. My mom is in another country. I need to be not so tired so I can function. I need to be able to go to the grocery store and not fear I’ll leave a blood trail on their tile floors. I need a doctor to listen to me.

The nurse agrees. She hears me. My desperation. They get me in at 1:30 that afternoon.

As the ultrasound tech takes more pictures than have ever been taken while pregnant, I’m not even surprised when the OBGYN comes in to tell me there is a mass of “something” in my uterus. She’s assuming it’s placenta. I’m trying not to look at her like she has 12 heads because my baby is 11 weeks and I’d pretty much be dead if it were placenta (I have no fever, no pain); though I don’t care. She can think it’s anything she wants, an elephant for all I care so long as they do something. And with the rate at which I’m bleeding, she sends me straight to the hospital, do not pass go, do not collect $200, for a D&C.

All while I’m piecing together care for my five babies and trying not to panic because I’m going to have to go under and what is in my uterus and my husband isn’t here and omg, what if I just don’t wake up and all.the.things are going through my brain.

When it was all said and done, I was borderline in need of a transfusion; the OBGYN on call was surprised I wasn’t worse off if I’d been hemorrhaging all week the way I was there at the hospital. I showed her photos of blood clots that horrified her. I consented to a blood transfusion only if it was absolutely necessary, simply because there are a host of issues that can arise with that, and fortunately was able to evade that need.

In a nutshell, which I learned at my follow up appointment two weeks later (and was another sort of hell to make that appointment, but this is long enough), I learned that a nearly 2-inch fibroid was removed, and she was actually surprised she was able to remove it during the D&C because it was bigger than she was expecting and took a bit of work.

You guys. This could have all been dealt with that very first time I went into the ER if the doctor had just listened. If he’d given me an ultrasound and actually listened I could have dealt with this while my husband was home and my mom was in the country and when things didn’t seem quite so terrifying and exhausting.

But welcome to America. We totally listen to women when they say something is wrong with their bodies.

Also. We have first class healthcare.

 

Feelings Flashcards

I am sure it comes as zero surprise to anyone who knows us well that we are big on “feelings” in our house.

We recently finished reading “The Giver” and then followed up by watching the movie (spoiler alert: the book is always better!), and throughout the whole thing my big kids would tease me about how much they talk about “feelings” throughout. Almost as much as we do, they said!

Seriously though, I want my kids to feel heard. I want them to feel validated, even if their feelings may seem a little silly sometimes to the big people in their lives (“I hear you’re upset that your brother has the purple cup. You wanted the purple cup. That’s disappointing.”). But it’s hard to feel validated if you can’t properly articulate what you are feeling.

Emotions are so much more diverse and complex outside of just “happy, sad, mad.” And when we just stick to those three basic terms for how we are feeling, we are missing out not just on some really great vocabulary, but we are often missing the entire essence of how we are feelings.

We’ve been very fortunate that all of our kiddos thus far have been pretty verbal early on; the girls even earlier than the boys. And if we are being completely honest, Bean is in a league of her own for only being 2 years old. That girl has a lot of opinions and sass, and the whole world can understand her, ha.

But one fun tool we have found in our home to help expose our kids to the different words for different feelings, and to help open up conversation about how they may have felt, or how they might feel in certain situations, have been with their Feelings Flashcards.

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These flashcards are super fun and colorful. Each flashcard has a feeling on each side, almost always antonyms of one another such as “bored/busy.” They give so much to discuss and explore with each card.

They’re also very thick cardboard, so quite durable (though I will attest, they are not indestructible when you have toddlers…). They’re large enough for small hands to comfortably hold and use (and because they’re so colorful, Sweet M and Bean also like to point out all the colors on each card, too!).

I’ve been choosing a card, or letting one of the toddlers choose one, every few days. We investigate the card together, discuss the feelings vocabulary, and talk about times when they might have had those feelings, or when someone they knew might have. And they’re definitely incorporating the vocabulary into their daily language, as Sweet M declared “I’ve got ants in my pants!” the other day while dancing around the living room; a phrase he got straight from his Feelings Flashcards. 

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And while I’m certain that I could teach my kiddos about feelings without the help of aids, they certainly help! There are some I definitely would not have thought to discuss with my kids on my own as they’re just feelings I myself don’t think of specifically very often. Such as “carefree,” the opposite of “worried.” We’ve definitely talked about “worried” before, but “carefree” likely would have never come up in a conversation organically, or at least not for while.

So if you are looking for a way to delve deeper into the world of feelings with you kiddo(s), or maybe looking for a way to even start those conversations, I would unquestionably recommend Feelings Flashcards. They’re a fun way to get the whole family talking about how they’re feeling!

 

 

***I received a set of Feelings Flashcards for review by Timberdoodle, but the thoughts and opinions are genuine, and mine alone.***

Return to CYO Camp

I was the weird kid who dreamed of boarding school and summer camps; the kinds of adventures that would be worthy of a childhood novel. But I did neither (well, one week of camp when I was eleven, which I loved!). So it’s no surprise that I sought out my own adventures when I was an adult, starting with summer camp.

I had the privilege of working at a nearby summer camp the summer I turned 19.

I met a lot of amazing people that summer. Both peers and kids. Shared a lot of laughs and late night chats. Sang more songs than I would have ever dreamt my off-key voice could belt.

I grew as a person. Got a little broken. Got a little wiser.

I wouldn’t change it for anything.

So when Miss H had a class field trip to CYO Camp, I knew I had to go.

Fortunately J is in town so he was able to take the day off work to stay home with the three littles. I really didn’t want to schlep them around camp all day, and really, I wanted to spend time with my big girl. I want her to know she’s oh-so important to me, even if the little ones tend to take more of my time and attention these days. It doesn’t diminish my love and adoration of her.

Also, it’s kind of surprising how easy it is for me to say “toodles!” to the toddlers and baby. Avellana is only 10 weeks old and I didn’t hesitate to leave her for the day. I 100% would not have done that with Miss H at 10 months old, let alone 10 weeks. Nor Mr. B. But it gets a little easier with each one, to know that they are perfectly safe and loved and well cared for even if I’m not around. Obviously I don’t question their father’s ability to care for them at all, so that also makes it way easier. If it had been a sitter for the whole day that may have been another story.

Anyway. It was such a joy to return to my old stomping grounds and to be surrounded by Miss H and her classmates. You genuinely could not ask for more fun kids to be around. But I also really like kids. Clearly. No one has five kids if they don’t like them. Or they probably shouldn’t anyway.

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So much has changed. So much. And yet it is so very much the same.

It’s crazy how much smell makes you remember things. The smell of bat scat brought back so many memories. What a super weird, yet welcoming smell.

The smell of the soap in the bathrooms. The same soap from 12 years ago that kids used too much of, and too little of, all summer long.

Such a reminder of how brief childhood is. Even the youngest of campers who would have attended the summer I worked there are 19 now. The same age I was then. Their childhoods passed so quickly. My own youth slipping away with each passing year. My own babies growing faster than I sometimes feel I can keep up with. It’s all so fast.

And yet so slow.

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Miss H spent the day gathering information and creating plans of returning to camp next summer. She wants to go for a week and enjoy all the beauty and wonder that it holds. And while it all ready hurts a little to let her go – she’ll be double digits by then! – I also want that experience for her because I know she’ll love it and flourish.

They still tell kids there is a hippo in the lake. There is still archery – my favorite. They still play Gold Rush. The food is still oddly amazing. It’s still a little too hot, and the cabins a little musty. It’s still a world outside of my element that I find a wee bit overwhelming and uncomfortable, but a whole lot of fun and worth it.

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When our day there was done Miss H told me she was glad I got to go with her and spend the day with her. I told her I was glad, too.

And I am.

I’m glad I got that time with my ever-growing firstborn. That I got to be there the first time she walked through CYO camp all bright eyed at how amazing it all is. That she knows she matters so, so much to me. In 10 short years she will be the same age I was when I worked at that camp. And while 10 years may seem like a long time for some, I all ready know how quickly that time will slip by.

Fun with Plus Plus Big

With five little ones I feel like I’m non-stop multi-tasking and have to have a million tricks up my sleeves to keep the chaos minimal. Not gone, of course, because Sweet M’s middle name truly is Mayhem, and he was well-named, but minimal.

Often I hear people talk about “educational toys,” and the truth is, I sometimes fall into that pit of forgetting that play is learning for children, in all capacities. Sometimes I feel like if I can’t measure what they’re learning than maybe it isn’t useful or purposeful. But that isn’t true.

Ever.

When I’m trying to do school work with one kiddo, that leaves four other kids who need to entertain themselves. Well, okay, Avellana is pretty much always sleeping or nursing, but that’s still three other kiddos.

One of their absolute favorite activities is playing with Plus Plus Big tiles. They’re fun for all of my kiddos all the way from the 9.5 year old down to the 2 year old. Seriously.

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Sweet M is channeling his future Vogue pose here, complete with goggles and a chupi. We can all only wish to be this cool some day.

We found our love for Plus Plus before we learned of the Plus Plus Big. Those were life changing because they’re not really a choking hazard or susceptible to being vacuumed like their counterparts, which is always a win. Also, as much as we love Legos (and we REALLY love Legos), I love that Plus Plus Big aren’t quite as painful to step on, they’re easier to separate when you want to build new things, and there isn’t a million different shapes that I feel compelled to organize into compartments. I can toss all of the Plus Plus Big pieces into one container and feel like the organization gods will not condemn me.

You can play with Plus Plus Big completely with your own imagination, or use their giant cards to create works of art by following their patterns. Either way, my kids are learning. Er, playing. And that’s a beautiful thing.

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Original creation by Sweet M, age 3.5.

We got our Plus Plus Big tiles from Timberdoodle, and they are included in their complete preschool curriculumBut they can definitely be purchased outside of the curriculum because, as I said, these are well loved by all ages. J and I even enjoy getting in on the action with them, which says a lot because I don’t play as well as he does with the kids. I can read books and play board games and do school lessons and go to museums, but actual playing is more challenging for me. But I enjoy playing Plus Plus Big with them.

So if you’re looking for a new, long-lasting activity for your kiddo of any age, Plus Plus Big has you covered; whether you are wanting to teach colors, patterns, counting, constructing, or simply delve into their imaginative play, you will not be disappointed.

 

 

 

***I received a set of Plus Plus Big in exchange for this review, but all thoughts and opinions are genuine and mine alone.***

Minnesota State Fair

One of J’s favorite things is the Minnesota State Fair. If you know J at all, you know how…interesting…this is.

He doesn’t like large crowds, lots of noise, or any setting where he feels like he might lose a kiddo (he’s super malleable, but he still isn’t quite a free-range as his counterpart, but he’s good at stifling his worries for the most part).

Regardless, the state fair does it for him. In Minnesota anyways (ours is rather lame).

Last year I trekked the kids up to Minnesota sans J because he was in Hawaii (boo hoo, right?) and it was pretty fabulous. The weather was perfect, the kids were easy, it was a good time for all of us.  J was super bummed he missed it though, and I spent nearly a year hearing about it. I mean, in fairness, we had deep friend cookie dough for the time ever, and he missed it. I guess I likely would have sulked about that forever, too.

A huge portion of my family lives in Minnesota, including my dad, step-mom, sister, and two of my brothers, so any excuse to visit is always a good one. Plus, adventures with extra, helpful hands are always a wonderful added bonus.

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J was really determined we make it up there this year, even though we had a newborn. I thought he was slightly insane (I mean, he is, but whatevs), but I loved him too much to say no. And I’m glad that I didn’t because it worked out really well and was pretty smooth-sailing.

Plus, who says no to deep fried cookie dough? For reals.

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It was so nice to get to enjoy my sweet big kids and ride a few rides with them while my parents loved on baby. And she’s so chill that I could leave her for a bit and she not mind. You have no idea what a blessing that is unless you’ve ever had a baby you couldn’t be separated from for one single second without catastrophic results.

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The weather was grand again, and everyone was on their A-game. We ate too much food, rode too many rides, and the kids were totally immersed in the STEAM booths set up. It was a super fun, sunshiney day.

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Find It

My kids are obsessed with books, and it pretty much starts in the womb. We read every day.

Every.

Single.

Day.

And I will often find my toddlers sitting on the floor, or cozied up on the couch, looking through books on their own.

It’s not uncommon to be in the middle of something and to have a tiny human thrust the edge of a book into my leg or arm, saying, “Momma, read dis.”

And because I’m a sucker for books (it’s the only thing they know they can ask for at any store and I am utterly unable to to tell them, no, they cannot have it. So we have a lot of books), I pretty much always stop what I’m doing and read to them.

I also read to each toddler individually before bed each night, and the big kids together, because we typically spend about an hour reading from a chapter book.

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Bean’s current favorite books are the “Find It” series. She requests to “read” them every night. And they came in handy on a recent cross-country road trip, as well.

The series is comprised of four different toddler-friendly board books: “Animals,” “Farm,” “Things That Go,” and “Bedtime.”

Each book has colorful pages with large pictures of coordinating theme objects or animals on one page, and a vibrant setting on the next page where your kiddo can “find” the object. Think “I Spy” for toddlers. What’s especially nice for those tactile toddlers is that the objects you are finding are outlined, so if you’re touching them you will feel them.

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Bean just turned 2, and she really loves these books that are recommended for ages 0-3, and I suspect will still be entranced with them for the foreseeable future. Sweet M is 3.5 and also enjoyed a few rounds of them, but has mostly outgrown them at this point, which seems appropriate and exactly age-ranged.

We really enjoy these books, and will definitely be a staple in our family library for many years to come between Bean and baby Avellana.

 

 

***I received a set of Find It books from Timberdoodle in exchange for this review, but all thoughts and opinions are genuine and solely mine. ***

The Birth of Hazel Penelope Maru

***If birth, breastfeeding, and/or semi-nakedness is not your cup of tea, you’ll want to bypass this post.***

It’s taken me far longer than I intended to sit down and write this post. I guess that’s my life now with five sweet darlings to call my babies.

Hazel’s birth was pretty magnificent, and there is so much I want to say about it.

Let me start about 8 years ago, shortly after Basilio was born. After he was born I dreamt I gave birth in my bathtub, solo. It was very vivid and really stuck with me, even though Jaime had been cut by that point. Eep.

Each baby I’ve had has been quicker than the last. And they’ve all had a fairly predictable schedule. I lose my mucous plug. Contractions start. And then I have a baby in my arms a few hours later. Super easy for the most part.

Well, I assumed the same would be said for our fifth babe. But we all know what they say about assuming.

Baby “Fimito” was due on the 3rd of July, and my only hope was that she didn’t come on the 4th of July. Also, I was 100% convinced that “she” was a “he.”

I attended mass on Sunday, July 7th with my big kids. Half way through I had to pee, so I excused myself to the bathroom to discover I’d lost my mucous plug.

Cool.

Baby time.

By the time mass had ended I hadn’t had a single contraction. But whatever. I’d always had a baby in my arms at max, 12 hours after the loss of my mucous plug. So by 10:30pm tonight, I’d be meeting my sweet baby.

Wrong.

Nothing was happening.

At all.

So we ventured to the playground that hot, hot afternoon where I had maybe two contractions the whole time, but lost more mucous plug. That was weird because I’d never lost it in pieces before.

Hm.

I had a few sporadic contractions throughout the afternoon/evening, but nothing that told me baby was imminent. I even texted my midwife and let her know, but went to bed in hopes of something happening around 9:30pm.

I awoke a little after midnight with a very mild surge.

Finally.

Game on.

Except it was another 20 minutes before anything else happened, and I dozed in and out of sleep, not even needing to get up for the contractions because they were so mild.

By 4:30 I was pretty annoyed because they weren’t remotely close together and I was pretty sure this was going to be the longest labor of my life. I’d never had a labor play out like this before. Essentially just not progress. The contractions were effortless, and there was no bloody show or anything. I was feeling really anxious because this seemed tedious and unmoving; like an event I’d be participating in for the next few days, not hours. And I wasn’t sure if I was up for that.

My back ached so I got in the bath tub for a bit, but nothing changed. The bathtub was too small for my swollen body to provide much relief, though I dozed off and on until the water turned tepid.

The waves still erratic and sporadic, I woke Jaime up and asked him to fill up the birth tub downstairs for me so I could be fully submersed and possibly have some back relief. I remember telling him, “If this is the way it’s going to be, I’m not sure I can do it. It’s not bad, but it’s not progressing. I don’t want to do this for days if nothing is going to happen.”

“Uh…I don’t think you have a choice at this point,” he had replied.

“Yes, I do,” I had told him before heading downstairs.

I called my amazing midwife at about 5:30 and asked if she’d head over. I wanted her to tell me I was making some sort of progress because this was unlike any of my previous labors and I was fairly certain I’d still be doing this by the next nightfall.

Shortly after hanging up with her, I proceeded to get down on my hands and knees, and then laid my head down on the wooden floor. I wasn’t really aware of what I was doing or what was happening in the moment, but in hindsight I think my body was shifting baby into eject position.

Again, I had to pee, so I walked to the bathroom and sat on the toilet. Sitting felt good. I peed, and then felt a pop. I hummed through a surge that came next and then it hit me that my water had just broke.

“Jaime,” I called out softly as he worked in the other room to fill up the birth pool. “My water broke.”

I think he may have said, “okay” at that point, not really aware of what I’d said.

My water breaking was quite odd to me because my water had only ever broken when I was in the throes of pushing a baby out. Sitting on the toilet, I got extra friendly with myself, and then somehow managed to squawk out, “Jaime. I feel the baby’s head.”

He popped his head in then. “Like the baby is coming out now?” he questioned.

“No,” I told him. “He’s still way up there, but I can actually feel his head with my finger, so….about that birth tub.”

I got into the birth tub and Jaime asked if he had time to go to the bathroom. For real. I told him sure, because still I hadn’t had a contraction that seemed intense, any bloody show, or any contractions closer than 13 minutes together. I had plenty of time. I mean, this wasn’t my first rodeo. I knew the succession of signs and progression…

A few minutes later I had a mild surge, but felt the baby’s head move down into the birth canal. This was happening, even though it wasn’t happening by the book. Not the one I followed anyway.

I yelled for Jaime to come back, and for Basilio, who I had heard awaken and scamper across upstairs, to wake up Halloway quick because I was certain I’d never live it down if she missed the birth.

Jaime stood behind me as I squatted in the birth pool. The next push I was crowning, I could feel her mushy head and for a nanosecond wondered if I was maybe feeling a butt instead because it was so soft and I’d never really paid attention to feeling things when my other kids were crowning. But it didn’t matter at this point, there were no backsies, this baby was coming out one way or another.

My butt felt like it was going to rip open so I pushed hard without a contraction, I needed baby to move on out. I felt her head slide out and I reached down into the water. I kept pushing as her shoulders slid out, wrapped like a present with the cord around her shoulders and torso.

Instinctively I unwound the cord and brought her tiny body to my chest. I kept murmuring, “don’t touch me” over and over to Jaime throughout the process. And then when she was in my arms I was in such awe and amazement over what I’d done. I’d brought our child into this world without the aid or need of anyone else. It was extraordinary to me.

I asked for towels as I held her near my chest, and sweet little Morgan came down the stairs to see his new baby sister.

It was beautiful.

It was the most primal, surreal, amazing experience ever. I still can’t wrap my brain around it.

Shortly after my midwife arrived, and my closest friend, Greer. Though I honestly cannot remember in which order. And then my birth photographer. I’d been texting with them all, and had sent them texts when my water broke so baby was coming.

Morgan had the pleasure of helping to cut the baby’s umbilical cord, and then I wanted to go upstairs to my bedroom. Freja woke up at that point.

We still hadn’t picked a name yet. We had a few top contenders for girls, and zero for boys. So a few hours later, sitting on the edge of the bathtub, Jaime and I chatter.

Itzel. Zella. Penelope. Eloise. Elowen. Hazel.

Those were the contenders.

But Jaime wanted Hazel. He’d wanted Hazel from the beginning of my pregnancy. And I’d wanted a Penelope since I was pregnant with Basilio and we’d chosen Lennox Penelope if he’d been a girl. But I also didn’t want people to call her “Penny” so I settled with Penelope as the middle name and not first.

And by golly, she is such a Hazel, that I’m glad I didn’t push for anything else. Because he’d have given me it, but I’d have been so, so very wrong.

And Maru had all ready been chosen, for a boy or girl middle name even though it is technically a “girl” name. It’s the Spanish nickname for the name Eugenia – my paternal grandmother’s name. And only one letter different from the name Mary – my maternal grandmother’s name. A derivative of Eugene, for St. Eugene (the saint of dysfunctional families, which seems a bit humorous). It was a non-nonnegotiable.

And that is how we went from a family of 6 to 7, and I felt like a freaking superhero goddess, because I’d once dreamt I delivered my own baby without help, and then I really did.

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