So you may wonder…how’s the infant potty training coming along?

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I am sure this will not interest half most of my readers, but on the odd chance that you are curious about our potty training ideas and how new baby is doing with them, I thought I would give you an update!  Not much else is going on anyway about which to wax eloquently, so you’re stuck with this 🙂

The other day in Bristol at the huge John Lewis, we saw the cutest little potty and had to add it to our already large inventory of tiny potties.  (We have two Baby Bjorn small potties, one Baby Bjorn larger potty, two fold up portable potties, and numerous potty seats to put over regular potties.)  It’s the smallest I’ve ever seen – perfect for a newborn!

I realize it doesn’t look super small in the picture, but take my word for it. When we tried this with baby number one, we didn’t have a little potty until she was six months old, and before that I tried to juggle nursing her diaperless while holding her over a bowl and did most of her “pottying” holding her over a sink, even in public restrooms.  Kind of yucky I know.  I just preferred the sink to squatting or bending facing a real toilet in a public place to hold her over it to go.  There aren’t a lot of easy ways to hold a newborn over a grown-up toilet since they all involve bending or squatting.  We had a lot of success with number one, and she would pretty much potty herself by around 20 months whenever she needed to go, and would rarely soil her diapers with a BM by about – well, all the time really.  Pretty much all of her BMs were in a potty from birth.  The addition of our first Baby Bjorn little potty really helped things along, though, since she could sit on it all by herself.

I didn’t really start using the little potty with a newborn until baby number five, since it was at about 6 months along with number four that I went back to infant potty training after not doing it with numbers two and three.  With number five, though, I was able to nurse on the couch and try her on the little potty before and after nursing her, and during the switch between sides while nursing.  I never again have tried to simultaneously nurse and potty the baby (as the infant potty training books recommended – it just didn’t work for me.)  Here’s a shot a friend caught of baby number five going on the potty – it’s when she was 8 days old.

Sorry if that picture is a bit too personal for you but I think only someone truly interested in seeing how this works is still reading at this point, and this is how it looks at first.   I hold the baby off the seat so the cold plastic doesn’t cause the baby to start crying.  Just the cool air outside of the diaper is enough to make them start to go potty, as well as the positioning of the legs.  Apparently even just 8 hours after birth they have control of the muscles necessary to try to have a BM or to urinate (I won’t go so far as to say “at birth” since my first proof of this is the first poop baby Daniel just had when he was 8 hours old.)  They are (so I’m told) not able to control the muscle that prevents these bodily functions until a much later age.  So basically, you’re training them to “try” on the potty from an early age, not training them to restrict their bodily functions to the toilet — and then you’re giving them plenty of opportunities to use the new skill, which is how you end up with mostly clean nappies.

Here’s another when Greer was 3 months old.

At this stage I let their little legs rest on the potty so that the cold plastic does help them know it’s time to try to go – since often they are diaperless lying on a pad at home playing on their little tummies.  As you get further along in this, you end up leaving the baby’s little bottom half undressed more and more frequently and just keeping an eye on them – which leads to more frequent pottying intervals, rather than just during a feeding.  (I usually base how often I try the baby on the potty on what the baby did in it’s previous attempt during the feeding.  If we didn’t get a BM, then I am more vigilant to keep watch over the baby’s bottom or try the baby on the potty maybe every 15-20 minutes.  If the baby already pooped, then I’ll try it about every 30 minutes, and then right before baby’s nap.)  Once baby reaches about 4  1/2-5 months, she can usually sit on the potty alone but supervised, and often from 6 months until crawling the baby will play happily with books on the potty for upwards of 30 minutes!  Just like putting the baby in a bumpo-type seat, the baby likes being able to sit up and join the family and doesn’t seem to mind that she’s doing it on a potty.

I’ll update this again in the future or answer any questions you may have, but things certainly change as it goes further along.  A quick synopsis is that once the baby is crawling and walking, keeping it on the potty can be more challenging.  I tried to do this with babies two and three but just having that many little ones (chasing after number one when number two was small, then chasing after him as he kept trying to walk at 10 months) around was too much to juggle.  I just didn’t have the time or ability to sit with a baby on the potty early on or to keep it on the potty later.  With baby number four, though, the eldest was five, and the others could play together and help me out more, and this is why I was able to get back to it when she was 6 months old (before that she was a newborn, then we moved to Hawaii, then we moved houses in Hawaii, and I did all the house painting and unpacking alone – there was just no time with my husband always gone underway on his submarine and no help in the home.)  With Greer – baby number five – we had a girl (hi Christine!!! 🙂 heehee) living with us which enabled me to spend longer each time I nursed so I could sit with the baby on the couch holding her over the potty.  Soon Christine was able to help with it as well, and before you know it, she was a baby-pottying expert.

Another stage is reached when the baby goes potty less frequently and needs to go when she wakes up from her overnight sleep or nap and is stuck in a crib still.  You may remember my mentioning this with Greer recently, and I think we have successfully made it through this time now – she just goes around sitting on the potty whenever she needs it and can now get in and out of her bed in the morning so she won’t go in her diaper if she’s able to get out and come get us.  Like I said – it’s not about training them not to go in a diaper, but about training them to go in a potty.  I’d say she’s been just as well trained as numbers one and four were, rarely going potty in her nappy since birth.  Our hardest phase was really the one we just went through, and it was harder for us this time because I was pregnant (read: tired) and didn’t want to get up earlier with her in the morning or at nap time – and the last time we had help with us to get Claire up to have her go in her diaper less.  With number one I was just more hard core – hey, I only had one kid! – so she just made quicker progress overall.

Now on to this one – baby number six!  Since we weren’t in the hospital even overnight, we were home by the time he had his first BM, which as we all know is called meconium.  We tried him on the potty before a nursing by just holding him facing away from us like you see Greer in these pictures, and he put what would have been about three dirty diapers worth of meconium into the potty!! We have never taken our potty to the hospital, so this is the first time this has “successfully” been “caught'” in a potty.  Since then he has soiled only two nappies and pooped in the potty 4 more times (so we’ve got a 2-1 ratio going of successful potty times 🙂 )  He has also peed in his little potty sic times.  This is definitely a new record of “fewest diapers used since birth” for us.  It’s harder to find times to potty him right now when he nurses so frequently waiting on the milk to come in – you’d think we’d be able to do it more this way, but the very frequent nursing leads me to take his diaper off less often because I don’t feel like dealing with it all the time.  In just another day or so he should be nursing only every 2  1/2 – 3 hours, though, so I will be able to handle pottying him that frequently I think.

Yup, that’s baby Daniel – now official 48 hours old, going potty (he did number one and number two in this picture.)

Normally if he wakes himself and is crying I won’t put him on the potty but will go straight to nursing.  Just now, though, he’s been trying to sleep the day away (after having had himself a scream fest last night and keeping me up til 5am) so I just had a great hour nap, as did he after the Grandma (she just arrived from Texas yesterday morning, yippee!!) and John kept him a wake as long as they could – and I am using the pottying to help wake him up before I nurse.  It’s almost as effective as a wet rag for waking up a baby!  His diaper was just about dry, and he peed in the potty right away.  Score!  So I hope I answered any questions about this if it’s been something that has interested you, and if anything has come to your mind that you would like to know – just ask!  Having done it now three times successfully, and having different experiences each time, as long as with trying to have done it the two other times where I gave up eventually, I have seen lots of things that I can pass along 🙂

You may find yourself thinking: Man, pottying a little baby seems super-inconvenient!  For me, it’s just something simple to do because there’s a potty next to each place where I typically nurse, and of course we have enough potties to have one with us on the go.  We even got this one recently at John Lewis:

You can ask anyone who knows me around baby-time — some people are grossed out by my carrying our “little blue potty” around, even if I have it in a plastic bag or carry bag.  For some reason, potties seem to disgust people.  This one, closing in on itself – pure genius!  People have also said, “Well, you’re not training the baby – you’re training yourself.”  True statement – but I’m training myself to change a lot fewer diapers, that’s for sure!! Really, though, the baby is learning.  Obviously I’m training it to do something the toddler can walk over and sit on a potty – whether at my command or not – and deposit her BM into the potty rather than into her diaper.  When you have a feeding session with your baby, or before you put him down for a nap, you are often changing a diaper, wiping, etc, anyway, so the added “potty stop” really isn’t that inconvenient.  All for now – time to potty him again, and that’s hard to do while typing!! 🙂

Daniel’s Details :) Our British Baby…

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All the exciting news!  I know, I know, birth stories aren’t really that interesting unless you recently had or are having a baby.  So I’m going to mostly make this about all the odd differences we experienced here in the UK from deliveries in the US.  In America we’ve delivered in one military hospital and 3 civilian hospitals, all in different states and such, so we have had a wide variety of experiences.  Here, we delivered in an NHS hospital (National Health Service), but private hospitals are available if you pay for separate insurance or perhaps out-of-pocket.  Not exactly sure how that works, so I can’t speak to that, but I think a lot of the medically-concerned differences would still be there either way.

A sprinkling of baby pictures along the way…

Our mother’s helper Stephanie bought him this little British sleeper with red buses and black taxis on it 🙂  Anyway, a few thoughts from during the pregnancy that I may have mentioned in the past:

They never weigh you at your regular appointments.  You only see midwives unless you are higher risk, at which point they schedule a few appointments for you along the way with the OB at the hospital (not your local clinic.)  They don’t do the routine gestational diabetes test but only give that test if you have certain risk factors.  They still only see you every two weeks at the end unless you’re high risk.  There’s only a midwife clinic once a week at our local “surgery” as it’s called, and, even at the hospital, only certain days of the week for certain things – so the ante-natal clinic in the OB ward is only on Wednesdays – as is the midwife clinic at my surgery.  So if they discover something and want to send you up for another test or something you have to wait til the next Wednesday to get into the next ante-natal clinic.  Not very efficient.  When you need to go up to the hospital for something, the hospital staff makes appointments for you and then they notify you by phone or mail of your appointment time – I got a letter last Wednesday in the mail saying I had an appointment for bloodwork at the antenatal clinic – -that day, Wednesday, at 9:45am, which is before our mail is delivered.  Oh well!

Here I am finally catching up with some email a few hours after the delivery and after getting a nice long shower in finally 🙂  Good thing we brought our own towels (on Karen’s advice – the lady who was coming to watch the children and help out a bit.)  They had sort of threadbare, rough, prison-type towels (never been to prison, but I imagine the towels there are like the ones at this hospital.)  She also recommended bringing our own baby nappies and pads and such – good thing because every time we needed something, unless a nurse was in the room to bring it to us, there were no extra things like that around like in every place we’ve delivered in the US.  Also, she told us to bring snacks (which you might do in America as well,) which was great because the sandwich options weren’t really to John’s liking (egg salad, cheese and butter, or ham and butter – all very British), and of course it was only me being offered any food (usually in the US you can buy extra meals for your spouse, or they give them to you.)  The tea and toast was complimentary for both of us and offered right after the delivery, as well as again in the evening (here in the background.)

That’s another difference – we were specifically offered hot drinks or tea and toast a few times, while in the US it would have been iced drinks for sure, and usually juice or soda.  Just so funny we were drinking hot tea on July 17 after delivering a baby!! 🙂  I’ll save a quick “birth story synopsis” for the very end so you squeamish types can skip that part more easily, but now for more differences…

Walking in to the hospital to deliver is a bit more complicated here.  John could have dropped me off and then parked but I would have had to wait on a bench or stand around, so I opted to walk up from the car with him (the walking also is easier for me during contractions than sitting would be.)  We had to pay to park – as you do everywhere around here – then walked up to the front.  If he had wanted to wheel me in in a wheelchair, we would have had to put a one pound coin into the slot on the wheelchair release – just like grocery carts are at most stores here.  You get your pound coin back when you return the wheelchair.  Needless to say, I walked in, even using the stairs because I was afraid of being stuck in the middle of a contraction on the elevator when I could more easily manage on walking up stairs.  When we got to the delivery ward, we saw this:

It’s for buying a card to pay for your tv, computer, or phone usage in your hospital room.  For real.  That’s one of the things I always look forward to about going to the hospital since we don’t have tv in our home normally – flipping through the million cable tv channels in the hours or day after delivery when you’re bored.  Here’s what the tv looked like – super tiny with horrible sound.

I was deemed “higher risk” but not “high risk” because of this being my 6th delivery.  Another reason is because my blood platelet levels have been low, and they checked them again on admission, and they were still low.  This meant my hopes of being in the “birthing center” down the hall with 4 birthing pools were dashed, and I was relegated to the “Delivery Suite” of the OB Ward instead – and their one birthing pool was out of commission.  Because of the low platelets, and the supposed limited ability of a uterus to produce strong enough contractions to sufficiently stop the bleeding after birth, they were concerned about a higher risk of losing too much blood afterwards (the uterine contractions are supposed to help close the capillaries inside, and they say research shows after more births, your uterus is less able to do its job.  Odd, since other muscles in the body get stronger with use….)  This meant I wouldn’t have been allowed in the birthing pools anyway.  Oh well.

Because it is said to reduce blood loss by up to 1 Liter in all deliveries (and, or course, in people delivering babies after number 5 they said) they recommend “active third stage management,” meaning a shot in your leg muscle of pitocin right after the baby is delivered – to help make the uterine contractions stronger to help stem blood loss.  This is something I’ve never heard recommended in the US.  We turned it down, and my blood loss was low, just like with all my births.  This was great to them because they had been concerned about my low platelets (and therefore my clotting ability.)  BUT THEN they recommended another medical intervention, a drug, also injected into a leg muscle, to thin your blood to help prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis, also something for which I was at a higher risk because it was baby number 6.  So they were worried I wouldn’t clot but wanted to thin my blood.  I am not sure that they recommend this in the US, but they  did not recommend it with deliveries 1-5, so I think the answer is that they do not.

midnight – getting ready to leave the hospital

As in several of my US deliveries, they wanted to put a “port” for an IV in my hand (they called it something else) in case I experienced rapid blood loss after delivery and collapsed veins.  We have turned this down at the 3 deliveries in the US at which it was pushed as well.  Here, they said it was again because it was baby number 6 so I was higher risk.  In the US it was common hospital procedure.  We say no to it because it is just an added discomfort, and when I’m trying to natural progress through labor, anything making me more uncomfortable is something we reject.  My comfort is paramount especially since I am in excellent health.  We can totally understand these precautions are based on past emergency situations they have experience, but I think it can safely be said, that, as with other pregnancy-related recommendations, a lot of it is based on worse-case scenarios and on people who are in much poorer health than me – ie, women who did not run two miles the day before delivering haha – but no, seriously, there are lots of people whose uterine muscles probably are a lot weaker with baby number 6 than they were with baby number 1, but I personally am in better shape now than I have been at any time in my life so I think a lot of the extra precautions are unnecessary for me.  Plus, we are at a hospital.  They are equipped to deal with emergencies, and that’s why we continue to go to them for our deliveries, when home births would certainly be simpler.

the kids meeting Daniel

There were a lot of things that were different that we liked a lot.  When they “checked me” upon admittance to see if I was ready to stay and labor, I was dilated only to 1-2cm.  How disappointing after hours of terribly painful contractions that had been 3 minutes apart for the last hour.  This part routinely disappoints me – I’m never as far along as I think, and I hate being told that on a regular basis as the labor progresses.  They decided to admit me anyway because it was my sixth child, and they thought it would progress quickly based on the strength and length of my contractions.  We asked when they would need to be checking me again, and the midwife said it’s “every four-hourly.”  We thought maybe we had misheard and asked, “Every hour?”  And she said no – it was every four hours! Yippee!  “But we probably won’t need to do it again since you’ll have a baby before that,” the midwife said, which was very encouraging despite the “number.”  So that’s a huge difference – in American hospitals they are checking you pretty often, especially when you tell them you want to push.  I know the reasoning behind it and won’t go into it here, but I think when you’ve labored a few times, you probably know when to push without having to be told you’re “ready” because they “checked” you.  I even said to a friend the night before going in that I would love it if I could be checked only once and not again in the labor – and that’s exactly what happened!! 🙂

Another difference is that with each procedure they “offered” and “recommended,” they were very gracious when we turned it down and didn’t try to ask superior to us because they were midwives and doctors.  They recognized that this was my body, my delivery, and my baby, that we had done our research, and that we knew how this worked from having had five babies before.  At every previous birth it has been a fight to have the labor go our way.  They also did not try to put an external monitor on me at any time, even when I was first admitted.  In the US every time we go in they strap a two heart rate monitors to your tummy – one for you and one for baby – and monitor you about 10 minutes to hear the heartrates during a contraction.  They print out a little monitor strip.  Here, even in this “higher risk” OB Ward, they just brought up a little portable monitor and listened to baby’s heartbeat for about a minute.  Every so often during labor they did the same thing – while I was in the tub, too.  I think in the states the nurses like it that the external monitor keeps going and doesn’t have to be something that they have to come do.  It will beep if there’s a problem, so they don’t have to remember to come in and keep checking your baby’s heartrate.

Why do I care about all these seemingly small interventions that I’ve mentioned? It’s just another issue of comfort vs necessity – is it necessary to constantly check for dilation? Probably not in my case.  Is it uncomfortable? You bet!!! And it “throws off my groove” – to quote the emperor in “The Emperor’s New Groove.”  Making it through labor without drugs is hard, and you need to be free to focus in your own way if it’s medically possible.  Same reason I don’t want the external monitor strapped on (it hurts a lot to have something squeezing around your tummy while your uterus is contracting and is an uncomfortable nuisance when it’s not contracting.)  We were literally chewed out by the nurse in delivery number five for removing it.  Either way, we liked it that they just rolled with things here and didn’t try to argue every point.  They also didn’t force me out of the tub saying, “You can’t deliver in the tub,” but said instead – “I guess if you insist on staying in there we can’t make you get out.”

I didn’t want to deliver in a small tub, though, so I got out eventually, and my water broke with the next contraction, meaning baby was coming soon!  We walked over to the bed for me to lean over it while I continued to labor standing up, and John beeped the midwife to update her.  She came right away and said she’d better put her gloves on!  She asked if I was happy to deliver standing up, to which we of course answered that that would be our plan.  We delivered number 4 standing up, leaning against the bed, accidentally because there was no one in the room and John ended up catching her.  We told them with number five I wanted to stand through the labor, and the nurses were very hesitant, insisting that we make sure the doctor get there in time for such a crazy thing.  Even when the OB was there, though, standing up to deliver still seemed very strange to everyone (she told me she had had women deliver standing up before), and when baby number five was born that way, the OB whisked her up and away from me so quickly that the cord ruptured where there had been a knot in it.  Big mess.  So my point here is that the midwife didn’t care how or where I delivered – so long as I was happy with the set up.  I remember clearly with baby number three feeling ready to push while standing up laboring, and they made me get into the bed, insisting they could get it set up in some way for me to be comfortable (hands and knees, using the squat bar, etc), but I was uncomfortable the rest of that labor and vowed never to get in the bed for a labor again (Aside from having to be in bed while being checked for dilation or during the external monitoring period, I have never had to be back in a bed.  That’s another reason I don’t like those things – because getting on and off the bed during labor is hard in the midst of contractions and with a 40 week pregnant belly!

Another funny thing.  They were cleaning things up and casually asked – Do you want us to package up the placenta for you to take home? I will not comment on this here – I know why people do it, and that it is becoming more common in the states – suffice it to say, having the question posed to us was just really funny at the time 🙂 I think John was pretty appalled 🙂  Now we’re to the best “difference” we saw.  Since I had a “normal” delivery, I could have a 6-hour checkout.  The baby needed to be okay’d at 6 hours postpartum, and they needed to observe me off and on in that time, but after that we were free to go!  No uncomfortable hospital bed for 24-48 hours.  No additional babysitting to pay for!  Didn’t have to pay for parking longer!  No more gross hospital food!  At one point they suggested I might need to stay because of a minor thing, and the choices were – a bay with three other mothers and their newborns – or a private room, to the tune of 120 pounds per night.  Wow.  I speak from the experience of a military wife, whose insurance covers deliveries completely, so the thought of paying about $200 to spend the night in that hospital was pretty crazy to us.  We ended up being discharged at 12:30am (just after midnight), after he was born at 5:30pm.  Nice!!

This was by far my fastest labor and takes away my commonly used phrase that all my labors are “long and difficult.”  I totally credit this to my continued running up to the end.  I mean, nothing else comes close to explaining it, since the labors were never much shorter as I went up from 3 to 4 to 5 kids.  When they told me I was 1-2cm dilated but they expected I would deliver within 4 hours, I was pretty happy with that estimate, because I still expected another 6-8 hours of labor, as did John.  He and I were SO COMPLETELY THRILLED that less than 2 hours after being checked and admitted, we were holding Daniel in our arms.  Once I got out of the bath, the midwife put on her gloves with the next contraction and was delivering the baby on the one after that.  It wasn’t “easy” by any stretch of the imagination, but, thank the Lord and my Newton running shoes, it was quick!!

The waiting game

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I know some people go into labor suddenly and deliver quickly, but I think more people feel like they end up waiting…and waiting…and waiting.  After the previous 40 weeks of waiting, you think I’d be good at it, but I’m so impatient!!  This morning started out earlier than I would have liked getting up with Greer after being in bed just 6 hours, so I ended up snoozing on the couch for a bit once the other children were up to entertain her.  Before that I think I ate a nectarine and a small dish of custard which had been left over from making the banana cream pie.  Stellar breakfast.  Just woke up from the nap and sent a child to find the contraband bag of Cheetos from the US Commissary so I wouldn’t have to leave the couch (hey, I’m 40 weeks pregnant and tired!! So what if I ran 3 miles yesterday, today I am being a slug! Probably not the best way to help labor start…) as well as a Ginger Ale from the fridge.  So I have started off the day with some carbs, sugar, and fat.  Nice.  If I ever make it off the couch (I am sure my bladder will prompt that move quite soon) I promise to steam up some mussels to get some protein for the day 🙂  I NEVER eat like this – normally we wouldn’t even have Cheetos or soda in the house – but I am milking the “due with a baby right now” excuse for the day or two that I have it left to me 🙂

John is on his way home from his last day at school as I type, and then we are supposed to go for a family hike which I can post about in a little while if it materializes…

We received our new orders yesterday (finally!!!) and now know that we will be heading to South Carolina!  We were told this about about a month ago but have been waiting on the official news.  We are pretty excited to get back to the better weather 🙂  I mean, I guess the weather’s better there if you like sun and beach and warmth and stuff like that 🙂

Well, the walk didn’t happen right away…then it was time for Greer’s nap…and now (shockingly) it’s pouring rain and has been for the last two hours.  Oh well!!  Instead I will show you a picture of the lovely flowers the other students at John’s school sent home with him for our impending “new arrival.”

The other night at the International Students’ “Graduation” ceremony, someone snapped this picture of me and Greer while Greer was munching on some nuts I think:

At least I think that’s why it looks like she’s lost half her teeth 🙂

Now we are just waiting on a piece of computer equipment to arrive from the states (a CAC card reader) so that we are able to log on to the moving website and start to get the ball rolling on moving back to the states (passport for new baby, plane tickets, our packout, selling the van, shipping out our other car.)  Everything going on at once of course, and our renters at the home we own near the shipyard in Kittery, Maine, are leaving at the beginning of next month…as the weather here proves – when it rains, it pours!!

What’s your favorite junk food snack?

Do you ever go for walks in the rain on purpose?

Would you prefer one of those labors that are always shown on tv where it is hectic and fast from start to finish, or one with some warning to get to pack your bag slowly and make it to the hospital on time? (and no….I still haven’t packed my bag!)

Running to the Starting Line…

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So I did it again. Went running.  At least this time I’m pretty sure it will be the last run until after the pregnancy, since I’m due in two days.  I know I said that with the last run, but that one had uncertainty about it while I was running, and with this one – knowing that labor is imminent – it was a definite motivating factor!  The picture is after the run – 39 weeks, 6 days pregnant 🙂

Why go running today?  As I look out the window writing this, it’s POURING rain.  Patience just said it – “Whoa! It’s pouring rain!”  But earlier, it wasn’t.  So here’s why I went…

1)  I have two legs that I can still operate independently of this big belly, and baby’s still happy and safe inside.

2)  It was not raining, something which has been a rarity around here since April.

3)  It was 10am — I didn’t have to get up early to do it.

4)  John didn’t have to leave for work until 11:30am, so I didn’t need to get a babysitter!

5)  Even though it’s July 11, it was overcast, cool, and breezy.  Can’t ask for better running weather than that.  There was blue sky peeking out with grey clouds threatening a shower.  Perfect.

6)  I want to go into labor and have this baby!!! 🙂

So I’m running….to the starting line of my next big race — labor.  For me, every labor has been long and painful, and I have dreaded going into labor more and more each time.  I’ve been working towards this day for so long now, training to be in the best shape of my life so that when this “marathon” event starts I will be ready, and hopefully it won’t be as painful as the last five.

I started out my run very slowly, with a lot of pressure on my bladder, but being encouraged by these words to the song “Ready to Go” by Republica (an old 80s song):

“It’s a crack, I’m back yeah standing
On the rooftops shouting out,
Baby I’m ready to go
I’m back and ready to go
From the rooftops shout it out”

Wow, it is really coming down outside!! It was absolutely beautiful when I finished up my run – so glad I got out there and enjoyed the nice weather for the hour that we had it!!

I was going to run only two miles but after about half a mile I was feeling great and was determined to do three.  It’s an out-and-back route, so it’s 1 1/2 miles out – meaning  I made the decision at a mile to “go the extra mile”, after which I was locked into it.  Around 1 3/4 miles I started having discomfort in the pelvic region like I had last Thursday on my two mile run the whole way, but by then I would have had the feeling whether I walked or ran, so I finished the run home, stopping right at 3 miles and walking up the big hill to the house.  It ended up being 3 miles at 11:50 pace, respectable for me at this stage in things 🙂  I may never push a triple stroller at 8 minute pace as Dorothy of Mile Posts does, but I just ran 3 miles at a good pace two days before I’m due. Sweet!!  Getting me through that last mile was Mumford and Sons:

“It’s empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you’ve left behind…

Cause I need freedom now
And I need to know how
To live my life as it’s meant to be

And I will hold on hope
And I won’t let you choke
On the noose around your neck

And I’ll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I’ll know my name as it’s called again”

I wouldn’t call what I was feeling “pain” exactly, but that line – finding strength in pain – really keeps me going every time I hear it because I know the pain I am soon to face, and I know that I am going to find strength in it this time – more strength than even in the other four deliveries that I did without pain medications – and I am going to (with the help of my wonderful labor coach, my husband John) finish this race strong, even stronger than how I start it.  If you needed the extra nudge to get out the door today – then I hope that this does it for you.  You’re strong, and you’re not 40 weeks pregnant, and you probably also have two legs — get out there and workout for your own good (Unfortunately, your weather is probably not as pleasant as mine – but maybe it will be better late at night?) 🙂  Please pray with me if that’s your thing, that I will go into labor soon, that we will stay strong, that, Lord willing, it will be shorter and easier than in the past, and that most of all, it will be a safe and healthy delivery for me and the baby.

I just had a delicious protein shake to take care of my nutritional needs, since for some reason I have no desire to eat anything – decaf instant coffee, raw cacao powder, a banana, ice, rice milk, and agave – and am going to go take a nice long bath before moving on to a few more “pre-baby” tasks – like sorting out all the pump bottles and making sure my pump is in good shape, putting the liner and bedding back onto the Moses basket since I washed it all yesterday, getting the baskets of nursing supplies, diapers, burp cloths, etc, together for the various rooms in the house, packing my bag for the hospital (apparently because it is an NHS hospital I’ve been told there will be no food – or it will be scant and gross – no real drinks offered except hot tea, no extra nappies/wipes/pads like they always have when you deliver and you take home with you, and we should even bring pillows and a towel for showering!), and continuing to make sure the kids are fed and clothed 🙂  Karen, our “maternity nurse” scheduled to be with the family during the labor and the day or two after (it’s a special qualification for nannies who help immediately after and the months following a birth) could only be here through Friday morning because of another job starting up for her after that.  Thankfully, though, Stephanie messaged me yesterday that she’s available Friday, so that’s another day covered!!  Saturday and Sunday if we have the baby then we should have help from some church friends, and then my mom plans on flying in.  So I think we’re all covered — “On the rooftops shouting out – baby I’m ready to go!!”

What’s your most motivating song right now (lyrics would be nice, too) – whether for just getting dressed for the day or for working out?

What do you like/need to pack in your hospital bag for having a baby – or what would you recommend even if you haven’t had kids?

(By the way it’s sunny and gorgeous again right now as I’m adding these questions) What is your favorite stuff to add to protein powder in a blender for a shake?

Maybe my last run for a while…?

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Still not in labor (not due for 8 more days) but my run this morning was only 2 miles, and most of it I felt pretty uncomfortable, with just a few minutes strung together at a time of normalcy.  I read blogs of several pregnant runners, and they are just reaching the third trimester or are late in the second – and it is just amazing how different it was running back at 30 weeks! I mean, I’m not surprised that it’s this difficult to run at 39, just that running back then at 30 weeks and such was still so comfortable!

Today’s run was a 12:01 pace, and only two miles because after about a half mile I made the command decision to turn around when I reached a mile.  If I’m not in labor Saturday, rather than a run we may do a family hike – as strenuous as possible to still help labor come sooner – because something is better than nothing, and I may just not be able to run anymore with the baby having dropped like this.

Here’s a picture after today’s run:

Image

Of course, some of the way I felt may have been due to my shortened sleep due to Greer getting me up again shortly after 7.  I have to say – not liking the earlier wake up, but VERY happy with her pottie training now that she can get out of bed by herself from nighttime and naptime.  We have had one soiled diaper since we started it (about a month ago) and she is now hopping on the little potties around the house on her own all day long.  We seem to have made it through the tough phase I mentioned a while back of doing her BM’s in her diaper during sleeptimes – and it was all because we were leaving her in bed too long apparently.  I knew this, but was feeling too tired to do anything about it – often resting myself during her naps and wanting to sleep in in the morning from all my nighttime pottie trips.  So thankful that all those months of pottie training up til now (22 of them!) haven’t been wasted by having her start going in in her diaper at this stage!! If you are at all interested in infant pottie training (also known as Elimination Communication – EC – please send me any questions because, although not an expert, we have successfully done it with 3/5 of the children 🙂  The two for which we passed it up we still did it for 9 months and 6 months (numbers 2 and 3) because, as anyone will tell you, 2 and 3 kids are 1)more difficult than just having one and 2)more difficult that continuing to have more.  It’s really the second and third that push the envelope, and although continuing to have children is not “easy,” it definitely gets easier since by that time the first one is a bit older.

After John was home early from work at 11, he went out for ice cream for me to make us all milkshakes — the FIRST pregnancy craving I’ve had when I’ve actually asked him to go get me anything. We all played outside on the kids’ scooters while drinking/eating said milkshakes, and now it’s quiet time in the house.  Ahhh….yummy day with milkshakes and rest time!!

I am stealing this idea from another blog I read today – coming up with a habit I want to start, beginning with August, and going for the next year.  Sort of like listing goals, but more operating on the principle that it takes 30 days to establish a new habit.  I am too tired right now (and need to get off the computer to take advantage of a sleeping baby for the next hour) to come up with goals for all 12 months, but I am going to start right now by posting the next quarter’s habits 🙂  I can come up with three really quickly, right??!!

August:  Put on clothes and makeup every day before breakfast (unless I’m running and then I need to do it by lunch time.)

September:  Declutter as I am unpacking in the new house, wherever we end up moving to — make it a habit to keep a box/bag in a few different strategic locations in the house to put things to give away that will be used during unpacking and will continue to be used throughout the year.

October:  Spend time in God’s Word daily, at some point before getting dressed.  Must establish my first habit of consistently getting dressed by a certain time, and then I can piggy-back this one off of it 🙂

Okay, going to lie down now and rest.  Not the best for inducing labor, but I’m tired, and I have the excuse of being 39 weeks pregnant to do whatever I want hahaha 🙂

Happy Fourth of July! Things I miss about my country…

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Not much going on today here in England, just another normal day!  They don’t seem to celebrate July 4th for some reason….?  I started with a visit to the hospital for the appointment I made last week because of the low platelets while Stephanie watched the children, fed them, got their teeth brushed, etc.  I waited a while for my appointment (3o minutes) before I went up to say that if my doctor was the one with the “40 minute wait” recently written beside her name on the board, then I couldn’t wait and would just be leaving now.  Apparently it wasn’t just a blood test as I had thought but was an appointment with the ante-natal clinic there that is held only every Wednesday, to discuss the low platelets.  So they wanted me to rebook for next Wednesday (I needed to get home for Stephanie to leave by 10:45am, which is why I couldn’t stay any longer for my 9:45 appointment.)  This was just laughable — I said I’d either be in labor or have already delivered by next Wednesday and that I certainly wouldn’t want to come up to the hospital for basically nothing if I was about to burst.  I asked if this was something I needed to pursue after the baby’s birth and the midwife said, no – just the next time I’m pregnant to have my platelets watched, but that this wouldn’t matter once I delivered and was home again.  They were just concerned about my ability to clot right after labor and delivery.  So I said I wouldn’t need to come in next Wednesday and if all they were going to do was talk to me again about the fact that they’re low and can’t do anything about it between now and my labor, then I was going home.  She went back to ask the doctor about this – did the doctor want my blood taken again then? So they took blood again, and that was it. Could have had that done thirty minutes sooner, but oh well.  It was just such a waste of time and so typical of my experience here with the NHS (that they only have certain services available on particular days – even at the main hospital for an area of about 100 miles around here.)

Another National Health Service experience happened after that — dentist appointments for the children.  Here, dental care is “free” (included in the NHS services) for children under 18 so I figured I’d get any dental work they might need done before going back and had an appointment for the younger 4 today since Patience recently had a filling.  Turns out Gabriel needs one small filling in a baby tooth and Claire needs a small sealant — so it’s nice to not have to pay for that.  But no cleaning was done like in America — semi-annual exams and cleanings are covered by our current dental plans in America through the military, just not the dental work (which can be pretty costly).  But here, dental cleanings are considered “extra” and are only done through private dentists for which you pay out of pocket.  So I don’t know which I prefer, but there it is, another difference 🙂

So, speaking of differences, there are many that I hadn’t expected between the US and here and also between the mainland US and Hawaii.  When we return to the Mainland next month there are quite a few things to which I look forward, so here’s a list of ten in honor of the Birthday of my awesome country in no particular order  🙂

Special thanks to my friend Katie Shanahan Schneider who brought these shirts for us when she came over to England last month!

Top Ten Things I’m Looking Forward to about the U.S.

1. I would be amiss were I not to mention the food first – in both the stores and the restaurants – just to name a few…Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, GOOD MEXICAN FOOD, Waffle House, Dunkin Donuts, Chick-fa-la, Panera, and then the foods we regularly buy that I can sometimes find in the US Commissary here, but not always (things I can’t get here – Raisinets, Dark Chocolate Chex Mix, nitrate-free lunch meats – maybe available at a higher price in British higher-end stores but normally super cheap at the commissary, more organic cereal and cracker selections, organic produce at the commissary for less money, Costco favorites, more selection of everything really.)  Some foods are missing entirely from this island — great American donuts (they do have some Krispy Kremes at rest stops on the motorway – not my favorite if they’re not heated, but better than nothing, albeit almost completely inaccessible in every day life), BISCUITS (the southern kind like what you get at Cracker Barrel or KFC), decent Mexican food of course, decent hamburgers.)

2. This one is a double-edged sword — I miss the plethora of fast food restaurants that surround everywhere we seem to be stationed.  You can’t go a mile without at least one place to stop.  The only time I really lament this here is when I’m on my way back from the hospital, usually returning in a hurry to get back to the babysitter, and usually starving.  I always think that were this the US there’d be at least three choices for drive-thru places that I could have stopped at in the 5 miles between my house and the hospital.  The thing is, when we first got here we were pretty happy about this fact because it makes us eat healthier by usually having to always prepare food at home.  Even when there are places to stop, very few are drive-thrus, and with five children in the car, or very far along in the pregnancy, I don’t want to get everyone out of the van, or even myself out of the van.  There are very few Starbucks around, too, something I miss, but probably something good for me as well!

3. Favorite clothing stores – Motherhood Maternity, Gymboree, American Eagle, to name a few 🙂

4. Driving is just a bit more relaxed in the US (although, personally, I like all the roundabouts here) — seems like in places where we are stationed the roads are better lit and wider usually…and there are normally  multiple ways to get places (different from Hawaii where the traffic was horrible, and often you just couldn’t go some places at certain times of the day – I am sure the traffic is awful in other places as well – like DC – but we’re not going there as far as I know :))

5. Usually when we are around the military, we are around people who line up more with our particular political and moral views on life, and over here, I would say that our views are pretty radical, even compared to those in their armed forces.  It will be nice to not be surrounded by people who have only had the American media to tell them the “truth” and have made their judgments about our country and  its leaders based on that.  The people we regularly hang out with, though, which is not really that regular since we mostly only see them on Sunday, are pretty like-minded to us, but the regular British populace  around town and at John’s school is pretty different from us.  It was the same in Hawaii, though, where everyone except the military was pretty liberal, so I’m used to it by now.  It just gets annoying when people assume that everyone in the US thinks that way, when actually, an entire half of our population thinks like we do.  I’m tired of being in the very small minority.  You’d never know that by reading or listening to American media sources, but if you look at election results and voting on issues all over the country, it becomes plain that the country is pretty evenly balanced in its beliefs, and we are not all that strange for being so conservative.

6. Speaking of who we are surrounded by — we live in a bit of a rural area, and we don’t really hang out with anyone.  Our church is 45 minutes away,an hour and fifteen minutes sometimes in bad traffic, so most of the people we “know” live too far away to really get together that often.  Especially since I’ve been pregnant – sick at first, then okay, now huge and ready to deliver – it’s been tougher to hang out with people.  It will be nice to be back around more people – friends for us and for the kids – I think without all the visitors from overseas we’ve had it would have been a pretty lonely year!

7. Being closer to family and friends – since even in Hawaii everyone was many time zones and a trans-oceanic flight with bunches of small children away from us.  It will be SO NICE to be able to hop in our giant vehicle and to drive to see family and friends – even if it’s all the way up the coast from us (14-15 hours driving) or halfway across the country (to Texas, or Michigan from the East Coast), or all the way across the country from coast to coast.  Epic road trips are a part of our being now with all these children, and we’ve continued to do them here in the UK to sightsee, so we’re all geared up for them to visit all our loved ones 🙂

8. Speaking of road trips – I can’t wait to get back into a more comfortable large vehicle!! We are very thankful for the one we were able to buy here – our 9 passenger VW Caravelle with a long wheel base so we can actually carry things for 9 people (unlike most people here whose card have NO space in them), but there is something to be said for a few modern luxuries.  Like seats that recline (even our front split bench doesn’t recline at all), a front passenger seat that moves forward and back (I mean, I’m not asking for leather or heated seats here – just practical things that make it easier for someone to sit in the car longer than an hour!), reasonable cup holders, a CD player or a place to plug in an MP3 player (just have a tapedeck now, which doesn’t do a lot for us in supplementing the crappy radio stations), air conditioning, shoulder belts in every seat, and I could go on…

9. An American kitchen (I generally like the “open layouts” in the homes there as well, but in a 300 year old home like what we are in now, I knew not to expect that, and I’m grateful for the chance we had to live in this neat old place.)  In case I have any British readers who haven’t seen a typical American kitchen in a single family home (I can’t speak to apartment dwellers, since I’ve never lived in one, but I’m just comparing apples to apples here), well, go online and check one out.  Or, better yet, don’t. It will just make you sad if you’re someone who likes to cook and loves to have company in the kitchen.  What’s different in an American kitchen that I love so much? Oh my goodness. Where to start?? I like the double sinks, and the fact that they’re deep enough so that washing things with high pressure water won’t cause you to splash everything outside the sink – here, when I do splash everything outside the sink, the main thing in the splash zone is the dish strainer which takes up the other spot where your second sink should be.  Every British sink I’ve seen is like this – one shallow sink, one teenie middle sink with a food catcher (because there are no garbage disposals – another thing I miss) and then an area with ridges on it where you put your strainer for dishes to dry.  So try not to splash them!!!  I also miss the sprayer that is on a hose that we’ve had in every sink in America.

We are blessed enough to have a dishwasher, but most others don’t.  Next to our dishwasher is our washing machine.  Every home I’ve been in has the washing machine in the kitchen (taking up valuable cupboard space), and then of course the dryer isn’t in there, if they even have one. (We are thankful to have one provided for us by the US government which was delivered shortly after we arrived.)

Two other things under our counters taking up valuable space are the fridge and the freezer.  They are both tiny, and I of course have to bend down to get into them.

Again, we were given a more “modern” one by the government, and between them we are able to have most of the food we need around, but with our once-a-month trips to the commissary which is an hour away, it’s really hard putting all the groceries away.  Apparently most of the people here shop more frequently than we do, but that is just not practical with 5 kids at home and homeschooling.  It’s not a lifestyle that lends itself to frequent grocery store trips.  One last thing – not just particular to our old house but the same in every kitchen I’ve visited – is that the kitchen is tiny.  It’s like you’re meant to be sequestered in there all alone fixing food for people and family while they all chat in the other room.  And that’s no fun.

10.  Which leads me to the last thing I can think of – appliances/fixtures in the houses in general.  The TOILETS in America have more water in them and are shaped a bit differently.  Not going to explain why I like this, but let’s just say they stay cleaner and smell less, and they have some different flushing mechanism that even children can operate.  Not so here.  Also our dryer.  Which most people don’t have anyway (how they get their things dry in all this damp weather, I have no idea) so I’m just happy the government gave us one of these, too.  Ours here is a “condenser” dryer, meaning it doesn’t vent to the outside but collects the water in a tray underneath that you empty between loads.  Great idea because otherwise we couldn’t really have a dryer installed in this house with an external vent, but still, it’s annoying that it’s in the basement nowhere near my washing machine and that we have to empty it.  I know. Small thing, but I will appreciate SO MUCH having an American washer and drier, possibly located in a laundry room, when we get back.  When looking at real estate online here, I saw some homes with utility rooms just like that – and with more modern kitchens – but they were rare, and were often new construction even further out in the middle of nowhere or in really unattractive developments.  Now I’m ready to admit that I don’t care what the neighborhood looks like (coming here I didn’t want to live in the typical American looking cookie-cutter neighborhood, but now I don’t care.  I just want my modern conveniences!!)  I can’t wait to have a washing machine that also hold more clothes than what my children wear in one day and that doesn’t take 100 minutes for a load.  Our internet here is pretty bad, too, as is the cell phone reception.  Which leads me to my last “appliance” issue — my iphone!!  We weren’t able to use them here because you have to have a British iphone to use it (not just a matter of a sim card).  We also weren’t able to get on a contract here with a provider because we had no “credit” established in England (even though we had a bank account set up through the school ahead of time) and would only be here one year instead of two – so if we wanted to use iphones we would have to purchase them outright – and then they’d be British and not American.  Once you get used to an iphone, it’s really hard to go back.  Any time I want to upload pictures I have to take them on my camera and put them on the computer, when it used to be so easy to just snap it on the iphone and upload it.  We have some sort of HTC phones that are “smartphones” but the internet is so bad in the house that I can’t upload pictures from the phone very easily.  I usually have trouble anywhere else as well due to frequent poor cell reception.  I hate texting from it or emailing because there’s a button near the keyboard that keeps sending you back a screen that I often accidentally hit.  It’s just an overall annoying phone, and I can’t wait to get back to use an iphone again 🙂

Okay, so that’s my “ten best of the US” list – probably I could come up with some more, but I’ll leave it at that 🙂  Oh look! It’s been pouring all day and is now sort of blue outside and has stopped raining!  There’s even a sunny spot on the lawn! Yippee for July! Heeheehee

 

 

Pizza Mania!! and some things I’m looking forward to…

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Thursday afternoon here in England, and it is sunny and bright and warm in our house!  Wow!   My almost-two-year old is attempting to sit on a Polly Pocket chair (the chair is about…1 1/2 inches high, so she is not succeeding.)  She was up at 7:30 this morning again, and Meriwether left earlier this morning, so I was up with her and then took a nap after lunch from which I awoke much more chipper than I was previous to naptime 🙂  I have nothing running-related to talk about today but was put in mind of making a list for post-pregnancy perks by reading someone else’s blog a few weeks ago.  So I guess a lot of things on the list will be about running, though, because un-pregnant running is definitely high on the list!! 🙂

TOP TEN THINGS I LOOK FORWARD TO AFTER MY DUE DATE

(in no particular order)

1. Holding  the new baby!

2. Having the desire and ability to play the bagpipes again!

3. Being able to easily put on compression socks and running shoes!

4. Being able to eat and enjoy food more easily without worrying about indigestion and heartburn.

5. Having the physical stamina and ability to do normal things around the house and with my children.

6. Wearing regular clothes – in smaller and smaller sizes over the coming months.

7. Not being as overcome with emotions (this one won’t apply til about a month after delivery, but still, it’s coming!!)

8. Being able to push myself while running, and enjoying the feeling of a faster pace and getting hot and sweaty!

9. Eventually sleeping through the night (in a few months this one will just be so awesome!! No more getting up to go pottie at night and then sometime soon the baby sleeping all night, too!)

10. Feeling like my fun self again 🙂

So this week while Meriwether was here we made the last thing I wanted to put up in the freezer for when the baby comes — pizzas!!  I wanted to make more bread but don’t have the room in the freezer right now (believe me, getting the pizzas in was hard work!!) so I may actually have to exert myself to bake one more time after the baby comes and before our movers take everything away 🙂  The recipe for the crust will follow, but just realize that this made a LOT of pizzas, so unless you want to freeze a bunch, you should cut it in half.

We soaked the flour the night before, this time in water with some apple cider vinegar instead of in buttermilk like I do with the sandwich bread.  I also put in the honey and olive oil for the recipe.  The last time I made this dough it was too sticky, and I was wary of adding much additional flour because too much of that can change the taste and texture in unexpected ways.  I mentioned this in a previous post, but I think the moisture content of the wheat berries I bought in England is higher than what I’m used to in the states, so you need to cut the liquid amounts to get a dough just right.  However, in this case, I decided to just add some hard red (from the U.S.) to my hard white to cause it to act a little more like regular dough.  Normally, this recipe had been perfect with some Soft White wheat berries added in — I mean perfect, as in, puffing up a bit and tasting like real pizza crust and not too bread-y.  That’s the way I’ll be writing out the recipe, but you will notice that my dough looks a bit reddish, and that’s because of the hard red wheat berries I included.

This is how it looked in the morning after the soak.

This is the soaked flour mixture being stirred together with the additional flour for the recipe and the salt, and one teaspoon of honey.  Any flour I add after the soaking is always just all purpose flour because I think un-soaked whole grains are not good for you.

Here’s the proof for the yeast.  I barely had enough yeast and was excited to find a strip of three packs in the cupboard to add to it.

When you add in the yeast mixture and combine, you just mix it til it is all incorporated and is starting to form a ball.  It will not clean the sides of your bowl like bread recipes do.  I tried to get a picture of what the “ball” looked like in this case.  I added maybe half a cup of additional flour to get it to this consistency, but again, be careful of adding too much additional flour.  At this point you let the dough rest for 20 minutes.  Then turn on your mixer again for about 30 seconds, and let it rest again for 20 more minutes.  After the second rest, knead for about 5 minutes in the mixer.  Then place it in a well-oiled bowl and oil the top of the dough (You can try to turn the dough over in the bowl once, or you can use a brush to brush on oil or a mister.)  Allow to rise to 1 1/2 times its size.

Here’s  a lovely picture of the dough after it’s risen for about an hour.

After the rise you punch it down and allow it to rise again to 1 1/2 times its size.  This second rise can be skipped if you are in a hurry, but the dough will be an easier texture for making into crusts if you do the second rise.

Here I am forming the crusts.  The dough looks pretty nice at this point (punched down again after the second rise,) but I was too scared from the last pizza experience here to turn it out onto a floured counter.  Instead I oiled my hands and just grabbed balls of it from the bowl.  Also, the last time I ended up using so much flour when trying to get it off the counter that the bottom of the crust ended up floury which was not the best flavor.   Previous pizza crust recipes have had me putting the balls of dough onto the counter and rolling them into discs using a rolling pin.  This recipe says to take a ball in your hands and to flatten it, and then let it start to leak out the bottom of your hands, rotating it the whole time so it stretches out into a sort of disc shape, and then putting it onto your cornmeal-covered surface to finish out the stretching.

Under the parchment paper is a pizza peel (round wooden board with a handle on it.)  I preheat my oven with a pizza stone inside of it and then transfer the crust to the stone while it’s still on the parchment paper.  This dough is just too sticky to not use the paper (in my experience.)   Be careful when spreading it out not to spread it too thin.  If you make too many holes in it, just ball it back up and start over 🙂

Here is one ready to go into the oven.  Be sure to poke it with a fork all over before baking so that you won’t get too many air bubbles 🙂

I parbake the crust for about 3 minutes at 450 or 500 F, however hot your oven will get.  The ones that are going in the freezer get the toppings and then are wrapped up.  The others I top and then bake right away 🙂  Usually the pieces don’t even make it to my plate before I eat them!

Two par-baked crusts, one with some sauce on it ready for a few more toppings.

While we were waiting on the dough’s risings and such we chopped up some veggies for our toppings:

Lots of garlic is always a must!  We layer on sauce, then garlic and Italian seasonings, then pepperoni, olives, and mushrooms.  We don’t put on the tomatoes til the pizzas come out of the oven.  We made three regular-sized pizzas that we ate for dinner, then a bunch of small ones for our inadequate freezers 🙂

This one just out of the oven is really making me want pizza again already!

Whole Grain Pizza Crust

Makes about 8 full-sized crusts

SOAK: 8 Cups Hard White Flour

3 ½ Cups Soft White Flour

5 TBSP vinegar, add water to 4 ¾ cups

1 cup EVOO

2 Tbsp honey

scant 1/2 cup gluten

The next day, start with the proofing of the yeast: 

PROOF:

1 tsp honey

¼ – ½ cup warm water

Yeast (10 tsp active dry or 9 tsp instant)

Mix together well in the mixer:

The Soaked Flour mixture

4 tsp salt

1 tsp honey

1  1/2 cups flour

Next add – The Proof

Once it is well mixed, if it is too sticky add more flour a TBSP at a time – give all the fresh wheat time to soak up the liquid, though.  The sides don’t have to be clean, and the dough should be sticky, but staying together in a ball-ish.

LET THE DOUGH REST 20 MINUTES.

THEN TURN THE MIXER ON FOR ANOTHER 30 SECONDS OR SO.

LET THE DOUGH REST ANOTHER 20 MINUTES.

THEN KNEAD THE DOUGH ABOUT 5 MINUTES.  You can knead it in the mixer and check it along the way – You want it to stay hydrated, and it doesn’t need to support a rise, so it doesn’t need extensive kneading.  Knead til it is cohesive and springy, like an elastic, but somewhat sticky.  If it seems resistant but too sticky, let it rest 3-4 minutes, and then begin the kneading again.

AFTER KNEADING, OIL A BIG BOWL AND PUT DOUGH INTO IT IN A LOOSE BALL.  TURN IT OVER IN THE BOWL ONCE TO OIL IT.  Leave in a warm place to RISE TO ABOUT 1 ½ TIMES ITS SIZE, ABOUT 45 MINUTES.

PUNCH DOWN AND FOLD IN A FEW TIMES, REOIL, AND RISE AGAIN TO 1 ½ TMES, ABOUT 25 MINUTES THIS TIME. (You can skip this rise if necessary.)

Preheat, with pizza stone, to as hot as the oven can go – 500 or 550. Put out parchment paper on a board or pizza peel, and sprinkle cornmeal on it.  Oil your hands and take a ball of dough from the bowl.  Pat it into a rough circle.  Pick up by the edges and rotate, letting the weight of the dough stretch it out to the right size.  Place onto the parchment, and continue to stretch it if necessary, and then POKE WITH A FORK and “par-bake” 2-3 minutes.  You can oil the edges before par-baking, or oil the whole thing after par-baking and before topping it.  Once it is topped, bake 7-9 minutes, or until the cheese starts to brown a little.

Saturday’s Run and Weekly PREGNANCY Recap :)

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It’s been a busy Saturday around here for us, especially since it started out with a run which of course wipes me out for the rest of the day!  Yesterday evening we picked up our friend Meriwether from the train station who is back with us for 6 days before continuing the rest of her European adventures.  We went out with all the children to Buca di Beppo – an Italian restaurant from America of which there are about 8 in the whole United Kingdom, and which I just discovered last week is about five miles from our house!!  We had a great dinner which was proclaimed “the best dinner ever” by my seven year old son (who also said that when we ate at the TGI Fridays an hour from our house about a month ago – do you think they miss American food??)  I was SO FULL all night and uncomfortable until I managed to fall asleep at some point.  After about 8 hours of sleep, punctuated by three trips to the pottie because we all know pregnant ladies have to go pottie all night long – probably to get us ready for the upcoming sleepless nights with baby – I woke up refreshed enough for a run, with my tummy feeling a bit smaller than it had after all that Italian food 🙂

I have been having some Braxton-Hicks contractions, even in the morning sometimes, so I wasn’t sure if perhaps my last run on Tuesday had been my last.  Figured I might as well give it a shot!  After feeling a bit rough for the first half mile I was able to pick it up (even to go as fast as 10:30 pace – fast for me at this point in the pregnancy) and enjoyed the run for the most part.  As the baby continues to drop, each day and during each run I can feel how different my body is, so every run feels like it’s working my muscles/tendons/joints/ligaments in a new way, leading to new soreness (less mobility) later on in the day.  But, I’m going to attempt to keep at it – just taking it one run at a time!

I calculate at this point that if I still run three times a week until I deliver, then that’s 6, at the most 7, more runs to go.  I’m getting there!  This is the point in every pregnancy at which, after moaning and complaining about being pregnant for so long and wanting it to be over, I start to dread the end.  So many “hard” things to anticipate since I’ve done it five times before, where maybe if it’s your first pregnancy, or your first delivery that you’re planning to do a certain way, or your first time to feed your baby in a certain way you may be anticipating the unknown with some excitement.  For me, the future coming up in the next three weeks is a pretty well known event, and the only things that might really alter it in some way are things that would only make it harder.  So at its BEST, I know I’ve got a lot of pain and hard work in front of me pretty soon, followed by a lot of nights with little sleep and lots of new demands on my body.  Sounds like I’m complaining about the miracle of birth and blessing of a new, healthy child you are able to nurse, but I’m not.  I’m not complaining saying, “I don’t like this” – I’m just saying that I know there is a tough time coming up, combined with road trips to get the circumcision (since it’s not done here except for health reasons so we need to go to the closest US base with a clinic) and to get the passport/SSN stuff done, all happening in the midst of packing out for an international move (for which we don’t even have orders yet, and he finishes his course here July 15), etc, etc, etc.  I’m just wanting time to slow down a bit now….never can make me happy, right!?!?

Now the picture from today’s run – serving as the 37 week tummy shot, since I was 37 weeks yesterday:

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Tummy’s looking pretty big!!

I’m very happy to report that, unlike a lot of pregnant ladies whose blogs I read, I have not been struggling with having to make frequent pottie stops in these last several weeks.  I had that “urge” from about weeks 26-34 maybe, but then I think the baby probably shifted to a position where he, oddly, does not affect my bladder much. I also think there’s not much room left in there for moving about very much, so he tends to not make a lot of huge movements anymore.  I am still able to push myself for small spurts of greater effort (i.e. increased speed, even if it’s still not very fast), but it’s such a weird feeling to have just my legs putting out this effort.  It’s almost like they are detached from my body and that I control them separately, and that my core is doing almost nothing to contribute.  It’s a different feeling for me – perhaps one that other runners feel regularly when they feel like they’re really pushing, but I have no idea.  Anyway, it’s a nice feeling when I’m out there to know that my body is still partially my own, and that it will respond to my commands occasionally 🙂

After the run I had another protein shake because I didn’t feel like eating really but knew I needed the carbs and protein.  Then we got everyone dressed and went out to a BBQ at my husband’s school put on by the North Americans (ie the Canadians and Americans) for the other students.  Meriwether commented at one point that she can see why BBQs are considered American – because the weather here is so crazy that you can’t really plan on big cookouts very easily.  Yes, it rained.  It was cold and windy, and it was sort of sunny.  So British.  And, as at every North American BBQ, there was a cricket game going on in the adjacent field (yes, you sense sarcasm.)  They did have an electric bull for the children to have bullrides, surrounded by a bouncy thing in case they fell off.  The food came from the American commissary as well – all the brands from home of hot dogs, buns, chips (crisps as they call them here), and condiments, and then, of course, watermelon 🙂  Once it was clear that we were no longer enjoying ourselves because of the rain, our family packed up and left.  We had come in two cars because John needed to be there early to help, so Meriwether and I travelled to nearby Marlborough for High Tea and a little grocery shopping while John took the children home (via a pitstop at Toys R Us).  Just finishing up a few hours on the couch with my feet up now, and then John and I are going out on a date for a movie.  This is the most I’ve done all in the same day (with the exception of just being out the whole day like at the Races) in probably a month, and I am feeling it!! At least the last leg of the day is just sitting in a seat at the movies 🙂

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That’s a guy properly attired for cricket – complete with sweater vest for if [when] it gets chilly and wet.

Here’s a summary of my two runs this week – hoping to get three in again next week while Meriwether is here 🙂

Tuesday – 3.21 miles at 12:02/mile pace

Saturday – 3.27 miles at 11:56/mile pace

Hope you have a nice Saturday!

The Iron Age and Pregnancy

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One recipe today – which maybe I’ll post in the middle to keep you interested – and lots of talk about nutrition, specifically iron intake and deficiencies in women.  So this might be boring if you’re not a)pregnant or b)a woman 🙂  It does refer to female runners as well, though, and maybe even a teenage male.  But you’ll just have to read on to find out how these are connected…

First, here are a few nice pictures taken from the Iron Age Hill Fort (called Barbury Castle although there are no ruins in sight) 5 minutes from our house (It’s a site that was first occupied about 2500 years ago and is now just a big trench and ridge in a large circle that is a place to hike).  The British Iron Age is considered to be from the first use of iron tools up until the Romanization of the southern part of England (around 800BC – first century AD.)  It’s the only picture I could think of that has anything to do with Iron 🙂

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I have done A LOT of research on Fe — you can even say it goes back to my days at Nuclear Power School studying Ni-Cr-Fe cladding in a pressurized water reactor – and have emailed several friends lots of the details of some of the helpful things I have discovered in my quest to raise my iron levels.  I’m not going to reference web pages in this post but will just say that everything I discovered is on the internet, and I am no expert or doctor.  I just felt like I had compiled enough good information that someone might be interested by a small piece of it 🙂

I’ll try to keep my thoughts organized, but I think this will read more like a mystery novel than a coherent list of things about iron.  I am sure if you are pregnant and reading this, or just a woman, you may have struggled with low iron off and on throughout your life.  My first indication of anemia was as a midshipman during my plebe summer at the Naval Academy.  At that point I just went on iron supplements, along with the Milk of Magnesium doctors always prescribe with iron to combat its negative side effects, and took those for a short time.  I never really gave it another thought other than to avoid giving blood because I had been anemic.  Speaking of the teenage male – apparently low iron strikes a lot of young people in their late teens and early 20s due to dietary changes and such (away at college and in charge of their own food intake for the first time), as one of my friends shared about a young man that she knew.  I was sharing my own low iron issues a few years back and she mentioned a kid who wanted to eat dirt (as I did during the last pregnancy) and who was apathetic, lethargic, and depressed, and who eventually was passing out before they determined he had very low iron levels.  It can really be a dangerous thing and not easy to combat with today’s eating habits.

During my first pregnancy I started to munch on ice when I would finish my iced drinks.  The first time I opened up my iced coffee and started eating the ice was what tipped me off to my second pregnancy, and I constantly had iced drinks with number 3 and 4, enjoying the ice at the end the most.  It was not until my fifth pregnancy, though, that I started fixing myself drinks with ice filled to the top of the cup – just to soften up the ice enough to eat it.  I had one of those Venti Starbucks tumblers and would fill it with ice (and then water or tea or some mixture of juice, etc) at least 10 times a day, no joke.  Eventually my ice maker couldn’t keep up with me, and I started keeping bagged ice in the chest freezer in the garage.  I had run just to 16 weeks with that pregnancy and then had a day of contractions and such and was told by the OB to stop running since I had had a miscarriage at 16 weeks about a year earlier.  Looking back, I think it was probably related to my low iron levels, as I was having other symptoms related to low iron and magnesium – constant leg cramps being the most noticeable.  Some time in the middle of that pregnancy I started feeling absolutely exhausted – I would get up late (we had a mother’s helper living with us because my husband was gone so much on his submarine and gearing up for another six month deployment) make it through to lunch time and nap time, and then I would nap when the 2 year old napped.  After nap time I would come down to the couch and basically not get back up, with the exception of some dinner preparation done sitting at a stool at the kitchen island while having my helper run back and forth to the fridge or cupboard, until I went up to bed in the evening.  I was just SO wiped out, and I couldn’t even do any walking for exercise without contractions kicking in (and this was only at 5-6 months along.)

Finally one day I received a clear indication of the problem.  I was sitting in church in Hawaii – meaning it was an old elementary school cafeteria, windows and doors open for the breeze, and the school field being used by some local team for a softball game – when the dust rising from around the field as runners circled the bases started to make me salivate.  I wanted to eat the dirt.  I wanted to eat lots and lots of it, just gobble it up.  I can remember the sensation so clearly!  I called the OB the next day and went in for a blood test – and of course my iron levels were through the floor.  Wanting to eat non-food items is called pica and is a common sign of iron deficiencies.  The most common desires are for dirt and ice, although other people apparently like to eat paper and other weird things.

I had suspected low iron a month or two earlier, so I started to eat more of everything I thought was full of iron – adding certain nuts and molasses to my oatmeal, lots of spinach, broccoli, etc.  But as I started to research iron intake I discovered that I had basically been shooting myself in the foot with the OTHER healthy things I was eating – like whole grains and tea.  Many foods severely inhibit your body’s absorption of iron, while others can increase your absorption substantially (which is why they often recommend having orange juice with your iron supplement – because Vitamin C is supposed to help absorption rates.)  But what they DON’T tell you is that there are TWO DIFFERENT TYPES OF FOOD SOURCES OF IRON – and this is the most important thing to take away from my post.  More on that in a second…

I did wonder also at this point – why this pregnancy (number 6 at the time if you counted my miscarriage) did I suddenly have such an issue? I wasn’t doing anything differently – or was I?  Well here’s what I discovered — I was running for the 5 months before we conceived, which I had never done before (except when I was at the Naval Academy.)  Runners can apparently crush red blood cells with a heavy heel strike, essentially just losing all that iron as they would have done had they bled it out or given blood.  (I no longer run with a heel strike, but at the time I did.)  So that was one difference.  If you’re a runner, and you’ve struggled with fatigue – I would highly recommend having your iron tested!!  Another thing was that I had had 6 menstrual cycles between pregnancies this time – when previously I there was only one between pregnancies – because my husband left on a 6 month deployment right before I miscarried.  Every time a woman has a cycle, she obviously needs to replenish her blood supply, which takes more iron.  This applies to a miscarriage as well – a major loss of blood.  So that was three strikes against me leading me to enter the pregnancy with diminished iron stores.

From all my reading I also found that once you are pregnant, actually BUILDING iron levels is nearly impossible.  Within the first few weeks, even before you know you are pregnant, your body is manufacturing blood to the point of increasing your body’s volume of blood by 1/3. (This is another reason you should be on prenatals if you think you may become pregnant.)  Our bodies are so amazing that at certain points in the pregnancy when you will need more iron FOR THE BABY, your body’s ability to absorb iron increases!  At other times in the pregnancy, its absorption potential decreases again, so even if you’re taking supplements to up your iron, your body may just be in the part of the pregnancy where you physically cannot absorb the amounts you need.

Here’s where the thing about the different types of iron becomes so important.  There are non-heme sources of iron (related to elemental iron and found in all plant/nut/vegetable/SUPPLEMENT sources) and there are heme sources of iron (iron obtained by eating an animal product.)  By the way – iron-fortified foods do not count as heme sources, even if they are an animal product, because they are fortified with elemental iron.  So what’s the big deal?  Heme sources can be ingested and will lead to an almost complete use of the iron by your body because they are already in the form your body needs (the animal’s body took elemental iron and turned it into useable iron for you!) REGARDLESS OF THE OTHER FOODS YOU EAT.  So you don’t have to worry about helping or hindering your body’s “absorption” of the iron.  Any supplements you take, or however much you eat of “iron-rich” foods, will do you no good if you’re not absorbing much of the iron.  Even if you try to help that absorption along, your body still is pre-programmed, specifically during pregnancy, to absorb at differing rates at particular times.

So as an aside here – you need to work on increasing your iron levels BEFORE YOU GET PREGNANT.  And I don’t mean through supplements – because I am not sure how these affect a nursing baby that could be counting on you for nutrition before you get pregnant with the next baby – I mean through heme sources of iron.  If you’re a vegetarian, then I don’t know what to tell you, but this is important – build up your iron stores because once you’re pregnant you’ll only be using it up and trying to maintain through diet and will not be able to recover from a deficit.

Once I had read these interesting things, I went straight to researching what the best sources of heme iron were.  Liver! Great! I love pate!!! BUT WAIT! I read more about liver and discovered it is universally (nowadays) prohibited for pregnant ladies.  It USED to be recommended by doctors during pregnancy (obviously because it’s one of the highest sources of heme iron) but then they determined that it could possibly contribute to birth defects, since it is SO HIGH IN VITAMIN A.  Apparently a Polar Bear liver has so much Vitamin A in it that it can kill a human who eats it!!! They are not sure how much Vitamin A is too much during a pregnancy, so they just recommend steering clear of it if possible.  Bummer.  So what’s next?  Turns out MUSSELS and cockles are super high in iron.  (Ever heard that song “Molly Malone”?  Being in an Irish band, it was one of our regulars :))  Anyway, in England I have found that doctors and people tell you not to eat ANY SHELLFISH during pregnancy, while in the US it’s RAW SHELLFISH which is on the list of no-nos.  Interesting.  Of course, shellfish, being a bottom dweller and a filter of the ocean, could tend to be high in heavy metals and contaminants I guess, but I always eat farm-raised mussels, and I have never seen a mercury warning against mussels – or any other kind of warning against them.  So I started eating mussels just about every day during my previous pregnancy.  I used to LOVE MUSSELS, but I can tell you now, I am just on  good terms with them and no longer love them (familiarity breeds contempt, right?)  The reason they are so high in iron, though, is because their bodies are simpler than those of other animals  —  they don’t HAVE a liver.  Other animals (like chickens, and like us) have a filter system for their bodies – and it’s the liver.  So you have to eat that animal’s liver to get the iron.  When you eat a mussel, though, you’re eating everything it’s eaten, which includes the iron from the ocean things it consumes.

So here’s the recipe I promised for “halfway through the post” which is really much further along than halfway, but I had to wait til I got to the punchline (mussels.)  They were handing it out at the Guinness Factory in Dublin when we were touring it in May, and I was also able to find it on their website here.

  • 1kg fresh Irish Mussels in their shells
  • 300ml cream
  • 200ml fish stock
  • 330ml GUINNESS® extra stout
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Knob of butter
  • 1 Tablespoon of chopped fresh dill
  • 1 medium onion – diced
  • 1 large carrot – diced
  • 1 large celery – diced
  • Juice of half a lemon

In a saucepan place the butter, onion, carrot and celery and fry for 2-3 minutes, being careful not to overcook. Add the GUINNESS®, fish stock, bay leaf and simmer until reduced by half. Add the cream and reduce by half again. Add the Mussels and cook for 2 – 3 minutes until all the shells have opened, then add the dill and lemon juice.

I don’t have a nice picture for you, but there’s a lovely one on their website 🙂

If you need to incorporate more heme sources of iron into your diet and hate shellfish, then don’t trust what you’ve always heard — do your research and find out exactly what the high sources of iron are.  (People always think “red meat,” but if you’re not pregnant and can eat liver, chicken liver is much higher in iron than beef liver.)  Anyway, why am I now eating so much ice again, I ask myself?? Well I certainly know the answer and will confess it right here – I have dropped off on my mussel consumption, although I had kept it up pretty well to at least 3 days a week between the last pregnancy and this one.  This time I didn’t have ANY cycles between pregnancies and was pregnant about 3 months after the baby turned one (which is about two months longer between pregnancies than I normally have), so that can’t be the contributing factor to low iron this time.  I definitely did a good job of maintaining a good store of iron, because my initial blood tests showed HIGH iron levels (a first for me.)  I didn’t even want to eat ice! The one time I did it hurt my teeth.  Then in March I had a test showing low iron – right around the time I was occasionally starting to eat a piece of ice here and there.  Not a lot of iced drinks easily available here in England, and if I wanted iced tea in places I’d have to get a glass full of ice and pour hot tea over it – thereby melting most of my ice.  In April I started to be sad when all the ice was melted, and by May (30 weeks) I was really enjoying eating ice at home in my drinks.  By June now, I’m back to eating about 4 cup-fuls of ice a day (the big cups) and buying bagged ice 😦  They prescribed me iron supplements in April, but I didn’t fill the prescription and have just been trying to eat more mussels.  I had dropped down to maybe twice a week when I was in my first few months of pregnancy – since, really, morning sickness and mussels? No thank you.  Then I started back at 3-4 times a week, but it was nothing close to the 7 days a week I had been eating them during the last pregnancy when I discovered I had a serious problem.  Back then I had my mother’s helper to kick me in the shin if I didn’t eat them (and to fix them for me so I would), and now it’s me doing everything by myself most days. Also, it’s hard to find a time of day to eat them because it should be first thing, but I don’t really want them right after a run 😦  Excuses, I know. I’m working on it.

Personally, I usually just steam the mussels which I keep in the freezer (most of the simple ones to buy are already cooked and then frozen, sometimes in their shells and sometimes already shelled).  Often they will end up boiling a bit instead of steaming because they don’t take up much room in my pot, so the small amount of water in a pot with shelled mussels translates to boiled mussels.  I’ll drain off the water and add some butter, cooking wine, and maybe some garlic salt and whatnot.  Then I just toss them around in that a bit and eat them as quickly as possible.  Other days I’ll just make a dish of butter for dipping, with a squirt of lemon juice in it.  When feeling particularly adventurous (or just sick of my normal mussels) I have stuck them into pastas or leftover rice, and once I even baked them in a dish with bloody mary mix from the fridge.  I get really desperate for new and tastier ways to eat them.  Hopefully this information will be useful to someone who has been struggling with an iron deficiency – I know I would have appreciated knowing some of these things years ago!!

My blood was drawn today for routine 36 weeks tests they do here, so we’ll see what my iron is doing now.  In case you read a previous entry and are wondering about my “measuring small” at this week’s appointment, I was referencing my “fundal height” – the measurement of the height of my uterus basically.  I was scheduled for the OB because of this and went in today for a scan, where it was discovered the baby is growing perfectly fine and along the growth curve, and all my pockets of amniotic fluid are there and look great.  I measured 1-1/2 cm LESS today than I did on Wednesday, so I think the measurement must depend on who is doing it.  I had always heard that the cm measurement matches up roughly with how many weeks pregnant you are.  Well I just checked out a chart of fundal heights and discovered my number to be just about average for 36 weeks.  I guess the midwife was just concerned because the measurement hadn’t changed in two weeks.  Also on the chart, however in the 95th percentile from weeks 32-35, the measurement barely changes from 34-34.8cm in those weeks.  So really, it was nothing to get worked up over.  But it was still nice to have the extra ultrasound to have everything checked out.

Do you have an iron deficiency and, if so, any tips on ways to combat it?

Can you give me any good ideas for new ways to eat mussels???