Eat Well, Spend Less: One year later

Eat Well, Spend Less series

It's been a whole year since the Eat Well, Spend Less series began! This month, we're writing about the changes in our grocery budgets and eating habits through the past year.

For my family, the past year has been full of twists and turns! Discovering medical conditions of my husband (Joshua) that demanded attention, pregnancy and the birth of our 5th baby, 3 months of having my husband home from work (on medical leave), homeschooling 3 children, and all of the children growing and eating more and doing more as we try to balance frugal and simple and healthy and quick, the 2-year-old just pulled down a stack of puzzles! :)

Last year, my sanity stayed intact and life was frugally simplified by:

1. Having a chest freezer

I still can't believe the difference this has made! We've had our freezer for 14 months now and it has become key in helping our family to eat well on a budget. It has saved trips to the store, allowed us to gather gallons of berries in the summer (without making it all into sugary jam or pie filling!), and afforded the ability to stock up on fish at discount prices.

Kitchen shelves
My "upgraded" kitchen shelves!

2. Bi-weekly grocery shopping

I am still a huge Costco fan! All my reasons for loving Costco hold true. I like their produce. I like their baking supplies and spices. I like their frozen veggies and fruits. I like their dairy prices. And I love only going to 1 store, twice a month! It saves time and I know we spend less when we don't shop weekly.

(We do occasionally go to other stores to buy certain items, like bulk foods. And now that Joshua's back to work, we'll be buying bananas at QFC just down the road for the weeks when we're not doing our "regular" grocery shopping.)

See also: Is Costco Frugal?

Getting ready to pick blackberries

3. Foraging for food

Okay, so I've only foraged two things so far. But still! It's a start, especially for someone (like me) living in an urban area and not having daytime transportation (and needing to take 4 kids along on walks!).

Last summer we picked 12+ gallons of huge, plump, delicious blackberries and froze them! We've been making blackberry syrup and using them in smoothies. Considering the price of frozen fruit in the store, we're saving a lot by harvesting the berries that grow wild here in western Washington! :)

This Spring I've been gathering nettles. (More about that later this week!)

Kitchen shelves

4. Making easy meals and snacks

Unless we're having guests, I mostly follow my "three things and it's dinner!" rule. I've focused more on simple meat main dishes (grilled or baked fish, chicken, or turkey) with a grain on the side (often brown rice) and a veggie on the side (often frozen veggies from Costco). We've eaten lots of beans for lunches and oatmeal for breakfasts.

Snacks are usually no-cook things like fresh fruit, cheese, veggie sticks with hummus, or nuts (smoked almonds are our favorite). Again -- Costco makes these things more affordable, I have the older boys help prep fruits or veggies (doing several days' worth at a time), and I feel good about the food and snack options I'm serving!

5. Eating at home

This one's essential for spending less and eating well. I don't always feel like cooking dinner, but I combat that by having super easy meal options available (freezer burritos or beef vegetable soup from the freezer have "saved the day" more than a handful of times!). I also happily enlist Joshua's help with meals on the weekends, when he has time to grill chicken or fish. And ultimately, being home a lot (like... all day every day!) allows me to cook more while still keeping life feeling "simple".

Our favorite restaurant copycat recipe are filed here!

Where we're headed now: Weight loss (me)

Last year, I felt like we ate pretty balanced and healthy meals, but I had really fallen off the "weight loss" bandwagon and onto the "weight gain" one long before getting pregnant again. I don't have any good excuses... the summer was cold and cloudy, I felt depressed, I didn't care enough, and I liked food way too much. ;) I pulled out of that cycle (with God's help and blessing!) in time to be pregnant and then spend 8 months eating enough and gaining appropriately. Baby Channah is beautiful and healthy as can be! And I've lost 20 of the 25 pounds I gained in pregnancy.

However, I still have 10 pounds to lose from pregnancy #4, and 10 to lose from #3, and if I got really ambitious (which I may not be), 10 pounds to lose from pregnancies #1 and #2! Yikes. So, I'm definitely going to be watching my food choices and even keeping track of my calories for quite a while if that's going to happen.

I would rather just eat and eat (and gain weight) than to count calories, but I find I must count calories to help me keep a healthy balance, lose weight slowly, make sure I'm eating enough, and "spending" my calories wisely.

I'd like to share more on this topic in another post soon, but until then, I've written about weight loss in the past:

Weighing in: Practicing moderation in eating

Weight loss: Motivation, habits, and counting calories 

Healthy snacks, moderated 

Food Budgeting: Spending my calories wisely

sandwich

Where we're headed now: Healthy lunches (Joshua)

After 3 months off, I felt a little rusty when it came time to start packing lunches for Joshua again! Fortunately, he keeps his lunch requests simple for me and with some planning, it can all be made ahead and just thrown in the lunchbox in the morning.

Joshua's been eating oatmeal (made with lactose-free milk) in the morning before leaving for work. In his lunch I pack 2 bananas, a protein drink (made with milk and protein powder), and a container of cooked pinto beans with some hot sauce and 1/2 ounce of cheese sprinkled on top. He eats something at each of his breaks, and warms the beans in the microwave for lunch.

He comes home hungry! But my goal is to have dinner on the table when he gets home, so we can eat right away. :)

Eat Well, Spend Less series

Check out what the other Eat Well, Spend Less bloggers are sharing about their year:

Jessica at Life As Mom
Katie at GoodLife Eats
Carrie at Denver Bargains
Amy at Keeping the Kingdom First
Aimee at Simple Bites
Katie at Kitchen Stewardship
Shaina at Food for my Family
Mandi at Life...Your Way

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: A soft resting place for fragile fruit

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

I use this tip mostly for bananas, but it's good for any ripening fruit that tends to bruise easily, like pears, peaches, etc.

Place a piece of cardboard, bubble wrap, or foam under the fruit (or bag of fruit) as it ripens, to ease the pressure and prevent bruises.

Bananas ripening

I normally store bananas on a hard shelf. My current "banana shelf" is a hard plastic mesh -- even more likely to bruise a heavy bunch of bananas. I used some old bubble envelopes to make a nice cushion on the shelf for the bunches of bananas.

Eliyahu on the bike

I hope no one missed me online last week. We were busy enjoying amazing Spring weather! Inside it's Legos, outside it's the bikes. We're blessed to have a nice quiet driveway/road in front of our house. The kids have been outside so much more since we moved from the apartment to this house. I'm SO GLAD for the space! :)

Kids riding bikes

Sometimes I get tired of the clouds, but when the weather is nice here it is really, really nice. 60's and sunny is perfect in my book! :)

And... I really truly will be blogging at least two more times this week. I'll be posting my Eat Well, Spend Less post for April (!!) and then write about some of the new "food things" we've been doing lately. And next week, well, we'll see. I have ideas but run out of time first sometimes. ;)

Related Kitchen Tips:

Easy way to wash fresh fruit

Fruit basket tips 

How to save an avocado without it turning brown

Keeping apple slices fresh

How to ripen pears quickly easily

Snacking on frozen blueberries

When grapes (start to) go bad

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link in a comment here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please! We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Leeks and green onions tip (Donna at Moms Frugal)
2. More affordable fruit desserts (The Local Coook)
3. Coconut oil tips (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
4. Healthier desserts tips (The Better Mom)
5. Vinegar tips (Tara at Simply Made Home)
6. Hash browns tips (Sarah at Nature's Nurture)
7. Food prep tip (Frugal in Florida)

Note: I'm sorry about the delay in getting these links posted! Our internet was down all day Tuesday.

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Cutting greens with less mess

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

When I need to chop some greens, like spinach or kale to put in soup, this helps contain the mess:

Kale greens

Split the bag open and chop on the bag. If I'm chopping a lot of greens, I may do this in two batches.

Kale greens

It looks like a lot less after being chopped! For some reason, chopping on the bag seems to be easier and less messy for me. I did use a cutting board under the bag, to protect the landlord's counters. ;)

And be sure to use a dull knife. I used a big sharp knife and chopped away happily... and it cut into the bag a little! We definitely don't want plastic in our food! Normally my dull kitchen knives don't cut the bag at all.

The kitchen counter

After I took pictures of my chopped kale (it's awesome in Turkey Sausage Kale Soup or Veggie Bean Soup!), I took a picture of what the *rest* of the kitchen counter looked like. Way too full of my junk and projects I keep thinking I'll have time for. Well, I did get some mending done this week and did some decluttering last week, but I'm ready to be done! Plus, the weather has been too nice to spend my free time cleaning junk out of kitchen cupboards. :P :)

Eliyahu with his Legos

And one more bonus picture today: Eliyahu with a Lego drawer. The drawer slides in and out and can hold small things (like treasure maps). :) For Eliyahu's 6th birthday this year, he got The Lego Ideas Book and both boys have spent hours looking through it, reading it, and using ideas from it to create things from our big box of garage-sale Legos! I am amazed at the things the boys have been building. I look at it and just see a jumble of bricks... :)

I've missed blogging! I did pull my camera out last week for some pictures of dinner, and I have some really good stuff to write about... I may start trying to use the computer again during afternoon quiet time... or get up super early to write... :)

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Using and storing avocado (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
2. Growing green onions in water (Sarah at Nature's Nurture)
3. Egg substitutes in baking (Tara at Feels Like Home)
4.
5.

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: How to make your food look as good as it tastes!

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

When I started cooking regularly (which was when I got married 8 years ago), I was a no-nonsense cook. Garnish? Bah! Who needs it?! Taste is all that matters, right? :)

Joshua, however, loves to make foods look beautiful. In the years since I started blogging about food, I've realized the importance of making a dish look attractive. Here are some of my tips for garnishing foods!

The obvious: Place a few parsley sprigs on the plate of food (attractively arranged, with the main dish in the middle of the plate).

Grilled chicken souvlaki gyros

Grilled food:

Aside from getting beautiful grill marks on our Weber Q grill, Joshua recommends fresh coarsely ground black pepper to garnish grilled meats or veggies.

My mom's chili

Mexican food:

Garnish Mexican food with freshly snipped cilantro or chopped green onions.

Garlic bread:

Add chopped parsley (dried or fresh) or chives to the butter when making garlic bread for a more colorful appearance.

Pizza:

Sprinkle dried basil or Italian seasoning on top of homemade pizza before baking. After baking, sprinkle with crushed red pepper and/or Parmesan cheese.

Salad

Salads:

Finely shred some carrot or cheese to garnish a lettuce salad.

Garnish a pasta salad with shredded Parmsean cheese.

Use red onion rather than white or yellow for a more attractive presentation.

Oven-roasted chicken

Roasted chicken:

Sprinkle with parsley flakes, freshly chopped chives, or kosher salt.

Breads:

Brush beaten egg over bread tops and sprinkle with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sliced almonds, rolled oats, or wheat bran before baking.

Waffles with powdered sugar

Waffles, french toast, or desserts:

Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Cheesecake with whipped cream

Cheesecake, pies, baked apple oatmeal, chai tea lattes, and just about anything else:

Top with whipped cream for some extra style and deliciousness! :)

Any tips to add on the topic of beautiful food? :)

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Homemade natural blue food coloring (Whole New Mom)
2. Hard-boiled eggs tip (Newlyweds Blog)
3. Tips for simplifying lasagna (Happily Home After)
4. Tip for stocking up on eggs (Feel Good About Dinner)
5. Ingredient substitutions (Whole New Mom)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Hosted at Armstrong Family Fare this week

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

I'm taking today off from hosting Kitchen Tip Tuesdays. Would you believe we have more doctor appointments and an outpatient surgery scheduled this week?! (I'm not the one having surgery.) At any rate, I'm thinking this has just got to be the last week of doctors, surgeries, and babysitters at our house for hopefully quite a long time! :)

Willa at Armstrong Family Fare is our Kitchen Tip Tuesdays hostess this week while I'm busy baby-snuggling and wrapping up loose ends at home.

Head over to Armstrong Family Fare to add your kitchen tips and check out her tip for Crumbs Made Simple! No, not the kind of crumbs you get when you give a kid a cookie... although those are pretty easy to come by too. ;)

Eat Well, Spend Less: Pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond

Eat Well, Spend Less series

Last week, the the Eat Well, Spend Less team was blogging about babies and food!

Kitchen Planning When You Are Pregnant -- Amy writes about overcoming pregnancy tiredness and aversions, with simple tips for planning ahead. Her final advice? Keep it simple! (I definitely do that... and it's 100% okay. :D)

Tips for Taking Meals to a New Mom -- Carrie gives some AWESOME tips about meals for new moms (and their families), with things to keep in mind whether you're on the giving or receiving end of the meal. I resonate with everything she says!! Food is one of the best after-baby gifts (in my opinion!) and even if you're not making it from scratch, it's still a blessing to the mom who didn't have to plan the meal or get the items from the store. And on the receiving end, let others serve you and try not to be high-maintenance. But just go read Carrie's post -- it's great.

The Postpartum Diet -- Aimee writes an overview of some things to consider for postpartum eating, with tips for making healthy food choices, yummy breakfast oatmeal (milk-supply boosting!) recipes, and a high-fiber prunes recipe that Aimee says is amazing enough to eat any day of the week, postpartum or not!

Food Celebrations and a New Baby -- I smiled all through Jessica's delightful post about celebrating a new baby with food! I think I've tried nearly all of her ideas in the past -- including making a BIRTH-day cake to celebrate the new baby's arrival! (I didn't get a BIRTH-day cake made this time, boo!) Best of all, Jessica gives us permission to stock our pantries with easy foods and drinks. (Is this the time to admit that my kids have been mostly eating cold cereal and milk for breakfasts for the past month?)

Channah
Channah (3 weeks old)

A Homemade Baby Food Primer -- Mandi shares about several homemade baby food approaches, with approachable ways to avoid the shelf of jarred baby food at your grocery store. If you're already serving fresh healthy meals to the rest of your family, homemade baby food just makes sense!

Real-Food Baby Food -- Katie talks about the ways she's started her babies on solid foods and gives pointers for introducing some of the best "first foods" for babies -- avocado, sweet potatoes, egg yolks, bananas, and more!

Food for New Parents to Eat Well and Spend Less -- Shaina has some tried-and-true ways to eat well as a new parent without spending hours in the kitchen or spending a lot on take-out food. I love that she recommends keeping carrots, romaine lettuce, and apples in the fridge  -- all foods that keep well and make for healthy snacking! (They're also some of the more affordable produce items at the grocery store.)

A No-Work Kitchen After Baby Arrives (Eat Well, Spend Less)

Channah

This month's Eat Well, Spend Less topic is all about BABIES! Okay, babies and food. ;)

In the past few weeks, Aimee, Carrie, and I have all given birth to baby girls! The rest of the team decided to help us celebrate and picked baby-related topics to write about. (Scroll down for links to the other posts in this series!)

You know, I love having children. Every age (that I've experienced so far... my oldest is only 8) is amazing in a different way.

Yehoshua and Channah

My older children are inspiring to me, make me laugh, and bring so much love to our home. My littler ones say cute things, make big messes, and bring so much love to our home. ;)

And my newborn, Channah -- she makes me feel so relaxed and content, everyone fights over getting to hold her (but I get her the most :D) and she brings even more love to our home.

And I sure don't feel like working in the kitchen when I could be cuddling with a sweet little baby!

So, I don't. I mean, as much as possible. And how is this possible?

Freezer food

1. Make freezer meals.

This was my biggest regret after having my first baby: I hadn't made any meals for the freezer. Oh, I'd planned on just making "easy stuff" but with a fussy baby who didn't sleep much, I very quickly realized that my 30-minute "easy meal" was not at all easy to pull off as a new mom. In fact, things that normally took me 30-uninterrupted-minutes suddenly took 90-very-interrupted-minutes. Or more. :)

With subsequent babies, I have made freezer meals my top priority when getting ready for the baby. And with even more hungry tummies to keep filled, having dinners made ahead transforms any afternoon into a much easier juggling feat of naps and quiet-time activities, minus dinner prep.

We're picky about what we consider a good freezer meal (e.g. it really shouldn't taste like frozen reheated leftovers!), but I've been able to find a good variety of freezer meals we like. At the very least, freezing cooked or grilled chicken breast, cooked taco meat, cooked beans, or other "ingredients" can make from-scratch cooking a lot faster!

My freezer meal plan in 2010 (with baby #4)

My freezer meal plan this year (with baby #5)

2. Don't do dishes. (Or: Have a dishes plan.)

When we lived in a house without a dishwasher, we bought paper plates and bowls to use for the first few weeks after baby was born. This really kept the kitchen cleaner, and with no effort on my part. (For some reason, Joshua enjoys kitchen clean-up a lot more when it doesn't involve him having to wash dishes!)

Where we live now, we have a dishwasher and haven't felt the need to use lots of disposable dishes. Using my homemade freezer meals means there is already a lot fewer dishes to be done each day, and with the dishwasher, kitchen clean-up is something I've been able to do in ~20 minutes after dinner (for the whole day's dishes).

At any rate, if you hate dishes or don't have a dishwasher, have a plan so you don't need to worry about them.

Floor duty for kids :)

3. Clean the kitchen floor.

A dirty kitchen floor drives me crazy! It wasn't so bad before we had all these kids who drop so many crumbs with every meal. Seriously, it is next to impossible to keep the kitchen floor clean with kids unless you...

...have the kids help clean up their crumbs! (And if you don't have kids to help sweep crumbs, then hopefully this means you have way less crumbs on your floor than I have on mine!!)

My favorite kid-friendly sweep-up method is to have a Dirt Devil or similar sort of cordless hand-held vacuum and let them use it to sweep dry crumbs (I make them pick up wet food spills by hand). We had a Dust Buster for several years and used it multiple times a day before it wore out. It's easy enough for even a 2-year-old to sweep up crumbs from the floor.

Currently, we use good old fashioned brooms and dust pans. The kids have their choice of a regular broom or whisk broom, and after a meal I usually assign someone the task of sweeping up crumbs. They don't do a perfect job, but they do get a lot of the crumbs -- and I know there will just be more after the next meal anyway. ;) Every couple days the vacuum cleaner gets brought out and then we really do get every last crumb swept up. :)

Channah

4. Grocery shop before the baby's born.

I found it helpful to stock up on pantry staples (at Costco, of course) before a new baby. With a stocked pantry and freezer meals made, it's so nice to not need as many groceries each week for a while!

Grocery shopping is also one of those things you can mention when someone asks if you need anything. Armed with a detailed list (and your grocery money, of course!), having a friend or relative pick up groceries for you is such a blessing if you don't feel like going out with a new baby in tow.

(Personally, I just never feel like going anywhere with a new baby. I'm such a homebody!)

5. Use appliances.

If you have a crock pot, bread machine, rice cooker, or other handy kitchen appliances -- learn how to use them for foods your family likes!

Babies are often really unpredictable, so when you can start a meal early in the crock pot, or use the timer feature on your bread machine, you can fit dinner prep into whatever snippet of time you have early in the day rather than scrambling at the last minute (or stressing out because you need to work on dinner but you'd rather rock your baby to sleep!).

I don't have a lot of kitchen appliances, so help me out here -- what other appliances streamline dinner prep or include timer features? :)

6. Accept help.

This only works if you have offers of help, which I hope every new mom does -- from her husband, family, or friends. When someone wants to help, accept their offer! Okay, so your husband doesn't do housework just like you would -- but that's okay. Your kids fold the laundry and it's not folded "right" -- but that's okay.

I feel really blessed right now because my husband and kids can and DO do so much around the house for me! And honestly, they do a pretty good job most of the time. No, it's not all exactly how it would be if I were doing it. But it's definitely okay and I thank them and tell them how awesome they are. :)

More on preparing for a new baby: All the stuff I did before #2 was born :)

6 Tips for Cooking with a Baby (because eventually, you gotta do it!)

Eat Well, Spend Less series

More about babies and food from the Eat Well, Spend Less team:

Food celebration and a new baby (Jessica at Life As Mom)

The postpartum diet (Aimee at Simple Bites)

A homemade baby food primer (Mandi at Life...Your Way)

Taking meals to a new mom (Carrie at Denver Bargains)

Kitchen planning when you're pregnant (Amy at Keeping the Kingdom First)

...and more to come from Katie at Kitchen Stewardship and Shaina at Food for my Family! :)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Temporary spoon rest

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

I don't own a spoon rest. (Do you?)

For some reason, spoon rests seem cluttery and annoying to me. I usually just put spoons on the (clean!) counter when cooking and wipe the counter when I'm done. Before I had a dishwasher, that seemed easier than washing an extra dish! :)

When warming up leftovers, I like to use the empty leftovers containers as a "free" temporary spoon rest. The dish is already going to need washed, anyway!

Temporary spoon rest...
This "spoon rest" had leftover cooked carrots in it

Related tips:

Defrosting and reheating without a microwave

Quick water at the stove

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Transferring dry ingredients without mess; marking containers (Feel Good About Dinner)
2. Keeping lettuce fresh after cutting it (Frugal in Florida)
3. Frying pan tips (The Local Cook)
4. Easy baking soda dispenser (Purposely Frugal)
5. Electric pressure cooker tips (Jayde at The Riley's Blog)

The Birth of Channah Shalom

Channah's foot

I woke up at 5:30am, and felt the dampness on my skirt. I could feel water leaking and as I headed to the bathroom, I mentally calculated... just barely 36 weeks.

I knew it wasn't time for my baby to come.

I don't feel unbearably huge yet. My babies don't come early. Joshua had brain surgery last week and can't lift or drive. And the house is a mess.

Despite my hopes that the "little leak" would just go away, it didn't. A visit with my midwife confirmed that it was really leaking (not that I had any doubts!) and also that...

"Your baby isn't head-down. And I can't change that for you."

Channah

No wonder I didn't feel any pressure. My midwife was concerned about the risk of cord prolapse, and had me lie down while we discussed my options. I decided to go to the hospital nearby and have the doctor there try to turn the baby. My midwife knew the doctor who was working that day, and said she would be understanding and accommodating.

While lying down after getting to the hospital (but before seeing the doctor), my water really broke, with several big gushes. My midwife felt my abdomen and exclaimed, "I think the baby turned! It feels head-down now!" And indeed, the baby had turned. I was so relieved!

I had thought that I would be ready to go home to have the baby, right then and there, and I could have. But I didn't.

I could spend paragraphs rehashing all the things my midwife and I discussed, about whether to stay or go. All the what-ifs and the things we just weren't sure about. She kept asking me what I thought and felt and wanted.

I knew I wanted to go home, but it wasn't about what I wanted, of course. So I did the grown-up thing and put my preferences aside and chose a hospital birth... because I decided it was the right thing to do.

Even though I chose to be there, it wasn't easy for me. For most of my very long and slow labor, I was on the verge of tears. I didn't want to talk to anyone.

Channah

The doctor working that first day was really nice. I was having very light contractions all day and tried to rest (and did nap some), thinking active labor would pick up before too long.

At about the 12-hour mark, labor was still not picking up, so we tried some natural things like walking (several hours) and nipple stimulation (4 hours) but neither was very effective. Slightly effective, but just nothing even close to active labor.

I was very conflicted this whole time, because I felt like my body just wasn't ready for labor. It seemed so wrong to be trying to encourage labor, but yet my water had broken (and was continuing to leak), and I was having bloody show. I was quite pessimistic about the whole ordeal, even though my midwife and the doctor seemed confident that labor would pick up and go just fine.

I was also very bored, in between periods of feeling hopeless. I wished I were at home, spending the long hours cleaning the house or getting baby stuff ready or just doing something productive besides resting and walking.

And I really missed my children at home! I've never been away from them that long (2+ days total) and I really, really missed them. I so wished I could have labored at home, especially for such a long and slow labor.

Channah

So at the 24-hour mark, labor was still very mild. I asked the doctor to check me (I had one other check when I first arrived), and the baby was even higher than earlier.

Both the doctor and my midwife thought that a small amount of Pitocin would put me into active labor. They encouraged me that it probably wouldn't be too bad (since I wasn't a first-time mom), it probably wouldn't take much, and my body might even take over and I'd be able to finish laboring without staying on Pitocin. That sounded appealing to me, especially since being on Pitocin meant they would want continuous monitoring.

Being hooked up to monitors and an I.V. felt confining, but they told me I would still be able to walk around and stuff like that. When I actually decided to walk around, I found out I would be pushing an I.V. pole with the Pitocin plus have two monitor cords going from my abdomen to the pole.

I felt a bit annoyed with all that... they call that "mobility" in the hospital?! ;) But, I got over it. Not without tears, but I did push past it and then I pushed that ridiculous I.V. pole around the hospital halls as I walked for hours.

We started with 1 ml of Pitocin, and increased it every hour by another ml. And I didn't start feeling truly labor-ish until we were at 13! The very nice nurse kept asking me how contractions were feeling and I kept saying "only slightly uncomfortable" which to me meant "not doing much". So much for just needing a little bit of Pitocin to get labor started... here I was napping while at 10 ml. Crazy, and only nice in retrospect.

But finally, at 13 ml of Pitocin, the contractions were feeling more uncomfortable. I did more walking. We left the Pitocin at 13 because the contractions were continuing to get more uncomfortable. (I refuse to say "painful"!) I stayed on Pitocin for the rest of labor, not confident that I would stay in active labor if we turned it down or off.

Channah

It had been about 36 hours since my water broke. I felt like I was really in labor. Walking was definitely bringing the contractions closer together, but also making them easier to manage. I decided to walk the halls until I had to have privacy.

So I walked for about 90 minutes. My nurse wanted me to stop at the nurses' station every lap to get a good reading of the baby's heart beat. I told Joshua "I am going to walk these laps so fast, she will get tired of me stopping." Haha! Each lap did only take about 3 minutes, but she never got tired of me stopping and her having to look at the monitor while it picked up a reading. ;)

Toward the end, I could hardly make it through contractions without crying (not from being in pain, oddly enough) and I couldn't talk without crying, either. I made my stops at the nurses' station and didn't talk. I tried to manage a fake smile each time though. :)

I stopped at my room, where Joshua was resting, and asked him to call my midwife, who wanted to be there, and tell her that I was in active labor. I started crying as I talked but wiped away the tears and went back to walking.

I only walked for another handful of laps before deciding that I probably wouldn't make it another full lap without embarrassing myself in some way out in the hall. Haha! So I walked into my room and used the bed for support as I had a couple more contractions. It was dark by now, and the room was only dimly lit. My nurse came in the room but kindly stayed way back in the shadows by the door and just quietly observed.

I didn't say much to Joshua, and he wisely didn't try to talk to me, either. ;) At one point, I asked him to close a drawer by the bed that had been hanging open a few inches. It had been slightly open the whole time, but at that point it was in my line of sight and bothering me. Haha! Joshua said when I asked him to shut the drawer he knew I was almost there. What sane person uses their last bit of energy to worry about an open drawer? ;)

Channah

I thought I would feel "pushy" for a few contractions before having to push, but without warning, my body started pushing during a contraction and right away I could feel the baby's head descending! That surprised me, and I said, "I can feel the baby coming!"

I wanted to labor alone, so up until that point I had tried to keep to myself and was so thankful for the nice, understanding nurses who left me alone as much as possible. But when I said the baby was coming, the nurse called in other nurses and when they saw I was pushing they called for the doctor. (Joshua told me he heard them discussing it and they said "We better call the doctor... we don't want to get in trouble for another nurse-delivery." I found that amusing!)

I hadn't even met this doctor, because the nurse just kept telling him "She's doing great, we're making progress" and kept him away. That was probably a good thing. ;)

The doctor came in and said "What is she doing?!" and the nurse said "She's going to give birth standing up." and he said "...oh!"

My midwife had gotten there a few minutes earlier and gave some helpful coaching at the end. "Bend your knees... relax..."

I didn't push long -- maybe with 5 contractions. The baby's head came, and then the shoulders and body. They unwrapped the cord from her neck, and then I must have heard them talking about cutting the cord, because I called out "Wait to cut the cord!".

Channah and Ruth
Ruth (4) with Channah

Talk about cords! I now had not only the I.V. and two monitors attached to me with cords, but also a baby! I managed to climb into bed and they handed me my baby.

They rubbed her back vigorously and she was breathing great. And for several minutes I just kept saying "Oh, my baby! My baby!" I had thought I would cry tears of joy when my baby was finally born, but suddenly I didn't feel teary at all, only happy. :D

The doctor asked me, "So what did you read on the internet about the cord?"

I was very confused. Huh? "What?"

"How long do we have to wait to cut the cord?"

"Oh, um, just until it stops pulsating." I wasn't prepared to have to explain that one, and the part about the internet really threw me off. This was not the same doctor who had been there my first day... obviously. ;)

Joshua cut the cord, and then the doctor told me he was going to deliver my placenta. What? My midwife said "You can push with this" which I had forgotten, and it came right out.

THEN, the doctor told me he was going to put his hand in and clear out all the little clots still inside me. WHAT??!! I've had 4 other babies and no one's ever needed to do that.

Since he was telling me, not asking, I tried to be polite (as I started pulling my knees together, haha!) and said "What are the risks of just letting them come out on their own?"

"You could hemorrhage!" I looked at my midwife for input.

"We usually just massage from the outside." She reached over and gave a few pushes on my uterus and some blood and clots came out.

"See! That was still inside," said the doctor. Umm, okay, but now it's not. :P

Then the doctor looked to see if I had any tears. Joshua says he was just doing a thorough job of checking for tears, but ouch! My midwives have always been very gentle doing that. No tears, and then I was left alone. :)

(I am appreciative of the doctor's expertise, should there have been complications, and thankful that he was respectful of my requests to do things different from his "normal".)

Channah
Channah (1 day old)

The nurses left Channah in my arms, skin to skin, for over 2 hours after birth! I loved that they didn't try to hurry with weighing her, etc. She never even left our room, which was very nice.

Channah weighed 6 lbs. 5 oz., and the doctors estimated that she looked about 37 weeks gestation. (My other babies weighed around 8 lbs.)

From the time my water broke, labor was 38 hours, with Pitocin for 15 of those hours. Truly intense, active labor was only about 3-4 hours.

We went home late the next morning. It was so nice to be home! Channah is doing well, and gets lots of love from all of us.

Eliyahu (6) with Channah
Eliyahu (6) with Channah

Recovery has gone amazingly well, despite Joshua's limitations in what he can do to help (he wasn't supposed to lift or bend over). I think a big part of that has been our oldest boys, Yehoshua (almost 8) and Eliyahu (6). They have stepped up and done so much more than normal, and mostly without complaining.

With minimal supervision, they've done kitchen clean-up, vacuuming and mopping the floors, gathering, sorting, folding and putting away laundry, taking trash and recyclables out, checking the mail, helping with showers/baths and diaper changes for Moshe, filling the Berkey with water, starting beans in the crock pot, and helping keep the house tidy. Normally they wouldn't have quite so many chores, but their extra help has been a blessing during a time when Joshua and I can't just "do it all". :)

Yehoshua and Channah
Yehoshua (7) and Channah

Here are a few more notes about my birth and hospital experience.

Clothes

I stayed in my own clothes all during labor and delivery. HUGE plus in my book! I was comfortable, could walk the halls without looking ridiculous (well, any more than normal ;D), and it just helped me feel NORMAL.

Food

I also ate and drank during labor. After I started on Pitocin, the doctor there that day didn't want me to eat (only clear liquids), so I ate the stuff they gave me (chicken broth, jello, fruit juice) and then snitched some oatmeal and fruit from the breakfast tray that had been mistakenly delivered to my room. I didn't eat a lot, but it was enough to give me some energy for the rest of labor. Later in labor, I didn't feel like eating anyway.

"My babies don't come early"

Channah's arrival at ~37 weeks was such a surprise to me. I have been used to waiting on babies that took much longer than 40 weeks to be ready to be born, and I really never entertained the idea that it was even possible for one of my babies to come early. In the future (if we are blessed with more children!), I will be more prepared sooner.

And part of "being prepared sooner" will mean making sure I have the Group B Strep (GBS) test at 36 weeks rather than waiting longer. (I had an appointment scheduled for the day after Channah's birth, when we would have done the GBS test.) With an early baby and premature rupture of membranes (PROM), having the GBS test results would have been helpful information in our decision-making process.

Channah and Ruth
Channah and Ruth (4)

Postpartum

I feel like my body has had an easier recovery this time. The after-pains, which I expected to be horrible and last for days (as they have before), weren't nearly as numerous and only lasted a day or two. Nice!!

I also didn't spend days painfully engorged when my milk came in this time, and Channah is nursing well with a minimal adjustment period of soreness.

And, Channah is such an agreeable baby. She eats well and sleeps well, and since I sleep great on our couch's recliner with her in my arms, we make a great pair. :) Joshua has been caring for the other children each afternoon while I take a nice long nap, which is also a tremendous help. :)

I can't believe Channah is almost 3 weeks old already! I told Joshua, "I thought time wouldn't pass so quickly if I held Channah every minute... but it's still going too fast!"

My (unused) home birth supplies
My (unused) home birth supplies

The "hospital experience"

I have always said we were "planning" to have a home birth with each of our babies, because I do know there are no guarantees of a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy. I feel so thankful each time we are blessed with a beautiful birth experience and a healthy baby!

I feel like I had a very good hospital experience. Looking back, I wouldn't change any of my decisions, because I feel like we did our best with the information we had and the given circumstances.

I definitely prefer giving birth at home (when possible), but yet I also can say I had a good hospital birth -- and I have a new understanding of why people would prefer a hospital birth. :)

Channah and me, just waking up
Waking up my first morning back at home :)

Baby Stuff: Channah Shalom

Sisters
Ruth (4) holding Channah (2 weeks)

It's nap time / quiet time at our house right now... we'll see how much typing I get done before Channah wakes! :) At 2 1/2 weeks old, Channah is probably my most content baby ever. She's nursing great and sleeps a lot, mostly with me. I figure since I'm supposed to rest and take it easy for a few weeks, I may as well rest with the baby in my arms! :)

So let's see... where to start. With a little about her name, I guess! :)

Channah is the Hebrew name of Hannah in the Bible. The "ch" is a soft "ch" sound like in the word "Chanukkah" or "challah" or "loch", and the "a" sounds are like the "a" in "father". Channah means grace, or compassion.

Shalom is (of course) the Hebrew word meaning "peace". When we were expecting our first baby, we decided we wanted to use Fruits of the Spirit (from Galatians 5) for girls' middle names. Ruth's middle name is Patience, and for Channah we decided to use Peace -- but liked the sound of the Hebrew word Shalom better with Channah. :)

Yehoshua and Channah

During rest time one day, when both Ruth (4) and Moshe (2) were asleep in their beds, I put Channah by the window for some sunshine. I came back to find Yehoshua (7) had gotten his camera out and was taking pictures of her as she slept. So sweet!

Channah's bed

Here is Channah's bed, in Ruth's room. Currently it's mostly being used as a changing table. A friend gave us this pack'n'play with the bassinet insert, which replaced my old pack'n'play that we had used for Moshe. Having a pack'n'play has been so handy! The boys helped me set this up the day I came home from the hospital with Channah. I was not very ready for her yet!! :)

Girls' dresser

Ruth and Channah will share this dresser now. I will probably need to hang a few things in the closet to make room for both girls' clothes, but I haven't gotten much arranging done yet. I also want to swap where the dresser and bassinet are currently placed, but am waiting a few more weeks to do any furniture-moving. ;)

New car seat!

The week before Channah was born (!!) I got an infant car seat for her. My old one had expired a year ago. I didn't spend too much time agonizing over all the infant car seat choices: I knew I wanted something with a handle/carrier feature and 5-point harness, and I liked the last SungRide I had. Then I splurged on one with an easy-adjustment strap and a fabric print that I liked. :D

Even though we don't travel much (in fact, so far Channah rode home from the hospital but that's been it!), I will use the car seat in the house as a rocker if needed. I don't have a swing, bouncy seat, etc. etc. -- so aside from being in bed or in a carrier (like my Ergo or mei tai), the car seat is the other option for a temporary safe place to put the baby. :)

Our comfy couch :)

This is where I get to spend time resting: on our wonderful comfy couch with a nice fluffy pillow (and as many kids for company as will fit). :) Two and a half years ago, before Moshe was born, we replaced our broken falling-apart futon with this couch and I LOVE it. It's my favorite place in the house to sit or lay and gets lots of use for nursing babies, naps, reading books, watching movies, etc... :)

Notice cute little Moshe sweeping the floor in the background? :) He's so helpful... always willing to try to clean up the messes he just made... ;)

Cloth diapers

Amazingly, I had pulled out baby clothes and diapers before Channah was born. Honestly, I looked at my long list of "things to do before the baby's born" and all of it sounded like too much work. Haha! So I decided to wash baby clothes, since that sounded like the most fun. :D

I have lots of thoughts about Channah's birth (and my hospital experience!) but I think I'll save them for the birth story. Which WILL come! :)

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