Like Father. Like Son

One of the most beautiful parts of welcoming a new baby into the family is watching her big siblings melt as they hold her. My heart melts as I watch them.

I knew the girls would love holding little Ella. They adore her. Rose already has a knack for calming her cries. It’s precious.

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But I’ve been blown away with Will’s tenderness toward her, especially since he wanted another brother so badly. Despite his initial disappointment, she’s stolen a sweet spot in his heart. He will happily sit and just gaze into her eyes as she stares up at him. She even gave him a toothless baby grin. I’m not certain it was entirely involuntary.

Watching him with her fills my heart with gratitude. Not just for melt-my-heart-moments in the midst of the squabbles and diaper changes, but for their daddy who models such tenderness for them.

I missed posting sweet sentimental pictures on Father’s Day. I didn’t even write him a card. But every day he makes me grateful that he’s the father of my children.

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I’m grateful that he comes home after a long day at work and still has patience to calm a crying baby or flip big siblings upside-down to walk on the ceilings.

I’m grateful for the hours and hours he’s spent reading to us: from Scriptures, from children’s classics like Winnie-the-Poohand from crazy long series like Lord of the Rings. 

I’m grateful for the amazing things he builds for them.

I’m grateful that he models the type of man I want my daughters to marry and the type of man I want my sons to become.

I’m so grateful we get to experience this parenting adventure together.

(On a completely unrelated note: we didn’t learn the trick to successful bottle-training, for times we want a night out without needing to nurse a baby, until our fifth child. It’s so simple. Introduce the bottle between three and four weeks. Success! Woo-hoo! Thanks, Amber!) 

Elanor Jaël

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Introducing our sweet long-awaited Ella <3 

I don’t know how moms who go past their due date survive. The oldest two were born at 38 weeks, the next two at 37 weeks and we (as well as our midwives and nurses) fully expected little Ella to arrive by 37 weeks too. But the days ticked by and she seemed perfectly content to stay put.

Then contractions started, grandparents picked up the big kids, and the contractions stopped. Then started again. And stopped.

Prodromal labor. It’s bewildering, exhausting, and enough to make you question anything you thought you knew about having a baby. Funny thing is though, at least for me, that after a pregnancy that seemed to bounce from morning sickness to aching veins to insomnia to shooting joint pain (with near constant brain fog and exhaustion), whenever the contractions stopped I felt amazing and slept more soundly than I can remember for ages.

So after a couple days of whining and wishing that SHE WOULD JUST COME ALREADY, I tried to just enjoy it. Which was pretty easy because the kids were having a blast with grandparents and Josh was able to work from home for several days. Then the kids came home (because I was missing them like crazy and who knew how long it might be!) and we soaked in the last few days before adding a new baby to the family.

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An *almost* family picture (It was nearly 11:00 p.m. when the kids came to see their new sister and Ned was sound asleep. <3 )

After a week of starts and stops, active labor finally started. Due to complications in the past, we consulted with specialists, ran numerous blood tests, and had multiple precautions in place for her birth. (Plus I took enough medications and supplements throughout the pregnancy to make me feel like I ought to be turning ninety!)

God was gracious and answered the many prayers for a smooth and uncomplicated delivery. We had an amazing birth team and Josh could write a book on how to be a perfect labor coach. Ella greeted the world with gusto and bright-eyed curiosity. We couldn’t be more blessed.

DSC04060Adoring big sisters 

The days since she arrived have been so sweet. With all four of the other kids, we either had complications or a ten-hour-trip home days after delivery. Plus, Josh either had to plunge straight back into law school classes, take the bar exam, or frantically prepare for a jury trial. This time we drove eight minutes home and Joshua got to take paternity leave. (A modern politically-correct trend I absolutely love!)
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She is such a sweet, alert baby and has already brought so much joy to our family. The older kids can hardly get enough of holding her. One of them suggested the solution was to have quintuplets. I think we’ll just work on taking turns.

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We’ve been so ridiculously spoiled with food and help from family and friends so that we can soak in these first fleeting days with her. It’s amazing how much change a new baby brings, and yet how quickly life without their presence is unimaginable. So grateful for our Elanor Jaël.

Humility, Faith, and Folic Acid

Life is perplexing. We don't know all the answers. That's why we need to approach life with humility and faith.

What does folic acid have to do with humility and faith? Humor me for just a minute, and I think you’ll see…

What’s the absolute most important supplement to take when you’re pregnant? Most literature I’ve read agrees that it is folic acid.

Folic acid helps fight miscarriage and protect the developing baby from serious neural tube defects. It’s a pretty powerful supplement.

When I was pregnant, I might skimp on other supplements because they made me feel sick, but I took folic acid faithfully.

After baby Edmund was born, I had some blood work done. Guess what I discovered. My body doesn’t process folic acid. At all. The hundreds of little white pills I took so faithfully during four pregnancies? They didn’t do an ounce of good. **

Humility because we don’t know it all

When I first found out, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Thankfully all our kids survived just fine, but I thought back to the many nights when I had pulled my pregnant self out of bed just as I was about to fall asleep and fumbled around in the bathroom to find the folic acid I’d forgotten to take earlier. My mommy instincts just wouldn’t let me go to sleep without it.

And then to find out that all that trouble was for nothing! It was disheartening and frustrating.

As I tried to see the humor in it, I realized this folic acid “discovery” was relevant to a lot of my life.

We don’t know it all. Scientists are still searching for the cure to cancer, patients still die from properly prescribed drugs (source/source), and today’s hot new cure-all home remedy might end up having serious side effects.

This lack of omnipotence isn’t limited to the realm of health, of course. There is so much left to uncover in every arena. It should inspire us to dig deeper and search more diligently.

But at the end of the day, we are human. Part of being human is not knowing everything. And that should provoke us to humility in our health choices, and food choices, and educational choices. In short, in every aspect of our lives.

Faith in the One who does know all

Our limitations should also point us to our Creator.

Sometimes I wonder if God sits in heaven and laughs. I wonder if He laughs when we go about our days absolutely confident that the latest idea we’ve read is going to work, only to see it fizzle or backfire.

I wonder if He patiently proves to us over and over that we don’t know it all so that we learn to put our trust in Him.

Because, unlike us, God is omnipotent. He does know all. Our lack of knowledge is just one more reason to put our faith in His mighty hands. Not in a I-might-as-well-give-up sort of way, but in joyful faith that He loves and cares about us even more than we do ourselves.

After four long pregnancies, I discovered that the folic acid I'd been taking faithfully didn't do me an ounce of good (thanks to a fairly common genetic alteration I needed a different form of this vital nutrient.) At first I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Then I realized that so much of life is unknown. We do our best with the limited information we have, but in the end have to learn humility and faith in the face of life's perplexing questions.

Humility and Faith in the Face of Life’s Questions

Life can be so annoyingly perplexing.  We are going to face many difficult questions on this journey of life. Rather than responding to them with pride or fear, our limitations should inspire humility and faith. (And maybe a few good laughs too.)

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**I still think folate is very important, just that folic acid is a synthetically-produced version of the necessary nutrient folate and my body can’t process the synthetic form (due to a fairly common genetic trait). Leafy green vegetables, lentils & beans, and citrus fruits are naturally high in folate, and methylated folate is a more natural form of the supplement my body can process.  Hopefully!

(photo credit)

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Sometimes God Says “No”

“God always answers prayer, Amy. Sometimes He says ‘Yes’, sometimes ‘No’, and sometimes ‘Wait.'”

These were the words of wisdom Amy Carmichael’s mother shared with her when she found Amy in her room heart-broken. Amy had prayed that God would change her brown eyes to blue. When she awoke next morning and looked in the mirror, she was devastated to find He hadn’t.

Though Amy didn’t know why God said “No” then, many years later she found out: blue eyes would have made her missionary work in India as an adult nearly impossible.

God always answers prayers, but sometimes He says "No!" to our heart's desire. But when God says "No!" it's because He has a better "Yes!"...

Thanks Crystal for the lovely photos! 

This story came to mind as I stood listening outside the girls’ bedroom. They were happily playing house with little Meg as Rose’s “Mom”. An hour or so before, they had waltzed downstairs decked out as queen and princess.

Something I didn’t believe possible for years to come has already happened. Despite the four-year age gap, Meg and Rose are really good friends.

My thoughts drifted back to my pregnancy with Meg. Rose was already four and I foolishly thought it was just too much of an age gap for sisters to be close until they got older, so I wanted a brother for Will before another girl.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but when the ultrasound revealed a girl, I had a hard time blinking back the tears. Why hadn’t God listened to my prayers? I had such a perfect gender sequence planned out and this was not the right order.

Of course, those silly thoughts melted long ago. I cannot imagine having waited two more years for Meg’s sweet spunky spirit to fill our home, but I still thought it would be at least a decade before she and Rose were close friends.

As their happy giggles broke into my reverie, I realized just how much better God’s plan was than mine. Not only are Rose and Will fast friends, but already the friendship between the two girls is deepening and growing.

God is wiser than I am. (duh!) Sometimes it is hard to choose joy when God doesn’t answer our prayers. But when God says “No”, He really does have a better way.

[The story of Amy Carmichael is from one of our favorite children’s booksCan Brown Eyes be Made Blue?]

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Why I Love Samaritan Ministries

With the Obama-care penalty-tax in effect and massive private insurance rate hikes, many are looking for an alternative to health insurance: consider Samaritan Ministries. Thanks to the dedicated work of a handful of people and God’s goodness, health sharing ministries like Samaritan meet the requirements to avoid the penalty.

Getting to avoid the tax penalty is only one of many reasons why I’m glad we have Samaritan Ministries. I also love them because their staff genuinely cares about the members (and loves babies, because God does!), they offer a Biblical model of Christians sharing each others burdens, their prices are WAY cheaper than insurance, they offer excellent maternity care, and they incentivize healthy lifestyles.

If you are tired of the massive health insurance rate hikes, consider switching to Samaritan Ministries. They have been a HUGE blessing to our family.

Why I love Samaritan Ministries

Dedicated, caring staff

Nearly in tears from frustration, I picked up the phone to call Samaritan Ministries.

The problem? They require that you provide an itemized bill when you submit a medical need to get reimbursed. It seemed so simple. How hard can it be to get a bill with exactly what it is you’re being charged for?

Apparently, pretty difficult sometimes.

Despite an amazing OB and wonderful nurses, I could not get an itemized bill from the hospital I’d visited during my pregnancy with Meg. I called numerous times. Waited for weeks for an itemized bill to be mailed. It never showed up. I trekked to different offices with two little kids in tow trying to get someone to give me an actual real bill. Just a bill. All to no avail.

Then I called Samaritan Ministries.

As I explained the situation, frustration clearly evident in my voice, our team leader said, “Anna, don’t worry about this anymore. God loves babies. So do we. Stop worrying about getting an itemized bill and let us take care of it for you. You’ve tried but now it’s time to just focus on the baby that’s about to enter the world and let us take over.”

I got off the phone and did the only logical thing a pregnant mama would do. Cried. For joy. It’s not every day that you call to get a medical need covered and get such a clear reminder of God’s love for you and for new life!

Biblical model of care of Christians for Christians

Christians are supposed to care for the needy and hurt everywhere, but we have a special duty toward fellow Christians. The Bible is pretty clear on that. (Gal. 6:10)

SMI is set up on that foundation. Christians send money and encouragement to fellow Christians with medical needs. Small needs (under $300) that a family cannot afford, are assumed to be the responsibility of the local church. Needs larger than $300 get shared around the globe.

Isn’t that exciting? It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it because it seems like this is how it should be.

(SMI leaders are also heading up an exciting new ministry to provide free top-notch maternity care to women in the inner city called the Morning Center.)

Low monthly cost and good “coverage”

The cost of insurance is high and getting higher. According to Kaiser, the average cost of insurance for a family in 2012 was $15,745. Even if the employer paid the bulk of the cost, the out-of-pocket premium was still $4,316 on average.

That’s a lot of money. Especially for young healthy growing families.

When Joshua started his job as a Federal Judicial Clerk almost three years ago, we had a choice: regular insurance or stay with Samaritan. It didn’t take long to decide.

Our portion of the insurance premiums was still more than our monthly share at Samaritan… even though the tax-payers would have covered 75% of the premium. Plus, the plan only covered 80% of costs until a fairly high threshold was met.

On the other hand, Samaritan covers 100% of medical needs over $300, assuming needs aren’t prorated. (The company operates on a cash basis. If more needs come in than money from members, needs are pro-rated. As far as I know, every time that this has happened in the past, God has provided through lower needs being submitted the next month, negotiations with hospitals, or extra donations from members. It happened with our bill from Meg and it’s so FUN seeing God work!)

Not only did we want to save tax-payers money (you’re welcome), I’d way rather send our monthly check to pay for fellow Christians’ medical needs than pay into a system that covers things I don’t believe in and has incredibly high overhead costs.

Excellent maternity coverage

As I’ve already said, SMI adopts God’s attitude toward children: they love them. This is reflected in their excellent maternity coverage.

Plus, if you choose to use a midwife or have a VBAC, they waive the initial $300 you normally would be responsible for covering since your choice saves SMI members a considerable amount of money.

(There are, understandably, some restrictions if you become a member while pregnant. Read about them here-page 28.)

Incentive to pursue a healthy lifestyle (plus flexibility of treatment)

When you know your health decisions affects won’t just affect yourself, they’ll affect the pocketbooks of Christians around the globe, choosing a healthy lifestyle becomes even more worthwhile.

And, when you do need treatment, SMI offers way more flexibility than insurance companies. A friend from church was recently diagnosed with cancer. Rather undergo chemotherapy here in the States, he asked if SMI would pay for him to travel abroad for alternative treatment that has a good track record of efficacy. SMI agreed.

Some people think we're crazy to not have health insurance... but Samaritan Ministries has cared for our needs and allowed us to care for fellow Christians  around the world. That's only a few of the reasons why I LOVE them!

(photo credit)

Tired of health insurance? Make the switch.

If you are sick of health insurance, consider switching to Samaritan Ministries. It has been a huge blessing to our family.

[If you decide to use Samaritan Ministries and would like to bless our family, you can put down “Feminine Adventures” as a referral and we will get a discount on upcoming “shares”. If you prefer not doing that, I totally understand! I share about them here because they have been a genuine blessing to me and my family and I hope to see the ministry continue to grow.]

 If you use SMI, I’d love to hear what you think! Have you had as wonderful an experience as we have? 

Natural Ways to Combat Insomnia During Pregnancy

Don’t you think it’s ironic that even when you’re utterly exhausted from pregnancy, sometimes pregnancy induces insomnia? This pregnancy I struggled falling asleep and woke regularly with nightmares and couldn’t go back to sleep for hours. 

My midwife recommended Unisom (considered one of the safest drugs during pregnancy, plus it fights morning sickness!) and I used it regularly for about two months. Eventually though, it just stopped helping. 

Pregnant and exhausted, but can't sleep? Try these natural ways to combat insomnia.

[Full disclosure: Links to products in this post are my referral links.] photo credit

Finding a pregnancy-safe alternative wasn’t as easy as I thought. Melatonin and valerian, two of my favorite insomnia helps, aren’t recommended during pregnancy. The melatonin might disrupt the growing baby’s natural production of melatonin and valerian is so strong that most doctors–and my midwife— feel more studying needs to be done before it’s safe to recommend.

After lots of prayer and research, wonderful advice from friends, and a talk with my midwife, we came up with a plan that has helped me so much.

I am not a doctor or a nurse. The only hospital I have ever worked at is a doll hospital. There, a band-aid can cure a heart attack. As always, please do you own research (these are a few of my favorite resources) and talk to your health care provider. 

12 Natural Ways to Fight Insomnia During Pregnancy

Manage your expectations. When sleepless night follows sleepless night, it’s easy to let discouragement and fear creep in. Instead, put your expectations in Christ’s strength. Don’t dread going to bed. Trust that Jesus will give you the sleep yu need and the strength to face the coming day even if you don’t sleep much.

Stop taking naps: when I’m pregnant few things sound better than a nap. However, if you struggle with insomnia, taking  a nap can further compound the problem by throwing off the circadian rhythm that regulates your sleep. The first few days without naps were miserable (especially since I wasn’t sleeping well at night) but after a few days it did get better.

Exercise regularly. Exercise is good for your heart. It makes you feel more cheerful. Exercise curbs weight gain, naturally increases iron in your blood, and helps combat “diseases of affluence.” Plus, regular exercise helps get your body tired so you can fall asleep at night. Do a pregnancy work-out, take a good walk, or swim. Getting regular exercise will help fight insomnia. Just make sure to exercise in the morning or early to mid-afternoon so your body has time to cool down before bed. [Here’s how I find time to exercise with little ones.]

Establish a good sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each morning. In the evenings, establish a “going to bed” routine that helps you relax and unwind. As bedtime approaches, force yourself to yawn. Soon, it will be natural and seems to help me get sleepy.

Spend time outside in the afternoon. Getting afternoon sun can help regulate your sleep cycle. (Here’s what I do to get Vitamin D while avoiding sunburns.)

Are you pregnant and exhausted, but simply cannot sleep? Here are 12 natural ways to fight insomnia during pregnancy

(photo credit)

Take 1/2 tsp blackstrap molasses before bed. A friend recommended this to me and said it worked wonders for her. Blackstrap molasses is often recommended during pregnancy as a high source of usable iron and calcium.

Drink chamomile tea before going to bed. Many sleep-inducing herbs aren’t considered safe during pregnancy, but chamomile is an exception. Chamomile isn’t as strong as valerian, but it does help sooth the nerves. (Buy high-quality chamomile here.)

Drink warm milk before going to bed. Warm milk has been recommended as a sleep aid for ages. Why it works is still up for debate (it may be mostly psychological) but the calcium in it could also help your body naturally produce melatonin. Whatever the reason, it does seem to work and if you add a dash of nutmeg it tastes quite good.

Get enough calcium and magnesium. Waking up in the middle of the night unable to fall back asleep is miserable. It could be caused by a lack of calcium or magnesium. James F. Balch, M.D. writes that “A lack of the nutrients calcium and magnesium will cause you to wake up after a few hours and not be able to return to sleep.”

Why? These minerals help calm the nerves and encourage sleep [and prevent night terrors in children.] According to William Sears, M.D, “Calcium helps the brain use the amino acid tryptophan to manufacture the sleep-inducing substance melatonin. This explains why dairy products, which contain both tryptophan and calcium, are one of the top sleep-inducing foods.”

Relax and breathe. My friend Kristy reminded me of just how important this was and it sure helped. My favorite relaxation technique is one a dear midwife friend taught me. While laying in bed, start with your head and relax each part of your body all the way down to your toes. (Then, if you want, start at your toes and work up to your head.) It’s amazing how much tension you can unconsciously build up in your forehead or shoulders.

Have a midnight plan (i.e. if you can’t sleep, get up.) Laying in bed for hours desperately wishing you could sleep isn’t very helpful. After several nights, I was almost afraid to fall asleep because I was dreading waking up at 2:30 a.m. If you don’t fall back asleep after 20 or 30 minutes, get up and do something calming (like ironing or folding laundry while listening to the Bible or a book on tape) until you’re sleepy. Having a plan makes falling asleep much easier and waking up less miserable.

(Another optional, though highly helpful strategy, is to get a cold. Lol! I’ve never been quite so grateful to come down with a cold. It made me just sleepy enough at night to be able to fall asleep easily.)

Do simple E-stretches: Sadly, I didn’t read Pain Free until after my baby was born, but after doing a few simple exercises that improved my posture and skeletal structure, my sleeping increased dramatically. I would definitely talk it over with your health care provider before doing the exercises, but the ones I have done are simple not-jerky and made a huge difference for me! (Read my full review here.)

Fight Pregnancy Insomnia Naturally

When your body is growing a new life, it’s important that you get plenty of sleep. Sometimes though, pregnancy insomnia kicks in and makes life miserable. If you’re struggling with insomnia, try these twelve natural strategies to start getting a peaceful night again.

Do you struggle with insomnia? What’s your favorite way to combat it? 

8 Ways to Deal with Morning Sickness

Does anyone else think that morning sickness is ill-named? I usually feel my best in the morning and get worse as the day wears on.

Before I share things that have helped with my evening sickness, I want to be up front and say that mine ranges from mild to moderate. I have never been unable to eat for days on end or had to get an IV to keep fluids down. For those of you who deal with this kind of morning sickness, my heart goes out to you and I am so proud of you. (If I got that sick, it’d take a whole lot of grace for us to not be a one child family.)

I’m not sure if these “remedies” would help in serious cases, but they have staved of an impending trip to throw up for me. Though I’ve not heard of any problems with these remedies, you should always check with your own health care professional before trying something new, of course!

“The fruit of the womb is his reward!” (Photo credit)

  1. Ginger: When I feel like throwing up, the last thing I’m really hungry for is a piece of ginger. Ick. But, if I can just force myself to take it, it’s amazing how quickly the ginger helps calm my stomach! Ginger gum, “candied” ginger (homemade or from the health food store), or a sniff of ginger essential oil have all helped settle my stomach and keep food down. Ginger ale or ginger cookies would make nice milder alternatives (though I’m not sure they’d work quite as well!) 
  2. Sea Bands: My sister-in-law recommended sea bands to me, saying they’d really helped her during her morning sickness. It sounds odd, doesn’t it? Can bands around your wrist really help with morning sickness? Yep, they can. The bands “put pressure on the P-6 point between the two central tendons near the wrist.” Somehow that pressure relieves the morning sickness, without any side effects (except for slight indents on the wrists!)
  3. Protein in the evening: “It’s easier to keep a fire going, than to start a new fire from scratch,” my midwife told me. “Your metabolism is similar. It’s much easier to keep it going with a protein-rich snack in the evening that to start fresh in the morning.” It’s true! Eating a snack rich in protein before I go to bed helps me feel much better in the morning.
  4. Figure out your blood sugar: With my first pregnancy, I was determined to be a good, healthy Mama. But every time I woke up and fixed myself a nice plate of eggs, I lost them. On the mornings I sneaked a bite or two of a healthy-ish dessert (like these Mrs. Thompson Bars) first, I was able to keep the eggs down. I finally learned that when my blood sugar gets too low, I simply can’t eat protein first, but a bit of carbs will help build up the blood sugar so I can handle the protein. Try to figure out what keeps your blood sugar happy.
  5. Exercise: Exercise releases toxins and builds new blood cells. It increases energy and stamina. Something about it also seems to helps with morning sickness. I entered this pregnancy exercising regularly (though I’ve dropped the jumping jacks) and have continued mostly regularly. Not only was my iron count good at my first check-up, I think it’s helped the morning sickness not be as bad this time.
  6. Take vitamins strategically: the calcium and/or iron in many pre-natals can be real tummy upsetters. Taking prenatal vitamins right before going to bed at night helps me be able to keep them down. Or, you could ask your heath care provider if you could take a child’s multivitamin and supplement with extra folic acid.
  7. Add ice: Staying hydrated is so important. Sometimes regular water just won’t go down, when sips of ice water will. (If you carry around a super cute glass water bottle, it’s easier to remember to drink!)
  8. Smile: “A cheerful heart does good like medicine,” Proverbs says. When I’m feeling icky, it’s easy to focus on just making it to bedtime. Smiling helps. It’s almost impossible to force your face into a smile without remembering the many ways you’ve been blessed… and the incredible privilege it is to carry a new little life into the world.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor or nurse. The only hospital I’ve ever worked in is a doll hospital. There a band-aid heals a heart attack. Please talk to your health care professional and do your own research before treating serious health problems!

Did you struggle with morning sickness? What helped you most?

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Announcing Our New Family Portrait

Our family portrait, come late summer, by Rose. From top left to bottom right: Will, Meg, BABY, Joshua, Me, Rose

 I’m so excited to get to share our happy news with you….we’re having a baby!

We are all thrilled. The kids can’t get enough of their baby cousin Elise and are ecstatic about us having our very own baby to love on. Even Meg talks about “Ba-bese” all the time, though I’m not sure she understands at all!

Baby’s due date is September 7th. All three of our other children were born about two weeks early, so I’m hoping this baby comes in August. Not only do I not want to wait till September to see him/her, being nine months pregnant in 100 degree weather is not fun.

I’ve been so incredibly blessed by the kiddos sweetness and helpfulness as I’ve been in sick-and-tired mode the last couple of weeks. Rose regularly offers to “make breakfast” so I can sleep in a bit more and Will is ready with a cup of water and a hug if I need to lay down during the day for a few minutes.

Our cute alien family, courtesy of Will (3). From left to right: Will, Baby, Me, Rose, Meg & Papa

We’ve been focusing on the essentials the last few weeks (as you may have noticed from my absence around here!): food on the table, clean clothes to wear, and school time. (Plus lots of reading and cuddling!)

A rare burst of energy last week resulted in a sparkling stovetop and microwave. I smile every time I look at them, but unfortunately the energy didn’t last long enough to tackle the refrigerator.

Oh well. Pretty soon life should be back to “normal” and I’ll have the energy to clean the refrigerator, wash real plates (you don’t want to know how many paper plates we’ve used lately—thankfully Joshua thinks they’re one of the most wonderful “inventions” ever!) and blog regularly again.

Until then, I’ll sleep more than a baby, try to keep food down, and rejoice in the miracle of new life God has blessed us with.

Making Babies: Review & Giveaway

It’s been a long time since I’ve hosted a giveaway but I am SO excited for one of you to win a copy of Making Babies: one of my favorite new additions to my collection of book on herbs and healthy living!

Now, if one of your eyebrows is slightly cocked and you have a quizzical smile on your face, you are not alone. If I have a friend over and she turns to me with a look of “Um, Anna, what’s that book on your shelf about?” I know which one she means.

But then I explain that the Making Babies series is an excellent resource for all moms or want-to-be moms who want to have a healthy pregnancy and raise healthy children, the natural way!

Shoshanna, the author of the series, takes the viewer along as she documents her own journey of pregnancy and the first post-partum months. She shares helpful tips, excellent herbal remedies, wisdom passed down from her grandma (like put eggshells in your bone broth for added calcium), and dozens of delicious recipes for a healthy mother and baby.

She makes cooking from real, healthy foods mouth-wateringly delicious. As my friend Heather, from Raising Mighty Arrows, said “I don’t even like fish, and felt hungry watching Shoshanna prepare fresh fish. It actually made me want to eat fish!”

Not only does Shoshanna make healthy cooking fun, her vivacity and enthusiastic love for life are so genuine and contagious that she’ll get you excited about sweeping the floor or making your very own herbal tincture. (My mother-in-law met her and said she’s just as bubbly in real life!)

She shares from her wealth of knowledge about herbs, what they’re good for, and how to use them during pregnancy and beyond. Even though she runs her own herbal store, I really appreciated the way she didn’t constantly refer to her own products, but is just so excited about the incredible power that God has put into such tiny, humble plants.

The book has the basic recipes and how tos, which the DVDs elaborate on. The recipes are clear and succinct and the photography is stunning (though the one thing I was disappointed about was that in the book there are times when I really want a picture of, say, her delicious flaky pie crust that’s gluten and dairy free, and instead there’s a [lovely] picture of Shoshanna with her baby.)

At first, I wasn’t too sure if I’d find time to actually watch seven hours of instructional DVDs. But I turned it on while ironing, shaping energy bites, or washing the floor. It made the time fly. Shoshanna throws in so many fun stories and interesting tidbits of wisdom. I was disappointed when I finished the series, but there’s so much information in it, I’m sure I’ll be watching it again very soon. 🙂

(Want to get a peek into Shoshanna’s kitchen? She has a whole series of free videos here!)

The Bulk Herb Store is offering 30% off the Making Babies series through the end of November if you use the code NOVMBS, but they’re also giving away a copy of the series to one reader. Enter below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(Open to residents of the continental U.S.) 

[Note: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Feed Your Baby the Healthy, Thrifty & Easy Way

Feeding your children healthy, yummy food is one of the many costs of raising a family, but a baby’s food budget needn’t break the bank!

Depending on the brand, the cost of buying prepared baby food ranges from $50-100 per month!

I’ve tested the stuff and am convinced it isn’t nearly tasty enough to cost that much.

Not only is it expensive, most prepared baby food has been sitting on a shelf for weeks (or months.) Many types have sugar and other ingredients added, to “enhance” the flavor.

No thanks!

A child’s first introduction to food helps set the stage for later eating habits.

I want to teach my children to love whole, fresh, healthy foods. I want to introduce them to the delightful  tastes of carrots and chicken and apples. I want them to ask for seconds of vegetables. I don’t want them to think that food has to be laced with artificial flavors and sugar in order to be yummy.

This is why I make my own baby food. Eating homemade baby food I love food that is healthy and thrifty. I especially like it when it’s easy too. (Like these 12 breakfast ideas!)

Making your own baby food is thrifty, healthy, and easy. Really, really easy.

Here are three ways I’ve kept my babies happily fed (mostly) healthy foods with minimal cost and time.

Nurse your baby to at least age one

I know that nursing is simply not an option for some moms. It nearly wasn’t with our oldest and I sympathize strongly with those that can’t breastfeed. Had it not been for incredible support, lots of expert help, and God’s grace I wouldn’t have been able to. Don’t feel badly if you can’t nurse your baby!

For those that can nurse, breast-milk is the perfectly designed food for your baby. Did you know the nutrients, fat content, and immunities change to suit your babies age and even the time of year?! (We have such an amazing Creator!)

The World Health Organization and American Association of Pediatrics (and of course most midwives!) recommend exclusively breast-feeding for the first six months and to continue to supplement until at least one year. The benefits to both mother and child are incredible. 

[Random side note: If you’re going to nurse till five, please, please don’t pose for a provocative picture with your son for the New York Times. Really. Not only was it revolting, that kid is going to have to live with that picture for the rest of his life!]

Make and freeze a big batch of homemade baby food

  1. Choose high quality vegetables and fruits that are appropriate for your baby’s age. (Check out the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists to find foods that contain the least amount of pesticides, buy organic, or grow your own!) Sweet potatoes are a healthy, super-thrifty choice!
  2. Scrub, peel and/or pit.
  3. Cook the vegetables until nice and soft.
  4. Mash.
  5. Flash freeze. Many people put the food into ice cube trays. I just lined a pan with wax paper and put little dollops on (since I don’t like washing out ice cube trays.)
  6. Once frozen, store the baby food in an air-tight container.
  7. Remove individual portions from freezer as needed and thaw.

I spent about an hour making three big bags full of baby food. It has lasted us for weeks.

Feed your baby from your plate

Homemade baby food is great, but usually there is something at every meal we eat that is baby-safe. Plain (homemade) yogurt, tiny bits of tilapia, or freshly mashed avocado make great choices depending on the age of the baby.

This baby food grinder makes it really easy to get the food small enough, but I usually just use a fork and make sure it’s really well mashed.

I save the nutrient-rich water from steaming or cooking vegetables to thin the food with. (Just make sure the water is fresh and unsalted!)

 Linked up at Teach Me TuesdaysTitus 2sdaysLiving Green, Healthy 2Day WednesdaysFrugal Days, Sustainable WaysThankful HomemakerEncourage One Another, Creative @ Home, Homemaking LinkupWomen Living WellWorks for Me Natural Living Link Up & Simple Lives