Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tinker Toy Fun

I've been very surprised at how much my 25 month-old has enjoyed playing with her Tinker Toys. She literally plays with them for several hours every day. Sometimes she gets frustrated because you really have to push the parts together very tightly for everything to stay together and she's not quite strong enough to do that for all the pieces. But, overall she has the skill-set to successfully use these materials.

It's a lot of fun watching her learn about balance and gravity.

She's also gotten into "playing Doctor" with several of the pieces. She "checks my heart-beat" (I'm guessing she's been inspired by our visits to the Midwives, where we listen to the Doppler) and pretends to check out my ears. She also appears to pretend to give me shots, although she doesn't seem to have the vocabulary for describing what she is doing. She loves lifting my legs up and down, during my exam. love it!

My Mother got her this vintage set, although I haven't put out ALL the pieces, yet. (There are PLENTY of pieces to use and put away for right now).

If you have a toddler (or are hoping to have one sometime in the future) and you spy a vintage set at a Yard Sale or Flea yourself a favor and snatch those puppies up! They are priceless. Way better than the new sets.

Did you ever play with Tinker Toys when you were a child?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Love for "Love Dharma"

Love Dharma...  I can't tell you how many times I have bought this book and sent it to friends. It is the perfect antidote to a bad break-up. It has lifted me out of the Darkness after several heart-breaks and helped ground me during my tumultuous '20s. It may possibly be my favorite book. Or at least, one of the most influential.

This is not to say that this book would win any serious literary awards. Geri Larkin's writing is not something that will stand the test of time. If my daughters read it, (when they are in their '20s) they will probably say it feels dated. But, I don't care.

This book speaks to me. Larkin is a Buddhist monk who has been married 3 or 4 times, raised 2 children (including a son whom she almost lost to a drug addiction), had a high-flying corporate job and started a Sangha in the middle of Detroit. She's seen a lot.

It's refreshing to hear some Love Advice from someone who has been in a lot of relationships. You don't have to be a Buddhist or have any Spiritual back-ground to find Wisdom in this book. It's just plain good Advice. Her writing is open and accessible and makes you feel like you are sitting down for a cup of tea and a chat with a long-lost friend.

Larkin introduces the reader to numerous Buddhist women throughout history. Most of them are not well-known. She talks about the Crazy Wisdom these women found in Buddhism. I glean something new from this book every time I pick it up.

Can you tell how much I love this book?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Time for Dandelion Cordial

It's time. Dandelions are everywhere. Dandelion Cordial is a fun and tasty way to get some of the healing power from the humble, but mighty Dandelion. Plus, it makes a really nice Hostess gift.

First things first. Make sure you know they are safe to use (make sure no chemicals have been sprayed in the yard and that few dogs ever visit the property).

Usually, I use Brandy to make a cordial, but I've also made some from Rum. Whatever floats your boat.

How to Make "Dandelion Cordial"...

1. Pick a slew of Dandelion Flowers (make sure it's early in the afternoon, so the dew had already dried but the flowers are still open).

2. Pick a glass jar and fill 1/3 of the jar with sugar (or less if you prefer).

3. Fill the jar almost up to the top with the Dandelion Flowers.

4. Add some sliced organic lemons (I only had access to bottled lemon juice, so that's what I added).

5. Fill to the top with your alcohol of choice (Like I said, I usually use Brandy but I tried Rum before and it worked well).

6. Shake.

7. Let sit for 2 weeks in a dark spot (shaking every day).

8. Pour your cordial (minus the flowers and lemon slices) into a pretty bottle.

9. Enjoy chilled with a slice of lemon or as a nice warm beverage with a little water and honey added to it (which hits the spot if you have a cold and have been having a coughing fit).

Why Dandelion? Dandelion contains loads of vitamins A, B, C and E and is full of phosphorus, calcium and magnesium. It's diuretic properties are very well-known. Some women make Dandelion Leaf Tea a few days before their period to help prevent water retention.

***A reminder….I’m not an MD, so have a chat with yours before taking any herbs or supplements. The info I am providing is for educational purposes only…Thank you! Hope this is helpful!!!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Anala. 16 Days Old.

Today is a special day for our family. Our second daughter turns 16 days old, which is the exact age her sister was when she came home from the NICU.

I cannot put into words how much better I feel - emotionally, physically, mentally than I did two years ago.

It's amazing how having a Joyful, Peaceful Birth can truly transform one's Post-Partum experience. My heart is full of Gratitude at having a healthy baby who I can hold and cuddle without interruption, without having to leave behind at the end of the day.

This is not to say that the last 16 days have been easy. There has been pain (especially those first 3 days), there has been much exhaustion, there have been tears. But, oh...what a difference. 

In Celebration of this family mile-stone, I took a few photos of Anala wearing the same outfit her sister came home in, which is almost too small. Yup, our Little Piglet LOVES to eat. At 12 days, she had already gained almost a pound OVER her birth-weight. Today she is hovering close to 10 lbs already! We love those sweet cheeks so much.

Here she is...the many faces of Juliette Anala....









Sunday, May 19, 2013

Sadness and an Unexpected Surprise From Auntie Julie

Things have been somber around our house these last few days. On Thursday morning, my husband found out that one of his friends had died of a heart attack at the age of 25. George was 10 years old when my husband first met him. One of my husband's first jobs was working at George's Mother's Florist Shop. There's a lot of history there.

I look at my brand-new baby and think of Mrs. B's indescribable loss and I weep.

We have been looking extra-hard for things that make us smile.

Friday night we found one.

I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of my Worm Bin. On Friday, I large box arrived at our house. While my husband was making dinner, Nye-Nye and I took the box outside to open it and set up the Worm Bin.

Only when I opened the box, I discovered it was actually full of presents from Auntie Julie sent all the way from Colorado. What a much needed surprise!!!

Here are some videos of Nye-Nye opening her lovely presents.

Thanks so much Auntie Julie for your so very sweet and thoughtful (and perfectly timed) presents! Nye-Nye has already taken to snuggling with Baby Sister Bunny during Nap-time.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

My Driftwood Shelves


Here are my two "Driftwood Shelves" FINALLY completed. For the first one, I picked out the "Driftwood" and the scrap of wood from my Step-father's wood shop. My Mama designed the second one and did all the actual attaching and drilling. It's convenient to have a former Cabinet-maker for a Mother. Thanks, Mommy!

Every time I look at my shelves, I smile. I can't wait to make some more!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Rainy Day Toddler Activity: Doing Dishes Video

Here is one of my "go-to" activities for my toddler on a Rainy (or Snowy day). She's 25 months and has been interested in doing dishes since she was about 16 months old. Lots of  "Water Play" is so important for toddlers. (In the video below, she was 23 months old).
I make sure to put in a few different types of brushes, cups (since she loves pouring) and a ladle or two. I try not to put in too many dishes because then she doesn't have as much room to work.
It's been a terrific activity, especially when she has already spent an 1 1/2 hr playing and painting in the bath-tub (I've been trying to be careful about how much bath-time she gets since she started developing very dry skin this Winter).
It's the simple things that bring us so much Joy, right?


Monday, May 13, 2013

What Did I Get For Mother's Day?

English: A handful of healthy worms coming out...
English: A handful of healthy worms coming out of coffee compost (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
2000 worms.

Yup, Papa Bear bought me 2000 Red Wigglers and a nifty Worm Bin to house all those worms. He's the Best. I couldn't be more excited about my present.

He wanted to get me a fancy-dancy Tablet...but, I'm still a Pen-and-Paper-Kind-of-Woman. And, I've been eyeing the Worm Factory 360 for several years now.

I've made a few attempts at "vermi-composting" throughout the years...all using DIY Worm Bins. It was never much of a success. So, I am thrilled to try out a real-deal Worm Bin.

I can't wait until they arrive and Nye-Nye and I can start on our latest Science Project. I'll keep you updated on our project.

Hope you had a Lovely Mother's Day.
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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Anala. One Week Old.


Our Dearest One,

Today you are exactly one week old. What a magical week. Mommy and Daddy have been able to hold, cuddle and kiss you constantly. We weren't able to do that with your Big Sissy, so it's been extra-special with you.

We have been very surprised at your level of alertness. It was especially surprising your first night, when we had figured you would sleep a lot since the act of being born is so much work. Nope, you just wanted to party.

You like it when Daddy walks you around, crooning one of his improv Country Songs. He's changed almost every single one of your diapers this week. It's so sweet seeing how much the two of you have bonded.

Daddy became very concerned when your umbilical cord fell off after 4 days. He checked it religiously for any sign of infection and began taking your temperature constantly. You were fine. He loves you so much this Daddy of yours.

Speaking of Love. You adore drinking Mama's milk and are already back to your birth weight of 8 lbs 12 oz. You are our Sweet Little Piglet. Nursing has gotten off to a much better start than with your sister. The first few days were really pretty rough, but we are both now getting more into the swing of things. Your Drunk Milk Face makes us laugh.

Your Big Sissy is completely enamored by you. She hasn't spent much time with you, yet. But, when she has seen've gotten lots of gentle strokes on your face and lots of kisses on the top of your head. It's amazing seeing how much the two of you look alike as newborns.

You smile a lot, especially in your sleep. We wonder what you are smiling and chuckling about in your dreams. Your facial expressions are delightful. You've already started doing the funny lip quiver thing your Sissy used to do when she was either cold or excited about something.

Your favorite place to nap is with your head tucked underneath Mommy's chin and your little body between my breasts. We figure you are so used to hearing Mommy's heart-beat in utero that hearing my heart-beat now is a big comfort. It's pure Sweetness.

We are so thrilled you are finally here. You have made our family complete.

We Love you so very much,
Mommy, Daddy and Nye-Nye

Friday, May 10, 2013

Post-Partum Massage. Joy. Joy. Joy.


On Wednesday, four days after I gave birth to our new Little Love, I had a "Post-partum Massage"... so Heavenly.

I had spent some time trying to find a Massage Therapist in Northern Virginia who was trained in Post-Partum Massage and made house-calls.  No success. There are tons of folks who give Pre-natal Massages, but very few seem to specialize in AFTER a woman has given Birth. Of those few folks, none appear to come to you.

I REALLY wanted someone to come to the house since I wasn't thrilled about the thought of putting my Post-Partum bottom in a car for a long drive.

Luckily for me, Holistic Touch in Old Town Alexandria is only 4 miles from my house. One of the Massage Therapists at Holistic Touch, Ginger, is trained in Post-partum Massage. She was fantastic.

She charged $90 for an hour Massage - a spurge I was glad to make.

Ginger had a special table for pregnant bellies (or recently pregnant bellies). For an extra $10, she created a speciality massage oil blend for me, which included the following essential oils: Clary Sage, Lemongrass, Lavender and Bergamot. I got to keep the remainder of the oil.

I told her how I used Clary Sage during my Labor to help manage my pain. She told me how she had completely forgotten to use any Essentials Oils during her two Births.

I was in a chatty mood, so we swapped Birth Stories. The room was nice and toasty and completely comforting. It felt so amazing to have all my over-worked muscles pampered.

Giving Birth will probably be the biggest physical feat you will ever accomplish, so be extra good to yourself and get a Massage afterwards. It's worth every penny, I promise.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Calming Gift Ideas for Mother's Day

I adore Mountain Rose Herbs - it's my #1 go-to place for dried herbs. When I stumbled upon a blog post from Mountain Rose listing 5 Calming Gifts for the Mamas in Your Life, I knew I had to share.

The list includes: Mom's Relaxing Room Mist, Mom's Bliss Tea, Mom's "Me Time" Bath Salts, Mom's Adapto-BonBons, Mom's Last Nerve Tincture (love the name). These are all great and inexpensive presents to make for Mother's Day (or any other day of the year).

Which one sounds good to you?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

She's Here.

Juliette Anala made her very peaceful, very fast arrival into this wild, wonderful World on Saturday, May 4th at 3:01 pm. I couldn't have asked for a more healing, more perfect Birth. She's healthy, I'm healthy. It was Spectacular. A lot of hard, hard work...but Spectacular.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

41 Week Update

Never thought I would have made it to 41 weeks. I've been having such regular Braxton-Hicks Contractions for the last 7 weeks, I was thinking that I might make it to 39 weeks. Tops.

Lesson #1 of Motherhood...Your children will always surprise you.

We had an Ultrasound the day before I turned 41 weeks. Very, very happy to see that everything looked normal. We were a little taken aback with baby's estimated weight. 9 lbs and 8 oz. Gulp.

I've gained 6 lbs less than I did last pregnancy, so I was thinking maybe 8 1/2 lbs.  Ultrasounds can be pretty off in regards to weight (I've heard stories of up to 2 lbs). So, we'll see.

The baby slept through most of the Non-Stress Test on Thursday, but when she did wake up, she responded beautifully. Which means she has a week to come out on her own, before she gets evicted by an Induction (Pitocin).

I am very, very grateful to be feeling the same way I felt for the last 7 weeks. Just lots and lots of pressure when I'm walking and those annoying Braxton-Hicks. No swelling (happy to be able to keep wearing my Wedding Ring to the very end), no Heartburn, no Leg Cramps (thanks..Nettle Tea), no Back-ache (thanks...Acupuncture) and I'm still sleeping well (except for my twice nightly trip to the Bathroom, thanks....Papa Bear for being on Night Duty with our toddler). I am counting my Lucky Stars.

I've been popping my Evening Primrose Oil pills, downing my Red Raspberry Leaf and Nettle Tea and getting daily Acupuncture to get my body READY.

I had a "Stretch and Sweep" (also known as "Stripping the Membranes") done at my 41 Week Pre-natal Appointment on Thursday. It irritated my uterus enough that I had mild contractions the rest of the day.

Papa Bear cleaned out the car and FINALLY installed the infant car seat in preparation. I thought maybe sub-consciously not feeling like everything was ready, might be what was holding back my Labor. So, Thursday night I finished my Belly Binder and another small sewing project.

Papa Bear and I went to bed at Midnight and I woke up at 4 am with some pretty active contractions.

I even had a crazy burst of energy. And, spent two hours straightening up the house and watering all our plants in the Back-yard.

I took a bit of both Blue and Black Cohosh. And, started taking "Cotton Root Bark every 15 minutes to help strengthen the contractions".

At 6 am, I even dragged my poor Husband outside for a little symbolic burning. Yes, he's pretty good at putting up with some of my "weird ideas."  He helped me rip up some of the writing I've done about the trauma of my First Birth and my fears about this Birth. It was very freeing.

All he was worried about was disturbing the Cop next door. Papa Bear was concerned that there was "too much smoke for first thing in the morning." My Little Worrier.

At 9 am, my Doula suggested I rest. When I awoke 2 hours later, my contractions had fizzled. Instead of having the baby, we went to River Farm.
The rest of Friday was spent taking it easy without attempting anymore "encouragement."
On Tuesday, I will be getting a dose of Cervidil (if she still hasn't made her appearance) and another dose on Wednesday. It supposedly has very high rates of success for women who have already given Birth. But, my Midwife is confident that my body will go into Labor on it's own before Tuesday. Crossing my fingers.

Month of Joy. River Farm.

Yesterday was a full day. I woke up at 4 am with some pretty active contractions. My husband didn't go to work because it seemed like IT WAS TIME.
By 11 am, things had frizzled. We were disappointed.
The weather was glorious, so we decided to salvage the day by visting one of my favorite places in the area, River Farm. We are super-lucky because this Little Hidden Gem is only 5 minutes from our house. I have written about "River Farm" before right here. George Washington once owned River Farm.
Papa Bear had never been there, so Nye-Nye and I had a blast showing him the amazing Children's Garden on the grounds.
Nothing like spending a gorgeous Afternoon with my two Loves to fill my heart with Joy.





Friday, May 3, 2013

A Birth Day Cake

father's day chocolate cake
father's day chocolate cake (Photo credit: freakgirl)
If I go to a restaurant and I see a Chocolate Cake on the dessert better believe I am getting it. It's one of the things in this World that is guaranteed to bring me much Joy.

So, what better way to celebrate the Birth of my second child, than to eat the Perfect Chocolate Cake? I think all New Mamas deserve some Cake, after giving Birth.

I got this recipe for a "Perfect Chocolate Cake" from the book, The Chocolate Cake Sutra: Ingredients for a Sweet Life, by my favorite Buddhist writer, Geri Larkin. I haven't tried it, yet. But, it sounds easy and it sounds good.


6 tablespoons of Baking Cocoa
1 cup of White Sugar
4 Eggs
1 2/3 cup of Self-Rising Flour
a pinch of Salt
8 oz (2 sticks) of Butter

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Grease 2 eight-inch layer cake pans.

3. Cream Butter and Sugar together.

4. Add Salt and well-beaten Eggs.

5. Add Baking Cocoa and Self-Rising Flour (through a sieve, if you have one).

6. Pour Cake Batter into the pans and bake for 20-25 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean). Don't overcook.

7. For Frosting...melt a stick of Butter, add as much Powdered Sugar as it takes to look like Frosting (drop a few teaspoons of Milk in, if you overdo the Sugar). Add 1 teaspoon of Vanilla to the Frosting. Let the cake cool before you add the Frosting.

8. Dive in.

Yum, yum and yum. I am getting hungry just thinking about this Cake. Oh, yeah...I can't guarantee how good this Cake will be, but I can tell you the book is a good read. Enjoy!

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