Wednesday, June 25, 2014


We went camping this month!  I'm amazed at how many people thought I was crazy.  "Camping?  You mean with a hotel, right?"  "Oh, what cabin are you going to?"  "With 4 kids?  Are you nuts?"  "Like, tent camping or RV camping?  Tent?  But, you're going somewhere with flushing toilets, right?"  My friends and family are so funny!  Silly people!  4 kids, camping, in a tent, for 4 days and 3 nights, with no cell phone reception and no electronics, no movies, no games.  Just us.

I thought I should document some of our camping experiences so that I can find it again later when I want to reference things.  Also, some of these tips and ideas might be useful to others.

First, THIS is why we enjoy camping:

Beautiful, right?!  How can you not fall in love with the mountains when it stores this kind of beauty?!  Just stepping out of the tent, you see gorgeous creation all around you.  Sitting in the tent, you hear the sounds of water and birds and silence!  It's just so peaceful!

And this was our meal plan:

Breakfast - on the road (we had a gift card to Cracker Barrel, so we went there)

Lunch - 7 Layer Dip with Chips 
              You want your first meal once you get to your camp spot to be something that doesn't require cooking.  This is because you may have been driving for quite a while already, and then you set up the tent, and your kids are bombarding you with their desires for food, comments of how they are so hungry and starving, perhaps they're even whiny and crying by then because it's been HOURS since breakfast.  Just trust me.  If you have to build a fire or set up a camp stove, they're NOT going to be thrilled with you.  I made the 7 layer dip because it was easy and included chips which meant that they wouldn't complain about what they were getting to eat.

Dinner - Tin Foil Dinners
               This time, we did a beef burger patty with baby carrots, onions for Daddy, and frozen cubed hashbrown potatoes.  We usually use butter inside but didn't this time.  Usually, the veggies stick to the foil, but this time they did not.  I sprayed the foil with cooking spray and on some I used a little bacon grease, on others I didn't, but none had problems with anything being stuck to the foil.  Also, I use the frozen hashbrown potatoes because it prevents you from opening your meal to find discolored and unappetizing potatoes.  I chose cubes because they cook fast.  Next time, we want to go back to using ground beef NOT already in a patty so that it's better mixed with the other foods.

Breakfast - Costco giant muffins!

Lunch - Croissant sandwiches & chips
              Nothing exciting, but I ALWAYS take enough stuff for PLENTY of sandwiches.  We went camping once where it rained on us the WHOLE time, so we sat in the tent singing songs and eating sandwiches rather than trying to build a fire in the rain and then someone having to sit out in the rain to cook our meals.  A loaf of bread is fine, but the croissants were calling to me, so we used those this time.  Make sure to bring your deli meat and cheese, plus dressings of choice.  In our family, that mostly just means Miracle Whip.

                 Keith caught his first fish, so we cooked that up and split the one fish between us.  Kiersten didn't want any, and Emmy doesn't get any yet, so 1/4 of a rainbow trout each!
Note to Self:  YouTube how to fillet a fish.

Dinner - Tin Foil Dinners
               For this one, we used dinner sausage links (not breakfast flavored with maple or whatever, just sagey sausage in small links... and we'll not be doing those in a tin-foil dinner again as they did NOT cook well), raw green beans, and diced or sliced red potatoes.  Only a couple potatotes were discolored.  For whatever reason, red potatoes don't discolor as easily as russets do.  I ended up having to get out the camp stove and cooking the sausages, but the green beans and red potatoes were delicious!  Again, don't forget to use cooking spray on the foil, and bacon grease if you want to.  And salt and pepper, of course.  I think next time, I'll slice up a kielbasa sausage.  Yum. 

Breakfast - Ham Egg and Cheese Croissants
                   Decided to put these croissants to use again.  I busted out the camp stove again, pan fried the deli ham slices, fried eggs, then topped the eggs with a slice of cheese that got all yummy and melty... then layered it all onto the croissant.  At the end, I started toasting the bread on the pan while melting the cheese onto the egg.  Everyone loved this one!  If you do this, be sure to buy a plastic egg carton in the same part of the store where you would buy a fishing license or sleeping bag (sporting department, usually).  I've seen people try to use regular egg cartons and they fall apart or eggs crack/break.  It's only $1-2.  Just pay it, it's worth it.

Lunch - Chili Cheese Fritos
              This WOULD have been nice, except our camp stove stopped working.  Not sure what the deal was.  We tried a new can of propane and both burners, but nothing worked.  It just broke.  I had already dumped two cans of chili into the pan (be sure to bring a can opener), so I had to figure out what to do with it.  It'll come up later.  Instead, we ended up eating randomness from the snack bucket.  I always take summer sausage, a block of cheese, and crackers when we camp.  Again, a "meal" that doesn't require cooking.  Be sure to bring a knife and cutting board for this.

Dinner - Hot Dogs & Chips
              Since we had all that chili that needed to be used, we put it on the grill piece over the fire and heated it up for chili dogs.  The kids didn't want theirs with chili, they still had just plain ol' hot dogs, the younger ones without a bun, the older ones with a bun - be sure to pack ketchup, bbq sauce, mustard, Miracle Whip, and relish (or whatever toppings your family likes) for this.  Chili and sliced cheese was pretty yummy, too!

Breakfast - Costco giant Muffins!
                   Just like your first meal at camp shouldn't require heating, neither should your last.  You'll be busy taking down your tent and packing everything into your vehicle.  You won't want to have camp forks out to roast anything in a fire, or a camp stove out when it goes in the bottom box in the car, or have to wait for a pot or pan to cool off before packing it.  These muffins were a hit!

Lunch - on the road
              It's about a 2 hour drive to get home, plus we had to stop for gas and milk (I made sure our milk and produce were all used up before leaving so that nothing went bad while we were gone), so we got some drive-thru deliciousness and took it home to eat (we weren't about to go inside somewhere having not showered in days and smelling like a camp fire).  This also gave us a chance to have the kids sit at the table to eat while we unloaded everything.  Not tripping over little ones eager to "help" is a nice perk!

Dinner - leftovers or something super simple and easy
               Once we were back home, I heated up frozen burritos for dinner after we unpacked the van and got laundry started and all showered up.  I was ready to sit down and enjoy the last few hours of my vacation.  Spaghetti with canned sauce would have been pretty easy, too.  Or leftover deli meat and cheese sandwiches.  Plan to take it easy rather than getting home and realizing that you have to cook and don't have fresh ingredients since you've been gone or that you weren't home to thaw some meat from the freezer.  Just plan on easy.  Pizza Hut would also be acceptable! 

So, that helps with meal planning, now how to entertain kids for 3 nights and 4 days....
This photo shows my two middle kids coloring, and my crochet project that I brought with me, plus our snack bucket... and a cute baby girl who enjoyed napping and crawling inside the tent!
Here is a napping baby, again.  She did a lot of this.  She didn't have any issues falling asleep while we were out there.  She just slept the same as she does at home.  However, next time I'm taking the pack-n-play so she has a play space that doesn't have rocks underneath... and a crib sheet to put on top of it so that it keeps the bugs out.
The boys ran around the campsite quite a bit, collecting sticks, walking across fallen down trees, and sitting on the rocks by the river/stream.  I ONLY took coloring books and crayons.  NOTHING else.  They never told me even once that they were bored.  They enjoyed being outside and exploring their surroundings.  Their only rule was that they had to be within a distance that allowed them to hear me calling for them.
We brought lots of snacks, and kids need snacks.  Trail mix would have been a good one, though I think we had a lot of skittles, M&Ms, and summer sausage with gouda cheese and crackers.
We really just enjoyed the outdoors!  The boys enjoyed fishing while I enjoyed the babbling brook!
We enjoyed the outdoors enough that my feet were atrocious!  Granted, I wear flip flops (so that I know no bugs have crawled into my shoes) and I stayed in the tent with Emmy most of the time.

This was about it!  It was relaxing and wonderful!  We're so excited to get to go again!

Just wondering...
What do you do when you camp?  What meals do you plan?  What entertainment do you take?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Growing Stinkweeds

I love doing this every year!  It helps me keep track of where I put their growth info, and it's cute to see them growing!  I wish I could have fit Emmalyn into the picture this year, but it just wasn't going to happen.  I'll add a cutesy picture of her at the end.  So, since I have their heights and weights listed on the photo, my chart that I'm typing out now will be their height/weight PERCENTILES...

                  2011            2012            2013
Keith         7th/6th        19th/12th     28th/19th     (5yr11mo to 7yr11mo)
Mitchell    43rd/63rd    69th/78th     55th/66th     (2yr11mo to 4yr11mo)
Kiersten    6th/31st       11th/15th     15th/17th     (12mo to 3yr)

Now my analysis:  Keith is actually growing!  He was BELOW the charts for a long time, so seeing him grow like this is great!  He's turning out to be on the small side of average!  Mitchell has always been my little football player, and that just hasn't changed!  Kiersten's height is increasing quite a bit while her weight is down.  She's just such a squeaker!

As for Emmalyn, it's hard to figure out her percentages at 6 weeks because it's the graph instead of a digital output calculator.  However, as best I can figure it, her 23" puts her around the 93rd percentile for height, and 9.4 lbs puts her around the 25th percentile for weight.  I'm AMAZED that she's grown 2" in just 6 weeks!  She's a tall girl!

Anyway, so that's the yearly update.  Aren't they just adorable?!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Home Water Birth of a Rainbow

Well, it finally happened! I have a baby in my home and in my arms again!

My estimated due date (EDD) was 11/11, and for a while, I was really worried about my baby being born too early. But the 11th came and passed and I stayed pregnant. I went in for a prenatal on Tuesday, 11/19 at 8 days past EDD. My sweet midwife did a quick Non-Stress Test (NST) to make sure all was well inside, and then gave me some "rocket juice" (her own herbal tincture concoction along with some orange juice to mask the flavor). I left her office around 12:30 and then met up with some family for lunch. I picked up my oldest kiddo from school around 3pm and then went home.

The "rocket juice" was supposed to increase the cramping sensation because the goal was to help me with effacement moreso than dilation (I was 4cm and 50% at this point). I could definitely feel the increase in cramping and began to notice that it came in waves, like contractions. So I began taking note of the time between waves. 5 minutes. Hmmm...

After an hour or so, once my husband was home, I let my midwife and doula know that things seemed to be coming together and that I felt like it was the day to bake a birthday cake. No rush yet though. I began timing the duration of the contractions in addition to the time between contractions. As things started seeming more and more coordinated, my husband got nervous and said it might be time to start inviting over our birth team. While I got everyone informed and ate some dinner, he blew up the birthing tub.

First to arrive was my doula, Denise, around 8pm. My midwife, Rebecca, arrived around 8:30-9pm. It was a slow start so I didn't ask my photographer, Kendra, to come over until 10:45-11pm.

We began filling the tub around the time Kendra came over. I didn't want to allow myself too much comfort for fear of slowing things down, but I guess my face was tipping people off that I was needing a little relief and they insisted I get in. The warm water was wonderful! We noticed the time and realized that if things hurried up, I could have a baby on an all prime number date... 11-19-13! unfortunately, with 9 minutes to go, I realized that wasn't going to happen, but also noted that my kids do things in multiples of 3 (#1 was 3 days past EDD, #2 was 6 days past EDD, #3 was 3 days before EDD) and an 11/20 birthday would put her at 9 days past EDD. Yes, I'm a dork and like numbers that much.
Rebecca checking the baby's heart rate while in the tub.
 Anyway, as contractions started really picking up, I guess my face was showing it because they started trying to distract me. Eventually, I had to make a decision - don't push and keep feeling the intense pain in my lower abdomen and thighs, or push knowing it'll hurt more but then will be over. I pushed and felt the water break as her head was birthed into the tub of warm water. I reached down and felt her hair. Once Rebecca checked to make sure the cord was not around her neck, I pushed a second time and out she came. Rebecca pushed her forward while I sat back so that I could lift her out of the water.

November 20, 2013

She was beautiful! The first thing I noticed was her adorably dimpled chin. Then her tiny ears. Her long finger and toe nails. Her button nose (just like Mitchell and Kiersten). Her full lips that she definitely got from her daddy and not me!  I held her, stared and studied her.  Ben sat behind me (not in the tub though) and stared and studied her.  We kept her mostly in the water to keep her warm, eventually wrapping a towel around her to keep the warm water on her.  It seemed like time almost paused so that Ben and I could take in the experience and focus on the fact that we finally had our little girl here where we could see her and cuddle her.  No one interrupted us, they just allowed us to "be."

Then OUCH! What the? "Ooooh, time for the placenta." How did I not remember birthing the placenta at ANY of my births? OUCH!  After waiting for the cord to stop pulsing, Ben cut the cord, and they took my baby girl just long enough for me to birth the placenta (1:20am, so it pulsed for a good 24 minutes where we stayed connected), and then they gave her back. I liked that. Once that was over, it was time to get out. I showered up and got into my bed and got back to snuggling my newest sweetheart.

While her weight (8.0 lbs) and length (21") and other measurements (head/chest 13.25-13.5") were taken and the newborn exam was completed, we talked about names. We had our name list narrowed down to 40 this time (which is good for us, there were 117 names on the list when Mitchell was born). Ainara was a birth team favorite, as it means illuminating, shining, which kind of fits her. Eve means life, which is significant after two losses. Despite meaning "beautiful lion," Arabella was taken off the list. It is also a fitting meaning as she's such a beautiful little girl, and also was a bit feisty while still in the womb. Names were tossed back and forth but we eventually narrowed it down to 5 - Ainara, Miranda, Jeslyn, Sasha, and Emmalyn.

Around 4am, Kiersten woke up. Ben let her meet her new sister, which was an adorable encounter. Finally, though, it was bedtime. Ben and I were both absolutely exhausted after being up for 23 hours or so.

Camera picture of Daddy with his two girls!
All that day, we tried the names on our new addition. I loved Ainara, but alas, it isn't HER name. We both loved Jeslyn, but it wasn't HER name. The boys, asked independently, both said Emmalyn. In fact, when Mitchell went to preschool, his teacher told him that his new baby sister looked like him, to which he replied that, "no, she looks like Emmalyn." The next day, we asked again and they still both said her name was Emmalyn. So there it was. That was HER name.

Before I miss writing it, I want to document it for next time around... after 3 days I was still having contractions in my lower abs and thighs. And it hurt. It hurt like early labor, but it hurt.  How ridiculous! How do I not remember this happening with the others?

Overall, this was such a perfect birth!  We hung out, carried on random conversations, kind of had a "girl night in" feeling to the whole night, and just happened to have a baby in there somewhere!  I loved being in the water.  I loved being the one to bring my baby up out of the water.  I loved letting birth just happen.  I loved sitting in the tub with Emmalyn while waiting for the placenta to detach.  I loved letting the cord pulse until it was done.  I love that her newborn exam wasn't until after I was showered and in my own bed and when I was ready to let someone else hold her while I watched what was going on.  I love that she was in my sight the whole time.  I love that I didn't have to labor in a car!  I loved just everything about this birth!  I absolutely ADORE my birth team!  These ladies were so wonderful to have around me as I labored, keeping my spirits high the whole time, empowering me as my body worked toward its goal.  If the time should arise again, I would choose these 3 to be there, hands down!  And Ben!!  He stays so calm, never freaks out.  Yes, this was my ideal birth.  I got a great birth experience and a great little girl, all in the same night!  Perfect ending to a perfect day!
Erythema Toxicum - no worries, she's not cold, just a normal newborn "rash" kind of thing.

One day old tiny princess!  Our rainbow baby!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Christmas Jammies embody Faith vs Fear

Today, my oldest and I went to the store and picked out a Christmas onesie and jammies for our little "Vash" (no, still no name - we'll see her before naming her, it's HER name rather than ours, after all).  This sounds like no big deal, but it is to me. 

Let me explain.

Over the course of the last year, I've made lots of friends who are photographers for NILMDTS (the organization that does bereavement portraits).  I've made lots of friends who are loss-moms like me.  I'm too familiar with the stories - stories like mine of losing babies before 20 weeks, of those who lose babies in the second trimester... and also of those who lose their babies at 32 weeks, 39 weeks, 41 weeks, during labor, just after delivery, and every other possible scenario. 

I know a lot of people think that, now that I'm past when both my babies had died, I should feel like I'm safe and on the home stretch and just a bundle of joy!  But that's just not how it is.  My eyes have been opened and I am no longer in that joyfully innocent group of women who will ever feel "safe" at ANY point in pregnancy ever again.  In fact, the closer I get to my due date, the more I have to remember "fear is the opposite of faith, must have faith, do not entertain fear as it is an insult to faith."  If I have a mantra, that's it.  "Do Not Entertain Fear, It Is An Insult To Faith."  So while I try to push away the fear DAILY, I'm also not blind, innocent, or naive.  The closer I get to my due date, the more I feel like I've been SO lucky so far, and that my luck could still run out at any moment.  It gets hard to breathe.  Tears stay so close to the surface that I feel like I just want to hide in my room and cry nearly every day.  My heart literally hurts, sometimes to where I wonder if I'm going to have a heart attack!  But, I push it away.  I put on a happy face.  I rub my belly and tell her how much I love her and am so excited to meet her next month (I dare not wish her to come before SHE is COMPLETELY ready, it's just as scary to me as anything else).  I beg her to stay with me. 

Back to the jammies.  Why is it such a big deal?

Because I'm preparing for a baby that could still be taken away at any moment.  I've heard too many stories of having to pack up nurseries or box up clothes that were all washed and ready to go.  Buying these jammies is a HUGE leap of faith that I won't have to gift them to someone else or box them up for another pregnancy/baby.  It's a step where I'm forever trying to quash the fear and hold tight to that faith that I'm really going to get to hold (and keep) my little "Vash." 

Laugh if you must, but laying those items on the counter, swiping my debit card, bringing them into the house, and next will be hanging them up...  every step of it has made me want to cry.  But I'm refusing to allow myself to do so.  Because "fear is an insult to faith."  I've bought a few things along the way, even dug out old things from my other kiddos, but none has been with such intent - gifting these jammies to her on Christmas Eve...  it makes the assumption that she'll be there for Christmas.  Buying a girl outfit because we were told we're having a girl... it assumes we're having a girl.  Buying a gift for her assumes she'll get to open it.  That's much more realistic (as opposed to fantasy/dreams) than anything else I've done so far. 

So...  less than 4 weeks until my due date.  If you're a praying person, pray for me to be able to overcome fear and increase my faith.  Pray that this little girl will grow healthy and strong and happy.

Capture Your Grief: Days 9-15 in 2013

9. Music: This might be hard to capture in a photograph so why not post a youtube clip of a piece of music that reminds your of your baby/ies/child/ren. Why this piece of music?

Music just hasn't played a role in my grief.  Odd since music used to sing my life, but it hasn't with this.

10. Beliefs: Do you have a certain belief about what happens to us after we die? You might believe that we go to a heaven or you might believe that our bodies eventually turn to dust and that is the end of our story. Please feel free to share your beliefs whether they are religious, spiritual or not.

I think this is summed up well in the image I've shared several times of Taylor and the quote on the graphic...:
I believe whole heartedly that I will get to raise my children in the Millennium, doing what brings me both the most frustration as well as the most joy - being a mother.  This is an incredible opportunity to me and I look forward to it more than perhaps anything else. 

11. Emotional Triggers: What triggers emotions associated with grief for you? Is it the weather? A scent? Photos? Places? Holidays? Words? Certain people?

Birthdays, due dates, Christmas...
Taylor was due on her aunt's birthday but was born on her grandmother's birthday.
Seth was due just days after Christmas but was born on his uncle's birthday.
When we go to take family pictures and they aren't there, when we have to substitute our Molly Bears in place of our angel children, I remember them and it's a big trigger for me.
With another annual family picture coming up soon, I'm planning to crochet outfits for our bears again so our angels can be properly represented in our family picture.  This is a trigger for me.

12. Article: Have you read an article about grief that you would love to share with everyone? Please feel welcome to share who wrote the article and how the article resonated with you and also the direct link to the article if it is online.

If I think of anything in particular, I'll come back and edit this.  For now, all that is on my mind is that same quote by Joseph Smith that I posted above on day 10.  

13. Book: Have you read a book about grief that helped you immensely in your journey of grief? Please feel welcome to share the book and links to where it can be purchased so others can find it.

I read two books about grief.  However, I should probably re-read them as it was while I was still fairly deep in my own grief and I really don't remember much.  Again, I may update this later.

14. Family: What does you family look like now? Is it just yourself carrying your child’s heart in yours? Do you have other children? A partner? A pet? You may not have what society perceives as a family but we all know that just because you cannot see any children, that does not mean that they are not a part of your family.

This is my family now - my 3 living children, clinging to their angel siblings represented by bears, huddled around a gravestone to celebrate a birthday that didn't come with chubby cheeks and discussion about walking and talking and all the milestones met over the past year.  We'll be adding another baby to our family, hopefully next month, and hopefully without the need to get another bear.  My husband and I love all 6 of our children and are so very excited to see the beautiful, happy face of our newest addition soon.  I haven't had to consider talking to this new baby about her angel siblings because they're always remembered in our home.

15. Wave Of Light: Today is October 15th Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Light a candle at 7pm to help create a continuous wave of light around the world for 24 hours. Photograph your light! Please remember to share your location for this day as well. Wishing you all a ton of love for this sacred day of remembrance.

Today, I want to remember the angels that I've come to hold close to my heart, as well as my own.  And so I speak their names (in no particular order):

Grant Abernathy
Miracle Abernathy
Lily Robbins
Cordelia Casper
Luke Wood
Ayla Schneider
Autumn Phillips
Melena Harvey
Addison Johnson
Bryce Carter
Isaac Palmer
Porter Palmer
Jerom Shaver
Jocelyn Files
Liam Allred
Malachi Allred
Allison Mattes
Breckin Law
Brighton Law
Avery Friend
Caden Tozier
Clark Deneca
Little Fella Allen
Hope Lewis
Jude Hastings
Willow Hastings
Oliva Kunz
Skylar Fitzgerald
Harlee Fitzgerald
Matthew Fitzgerald
Vincent Valenzuela

And also Taylor Harvey & Seth Harvey.  So many angels.  So many grieving hearts yearning to hold their babies.  Many hugs and much love to the families of each of these babies who never came home from the hospital, who were born too soon, who were gone before they were even born.  So much love to each of you. There are so many more to add to this list, unnamed babies, babies not talked about, (and a few that I missed just because the list is so long) and this is just within my circle of extended friends.  Forgive me if I missed your angel.  PLEASE, write out your angel's name in the comments here.  I want to remember your angels.  All of them. 

Love to you all....

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Capture Your Grief: Day 8 in 2013

Day 8. Colour: What colour/s do you represent your baby? Why that colour/s?

Seth's is light blue due to the abundance of light blue in all of his NILMDTS photos, mostly his hat.  And with Taylor, I'm not really sure why, but purple (not lilac) and red (not pink). 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Capture Your Grief: Day 7 of 2013

Day 7. You Now: Where are you in your grief right now? How are you feeling? How far have you come? Are you wrestling with anything? Is your heart heavier or lighter now?

THIS is where I am in my grief right now.  This was last week, but still.  Today I am 35 weeks pregnant with the baby we lovingly call "Vash" (last paragraph) until we see her and can decide what her name really is.  Every day, I have to choose faith over fear.  Every day, when I start feeling her kick, I am so very reassured.  If I don't feel her, I have to think through and remind myself that she'll kick later, that she's fine, that she moved around yesterday, that she's probably just sleeping, etc.  It takes a while sometimes, but I try hard to keep my emotions in check.

As I approach my due date in a mere 5 weeks, I am feeling... well, I'm feeling.  Like I said, I have to talk myself out of fear.  I fear her dying still.  I fear a cord accident.  I fear a placenta issue.  I fear something happening during birth.  But, most days I'm able to push it all aside.  I'd say that's coming pretty far.

So, that's where I stand.  Constantly having to choose faith over fear, battling fear daily.  But my heart is lighter than it was.  I don't do that gasping-for-air crying anymore.  I get teary-eyed sometimes, but as far as my angels are concerned, I am at peace.  I have my purpose because of them.  I miss them, but my religion assures me that I'll see them again.  I know I won't see them in this life, but I'll see them again.  I miss them.  I love them.  But I'm okay.  I remember them every single day.  But I'm okay.  I am okay.