Rocking Ricotta

Our menu has been pretty simple since the baby was born. Fancy cooking? "I ain't got no time for that!" I do have time, when the baby is sleeping, to try to use up some of the things in the freezer. I'm all for re-purposing ingredients. Not only using them, but stretching them to their fullest capacity. One thing we stock up on is milk. The kids drink it, but I also do a lot of cooking and baking that requires milk or milk products. It's not only more cost effective to make my own, but it also tastes better without all the preservatives and additives that come in products you would buy at your local grocery store. 
The last couple of days I've made both yogurt and some Ricotta cheese.

They are both really easy to make. And I feel kind of, ya know, handy making something "fancy" myself that I would just go and grab off a shelf in the refrigerated section at the grocery. At this point, I'm happy to be able to answer that I did something useful during my day, aside from keeping my young ones alive that is. ;) I'm sure you other care-givers can see where I'm coming from there. The fact is, though, that all I did was strain the curds and hang them to drain overnight. It's not really that complicated, so when I actually say it out loud it doesn't sound as magical as it seems. That's ok, though. I still accomplished something between diaper changes, feedings, meals and laundry. I'll pay myself on the back and call it a day. Follow the recipe below so you can feel accomplished, too!
You need:

One gallon of milk
1/2 cup of white vinegar
1 tsp salt

In a large pot, heat your milk slowly to 180 degrees. Stir often. This will take a while.
When the milk reaches 180 degrees add the salt and vinegar. Give it one or two stirs and then let it sit for a few minutes to let the mixture curdle.

Strain it in cheese cloth. I hung mine to strain overnight. If you like it softer, strain less of the whey.
It will keep for about two weeks. If you don't eat it all at once that is.

One gallon of milk made just over 1 lb of cheese.
You can also save your whey to make more Ricotta, or use it in baking or other foods. You can even use it in shakes.

On my to-do list today....Cannoli dip using, you guessed it, my fresh Ricotta.


Slow down.

 Do you ever find yourself just so busy doing things that you forget just to enjoy life? Maybe that's a silly question. That's my everyday, almost. Hurry here. Hurry there. Do this, do that.
How about...for just a minute, we slow down. It is spring. The flowers are in bloom.
My little guy kept on me.
"Mom, can we go for a walk?"
"Mom, are you done working yet? Can we please go for a walk?"
"Mom...it's pretty outside. You said we could go for a walk."
Ok. I took that as my hint to slow down. He just needed me to be present to him.

 I admired the flowers. But I admired his crinkled nose, too. He's so expressive. He doesn't hold back.

"Take a picture of those flowers. They're pretty!"

"Watch this! I can ride with one hand!" 
I cringed, hoping he wouldn't crash. And then I cheered him on as he raced away. 

 It was good to just breath in the fresh air for a bit.

Note to self: Do more of this. 


A Giveaway, "Just Because!"

Do I have to have a reason?! 
I'm just feeling in the Giveaway-sort-of-mood.

Its fun, and I like you. So let's have some fun! 
Here is what's in the goody box...

You'll get one of my teether toys, one of my paintings, a "Hi" polymer clay banner to do with as you please, and a set of laminated activity cards. 

So the catch to this giveaway is that you have to share a short story with me about something your kids (or pet if you don't have children) did to leave their mark on something. Leave a comment here, or on my Facebook page, and I'll have my kids pick a winner at the end of this week. So Friday April 4th is the deadline!

One of my kids just recently carved their initials in my oak work table. At first, I was annoyed. But I took a step back and realized, you know what....it could always be worse! If that's the worst thing that they do, I'm ok with it.
Can't wait to read your stories!


Feeling Vulnerable.

There I sat in the quiet sterile of my Endocrinologists office. I had brought both of my girls with me. It was check-up time for me. We're having to adjust my thyroid medication postpartum, and do a "cancer check". My baby girl was still in her car-seat, and my older girl sat next to me chatting away.
My doctor came in with a flourish. He's that kind of man. He comes in with a swish and you can almost feel a burst of wind as the door shuts behind him. He gets down to business and we discuss how I'm feeling, and the end of my pregnancy and what led up to my daughter being born early. He listened as I went over the last couple of weeks of the pregnancy and the labor and delivery. And her diagnosis right after birth. 

He stopped typing notes on his laptop and turned and looked at me. With sadness and shock on his face he said, "I'm sorry! Let me see her." For a split second I was taken aback. I turned her seat so he could see her. It was... awkward. I put a smile on and told him what a blessing she's been and how lovely an addition she's been to the family, how easy a baby she is to care for and love. We went back to discussing my health, and then the girls and I left. 

We stopped in at Starbucks for a special treat and drink, and then stopped in at TJ Maxx to do some browsing around. I had the baby in my Moby wrap, all snuggled in. As we entered the store an older, very well dressed lady walked over with a big smile exclaiming about the tininess of baby-girl. She asked how old she was, and started moving closer. And here's the awkward part; as she moved closer, I found myself backing away and shielding my baby-girl. I wasn't hiding her, I found myself wanting to protect her from....what? Or maybe I was protecting myself from another "I'm sorry!", or that look that I subconsciously knew would come. I'm still working this through. 

There are some things I think I need to work out in my head and heart. I will never hide her, of that I'm certain. The Mama-Bear in me wants to protect her. I don't need to hear "I'm sorry". Certain things will come our way, and I know I may struggle at times. What I wasn't expecting was to struggle with other peoples reactions in this way. 

Where this post is going, or what I'm trying to say...I'm not really sure. I guess I'm just working through something I don't quite understand yet. 


Lisette's Closet

 I realize it may be a little early to be playing dress up, you know, since she can't really participate yet in the fun. She doesn't seem to mind too much. And I will try my best not to do anything too embarrassing.

Since we're spending so much time together, I might as well do something to entertain myself in her sleeping hours, though, right? My brain is bubbling with ideas of things to make while she sleeps. Those little spurts are very short though, so whatever I plan has to fit in under an hour!

She got some green for St Patty's Day...

What comes to mind usually right now is, "How can I dress up a onesie??"

 Oh the ideas! 


A Mother's Intuition

 It's my guess that when any baby is born we do a whole lot of processing. Through the new parent fog, that is. I find myself doing that. So many things have gone on in the last months alone that I find my head swimming sometimes. There are some things that have unfolded in our story that have made such a deep impression on how I see things. Let me share.

 I was about a month pregnant. I was sick already, and feeling overwhelmed by the idea of being pregnant already. I knew I would be sick for the majority of my pregnancy, and it wasn't something that I was looking forward to. My pregnancies were never easy. This particular day I was feeling exhausted, and I had just finished being sick in the bathroom. An overwhelming feeling of knowing had been with me for a few days that there was something unusual about this pregnancy and something special about this baby.

Have you ever had that feeling of knowing, where you just knew something? Where, without a doubt, you knew what was going on? There have been a couple of times in my life where I've just "known". On those occasions I was always afraid to speak the knowledge out loud for fear that what I thought I knew would come to be true. What I always end up feeling is that maybe if I just keep this "knowledge" to myself that it'll pass, that it really was just all in my head. This wouldn't let me be, though. It was eating at me. It wouldn't let me have peace.

I approached my mom and ended up in tears before I even said anything. I shared with her.
"Mom, I think this baby has Down Syndrome." I was crying not because of the idea of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, but because I would have to tell everyone else and I was afraid of what reactions I would get. In this moment I thought I was nuts so I thought she'd think it was a little nuts, too. She didn't blink an eye. She just assured me that everything was going to be ok, even if this baby did have Down Syndrome. Everything was going to be ok, and God was in charge. He had a plan. And with a hug, that was that. After that I didn't think of it again. I never considered the whole Down Syndrome diagnosis again. Until months later, but we'll get there.

In the first few months of your pregnancy they offer you the test to look for diseases, etc. I've never had it, with any of my children. My feeling has always been that it didn't matter to me either way if my child had a disability or not. It was still my baby and I'd love him or her just the same. The stigma that comes with that test...Basically what you are fed is that if you have an unfavorable test result your option is to terminate. Or, almost as an after thought, keep your baby and just deal. Termination would never be an option for me. What you are not told is that this test can help you and your baby as well. Prenatal care can be better, more in depth, counseling can be given you, support groups can be found for you, you can start to prepare and educate yourself so you don't feel like you've been thrown into a pool without knowing how to swim. Why don't they tell you that? It would take 5 minutes. Five minutes that could do you a world of good. It's hindsight now. If I'd known more about it, I may have decided to have the test done. When I met with the Genetics Counselor she angrily spoke out against dr's who don't take time to explain this to parents. Especially those women who are already experiencing high risk pregnancies, like myself.

At one of my early scans, we found a bright spot on baby's heart. Further scans showed the same. Her heart looked ok aside from the spot. I started having frequent scans, and even more frequent appointments to keep an eye on things. The doctor never hinted at anything being excessively worrisome though. At subsequent scans, the bright spot was gone. But then baby's growth started to slow. Again, if something was amiss or hinted at Down Syndrome the doctor never mentioned it. I watched carefully during each scan, counted fingers and toes, observed her cord and her spine, saw her breathing movements. Then at one of my scans she focused in on my baby's face. We watched her yawn and rub her face with her hands. I looked at her sweet face and saw a slightly smooshed nose, and broad forehead. I believe I was about 8 months along now. When the doctor printed out the picture I couldn't stop looking at it. Over and over I looked at my sweet baby, and I saw what I had suspected, what I knew early on. I saw it. But the doctor said nothing. I didn't think to ask. What would I say? How did I ask about it? So I didn't. It didn't matter. I loved her anyway.

If you go back and read my birth story, you'll see how it was a little scary for me. Thinking about it now, it would have been helpful for the medical team to know she had Down Syndrome so that she could be cared for properly from the start.
I distinctly recall now how the nurse asked me several times if I thought she looked like my other children. I thought that was odd at the time. Of course she did! She does resemble my other babies in several ways. What didn't occur to me until just recently was that she kept asking because I think she wanted to know if I saw that she had Down Syndrome. What a silly question, I thought to myself. I knew before she was born. When they lay her on me after birth, I saw it. I saw it more clearly than the ultra sound picture showed. I recognize that perhaps they were trying not to scare me, or panic me by saying it out loud. All the while I was thinking, "Do they not see it? Are they blind?" When the doctor came from the special care nursery, she was so kind. She matter-of-factly told me that she suspected Down Syndrome, and why, etc. I listened and felt sorry for her for trying to be gentle with me and not scare me with this possible diagnosis. I saw how difficult it was for her to have to tell parents this hard news. I think it was harder for me to see her having to go through that than for me to be receiving that news from her.

I've read a few stories of mommies that received prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome.  Some felt panicked, some felt uncertain about how the future would go and if they would be able to deal with it. For those that received the diagnosis after birth there was confusion, disappointment, grieving. Perhaps at some point I may experience some or all of those things. For now I feel peaceful about everything. There are and have been some challenges, but I'm so in love with this little person. I've seen some people peek inside her carseat to look at her and I see the light in their eyes change. They recognize her as having Down Syndrome. But what they "see" is just the surface. She is a sweet, easy-going, very alert baby. Everyone that spends time with her falls in love with her. And that is just as it should be. When I had that nagging feeling of intuition all those months ago before I even knew what she looked like on an ultra sound screen, I just wanted her to be loved by everyone as much as I loved her. That's still all I want for her. To be loved and accepted. I'm pretty certain that is all any mother wants for her child.

No one knows what the future holds. I'm ok with not knowing what may come. Motherhood is becoming the "adventure of a lifetime". There seems to always be twists and turns in the plot of our family story, never a dull moment. And really, it's beautiful. I still crave "dull" and "boring" most days, but I'm becoming ok with just accepting each adventurous day at a time. Today was a good day.


All caught up in life!

 Taking it a day at a time and attempting to change my expectations. I don't want anything extravagant, that's not it at all. But I have to readjust my thinking a smidge. I have ideas and lists of things I need to do and want to do, but it all just has to wait. Baby comes first. Free time isn't what it used to be! Babies give you free moments in spurts, whereas when you have a three or four year old you can set them up with entertainment. Let's be honest, I may live in my pajama's for a day so that I can make cupcakes. (Because sometimes you just crave a cupcake!)

My baby is already a month old. This month has been beautiful. She has brought such joy and beauty to our family.

It's been challenging. Time in the hospital. Strain on the family. Changes in routine. Struggles to breastfeed a baby with special needs.

It's surprising. We've seen such growth in my youngest boy, and watched as he has loved her (almost smotheringly) without jealousy.

And it's been full of the unexpected. Invaluable new friendships that have developed. Freak car accidents that are resulting in a new and appropriately sized vehicle for our bigger family. Wonderful visits from family we haven't seen in a long-overdue time.

We're learning together. I'm learning so much.  It's always amazing to me how such a tiny little person can change your whole life. And how each one can do that all over again!


Bringing Home Baby.

             It was some of the longest days of my life, those long days and nights in the NICU.
There was uncertainty and sleepless nights. But we made it through and now we are home, praise God. 

            We spent 10 days in one hospital and then we transferred to another hospital an hour away where we did more tests and spent more sleepless nights. Two weeks total. It was exhausting.
My little lady had her first ride in the big world in the back of an ambulance. They packed her into this thing-a-muh-jig and wheeled her into the ambulance. I just about lost it! It was so so hard to see her being taken away. Even though she was accompanied by three amazing, very well trained, professionals whose only job it was to watch out for her safety during the ride. I followed close behind, of course, in my car and met them at the hospital. I scrubbed in to the NICU and went to see my baby. I heard her crying before I saw her. I knew her cry! A doctor was holding her, rocking her. I was surprised! One thing I learned during our stay in the hospital is that these doctors and nurses love these babies. Each and every one. This doctor in particular had already met my little Lisette and cared for her at the previous hospital and came to visit. We had many visitors-- some nurse practitioners who we'd met at the other hospital, and several nurses that I befriended in the dark hours of the night, and the nurses that accompanied her in the ambulance, as well as a couple of doctors. They all came to visit and wish us well before we left. Even amidst uncertainty, we had so many people around us who seemed to really care about our outcome. It was beautiful.

Lisette had an echo-cardiogram the day she arrived at the second hospital. It showed a VSD, a hole in the lower chambers of her heart. We met with a Genetic Counselor who explained in depth about her Trisomy 21. She finally passed the car-seat test so we could go home, though I was still paranoid about that and stopped about 10 times along the way home just to check on her. I couldn't help it! I needed to know she was ok. We arrived safe and sound to happy squeals from my other children. 

I'm so glad to be home. It's wonderful to have all my children together under one roof. I still feel a little uncertainty about things, and concern about health issues. Those concerns will last a while, I'm sure. But there are ups, too! She's a happy baby, who loves snuggles and watches me as I move. It's wonderful getting to know her in the comfort of our own home. I'm still getting my bearings. There are things we struggle with, like feedings but I know that it will all come together with time and patience. I'm getting to know a brand new little person after all! 

There is more to this story that I'd love to share. That will come next, after I've gathered my thoughts a bit. It's all about a mothers intuition, and how sometimes mother's just know when something is going on before anyone else.


Busy, loving my baby!

Tired eyes. Messy hair. A sore body. Lists of things waiting to be tended to. 
I don't care. 
I'm busy loving my baby. 
This is it. This is what it's all about. LOVE. 

 We finally made it home from the NICU. Two weeks too long.  I can't explain how loved and cared for we were while we went from one hospital to another. I feel gratefulness, so much gratefulness. When the new mommy fog has cleared a little I will share some more of our story home.

For now, I'm going to soak up some more yummy new baby smell and snuggle time.


My Baby Lisette's Birth Story

 Where to begin...at the beginning of my 37th week! This was the last time I would get a chance to take a profile picture to record my pregnancy. I'm so glad I did because only a few days later my little lady was born into the big wide world.

It all began with my regular check up at the doctor. So many different things went on during my pregnancy that we were keeping a pretty close eye on things. Pretty early on her growth had begun to slow significantly. There were many concerns and lots of unknowns, but at this appointment everything looked fine. Nothing was better or worse, just the same. I complained of pain, that I thought was baby grinding her head down low. I had begun to notice her "drop" a few days earlier and my waddle was even more pronounced. Little did I know that I'd already been in labor for days, and what I thought was her head, was actually pretty good sized contractions!

(On my way in to see the doctor for my last prenatal appointment!)

We ended up going in to Labor and Delivery around 8 pm that same night. I was having consistent contractions 3-5 minutes apart and didn't even know it. I only felt "the big" ones, which were about every 15 minutes or so, and didn't know I was actually really truly laboring until they put a monitor on me. The nurse would ask me, "Did you feel that?". And I would reply, "Uh...no....?" 
My Hypnobaby hypnosis was working better than I thought!  

I was monitored all throughout my labor because my baby's heart rate kept dropping dangerously low. I was really fearing that they would try to tell me that I needed to have a C-section, and I was praying that everything would be ok. I kept having to move to keep her heart rate up. I labored all through the night, and it wasn't until the morning around 7 or 8am that things really started to pick up. Transition came on fast and strong. I chose purposely to labor and deliver medication free because due to the complications during my pregnancy I was concerned that there might be something amiss and wanted to be able to be up and mobile as quickly as possible afterwards. Let me tell you, it was HARD work. I hadn't slept all night, and I was laboring HARD. Little did we know that baby Lisette was posterior. I was having intense back labor, worse than with any of my other babies. Thankfully transition went quickly! But it was scary too, because once again baby's heart rate was dangerously low and they kept repositioning me to try to bring it up. In the end they could no longer pick up her heart rate and inserted a monitor on her. Can I just say, that was NOT FUN. But necessary, none the less and I'm grateful in the end.

When it came time to push, it didn't take long. Only a few pushes and she made her presence known! 

They put her on my tummy, all covered in a thick thick layer of vernix.
Within moments, it seemed, that she was laid on my belly she started to struggle with breathing. Shortly after she was whisked away by the Neonatal nurse who was standing by just in case of something like this for assessment. Her oxygen saturation was very low. Her muscle tone was very low. They took her to the NICU almost immediately. 

It wasn't until later that day that I got to go visit her. They were busy assessing her and getting her stable. 
 I think it was two days before I was able to hold her. It's a bit of a blur, those first couple of days. There were breathing tubes, and feeding tubes and IV's, and alarms. 

Our little adventure in the NICU continues, as it's been a week now that it's been her home and mine. What comes next is another adventure in and of itself as we await the results of her chromosome test. Everything is pointing towards Down Syndrome and it explains a lot of the "why" things went the way they did during my pregnancy, as well as labor & delivery. Heart problems are quite common with these babies I've been told and read.

In the mean time, I continue to be by her side as much as I possibly can. I pray that she'll grow stronger so that I will be able to bring her home soon. My other kids are so anxious to have her home, and I am anxious to have us all together.

Nothing about any of this pregnancy and birth went as I hoped it would, aside from avoiding a C-Section. (That's a pretty big deal I guess!) But in the scheme of things, I'm just grateful for her life. I'm grateful for all those that were with me to help me through these things, and for all the help I continue to receive. I feel blessed abundantly amidst what seems like a storm at times.

I'm not sure what's on the horizon, but I know God has a plan and I'm willing to go along with it. I know I'm loved, and I know Lisette is as well. 


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