CCYOC Journal: A place of my own

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After college, I got an internship working in downtown Portland. I was living in Vancouver, WA and took an express bus to work. In the morning it took around 30 mins and 45 mins plus on the way home. It was great opportunity to read a book. I started reading the Narnia books. I instantly got lost in the world of Narnia. I was working at a video production studio, which was extremely stressful because of the clientele. I was fresh out of college and already jumping into the daily grind of life. I enjoyed my work, but found it challenging and stressful at times. But everyday I looked forward to that commute home where I could read my Narnia books.

There I was, a grown adult dreaming about my trip back to Narnia, a place where I found inspiration, wonder and adventure. Fast forward several years later now married with 2 little ones. I haven’t touched those books since. In fact, besides C.S. Lewis I have almost forgotten about those beloved books. My brain in the last 3 years has been packed full of pregnancies, work, children, home and marriage. I have completely forgotten about my adventures in Narnia. A place I would escape to find adventure and creativity. And while my line of work requires me to be creative, it is not on my own terms. Narnia allowed me to be free in my own thoughts.

My brain now is occupied making sure two little ones are alive and healthy which occupies much real estate in my mind. Even if I have a moment of silence, it’s if my brain has to shut down for repair. By the time my brain reboots, my toddler is up from his nap.

Just the other day, I took my toddler and baby to the coffee shop on a beautiful sunny day. My son Kelly must have been working his cuteness, because they upgraded him to an adult size chocolate milk in a plastic cold cup with a lid. We sat outside and enjoyed the sun. It was a brief miracle as my son just sat peacefully drinking and people watching. I sat in that moment looking off in the distance. My brain began to drift off in a daydream. The door to Narnia was opening. My mind was able to….. BOOM! Kelly held his drink by the lid and the rest of his still very full chocolate milk dropped to the ground and exploded. Milk all over the ground, wall and some of the customers near by.

And I’m back. I can hear my brain telling me – “We are now descending back into mom mode, please turn off all devices and buckle up.” And just like that, I was ripped away from Narnia once again.

This is usually how it goes. In the recent days I have intentionally tried to find time to be creative. What I have learned so far is that I need to be strategic on when and how I will have my own chunk of time. Also I need to be adaptable, because nothing is predictable with a toddler and a baby. I have created a space in the corner of my living room. It’s between my son’s play kitchen and the wall seperating me from my real kitchen. But somedays it might be another spot in my house or even a different location all together.

So here I am. Trying to find my way back to Narnia. Not forever, but just a short visit every once in awhile.
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Birth Story – Petra

“This could be my last meal before the baby comes.” I said to my husband Andrew.

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We were eating burgers at Tilt in Portland. Kelly, Andrew and I spent the evening of New Year’s Day walking around the Pearl District. I bought a new shirt and Andrew got a mountaineering book at Powell’s.

I was getting an odd feeling in my stomach. Not contractions, but as if my uterus machine button was pushed on. Haha. It was a sense.

I got their large bacon burger with onion rings. Yes, I did. Why not? It was going to be my last meal.

Kelly got a kids burger (which was very big for being a “kids” burger). Andrew got the same thing as me.

We got home and put Kelly down for his bedtime. It was a special night. Not only did he get to eat out with mama and dada, but he got to stay up an hour past his bedtime.

I got into my bed and began feeling contractions. A week earlier I had false contractions, so I was a little hesitant to assume I was going into labor. I thought maybe they were braxton hicks contractions (my body practicing).

It was around 9pm I decided to text my doula just to keep her in the know. She asked me a couple questions to revaluate my situation.

She suggested taking a shower.

Doula via text: Keep me updated. A shower or bath will help it to stop if its false labor or start if it’s real. 

And so I did.

My contractions become more mild and so my doula suggested resting, but keeping her updated. I was going to be on the lookout for “the bloody show.” My plan was to labor at home as much as possible.

I drank some water and tried to rest.

It’s midnight and the contractions are keeping me up. I let Andrew sleep. It all seems too familiar. I labored with my son at night too. I knew the routine.

I bounced on my exercise ball.

Bounce. Bounce. Bounce.

It’s 2am – I texted my doula again.

Me via text: They are getting more intense

Doula via text: Pack your bag and then try to rest. But keep timing your contractions.

Doula via text: Intense ones are working.

I couldn’t rest, so I took a shower.

The shower was my best option for managing my pain. Having the hot water hit my lower back was medicine to my painful body.

I kept my doula updated.

Contractions every 3 to 4 minutes.

Painful.

Being coached along by my doula via phone.

Doula via text: Are you able to chat through your contractions? Or do you have to stop and breathe?

Me via text: Possible yes

I’m reading over my text messages to my doula and I can tell I was in pain by my responses.

We have an old water heater from the 70s in our house. It only granted me two hot showers that night. But I guess it knew that’s all I needed.

4:15 am -My contractions are becoming more and more intense. No hot water pressure to help pain management. Now comes the back and forth walking in our bedtime.

Andrew is up. There’s no way he can sleep through my contractions and my constant walking around the room. He has seen this before. He knew exactly what was happening.

That baby was coming. But much sooner than we both that.

Andrew was getting everything together. I was lying in my bed when I got the worst contraction of my life. It was if someone was pulling my arms and legs in opposite directions. Just like some renaissance torture device.

I told my doula and explained how my body felt like it was moving downward.

Doula via text: Let’s get more of those and then call your parents.

My parents live about 10-15 minutes away. They were going to watch Kelly while Andrew and I went to the hospital.

8 minutes after my doula texted me that, I had another bad contraction…. but it felt different then all the others….It felt as if gravity was pushing down on me. 

Me via text: It’s go time

I went into survival mode.

I called my parents. They got there in 15 minutes.

However I could barely make it out the door.

My plan was to deliver at a hospital that was 30 miles away.

I stood by my car in the freezing January early morning having a contraction. My doula was on speaker phone while I was deciding if I needed to go to a closer hospital.

“I’m not gonna make it,” I said out loud.

5:15am – We get in the car and drive off to the nearest hospital.

I remember hearing about women having babies in cars because they couldn’t make it to the hospital. If you are really curious, then youtube it.

People would joke to me about making sure I got to the hospital in time. I would always tell them how rare those cases were.

And here I am. My body is pushing out a baby.

Doula on speaker phone: “DON’T PUSH!”

She could hear it in my voice. I was doing all I could to not push, but my body was in autopilot.

5:30am – I get out of the car while Andrew rushes to grab a wheelchair. The contractions were so bad I couldn’t even walk. We rush to the front desk of labor and delivery. I was in-between contractions while I calmly told the nurse my name and information.

It must have not been that busy because there were 5 nurses hanging out in the center desk area.

In the middle of responding to a question with the nurse I felt a contraction starting. I quickly went over to a corner of the hallway to have my contraction in private.

“Where are you going…..,” said the nurse. Once she saw how intense my contraction was she rushed me to the laboring room. Within seconds I was lying on the bed with a nurse checking my cervix.

“You are complete,” said the nurse.

I wish I could have seen my face.

“I get that look a lot,” said the nurse with a smile on her face.

I asked if I could start pushing. Before I knew it my doula ran into the room with the entire medical staff needed to insist me for this delivery.

I pushed.

I pushed again and my water broke.

Pushed again. But this push was long.

I could feel her head, torso and legs exit my body.

Now that might sound gross, but I hope I never forget that feeling.

Like I do on most rollercoaster rides, I closed my eyes.

I closed my eyes while I used every strength in my body to push her out.

But in the darkest of my closed eyes I could see her being birthed.

Another part of my plan was to not get an epidural. I wanted to feel my body at work. I wanted to feel labor pain. I wanted to feel birthing a baby. It’s bizarre, I know. But it’s what I wanted.

5:45am – Petra was born.

My doula said my face was in complete shock.

My first thought was – I did it!

Tears of joy in Andrew’s eyes, baby in my arms and complete shock on my face.

This is what I want to remember the first seconds of Petra’s birth.

Almost 2 hours later I’m soaking in a hot bath. First hot bath in the last 10 months.

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It was so nice to be able to move around after giving birth. We got into the recovery room after I finished my bath. My parents brought Kelly.

He ran over to me in the bed holding Petra. He handed her a stuffed bear and hugged her.

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I’m typing up this birth story now, while Petra is 4 1/2 months. It warms my heart to see Kelly love her. Not always gentle, but such a desire to connect with her.

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Thankfully I didn’t have her in the car, but I’ll always wonder if I would have. Lol.

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Potty Post: Potty Training My 18 Month Old

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I considered potty training Kelly the moment I read a statistic about how Half the babies around the world are potty trained by 12 months (Pediatrics Magazine), yet in the United States, the average age is currently 3 years old (webMD). My friend Anna told me about the book The Tiny Potty Training Book written by Andrea Olson. I went ahead a looked up Andrea Olson and noticed she also wrote a book about going diaper free. I think at the time Kelly was 7 or 8 months old and I thought about applying elimination communication (infant potty training aka going diaper free). It was overly ambitious of me, so I decided to wait until he was a toddler.

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I read over the book The Tiny Potty Training Book and decided I would go with her method. The author does a great job instilling confidence by offering encouraging words. She also was against rewarding your kid for going potty, which I agreed with. Going to the bathroom should be a normal thing we do, not something extraordinary we need to be praised for. [However, my parents in the beginning started clapping after he went potty at their house, now he occasionally claps after he or I use the bathroom. Ha!]

I would highly recommend using this book. If I can potty train my toddler, then you can too! The author does an excellent job walking you through the process and every challenge you and your toddler may face. All you got to do is follow the directions.

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So here is our experience potty training:

I didn’t start potty training until I had time off from work. That is one of my biggest advice. If you are able to take time off from work, this will help significantly. Andrew also took a couple days off work for this too. I know, it isn’t what you had in mind when using your vacation/personal days. But it is worth it!

Each toddler is different and the book helps you figure out what pace to go at.

We spent a couple days at home trying to figure out Kelly’s signals and schedule. Kelly spent at least 2 full days half naked, while we tried to “catch” a pee or 💩 in the potty. During this time, the goal is to have your toddler associate “the potty” with the act of “going potty.” The book really does an excellent job walking you through the entire process. There is even a troubleshooting section in the back of the book!

The author recommends against going back to diapers after starting the process… which doesn’t include pull-ups during sleep time if you plan on not sleep potty training them just yet). Within 5 days he was potty trained.  Expect that accidents will happen. It is a huge learning process for both the parents and the toddler.

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Here are my personal tips:

  • Try to take time off to train your toddler
  • Try not to do this alone – you get mad cabin fever those first couple days
  • Include grandparents, friends or those watching over your toddler – help them understand the methods you are using
  • Plan to train during a low key time in your life (after a wedding, before the arrival of a new baby, ect).
  • Toddlers imitate everything, so let them see you use the toilet
  • Well before training, acknowledge when they are pooping (in their diaper) – this may help them feel comfortable pooping in front of you and they can link the word and action
  • Have more than one potty available – we bought 2 of the Summer Infant Lil’ Loo Potty. I wanted to make sure there was a potty near him for those first couple days. I ended up buying 2 more, one for each grandparents’ house.

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You can do this!

Please feel free to reach out to me if you have questions. 

Jenny@JennyMano.com

I also bought these items:

Training undies

Little briefs

Carseat protection

Portable potty

Potty boardbook

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Mint Lemonade

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Serves: 8 servings

4 Lemons

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of mint leaves

8 cups of water

 

Instructions:

Cut/cube whole lemons and place in blender. Add sugar, mint leaves and water.

Blend and strain.

Enjoy!

This amount will fill a vitamix blender. I recommend cutting this recipe in half for any other blender.

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Biscuits & Gravy

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The easiest and best biscuits & gravy:

Biscuits

Roughly 12 biscuits

3 tablespoons melted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour, more for dusting the surface
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 F

Melt butter – set aside

Sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a large bowl.
Fold in 1 1/4 cups cream. If the dough is not soft or easily handled, fold in the remaining 1/4 cup cream, little by little.

Turn dough onto floured surface. Roll or flatten with your hands. Thickness should be 3/4 inch. Cut into rounds 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Dip the top of each found in melted butter. Place on baking sheet with parchment paper.

Bake until golden. 12 to 15 minutes.
Serve immediately or flash freeze for future use. Biscuits can be baked straight from the freezer, and additional few minutes baking time will be needed, usually around 3 to 5 mins.

Gravy

Serves 6

1 pound bulk pork sausage (I prefer the spicy sausage from New Seasons)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (2% or whole)
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Warm a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and break into chunks with a spatula. Cook until the meat is crumbled and browned all the way through. Add the flour and cook until dissolved, about 1 minute. Stir in the milk. Cook, whisking frequently, until the gravy is very thick and bubbly (you can add more milk later if you need to thin). Season generously with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Serve with hot biscuits.

Gravy recipe from thekitchn.com

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10 Things I’ve Learned About Being a Mom of a Baby

Kelly is almost 1. While it has only been a year, I made a list of things I have learned (and am still learning) about being a mom. I have learned a lot, but for the sake of simplicity, I’ve listed 10 things.

1. Knowledge is power.
I went into giving birth knowing pretty much every outcome. My brain was an archive of birth stories and birthing techniques. But for some reason, I never thought about reading how to care for a newborn or myself after giving birth. I didn’t have much knowledge about babies. I don’t think I had ever changed a diaper until Kelly. While I felt confident about birth, I knew nothing about caring for a newborn. After months of limited sleep, I found myself reading as many baby books as I could. I interviewed almost every mother I knew. All and all, I survived those first months because of the valuable information I found or was given. While much of early motherhood is trial and error, what made it easier was knowing baby basics (eating, nap schedules, ect). There were phases of fussiness those first few months and the app WonderWeeks (originally a book) was a helplful tool.

2. The holy grail of early motherhood is sleep.

Before I had a baby, I insisted on not being controlled by a schedule. As it would turn out, I have way more freedom with a schedule… and a much happier baby.
People frequently comment on how Kelly is such a happy baby.  From my experience, sleep is the key. After going through a few months of limited sleep myself, I realized how important sleep is, especially for a newborn. It was the 3rd month and Kelly wasn’t sleeping through the night and he
had trouble falling asleep for naps. I was going crazy. Long story short, I read a ton of books!

Here is my personal recipe for sleep:
Nap Schedule: I read Babywise, which gave example schedules for specific ages. The vlogger mom CloudMom had examples too.

Opportunity to transition through sleep cycles: My friend shared the book The Sleep Sense
Program. It pretty much reassured me that letting my baby fuss/cry for a little bit wasn’t going to
harm him. Also – avoiding sleep crutches (nursing to sleep, rocking to sleep,ect).

Bedtime routine: Consistency is key.

He was sleeping through the night weeks later (by 4 months).
Sleep = Happy Baby = Happy Mom

3. Give yourself goals when breastfeeding.
For some mothers breastfeeding is like a walk in the park – literally…. they could be nursing their baby while walking their dog. For the many of us I will be more like a marathon. I got mastitis twice in the first 5 weeks. A friend of mine encouraged me to get to 8 weeks (since it gets easier at 6-8 weeks). And I did!, But then I ran into even more challenges (nursing strikes, biting, ect). Each time I gave myself realistic goals. I have no idea how I got this far. I may not be that mother who can breastfeed while multi-tasking, but I can say I’m glad I continued with it. I have always wanted a superpower. This is the closest I’ll get.

Resources that helped me: Using lecithin (sunflower oil tablets) to prevent plugged ducts/mastitis.
Kellymom.com on breastfeeding was very helpful.

4. I am not a fan of food messes.
Some people hate changing diapers, but not as much as I hate food messes. I don’t let Kelly “explore” his food. I am like “NOPE” not dealing with that mess.

In fact, it is easier to teach good behavior over correcting bad ones. So why not do it right the first time? Ways I prevent a fussy, impatient messy baby at the table is this:

  • Well rested, of course
  • Limit snacking
    I make sure to only give him food at meal time. I currently have one “snacktime” between
    lunch and dinner. By doing this, he is actually hungrier at meal time. I’m convinced that most of the time babies/toddlers play with their food because they aren’t hungry or they don’t like what
    you gave them. If he starts to play with his food, then I just take it away. (I promise I feed my kid).
    If he is hungry during mealtime, then he stays busy eating and begins to understand we eat during mealtime. While this works most of the time, I still have dinners where I find him shampooing his head with smashed bananas.

5. I tell time differently now.
The time it takes Kelly to pull socks out of a bin is equivalent to putting mascara on both eyes. I find myself measuring time based on Kelly’s tasks. Kelly’s nap time has been added to my schedule. Andrew is catching on and beginning to speak my language. “We can do _____ after nap 1 and ______ after nap 2. Even though we stay consistent, we also understand we gotta be flexible. Surprisingly, he napped on the go while traveling to Hawaii. It was a Thanksgiving miracle.
6. Your friends’ kids.
I feel comfortable right now teaching and disciplining Kelly. I’m doing my best not to be a broken
record saying no all the time. However with my friends’ kids I am much more passive. I feel weird telling my friends’ kids what to do. “pick that up,” “you need to share.” I don’t want to overstep my bounds. But I also understand that I want to come alongside my friends and be helpful. This could mean understanding what they want me to do as a friend or knowing their specific style of
parenting. I’ve found it’s helpful to communicate with friends on how they want to direct and teach
their child.

7. The art of self-entertaining.
When I was a kid, I told my dad I was bored. He said,

“There is no such thing as being bored, just boring people”

That has stayed with me ever since. To help teach Kelly patience, I promote delayed gratification. Instead of quickly giving him food when I put him in his high chair, I make him wait while I prepare his food. This gives him an opportunity to entertain himself. I don’t expect him to sit there and stare at the ceiling, but rather find ways to pass the time.

8. Not making my child my world.
I am more than a mom. I am a wife, a friend, a daughter, a visual storyteller, a volunteer, a photographer, occasional children songwriter (haha), wannabe chef, and part-time adventurer. It is all about balance.

9. The root of patience is love.
Love is an action and patience is demonstrated by love. When I am calm and soft spoken, I receive a positive response. This includes my husband as well.

10. I have a new definition of joy.
I will never forget the day Kelly was born. The moment I saw him I started laughing and crying all at the same time. The sound of his cry gave me an overwhelming presence of peace. He was alive and well. Being a mom is more awesome than I could have ever imagined. My prayer for Kelly has always been that he will love God, love others, and have an adventurous spirit. It is such a treasure to see him grow and learn each day. Being a mom has been challenging, but very rewarding. I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

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