Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why the Elf is not on our shelf.

A few years ago a new Christmas tradition took the country by storm.  That cute little Elf on the Shelf made its way into many American homes:  breeding mischief, encouraging creativity, and causing sales of Q-tips and marshmallows to skyrocket.  In addition to his daily shenanigans, the Elf keeps an eye on your little ones and reports back to the North Pole who has been naughty or nice, adding to the "magic" of Christmas.

For quite some time, I thought the Elf on the Shelf was a cute, fun idea.  However, something (in addition to the high price tag) kept me from purchasing an Elf for our own shelf.  The month of December is always a whirlwind.  We never have enough time to squish all that we want to accomplish into 31 days.  In recognizing that December is crammed full of lofty expectations and over-commitment, I started thinking about what I wanted most in December.

1. More than anything I want to celebrate Advent not the calendar month of December.  I want to have peace not only on Earth, but also in my heart.
2. I want my children to grow closer to Christ.  My cute little girls have excellent memories and can recite prayers most adults do not know, but I think it is more important that they feel God's presence and are able to have their own intimate conversation with Him.

We have many traditions at our house to help us prepare for Christmas.  I (try to) read daily from the Advent devotional In Conversation with God.  We follow the Holy Heroes Advent Adventure each night with the kids and pray a decade of the rosary before bedtime.  Each day in conjunction with the Advent Adventure, we place an ornament on our Jesse Tree to follow the stories of the Old Testament that lead up to the birth of Jesus.  We light our advent wreath before dinner and say a prayer.  The Advent season also has several saints' days that we celebrate including St. Nicholas and St. Lucy.

We have also found ways to avoid some of the Christmas season craziness.  1) We do not send out Christmas cards.  We prefer St. Patrick's Day cards.  We have more time in March, and we like to think that our friends and family enjoy a little update in the dead of winter.  2) We finish all of our Christmas shopping before Advent begins and avoid the crazy consumerism of ads and shopping malls.  Also, we do not purchase gifts for our children.  This last item has garnered quite a bit of opinion from others.  Our children do not even realize that we do not buy them anything because they are showered with gifts from all other corners of the Earth.

Before everyone reads this and thinks we are total extremists at our house...we do enjoy Santa.  However, Santa is not the focus of our Advent season.  We take advantage of the celebration of Gaudete Sunday and take the kids to see Santa right after Mass while they are still all dressed up in their Sunday best. (This timing also helps beat the long lines!)  The kids ask Santa for one small item so that he has room in his sack to bring all the other boys and girls of the world a small gift, too.

So...as you can see...we simply do not have room for an Elf on our shelf!  What Advent traditions do you celebrate at your house?

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light!  Isaiah 9:2

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bottles and such...

Do not get excited.  I am still on hiatus from blogging until I finish writing all those thank you notes (which is a blog all its own).  If you are not interested in bottles and breastfeeding, stop reading right now.  If you are interested, carry on...

A little background
Daughter #1 was a voracious nurser.  I pumped while at work and she willingly took any bottle given to her at daycare.  Daughter #2 was a weak nurser at birth (likely due to her then-unknown growth disorder) but improved.  However, after 12 weeks at home with mom, she developed some serious nipple confusion when she took a bottle at daycare.  She didn't take to the bottle and she screamed every night at feeding time.  I would take her to a dark room and try to feed her for hours.  Usually both of us would end up crying.  Son #1 is pretty much irrelevant to this discussion because he has the pleasure of mom staying home with him 24/7.

After a lot of research I made some important discoveries.  The Gerber nuk orthodontic bottles and pacifiers teach babies to use a shallow suck that is not good for breastfeeding.

A good breastfeeding bottle mimics the natural shape of a mother.  We discovered The First Years Breastflow bottles and Pacifiers.

After we switched Daughter #2 to the Breastflow bottles, life was easier but not perfect.  I think if we had started with these bottles, she would have done much better.  I ended up working my full time job in 2 1/2 days a week and staying home the rest of the week with the kids.  At 9 months we moved to Minnesota and I entirely work from home.

If you have a new baby, just buy one or two of the bottles you think you would like to use and try them out.  If that bottle does not work, then go back to the store and try a different one.  Every baby is different, even within your own family.

If you have low milk supply and are trying to pump, I found these Milkies Milk Savers to be very useful.  You place them on the side you're not nursing on while you're nursing and they collect the milk that drips.  I was able to freeze a lot of milk before I went back to work by using these every time I nursed.

Feel free to ask questions!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Funny kids!

The kids have said some funny stuff lately.
Mom and the Volcano
When Ken arrived home from work the other day, Camille proudly showed him her latest piece of art, which was of a volcano. Ken then asked her what she drew inside the volcano and she replied, "oh, that's Mommy!" Ken just nodded and said, "Wow! Tough day as a stay-at-home-mom, huh?"
The joys of TV
After sleeping in for a bit, I went downstairs and found that the girls had the TV on.  This is unusual as we only let them watch TV on the weekends and we supervise what they watch very closely.  I asked them what they were watching and Camille said, “oh, this is for your skin!”  Sure enough, they were watching a Cyndi Crawford infomercial for skin care!  Some days they’re way too funny!
Meghan teaches Mom about strangers
As we were leaving school after dropping off Camille, a mailman pulled up in front of our van.  I engaged in some small talk with him.  When I was putting Meg into her carseat she asks, “Mom, why were you talking to that mailman?”
I said, “well, he seemed like a nice man.”
Meg replied, “you know Mom, you can’t be too careful these days!”
Ah!  Important lesson from the mouth of an almost 3 year old!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Community helper vests-part 5 Police officer

Today's post is the last one on community helper vests.  Can you tell I had a lot of fun making these?  I have always been creative but never crafty.  I like sewing costumes because I can screw things up and it doesn't really matter.  Note:  I have no desire to sew real clothing.  Why go to all that trouble when I can buy it off the rack?  I do find sewing rather relaxing.  I live in a house full of talkers, but my sewing machine is loud enough that no one can talk to me when I'm sewing.  Ahhh...the bliss of silence!

The girls and I had fun taking pictures with the police vests.

Officer Camille says, "Don't talk on the phone and drive!"
Camille arrests Meghan, who clearly isn't taking the situation seriously.
Meghan learns she's going to jail, which Camille clearly likes!
 The police officer vests were made out of royal blue fleece, which is actually difficult to find.  I bought all the fleece at one store and couldn't find any more in any other fabric store.  The yellow stripes are made with yellow felt.  The patches were purchased off of eBay.  I hemmed the edges 1/2".
I used the following source as inspiration:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Community helper vests-part 4 Construction worker

I love the bold colors on these vests.  I actually made 10 of them because I miscalculated the amount of material I needed and was indecisive on whether to make the vests orange or yellow.
You might have noticed that these vests look a little big on Camille and huge on Meghan even though they were made for children their age.  We held Camille back from kindergarten this year (turning out to be an excellent choice, in our opinion...but that's another blog post...), but she is still the smallest kid in her class.  I made the vests with the largest preschooler in mind.  Also, we live in Minnesota so most kids go to school wearing bulky sweatshirts and sweaters.  Meghan will use these vests in the fall when she starts preschool, but she does not actually plot on a growth chart for her age yet, which means that 99.9999% of all children her age are larger than her.  I figure, as long as she is not tripping over the bottom hem on the vest, they're not too big.  Finding an "average" sized model in our house is not easy!

Both the yellow and orange vests were made with felt, as stated before, purchased at JoAnn Fabrics and 100% washable and dryable.  The stripes on the vests were also made with felt.

Orange store-bought binding was used for the trim on these yellow vests.

I just used a 1/2" hem on the orange vests.  Standard pre-made yellow trim available at our fabric store is not as bright as the yellow I used for the stripes, and I couldn't find a good match.
I used the following as inspiration for these vests:
Source:  Suble Tee Blog

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Community helper vests-part 3 Paramedic/EMT

For my friends in the medical community, yes I know that a paramedic and an EMT are not the same ;-)

 Camille and Meghan's poses seem similar in all of these photos, but they wanted you to know that they're administering shots in this photo.

These vests were made out of black fleece.  The stripes on the bottom are made from grey felt.  The patches were purchased from eBay.  Instead of using binding for the trim, I just hemmed the edges 1/2 inch.
I used this for inspiration:


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Community helper vests-part 2 Mail Carrier

The girls handing out some imaginary mail.
The mail carrier vests are made entirely from felt.  The good news is that felt from JoAnn Fabrics is completely washable and dryable (on a low heat).  I made my own binding on these, which was really difficult because the felt was too thick to pin.  I ended up using binder clips to hold it on until I could sew it.  I do not think I will ever use felt for binding again.

These vests are probably my favorite.  They look very sharp and I was able to buy real USPS patches at this website.
Of course, now the girls are prompting me to make mail out of felt for them, too!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Community helper vests-part 1 Firefighter

In October I started making community helper vests for the preschool.  I finally finished them and am excited to share what I made!  I will try to share a new one each day.

The original inspiration for this project was this vest I saw on pinterest.  I was tired of my girls dressing up as princesses and thought something different might be fun.  Around the same time, our preschool was looking for parents to sew some items for their dramatic play area.


Of course, I was raised in a family where nothing is done small.  We tend to get a little carried away.  So, one little sherriff vest turned into 30 vests of various types.

The first vest I attemped was a firefighter vest. I made my own vest template out of one of the kids' old t-shirts and got started.

I spent a weekend at my parent's house cutting out vests of various colors while my mom started sewing the vests together.  Here is the picture I used for firefighter "inspiration".

Pinned Image

Here are my beautiful models!

My models
The girls thought it was a good idea to act out a firefighter holding a hose.
After visiting the firestation in town, I discovered that obtaining patches for the vests was going to be difficult.  I pondered making my own, but I really wanted the patches to look authentic so the kids could identify the various community helpers.  Thankfully, eBay came to the rescue and I found some inexpensive patches for sale.  The patches are not from our city, but they are authentic!

These firefighter vests were made with red fleece.  I made the black belts myself with black fleece.  The trim around the edges is simple black binding found in the fabric store.

Stay tuned tomorrow for another community helper vest!


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Blog Readers?

I was just checking the Traffic data on my blog to see where my readers were coming from as I noticed that I only have about 4 views per post if I don't post the link to Facebook.  Imagine my surprise when I noticed that I'm getting traffic from a porn site!  How does that happen?

Learning Letters

Camille learned her letters very quickly when she was a toddler and accepted each letter as just a letter.  Meghan had been working on learning her letters, but the names and sounds just did not seem to stick with her.  I thought maybe she was just overwhelmed by the volume (26 is a lot for a little kid), so I decided to scale back and removed all letters in our stash that were not in her name.  Very quickly I discovered that she is not opposed to learning all the letters of the alphabet, she would just like to see that each letter has a purpose.  An "A" is just an "A" until you make it part of her name.  Suddenly "A" is the coolest letter on earth!  Just like that, Meg has not only learned all the letters in her name, but she can also spell her name.  Now, I have to dream up other words relevant to her so she can learn the rest.

Numbers seems to work the same way for Meghan.  She knows 2 because she is 2.  She knows 3 because she will soon be 3, and she knows 5 because Camille is 5.  She is happy to discard all other numbers because they have no relevance to her.

I have to keep reminding myself that every kid is different, even if they are siblings.

Friday, February 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes

We made it to 33 weeks today.  If this baby has the same schedule as its older sisters, we have a little under 5 weeks left!  I have not reached the uncomfortable stage yet and am keeping busy around the house.  I think this baby is going to be small based on my weight gain and measurements at the doctor's office.  (Watch...this baby will be the 9-pounder!)
I managed to order Meghan's medication in under 15 minutes today, which is about 1/3 the usual amount of time.  Success!
Meghan saw her endocrinologist yesterday.  Since November she has grown 1.5 inches and gained 1.5 pounds.  Her height actually almost reaches the first percentile on the growth chart now!  She still needs to make some progress in the weight area, but I have started giving her a milk shake for a snack every day made with full-fat ice cream, whole milk, and Carnation instant breakfast.  This extra treat seems to be helping.
I am almost done with my "little" project for Camille's preschool:  25 community helper vests.  This sewing project has helped me pass the time this winter, and I think I am becoming better-skilled with my sewing machine.
We had some plumbing problems in our basement bathroom and laundry room, so we have had numerous contractors and plumbers coming over in the evenings to give us estimates on the repairs.  We were not planning to remodel the basement for 5-10 years, but I guess we will have a new bathroom and laundry room (with two washing machine hook-ups!!!!) by summer.
Camille is a budding artist and has drawn on pretty much every piece of paper in our house.  Her grandparents joke about her "traveling art exhibit" because when she goes to Fargo, she replaces her old drawing with new ones and then takes the old ones home for someone else's fridge.  Camille's drawings have gotten quite elaborate, but we cannot figure out what to do with all of them!
Meghan and I have been stuck in the house for a week and a half with a terrible cold.  I would love to go to the gym and stretch my muscles a bit, but I have this thing about children with green snotty noses being dropped off in the daycare...  Hopefully a good rest this weekend will make us better.

Thursday, January 31, 2013


We finally finished our Valentine's Day cookies today.  My little bakers are very proud!
We don't usually lounge about the house in our PJ's, but today was pajama day at Camille's school for the fun Catholic schools' week.

Meghan consumed most of her M&M's rather than put them on the cookies.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Simple Woman's Daybook


Outside my window...we have mild snow flurries.  Today is a little colder than the last two days.  The girls really enjoyed playing outside after school.  Unfortunately, Meghan doesn't tolerate the temperature below 32 degrees so she has not been out much in January.

I am thinking...about baby names.  Our child is still nameless.  This fact is stressing me out more than a little bit.

I am thankful...that Meghan's whining has subsided.  I started sending to her room for a nap every time she started fussing, and she seems to have changed her behavior in response.

In the kitchen...we are on day two of a three-day cookie baking project.  Last night I whipped up the dough. Today we rolled the dough, cut out heart shaped cookies and baked them.  Tomorrow we will decorate them.  Uh-oh...I just noticed Meghan stole a cookie off the counter.  (She is getting taller at last!)

I am wearing...something warm!

I am creating...some "community helper" vests for the preschool.  I started them in October with my mom's help and have not touched them since.  Now that the Christmas projects are done, I should probably finish them!

I am going...to take Camille to Irish dance tonight.  She loves it, and I love that it wears her out!

I am reading...The Temperament God Gave You.  I was actually reading it while I went to the gym, but I have not been in several weeks.

I am looking forward to...March?...April?...not being pregnant anymore :-)

Around the house...we almost have everything put back together from my prolonged illness.  I spent all of last weekend gathering things for the thrift store.  I came up with 3 pretty big boxes of items to give away.

I am pondering...whether or not to have a St. Patrick's Day party.  We have always had one, but I will be 36 weeks pregnant by then.  I don't think I have the energy...

A favorite quote for today...

One of my favorite things...is checking on the girls before I go to sleep.  They share a room now and look so angelic when they're silent and sleeping.  Meghan really is growing (almost 23lbs now!) and takes up more and more of her twin bed.  Camille has been exhausted most evenings due to a lot of outside play, hard work at preschool, and dance.  Seeing her sleeping in bed makes me chuckle because she looks like she fell in completely spent from a hard day!

A few plans for the rest of the week:  Pray and play at the Cathedral later this week and we're going to a feis (Irish dance competition) at the Mall of America on Saturday to watch the dancers from Camille's school.  Camille is disappointed she isn't ready for her first dance in public yet.

...I better type faster...Meghan just stole another cookie!

A peek into my day...
Camille had her hair cut off to donate to Locks of Love

Meghan wanted to get in on the picture, too!  (Pardon the bare legs...potty training is still in progress.)

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Is it still January?

I have to write about the rest of our January, not because I want to re-live it, but because I need to get it out of my head.  Yes, it really was that bad!

After spending a week laying on the couch and receiving extensive help with the kids, I ended up going to the hospital again for extreme pain.  Thankfully my sister was staying with us so we put the kids to bed and made another late-night trip.  The doctors were much quicker at delivering pain medication this time, which I was thankful for.  My kidney had swollen even more and the ultrasound still couldn't show whether I had a kidney stone or if the baby was blocking my ureter.  The urologists decided that putting me under general anesthesia and taking a camera through my...oh nevermind...was the best plan, but they didn't have OR time for more 3 days.  So, I waited it out, was grateful for IV pain medication and underwent the procedure.  Fortunately, they were able to do the entire procedure without radioactive imaging.  They did find a kidney stone, removed it, and placed a stent to keep my ureter open.  Apparently kidney stones are common in pregnancy, and I am at risk for having more in the rest of my pregnancy. (Fantastic, I say!)  The stent was uncomfortable, but I felt so much better after the procedure.  They removed the stent in an office visit a week later.  After another week of resting, I am pretty much back to feeling as normal as a 29 weeks-pregnant lady can feel.

The morning of my surgery, my grandmother passed away.  I was very sad that I could not be with her, but I am glad that her death was peaceful, and she was able to die in her home.  My mom planned a beautiful funeral and all of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren were able to attend.  Camille and my other nieces, who are all age 5 and under, handled the event very well.  I think it was helpful for all of us to have the kids' perspectives.  I was not able to go to the cemetery because I could not walk much, but Ken took Camille, and I think it helped her understand what we were going to do with Granny's body.  She is still struggling with the difference between body and soul.

We chose to not have Meghan attend the funeral, so she stayed with Ken's aunt until the luncheon afterwards.  Meghan does not quite understand yet what happened and is a terror at mass, so this worked out fairly well.

We feel so lucky to live close to family.  My mom and sister both stayed with us and took care of the girls while I was too sick to move.  Ken's sister brought us some really delicious food on several occasions.  Ken's aunt watched the kids after my sister left, and Ken's cousin's wife took care of bringing Camille to school.  We also had some friends from church make us a couple meals.

Finally, let me say that my husband is amazing!  He somehow managed to be at the hospital for me, keep up with his work duties, arrange care for the kids, and be home twice a day to give Meghan her shots.  In addition, he was dealing with a very difficult situation with his own family.  I do not know how he did all of this!  He also had the pressure of his upcoming annual review at work.  I am hopeful his employer recognizes what a hard worker he is.  I definitely married a guy who is one-of-a-kind!

Now...can we please get on with February?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The New Year!

The Lamb family has already had an exciting 2013.  We rang in the new year with some friends of ours from church.  Of course, given the age of our children, the party stopped at 7PM, and we were in bed by 10:30!

My Grandma Ward was quite ill around the holidays and sort of just stopped eating.  We took her to the hospital, and she was able to get some fluids.  We are accepting that at age 94, she has had enough.  She was able to return to her assisted living apartment under the care of Hospice.  The Hospice team thinks she probably has a few weeks left.  I am so glad that I have been able to visit her regularly since moving back to Minnesota and the girls were able to develop a relationship with her.

I started feeling some pain in my back and abdomen on New Year's Eve and figured it was just from a growing baby and being tired from the Christmas season.  The pain kept coming back all week, but would go away when I rested.  Last Saturday I had a pretty full day by 3PM, and the pain had returned.  I felt bad enough that I canceled a fun pedicure date with a friend and had Ken go sledding with the kids by himself..  By 5:30PM, the pain was much worse and I actually called Ken to come home.  Thankfully, my mom was still in town helping with my Grandmother, so she came over to watch the kids.

Ken took me to labor and delivery at the hospital.  They took a while trying to figure out what was wrong.  I was seeing a team of midwives, and they are not credentialed to give pain medication.  Thankfully, they transferred me across the hall to the obstetrics ward after a couple of hours and they were able to start an IV and give me something for pain and nausea.  An ultrasound showed that my right kidney was dilated and full of fluid.  This usually occurs with kidney stones, but no stones were found on the ultrasound.

I can't describe anything else about my first night in the hospital exept that I was in constant pain that was barely managed with drugs and I was very sick.  Fortunately, the pain went away mostly by Sunday afternoon as long as I laid on my left side.  A urologist saw me and said they would do another ultrasound to check for kidney stones and think about putting a stent in my ureter to help my kidney drain.  Two more ultrasounds later, they still could not find any evidence of kidney stones.  Their best guess is that the baby is sitting on my kidney and ureter, preventing my kidney from draining. The urologist was not interested in putting in a stent at this point because they would need to use radiation to the pelvis to place the stent and it would have to be replaced every 30 days.  That means 2-3 more stent placements before the baby is born.

I was finally discharged from the hospital on Monday afternoon.  I was not sent home with any medication for pain or nausea.  Because I was having contractions when the pain was really bad, the doctors want me to come back to the hospital if the pain gets worse and not try to manage it at home.  I switched my care from the midwives to the chief ob/gyn who took care of me while in the hospital so that my kidney condition can be more closely monitored.

My mom stayed in town a few more days and has been taking care of the kids, cooking, and doing laundry.  She has to go home tomorrow.  Thankfully my sister Catie is coming for a few days with her daughter to help me.  I am so grateful for their help and for a playmate to keep Meghan busy.  Meghan has been a handful and is not taking my absence and inactivity very well.

I have just been resting a lot and trying to figure out how much I can do.  Today we took the girls for haircuts (that's another blog post...Camille had over 9 inches cut off to donate to Locks of Love) and even with my mom driving and carrying Meghan to the car, I still ended up with quite a bit of pain.  Right now the baby is 26 weeks and could live outside the womb with a lot of medical help.  I am hopeful we can make it to 37 weeks and have a healthy baby.

Please say some prayers that my kidney gets better, or at least does not get worse and that the baby stays in for another 11 weeks.  We would also love some prayers for Camille and Meghan.  Camille is doing okay with the upset routine, but I am really demanding that she help a lot.  Hopefully she doesn't get tired of being mommy's helper!  Meghan is going through a vicious phase of the terrible two's in addition to still struggling with the fact that she has to receive her "grow medicine" shots twice a day.  Please also pray that my Grandmother's last days are peaceful and that especially her children are able to cope with the dying process.