Monday, November 30, 2009

Mini Pigs In Blankets

If there's one tried and true appetizer I can think of, it's Mini Pigs in Blankets. These little guys are especially popular with men and children (who often turn up their noses at frou-frou canapes), but- let's face it- we ladies like them too. So universally popular are these mini pigs that we elected to have them as one of the hors d'oeuvres at our (fancy-pants) wedding.

These are super easy to whip up if you grab a bag of Hillshire Farms Lil' Weiners ("Go Meat!") and a couple tubes of crescent rolls. Simply cut each crescent triangle into three skinny triangles and wrap away. These aren't "pricey" ingredients, but they aren't dirt-cheap either. An even more frugal and especially delicious way to go? Make your own rolls and simply cut full-size dogs into mini pieces.

I use Kate's recipe for Homemade Crescent Rolls. (If you've never made these, you simply must try them. I think the potato flakes might be the secret- this recipe is the only reason we keep them in the house!) I make 1/2 of her recipe to yield 64 mini pigs in blankies.

I follow her direction and mix up the dough. Here's what it looks like after the first 15 minute rise:

I split my (half) batch of dough into two even blobs and roll each into a circle. I keep mine pretty thin- less than 1/4 inch. Let it rest for a few minutes before you cut it. That helps prevent it from shrinking and curling on you. (Took me a long time to learn that step...) Once it's rested for about five minutes, use a sharp knife or (even easier) a pizza wheel to cut it into 32 narrow wedges. Set a small square of American cheese on the edge of each wedge.
Quarter up 16 hotdogs to yield 64 segments.

Wrap up one quarter in each wedge and set on greased cookie sheets or pizza pans or whatever you've got handy. Just make sure you give them some rising room!

Cover and allow to rise in a warm spot for about an hour. Here they are after the second rise:

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes- I like to do 5 minutes on the bottom shelf followed by 5 on the top to ensure even browning but you could probably eliminate that step if you find it to be a hassle.

Cool on racks or a clean dish towel on the table, whatever's handy for you!


Now head on over and visit Jen over at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam as she hosts our appetizer course of the Second Annual Bloggy Progressive Dinner. Link up your own appetizer recipe and check out all the great ideas others have to share!

If you missed my festive drink recipes yesterday (and all the wonderful ones other bloggers linked up!), head right here to check that out.

We'll have lots of wonderful recipes throughout the week. For the full schedule, please click the button at the top of this post to see the outline our lovely hostess, Amy, has provided.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday Drinks To Warm Your Spirits

When it comes to serving up drinks with a festive holiday feast, I think there are two times to focus on- before the meal and after. While enjoying the tasty spread before us (and I can't wait to see all the new recipes getting served up this week!), we tend to drink simple ice water. We like to let the food shine while we sit at the table!

It's fun to have a "signature" before-dinner drink and something to warm you up after the meal, though. Here at the Parenting Miracles house, we like to serve these up to chase away the chill and add some sparkle to our festivities!


To start off the celebrating, how about a Cranberry Sparkler?

The first step is to make a cranberry syrup. To do this, add the following to a small saucepan:
  • 1 c cranberry juice
  • 1/2 c fresh cranberries
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/2 c water

Bring to a rolling boil over med-high heat, then reduce heat to medium. Boil gently, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. Scoop out the "chunky stuff", cover, and chill to cool completely. This can be used as a base for drinks (as it is here) or as an ice cream or pancake topper.

Start with a small, clean, clear glass. I like a small champagne flute or a simple cordial glass, as shown here:

Dampen the rim of the glass. Simplest way to get it even? Invert the glass on a clean, damp paper towel:

Set the damp rim on a small plate of white sugar:

Isn't that starting to look a little more special already?

Add 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of your cranberry syrup to the bottom of the glass:

Fill glass with champagne, sparkling juice, ginger ale, or even seltzer:

Garnish with a toothpick speared through three cranberries.

Let's toast a beautiful Advent season!


Once you've filled your belly with delicious holiday fare, it's time to relax, listen to some Christmas carols, and enjoy your family!

What to serve? How about a homemade "latte" whipped up without fuss or fancy equipment?

Start with a half-cup of hot, strong coffee...

Find a small, pretty cup or mug...

Add 1 generous tablespoon flavored creamer or heavy cream to the bottom of your cup...

Pour in hot coffee...

Looks pretty already!

Top with whipped cream- I like to whip mine fresh and sweeten very lightly but if you spray it from a can, I'll never know...

My cream was pretty "stiff", but it melted down into frothy yumminess. Top with a pinch of cocoa powder or cinnamon...
Voila! Snuggle in and enjoy the season!

Now it's your turn. What festive beverages do you like to serve up? Post about it on your blog and leave your link in the Mr. Linky below. Please be sure to link back to this post so your readers can enjoy many more delicious drink recipes! No blog? Feel free to share in the comments.

***Please don't forget to click on the green Mr. Linky icon below to see all the additional delicious beverages other bloggers have contributed to our collection- from eggnog to wassail to cocoa concoctions, there's something there to tickle your festive tastebuds!***

Please visit again tomorrow when Jen serves up Appetizers over at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

We'll be putting together a whole delicious dinner over the course of the week. Click on the button at the top of this post to see the schedule. Join us each day for the next course!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

2nd Annual Bloggy Progressive Dinner

Don't forget to join us all this week as we celebrate our second annual Bloggy Progressive Dinner. Amy started hosting this fun dinner party last year and the fun continues this year. I'll be back on Monday to share a couple of fun drinks with which to kick off and wind down your holiday.

Click on the button above to see the full schedule and start thinking of recipes you can share with us-- we look forward to seeing what you're serving up this holiday season!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The 2009 Stock Exhchange Is Here!

Welcome to The Stock Exchange!

I'm so delighted to have you here.

The purpose of The Stock Exchange is to compile, in one convenient, accessible place, a list of tips, tricks, and recipes pertaining to making your own stock.

Why today?

Knowing that we'd all have a pile of bones, scraps, and leftovers tomorrow made the day before Thanksgiving seem like a great time to get together and talk about it!

How to participate:

Simply leave a link to a post that you've written on your blog in the Mr. Linky below. It's perfectly fine if it's something you wrote awhile ago. Please link directly to your post (not your main blog page) and leave a link back to this page somewhere in there.

Thanks so much- I can't wait to see what I can learn!
I'm a real novice when it comes to making stock, I'll be honest with you. Fact is, even with as frugal as I am, I didn't often buy meat that had bones in it. I would say we just ate "less meat" rather than cheaper cuts. It is only recently that I started buying chicken breasts with the bone in. Perhaps you can chalk it up to the jump in meat prices I saw moving from the Midwest to New England.

Anyway, now that I'm in the business of making my own stock, here is my favorite chicken stock recipe:

  • leftover bones from cooked whole chicken or family pack breasts, picked quite clean, skin discarded (I don't like all the grease that comes from the skin, personally)
  • veggie scraps (in our family, this usually means carrot peels and ends and broccoli stalks)
  • one small yellow onion, quartered
  • 1 - 1 1/2 gallons water

I dump that whole mess in a big ol' stock pot (Ah hah! So that's why they call it that!) and bring it up to a boil.

Once it boils, I put a lid on it and reduce to a simmer. And then I leave it alone for a few hours.

Once that's cooked away for quite awhile, I turn the heat off and let it cool just to the point that it's not going to scald me if I splash myself while straining it. (Ask me how I learned to take that extra step...) I strain out the bits and pieces of veggie and meat scraps (true frugalistas and excellent stewards would definitely have a use for these- I want to be honest with you though, so I'll confess that I toss them.)

Once I'm left with just the "broth"-looking portion, I put that in a large dish and leave it in the refrigerator for a few hours or, preferably, overnight. Sitting in the fridge for awhile allows the fat to float to the surface and form a gelatinous layer that is easily scraped away. Again, I have no doubt there are uses for this fat and I really hope some of you will enlighten me in your posts or comments! For now, I toss that too.

What I'm left with is usually a couple quarts of delicious, unseasoned chicken stock. I choose to not add salt or spices as I make my stock because I usually end up using a cup here and a cup there for various meals of different ethnicities. If you know, however, that you'll be making yours into chicken soup, there's no reason not to season it up as it simmers!

So there you go. That's how stock gets made in the Parenting Miracles household.

How do you make your stock? What tips do you have to share with the rest of us? Let's help each other out!

Nature Valley Granola Nut Cluster Prize Pack Giveaway

You all know how much I love my granola, don't you? I make and eat ridiculous quantities of my Chocolate Almond Granola.

When I'm in the car though? Granola is NOT a handy "breakfast on the go..." Go here to see about my new fave on-the-road food and enter to receive a prize pack of your very own...

Upscale Spaghetti

I grocery shop monthly, in case you didn't know that about me already. Yes, I do little dairy/produce filler trips occasionally, but, for the most part, I make one big trip a month.

This last month, those last few days found me pretty low on some things. We had no meat. Our cheese supply was low. I was down to the dregs of many things. I still wanted to set a decent plate in front of my husband. (And in front of me and my kids too!)

Spaghetti is such an easy, typical "Plan B" or "fall-back" plan meal. Almost everyone has the stuff on hand to mix up a pot of spaghetti.

How did I choose to make it a little special?

Well, for starter's I dug out the four lonely sticks of string cheese rolling around the back of my deli drawer and baked up a half batch of Kate's Stuffed Bread Sticks. They didn't take long and, already, my meal was a lot more special than it would have been with plain old garlic toast tossed on the plate. The leftover half-bag of frozen broccoli was steamed up and topped with a sprinkle of black pepper and parmesan. The spaghetti itself got a touch of extra sauce, a dollop of ricotta (there was really only enough left for a couple dollops!), and a sprinkling of parsley.


A meal fit for kings?


Still, it felt great to be able to put a plate on the table that I could be proud of without having to run out and spend money we hadn't budgeted.

How do you making a simple meal special while staying in budget? Do you find you enjoy how the process forces you to be a bit creative?
This post is linked to Tasty Tuesday, hosted at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"My Story..." Monday: The Longest Fifteen Minutes, part 2

(If you happened to miss last week's "My Story..." Monday post, you can find it- and part 1 of this tale- right here.)

I truly think the head of high risk obstetrics was a tad irritated with the fellow who was so candid with me. (Oh, and just in case you've never been at a large teaching hospital and don't know the difference between all the labels... just know that a "fellow" is a doctor who has completed his residency and is now working on a sub-specialty... e.g. this particular doctor was a full-fledged OB/GYN already and was doing further work in the field of high-risk obstetrics. Does that make sense?) Anyway, I LOVED that doctor, but I think he was perhaps a little too direct to fit in well "politically" at a large hospital. My husband and I appreciated his guidance and his refusal to hide behind wishy-washy suggestions.

I asked to sign the papers.

Before I could, the OB head turned to the fellow and asked,

"Are you sure there are absolutely no parts of the baby that have already descended into the vaginal canal?"

"I didn't see any in the ultrasound..."

"But are you SURE?" she insisted, eyebrows raised.

"I didn't see anything," he repeated calmly, "but I would appreciate if you double-checked."

She did. The baby was still completely contained in my uterus.

They handed me a paper and a pen and I scrawled off a quick signature.

If I thought things had been moving quickly before, there are no words for the speed at which things happened from then on...

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that one of the nurses took the pen from me with one hand and inserted another IV with the other. The second nurse inserted a catheter while a lab tech drew blood from the arm opposite the one getting the new IV. I had absolutely no anesthesia or numbing for the catheterization and I'm not ashamed to tell you that I cried. It was blessedly quick but intensely painful.

Just as soon as those things had been done, they started rolling me out the door. One of the nurses tossed scrubs at my husband and told him she'd be back for him. I grabbed his hand on the way out the door and whispered,

"Our baby's going to be born on Christmas Eve..."

"I know," he replied.

"If it's a girl... I think her middle name should be Noelle."

He nodded, "Whatever you want, hon."

I could probably have asked for anything at that precise moment.

I just wanted her middle name to reflect the spirit and wonder of the holiday on which she was about to arrive..

And so it does.

to be cont...

Friday, November 20, 2009

I Admit It- I've Had Some Work Done

I've been blogging now since July of 2008. That just amazes me! During that time, I've shared so much about our lives with a micropreemie with you. I've also shared about the pregnancy and birth of my third child and our move halfway across the country. My, my, how things change!

But you know what didn't change?

My blog design.

Somehow I just kept on chuggin' along with my default, generic Blogger design and layout. Boring green header. Two column layout. Nothing personal at all. Quite honestly, it's amazing I've managed to hold the attention of as many readers as I have.

Why didn't I do something about it? Well, for starters, I'm very technically un-savvy. I don't know how to write HTML or even do much with graphics. Added to that, I refused to pay for it. I don't feel as though I make enough money from blogging to justify paying for a designer at this point.

And so I stayed generic.

That all changed when Alyssa over at Keeping the Kingdom First inspired so many of us to join the 30 Day Giving Challenge for the month of November. It has been deeply inspiring to read about all the ways others are finding to give.

By sheer luck, I happened to pop over to Twitter one evening when Alyssa suggested we head over to Good, True & Beautiful and see how one of her readers was helping other bloggers out through her creative giving.

I checked it out.

Turns out, the lovely Sharon (to whom that blog belongs) was offering the extremely generous gift of a custom-designed header or button to 30 bloggers. I was staggered! I admit it- I hurriedly started counting the comments to see if I had a shot. It looked like I might!

Turns out I did.

Sharon contacted me and asked a few questions about what I was looking for and then she got to work. The result? See for yourself at the top of my blog! I simply ADORE it. It is perfect. It is exactly who I am and what I write about... the pictures of my micropreemie... the soft aqua color... the whimsical dandelion fluff... I love it. Not only did she design something perfect for me, but she also walked me through the "installation process", if you will, because-- as I mentioned above-- I am NOT savvy when it comes to these things.

Having a new, improved look? Well, that is definitely a Finer Thing.

Finding a new, inspiring blogger to read who has such a generous spirit? Well, that's even finer.
This post is linked to Finer Things Friday, hosted by Amy.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Stock Exchange

Please don't forget! Less than a week remains until The Stock Exchange. Post your best recipes, tips, and tricks... or, post a question you've had about making your stock- surely someone amongst us will have the answer. Link back here, at Parenting The Tiniest Of Miracles, this coming Wednesday, November 25th.

Please spread the word! I'd love for us to glean a wealth of information from each other.

Dear New Mommy- The Countdown Is On!

If you're new to this series, you may want to start with the first three posts you can find here, here, and here.

Dear New Mommy,

You're in the final month of your pregnancy. Wow, doesn't time just fly??? Well, it flies for the rest of us, anyhow.

So you're at least 36 weeks pregnant now and that's a marvelous milestone. Hit 37 and, suddenly, you're officially "full-term". That's fantastic news! It does not, however, mean you should get ready to have this baby any day now. For one thing, the average first time mommy (left to her baby's own devices), will deliver at 41 weeks 1 day. And you know what? That's just fine and dandy. No reason to rush Mother Nature. Could your baby arrive sooner than that? Oh, absolutely! And plenty do. But I still suggest that you hold off getting impatient, at least until you see your due date come and go... and it very well may.

Don't let other people get impatient either. While it makes sense that your husband will be as anxious as you to meet this precious new life the two of you created, don't let friends, coworkers, or extended family get all gung-ho and pushy on you. "Haven't you had that baby yet?" "I thought for sure she'd be born over the weekend!" "You looked ready to pop LAST week!" Comments such as these are completely useless and, in your overly emotional "I-can't-wait-to-be-a-mommy-but-I-have-six-hundred-things-left-on-my-to-do-list" state, you can easily end up feeling like a failure just because you didn't have your baby when someone else thought you should. Ridiculous. As before, take it all with a grain of salt. Let them have their pools and predictions- they're fun, after all! But don't listen too much to what people say...

On the subject of that to-do list, let me just say this-- feel free to ignore about 90% of what you think you NEED to do. Here are a couple things to keep in mind...
  • You do not need to child-proof your home. Newborns only go where you put them. They don't get into much trouble on their own...
  • You do not need to sterilize your home. Again, newborns aren't crawling around or putting everything in their mouths. As long as your home's been dusted and vacuumed sometime in the last few weeks, you're probably just fine.
  • You do not need to wash up every single article of baby clothing right now. Make sure you have some sleepers, onesies, burp cloths, and (if it's chilly) some blanket sleepers, clean and ready. Just a few of each will do the trick for now.
  • You do not need to use Dreft to wash those baby clothes. If your family has a tendency toward sensitive skin, you likely already use one of those "free" detergents-- that'll work just fine. If you're one of the many who is not so sensitive, it's likely your baby will be just fine too. Remember this- your babe will be up against everyone else's clothing too when you hold him. So unless you plan on washing the whole neighborhood and family's wardrobe in Dreft, you're kind of wasting your time...
  • The nursery does not need to be completely set up. It is unlikely that your baby will be sleeping in there immediately anyway. Why wash all those crib linens just to have to "freshen" them a month or more down the road?
  • Don't sweat it if the changing table's not put together. Even more, don't sweat it if you don't HAVE a changing table. Babies can easily be changed on beds or floors. They don't care. I promise.
  • Don't worry if you're not "nesting". Nesting is a pretty nifty phenomenon and it affects a good percentage of women. If you don't happen to be one of them and you'd rather spend your afternoons napping than scrubbing out your oven? Follow your body's cue and nap. Take it as a sign that that's what you need.

A few things that you really should have together at this point:

  1. Get the car seat in the car. The car seat is one of very few things your newborn actually NEEDS... Make sure it's installed correctly- go here to find the nearest place to have your installation checked by a professional. Even if you're SURE you did it right, get it checked. What's the worst that could happen? They'll tell you you did a great job (which is what happened to my husband before the birth of our first baby). Not a real hardship...
  2. Pack a hospital bag. It doesn't need a lot of fancy things, but toss some things in there that you might want. My personal recommendation? Pack your own toilet paper. If you have a vaginal birth, that hospital-grade scratchy paper is not ideal. (Ask me how I know...) You do NOT need to pack diapers (or formula, if you know you're going that route) for your baby. The hospital will take care of that.
  3. Make sure you have diapers at home. More than you think you'll need. It's fine to have a couple packs of newborn size, but don't go nuts with the teeny tiny diapers. Most babies can move into size 1 diapers pretty soon after birth and that size will last longer.
That's really about it. Other than that, you can feel pretty free to just go about your daily life.

As you get closer to, or even pass, your due date, your doctor may start to talk to you about induction. This is a very personal choice and one you have to make for yourself. If you doctor has a very real, medical reason to suggest it, by all means, hear him or her out, ask questions, and try to arrive at a good solution together. If the subject comes up just because one of the following is true...
  • Your doctor is going on vacation.
  • The weekend is approaching.
  • You're feeling anxious/uncomfortable/bloated/sick of being pregnant.
  • Your due date has come and gone.
  • You like to "plan" things.
  • Your baby is "huge! ginormous! a nine pounder for sure!"
then I really, really urge you to think long and hard before signing on for it. Inductions are notoriously intense and frequently take longer than natural labors, especially with first babies. Rare is the woman who can get through an induction without the aid of drugs or epidurals (something to be aware of if you'd hoped to have a drug-free delivery). It makes sense, really. Think about it for a second- if your baby was READY to come out, she would. You'd go into labor and your baby would be born. This is a natural process and your body knows what to do. Inducing your body into labor forces it to start doing things it's not entirely ready for. I don't care how advanced they've gotten in terms of drugs to "ripen the cervix" and what-not... it's not the same as your body getting ready for birth on its own. Being induced in no way makes you a bad mommy... but I'm not convinced it's usually the best choice. Just be informed. Be aware that you have every right to ask questions if your doctor recommends it. And try not to be lured in by the prospect of getting to have your baby sooner...

Finally, as the big day approaches, don't over-anticipate what your labor will be like. You can't know for sure and things don't always go the way you want, despite your best-laid plans. Don't lose sleep over fear of a c-section (though, for heaven's sake, don't HOPE for one either) and don't be so bound and determined to do everything naturally that you'll feel like a failure if something comes up and it's just not possible for you. Have a vision in your mind of what you think you'd like to do, but try not to obsess about it.

I'll be writing again soon to talk to you about actually giving birth... until then, enjoy these last few weeks of being the center of attention! Once that baby arrives, believe me, you'll be out of the limelight.

Many blessings to you,
Your been-there-done-that Mommy friend,

Snow White

He calls them "funeral flowers", but he buys them for me anyway...

Do I love white roses?

Oh yes, yes I do.

But I love the man who will abandon the traditional red in favor of his wife's beloved snowy white even more...
This post is linked to Things I Love Thursday hosted at The Diaper Diaries.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"Meeting" Other Preemie Families

Sadly, premature births are not uncommon. And I have the pleasure of meeting other preemie moms in real life rather frequently. Happily, these are often moms of babies born between 33 and 36 weeks... not quite the same scenario as my 24 week early arrival!

One of the great joys of writing this blog is that I get to "meet" other preemie parents, all of whom have their own unique stories and journeys.

Yesterday was a day that really brought that connection to the foreground...

Kristie McNealy talked about how prematurity affected her family...

Phoebe recalled her first child's sudden and dramatic entry into the world too soon...

The Murray Crew mama of quads- FOUR preemies!- and I reminisced about shooting commercials for two (rival *wink*) Indianapolis children's hospitals...

Chic Crafty Chick shared about her miracle baby... her unending faith and a doctor's stubborn doubt.

Heather writes about her experience giving birth far too early with her first child. (Happily, her second was born full-term just two weeks after my third!)

I could go on and on about the inspirational stories that I've had the pleasure of reading.

Yesterday was Prematurity Awareness Day and I urged you all to educate and empower yourselves.

I, for one, am committed to working for and supporting preemies every single day. This beautiful online community has helped introduce me to others with the same determination, faith, and perseverance.

That works for me.
This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday, hosted at We Are THAT Family.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My Buttercream Got All Grown-Up!

(image courtesy of Food Network because I forgot to take a photo and theirs is prettier anyhow...)

Want to take your frosting up a notch?

Have someone who could use some real, whole fat in her diet? (like, ahem, a skinny preemie??)

Committed to using "real" foods when you bake?

Ready for a grown-up buttercream that's deliciously decadent without being cloyingly sweet?

I've got a recipe to fit those bills!

I was in charge of the birthday cake for my dad's birthday this past Sunday and I went on the hunt for something "new"... my dad favors white cake with white frosting so I at least wanted to try a new buttercream recipe to keep it interesting!

I found this one at the Food Network website and, oh, is it ever good! There's not as much sugar vs. butter in this one, making it ridiculously rich. Subbing cream for the typical milk whips up light and fluffy and, again, richly.

Here is the recipe, direct from their site. You'll find my notes in parentheses.


  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar (I don't bother sifting- you beat it so long, it's unnecessary in my opinion.)
  • 1 cup butter (I used salted because I think it balanced the sweetness well-- I really did have both on hand and chose the salted.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (This will result in a "french vanilla" kind of a color. If that bothers you, some shops sell special clear vanilla or you could omit it, but I think you'd lose out on great flavor that way...)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream (I needed between 3 and 4 T to get mine to a spreadable consistency... you know the drill- just add a bit at a time until it's just right.)


In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.

Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

Enjoy every last creamy, buttery, decadent bit and kiss that shortening/sugary mess from the store goodbye.


This post is linked to Cupcake Tuesday, hosted at Hoosier Homemade.

A Reason To Fight

It's hard for me to imagine that any of my readers haven't already read my birth story. On the off-chance that you haven't, you can find it in my side-bar or click here.

For the rest of you, you already know that a large part of what I blog about and a large part of who I am is tied up in my second child, who was born almost four months early and weighed in at 1 lb 5 oz. My little girl's story is one of great triumph, but not without a world of worry and challenges.

No one knows the reason I went into labor at only 23 weeks gestation. No one could ever find a single cause for C's prematurity. I was blessed to have a full-term birth prior to that one and even more blessed to have had one since. But my life will forever be changed and touched by the premature baby I brought into the world...

Today I'm joining forces with close to 400 other bloggers* to Fight for Preemies. Won't you please take just a couple minutes and visit the March of Dimes website? There is a wealth of information there... from what causes premature birth to statistical rates to how your state ranks to how you can help.

Today, November 17, bloggers unite to Fight for Preemies. Won't you join us?

(In an ironic twist, today is also my sister's- a preemie herself!- birthday... Happy Birthday, JB!)

*Update- happily the number of bloggers uniting to Fight for Preemies has soared well beyond 400 now.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Eight Years Ago...

Eight years ago, it was an unseasonably warm Friday in Connecticut...

Eight years ago, my sister was halfway through her second pregnancy...

Eight years ago, I ate a Florentine omelet for breakfast and saltine crackers for lunch...

Eight years ago, I wore the same size I do today (thank you, nursing ;))...

Eight years ago today...

I said, "I do."

Smart move, if I do say so myself.

"My Story..." Monday: The Longest Fifteen Minutes, part 1

So, here's what happened between the "big gush of blood" and the birth of my micropreemie...

I was reading back through my birth story, something I hadn't done for quite some time. It is by far my most-read post and one that I am proud of, though I admit to whipping it out in about fifteen minutes in order to get it linked up over at Fishmama's place. As I read through it, I realized what a, well, BIG story it is. There's just so much to it. I'm happy that I was able to make it fairly concise, but there are also a whole lot of holes in it. Today I want to tell about what happened after I realized I was "bleeding... a lot" and when they actually rolled me away to the OR.

First of all, I was very lucky that my husband was back at the hospital with me. He had just returned from his sister's house- the sister who was watching our 10-month old for us. Because I had finally- finally- started to drift off to sleep, he took his boots off outside the door (cowboy boots, that is... if you ever come to Connecticut, my hubby will be the bank manager in a shirt and tie and polished boots) so as not to wake me. I woke anyway. I always wake up, light sleeper that I am.

When the nurse came in to ask me to shift positions, I complied easily enough and she headed right back out the door. And that's when I felt it. A very sudden, very hot, very suspicious feeling gush. I had had my water break spontaneously before and this was NOT that kind of feeling. I told T. I was pretty sure I was bleeding- a lot. He, and then the nurse and then the high-risk OB, all confirmed that I was. I later learned that they estimated that I lost two units of blood right then.

When the high-risk OB fellow came in the room, he turned on a blinding light that was like a spotlight. I could actually FEEL the heat from over eight feet away on my skin. He needed excellent light because he didn't want to manually "check" me- any manipulation could have pushed me further into labor. A visual check revealed that I was completely dilated- all 10 cm- despite never having felt a single contraction.

Immediately upon seeing how progressed I was, the doctor did an ultrasound (there was an ultrasound machine in my room... they try to be prepared in the OB ICU) to see how the baby was doing and what position she happened to be in. Not surprisingly, she was still head up (I was not yet 24 weeks pregnant, after all), in a position called "footling breech". She showed no signs of distress.

The doctor walked up by my head, grabbed my hand, and looked me straight in the eye:

"This is when I ask you if you want to have a c-section."

I didn't get the chance to answer him right then because a whole parade of doctors came in. We already had my two high risk OB nurses, the high risk OB fellow, and two residents. In walked the head of high-risk obstetrics who had been paged when my situation was assessed. Also entering the room were a pair of neo-natologists and a developmental pediatrician.

And they all started talking.

"Your baby's odds are not very good."

"This type of surgery holds significant risks for YOU."

"There are no guarantees that the c-section will keep the baby alive."

"You may well have to make hard decisions..."

"Do you want us to intercede or would you rather hold your baby and let her pass?"

"At what point shall we discontinue support?"

"You'll have to have general anesthesia, which is dangerous in and of itself..."

"All told, your baby's chance of survival is less than ten percent over the next 48 hours..."

"You need to be aware of the severe disabilities you may well be facing... blindness, hearing loss, cerebral palsy... "

It all took maybe five minutes. Our heads were spinning. By some fluke, as the doctors conferred for a short moment, I had a couple seconds to speak to just my husband. I pulled him down by me and said,

"We have to do this. And whatever happens in there, I want you to be the one to make sure they do whatever they have to do to give this baby his or her best shot. Whatever that means regarding me..."

Truth? He never agreed to that. Nor did he disagree. The fact that I had been able to say it was enough for me.

Apparently all the doctors had nominated the head of high risk obstetrics to be the designated speaker at this point, so she said to me,

"Do you want to have the c-section? Or would your rather just have a vaginal delivery? A vaginal delivery would be far easier on your body- the baby will probably just slide out- and there's not a real guarantee that the c-section will make a difference. Less trauma for such a tiny baby, yes, but no guarantee..."

I mean no disrespect here- because she was a very wise doctor- but she was also very concerned with covering their tails, I believe.

I looked around the room to gauge the reactions of the others.

Only the fellow met my eye.

He walked up to me, took my hand and again looked straight at me as he said,

"A classical c-section is your baby's best shot."

God bless him.

That's all I needed to hear...
... to be cont.

It may have only been fifteen minutes, but a whole lot happened!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dear New Mommy- It's The Last Trimester!

**If you missed my first two Dear New Mommy letters, you can find them here and here. **

Dear New Mommy,

You've made it to the home-stretch, so to speak. You survived the fatigue and nausea of the first trimester and the honeymoon period of the second trimester is now a distant memory too...

The sight of your toes may also be a memory. Or maybe not. Your belly button may have popped like a turkey timer (though this in no way means your baby is fully cooked yet!) or it may remain a nice, neat innie. Have you sensed a trend yet in what I've been telling you? Every single pregnancy is unique. If you can't tie your own shoes anymore? No worries. Wear slip-ons for a few months. Maybe you can still polish your own toenails? Enjoy it! I painted mine up with leopard spots a week before giving birth to my son (at 41 weeks). You just never know.

You will likely have some new aches and pains to deal with as these months move on. Your back will feel the strain sometimes and you may notice your ankles getting swollen. You will also likely start to feel a bit more tired again. Rest when you can and change positions often. If your job has you standing on your feet for eight hours straight, try to find some pockets of time when you can sit. Also try to find some times when you can WALK. Walking is easier on your back than standing. Don't assume that lying down is always the best medicine for what ails you. A little movement is STILL good for you, even as your belly expands...

Whoa- what was THAT??? Did you just feel a contraction??? You very well may have, but it was likely a Braxton-Hicks contraction. These can be pesky and, occasionally, painful things. Changing positions frequently will help. So will staying hydrated. Drink, drink, drink that water. Flavor it up or go for the fizzy variety if you have to, but drink that water. Having a "water accountability" buddy is super helpful. If you don't have one of those? Set a timer for every half hour or so and down a glass of water.

Between drinking all that water and carrying an ever-growing life inside of you, you may find that your appetite just isn't the same. Ladies who ate like truckers through their second trimesters may find they suddenly pick at their meals. That's normal. You just don't have the ROOM in there for as much food anymore. And that's fine. And not harmful to the baby. Whatever you do, don't cut out water to make room for food. Aim for several small, nutritionally dense meals throughout your day and don't lose sleep over it. Your doctor will let you know if he is concerned, but it is rare for a small weight gain to be cause for concern in the third trimester...

But back to those contractions for a minute. It can be really hard to tell sometimes if what you're experiencing is just "practice" contractions (those Braxton-Hicks I mentioned) or the real deal. We been-there-done-that mommies will all tell you the same thing- "you'll know when it's the real deal". And it's true. You will. The trouble is this-- right now, you don't know how you'll know. It's okay. You may well call your doctor or show up at the hospital for a false alarm or two. Tons of women do. The medical people are all used to it. No harm done. But, trust me, once you've actually been in labor? You'll know why we say what we say. You'll see that you do, in fact, know when it's the real thing.

Stop worrying about your water breaking. Seriously. Do not envision a sudden gush at the grocery store or soaking your work pants at the office. The reality is that only 1 in 10 women has her water break before she's in very active labor. Of that 10%, it only makes sense that a good bit of time it happens at home. The likelihood of having a huge public display is rather slim. Here's what else you should remember-- everyone can tell you're pregnant by now. If your water breaks, they'll want to help you. There's no shame in it.

If you are one of the ten percent whose water breaks spontaneously, you should be aware of this- they may ask you at the hospital if you're sure you didn't just "wet yourself". Don't be shocked by this. Also don't be surprised if you find yourself suddenly questioning yourself and wondering, "Oh, dear heavens, what if I did just wet myself? What if I came to the hospital because I wet my pants??" It's all good. They'll test the fluid either way. Urine is acidic. Amniotic fluid is basic. The litmus paper will tell the tale. If it's blue? You've earned yourself a ticket to get checked in.

Here's some awesome news for you- if your baby arrives at any time from this point on, the odds are very much in her favor. Babies born at 28 weeks and beyond tend to do quite well. That is not to say anyone wants to see that baby of yours before she's completely ready to be born. But it's a comfort to know that you've made it past the riskiest stretch..

Your doctor's appointments are getting interesting- and frequent- now! You probably go every week or at least every two weeks. As you move into the last month, your doctor or midwife may want to "check you". This is not particularly painful or particularly dangerous. It's also not particularly helpful. It can seem really interesting at the time but the simple fact is- especially with your first baby- you can walk around 90% effaced and 3 cm dilated for a good month or so... ask me how I know. Do what you want with that one. Just don't go getting all excited and thinking that a baby is right around the corner the moment your cervix starts to do anything. It can take your body a little while to get all set and ready. It'll get there. Knowing how close or how far you are won't change things but, if you enjoy the knowing, then go for it.

The big day is getting SO close now! Congrats to you! This last month will feel very long, most likely, and it won't help that everyone else will talk about how your pregnancy has "flown by!"

Pretty soon, I'll write to you all about your due date... and maybe even beyond.

Take good care of yourself, New Mommy. You're doing great. You're doing God's work, growing this precious new life inside of you, and that's a blessing to be sure. Enjoy all those kicks and somersaults-- there is little in this world as joyful as that feeling.

Wishing you all the best,
Your been-there-done-that Mommy friend,

Cheese- The Stronger, The Better

This is going to seem like an odd frugal tip to many, but bear with me...

If you want to save some money, use strong cheese.
Aged swiss, extra sharp cheddar, gorgonzola, bleu, feta... these all pack enough flavor so that a little goes a long way. Ditto for herbed/spiced cheeses like havarti dill and pepperjack.

Choosing a strong or herbed cheese means you can use less-- in an omelet, sprinkled on a salad, or melted over a dish. It would take a whole lot more mozzarella, colby, or American to fulfill a "cheesy craving".

If you happen to need to watch your fat intake for health reasons, this is also good news! Less cheese means less fat.

Me? I've said it before- I've never met a cheese I didn't like (well, except maybe head cheese- but that's not really cheese, after all...). Using smaller amounts of stronger cheeses adds variety to my menu and pennies to my wallet. And that's something to smile about.

Say cheese.
This post is linked to Frugal Friday, hosted by Jessica at Life as MOM.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Allergy-Safe Drinkable Yogurt

Awhile back, I wrote about making your own yogurt drinks. This is both a convenient and frugal option. As I mentioned at the time, it also enabled me to "custom make" soy yogurt drinks for me then-finicky daughter. We are very fortunate to have no food allergies in our family, but my little girl went through a phase when we could only get her to drink and eat soy dairy products. We're past that, blessedly, but I haven't forgotten the lessons I learned.

Today FishMama is hosting a recipe swap of recipes for special dietary needs. It reminded me of my past Yogurt Drink post.

I want you to encourage you look beyond even my soy version of the yogurt drink. When you make your own, you can customize to meet the special needs of your own family. This method can easily be applied using rice milk products, coconut milk, or almond milk. So often, small babies who have dairy allergies also seem to have soy allergies or, at least, sensitivities to soy. Still, yogurt (and, thus, yogurt drinks) are a great source of nutrition for even small children. By learning to make your own, you can meet stay within necessary dietary restrictions and still allow your child the same type of "yogurt treat" the kiddos down the street may be enjoying.

I have no doubt there are those who can take it another step and make their OWN yogurt for these needs. But, if you're not quite there yet (like me), it's nice to know you can find the necessary ingredients to make your own custom-blended, allergy-safe yogurt drinks.

(**Bonus: As I mentioned early, these yogurt drinks are ideal for children who may swallowing issues too-- their thickened consistency makes aspiration much less likely.**)