We traveled to Venice, Italy (and further) for Easter this year.Read More
A quick but fun, two-night stay at a beautiful boutique hotel in Portland for my birthday...Read More
Here's what you'll find in my Diaper Bag these days as a mom to a 3.5 year old and 12 month old.Read More
Phase One of the playhouse went up last summer! Read on for details on the construction of Villetta Varchetta...Read More
We started giving Totes an allowance and here's how it went!Read More
Valentine's Day in Victoria, B.C. on In Search of Sunrise. A classic, Pacific Northwest, experience!Read More
We recently started drinking Elderberry Syrup as part of a daily immunity building routine and here's what I think about it...Read More
The cutest hat you absolutely need, especially because it is FREE!Read More
Our second summer trip to Desolation Sound.Read More
Because the days are long but the years are short.Read More
A comparison of five common strollers.Read More
The pregnancy shot you MUST tryRead More
Our wonderful birthing experience with our second baby, Melina (our little Apple)Read More
If you're in the process of creating a birth plan, then check out this "visual" birth plan I created using Power Point and icons for a much easier to read template for you team!
I loved creating a birth plan for both my pregnancies, although in both cases I never even shared it outside my doula and a quick glance from my OB. But despite that, it gives you an opportunity to think about all aspects of the birth and make informed decisions ahead of time instead of being pressured into a quick decision in the moment. Create it with the help of your partner so you are both on the same page with certain procedures and then he or she can be relied upon to be your voice when you are unable to speak up for yourself... as I've experienced! A strong word of advice, though, is try not to get too hung up on your specifics. Birth is a crazy journey, especially the first time, and you just don't know really how it's going to turn out. Giving yourself the freedom to be flexible is key, knowing that how it turns out is probably not in your control! My first wasn't but I was still able to have a beautiful, calm birth and was so grateful for the team that surrounded me during that moment because they supported me all the way and assisted me in achieving my "birth requests" to the best the situation allowed.
In preparing for the arrival of our second child, I recently sat down to create my "Birth Requests". I like using the word requests as they are simply just that. I haven't come across too many moms that can tell me their birthing experience went exactly as their "plan". In a few of the mom groups I follow on Facebook, I started seeing these really cool plans that were done with visual icons rather than just wordy paragraphs on a sheet of paper. It really resonated with me as an easy to read way of communicating my preferences. My first time around, my birth preferences took up about 3 pages of paper, which was mostly copied and pasted from a few of my birth-prep sources. Who was going to sit down and take the time to read all that? My wonderful doctor, at one of our third-trimester appointments, did, but she had the time in one of our third trimester check-ups. In the end I actually never printed out any additional copies for the staff at the hospital but I had time to talk to them one-on-one because of the special circumstances under which I was admitted early. Even though my second birth was spontaneous, I still had the time after checking in to triage to communicate most of my requests to the nurses. And I answered questions along the way.
I googled "birth plan icons" and got some great inspiration from the pictures of how to put together my own. I posted mine on a birthing prep group on Facebook and got a lot of positive response and requests to share, which I am more than happy to do! So here it is with the links to all my sources that you can download and customize to your own if you wish to do so.
My one-page "Birth Requests" sheet was created in Power Point on an iMac (conversion to a PC-based power point program should work but may through off formatting slightly, just fyi). If you're familiar with the program, it should be very easy to customize to your own. Although all the available icons from the two sources I used are in the extra slides on the power point file, these are the two direct links:
I've meant to share my birth story here for so long but have kept getting distracted from writing it down. The memories are still so fresh but as I recollect my thoughts on the experience, and since have had plenty of time to read other's inspiring stories, I've come to realize that a birth story is so much more than just the long but relatively few hours of labor and delivery. We spend close to ten months preparing for this big event and all those months, but so much more, play a role on the outcome and experience. I think it's important for perspective to share the larger picture of my own.
Our pregnancy with Totes was planned and we spent a relatively short time trying for... a few months really. Upon taking my first pregnancy test, the second line appeared so faintly my husband thought it wasn't positive. We waited a few days and took a second test to be sure. From there, it was pure excitement all around and we couldn't wait to share the good news with family and friends. So many thoughts hit you all at once when you first become pregnant, things you've never had to think of before. But even before the time I became pregnant, I knew that I wanted to deliver without pain medication. Partly because I know how my body tends to react to such strong drugs and I didn't want to be battling severe nausea while trying to focus my attention on the joy of the moment I would be cradling my baby in my arms for the first time. And partly the idea that such strong medication would reach the baby during delivery and effect our first few precious hours of bonding. I've always been a minimalist when it comes to interventions, such as doctors and medication anyway.
When we made the decision it was time for us to start trying to conceive, the first thing I did was interview different OBGYN's. Luckily, it didn't long for me to be referred to Dr. Bohmke and the team at Northwest Women's Healthcare. I immediately felt reassured I would be in the best of hands in this group. The next thing that fell into place was finding a doula that would be there with me through the labor and delivery. This addition was so important to me as I really needed someone that could be there with me the entire time, keep me calm and reassure me that all was going as it should. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered that a long time family friend of my husband's was not only a very experienced doula, but was also a Hypnobirthing Practitioner, a class I was intending on taking during my pregnancy. We quickly contacted her and arranged our meetings. She worked with me on a one-on-one basis with the Hypnobirthing techniques using the Mongan Method and also led me through private, Prenatal Bonding sessions in the last half of my pregnancy.
I poured my heart and soul into this pregnancy and was so excited for the changes that were happening to my body and the ones that were coming next. I read and watched everything I could get my hands on. I ate healthy and continued to work out regularly. Since I had just come off training and running two half marathons prior to getting pregnant, I kept running through about 5 months along at a slow pace while monitoring my heart rate, making sure it didn't go too high. I joined a prenatal yoga class and stayed physically active. Although I had the normal aches and sickness that comes with pregnancy, especially in the first and third trimester, overall I felt great.
It was around 32/33 weeks that my doctor became concerned that my belly's fundal height wasn't measuring as large as it should. We initially dismissed it due to my build, being so tall with a long torso. But by 36 weeks, we weren't seeing any increase in size from the previous check. I went in for an ultrasound so they could estimate fluid levels and it showed a very low amount. My doctor ordered me on bedrest for the weekend with more monitoring the following week as an extra precaution. It was at this point that my doctor told me that inevitably, I would be induced early for the health of the baby. I was immediately distraught at the thought of my baby being at risk and also the knowledge that an induction most likely meant I wouldn't have the natural birthing experience I had been envisioning. I had been warned time and time again not to get too attached to a "birth plan" since everything about pregnancy and birth is so unpredictable, but I still let it happen. I had a good cry about it but then shook it off and knew I could still make the best of this situation and that it also meant I would get to meet my little boy earlier than expected! I came to terms with the fact that I would need an epidural, knowing how intense Pitocen would make my contractions. I would do the best I could, but I didn't want to make myself suffer just to prove myself strong.
At the next check a few days later, they estimated the fluid levels had dropped even lower so I was admitted to the hospital and hooked up to an IV for two days. The rest and extra fluids seemed to help as the next check my levels were estimating higher. I was released from the hospital but had to stay on bedrest for the rest of my pregnancy. These checks happened every three days over the course of the next two weeks. It was an intense time and I started feeling burnt out with all the prep and anticipation.
On the morning of July 17th, I woke up around 4am and just couldn't get back to sleep. I went downstairs and waited for my husband to wake up. We headed up to the hospital for yet another ultrasound check that morning. He was also feeling a bit burnt out as he had accompanied me to all my ultrasounds over the last few weeks and decided to grab us coffee and pastries while I went into the appointment. I watched as the ultrasound technician searched for fluid pockets on the screen. I had been to enough of these appointments to know that she wasn't finding much. The scan showed a fluid level estimate in the 2cm range (healthy being 8-18cm) and they estimated his weight around 6lbs, 9th percentile. I knew both numbers were cause for high concern and an induction would be following immediately. I walked the results over to my doctor's office and as soon as my doctor had a chance to look through them, she looked at me with a reassuring smile and said, "I think it's a good day to have a baby!" I was put in a wheelchair and transported over to triage. They had me immediately start using a Cook's catheter to encourage dilation and cervical change. It was right around noon and for the rest of the day I was told to just rest. We had a few friends stop by that evening and pop open a bottle of champagne to celebrate. At midnight when it was time to remove the catheter, the doctor on call checked my cervix for any progress but not much had changed. We made the decision to insert a second and let me rest overnight.
My doula arrived at the hospital the next morning and we went for a walk outside. By noon it was time to remove the catheter and my doctor had me start on Pitocin. My contractions started, but I wasn't feeling them much. At 3pm, she broke my water. Shortly after that the contractions started coming on stronger so I started using my Hypnobirthing "surge" breathing. I was feeling pressure creeping across the front of my abdomen, but nothing was painful. I realized that if I just closed my eyes and concentrated on what my body was feeling, staying inside, that the contractions would come on more regularly. I also knew that each contraction was progressively bringing me closer to delivery and if they slowed down, I would be given more Pit, so rather than trying to be social with everyone in the room, I put myself into my self-hypnosis state and shut everything out. The next few hours flew by as I felt almost asleep. But around 8pm, the sensations of the contractions had moved down into my lower abdomen/pelvis and I was having a harder time trying to concentrate through them. I sought after alternate methods of comfort... a heated pad behind my back, light touch massage, essential oils. We asked the nurse to prepare the bathtub. I got up to use the toilet and then tub, the change in position brought the sensations of the contractions on much more acutely. Even after getting in the tub, I was struggling to stay as calm as I had been and I asked my husband to order the epidural. I was getting nauseous and feeling the need to dry-heave, the contractions were coming on so strong and fast I had no time in between to catch my breath and recompose myself. What I didn't realize at the time was this was the start of the urge to push. My team encouraged me to have the doctor perform a cervical check before we committed to the epidural to see how far I had progressed. I agreed but my doctor was delayed with another birth and as the minutes ticked by, I begged for the epidural. It was ordered and just after my doctor entered the room and began her check, the anesthesiologist came in with his needle ready. My doctor told us all that I was dilated to 9cm and fully effaced and ready to start pushing anytime. She then turned to the anesthesiologist and told him we didn't need him anymore, he could go! I laid there stunned and unable to speak, knowing this was ultimately what I wanted but so torn! However, I started to relax as the contractions slowed down in frequency and intensity and moved into an urge to push. The change in pace was just enough to allow me to reset and refocus my energy into relaxing my body. For the next hour, I used my "birth breathing" techniques to gently bring the baby down.
My husband's hand was my focal point and I held on to it tightly. I didn't have the ability to communicate to him in words at that moment, but I felt that I could let him know how I was feeling by squeezing his hand with each contraction. Upon suggestion, I attempted to prop myself upright and use the birthing bar but I didn't have the energy to keep myself up and needed to lay down again. Finally, just before 10pm, the room started to buzz as the nurses made the final prep. Just as I was working through the final few pushes, a nurse popped in to the room to inform my doctor of an emergency C-section that she was needed for right away. She then told me "we need to get this baby out now" and directed me into more vigorous pushing. I tried with all my might to activate those pushing muscles and within a minute, I felt the pressure release and heard my doctor say, "Elise, open your eyes and take your baby!" She handed him to me and I placed him right on my chest. He let out a few yells then immediately calmed down and laid there, eyes wide open.
I ended up needing one small internal stitch, probably from pushing harder than I should have. But in the end, I couldn't have been better. He weighed 5lbs, 14oz and was 18" long. Other than being petite, he was perfectly healthy and gained weight steadily, although still to this day is in the first percentile in weight!
A pink and gold baby sprinkling for Apple at Mamma Melina RistoranteRead More
For the last year, Totes and I have been going to the Little Gym for their mom and me classes. If you are not familiar with the Little Gym, you may have heard of Gymboree, which is very similar, otherwise be sure to check out their website for more information!
Prior to signing up at the Little Gym, we tried a few other classes. Kindermusik was one of them and although I felt that we started a bit too young (he wasn't even crawling yet), I felt the specific class we took was too unstructured and unorganized for my liking. We still regularly participate in the Toddler Story Time sessions at our local library, but every time I find myself chasing him out of the room as the class participation just doesn't hold his attention. The local community centers have great classes that are worth checking out as well. I recommend trying out a few and see what jives best with your toddler's personality and temperament.
For us, the Little Gym was the best. It helped to have a great teacher who was personable and fun, but the classes are structured for "serious fun" and we both really enjoyed it. Sadly with preschool starting this month, I didn't feel our schedule was open enough to continue the regular weekly commitment so we recently said farewell. We met some wonderful moms/parents and their kiddos. I wanted to share our experience and encourage you to give it a try if you are searching for activities to get you out of the house, give your toddler a chance to get out some energy and socialize with others.
Every summer we live by one simple rule: enjoy the Seattle sun while it lasts. Most Seattleites know never to travel in the summer... you stay and enjoy the precious two months summer affords us and save your travels for the other ten gloomy months of the year, which is precisely what we do. In early June, when the rain is usually falling heavy, we escaped to paradise and were surrounded in bliss at the Royal Hawaiian for a week. We made no plans, didn't search out any tourists activities. Our intention was to sit under a cabana from late morning to evening while Totes played on the beach and we indulged in the hotel's cabana and pool service. The only thing that foiled our plans was Totes surprising reaction to the beach... he hated it. Wanted nothing to do with the sand between his toes or walking on the uneven ground. The rushing waves, although mild compared to most areas, were another no-no. But that didn't stop us from taking a daily family dip in the ocean! Kids are so unpredictable.
Luckily the pool at the Royal Hawaiian was heated to a comfortable, what felt like, 90 degrees and was a piece of heaven in itself. It took a few days, but Totes finally warmed up to the beach and we had some very fun strolls walking along Waikiki beach.
On Totes: Hat and Tank by H&M, Denim Shorts by Zara Baby Boy
We brought along our BOB Revolution Stroller knowing that nap time would probably happen most of the time here. Although I would generally take my Orbit Stroller with me 99% of the time, it was nice to have a one-piece system with a super smooth ride and the basket underneath for toting all our beach gear. We put Totes and the stroller around nap time and once he was asleep, we'd find a place for lunch.
One of the first few days we were at the hotel, we walked into the gift shop and Totes went crazy over this large stuffed bear. He has the same bear at home, just half the size. It's the Philbin bear by GUND that we used in my baby shower and he's been crazy about it since he was just a baby. So we bought it and he carried it around everywhere for the first few days. It's nice to have a comforting item when traveling away from home. Good to remember next time we go away.
When we first arrived at the Royal Hawaiian and walked into our room, Totes had a strange reaction. I had to pull him inside... he was shaking his head and saying "no, no no..." This particular room has a bit small and very dark. I can imagine after he had just been running around the grounds in all the light and space he was super hesitant to be so closed in. My husband popped down to the front desk to ask about an upgrade to the new tower and after a few minutes, I got a call telling me to bring the bags over. The new room we upgraded to had an ocean view with sliding glass door out onto the lanai. He was so happy, I couldn't keep that little monkey from jumping on the bed!
We chose Waikiki because of the action. We knew our social little guy would have a great time with all the people and life around him, and we were right. The Royal Hawaiian is probably the best location for this too. Our stay here also gave us access to the Sheraton pool next door, which was a big playground for kids. Unfortunately the water, not heated, was a little too cold for us and our skinny kid. It looked like a blast for older kids though. We walked along the beach and swam in the ocean every day, it couldn't have been a better time.
On our second to last day in Hawaii, we booked a little excursion aboard a real pirate ship! The pirate crew was super lively and even reenacted a little battle just off the coast of our hotel on Waikiki beach. Totes slept through it all. He was a little too young to participate but the other kids on board had a blast. Was be a fun activity for kids in the 4-6 age range.
We'll miss this view. Until next time!
After a week of working our way north from Seattle into Canada, we arrived at our ultimate destination: Desolation Sound
All the research and pictures we came across during our prep for this trip couldn't have prepared me for the beauty that is in Desolation Sound. The terrain is dramatic and the waters so warm we swam comfortably almost every day.
Getting there has been half the fun!
The Gulf Islands and other areas in Canadian waters are still pretty new to us as boaters so even though Desolation Sound is our ultimate destination this trip, we spent a full week slowly working our way north and stopped off at a few new places.
We left Seattle on a Wednesday evening close to sunset. After spending an entire day prior tending to some last minute mechanical repairs to ISOS, we thought about waiting until Thursday depart, but Wednesday evening came, the boat was loaded, so we decided to clear the locks and get a head start. Since we had little time to navigate before the sun went down, we quickly hopped over to Port Madison (North Bainbridge Island) and anchored for the night. My husband is an early riser, so he got us going early the next morning, set for Roche Harbor, while Totes and I slept in. We arrived in Roche around 1pm and had plenty of time for a trip to the playground and a few rounds of tennis. (See why we love Roche here)
The weather has cooled off considerably from our earlier visits here this summer so we skipped the pool. But even on a weekday, the resort and marina were bustling. Since Roche is one of the closest ports to the Gulf Islands, it's a natural spot to stop and top off provisions.
We spent a lazy morning on Friday getting ready for our next destination and left around noon since we weren't going very far. Sidney BC is roughly 10 nautical miles from Roche on Vancouver Island. This was a fun place to walk around, eat and shop. Totes and I took a quick tour of the aquarium while Papa stayed back at the boat. It was great!
Next Stop: Port Browning
We know Pender Island for its southern most marina and resort: Poet's Cove. Since we have already been there a few times in the past, we decided to check out Port Browning to the north. The bay is very protected and simply stunning. It would have been a great place to explore by kayak, as many visitors were doing. The pool was a little too cold for my liking so unfortunately for Totes, we stayed on the outside of the fence while he longingly looked in at the older kids playing around. Breakfast the next morning at the marina's cafe was delish, worth coming back for!
Ganges on Salt Spring Island has been highly recommended so we booked our stay here for two nights to give us some extra time to explore. It was just the right amount of time too. I mentioned on our Instagram account a memorable experience we had on our first night in Ganges attempting to dine out that I'll detail here. The Hastings House is a local bed and breakfast style hotel that was raved about in our travel guide, so we wanted to try it for dinner. The setting of the hotel and restaurant is out of a fairy-tale and I was just giddy with excitement walking up to the front door. That was until we encountered the restaurant manager. He took one look at our toddler and went stiff. We didn't call ahead for a reservation and he informed us that the restaurant was full, we would be limited to the 'lounge' and the bistro menu, rather than the prix fixe dining room menu. That was fine by us, preferable anyway. However, Totes seemed to be picking up on a few vibes from those around him... my excitement and the managers hostility. We could not, even with the efforts of both my husband and I, get him settled into his highchair. He insisted on exploring the entire restaurant, which was driving the manager even more crazy. After my husband took Totes outside for the third time, I took a quick glance at the menu and realized that nothing I ordered would probably come out before 30 minutes, and I gave up. We left, crushed at our anticipated loss. Just below the hill from the Hastings House lies a pub on the waterfront that looked very inviting and rowdy enough to handle our little guy. Upon walking in, we noticed signs everywhere saying that the pub was "Kid Friendly before 7PM". It was now 8pm. The waitress confirmed, no kids allowed this late.
We dragged our feet back toward the marina and town center. Remembering one restaurant in the shopping plaza area that caught our eye, we headed there, hoping for a redeeming chance, otherwise we'd be three strike outs.
At the Tree House Cafe, they were able to get us in without much of a wait. We scored a table in the center of the room, under the tree. Literally, the restaurant was built around a huge tree and it's so beautiful. We sat down just in time for their live music to start up. They brought out an adorable crayon set from Melissa & Doug Toys. The food was fantastic. Music by Sister Speak was even more fantastic and Totes was enthralled by it all. He clapped enthusiastically after every song along with the crowd, danced and blew kisses to the girls. It was magical and such a great way to end a long day.
We stopped here just before crossing the Strait of Georgia and had a wonderful dinner with the group at Bayshore Restaurant
Pender Harbour, BC
Our first stop on the sunshine coast! I was in awe of this gorgeous inlet with all its nooks and crannies.
We spent almost an hour (yes, we... even papa joined in the effort) trying to get Totes down for his nap. I think the problem was that we spent all morning navigating between Nanaimo and Pender Harbour across the Strait of Georgia. It's not a peaceful, easy ride. We were fighting 4-6 foot waves so the only solution was to keep him in his highchair strapped in with cartoons for entertainment. Not much chance for him to run out the energy he needs to tire out for naptime. It's funny that as adults, the less I move, the more tired I am during the day. All I want to do is lay down when we have days like this. It's the opposite for kids. Our best days are spent with both of us getting a lot of physical exercise in the morning so he's worn out and needs a nap and I have a boost of energy to power through the rest of the day.
We finally gave up the naptime thing for the day and took a short dinghy ride across the bay to the closest market to stock up on provisions. Of course he crashed in the five minutes we were driving over. We turned back and got the stroller so he could continue napping while we shopped.
Getting your baby to sleep is a never ending battle, my friends! But there's nothing more that I love than having him sleep in my arms. Going to cherish these moments for as long as I can... I know it won't be much longer.
We left early the next morning for Desolation Sound. Check out my next post for the rest of the details on our trip!