My Four Hour Labor & Home Birth: What I Did To Prepare

My Four Hour Labor & Home Birth: What I Did To Prepare

Yup, my labor was four hours. Four incredibly intense hours.  I always love a good birth story so I’ll include some of my actual labor and birth story but this post is mainly about what I did to manage my labor at home. As a doula, I went into pregnancy and childbirth with a lot of knowledge and I was very prepared.  I’m happy to be able to share that information with you today!

It’s important to recognize that my pain management and labor management started months before the day my baby was born.  So I’ll start with my pre-labor preparations.  These lists aren’t exhaustive but may give you a good start if you’re planning a home birth.  If you have any questions after reading this, let me know!

Mental Pre-Labor Preparations

I started by doing the home study of Hypnobabies. I have a Master’s degree in Clinical Health Psychology which is included a lot alternative pain management including hypnosis.  So I knew that hypnosis would work well for me and I believe that Hypnobabies is the best clinically based childbirth hypnosis available.  In addition, I also read and watched many birth stories that were similar to the one I was envisioning- mostly with the use of hypnosis and birthing at home. I hung up a “Born at Home” onsie in the living room and every day I pictured my sweet girl being born safely and comfortably at home when it was the right time. This was my mental, emotional, spiritual getting ready for birth.

home birth onesie

This is the visualization I hung in my living room to keep me motivated and envision my safe home birth.

Physical Pre-Labor Preparations 

I also prepared physically for birth in several ways. I walked regularly when I was pregnant, at least once a day.  I found a short prenatal exercise video that included affirmations and did that every day as well.  I did some prenatal yoga as well as just some prenatal yoga moves and stretches throughout the day.  As soon as I was cleared for a home birth, at 37 weeks gestation, I also added in high step walking (this sometimes caused cramping so I chose not to do it earlier). I did belly mapping through spinningbabies.com and also The Miles Circuit to make sure that my baby was aligned in the perfect position for birth.  If you’re doing your own research for labor and birth, Spinning Babies will be an excellent resource overall on ways to make sure that your baby is in the optimal position for birth.  I worked as a doula for several years and can tell you that this will be one of the most important parts of ensuring a more comfortable, easier and quicker birth – if baby is in the optimal position.

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

Mama Needs Some Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

Other Pre-Labor Preparations

I drank iced red raspberry leaf tea at the “medicinal dose” level my midwife recommended which was a large handful of the tea leaves steeped for at least an hour in a quart Mason jar.  I drank about a Mason jar or a little less everyday for the last few weeks of my pregnancy.  I was instructed I could have started the higher dose earlier but that’s when I felt comfortable starting.  Also, I think this really helped with my breastmilk production and it’s good for uterine toning which is also important after birth so I kept drinking it after baby was born.

I read affirmations daily. I created affirmations on cards and decorated them a bit.  I made two sets: one for pregnancy and one for birthing time. I also made my lock screen an affirmation with a picture from an ultrasound and a little outfit I looked forward to baby wearing.

I organized everything for my birth prior to 36 weeks.  This made me feel safe, knowing I was going into my birthing time prepared and organized.  I had the supplies from my home birth checklist from my midwife all lined up in the baby’s room and ready to go when needed.  The midwife and my husband knew where everything was. Although I didn’t have an official birth plan printed, I had some of my general wishes written down on a card and hung up on the fridge.  Everyone knew everything I wanted and what to expect and that gave me a lot of peace going into my labor.

Home birth supplies

Home birth supplies ready to go!

When Labor Started 

For several days I had some contractions on and off.  They’d pick up and slow down.  Then all of a sudden I knew something was different.  I had a little leak that showed up as not amniotic fluid on the little strip test but my contractions seemed to be getting a little more noticeable.  I called my midwife and she said basically relax and maybe I’ll see you later.  So I immediately sat on the toilet backwards.  I wanted labor to progess, it was daytime and I had energy. Had I not wanted labor to progress I may have done something else like rest or lay down.  But I wanted labor to move forward. Sitting on the toilet is one of the best ways to get contractions to be productive and help move things forward if baby is in the right position in my experience.  So that’s what I did. I also said to my husband, “Under no circumstances let me get in the shower any time soon. Just help me in other ways for now.”  This is because water can actually act as “nature’s epidural.”  Water can be so soothing that if done early in labor it can slow things a little versus later in labor it can help relax the body and move things along.  For this reason, I always recommended women attempt to save hydrotherapy as a pain management technique for active labor and not early labor. About 5-10 minutes later, I gave my husband a serious look and sad, “turn on that water!”  He started to say “But…” but did not get much out as I told him – “NOW!”

home birth bath tub shower birth ball set up

My bathroom set up – shower with the birth ball and bath tub close by

My Labor

My contractions were very close together, I had essentially very little break between them.  This took me by surprise but I was prepared.  I got into the shower and used a birth ball in the shower to take short breaks whenever I could. A birth ball (exercise ball) provides great positions for labor and so it was better than a shower seat.  I used towels to help stabilize and prevent slipping. I could easily stand up, lean on the wall in the shower, have my husband do counter pressure on my lower back, etc.  I had my Hypnobabies tracks playing in the background but mostly I was in my own zone.  I used a mantra in my head to keep myself focused and calm.  I went very “inward.” It was as though the outside world was very present.  I stayed focused and talked to my baby regularly in my head.  While I was doing this my husband called my midwife and she rushed over.  When my midwife got here, I had just gotten into our bathtub.  I labored in the tub for a about a half hour with my husband and my midwife pouring water over my belly or back depending on my position.  I moved into a more upright position and a few minutes and a few pushes later our sweet girl Elodie was born in our bathtub, caught by her daddy.

Birth Ball in Shower

The birth ball set up in the shower

Elodie was born

It was the 4th of July in the evening.  The midwife and her assistant helped me move to my bed so I could be more comfortable.  They performed the belly massage which I didn’t even notice much of – the adrenaline high was so high. They did the newborn exam in our bed while we listened to the 4th of July fireworks outside.  Like magic fairies, the midwives cleaned up the bathroom and bedroom so it looked like nothing had happened except leaving some towels and sheets still drying when they left. We snuggled up with Elodie, I ate a hearty pasta meal and we drifted off sweetly into our new life as a family of three.

My sweet girl born at home

My sweet girl born at home

Labor and Home Birth

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Tips for Attending a Baby Show like The Prego Expo

Tips for Attending a Baby Show like The Prego Expo

When you got engaged, you may have gone to a bridal show. So when you’re pregnant, you may look into going to a baby show. Here are some reasons to go and some tips on what to do when you go.

A baby show usually showcases some things like your birth options, how to get a breast pump, some amazing people who can help capture photos of your pregnancy and newborn baby, baby gear like car seats and carriers, samples of things like formula and more!

The Prego Expo Baby Show Orlando FL

A Mom Mocktail at The Prego Expo

When I was growing up, my mom used to joke that there was a parenting book which totally you exactly what to do.  Kids in her class would say that all parents would do the same things and she would say of course – that’s in Chapter 3, that’s why.  Then when I became a parent, I wished I had another master’s degree just in baby gear and the first year alone – car seats and baby wearing and formula and baby food and breast feeding – oh my! There is SO much to know.

Going to a baby show can give you a great deal of really good information in a short period of time.  Things that would take hours to Google or I wouldn’t even have known to Google, all in one convenient location – yes, please! In my opinion, attendance at one of these shows is a great idea, especially if you’re a first time mom and would like to get a lot of information in just a few hours.

If you go to a baby show like The Prego Expo, here are a few quick tips  to make your experience easier and more enjoyable.

  1. Check out the expo website. Make sure you’re generally familiar with where you’re going, what time it starts and any special instructions they may have offered.  This will take some of the stress out of trying to figure things out on the day of the event.  And moms need less stress for sure!
  2. Know what vendors you will not want to miss.  Start there.  If there will be a newborn photographer there that you’ve already been interested in or a lactation consultant who seems really knowledgeable, you’re not going to want to miss those booths.  Make a list of the people / booths you do not want to miss and try to start by seeing them first.
  3. Get there early.  Some times the lines are long and the first people in will sometimes get more samples and just more time in general.  Parking and getting in can take time too, so just allow for extra time, again less stress!
  4. Have a way to stay organized.  If you see something you want on your registry or a business you want to hire, make sure you have a way to record this.  You can do this by taking photos on your phone or have a note pad with you. Taking business cards can be helpful but they sometimes get lost, so I recommend having another way to store information about things you really want to follow up on after the show.
  5. Ask questions. No one expects moms to know everything so if you’re unsure, don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Car seat safety and breastfeeding were two categories I asked lots of questions about when I attended a baby show for the first time. Don’t be shy!
  6. Pack snacks. If you’re like me and need to eat every hour or two, make sure you pack snacks! There may be some samples and also a place to buy food, but if you’re busy at the show, you’re going to want some quality snacks quickly. Moms, pregnant, breastfeeding, etc. just need to take care of themselves so do not forget this important aspect. You may also want to bring along a reusable water bottle too.

I recently attended The Prego Expo in Orlando.  I personally find The Prego Expo to be one of the best, most organized and fun baby shows.  For me, the value in this show is meeting people like photographers, doulas, lactation consultants and more.  They also offer sessions from medical professionals, a model show of beautiful dresses for pregnant women and some really amazing giveaways! If you have The Prego Expo near you, I highly recommend checking it out!

The Prego Expo Baby Show Orlando FL

Jennie from Goodnight Sleep Site Florida at the Prego Expo

The Prego Expo Baby Show Orlando FL

Central Florida Hynobabies at The Prego Expo

The Prego Expo Baby Show Orlando FL

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Thank you to The Prego Expo for hosting me.

5 Reasons I Chose a Home Birth

5 Reasons I Chose a Home Birth

Home birth has been making a bit of a comeback along with other historical ways of parenting such as breastfeeding and co-sleeping after many of these decisions were discouraged for various reasons in the last few generations. There’s been a large stigma around and, in my experience, a lot of fear about home birth.  You have many choices in giving birth including the location. Many families chose between the three most popular locations: hospital, birth center and home. All three have pros and cons. I worked as a doula for several years and witness first hand the differences. For me, the pros of a home birth were the strongest and today I’ll share with you why I chose to have my daughter in my home.

home birth baby

Elodie was born happy, healthy and at home.

1.  Home is where I feel safe. When asked: Where is the best place to give birth? My answer is always: Where you feel safe. I knew from the moment I saw the positive line on the pregnancy test that I would feel safest giving birth in my own home, in my own space. I do not feel comfortable in hospitals, around many people and machines. The power of relaxation and comfort in birth is undeniable. Bodies that feel safe, relaxed and comfortable have a significantly easier time giving birth. My body was always going to feel safest at home. So this was a really important reason for me to consider home birth.

2. I trusted my midwife.  The midwife I chose made me feel at ease and comfortable. From the first day I met her, she was confident and secure in her own decisions. She told me immediately that she would never make a decision she wasn’t comfortable with and would not support me being at home for my labor and birth if she felt like it wasn’t safe for me. She also had extensive experience including working in remote areas with no medical access which made me feel like she, without a doubt, could handle my birth with running water, electricity and a hospital nearby.

3. I didn’t have to get in the car.  You may think to yourself at first: this isn’t a reason. But it really is! Firstly, I honestly can’t imagine myself having to get into a car while I was in labor. I could not get out of the water or stop moving. Having to drive to a hospital or birth center would have felt horrific to me. Secondly, knowing what I know about women’s bodies in labor, it’s likely that this would have felt unbearable and also may have stalled my labor. The discomfort and change of scenery, added machinery and people I didn’t know would have likely made me so uncomfortable, it wouldn’t have been surprising for me to slow down my labor. Thirdly, if I had gotten into the car, it’s a real possibility I would have had a side of the highway baby. My birth team barely made it to my birth because my labor was so quick and intense. I’m glad they were the ones in the car coming to me and I was able to stay safe and calm in my bathroom waiting for them. In my opinion, a home birth with a skilled midwife is much safer and more comfortable than birthing in a car. I’m so happy I didn’t have to get in the car!

4. I believed in myself, my intuition and my body. Some of this came naturally and some of this I worked on. I studied Hypnobabies and spent every day preparing my mind and body for labor and birth. I treated birth preparation like a part time job. I did affirmations, my Hypnobabies tracks and exercised with birth in mind, everyday. I think all of this really helped me have a quick and uneventful labor. I knew that birthing at home was right for me intuitively, and if that had changed at any moment I would have vocalized that and my whole team including my midwife and husband knew to listen to me.

home birth onesie

This is the visualization I hung in my living room to keep me motivated and envision my safe home birth.

5. I ate pasta in my bed while my husband laid next to me holding my daughter.  Probably not the best reason to have a home birth, but also my favorite. After I birthed Elodie in our bathtub and my husband caught her, my midwife did all of our exams in our bedroom. After my birth team left, it looked like nothing ever happened (it’s magic how midwives are able to make birth “mess” disappear). We laid in bed as a family. My husband made me a hearty and warm dinner to nourish and replenish my body after all the work of labor and then he snuggled our baby next to me while I ate. Then we all slept comfortably in our master suite, with a king bed, our cosleeper for Elodie and my comfortable bathroom close by. This was amazing for me compared to being in a hospital bed with my husband sleeping on a chair and Elodie in a cot, nurses or machines waking us up. We didn’t need any of that medically, luckily. So we got to jump right into our new family routine in our own comfortable space.

home birth baby

Elodie and me in our bed, within an hour of her being born.

These reasons will not make home birth right for everyone. Some families will feel safer in a hospital or birth center. Some births are medically necessary to be in a hospital. There is no right answer for where you are meant to have your baby. But if you’re considering a home birth, I hope that this perspective on home birth helps you.

I would love to know: Would you consider a home birth or did you have a home birth? Tell me in the comments!

Did you know your home birth may be covered by insurance? Check out this post and contact your insurance today!

Home Birth Insurance Coverage

Home Birth Insurance Coverage

One question I’m asked frequently is: Where is the best place to give birth? My answer is always where you feel the most comfortable.

Having a home birth can be a beautiful and peaceful experience. I chose to have Elodie at home because it is where I felt safest.  I absolutely loved my home birth and to date, is one of the proudest and happiest moments of my life.

 

home birth

For several years I was a doula and birth photographer. I saw a variety of births in different settings and went into my own birth with my eyes wide open. I still knew that where I would feel most comfortable would be in my own home. I’ll share more on my decision to have a home birth and my own home birth experience soon.

Today, I’m happy to share some information about insurance coverage for home births.  Insurance companies are recognizing that low risk births for women who feel comfortable and safe at home are very safe and are starting to provide insurance coverage accordingly.

Cigna is now covering some home births through insurance. To find out if your Cigna plan will cover your home birth, I recommend you contact them directly. If you are looking for general information on their coverage, they provided me this link with additional information about current coverage on some plans. https://cignaforhcp.cigna.com/public/content/pdf/coveragePolicies/medical/AD_A002_administrativepolicy_home_birth.pdf

One of my favorite resources for evidence based information on the safety of birth in different settings and other things related to giving birth is Evidence Based Birth.

 

home birth

Protect Yourself While Traveling

Protect Yourself While Traveling

This post contains affiliate links to Amazon products.  If you click on these, it will cost you nothing but will help me with the cost of replacing my stolen iPhone! 🙂

Okay, we’ve all been warned to be careful when traveling. And if you say you are traveling to Italy, you will be warned of pick pocketers.  And they are right! The pick pocketers are professionals.  It’s very calculated and if they see an opportunity to take it, they will.

The good news: violent crime is pretty unlikely. We felt safe physically most of the time.  We were told to avoid “down by the River in Rome” by an American living in Rome.  We looked down there from above and that seems like really solid advice.  We did a walking tour in Rome at night and didn’t feel physically uncomfortable once.

The bad news: our “stuff” rarely felt safe. We felt like we were standing in a yard of dogs with the only bone when we had our stuff with us.  We were targeted and they did pick pocket my phone on a bus in Rome.  After that, there were several times, especially in the Naples train station and on the Circumvesuviana in the Naples/Sorrento area, that we strongly believe we were not victims again only because we were so on guard.

There was a moment I was literally yelling “no!” very loudly at someone who came up from me and surprised me asking me for directions.  Sorry, sir! But I was on high alert, and for good reason.

We took a bus in Rome and they stole the phone right out of my pocket.  Watch the video below for more information on exactly how that played out and some of my advice because of it.

Also, learn from my mistake and learn how to protect your “stuff” like your wallet, passports, money and phones.  Here are some really good products that will help you save thousands of dollars, all for $10-15. I’d say that’s worth it!

We did one thing right.  We had our money including cash and cards and Passports all in an amazing travel wallet.  This can be worn around the neck over or under clothing.  No, it’s not super fashionable.  Yes, it will 100% be worth protecting the most valuable things you are carrying. If you only buy one travel thing, make it this. Travel wallet: https://amzn.to/2slAfPi

A case like this $10 Minnie phone case with strap could have saved me so much money and hassle! I HIGHLY recommend you get this or something like it! (They have Mickey too!)
Minnie: https://amzn.to/2D6OBt0 Mickey: https://amzn.to/2Fru6ce

Also, if you’re looking to keep your camera and gear secure, we used a Vinta travel photography backpack.  It zips in the back making it nearly impossible to get into.  When we were traveling with all of our luggage, we used a small suitcase lock on the zipper just for an added layer of protection. Backpack: https://amzn.to/2VMLKNg Suitcase locks: https://amzn.to/2Fv0YRp

We also had Tiles in our travel wallet and camera backpack, just as kind of a last effort.  This would likely only help if it was lost and not stolen.  We appreciated the extra peace of mind though and use these in diaper bags, strollers, etc. daily even when not traveling.  https://amzn.to/2D5GvAO

Hope this helps you have a magical adventure! – Jess

It’s a Wonderful  Life in Clermont

It’s a Wonderful Life in Clermont

Thank you so much to my friend, Tonya at Detail Oriented Traveler and the Moonlight Players Theatre in Clermont for inviting me to their show, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.  

I know what you may be thinking, a radio style show of an old movie – sounds kinda, dare we say, maybe, boring? I had high hopes for this show and 100% trusted my fellow blogging friend, Tonya, when she said the show would be wonderful.  But I could completely understand how others may look at this show and wonder – will I like it?

Well, let me tell you what I thought.  I LOVED this show.  I’ve attended all kinds of shows from high school productions to Broadway.  Having grown up an hour between New York City and Philadelphia and now living only minutes away from Walt Disney World, I definitely have been to my fair share of extremely high quality shows and also small productions.  This show was probably my favorite community theater production I’ve seen. 

The Radio style show has several actors performing a live radio show of the classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. The actors are dressed the part of living in the early 1900s but the scenery is minimalistic, as though you were in the radio studio. 

So how did the Moonlight Players Theatre make this production stand out? Well, first, having the radio style show stripped down some of the distractions for me.  I was able to just stay engaged in the actual story and the emotion.  I loved this aspect. Additionally, the actors really did a fantastic job and that made it even more engaging.  Many of the actors are seasoned and work for major entertainment locations like Disney.  Even the actor who was acting for the first time really hit it out of the park. You could feel all of their emotions, picture what they described and even hear (and see!) the audio effects.  The audio effects are done by Sarah Louise Harris who studied audio design professionally in college. She designed and produced all of the props needed for the sounds herself!

Community theater is something really important to support, and the Moonlight Players Theatre gives us plenty of reasons to support them.  All of the details of the performance, feeling like you are transported to a different time and place and the incredible overall feeling you will leave with all make this a theater you will not regret checking out! 

This production will run from December 7-16, 2018 and you can find more details including about purchasing tickets here on their Facebook page

Feast of the Seven Veggies

Feast of the Seven Veggies

Have you heard of the American-Italian tradition “Seven Fishes?” My husband’s family honors this tradition and when we spent last Christmas in Connecticut, the whole family had a huge seven fishes feast. The feast is rooted in Catholic tradition of A Christmas Eve vigilia di magro (“lean feast”) abstaining from meat consumption on certain holidays and the sea-faring Italian people’s love of fish dishes. Although you’ll find varying explanations of how American Italians came to celebrating on Christmas Eve with the number of seven fishes, it has been a time-honored tradition in many families. Families honor this in different ways. Some make a soup with several fishes in it and have a few other fish dishes, totaling seven kinds of fish in one meal. My husband’s family has certain fish dishes that each family makes and they bring along to all meet at their grandmother’s house. They enjoy a fun Christmas Eve full of family time, great food, games, presents, singing, wine and most of all joy. It’s truly a beautiful tradition.

This is a family tradition we would love to continue but I have been eating plant-based for the last 15 years. And this year, we will actually be in Italy for Natale!  So I thought it would be fun to put a vegetable-based twist on this tradition and have our own Seven Veggies Holiday Feast. It still honors the roots of this feast and also is a compassionate and healthy way to honor the tradition. Even if you don’t want to do all veggies, this may give you some ideas of dishes to add to your holiday meal. If you have family or friends attending your holiday celebrations that eat plant-based, this may help them feel welcomed. With compassion, eco-consciousness and health as a priority all on the rise, so is plant-based eating. The chances of you having someone in your family who prefers to eat vegan, vegetarian or even just more plants than anything else, is high. This post will offer you an idea of how to do a completely plant-based celebration or just add a few veggie dishes to your meal.

The Feast of the Seven Veggies

FEAST of the Seven Veggies

Our Feast of the Seven Veggies

For our Seven Veggies Feast, we decided to pick some of our favorite vegetables that were available to us locally.  There are some other considerations you may want to make when planning your feast.

  • Having a salad and/or soup can be an easy way to start the meal with some light and easy veggies. An easy and delicious soup is butternut squash – a favorite in our house!
  • Crudités is another way to do a quick and easy starter.  Perfect for while the food is still cooking.  You can make one dip or a variety of dips and add some fresh cut veggies and you’re done.
  • Broccoli Rabe is the Italian “Christmas broccoli” so you may want to consider having a Christmas broccoli as part of your meal.
  • Having at least a few hearty, roasted veggie dishes as part of your meal is important, especially if you’re only eating veggies.
  • If you wanted to make this even easier, you could do a several veggie stew and a few other veggie dishes and have only about 3-4 dishes total. This is commonly done with the seven veggies within some families.
  • Most seven dishes feasts include a pasta (Italian!) so you may want to include a traditional pasta or spiralized veggie in your feast. We did both to make sure we had enough food that the kids would eat.
  • Consider adding nuts and seeds to some of the dishes to add a flavor variety and some extra protein.  Although most veggies have plenty of protein, this will add healthy fats and proteins to complete your meal.
  • Consider adding different spices, sauces and fruits to the dishes to make your dishes stand out.

Here are the courses we chose:

  1. Rainbow radish salad with a lemon basil vinaigrette Radish Salad with Walnuts and Lemon Basil Vinaigrette
  2. Roasted eggplant with tahini sauce and pomegranate seeds Eggplant with Tahini Sauce and Pomegranate
  3. Roasted cauliflower with dill, harissa tahini sauce, dates and pistachio Cauliflower with Pistachio
  4. Roasted beet steaks with aged balsamic, seasoned Roasted Beets with Balsamic Vinegar and Spices
  5. Broccolini with garlic and lemon Broccolini with Garlic and Lemon
  6. Spiralized zucchini spaghetti with a homemade tomato sauce Spiralized Zucchini with Tomato Sauce
  7. Roasted sweet potatoes with onion and seasoningRoasted Sweet Potatoes

We also had foccacia, crudités and a vegan chocolate mousse dessert to round off this plant-based Feast of the Seven Veggies.

Foccacia

Crudites Veggies and Dip

Vegan Chocolate Mousse with Pomegranate and Pistachio

Vegan Chocolate Mousse with Pomegranate and Pistachio for Dessert

 

I hope you give this a try or this gives you some ideas of veggies to add to your holiday meal this year!  What do you think?  Will you add in some veggies or do a whole Feast of the Seven Veggies? Tell me below! I’d love to hear if you give it a try.

Happy holidays to you and your family!

Gratitude: A Journey

Gratitude: A Journey

In honor of Thanksgiving, I’d like to share a little about my journey of gratitude. A long time ago, I used to think that gratitude was about finding things to be thankful for. It was about showing appreciation for what I had been given or afforded in life. Being thankful was like a simple prayer: thank you for my family, friends, house. On occasion, I was able to throw in something like being grateful for an accomplishment or recognition. It wasn’t daily and it was usually only when I was told to think about it, like on Thanksgiving.

But over the last few years, I’ve had a few things happen in my life that have rocked my world. As a foster mom, I had to say goodbye to two children I’d loved for two-and-a-half years. After losing a baby, I did not get pregnant for several years inexplicably.  I can write these painful events down in just a few words but the pain of them ran thousands of words deep, if not more. There were moments where I felt broken, really broken. And gratitude was what saved me.

I read many years ago that for every negative thing you hear on the news or say to yourself, you need to say three positive things.  This is to combat depression but it’s really just great advice overall.

So whenever I’m feeling hopeless or a little less hopeful than usual, I force myself to think of things I’m grateful for.  Of course there are things that are easy to be thankful for: My healthy, happy daughter. My ultra-supportive husband. My family who are always there when I need them. My safe and comfortable home.

And absolutely we should be thankful for the most important things in our life.  But if we want to really be truly thankful and live a life full of gratitude, we have to dig deeper. It has to be more than the obvious and it has to be more than three or four “things.” And the hardest part: it has to be every day.  Living a life full of gratitude is a lifestyle. This, in my experience, does truly change your life.  Your outlook shifts to focus on all the wonderful parts of your life.  Yes, there are negative things that happen.  Yes, there are things that will rock your world, leaving you feeling shaken.  You may even question your faith.  When gratitude becomes a way of living though, you can feel happier daily and become more resilient against the difficult events that will inevitably happen in your life.

So, how do you get more grateful? People do this in many ways. When I need reminders or things feel harder, I physically write down five to ten things I’m grateful for. Beyond just my family and my house, I dig deeper.  Something about thinking a little harder and physically writing can really help you feel present and grounded. In moments that feel very difficult, I list out loud basic things I’m thankful for like breathing and a house to live in. For panic attacks, people are encouraged to notice something from each sense to help ground them.  Gratitude can also make you feel grounded and present.  I try to practice gratitude when I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed. I have had great success with feeling more calm and focused afterward.

I also have read several books where the main themes are about practicing gratitude daily.  I think this is the best place to start. Practicing gratitude daily can look however you want it to! You can have a chalk board where you write five things you’re grateful for that day.  You can have a gratitude journal where you write three things you’re grateful for everyday (wouldn’t that be neat to look back at over the years?). You can start your day by listing one or two things you’re grateful for while brushing your teeth.  You do not need to have a lot of time and it doesn’t need to take away from anything else in your life to start practicing daily gratitude.

For me, I find a moment in the day and focus on all that I have to be grateful for that day. Notice the small things. Focus on gratitude for even the most basic parts of life like paying bills and hot running water. Instead of being frustrated that I am walking a baby in the middle of the night, I focus on how grateful I am to have a baby to walk with. When I’m tired and want to rest but have laundry and work and a toddler who asks for my attention, I think of how grateful I am for clothing and work to do and a strong willed daughter who knows what she needs.  It’s a shift in focus that changes how you look at everything.

I encourage you today and every day to practice gratitude.  What does that look like for you?

Here’s an exercise to help you start to notice things that are different and how to be grateful for smaller things.  What can you notice in the video below? First you may just see a beautiful dragonfly.  But if you re-watch, what else do you notice? Do you see its beautiful wings?  Do you notice the vibrant colors? This is like a gratitude exercise.  Notice the details of your life and be grateful for them.

 

Grocery Delivery with Prime Now

Grocery Delivery with Prime Now

When you’re traveling, sometimes you don’t have a car or don’t have time to grocery shop. An excellent way to save money, time and energy is to use a grocery delivery service. Grocery shopping isn’t my favorite hobby anyway, so I’m especially interested in skipping this while I’m on vacation. I also always want some basics and at the price I’m used to paying ($5 for a pack of water not 1 bottle). When you shop for your groceries this way, you can shop from the comfort of your beach chair or while you’re waiting to ride Flight of Passage and have water bottles back at your hotel waiting for you when you get there. You’re sold on this, right? Read on for the how-to.

My personal favorite grocery delivery service is Amazon Prime Now so that’s the one I’ll be explaining in this post. You can also use Shipt for delivery from stores like Publix and Target and there are also local small businesses that offer these services as well.

How to use Amazon Prime Now to have almost anything you could imagine needing delivered to you within a few hours

  1. Download the Prime Now app from the App Store
  2. Sign in using your Prime Account or sign up for one here: https://amzn.to/2OSHmaC
  3. Type in the zip code of your hotel or home
  4. Place items in your cart from either Amazon or Whole Foods (can’t mix and match) that add up to at least $35 to get free delivery (you can add a tip but it’s not required)
  5. Pick out your delivery time – they offer 2 hour time slots from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  6. Enjoy your time with your family until your order comes!
  7. When your items are delivered, they’ll either be delivered to Bell Services at a hotel or to your door of your home. You should tip Bell Services, especially if they deliver to your hotel room. As of when I’m writing this I do not believe there are any additional delivery fees at Disney Resorts at least but check with your hotel.
  8. Enjoy your delivered items! Could be anything from veggie sushi from Whole Foods to an extra onesie from Amazon! Also, more practically, could be snacks and water for your Park Days or Beach Days!

I personally pretty much exclusively grocery shop this way now! I do occasionally go to the store just to grab something quickly or pick my own produce. And we still love the Farmer’s Market. Overall, it’s so much easier to place items in my virtual cart as I remember them, click check out when I’m ready and bring them in from my front door. Driving 30+ minutes in a car with a child who doesn’t like the car, buckling, unbuckling, trying to settle a bored baby or chase a toddler and hope we don’t break anything and ultimately buying things I don’t need and forgetting what I went to the store for anyway – I’ll pass! Grocery Delivery may very well be a mom’s best friend! What do you think?

Hope this helps you have a magical vacation!
XO Jess

Montessori at Home

Montessori at Home

Can you be a non-Pinterest-perfect, Disney-loving parent AND practice Montessori style learning at home? Yes! Read on for more information about Montessori learning, why you might be interested in it and how to find the life balance of it.

Montessori Learning is a style of education that focuses on the child and the child’s interests. It is called a “child-led” education. In comparison to formal education where a child is more passive in being taught, Montessori learning encourages education through an active and natural learning process.  Maria Montessori developed this system and it is named after her.

If you join a Montessori group or start Pinteresting “Montesorri,” you might wonder if you’ll ever be able to integrate Montessori learning into your normal home. You can! Just be flexible and know that you don’t have to follow all the “rules” of Montessori. You are not a classroom. You are a family living in your home. You can integrate Montessori-learning into your home in a reasonable way. This is like being “reasonably crunchy” as I call it. I try to be eco-conscious and many of my decisions are based on that. But at the end of the day, I’m also going to do things that make my life easier and more comfortable sometimes. These lifestyles do not need to be all-or-nothing. They can be reasonable, too.

Montessori at Home Wooden Toys

First, a little story about why Montessori education might be important. My mom, a retired teacher, said this to me recently when I told her I was planning on integrating largely Montessori learning for Elodie: “Honestly, most teachers can’t tell who had the Montessori education or not. So enjoy but it probably will be similar results at the end of a few years.” I wasn’t upset, that’s what I generally want for Elodie: for her to have an education that is equal to or greater than average. She also told me I went to Montessori school prior to 1st grade which I hadn’t even realized. It had me thinking a bit. So I asked my husband what he thought about his early schooling, if he remembered. He said he did not enjoy preschool or kindergarten at all. He remembers a witch-like teacher who was angry and rude, only paying attention to you if you did something wrong. He remembers being expected to remember things and being told to learn things. I was shocked! My experience was the exact opposite. I remember Miss Tiffany with her red hair, warm smile and tender hugs. I remember her siting with me doing puzzles and coloring. He remembers being yelled at for not napping. I remember being encouraged to relax when I couldn’t nap (which was every day) and then being able to be the “waker upper fairy.” Our experiences were literally the complete opposite. It played out for the rest of our education. We ended up in almost opposite learning settings again where I had strict nuns and his teachers were more flexible and encouraging.  And yet, those early days of learning stayed with us.  I continued to enjoy learning and thought of it as a good experience where he continued to feel like learning was more of a task.  If I had to guess, our IQs are probably similar and my husband is definitely more clever and excels at things I don’t.  Yet I always had really good grades and was motivated. He found tests, homework and grades to be not as important and more of a task than a goal. I truly believe those early days of being introduced to learning mattered, and big time.  So I really take my daughter’s early learning seriously.  It matters that children feel loved and cared for in their learning settings too. This is one of the most important lessons I used to emphasize as a parent educator.

So what is Montessori at home like?  It can look a lot of different ways.  For our family, it looks a lot like following Elodie’s lead, finding out what she is interested in and encouraging learning through that. It is about being engaged as parents.  We focus on integrating daily tasks that she helps with. We don’t have a strict schedule, but a loose one.  They’re not labeled home economics or math, but we are putting away the laundry together and counting while we do it. Elodie loves music and dancing. So we spend time every single day using real, age-appropriate instruments, singing and dancing along. We sing the same songs every day during some structured play time.  I focus on her during that time and follow what she’s interested in playing.  Today it was playtime at a local play center where she climbed and I guided her with the rules of the playground. Then she splashed water and we talked about her counting cups and their colors in the bath.  Then she took my hand, led me outside and pointed to the swing for some nice, relaxing swing time. It can look different on different days, but the general rule of thumb is that she is enjoying it and we are focused on early, age-appropriate learning in the process. It will look different at different stages too.

“Every time we teach a child something, we keep him from inventing it himself. On the other hand, that which we allow him to discover for himself will remain with him visible for the rest of his life.” – John Piaget

A big part of the way we practice Montessori learning has to do with us letting Elodie show us how to play with toys. This helps her develop creativity and have ideas that are her own. We strongly believe that this will help her develop her sense of self, creativity and a joy that comes from within.

Montessori at Home Wooden Toys

Playing with Wooden Peg Doll as She Chose To – by Making Her Walk Along the Bed

A big part of Montessori learning is having everything be truly functional.  This means that “play” toys like toy vacuums that don’t work are discouraged.  Instead, something like a broom and pan or child-size functioning vacuum would be more appropriate. This is where sometimes rules start to blur a little.  For example, in Montessori classrooms, children may use child-sized real glass glasses and pitchers to pour their own drinks. They do this safely and it can be really amazing to watch a one-year-old pour from glass to glass.  Yes, it is really possible! In our house though, we have chosen not to do this yet as sometimes I’m distracted by writing or going to the bathroom and do not want to worry about broken glass. We do our best to use child-sized real functional dish ware all the time. She has been offered a spoon and fork at mealtimes since she was offered food for the first time.  We also did baby led weaning which in my opinion goes very well with Montessori learning.

Montessori at Home Wooden Toys

Pure Joy Playing the Way She Chooses

Do you still have some questions? Maybe it’s one of these.

When I search Montessori, it’s full of expensive toys and printed Pinterest crafts.  That seems overwhelming.  Well, yeah! I mean, even if you’re a stay-at-home mom, it can still be difficult to find the time and energy to have the most prepared “curriculum” (which let’s be honest will probably be done within a minute or two especially if your child is young). There certainly may not be extra resources for expensive equipment.  I’ve seen absolutely stunning Montessori playrooms that are 100% #goals but we also have other goals too like traveling and me staying home with Elodie during the day.  This all means our budget for educational toys can be limited.  This is not a problem at all! You can do Montessori at home, the easy way. All toys with Montessori learning are encouraged to be functional and/or creatively open. They usually include wooden toys and puzzles, toys that are visually accurate and toys that encourage active learning like climbing, playing, sorting and more.  This is a really wide range of toys. You do not need to have an extensive toy collection with perfectly laid out Montessori shelves if you do not want to.  Use a stool and include your child in baking something together.  Laundry that has to done anyway can be sorted together, pushed to the right room together and put away together. Take a walk, collect leaves and sort them by color and shape.  There are endless ways of letting your child lead education at home that are completely free and don’t require a big plan or a lot of printing.

Why would I choose Montessori? There are many wonderful styles of learning.  I also find the Reggio-Emilia and Waldorf ideas similar and interesting.  I would say there is no right way.  Research a little and find a way that works for your family.  For me, Montessori seems very intuitive.  Encourage all things to be functional.  Creativity should be open-ended.  Time is spent together learning and doing. Beautiful wooden toys and fun play equipment fill our birthday and Christmas wish lists and then our home. Most of all, my daughter is learning about her world and also about herself.  She’s learning that she is important and her ideas and opinions matter.  That’s a lesson that I find the most important and believe will be a lifelong principle for her.

A Montessori bed sounds like a lot of work for me. Is it? For us, we find the Montessori bed to be one of the best parenting decisions.  Currently, her bed is set up with the mattress on the floor and a converted crib to toddler bed rail around it.  She can get in and out freely and there is a gate on her door preventing her from wandering the home alone at night.  Everything in her bedroom is baby proofed: cords are hidden, furniture is mounted to the wall, etc. So she is safe in her room out of her crib.  As soon as she stood up, we set up her bed this way for her. She is safe, but has freedom.  She does sometimes play quietly with the few Montessori inspired toys but mostly she will read the books on her bookshelf.

But you have a play kitchen and go to Disney a few times a week. Are you really doing Montessori? Okay, you got me! We are not a Montessori classroom.  We are a family integrating Montessori learning into our lives.  We can still go to Disney, have Mickey Mouse plush everywhere, wear  licensed character princess dresses and have a play kitchen that doesn’t really have working water.  Because we are a family who is encouraging Montessori at home. It is not a game of perfection. We are living, loving and going on adventures in our own way here!

Still more questions? Leave a comment below!

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All of the Montessori-friendly toys shown in this post are from floraandpeg.com. They also sell beautiful floral headbands and clips.  I cannot say enough good things about this company: small shop, everything painted by hand and made naturally with love. Use code ELODIELOVE for 15% off almost everything.  Next on Elodie’s wishlist from Flora and Peg is some additional peg dolls and the wooden trees. So beautiful.  What’s on your wish list?

 

Montessori at Home with Wooden Toys

Elodie & Montessori Learning at Home with Wooden Toys