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    Spring Garden Update





    It's hard to believe, but we're already entering late Spring! So, I thought it would be a good time to update what’s blooming in my sunny & shady perennial gardens since my last gardening post!  The view in my gardens change nearly every day – I love it! Gardening is so peaceful... the connection with the earth... I really can feel the positive vibrations from the plants - it uplifts me!

     

    So back down to earth.  A few of the photos below are of flowers newly planted this Spring (sweet william, stratheden, scabiosa, & yarrow), so they may be blooming out of turn.  I’ll have to wait until next year to see where they fall in the blooming cycle – I usually end up moving things after a year or so depending on height and bloom time.

     

    So here’s what’s in bloom right now (courtesy of my iPhone)!

    First, the sunny garden:


    Cranesbill with Stratheden (one of my favorite spots in the sun garden)



    Alstilbe



    Sweet William



    Daylily



    Coral Bells (these grew so TALL this year!)



    Yarrow (with Phlox not yet in bloom, behind)



    Scabiosa


    Next, the shady garden: 



    Oxalis

     

     


    Lamium (this is a super-quick spreader... I wouldn't mind if it took over most of the shade garden - so pretty!)



    Rose

    So, what's growing in YOUR garden? I'd love to know!

    Posted: May 25 2010, 16:14 by kelly | Comments (2) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Gardening | Outdoors | Seasons

    Three Years





    So it happened.  I’m no longer the mom of a baby.  My youngest is now three: not a baby, not even a toddler… a real big boy. 

     

    It's not like it happened overnight, but man, the last three years sure have flown by. I clearly remember the day he was born: we drove leisurely to the hospital for a non-stress test… and left two days afterward with a baby.  Now, three very short years later, we find ourselves putting our bed back up on its frame and clearing out the baby toys, to make room for the new big boy toys. 

     

    Sigh.

    That’s both a sigh of relief… for the years of night waking and diapers being over; and, a sigh of wistfulness… for the time when he was tiny enough to hold in the crook of my arm.

    My big boy: He’ll talk your ear off.  He loves building and singing. He’s always been a super cuddle hog. And he still thinks his big sister is the best thing on the planet.
    In the blink of an eye, twelve seasons have passed, and my little baby is a big kid.  Parents: hug your babies.  Time goes by so fast. 

    Posted: May 23 2010, 22:21 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Babies | Children | Nostalgia

    Birth: Things I Did Differently





    I've given birth twice.  There are moments of both of my births that feel somewhat unsettled and disempowered, moments that feel triumphant and strong, and moments that are simply amazing.  While I feel mostly at peace with my birth stories, something in me wants to share what I did differently from one birth to the next, or what I could do differently, if I could do it again (note: two children is just the perfect amount for Adam & I!) Maybe it’s the birth activist in me.  Or, the natural-minded mama.  Or maybe it’s simply that hindsight is 20/20. I just wish that every woman could feel successful and glorious and proud no matter how she gives birth.  I’m hoping that by sharing some of the things I’ve learned, I might help another woman reach that place of peace with her birth.

     

    So, with no further ado… the things I’d do (or in the case of my 2nd birth, did) differently:

    #1 – Study up on & practice birth positioning. 

    I think one of the most important factors in an easier labor is having optimal fetal positioning.  That is, having a baby who is heads-down, facing mom’s back, with his back lying along one side of the front of mom’s tummy – in other words, Left Occiput Anterior.  Why is fetal positioning so important? A baby who is occiput anterior will have his chin tucked to his chest, and be able to present the smallest part of his head to the cervix.  What this means is that a baby in the right position will likely be born more quickly and more easily – less pain for mom, and less stress for baby.  A baby not in the correct position (malpositioned) won’t put as much pressure on the cervix, so labor may not start naturally.  Malpositioning may cause labor to be more painful, and baby may have a difficult time exiting, because their head isn’t presenting in a fully flexed position.

    Case in point:  My first baby was Occiput Posterior after being frank breech for the vast majority of my pregnancy.  She turned in the week before she was born.  My labor was long, extremely painful, and ended in a c-section for failure of decent – due to malposition (posterior brow presentation). I understand now this is a very rare position.  Online I found an interesting case study in which the baby was previously breech, turned via ECV (external cephalic version – which was attempted with my daughter, unsuccessfully), the mom went into spontaneous labor, the baby descended in a forehead presentation, and was delivered using a vacuum & repositioning. I found this study interesting because it was done in Australia in 1998, and even then the author mentioned that the decision to rotate baby & deliver via suction (as opposed to c-section) was a tricky one, not easily reached.  In my case, I’d gotten to 10cm (or nearly so – my midwife indicated that I had an anterior lip) pushed for hours in many different positions, and my midwife had attempted to reposition my daughter, but she was “stuck”. A c-section was decided on after much deliberation – part of which included my doctor not being comfortable with suctioning due to my daughter’s forehead presentation, and the other part being that my water had broken 31 hours previously, and I had developed a fever.   

    I want to clarify that I do believe, after much research, in spite of the best efforts given by myself, my midwife, the nurses, my husband, and my doctor, the c-section was warranted.  Unfortunately, I still feel a lingering sense of disappointment and “what-if-itis”:  what if I’d been able to hang on just a bit longer and try a few more positions again (we’d tried hands & knees, standing, birthing stool, lying back with stirrups, half-sitting with a birthing bar, kneeling & leaning forward on my elbows on the drop-end bed… you know, everything), what if I’d waited a little bit longer before getting an epidural (I got one somewhere around 20hrs after my water had broken – my detail memory is spotty throughout my birth story with my first – because it was so long, because I was in so much pain, because my midwife didn’t do many internal checks, and because I don’t have my medical records in front of me), what if I’d stayed home a bit longer (I headed in when my contractions were about 5 minutes apart for an hour – the hospital was 45 minutes away), what if we’d hired a doula who could have helped me understand that staying home a bit longer was okay, or who could have helped me hold out a bit more before getting an epidural, what if baby had been correctly positioned in the first place… the latter the cause for my listing optimal fetal positioning as my #1 do-over.

    There are many ways to affect fetal positioning before labor starts – walking regularly, practicing prenatal yoga (which I did the 2nd time around), chiropractic visits, doing inversions, sitting on an exercise ball, sitting forward instead of lying back in the couch with feet up,  doing regular pelvic tilts.

    Some awesome resources, which I found during my second pregnancy, after learning about the importance of baby’s position in-utero:

    http://www.homebirth.org.uk/ofp.htm

    http://www.spinningbabies.com/

    Take your baby’s position seriously.  It really can mean the difference between an easier or a more difficult labor and birth.

     

    (on my birthing ball during my labor with my daughter – still smiling)

     

    #2 – Hire a doula. 

    With my second pregnancy, nearly the first thing I did after realizing I was pregnant was hire a doula. The first time around, I didn’t really understand what a doula did, why they were so important – so CRITICAL – to birth – particularly when you have no previous birth experience yourself, and you’ve chosen a hospital birth.   I remember wondering why a doula was necessary if you had a supportive partner.  Wouldn’t your partner feel left out?  What exactly would a doula DO if you already had a husband there?

    I now know differently.  Firstly, a doula is familiar with birth – with the stages, the process, the pain and how to cope.  She’s familiar with hospital staff and policy (and which “rules” can be bent or broken). She’s there to help navigate the turbulent and unfamiliar waters of anxious soon-to-be parents, impatient doctors, pushy nurses, and crowding friends & family members.  She can help a mom dedicated to a natural birth plan remember, in the midst of the worst pain of her life, why she wanted to go natural in the first place.  She helps a dad know how best to help.  She’s able to help the laboring mom clarify and state her needs and desires to staff.  She can help a new mom latch her baby on – and this is critical, especially in hospitals who don’t have full-time lactation consultants on staff.  Perhaps best of all, and what I missed the most by not having a doula the first time around, is the certainty with which an experienced doula can tell mom in the midst of a very long labor: “yes, this is normal”, and “yes, you CAN do it”.  Though my second birth ended with a necessary emergent cesarean (olighydramnios + breech + previous C) at 36 weeks, I was still grateful for my doula.  She helped me make clear my needs post-surgery, and helped me with nursing. She set the stage for making me feel empowered in my birth, even while the best laid plans for a natural VBAC were quickly and unexpectedly unraveled. Hire a doula – you won’t regret the money spent.

     

    (me and my doula - before my son's birth)

     

    #3 – Put EVERYTHING in your birth plan. 

    Not just the good stuff, but the not-so-good stuff too.  From early labor right through to the days after baby is born.  While creating my first birth plan, I barely scratched the surface of things I didn’t think would ever happen (i.e. an IV, constant fetal monitoring, pitocin, nubane, epidurals, and a c-section).  Naively, I really didn’t imagine anything would go any way other than as planned. While that type of thinking may have set my mind for success, by doing so, I unfortunately missed out on educating and preparing myself for the “what ifs”.  I didn’t fully research the process of c-sections because I assumed I’d never need one.  I didn’t look into alternatives to pitocin, nor the side effects of it, because I assumed labor would move along just fine.  Yes, I’d read about the “cascade of interventions” and how consenting to meds could lead down a path more likely to culminate in a c-section.  Yet, in my head, I wasn’t going to have a cesarean section, and I wasn’t going to need any interventions, so I needn’t put any further thought into it.  Why plan for a disaster when it’s not even on your horizon, right? Except… when I hadn’t slept for 24 hours, and hadn’t made any progress… in spite of my “birth planned” walking, standing, bouncing on a ball, showering, breathing, visualization, all without continual monitoring… and when the pain in my back from my daughter’s posterior position became unbearable… only then, I realized I really had no game plan.   I hadn’t thought of the what ifs.  Because they weren’t going to happen.  Yet… there they were.

    To put it simply: being informed of the side effects of pain meds when you’re nearly out of your mind with pain and anxiety and tiredness isn’t really being informed. It’s certainly not the optimal time in which to be making decisions. And being completely immobilized on the operating table doesn’t lend itself well to making your desires and needs known for post-surgery care for yourself and your new baby.

    So make your plans – all of them – ideal birth AND less than ideal – beforehand.  Put them in writing, and share them with your support people.

     

    (getting sewn up, with my son on my chest)

     

    #4 – Be ready with lactation support. 

    I was lucky the first time around. The hospital where I gave birth was working on “baby-friendly” designation at the time, so, there was a lactation consultant on staff at all times.  Rooming in was strongly encouraged – they didn’t even have a nursery set up for non-urgent care infants.  There were no free formula samples, no bottles or pacifiers given, and all the neonatal nurses were educated and supportive about breastfeeding. But personally, I had only read a few things online and in books about breastfeeding.  I knew my mother and mother-in-law had breastfed, and I planned to do so myself.  But that was the extent of my preparation for breastfeeding. Again, like with the c-section, I never imagined that things could or would go other than “as planned” – so I didn’t have any alternate plans. Had I not had the amazing support of the staff lactation consultant, I’m not sure I’d have been able to make it through delayed milk coming in, an extremely jaundiced baby (due to ABO incompatibility) in the hospital for a week, and the complexities and frustrations of using an SNS and pump.  At the time, I didn’t know anyone in La Leche League – in fact, I’m not sure I’d even heard of LLL.  I didn’t have any friends in real life who had breastfed.  So, really, in the case of successful breastfeeding, I was just plain lucky.  The second time around, I was prepared with a doula, my LLL contact, a lactation consultant, and friends in my phone.  Not to mention the experience of successfully breastfeeding my first.  Don’t leave your breastfeeding relationship to luck.  Be prepared.  

     

    (my milking machine & SNS - my constant companions in the hospital after my daughter's birth)

    What I’ve learned through two pregnancies and births is that you can’t control everything.  There’s always an element of the unknown; the unknowable.  Yet the more information you have, the stronger you will be.  The more able you’ll be to make real informed choices; to feel empowered; to have a plan and make your plan known.  There’s a sense of calm that comes from preparation, and with that you’ll be better able to craft your birth in a way that is more altogether more comfortable, safe, and satisfying in the end. Here’s to better birthing!

    Posted: May 18 2010, 08:20 by kelly | Comments (9) RSS comment feed |
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    Twitter Rocks!





    I love making mix tapes.  Okay, let me rephrase that for the twenty-first century:  I love putting together thematic playlists in iTunes and burning them onto CDs.   So, last night, I was in the mood to make a emo playlist (in the emotion sense of the word, not the hardcore music sub-genre sense of the word).  In search of inspiration, I reached out to my Twitter followers:

     

    I received a ton of replies – quite varied in genre. I also received a few requests to post the list of responses.  So, here are the answers I received (without appropriate capitalization nor spell/accuracy-check, my apologies):

     

    placebo - running up that hill

    harry nilson - i can't live

    mazzy star - fade into you

    jeff buckley - last goodbye

    sarah brightman - love changes everything

    dead can dance - severance

    glen hansard - falling slowly

    gary jules - mad world

    queen - the show must go on

    leona lewis - happy

    kelly clarkson - sober

    christina aguilera - if you're out there, ordinary people

    sigur ros - hoppipolla

    elgar - nimrod

    beach boys - god only knows

    peter gabriel - book of love

    al green - lets stay together

    lauryn hill - ex factor, a song for you

    pearl jam - black, in hiding, rearviewmirror, present tense

    david grey - the other side

    coldplay - speed of sound

    tracy chapman - at this point in my life

    kd lang - a case of you

    amiee mann - wise up

    velvet undergound - candy says

    david bowie - word on a wing

    john cale - ghost story

    pink - long way to be happy

    peter gabriel & kate bush - don't give up

    annie lenox - into the west

    loreena mckennitt - lady of shalott

    wilco - my darling

    israel kamakawiwo'ole - somewhere over the rainbow

    dar williams - i had no right

    the dresden dolls - sing

    ani difranco - angry anymore

    c.r. avery - pocket knife

    joni mitchell - case of you

    kate bush - the woman's work

    u2 - stuck in a moment you can't get out of

    springsteen - if i should fall behind

    colin hay - i just don't think i'll ever get over you

    pink floyd - wish you were here

    ryan adams - la cienga

     

    Also received the answer "anything by" the following groups:

    the smiths

    fiona apple

    death cab for cutie

    portishead

    andrea bocelli

     

    And several songs given sans artist:

    danny boy

    that girl crystal

    piano man

    total eclipse of the heart

    major tom (coming home)

    its raining men

    leaving on a jet plane

    amazing grace

    swing low sweet chariot

     

    And finally, soundtracks/movie songs:

    suo gan from empire of the sun

    hans zimmer  - thunderbird & gladiator soundtrack

    god is trying to tell you something from the color purple

    i know where i've been from hairspray

    ae ajnabi from dil se

     

    I haven’t had an opportunity to look up/listen to all of these songs yet, nor add my own choices & make a mix… but I will! Thanks Tweeps, you rock.  Literally.

    Posted: May 16 2010, 15:37 by kelly | Comments (4) RSS comment feed |
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    Hiking With Children





    We went hiking this weekend for Mother’s Day. It was the first real, long hike we’ve taken A.C. (after children); and Adam and I used to hike and backpack quite a bit B.C. (before children). We were super-excited, and at the same time, not quite sure how it would play out. Truth be told, it ended up as the perfect trip; I couldn’t have planned a better Mother’s Day if I’d tried. The children had a blast - they are naturals in the outdoors! And Adam and I rekindled our love of hiking. Can't wait to plan the next trip - even thinking of trying a backpacking/camping hike next time!

    The hike we chose this past weekend was in the Delaware Water Gap national recreation area in Northern New Jersey/Pennsylvania. It’s positively beautiful in that area (yes, New Jersey!) – breathtaking views, fresh air, even wild blueberries (though of course not yet in season). The weather on Sunday was nearly perfect – mid-60’s in the sun. It was delightfully cool for hiking with a pack (or child) on your back, though a bit chilly for the children, who didn’t have packs, so it kept us all moving. The coolness and breeze also kept the bugs at bay, which was a blessing.

    We hiked a circuit trail up/down Mt. Tammany. The whole hike was approximately 2.5mi, with an elevation gain of 1,200ft – I’d call it a moderate hike in difficulty. It had varied terrain – a bit flat, most rocky, some small boulders, some gravel. It’s a very clearly marked (blazed) trail, and well maintained. Perhaps best of all, the trail was sparsely populated, even for a holiday weekend, which allowed us the freedom to move at our own pace – taking in the sights and sounds of nature, relatively uninterrupted.

    We chose to hike the trail in “reverse” – starting at the Appalachian Trail which is a bit less steep at the beginning, crossing the cascading Dunfield Brook, transferring to the “blue dot” trail, and descending on the “red dot” trail. All told, with several brief rests on the ascent, a half hour stop at the top for lunch, a short tantrum, and a sleeping toddler strapped to my back for the descent, it took us a bit less than four hours. With a 2 year old and 5 year old, on moderately difficult terrain, I call that a huge success.

    For more information on the Mount Tammany hike, here are a few good links:

    http://delawarewatergap.org/MountTammany.aspx

    http://www.trails.com/tcatalog_trail.aspx?trailid=HGN141-001

    http://www.purdes.com/njhiking/tammany/index.html

     

    Along the way, we enjoyed beautiful overlooks, streams, birds, new spring growth, and the peace and inner focus that I’ve only ever found with exertive backwoods hiking. We even picked up few cans left behind by less-than-conscientious previous hikers (pack it in, pack it out, folks!).

    I rediscovered my love of hiking on this trip. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed it just as much as I remembered it B.C., and perhaps even more as viewed within the new, innocent perspective of my children – who just happen to be natural hikers and gentle embracers of the beauty of nature. What a blessing to realize that we could share something we enjoyed so much, with our kids – and find that they really enjoy it too. We're really looking forward to our next trip!

    We managed to capture some of the sights along the way with our iPhones (the joys of modern technology). Enjoy!

    Posted: May 12 2010, 00:29 by kelly | Comments (7) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Family Time | Outdoors | Travel