Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Baby swing woes and triumphs

Today's post is a quick, absolutely honest, non-sponsored shout out to the company Fisher Price after they bowled me over with their customer service today.
You see, baby Boaz loves to sit in a swing as much as any baby. In fact, he loves it so much, I could even put him in it awake, and he would quickly doze off, and stay asleep for a good 2 or 3 hours, predictably and reliably. It doesn't get much better than that, folks. Showers, urgent phone calls, dinner, and other things I used to take for granted B.C. (before children) can all be attained with a good baby swing and a swing-happy baby.
Our last swing before this current one was purchased used, and saw us through 4 babies (Miriam through Stephen). It still works, but the padding has been compressed to being virtually non-existent. Plus, it was always a bit too upright for little babies to comfortably sleep in, even fully reclined.
Because of this, even though the old swing still worked, I decided to buy the "Fisher Price Snuggle Bunny" cradle swing, minimally used, from a neighbor. By minimally used, I mean they only used it for a couple of weeks, and then never again. As the name suggests, this swing cradles the baby and is very well padded, making for cozy naptimes. The swing comes with other bells and whistles, such as plugging into an outlet rather than only using batteries, but that is beside the point here.
All was well until two weeks ago, when I put Boaz in the swing for his usual morning nap and the motor would not turn on!!! Noooooooo!!!!  After a collective use time of not even two months on this swing, I found that rather unacceptable. Even used, we still paid $100 for the swing, since it was like new.
A glance at online reviews quickly revealed that the motor giving out is a very common problem on these particular swings. In fact, I found a popular YouTube video tutorial showing how to replace the motor in the swing with a motor from a $5 air freshener. No joke! It should come as no shock that such a motor will NOT hold up in a baby swing.
Several responses to the reviews on the Fisher Price company site encouraged disgruntled customers to call their Customer Service department, but seeing as I had purchased the swing used, and rarely have time for more than the most pressing phone calls, I didn't bother calling them.
Instead I tried putting Boaz into the old swing for naps. He would stay asleep through me transferring him from my arms to the swing, buckle him, get it all going, but he would wake up within minutes, crabby and tired, but not happy with that particular swing. I tried adding extra blankets to make it softer, but that didn't help. Many days I just carried him in the sling for naps, but that's not always convenient, especially when I'm cooking or doing work outside in the heat.
What to do, what to do? Buy a new $200 swing with an air-freshener-quality motor? Surely not. But that's the only one baby was happy with. Follow the tutorial and replace the motor ourselves? It didn't really look like something we wanted to dabble with. Desperate, I decided to call customer service - maybe they could advise me as to how to fix/replace the motor.
The lady I spoke with was very friendly. She was rather surprised when I mentioned this was our 8th baby, and told me she herself was #9 of 11. I always love talking to people from large families, and finding out what number baby they are! I told her the swing was used and several years old, but had not been used much. She was able to look up our swing by date code and product ID, and even though it was manufactured in 2011 and was never registered, she offered to replace it, completely free of charge. Normally they only send out the top part of the defective swings (a very common problem as they were well aware of), but since our particular model is no longer on the market, she offered to send me a whole new swing, completely free of charge! She even gave me a choice between the "Snuggle Monkey" or "Little Lamb" design. She also mentioned that they have redesigned the motor assembly, and I can only guess they are using better motors to avoid such problems in the future.
Whoa - I was (and am) still shocked! I told her this was the best customer service I had ever experienced, and that I would leave a positive review on their website to let others know about it, since there is a lot of negative feedback regarding the old swing motors out there and the company is clearly trying to get back in customers' good graces. If and when we need a new swing, we will purchase new, and it will be from Fisher Price. I absolutely LOVE good customer service, and will be faithful to those companies for life.
The new swing should be here within a week. What to do in the meantime? Well, my husband had an idea that was as hilarious as it was practical. See if you can spot the solution to the problem?
Isn't he so cute even in his sleep??!?
Yep, that's a piece of string connecting the comfy swing with the bust motor to the old, uncomfortable swing with the indestructible motor. Put baby in comfy swing, turn motor on the old swing on, an voila - we have motion! Funny, no? The kids and I all thought so. More importantly, for the first time since the swing motor broke, Boaz has been happily napping in the swing for a couple of hours and counting.
P.S. If you are a new mom to your first child, and fret over whether or not you should feel bad about baby sleeping in a swing, please let me tell you: DON'T!!! I, too, was once plagued by guilt and doubt as to whether or not sweet little baby Solomon should be "left" in a swing for extended periods of time. After 7 babies that have made it to toddlerhood and beyond, I can testify that the swing did no harm to them. They go from helpless newborn to rambunctious toddler emptying every cabinet in the house in the blink of an eye, so enjoy these rare quiet moments while you can. A happy baby in a safe spot allows mom to take care of other things as well as herself, and makes for harmonious family life all around. Your baby will still be spending hours a day in your arms, especially if you are exclusively breastfeeding and sharing your bed at night. And as the case of the poorly padded swing proves, if baby isn't happy with the arrangement, they have ways of letting us know about it loud and clear! :)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Home Birth Haters

Yikes, I thought I had heard all the objections to a planned, midwife-assited home birth. Then I became pregnant with twins, experienced multiple complications that required major medical interventions, and was thankfully, eventually, cleared to being "low-risk" again. And, went on to successfully deliver at home for the seventh time.

The specialist we were seeing  kinda, sorta, under the table even encouraged us to go ahead with a home birth, saying in his report there were no contraindications for a home birth, while adding that technically, he could not recommend such a choice (Ah, liability! A truly American phenomenon.)

My midwife, Dr. E the consulting MFM, and the awesome tech at his office that did all our ultrasounds. All getting along and working together as a team - what a blessing!

And, unlike the OB I was also seeing but who dropped me from her care when I would not rule out attempting a home birth, Dr. E was genuinely thrilled to hear about our healthy, safe birth, and about meeting little baby Boaz when we stopped in for a visit. The OB? When my husband and I stopped by her office with Boaz, we waited for 40 minutes, and she would not even see us at all. Knowing that she spends about 90 seconds on each of her patients, I have a hard time believing she was just too busy that day. 

 The kids and I dropped off a gift for everyone at the office as a little "thank you."

When we go to Southern California for a family vacation later this summer, our family will also be stopping by the office of the surgeon that did both procedures during my pregnancy, and thank him and his staff. Humanly speaking, they more than anyone else involved in this pregnancy are responsible for saving Boaz' life when TTTS and PROM threatened to take it. We are thankful for medical advances and the professionals that carry them out, when needed.

Anyhow, leading up to the birth, I received a number of comments from those trying to dissuade me from a home birth. I will be responding to these below. Buckle up!

With all of the complications you have had in this pregnancy, why on earth would you ever consider a home birth? Why in the world would you risk your baby's health and perhaps even his life? If you were so willing to allow extensive interventions during pregnancy, I just can't understand why you would risk everything at the end? I'm not trying to be critical, I'm just completely baffled. I've heard one too many stories (one of which happened to someone close to me) of babies dying because of the lack of adequate care during a home birth. With all of the difficulties you've had during this pregnancy, I just don't understand why you wouldn't want the care of those who could save your baby should a complication arise during the birth.

I would like to make one thing really clear (again - because people keep missing this memo):

We are not, and never have been, against medical treatment, if and when warranted. That last phrase is crucial. The Bible tells us that "they that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick," which sums up our philosophy perfectly. I like to call it "medical care, a la carte." In other words, we must be discerning consumers of medical services, taking responsibility to educate ourselves and make the best choices, so that we get the care we need, when we need it - nothing more, nothing less.

Nor are we against modern medical advances, as long as they do not pervert God's creation, or take the life of others in the process. We are all in favor of restoring health, but not at the expense of destroying life or perverting nature. These are great guidelines to help direct any decisions regarding treatment of anything from infertility to debilitating illnesses.

"For low risk moms and low risk babies, home birth is as safe or safer than hospital birth."
Or something like that.

Zsu, you are NOT low risk. After all you have been through, to still entertain the idea of home birth is astonishingly reckless. And that a "midwife" would agree to attend you is hubris of the highest order.

I desperately hope nothing goes wrong and both you and your baby will be alive and safe 2 months from now. But even if that is the case, it is little different than the man that will drive home drunk this Friday and claim that because he didn't end up smashed into a telephone pole that it was still safe for him to drive drunk.

Well, according to all the doctors treating me, I WAS low risk by the time I was far enough along to even consider home birth. But yes, dear anonymous person on the internet that has much better medical knowledge of my reproductive system than my doctors, I shall consult with you in the future - NOT!

And giving birth at home is every bit as irresponsible as drunk driving? Say WHAT?

If your baby is born in a hospital, he has a near 100% chance of survival with minimal to no long-lasting effects.

Keep that in mind as you consider having a homebirth to a high risk baby at 36 weeks into the hands of a woman with no medical training far from a NICU. If your baby dies - he would have lived at the hospital.

True, babies born in a hospital have a near 100% chance of survival. As do babies born at home. Scores of studies have shown that in terms of survival rates, home and hospital have virtually identical numbers, though some studies come out in favor of home birth. The big difference is not in the mortality rate, but in the morbidity rate, i.e. the number of interventions and complications. Of course, home birth outperforms hospitals by a long shot in every aspect of this. Same outcomes, with fewer complications at home. Yes, I'm fine with that. 

And no medical training? Do you know who my midwife is, or what training she has undergone? What a ludicrous claim! (insert eye roll)

The net is to prevent the young children in the audience seeing a person's brains splattered on the floor. A C-section is to prevent the unnecessary death of a young child. The idea that you see a "catastrophic home birth transfer" as win-win is unbelievably delusional. What exactly is your definition of "catastrophic"?

I desperately hope things will be fine...and they probably will. But after all you have been through to bring this child into the world away from medical care (a CPM with an oxygen mask is NOT neonatal resuscitation) is so incredibly reckless. You have a proven pelvis Zsu, many times over. You do NOT have a 30% C-section risk. Go to the hospital.

For sake of time, let's ignore the claim that I ever considered a catastrophic transfer a win-win, though I suppose words can be twisted to say anything. 

And as for the proven pelvis? It wasn't proven in a hospital. In fact, they did not believe in my pelvis, at all, as proven by the unnecessary interventions I was subjected to. I was lucky to have made it out of there without a C-section. True, maybe I could, after 7 home births, stand up to the hospital policies and doctors as necessary. But why would I do that, when I can just avoid the confrontation altogether? If I need a hospital, I'll go to one, and let them do their thing without me telling them how to do their job. But when there's no problem? I'll just stay home and do my own thing.

One more thought - still no comment on the January CDC report? Ever fooled around with the CPM infant birth/death linked data in the CDC Wonder Database? Fascinating stuff.
Haven't seen or heard of such a report, and don't care to. I do not trust government agencies that tell me how to be healthy, as they advocate for vaccines and disease-riddled homo lifestyles, while going after raw milk. Hm, I wonder if they have an agenda?

It's not a "turf war". Really, Zsu? After all you've been through and you view one of the OB's that has helped keep your baby alive as just some petty kid on the playground? It never occurred to you that she might just be concerned for the well-being of you and your baby?

Out of hospital birth represents a potential loss of income. CPMs cannot decide to practice in a hospital, here or in any other first world nation because they are not qualified. So who exactly has more at stake here - the OB or the CPM?

Also, your OB isn't going to parade this birth around to all her colleagues but I guarantee you your CPM will trumpet her success in managing a twins, TTTS, post-surgical, post-ROM, etc etc etc pregnancy to all her CPM friends. Who knows, it might even make a crowdsourcing Midwifery Today post.

But of course, if something goes wrong you'll be happy to run to her and beg her to fix it. When she could have prevented it in the first place with a hospital birth.
The OB did near zero to "help keep my baby alive", unless measuring my fundal height and listening to the heart beat a half dozen times fall into that category. Anyone, and I do mean anyone, could have done the same. 

CPMs cannot practice in hospitals because they cannot buy malpractice insurance, which the hospital requires. 

Your OB is smart for bowing out, if something goes wrong because of your insistance [sic] for control , you would not hesitate to sue her for neglect,

Suing the OB, or anyone involved in my medical care for that matter? No. Again, that's an American phenomenon, one I find particularly disgusting. Bad things happen, and often, it's nobody's fault. 


Facts are stubborn things. At the end of the day, fact is that I have had 8 natural deliveries with zero C-sections, when statistically, I should have had two or three by now.

Fact is that at our church, some 25 babies have been born since we started, and all but one were natural births. That comes out to a 4% C-section rate - nothing to sneeze at! That Mom had a prior health history that all but ruled out natural delivery for her. No complications or "catastrophic transfers" with any of the natural deliveries. 

I wonder how many more people have been educated and influenced regarding home birth through the online sermons or this blog. I know of many of them, but I'm sure there are others I don't even know exist.

My goal with this post is not to start a debate. Rather, it is to encourage parents to think outside the box of standard American obstetric care. For low risk moms, home is the best place to be. If you are not low risk, you have many options available to try and help resolve problems before it comes time for the birth.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer 2014 Bucket list

Summer break is here, which is otherwise known as the busiest time of year! I sometimes have to remind the children that the only change in our day-to-day routine is the absence of school work, not complete absolution from any and all chores or other work.

Actually, I am continuing to do a little school work with Miriam and Becky over the summer. At their age, taking three months completely off would just lead to some major loss of what they just spent the last year learning. Plus, I get to devote more one-on-one time to them during this time. The older kids are continuing to spend some time each day practicing the piano, plus we are making an effort to speak/learn more German than we have time for during the school year, and they are reading lots of non-fiction books during their "silent time" each day. Other times, they spent those couple of hours on an art or science project they enjoy. I guess learning never stops in earnest around here. :)

Still, that leaves our mornings wide open for special activities and fun! On our routine, everyone is to be ready down to the shoes, and have their younger "charge" ready, by 9 am. That includes breakfast done and mess cleaned up, hair and teeth brushed, and the morning chores all taken care of. Since the sun comes up before 5 a.m. in Arizona this time of year, the kids are usually up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed no later than 6 a.m., more than enough time to get ready by our goal of 9 a.m.

Back in April and May, I came up with a bucket list for this summer, with not a little help from Pinterest. We try to do at least one fun activity each day, except on Sundays, which are the closest I will get to a "day off" while having a house full of people that demand to eat three square meals each day.

Here is what we have done so far:

Toy car snacks: The kids loved these! So much so, that they were all gobbled up before I got a chance to grab my camera. We also made some from cantaloupes and grapes. If you follow the link, you will find more great ideas of what fruits and veggies to make these out of. 
Source here

Make ice cream or gelato: This has been an almost daily occurrence. Just check out my Pinterest board of ice cream recipes! I may or may not have even fed my kids a dinner of ice cream a time or two this summer... which, really, is hardly the end of the world considering wholesome ingredients such as milk, cream, egg yolks, and honey. A couple of times, we have also made waffle cones to serve the ice cream in.
My favorite flavors have been: fresh mint (and I usually HATE mint ice cream) with chocolate chunks made of raw cacao paste, banana Nutella, and tiramisu. If you are a fan of pistachio (my husband is), you will LOVE this one. I have yet to try other enticing flavors such as cake batter, buttered popcorn, and root beer (that one's for Father's Day). 
 Going swimming - another daily activity

Sign up for the summer reading program at the library, and go to special summer programs they offer: Solomon is in the TEEN category for the first time this year. Yikes! Where did time go??!?!? He was just a newborn, like, yesterday. I remember it so clearly. Waaaaaaaaah!

We have already attended several of the special performances, all of which were (as always) great fun.

The one, the only Arizona Rick
Make projects from various incomplete art books: Over the years, we have accumulated a number of books that give step-by-step instructions, with some pre-printed pages and supplies.The older kids really enjoy helping the younger ones with these.

Make watermelon flavor moon sand: I didn't even take a picture of this one. Not sure where in the instructions I went wrong, but it was a complete flop. By the end of it all I had sand that was nothing like moon sand, smelled terrible, and left my hands dyed bright red.

Make pretend-play ice-cream: This one turned out great! All the kids loved playing with this stuff.

 Notice the cherry on top... :)

This little guy quickly figured out that the ice cream was technically edible

Build marshmallow guns: Another popular activity this summer. I showed the boys how to build the first one, and then let them build the guns for all the other kids. We still need to decorate/paint them.

 The girls made up some sort of pole dance with the PVC while the boys were working

 Action shot!

And here is what we still have planned for this summer:

  • have a board game night and popcorn at church
  • go on a camping trip
  • set up the projector in the back yard and watch a movie/docu while floating in the pool after dark
  • put light sticks in the pool and yard and go night swimming
  • set up the terrarium OR hamster cage
  • go to the homeschool convention (we are exhibitors again this year!)
  • visit the Arizona Science Center
  • visit friends in Prescott
  • go hiking at Mt. Humphreys, the highest point in the state of AZ (guys only!)
  • go kayaking at Canyon Lake
  • go to the kids' favorite playground/splash pad super early, have a picnic breakfast there
  • go geocaching
  • light the fire pit, make s'mores
  • have a lemonade stand
  • make marshmallows from scratch
  • build a puzzle as a family here and there over several days
  • have a water balloon and sponge ball fight
  • make cotton candy
  • make personal pizzas
  • see fireworks
  • go bowling
  • go to IKEA
  • have a tug-of-war on stumps
  • freeze an ice block with trinkets for a treasure hunt
  • build a balloon dart board
  • surprise the kids with a donut tree for breakfast
  • throw paint-filled eggs at canvas
  • paint rocks
  • have an indoor bean bag toss
  • build a homemade water park (plastic sheeting, PVC kiddie car wash, 2-liter bottle suspended from a hose)
  • make solar oven s'mores
  • bake pretzels

Plus, we will also be going on a family vacation to Southern California later this summer. The kids all earned tickets to Magic Mountain, and we will be doing some other fun stuff while in the area.

Yay for summer!!!! 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Chicken and White Bean Soup (in the slow cooker) - THM E

This is a recipe I recently stumbled across somewhere, and adapted it from memory the best I could. It is quick, easy, inexpensive, and very tasty - and that's coming from someone who dislikes most foods cooked in a slow cooker. The kids ALL love it, which is a rarity considering how many different palates I am trying to please. There is absolutely nothing I don't like about this recipe, besides the fact that I cannot get by with serving it daily (though doing so weekly has been a success so far).

Please pardon the paper bowl, we are still keeping things simple around here :)

In a 3-qt or larger slow cooker, combine:

1 lb white beans (no need to soak first if you forgot)
1 lb chicken breast (can be straight from frozen)
water to cover.

Cook on "high" for about 4-6 hours, adding water as necessary, until the chicken is cooked through and the beans are mostly tender. Shred the chicken right in the crock with a pair of metal tongs, stir, then add:

1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 Tbsp chili powder

Continue to cook on high for another 2 hours or so, until the beans are soft and creamy.

If you are following the "Trim Healthy Mama" plan, this makes a terrific and very satisfying "E" meal. 

The recipe can easily be doubled if you have a 6-qt or larger slow cooker.


Friday, June 6, 2014

One month old

Can you believe this little turkey is one month old today already? Time surely flies!

When Becky heard me calling him "a little turkey," she suggested I call him something prettier, "like a peacock." She never fails to crack me up!

The kids are all having a great summer so far. Excuse me while I join the rest of the family in the pool now! :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Just checking in

I apologize for the long blogging absence. 
 3 weeks old

It's not that I haven't had time to blog, because while I'm crazy busy during the day, my nights are usually pretty quiet. Boaz is the easiest baby EVER, and sleeps as predictably and soundly as our other babies did when they were at least 6 months old.

It's not that I don't know what to write about, because at any given time, I can think of at least a dozen topics I'd like to cover, and many of them are even in the "draft" stage.

He loves bath time.

I think my main hangup is that I want to finish up the blog post about the birth story before moving on to other topics. Yet, even four weeks after the birth, and with the post completely written up to the point of Jachin's birth, I find myself unable or unwilling to finish the story. Maybe it makes me too sad to think about it, or maybe I am not ready to close that chapter and turn the page yet, or maybe it's both. I'm in sort of a bubble, a vacuum, on autopilot. I seem to be waiting for something, though I don't know what it is.

All I can say is that losing a baby is really, really hard. Thankfully, the kids keep me plenty busy during the day. I cannot say enough about how grateful I am to have little Boaz. I never want him to feel like he is not enough, or that he is not a complete person all by himself. But yes, often when I am all alone, or just Boaz and I, the tears are flowing for his brother. Especially because he is so absolutely easy, I often find myself thinking "I could have handled two babies like this." It's hard not to constantly ask "why" and "what if". It's hard knowing that there is nothing I can do to change the outcome, no matter how desperately I wish I could. 

 1 week old. Stephen is absolutely crazy about him.

Times like these I am most grateful of all for the fact that I am a Christian, and that we can have hope and peace and confidence in Christ. Truly, we sorrow not as those that have no hope. I marvel how those without faith in God can make it through everyday life, let alone the storms of life. If I didn't know that "all things work together for good to them that love God," I don't think I could ever have a normal life again. So many of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ near and far have expressed their love and support to us, which really means a lot, and makes a huge difference. And of course, my husband has gone above and beyond in being nothing but supportive, loving, and incredibly patient.

So yes, I am doing fine. But I'm also still recovering. And while I want to talk about all the wonderful and fun things going on during summer break, I also want to finish the birth story post. Except that when night rolls around and I have time to sit down at a computer, I am usually too sad or worn to actually do so.

 3 weeks old

I hope the pictures redeemed this otherwise somber post. These are not things I would normally talk to anyone about, not even family. Maybe someone out there will be encouraged to know that nobody's life is all sweetness and light, that sooner or later we all struggle with accepting God's will, but that He in time can heal all wounds.