Monday, May 31, 2010

after the birth, what a family needs

"Let me know if I can help you in any way when the baby is born."
"Just let me know if you need a hand." 

"Anything I can do, just give me a call." 

Most pregnant women get these statements from friends and family but shy away from making requests when they are up to their ears in dirty laundry, unmade beds, dust bunnies and countertops crowded with dirty dishes. The myth of, “I’m fine. I’m doing great. New motherhood is wonderful. I can cope and my husband is the Rock of Gibraltar,” is pervasive in postpartum land.

If you are too shy to ask for help and make straight requests of people, I suggest sending the following list out to your friends and family. These are the things I have found to be missing in every house with a new baby. It’s actually easy and fun for outsiders to remedy these problems for the new parents but there seems to be a lot of confusion about what is actually wanted and needed.

1. Buy us toilet paper, milk and beautiful whole grain bread.

2. Buy us a new garbage can with a swing top lid and 6 pairs of black cotton underpants (women’s size____). 

3. Make us a big supper salad with feta cheese, black Kalamata olives, toasted almonds, organic green crispy things and a nice homemade dressing on the side. Drop it off and leave right away. Or, buy us frozen lasagna, garlic bread, a bag of salad, a big jug of juice, and maybe some cookies to have for dessert. Drop it off and leave right away. 

4. Come over about 2 in the afternoon, hold the baby while the new mother has a hot shower, put the new mother to bed with the baby and then fold all the piles of laundry that have been dumped on the couch, beds or in the room corners. If there is no laundry to fold yet, do some. 

5. Come over at l0 a.m., make us eggs, toast and a 1/2 grapefruit. Clean our fridge and throw out everything you are in doubt about. Do not ask me about anything; just use your best judgment.

6. Put a sign on our door that reads, “Dear Friends and Family, Mom and baby need extra rest right now. Please come back in 7 days but phone first. All donations of casserole dinners would be most welcome. Thank you for caring about this family.”

7. Come over in your work clothes and vacuum and dust our house and then leave quietly. It is tiring for a new mother to chat and have tea with visitors but it will renew her soul to get some rest knowing she will wake up to clean, organized space.

8. Take our older kids for a really fun-filled afternoon to a park, zoo or Science World and feed them healthy food.

9. Come over and give the new father a two hour break so he can go to a coffee shop, pub, hockey rink or some other activity that will delight him. Fold more laundry.

10. Make us a giant pot of vegetable soup and clean the kitchen completely afterwards. Take a big garbage bag and empty every trash basket in the house and reline with fresh bags.

These are the kindnesses that new families remember and appreciate forever. It is easy to spend money on gifts, but the things that really make a difference are the services for the body and soul described above. Most of your friends and family members do not know what they can do that will not be an intrusion. They also cannot devote 40 hours to supporting you but they would be thrilled to devote four hours. If you let 10 people help you out for four hours each, you will have the 40 hours of rested, adult support you really need with a newborn in the house. There is magic in the little prayer, “I need help.”

Bookmark and Share

preparing for natural childbirth

One of the most important choices a pregnant woman will make is how she will give birth. While it is common for many birthing women to choose medications and synthetic drugs to manage pain during labor, choosing to do so brings on a greatly increased risk of birth complications and further labor intervention procedures. While childbirth may be painful, in a healthy pregnancy, a natural, drug-free childbirth is by far the best option for having a healthy delivery. A woman who trusts in her body's natural ability to labor and birth will have the most rewarding, emotional and powerful birth experience.

There are many steps you can take during your pregnancy in order to prepare for a natural birth. Make sure you keep a healthy lifestyle during your pregnancy, eating primarily nutritious, whole foods and getting plenty of easy exercise by walking, doing stretches, and yoga.

Once you decide you are serious about having a natural childbirth, hire attendants who are more likely to support your decision to birth naturally. Consider hiring a midwife rather than an OB. Midwives are autonomous practitioners and are the primary carer for the vast majority of women in both the developed and undeveloped worlds during their pregnancy. Provided a pregnancy is progressing normally, a woman need never see a doctor. According to Catherine Taylor in her book Giving Birth: A Journey into the World of Mothers and Midwives, midwives have a 19% lower rate of infant deaths and a 33% lower rate of neonatal mortality (infant death in the first month) than doctors attending comparable births, and midwives who attend hospital births have a cesarean rate that is half the national average. Additionally, midwives tend to be more open to different methods of childbirth. And, if complications do arise, midwives are assuredly knowledgeable and capable.

Whether you choose to hire a midwife or not, you may also consider hiring a doula. Essentially, a doula is a natural-childbirth coach and advocate for the birthing mother and her family. If you have a doula present at your birth, she will be able to remind you of the reasons you chose to birth naturally and gently push you to continue as you had planned when you are in the throws of labor. She will also be able to assist you with relaxation, breathing and pain-relieving techniques and help labor move along as smoothly as possible. In addition to providing emotional and physical labor support, she will advocate your wishes and can assist in communication with medical staff in a hospital setting, as well as obtain information for you to better be able to make informed decisions in regards to procedures and possible interventions.

Perhaps the most important step to preparing yourself for a natural childbirth is to educate yourself about every aspect of the birth experience. You have nine months to learn all you can about labor options, birth attendants, common procedures, possible necessary and unnecessary interventions, and the common and unique qualities of other successful natural childbirths. With the internet, there are literally countless resources at your fingertips. There are also many books that focus objectively on natural birthing options, including my favorites, Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation by Pam England and Rob Horowitz and The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and All Other Labor Companions by Penny Simkin. When browsing birth-education reading material, be sure to choose books and sources that positively support your decision to have a healthy, aware, and natural childbirth.

Another step you can take to prepare yourself for a natural birth is to participate in childbirth education classes. While many hospitals offer basic classes for pregnant couples, there are many alternative options that actually focus on natural labor techniques. Lamaze is the most discussed method of birth education and natural pain management, teaching techniques for focused breathing. Lamaze will help you focus on making it through each contraction, though it does not necessarily prepare women for what to expect in regards to the intense pain involved in labor. Becoming increasingly popular, however, are comprehensive natural childbirth classes such as Hypnobabies, The Pink Kit, and Birth Outside the Box. These well-rounded, objective courses are comparably priced and available to you in the comfort of your own home or in small group settings, and they will provide you with options for natural pain-relief and a solid foundation on which to build your natural birth experience.

Lastly, be confident about your decision to have a natural childbirth and your body's ability to birth. For most women who choose natural childbirth, their main goal is to be lucid and alert after the delivery of their baby, to be able to immediately and peacefully see, hold and bond with their baby. Visualize this positive outcome throughout your pregnancy and be confident that this is what your want. If you expect horrible labor pain, you are more likely to actually be in pain. Confidence is actually a big step in making the labor process more bearable.

Once you educate yourself about your options and decide on birth attendants who support your decision to birth naturally, you will be able to develop a clear picture of your own expectations for a emotionally fulfilling positive birth experience. If you begin feeling discouraged at any point during your pregnancy or labor, remember this one simple thing: You were made for this.

Bookmark and Share

recieved: it's all in the bag

I know, I know... It's been a good couple of weeks since I received my swap package from Amber and I haven't posted about it yet. But, I am on vacation now, so I should have some time to get some things on my ever-growing to-do list crossed off.

The swap is for the Malabrigo Swap Group on Ravelry. As I explained in my previous post, the theme for this round is It's All in the Bag--a project bag theme, where everything sent to the spoiler must fit inside a knitter's project bag. The only other rule is that only one skein of yarn can be sent. It was a secret swap, which means I had no idea who would be 'stalking' me and sending me a package. I was thoroughly surprised when I opened my box from Amber to find the best smelling, most wonderful OWL bag by Dancing Sheep!! The colors are perfect and it’s so absolutely cute! I LOVE IT!

The skein of Malabrigo is to DIE for! It is worsted in Sauterne--and it’s perfect! I love the bright color! I have lovely plans for this yarn!

I also got this beautiful shawl pin made from reclaimed wood (I love that idea!):

Amber also included notions out the wazoo: post-it flags for pattern tracking as well as some cute ‘s’ post-its, a pair of AWESOME folding mini-scissors, stitch markers, unscented SOAK (which is a gentle wool wash), and T-pins for blocking my knitting! And she gave me Mad-Libs!!! I love Mad-Libs! Eva and I did the first two puzzles over breakfast the morning after my package arrived, and we have done a few since then!

She also got me a lovely one-of-a kind sheep mug made by a local Mariland artist! I have already enjoyed countless cups of hot tea in it! This mug is already my new favorite! And, I’m sure you’re asking what made the package smell so good, right? It’s the soaps from a local soapmaker (you’re right, Amber, they are heavenly!) and a beautiful embroidered sachet filled with dried lavender! Add some Burt’s Bees Lip Balm and some yummy dark chocolate-hazelnut and I’m set!

And on the CD were the patterns, Maddox the Mischievous Monster and In Threes--A Baby Cardigan. Here is a picture of all of this awesomeness together:

I am surprised Amber got all of this wonderful loot in one tiny little project bag! Amber is the best! This was such a kind, thoughtful, and generous gift. Everything is so…me!! I am beyond giddy with how awesome this package is! My thanks go out to Amber for all the heart you put into the package!

Friday, May 28, 2010

spring swap

I have been so busy this month with crafts and Eva finishing up with school that I have not had time to update my blog and post pictures of the most recent swaps!

This is the package that I sent my partner, Lila, who sent me all the goodies before.

In the package, I included several fun things--two knit cotton cloths, two skeins of yarn, a box of beautiful notecards, a teeny wind chime, a lovely flower fashion pin, and, most wonderful of all, a little drawstring project bag for her knitting! Here's a close-up:

I love the lining! The bag is the perfect size for knitting socks or cloths or other small projects. I hope Lila puts it to good use!

Friday, May 14, 2010

my spring swap package from lila

My swap package from Lila arrived yesterday! This swap is a spring theme. Everything she chose for me is wonderful!
Lila sent me: two hand knit lacy cloths in beautiful spring colors, two lovely kitchen towels, a photo album with daisies on it, a skein of Peaches & Creme in a nice spring green, a package of little flowery binder clips (which will come in very handy!), a pouch of peppermints with a little rose tin, and a pack of notecards that I will put to good use right away.

Here is a photo of the beautiful cloths:

And a picture of all the wonderful loot:

Many, many thanks to Lila! I especially love the binder clips and the little tin! What a thoughtful package!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

swap: it's all in the bag

At the beginning of April, I signed up for my first swap with the Malabrigo Swap Group on Ravelry. This swap is by far the most in-depth swap I have participated in yet. The theme for this round is It's All in the Bag--a project bag theme, where everything sent to the spoiler must fit inside a knitter's project bag. The only other rule is that only one skein of yarn can be sent. We had up to six weeks of planning and making and stalking our secret partners. My secret swap partner particularly likes cool colors, including blues and purples. She also likes pinups and cutesy animals. I sent her package out on May 10th.

And after two days of suspense, she has finally received my very special package. The project bag is from Funtific on Etsy. This cotton bag, which has a lovely girly print, is about 9" x 10" and has a drawstring closure and a nice long handle for easy carrying:

I chose this particular seller and her bag design because she makes the most fantastic pockets on the inside. This bag has two large pockets and four small pockets, as the photo shows:

Even though the bag is so tiny, I sure did surprisingly fit a lot of loot inside! Here's what I included in the package:

Along with the project bag, I started with the necessity: a skein of Malabrigo Worsted in Oceanos. I also included two sets of bamboo double pointed needles in US 9 and US 5, a little red tape measure, samples of SOAK Wool Wash in three scents--citris, flora and aquae, and a box of beautiful art deco notecards from Erte. And what pinup-loving knitter would not want a copy of the fun and sexy book Naughty Needles by Nikol Lohr? A copy came into work, so I snatched that up right away, too!

Those items were what I considered the basics of the project bag. Once I fulfilled those items, I scoured my partner's Etsy favorites for ideas of more creative, personal things she may like. I purchased a nifty little pinup girl pill box from sweetheartsinner and filled it with large and extra large stitch markers. The pillbox reads "I get totally drunk. What's your hobby?":

My partner also wanted a shawl pin. I was running out of budget at this point, so I decided to make a couple of stick pins with beading supplies I already had on hand. I know they are not all that fancy and maybe not quite what she wanted, but they are cute and I hope she will get plenty of use out of them anyway. The pin on the left is made with cloisonne beads and gold accents and the pin on the right is made with glass beads and silver accents:

And what knitting bag is complete without a notions bag? Like I said, I was running out of budget, so I turned to my craft corner for yet another handmade project. I have been drooling over the yarn bags and notions pouches from the wonderfully creative PopsieDaisy’s for ages now, and I was stoked when my partner said she liked her stuff too! But, by the time I had found that out, I had already used up most of my budget. Soooo, I made a lovely little owl notions pouch of my own design (view my pouch tutorial for more details):

I had wanted to include a snack for her to enjoy, but to be honest, there just was not nearly enough room, so I popped in three Stash Black and Green Earl Gray tea bags!

I really hope my secret spoilee enjoyed this swap as much as I did, and I hope she loves everything that I picked out for her! I really did have a blast stalking her. I tried to put together things she might enjoy and at the same time picking things I would love to receive, too--does that make sense? And the best (or worst!) part was the suspense from when I shipped the package until when she received it--that was unbelievable torture! Hopefully I will have the opportunity to do another Malabrigo swap again!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

owly pouch

For the Malabrigo swap, the lady I was stalking wanted a notions pouch for her project bag. Since some of the things on her Etsy favorites were of an owl theme, I though I would make my own little version of a zipper pouch specifically for her! This is what I came up with:

I think it's very cute! This is what I did: I cut out two identical pieces of felt for the bag itself, one in light blue and one in darker blue; then I cut a strip out of the center of the felt to fit a four inch zipper. I pinned the outside of the bag (darker blue felt) to the zipper, then carefully put the second piece of felt (light blue) on top of the dark piece as a liner, lining up the edges. I then pinned the two layers together along the zipper. Lining up the zipper really was the most difficult part of the project. Before I started sewing the zipper to the inner and outer liner, I made sure the zipper slid back and forth as it was pinned. I started stitching the zipper using a neat straight stitch, making sure the stitches were evenly spaced from the zipper all the way around.

After finishing the zipper, I made my cutesy owl applique and sewed that to the outer layer of the pouch. Then I did a blanket stitch around the outside, sewing the four layers (the liner and the outer fabric) together. After everything was done and in pouch form, I decided that I should add something else to counter the owl, so I put on the moon, albeit somewhat sloppily. But, all in all, it turned out very cute! I almost wanted to keep it for myself! I just hope she likes it and gets much use out of it!

If you choose to make your own version of this little owl pouch, please leave a link to your blog or photo so I can admire your creativity! I would love to see what you come up with!

Bookmark and Share

babies everywhere!

It seems like 2010 is the year of pregnancies! Babies are popping up everywhere this year and they are keeping my knitting needles very busy these days as I hurry to keep up with all the baby showers and new arrivals. I started my baby knitting escapade back in January with the little Aviatrix hat, which I sent to my friends James and Beth for their little boy.

Last month I knit up another hat. I modified the Djevellue baby cap for larger needles and bulkier yarn. I used Malabrigo Worsted (one of my favorites). All in all, it turned out to be a very fast knit. To adjust for a bulkier yarn, I cast on 73 st on size US 8 needles and I knit 10 between the inc/decreases. It should fit a 9-12 month old. Have a look (project 39/52):

Next, I knit an itty-bitty pair of sockees for little toes. I just downsized a basic simple sock pattern to fit tiny feet in a green sock yarn. Cute cute cute! Project 38/52:

Next up, I made a matching bib-burp cloth set using Lily Sugar'n Cream cotton yarn and Baby Bib'O Love pattern from Mason-Dixon Knitting. Their patterns are so completely versatile! I added a girly ruffle from one of Nicky Epstein's books for the bottom to add a little pizazz. Esme chose red as the color choice (no surprise there!). Project 37/52:

Next, I knit a little Bunny Lovey. I used Lion Brand's Bunny Blanket Buddy as a basis for the pattern, but I changed a few aspects to that hopefully make it altogether more cutesy. I used Lily Sugar'n Cream cotton and shrunk the needle size down significantly. The pattern is very unclear in a few spots, especially about the head. As you knit, the instructions to purl one, slip one for every row actually shapes a pocket on the straight needles. You will essentially be knitting both sides of the pocket at the same time and will be able to stuff the head after you knit the approximate 3-and-something inches.

I gathered the top and bottom of the head to make it round rather than flat. And like a lot of others who knit this bunny, I wasn’t crazy about the ears. Instead, I used the tutorial for the ears from this site as a basis, though, to make the ears more floppy, I decreased on one end every four rows.

I still need to embroider a face on the bunny, but I completely shrunk this pattern down for an infant to be able to manage as a lovey/teether combo. I am very happy with the way this turned out even though I altered the pattern so much. Project 36/52:

I loved the Bunny Lovey so much that I decided to do a second one to give my cousin for her baby shower. This time, though, I followed the directions on the second site for the ears. Project 35/52:

And I loved how Eva packed it all up with a blue ribbon around his neck, and blue and brown tissue paper in a blue Chinese take-out box:

I just finished another bib, the Petal Bib from One Skein. I have to remember that it is a very quick project for a super last minute baby gift. I wasn’t expecting that it would go so quickly. It really only took me about two hours from start to finish to make the one bib. I will be giving this bib with a small breastfeeding care package--lanolin, two pairs of nursing pads and a copy of So That’s What They’re For! Project 34/52:

These baby projects have been so much fun and really pretty fast knits. Next up, I am working on a pair of baby booties to use up some of my left-over sock yarn. I think I will also try my hand at writing my own bib pattern--I have a few ideas that I would love to share with others!

Monday, May 10, 2010

my mother's day 2010

My mother's day was absolutely beautiful! I woke up at 7:30 to a quiet house, a brisk 45 degrees outside and a hound dog snuggled behind my knees. My mother in law surprised me by sending a beautiful card and several photos of me and the girls over the last year, which my hubby left for me to find on the dining room table! Lovely! Here is one of the wonderful pictures:

We hurried to get ready for brunch with my parents and my brother and his girlfriend at Golden Corral, my mom's choice. It was unbelievably busy and we got there with only a few minutes before 11:00, right as they switched to their lunch buffet, which is a shame since it is a meat-lover's dream and not very vegetarian friendly. But it was of course nice to catch up with the family!

After brunch, I declared an official craft day. The girls made my mom's mother's day gift: they painted pots and planted flowers in them for her--Evelyn picked white petunias and Esme chose a red geranium. The girls also made lovely cards for my mom. Here they are, painting the pots:

 After the Mother's Day goodies were done, we started working on some crafts for our Mother and Child craft swap, which is turning out to be a lot of fun. I cannot say what we are doing now, but we will totally post pictures after they have been received by their partners! We also fired the new kiln for the first time--David glazed three bonsai trays--so we will see how that goes.

Once we cleaned up our craft mess, we made Boca brats and fries for a special picnic dinner and worked in the garden a little. Finally, I took the girls over to see my parents and give my mom her gifts, which were very well received! All in all, it was a wonderful day!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

april swap

Well, I was a little late getting my April Lady of the Month swap package out, but the recipient received it on Monday. This month was a little easier just because the Lady gave a few more ideas to what she really likes, including sci-fi themes, shows, and books, as well as games and puzzles. I had a lot of fun knitting the cloths for this month, too! Here's the swap package in its entirety:

In the package, I included two knit washcloths: a colorful flower cloth and a blue and red striped cloth; a bar of handmade lavender-scented soap; two books, one on Sci-Fi trivia and one Sudoku; a little bookmark; and two skeins of Lily Sugar’n Cream cotton yarn. I am in love with both cloths! These are two of my very favorites and I hope they are well received!

I used the pattern Reverse-Bloom Flower Washcloth by Cindy Taylor from one of my all-time favorite pattern books, Weekend Knitting. This project was a lot of fun and I will totally make another one sometime! I made a few alterations to the pattern in order to make the center of the flower stand out more. This project was pretty much a stash buster; I used up some of my cotton scraps to make a lovely flower.

The second cloth I included was an ultra-simple garter-like striped cloth. I used the pattern Chinese Waves Cloth, which worked up far slower than I anticipated, but it is one of my favorite patterns. It is very clean-looking and lends itself well to adding stripes. As per the pattern, all slipped stitches were slipped purlwise, but the cloth knit up so loose that, when I knit this pattern again, I used smaller needles and slipped stitches knitwise to tighten things up a bit. I love using the vibrant red against that beautiful cornflower blue--it’s extremely striking.

The soap was another handmade concoction, lavender-scented and the sci-fi facts and trivia book really caught my eye. I love the artwork, and that was my main motivation for including it in the package.

This package is 40/52 for my 52 Project Challenge.