NatureAmy

caring for creation while caring for family

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My Second Birth Story – The All-Natural Birth Experience I Wanted

When I found out I was pregnant with my second son, I knew that I wanted things to be very different than my first birth experience (you can read that story, where nothing went as planned, here).  I knew without a doubt that I was not going to give birth at our local hospital again.  That was out of the question in my mind, but I wasn’t sure where I did want to give birth.

A natural home birth with a midwife sounded ideal, but our insurance wouldn’t pay for that.  A free standing birth center was my next option, and we checked one out and met with the midwife.  However, they did not take our insurance, either.  So I ended up going with a midwife group at a hospital based birth center about a 50 minute drive from our home.

I was apprehensive about going with another hospital after my previous birth experience.  But, after speaking to the midwives about my concern and taking a hospital tour, I felt very comfortable.

The hospital birth center was completely different than our local hospital.  In fact, my ideal natural birth plan was all standard practice of the midwife group.  I could have a water birth if I wanted, without an IV, with only intermittent monitoring.  Skin-to-skin, nursing immediately, and delayed cord clamping were all part of their standard procedure.

If my water broke and my labor did not start for some time (my biggest concern, since that is what started the negative cycle of my first birth), they would only want me to come in for monitoring, but would not check me, admit me, or induce me (unless the baby was in trouble) for up to 3 days.  I knew we had made the right choice.

A week before my due date, I was having contractions all day.  They were not painful yet, but they were steady and getting closer and closer.  Since I never went into active labor on my own in my previous labor, I really wasn’t sure what labor without Pitocin felt like.  But nothing stopped these contractions.  I tried laying down, I tried walking, but everything I tried only made them closer together.  So, we dropped our toddler off with my friend and headed to the hospital.

And when we got to the hospital, about 1 hour later, my labor came to a screeching stop.  Nothing.  I was dilated to 2.5 cm, but as they monitored me, nothing was happening.  I was embarrassed and discouraged.  They sent me home with the encouraging words that my labor would probably start up within hours and I’d be having my baby really soon.

Except I didn’t.

I continued to have early labor contractions on and off for the next two weeks, but that was it.  Nothing stuck.  Nothing progressed into painful contractions.  I was getting really frustrated.

I had a midwife appointment and non-stress test planned for the day I turned 41 weeks.  I really didn’t want to go to that appointment.  I really wanted to have our little guy instead.  So on the night before that appointment, I started nipple stimulation using only my hands just to see if it would get the ball rolling.

It worked!  My body was obviously ready.

My contractions started up and continued to get stronger.  By 11 pm, I knew this was the real thing and I was getting excited.  My contractions went from being uncomfortable to painful.  About 3 am, I told my hubby that we should go to the hospital and I called the midwife on call.

However, she could see that I already had come in once in a false alarm and she was not convinced it was time to come in just yet.  She encouraged me to wait it out at home a little longer.  I was frustrated, and worried about the long drive, but tried to get some more rest.

The next morning, about 8:30, I called the midwife again.  This time she was convinced it was time (I couldn’t talk through the contractions anymore) and said they would have a tub room waiting for me.  So, off to the hospital we went – again!

We were admitted about 10 am, and I was at 4 cm at that point.  Once again my contractions stopped when I  got to the hospital, but they were not concerned.  I was allowed to labor in my own clothes (so nice!) so we went for a walk around the hospital to get things moving again.

I wanted one last belly shot between contractions just before getting in the tub.

I wanted one last belly shot between contractions just before getting in the tub.

We went outside and walked all the way around the hospital. Then, we walked in the rose garden, which was pretty depressing in February.   Soon, the contractions were getting really strong, but I wasn’t ready to go inside yet.  I was afraid they would stop again as soon as I did.

However, the nurses were glad we came back – apparently they were a little worried I was gone so long.  They checked me again and I was up to 6 cm dilated and progressing quickly.  They started to fill the birthing tub since I wanted to spend the most painful part of labor, transition, in the tub.

The warm water in the birthing tub was amazing.  It took the edge off the pain.  Contractions that were beginning to become unbearable outside the tub were manageable again.  I relaxed and let my body do what it needed to do.  Soon I progressed into transition.

Working through transition in the tub.

Working through transition in the tub with my husband and midwife.

I was experiencing back labor, which I did with my first son, as well.  Labor, in general, is really painful, but back labor is even worse.  My husband had to apply counter pressure to my back with each of the contractions.  Poor guy.  His arms were getting really tired, but he never complained.  The midwife, a sweet lady whom we had never met before, kept saying what a great job we were doing and that we were making her job easy.

I was hoping to progress through transition quickly, but I stalled at 8 cm for a long time.  I screamed, cried, and begged our little boy to come out, but he was not in the best position and so he was taking his time moving down.

Finally, I’m not sure how much later, but I think it was about 6 hours, I had reached close enough to 10 cm that the midwife said I could try pushing if I liked.  Yes!  I was so ready to have him out!  The problem was, I really didn’t have the urge to push yet.

But I didn’t care. I never felt the urge to push with my first because I had an epidural by that point.  I just wanted to meet our son and be done with this all, so I pushed anyway.

For over an hour I pushed and felt him move down, start to crown, and then slip back as soon as I stopped pushing.  Over and over and over…  Eventually, they became concerned because they were having a hard time finding his heartbeat with the little doppler in the water.  So they literally dragged me out of the water – I was too exhausted to get out on my own – and up onto the bed.

Suddenly, the room filled up with people.  I don’t even know who was there, but apparently people who could rush our baby to the NICU if necessary.

My midwife got me on my side with my husband holding one leg.  She got right in my face and told me I needed to get my son out NOW, so just keep pushing.

So I pushed and when I felt like I was going to faint, I pushed more.  And he came out in a rush of water and blood (my water had broken just minutes before, but never escaped because his head was stopping it).

Covered in vernix and fresh from the womb. I was so glad he was finally out!

Covered in vernix and fresh from the womb. I was so glad he was finally out!

They placed my little boy, my Micaiah (or Micah, for short), on my chest. He was perfect, round and chubby with a huge round head.  All the extra staff left the room and it was just us.

My sweet little Micaiah

My sweet little Micaiah

The midwife helped me get my sports bra off so I could nurse him. He was a natural nurser and latched on immediately.  All was quiet.  They let us nurse and cuddle for over an hour.  I asked if they wanted to weigh him or wash him, but they said no.  As long as he was nursing, they were going to let him.

So, we bonded.  I thanked him for finally coming out.  And the nurses worked to clean up the room around us.  We ended up staying in the delivery room for the night because all the recovery rooms were full and they knew we wanted to leave as soon as possible in the morning.  So, we never even left the room until we checked out the following morning.

Spending a quiet morning waiting to check out of the hospital. It was so peaceful.

Spending a quiet morning waiting to check out of the hospital. It was so peaceful.

The next day we left the hospital before noon and brought our second son home to meet the family.  I was amazed at how big my oldest son, Clayton, only 21 months old, suddenly looked.  It was like he grew a foot over night and was no longer my baby.  He immediately fell in love with his baby brother.

Clayton and Micah meet for the first time.

Clayton and Micah meet for the first time.

Micah is not so sure about this...

Micah is not so sure about this…

All in all, Micah’s birth was 22 hours long, less than half my 48 hours I experienced with Clayton.  I was very happy with his birth and the hospital birth center.  The midwife and staff were amazing and I did not have to fight to get the birth I wanted. I had the all natural labor and delivery I wanted and felt supported and respected. My recovery was very quick and nursing was much easier the second time.

If only first births could be second births, life would be so much easier.

 If you just LOVE birth stories, you can binge to your heart’s delight at my friend Suzanne’s blog The Glorious Mundane’s Birth Story page.  She publishes weekly birth stories and they are always so good!

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Family Pictures with Jennifer Jens Photography

Make sure to check out my friend Jennifer’s photography page and consider her for your family pictures – she also does lifestyle photography, newborns, birthdays, weddings, birth, and much more.  You can see a sampling of her work in this post!  Check out her website to see more!

I love this time of year!  Christmas is in the air.  Magic is everywhere… And Christmas cards arrive from friends afar…

Mike and I have been sending photo Christmas cards since we were married over 14 years ago.  The cards got much cuter when we had kids 6 years into our marriage!

Our first Christmas picture with our first baby, Clayton.

Our first Christmas picture with our first baby, Clayton.

For years we took our own photos.  One year we set up the tripod and took pictures with a toddler and a baby by the Christmas tree – those pictures were so full of bloopers – it was priceless!

However, when we took the plunge and hired a professional photographer – there was no turning back!

We’ve had a few different photographers take our pictures over the years, but when one of my best friends started her business, we’ve been using her ever since!  Read the story of how God brought my friend Jen into my life here.

Our first photoshoot with Jennifer Jens Photography. The boys were 2 and 4.

Our first photoshoot with Jennifer Jens Photography. The boys were 2 and 4.

Jen also took Valentine’s pictures of the boys that year.  Here’s one of my favorites!

Clayton at almost 5 and Micah at almost 3.

Clayton at almost 5 and Micah at almost 3.

That year, our family photo had an announcement to make…

A new little pumpkin coming May 2014

A new little pumpkin coming May 2014

The following year we had a little Princess who needed many pictures…

Our little princess...

Our little princess…

And she made our family photos more fun, too!

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Addamay is adored by her brothers... and everyone else, too!

Addamay is adored by her brothers… and everyone else, too!

And Jennifer also did Addamay’s first birthday pictures, of course!

I made her cake and outfit!

I made her cake and outfit!

Last years family photos are a familiar sight on my blog.

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And finally – this year’s pictures…

We tried not to fall in the river!

We tried not to fall in the river!

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These three...

These three…

She has my heart...

She has my heart…

And of course - baby #4 had to have a special shot!

And of course – baby #4 had to have a special shot!

There are many more wonderful pictures, but I can’t show them all!  I hope you liked these as much as I do!

Give Jennifer a like on Facebook and check out her website, especially if you live in Northern California!

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Christmas Traditions: Christmas Book Countdown on a Budget

I’m doing a new mini-series on some of our favorite Christmas traditions.  I know… I know… it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but I wanted to post this one early because it takes some preparation if you want to do something similar.

When both my boys were little, I was searching Pinterest for homemade Christmas countdown ideas.  I wanted a visual way to show a 2- and 4-year-old that Christmas was coming.  I came across many ideas that I liked, but my favorite, by far, was the Christmas Book Countdown.

The idea is simple.  You take 24 Christmas books and wrap them all up by December 1st.   Then, each night, you unwrap one book (the kids take turns each night) and read it!  As Christmas gets closer, the stack of books gets thinner.  Soon, it’s Christmas Eve!


We love books, especially children’s books.  I have read to the kids every night of their lives, so this tradition was easy to incorporate into our routine.  The only problem was – it was too expensive!

Buying 24 new Christmas books the month before Christmas can break the bank if you live on a tight budget.

We were a young family living off of graduate student incomes.  I had a few Christmas books in our collection, but I knew that I could not afford to buy 20 more!

So I searched our local thrift stores and found a few more books, but with only weeks until Christmas, their stock of Christmas books was getting slim…

So where can you find Christmas books for a bargain?  The library, of course!

I went on our local library website and searched for children’s Christmas books.  By this point December 1st was rapidly approaching. I put holds on a bunch of books, a few more than I needed in case some did not arrive in time.

Then I wrapped up the books I did own. Our collection was up to about 8.  We started working our way through those books, one by one.  About 5 or 6 days into the month, I picked up the books that were waiting for me at the library.  I didn’t show them to the kids.  Instead I wrapped them up.  They would not be overdue for 21 days and Christmas was closer than that!  Perfect!

Problem solved.


Christmas Book Countdown on a Budget - how to do a Christmas book countdown without buying all the books new! NatureAmy.com

The collection of Christmas books that I store out of sight in our Christmas decoration boxes each year.

In the following year, I looked for books on clearance in after Christmas sales.  I also searched for books anytime I was at a thrift store.  I was able to collect enough books so that I now own a collection of 24.

Each year I wrap up the same 24 books.  The kids are familiar with them all, but that does not make it less exciting for them.  They look forward to reading them again and again!

And when we put away the decorations at the end of Christmas, I put the books back in the Christmas box.  This way, the kids don’t see the books all year long on their bookshelf.


Christmas Book Countdown on a Budget - how to do a Christmas book countdown without buying all the books new! NatureAmy.com

All wrapped up and ready for December first – I usually procrastinate and don’t wrap them until the morning of December 1st!

I can’t wait to pull out the books again this year and see the excitement on their faces each night as they unwrap the books, wondering what book they will get that night.  It’s like a little bit of Christmas magic in our house every night of December.  This is one tradition that I never want them to grow out of…

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

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A Few of My Favorite Things Giveaway: Celebrating 1000 Instagram Followers

I recently rolled over 1000 followers on Instagram, which isn’t much for veteran bloggers, but is a huge achievement for me! I’m totally doing a happy dance over here!

So, in order to celebrate, I am doing a giveaway!  And, since I am incredibly indecisive (don’t even get me started on baby names – yikes!) I am making this giveaway the winner’s choice!

I am offering the winner of this giveaway a choice of ONE of four of my very favorite books!  Each of these books is somehow related to my blog and they are all really good and life changing!  At least they have been life changing for me!

The first two books go together – they are the Trim Healthy Mama Plan: The Easy-Does-It Approach to Vibrant Health and a Slim Waistline OR the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook: Eat Up and Slim Down with More Than 350 Healthy Recipes.  I love THM and have been living the THM lifestyle for the last 2.5 years.  You can read about my THM testimony here.  Or how it has helped me (a former sugar addict) give up sugar for good here.

The third book choice goes along with my current minimalism challenge, but it is not really a book about minimalism. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo has really helped me simplify and organize our small home.  It is not necessarily a book about minimalism, however.  It is really about just keeping only the things that bring you joy or have a purpose.  So, if a lot of your stuff brings you joy, truly brings you joy, then you should keep it. (However, most people find that most stuff does not truly bring them joy – but it is a personal process for everyone.) I am not a minimalist in the starkest sense of the word.  I have a colorful house full of pictures and toys and craft projects – things that bring me, or my family, joy!

The final book choice has been really instrumental in my parenting choices. Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Dr. Kim John Payne has really helped my husband and I simplify our lives to be the best parents we can be.  This means less after school activities, less noise toys, less screen time, and less temper-tantrums.  It also means more quality time, more imaginative play, more family time, more secure kids.  It is a must read for today’s parents!

How to enter to win your choice of one of these books?

Simple – you can enter both on my Facebook page or my Instagram account.  Follow the rules outlined in the post on Facebook or on Instagram to enter.  And make sure to give my pages a “like” or “follow” while you’re there!  It’s as simple as that!  The giveaway is only open to US residents – so sorry!  And it closes at 9 pm Pacific Standard Time on Saturday, November 19, 2016.

Good luck!

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Christmas Traditions: Christmas Tree Hunting in the National Forest

I’m starting a new mini-series on some of our favorite Christmas traditions.  I know… I know… it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but I wanted to post this one early because it takes some preparation if you want to do something similar.

I love Christmas.  In fact, I am guilty of listening to Christmas music way before Thanksgiving every year – like even in the middle of summer if the mood strikes!  As a kid, we would often have a Christmas CD or cassette in the boom box by our pool.  Swimming and jingle bells, anyone?

I don’t decorate until after Thanksgiving is over, however.  I may be singing Christmas carols before Halloween, but there is no visible evidence until after we have finished the Thanksgiving dishes.  After that – it’s fair game!

Out come the decorations!

Out come the wreaths, lights, and garlands!

And it’s time for the hunt for the perfect Christmas tree!


Christmas Traditions: Christmas tree hunting in the National Forest. Only $10 for the permit! - NatureAmy.com

Addamay’s first Christmas tree trip at 6 months old.

We are not a fake Christmas tree family.  And we take our Christmas tree hunting seriously.

By hunting, I don’t mean searching the corner lot for the perfect tree.

And, by hunting I don’t mean cutting down our tree in the midst of a perfectly manicured tree farm.

By hunting I mean hunting for our tree in the National Forest with our United States Forest Service (USFS) Christmas Tree Permit and legal places to cut map!

Christmas Traditions: Christmas tree hunting in the National Forest. Only $10 for the permit! - NatureAmy.com

Finding the perfect tree for Christmas 2015


Until about 12 years ago, I didn’t know you could buy a permit to cut a tree in our local National Forest.  I don’t even remember how we first found out about it.  But in December of 2006, my hubby and I drove to our local USFS office and bought a $10 permit.  Then we drove up the hill in search of the perfect tree.

We’ve been doing the same thing every year since then!


We LOVE this Christmas tradition for many reasons.

  1. It gives us a great excuse to spend the day exploring nature.  It is about a 90 minute drive from our house to our favorite spot to find our tree.  Then we hike around and search for the perfect tree.  We bring a picnic lunch, a thermos full of hot cocoa, and plenty of Christmas music.  Sometimes there is snow (in California that is a big deal!)

    Christmas Traditions: Christmas tree hunting in the National Forest. Only $10 for the permit! - NatureAmy.com

    Searching for the perfect tree and enjoying the snow! We are in California, so sometimes this is all there is…

  2. It is cheap!  Christmas trees from the corner lot run anywhere from $15-$100+.  Cutting your own tree at a farm usually costs $50-$150.  But cutting a tree from the National Forest only costs $10 for the permit.  The first time you cut one, you will need to invest in a good saw – we like a pruning saw for the job, and some rope to tie down the tree.  It does take more time, and costs money for gas, but the memories and experiences are worth it.

    Christmas Traditions: Christmas tree hunting in the National Forest. Only $10 for the permit! - NatureAmy.com

    Taking a hot cocoa break

  3. Fresh trees last longer!  Cutting a tree yourself that you then water daily makes them last so much longer.  We try to get our tree on Thanksgiving weekend and usually don’t take it down until New Year’s Day.  And although we do lose some needles, we really don’t lose too many in that time!  The tree still looks and smells good in January!

    Christmas Traditions: Christmas tree hunting in the National Forest. Only $10 for the permit! - NatureAmy.com

    Clayton helps Daddy bring the tree to the car. Notice the bright pink permit attached.

  4. You can choose more “expensive” trees.  Red firs, often called Silvertips, are the most pricey trees at the Christmas Tree lot – at least they are at ours.  And they are absolutely lovely!  Once we found a good place to find some nice ones, we’ve been getting one every year.  That’s a savings of over $100 on a really nice tree.
  5. Extra boughs from the bottom part we cut off at home to fit the tree in the house (the tree always looks so tiny in the forest!) are wonderful for decorating!

If you live within driving distance of a National Forest, I encourage you to look into this tradition for yourself.  It is so much fun! Just Google to find out if you can cut a Christmas Tree near you.  Not every National Forest has this option – it is more common in areas with lower populations.  And it also depends a lot on what kinds of trees grow on USFS land near you.

Christmas Traditions: Christmas tree hunting in the National Forest. Only $10 for the permit! - NatureAmy.com

Tying the tree to the top of the car. Thankfully, we haven’t lost a tree (or a child), yet!

If you live near the Plumas National Forest in Northern California like we do, here is the link to buy your Christmas Tree Cutting permit.  Some forests allow other vendors to sell the permit, as well.  Our local forest used to do that, which was very convenient, but it doesn’t do that anymore.  I mailed in to get our permit a couple weeks ago and have already gotten the permit and map back in the mail.  Very efficient for government service!


Christmas Traditions: Christmas tree hunting in the National Forest. Only $10 for the permit! - NatureAmy.com

Our “perfect” Silvertip Fir Christmas Tree all decorated at home.

I’m so excited to head up the hill in a couple weeks in search of the perfect tree for Christmas 2016!  I will be sharing pictures when I do!signature

THM Pregnancy Update: 23 Weeks

I can’t believe it’s already been over 5 weeks since my last pregnancy update!  Time is just racing by this time.  (Check out my other pregnancy updates here).

Not too much has changed this time around.  I’m still much more tired this second trimester than normal, but I think the three kids and homeschooling, added to my husband working very long hours at the moment, is to blame.  But that is life at the moment, so…

I had my 20 week appointment with my OB before I had my 20 week ultrasound, so there was very little to discuss.  It was a simple in and out appointment.23-weeks-preg

My ultrasound happened at 21 weeks and we had to go to the hospital for it since that is the way our new insurance provider does things.  I changed the appointment to a Saturday so the whole family could come.  Other than our two year old being very loud in the waiting room and scaring a grumpy elderly lady away, it was a fun trip.

The ultrasound tech was very sweet and let me know that everything looked great from her end (which my doctor confirmed).  Our little one was very wiggly and hard to measure because he or she just would not sit still.  I thought this was funny because at that point I had not eaten in over 3 hours and I didn’t have anything sweet.  This little one is just a mover!  Lord, help me!

Our 2.5 year old is never still either! Another girl?

Our 2.5 year old is never still either! Another girl?

I wanted to know whether we were having a girl or boy, but my husband and I had agreed to wait this time, so I was good and didn’t ask while he wasn’t in the room!  As it turned out, little one was too wiggly to cooperate anyway, so the tech was really glad we didn’t want to know.  It would have been a challenge for her to find out and she didn’t even try.  So, I guess not finding out the sex was meant to be…

People have been asking me what I think we’re having.  I have never had a strong feeling with any of my kids and I don’t with this one, either.  I have been leaning towards girl this entire pregnancy, though.  I don’t know if that’s because I would love another little girl and I think two boys and two girls sounds perfect, or because my last pregnancy was a girl,  or…  However, I do feel confident that whatever this little one is, that he or she is meant to be in our family.  I believe that God’s plan and spacing is perfect, so I’m not fretting about it.23-weeks-selfie

I’ve been too busy this month, but made an effort to cut back on our extra curricular activities this last week.  We have still gone to all the boys’ classes and AWANA, but other than that, we stayed home.  I can’t get away with that every week.  My social kids would go crazy, but I realized I need to do that more often.  My oldest, especially, won’t like it.  However, this is just a short season and he will survive without as many play dates with friends for a few months.

So, any guesses or strong feelings about the gender of this little one?  I’d love to hear!

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Overwhelmed by Stuff: The November Minimalist Challenge

I’ve written before about how, in the last two years, I have been on a journey to simplify our life.  Specifically, that has involved the amount of items in our small house.

My husband has always been a minimalist at heart.  He loves to keep things simple and since he moved frequently after high school and even into our marriage, he tried to keep only the amount of stuff that would fit in his small car.  This worked great until he suggested that we only needed our backpacking kitchen gear in our first apartment together as a married couple.  I was not so keen on the idea…

I am not a hoarder, by any means, but I certainly was never a minimalist, either.  I like having the comforts of home around me.  Even while backpacking on the Pacific Crest Trail for months at a time, I liked to nest in our tent every night.   I liked to feel at home and the things that surrounded me played a part in that. They still do…

However, the more kids I have, the more I have found the need to simplify.  And the more I simplify, the more I feel a sense of peace in my home.  I have yet to find that perfect balance of stuff – every time I get rid of stuff, I still feel like there is more to let go of, so the process continues…

That is where this challenge comes in.

This is a challenge that many bloggers and YouTubers have done in the past.  I first heard about it a year ago.  The month long minimalist challenge is simply to get rid of the same number of items as the day of the month.  So, on November 1st, that is one item, the 2nd is two items, all the way until November 30th at 30 items.  In all, after the challenge, I will have gotten rid of at least 465 more items in my home.

The November Minimalist Challenge - getting rid of stuff - NatureAmy.com

This summer I went through my pantry, pulled out all the food, got rid of things that we didn’t want anymore or were expired, and put the rest back.

That might sound like a lot, or it might sound like a little.  It really depends on you and the amount of items you are comfortable with.  Since each time I declutter, I have gotten rid of hundreds of items, I know this will not be too hard at our house.  Kids bring in clutter. All. The. Time.  It’s crazy how much stuff accumulates with kids – especially school age kids!

I also want to clarify that an “item” can be as large or as small as you want it to be.  It could be a really large item like a piece of furniture, or it can be as small as a piece of paper you don’t need, or anything in between.

I am not a rule follower by nature – I like to mix things up, so I will most likely NOT be doing the exact number of items a day as the day, everyday.  I will be counting up my items as I donate, discard, or recycle them and try to hit at least 465 items for the entire month.  If I break it up by week, this is

  • Days 1-7: 28 items
  • Days 8-14: 77 items
  • Days 15-21: 126 items
  • Days 22-28: 175 items
  • Days 29 and 30: 59 items

Suggestions of things to go through to donate or discard:

  • Clothing/shoes – I will especially be going through my T-shirt, underwear, and sock drawers again.
  • Cabinets – especially the bathroom cabinets, but the kitchen is another great place
  • Pantry – Old food? Old party stuff? Plastic food containers?
  • Toys and children’s books – if you have kids, there are likely many, many toys that your kids just don’t play with anymore.  I know the kids toy shelf and book shelf is ready for me to go through it again.

    The November Minimalist Challenge - getting rid of stuff - NatureAmy.com

    Toys accumulate so quickly if you have several kids. This was our shelf after declutttering this summer, but it is not so neat almost 6 months later…

  • Laundry room/linen closet – old blankets (great to donate this time of year), old cleaning supplies, junk that accumulates (my laundry closet is a magnet for junk!)
  • Books/DVDs – old books, DVDs, or movies that you just never read or watch anymore.
  • Office – piled up mail, old files, pens, papers, excess office or craft supplies, expired batteries
  • Kitchen – extra dishes (especially kids dishes and plastic cups – these seem to breed), expired spices, excess dish towels and rags, nasty stuff in the refrigerator…
  • Garage/car – I could easily find 465 items just in the garage (and we park our cars in there every night, so I know we have less stuff than most our neighbors). My car is another 100 items easily – junk accumulates faster than I can clean it out with 3 kids! (My husbands car, on the other hand, is spotless – go figure!)

    The November Minimalist Challenge - getting rid of stuff - NatureAmy.com

    Our garage camping shelf after decluttering this summer – so much better!

  • Digital clutter – don’t even get me started on the number of emails in my inbox.  Let’s just say that 465 items would be nothing compared to that!  Thank goodness for the “Search” tool!

So, anyone want to join me on this crazy venture?  I know I already have a few friends who are game!  Make sure to follow me on Facebook or Instagram to keep up with my progress.  And I’d love to follow your progress as well, so make sure it tag me on Facebook or Instagram in your posts – @amylovesnature

By most hardcore minimalist standards, I still have a LONG way to go, but I’m happy to say that I’m making progress.  Life is getting simpler one donated item at a time…

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My First Birth Story: where nothing went as planned…

I had the hardest time deciding which of my three birth stories I wanted to write about first.  They are all unique and special in their own way. After thinking about it for a couple months, I decided I should start at the beginning… a very good place to start… (cue Sound of Music)  And, if you just LOVE birth stories, you can binge to your heart’s delight at my friend Suzanne’s blog The Glorious Mundane’s Birth Story page.

When I was pregnant with my oldest son, Clayton, I really wanted a natural birth.  I’m a natural girl, I’ve done marathons, I’ve backpacked thousands of miles, I knew I could do it.  However, in my naivety, I made my biggest mistake. I chose our local hospital. 

I did not think that the place I decided to give birth made a difference.  I thought all hospitals were the same, all nurses and doctors were the same, and the only variable in the equation was me.  Now, over 8 years later, I cannot believe I was so naive, but that was where I was.

I was thrilled when I found out we were pregnant with our first and quickly looked into OB/GYNs in the area that delivered at the only hospital closer than 45 minutes to our house.  I chose an older man with lots of experience who looked a lot like my childhood doctor.  He was actually very sweet – and he proved to be the best decision I made for my delivery.

My first birth story - where nothing went as planned. Sometimes the best birth plans don't happen. NatureAmy.com

Soon after we found out we were expecting our first!

As my due date approached, I registered with the hospital, took a birthing class with my husband, and prepared our home for the arrival of our little one.  The one thing I wanted to avoid at all costs with this delivery was being induced (and, of course, a C-section).  I had heard that Pitocin (the drug used to induce labor) made labor extremely painful and I was not sure if I would be successful with a natural childbirth under those circumstances.

Just after midnight, on the morning of my due date, my water broke.  I didn’t wake up my husband and tried to get some sleep – which was pretty much impossible as all I could think about was the immanent arrival of our son.  Would he be born by morning?  By noon?  Surely by the evening he would be here.  How prompt of him to come on his due date!

Well, by morning, nothing much had happened.  And I knew the hospital had given specific instructions to call them and come in the minute my water broke.  However, I also knew that if labor did not start soon, they would induce me – my very worst fear!  I wasn’t going in just yet…

So we spent the morning walking, several miles, trying to get things moving.  I started to have steady contractions, but they really didn’t hurt.  They came every 20 minutes, then every 10 minutes, and finally they were closer than 5 minutes.  Still they did not hurt much (I know now it was only very early labor), but about 8 pm we decided to go into the hospital.  

When we checked in, I was immediately scolded by the staff for not checking in the night before – but that was just the beginning of them getting to deal with my stubbornness.  I was 2.5 cm – which was something since I was only ½ cm dilated when I was at my doctor’s office the day before.  However, I was immediately told I HAD to be induced.  It was the hospital policy when water had been broken for so long with no active labor.  We stalled for a couple hours, but I was not allowed to return home and my labor (as minor as it had been) had completely stalled when I got to the hospital, so I got an IV and Pitocin, as well as a monitor  – all things I absolutely did not want!

Labor then started – and it hurt – a lot!  But I worked through the pain and 4 hours later asked to be checked again.  I had to be at least a 6, right?  Nope – still at 2.5 cm dilated.  They turned down the Pitocin some and gave me something to help me sleep and rest – since it was obvious this was going to take some time.  The medicine only made me sick, but I did get a little rest.  Early in the morning, they turned up the Pitocin again and I continued to fight through the contractions, knowing that each one was bringing me closer to meeting my son – except they weren’t.  My body continued to fight the Pitocin, although it started to dilate some.  After 16 hours of induction, I gave in.  I was only 5 cm dilated and I just couldn’t take the pain that led nowhere anymore.  I asked for an epidural and finally got it at 4 pm.

Things went smoother after that because I could no longer feel the pain, but my body still would not cooperate.  I had slowly reached 7 cm, but had stalled again. At 8 pm, the nurses came in and told me that I needed to have a C-section.  I was devastated. I had just been laboring for almost 2 days – I had fought through 16 hours of pain with Pitocin, and now I would have to have a C-section?

So I argued with them.  

“Was the baby in trouble?”

No, not yet – but he could be at any time.  They made me feel guilty and like a bad mom for even suggesting that I did not need a C-section.  According to them, I was putting my baby at risk by not complying immediately.  

So I asked to see my doctor.  I was in tears and devastated, but I trusted him more than the nurses (who worked for the overcrowded hospital that I was still taking up room in).  He came in, calmly talked to me and my husband, listened to my fears, and told me – no, I did not have to have a C-section at this point.  Then he left the room to fight it out with the nurses.

Then we started to pray.  And my mom and sister who were with us got on the phone to get everyone else to pray.  We prayed that my body would open up, that our baby boy would be born safely, that God would give our doctor wisdom. And I tried to prepare my heart in the case that I would need to have an emergency C-section after all.

My first birth story - where nothing went as planned. Sometimes the best birth plans don't happen. NatureAmy.com

Meeting my little boy for the first time.

Two hours later, my doctor came to check on me again.  And praise God, I was finally 10 cm and could push!  It took two hours of pushing, as well as help from an episiotomy (which I also did not want, but figured it was better than a C-section), and a vaccuum, but finally, just after midnight, Clayton arrived.

He was perfect! Ten fingers, ten toes… two beautiful blue eyes.  A little rosebud mouth.  He was laid on my chest and we were able to try to breastfeed immediately.  He had a hard time with that because he was really groggy from my epidural still, but nevertheless, I was in love!  

My first birth story - where nothing went as planned. Sometimes the best birth plans don't happen. NatureAmy.com

Daddy’s boy from hour one!

Just over 12 hours later we were bringing him home.  (Another thing I got to fight the nurses over.) But I was sick of that hospital, we were both given clean bills of health, and I was ready to be home.

My first birth story - where nothing went as planned. Sometimes the best birth plans don't happen. NatureAmy.com

About 12 hours after his birth, we were relaxing at home…

Clayton’s birth taught me so much – not just because it made me a mother for the first time, but also because it taught me what I did NOT want to be part of my future births.  But, despite the unexpected twists and the fighting with hospital staff, I had the outcome I wanted – a healthy happy baby boy!

The one thing that I want anyone wanting a natural labor to take away from this story is that the hospital you choose, and the birthing practices of that hospital, makes a difference.  I naively thought it did not, I thought that I was the only variable in the equation, but that is just not the case,  So, no matter what type of birth experience you want, make sure to choose the place you will be giving birth very intentionally.  Do your research, because every hospital is NOT the same. (Okay.. End rant…)

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Choosing the best homeschooling option for our family

So, Part 2 of my homeschool series is how we chose the method of homeschooling that we currently use.  (If you missed part 1, on why we chose to homeschool our kids, you can read it here.) This is a personal option for any homeschool family, and like the choice to homeschool your kids, or not, it can change depending on the current needs of your family.  The options that I mention are not available in every state, so you will have to research your homeschool options based upon your state’s, or country’s, laws.

How we chose the best homeschool option for our family in our current stage of life - NatureAmy.com

Micah traces numbers and places the right number of teddy bears on each one at age 4.5.

California Homeschool Options

The homeschool options in California, where we live, are very good.  Not only is private homeschooling an option (if you register your ” private school” with the state, a process that I am told is relatively simple), but there are numerous public charter homeschool options and online options, as well.  There are also some private schools that have homeschool programs attached to them – an option that my parents used when I was a kid. Homeschool groups, coops, and programs also give parents many options within these broad categories. We looked into each of these options and the many different charter schools available in our area – we talked to people who had used all of these things, assessing the pros and cons of each option.

The best option for us

In the end, we decided on what we believed to be the best option for our family, a charter homeschool with a local campus.  The campus gave us the option to enroll our students in on-site classes once or twice a week for 60-90 minutes of learning in a classroom setting. (Jr High and High school students have more on-site classes). It allows them to get used to other teaching styles, classroom expectations, and interact with their peers while still spending the majority of their school day at home.  My boys, who are slow to read just like I was, are able to participate in programs to help them with reading, all free of charge because it is a public school – which is such a blessing!

How we chose the best homeschool option for our family in our current stage of life - NatureAmy.comCost – Another reason that we chose the public charter school route was that it was much less expensive than private homeschooling.  When we started homeschooling, we were trying to raise our family on two part-time adjunct professor salaries – which is not much money!  So we had to find an inexpensive option.  Because it is a public school, the curriculum is provided for us.

Curriculum – However, we don’t just have one curriculum option, we have many many great options to choose from.  When my oldest was in kindergarten, the basic handwriting curriculum we were given just wasn’t working, so I asked about another curriculum and was able to check it out of the school’s curriculum library that day! (Find out what it was in my favorite curriculum post coming next in the series!)

The only drawback to getting free curriculum through a charter school is that Christian (or any religious) curriculum is not an option.  We are okay with this.  We supplement our own Bible curriculum and we know that our kids are getting a solid Biblical foundation even without books that specifically address it.  More on that in my curriculum post.

How we chose the best homeschool option for our family in our current stage of life - NatureAmy.com

Addamay always wants to do what her brothers are doing.

Personalized Learning Teachers – Another great thing about going through a charter school (although this is a drawback for some) is that we have a credentialed teacher overseeing our children’s education.  She helps us create an individualized learning plan for each of the kids and is incredibly encouraging!  We check in with her frequently; she ensures that we are staying on track and is always so encouraging. We love our PLT (Personalized Learning Teacher).  However, if we didn’t like our teacher, we have the option to switch teachers, even in the middle of the year.  Every parent and teacher has a different approach to learning/teaching, so sometimes it can be a process to find the teacher that works best for your family. We did our research before applying to the school and made our teacher request based on our research – thankfully she had openings that year!

Classes – The optional  onsite classes have been wonderful for our boys and have allowed them to have an in-class experience each week.  These are taught by the credentialed teachers and there are always several options for the kids to choose from.  This year my boys are doing a reading program twice a week to help them with their reading and they each have one fun class.  My 3rd grader LOVES his science class where he gets to do experiments with his peers each week – he wants to be a scientist of some kind, but thinks it’s too much pressure to choose what kind of science just now – smart kid!  My 1st grader started in a fun math class, but found it too easy (which is boring for a 6 year old), so he switched to a reading class that has different stories and crafts each week – he loves crafts!

How we chose the best homeschool option for our family in our current stage of life - NatureAmy.com

On a field trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Student Resources – Finally, our public charter school allots resources for additional or extra curricular educational classes or tutoring from approved vendors throughout the year.  The funding is limited per month, of course, but it allows our children to participate in some great educational classes that we otherwise would not be able to afford!  The boys are currently taking semi-private swimming lessons twice a week because of this!  Other kids choose tutoring in every subject, music lessons, karate, ballet, etc.  There are so many options!


How we chose the best homeschool option for our family in our current stage of life - NatureAmy.com

Our school room at home (I’ll write a post on that soon, too) and my lesson planner.

 

After researching all the options – we settled on the public charter school option as the best one for our family currently.  It is certainly possible that the best option for our children may change at some point in the future.  If we move, we may decide that private homeschool is the best option, or we may decide on a charter school without a campus.  I don’t think we will ever choose an online school for our children, because my husband and I are opposed to that idea for children’s education. Of course, never say never – right?

So, do you homeschool?  And if so, what is the option that you have chosen for your family? I’d love to hear about it!

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THM Pregnancy Update: 18 weeks

It’s been about a month since my last pregnancy update.  I was hoping to write an update every other week, but, obviously, that has not happened!

Since my last 14 week update, things have been pretty smooth – except for the fact that I tend to forget my limitations (i.e. needing to stop and eat, rest more often, and make sleep a priority).  This has led to a few reality checks in this last month, but… such is life with three kids, busy schedules, field trips, 90 degree Fall weather, and homeschool!

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18 week baby bump – getting bigger and starting to feel the baby move around!


Check-up Fun with Three Kids

I had my 16 week appointment over 2 weeks ago and took all three kids with me this time.  It was one of those easy appointments (no tests), so I had hopes that I would not regret the decision too much!  And, thankfully, it was really quick, painless, and easy.  I checked in, was called to the back just after sitting down in the waiting area, and took my weight (7 lbs gained so far) and blood pressure – all good.

Next, we went right to the bathroom for my urine sample.  We had to wait to use the bathroom, but that 2 minute wait was the longest of the day!  I took my 2 year old in with me, and left my 6 and 8 year old waiting outside the door.  Then we all traipsed back to the exam room to wait for my OB.

My oldest took out his book to read and my ever curious 6 and 2 year old pointed at all the posters in the room, tools, cup of pee, etc. demanding a detailed explanation.  Well, we are homeschoolers, after all, so what better time for a science lesson!

My OB knocked on the door after less than a minute of intense questioning by the kids, and then they turned their barrage of questions on him!  He tested my urine with a test strip – more questions from the kids.  Then he measured my growing belly – more questions.  Finally, he took out the Doppler to listen for the heartbeat – and, you guessed it – more questions.  He was actually very patient with the kids and was not bothered by the questions at all, thank goodness!  If he was, I would seriously consider changing providers!

The kids loved hearing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time.  (I did, too!) They decided it sounded like “one THOUSAND horses galloping” which was a pretty accurate description.

Then we were done! The entire appointment, from check in to release was less than 10 minutes!  I was very thankful for that!


My THM pregnancy - 18 weeks - Learning the hard way not to overdo it! - NatureAmy.com

Taking a quick snack break on our hike.

Don’t forget to eat…

In the last four weeks, since my last update, I have gotten over the majority of my pregnancy exhaustion that reappeared after I started our busy homeschool schedule.  Any nausea and food aversions also were gone.  However, these two things made me more relaxed in my routine, which led to some not so great things…

Like I said, well into the second trimester, I was getting lazy about eating.  It wasn’t so much what I was eating – I am still sticking to the Trim Healthy Mama way of eating most the time – but when.

I had to eat every 2 hours in my first trimester or I would feel sick.  But I was very careful during that time and rarely felt any nausea and never threw-up.  However, with our school schedule getting busier and extra curricular classes starting up, my eating routine started to slide.

I no longer needed to eat every 2 hours, which was great, but I found out on week 15 that if I did not eat after 3 hours, I would be sick!  Ugh- not fun!

Week 15, I had just dropped the boys off at a morning class and was taking my 2 year old grocery shopping with me.  Suddenly, on the drive to the store, a wave of nausea hit and I felt like I was going to throw up.  I looked at the clock.  Three hours had passed since breakfast, I didn’t have any snacks with me, and I knew I was going to gag right then and there.

Thankfully, I was at a red light.  I picked up an empty cup (there are good things about a cluttered car!) and threw up!  The light turned and I drove through it and pulled over to the side of the road until my head stopped spinning.  We went to the store, bought the first thing that I could find, a bag of veggie chips, and went back to the car to eat 2/3 of the bag between myself and my toddler.  Finally feeling better, we finished our grocery shopping.

You think I would have learned my lesson after that, but I can be a bit dense sometimes…

The next day we were at home and it was a particularly long morning of math with my boys.  Suddenly feeling sick, I looked at the clock to realize it was over four hours since breakfast.  I threw-up again!  Then I ate lunch, but it had been too long and my blood sugar had dropped too low.  Eating a meal was not enough.  My head was spinning still and nothing was helping.  My toddler went down for her nap and the boys got to watch “The Magic School Bus” while I took a nap for about two hours and finally felt better.

I DID learn my lesson after that time, thankfully!  Now, I’ve been sure to pack a piece of fruit, nuts, or cheese stick in my purse before we leave the house.  I’ve also been sure to stop and have a mid-morning snack when we’re home.  Just because the second trimester is easier (usually) than the first, it doesn’t mean I can neglect the needs of my body.


My THM pregnancy - 18 weeks - Learning the hard way not to overdo it! - NatureAmy.com

Our family – minus my 8 year old who is taking the picture – with Mt. Lassen behind us.

Over doing it…

The second hard lesson I’ve learned this month is the importance of rest.  We always do a Fall semester weekend field trip for my husband’s students.  We bring the whole family, spend two nights in the wilderness, and everyone learns a lot and has a great time.  But, it is also a lot of work (read what I feed this large crew with an allergy friendly menu, here).

I spend the entire week before the trip buying the food, and preparing whatever I can before hand.  Then, early Friday morning, we load the kids, food, and gear up, and head to the college to meet the students.  A full day of learning, and eating, later, I have the fun task of getting a toddler, who deals with night-terrors when camping, to sleep.  We did not get much sleep the first night in our little tent.  And a full two days later, after getting home at 10 pm on Sunday night, this pregnant mama was exhausted!

My THM pregnancy - 18 weeks - Learning the hard way not to overdo it! - NatureAmy.com

About 3 miles into our hike to King’s Creek.

Normally these weekend field trips are tiring, but this time, it hit me so much harder.  My husband and I opted not to take our family on the most strenuous hike to the top of Mt. Lassen Peak.  But the 4 mile hike we did instead gave me hours of Braxton-Hicks contractions that did not stop until that evening.  Monday morning, I was spent! I was physically tired, mentally tired, emotionally tired… I had a headache… Tuesday, after more rest, I was starting to feel better, but I had a lingering headache still.  Wednesday, our busiest day of the week, I finally felt like myself again!  Thank you, Lord!


I’m looking forward to our 20 week appointments coming up soon!  We will get a chance to see our little one growing!  It will drive me crazy to not find out the sex, but I’m also kind of excited about waiting – can you be both?

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