Friday, September 28, 2012

Fall Happenings

I can't believe it's been two weeks since I last blogged! Where has the time gone?

In typical fall fashion (for me, anyways), I have started baking all things pumpkin (click here to see all my pumpkin recipes). So far I have made pumpkin muffins and pumpkin pancakes. Next on my list, pumpkin bread and pumpkin cookies! (As a side note, I just realized that if you type the word "pumpkin" enough times, it starts to look really strange...)

My favorite, pumpkin cookies, shown here with white chocolate chips although I actually prefer them with chocolate chunks or semi-sweet chocolate chips:

Earlier this week, the kids and I decorated the house for fall. I love putting out my pretty leaf garlands and pumpkins (there's that word again, what a weird word...). Every year the kids can help a little more, and this year Nathan remembered that last year we had strung orange lights in the kids' bedrooms. So of course we had to do it again! The fun thing is that no matter how uneven you string them and how tacky it looks during the day, at night it looks truly magical. It's turning into a fun little tradition for us. Right after Thanksgiving the orange lights will come down and the Christmas lights will go up!

One of the decorations we put up was this candle surrounded by pretty leaves. Nothing spectacular and original but I show the picture so I can tell a funny, kind of scary story. After decorating and having lunch, I put my kids down for naps and decided to light the candle. It smelled so good and I was enjoying it. So when Hannah woke up I decided to keep it lit for a few more minutes because she was keeping her distance and I was in the kitchen within eyesight of her.

I was wiping down my counters when all of a sudden I look up and see Hannah holding a flaming leaf and saying "Mom, help! Fire!" She dropped it on the ground and I quickly grabbed my glass of water and doused it. Fortunately she was fine and the floor was not damaged, but that got my heart beating a little faster! I won't be leaving candles lit around the kids for a few more years at least!

This morning we visited a nearby orchard and had a blast picking apples, pears, and pumpkins. The apples are so delicious, I can not believe the difference between fresh picked apples and those that are found at the store. I am excited to try the pears and to make some pumpkin goodies out of fresh pumpkin instead of from the can. But first I need to try this apple recipe that my friend Hanna posted: Individual Apple Streusel Pies. Doesn't the picture look divine?

photo and recipe by Hanna @ bouffe e bambini
The leaves are starting to turn and we are going to have family pictures taken for the first time ever. Something special to celebrate our first fall in New England. I am so excited!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fudgy Peppermint Cookies

The weather has been beautiful this week, a little cooler and less humid. It is really starting to feel like fall. We enjoyed it by playing outside.

I taught a fun essential oils class at my house last night and served these delicious cookies. They were a hit! I adapted a recipe for basic double chocolate cookies that I found on

Fudgy Peppermint Cookies
printable recipe
yield: about 20 cookies
  • 1 cup + 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 drops dōTERRA Peppermint essential oil
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl stir together flour, salt, and baking soda. In a large bowl beat together butter, both sugars, eggs, vanilla, peppermint, and cocoa. Gradually stir flour mixture into butter mixture and mix until combined. Add chocolate chips and stir to distribute evenly.
For cookies: Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets and bake 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool a couple of minutes on the pan, then remove to foil or a cooling rack.

Please note that my online class has been moved to Tuesday this week! Anyone is welcome to attend, and you do not need a microphone or webcam to participate. Details below:

Homemade Cleaners and Spa Products (online)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

- online webinar: 9 PM EST (8 PM CST, 7 PM MST, 6 PM PST) 

We will learn how to make our own cleaners and spa products that are natural, organic and 100% safe and effective for even the smallest of users! I love being able to let my kids help me clean our house while knowing that the cleaners are non-toxic and will not harm their sensitive skin or eyes.

Each attendee, online or in person, will receive a copy of my homemade cleaners and spa products "recipe book" which includes tried and true instructions for:

*window cleaner
*all-purpose cleaner

*mopping solution

*toilet scrub

*laundry detergent

*lip balm

*bath salts

*sugar scrub

*and more...



Thursday, September 13, 2012

My Boys

Nathan, September 2008, age 10 months (photos by Jana Graham Photography)

Notice how loose the clothing is! I never realized how much Nathan looks like his Uncle Dan in this picture.

Ray, September 2012, 8 months (photo courtesy of my iPhone, hence the huuuuuge difference in quality!)
Same outfit, two months younger but look how it barely fits him!

 My sweet boys!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sweet Baby Ray's Birth Story Part 3

This is the final chapter in the story of the birth of my third (and last) child, Stewart Raymond Kirkpatrick "Ray."

Sweet Baby Ray's Birth Story, Part 1

Sweet Baby Ray's Birth Story, Part 2

After several days in the hospital (only one night in ICU, the rest were on the regular postpartum floor), I was released to go home. One thing I have not mentioned up to this point was that Ray was born on January 12, and we were scheduled to move out of our home in Aurora, CO on January 30. The plan was that the movers would load up the van on the 30th and Jared would drive our minivan with our pets to Connecticut and wait for our furniture, while my mother-in-law and I drove the kids to Billings, MT in a rental car where we would stay with Jared's parents until Jared flew in a couple of weeks later to get us. Sound confusing and hectic? It was.

Thank goodness for my mom and Jared's mom. They were wonderful. I had worked hard in the weeks leading up to my due date to pack everything not being used on a daily basis and organize the remainder, but there was still so much to be done. Mom stayed an extra week to help with the kids and packing, then she left and Kelly came and picked up where she had left off. I was still pretty weak and couldn't do much besides hold the baby and direct traffic. It was an exhausting time, but they never complained and did everything they could to encourage and support us emotionally as well.

We also had the help of our friends who brought in meals and watched the kids so we could focus on packing. My heart is full when I think of all the wonderful people that helped us in that time, especially our moms. We would have been lost without them.

Finally we made it to Billings and were able to spend two weeks enjoying being with our families before we moved across the country. Again, we were blessed by the generosity of Jared's parents for hosting us and helping with the kids, and also his sister McKenna who was visiting and always willing to give me a hand with my kids even though she had her own sweet baby to care for as well.

About a week into our stay in Billings, I started to feel really ill. I went to a walk-in clinic in Billings where it was discovered that I had a staph infection in my incision, as well as mastitis. They put me on antibiotics but it would be several weeks and a couple of doctors visits in CT before my incision finally closed up.

Jared and the movers made it CT safely and were able to get our house set up. The house that we were supposed to rent in Hartford had fallen through just a few days before I had Ray, and Jared was not able to make another house-hunting trip due to everything that happened, so we signed the lease on this house based on only a few pictures. Fortunately, it is a beautiful home, in a lovely area of CT just ten minutes from awesome beaches. Once again, a huge blessing!

As we drove from the Hartford airport to our new home, I remember looking through the window at all the bare trees and feeling numb. The thought crossed my mind that Jared had no idea that he was bringing me out here broken. In the next couple of weeks, my emotions spiraled out of control to a dark place where they had never been before.

Jared was loving and attentive, but his new position required hours of extra work while he learned everything. He had to travel several days a week at first to meet all of his new reps, and when he was home he often had to go back to his home office after dinner and work until 9 PM, briefly emerging only to kiss Nathan and Hannah goodnight. In the meantime, Ray was very fussy. I don't know if it was colic or just him picking up on all of our stress, but he would often cry for no reason while I soothed and swaddled and shushed and rocked to no avail. The vacuum was the only thing that would consistently calm him, so for awhile the only thing clean in our house was the carpet.

One week at the end of February, Jared was gone for several days. I spent almost the entire time he was gone crying. I took care of all my kids needs and did my best to never let them see I was upset, but I could not stop the tears. I cried for the loss of my fertility, the memories of the physical pain, the misunderstandings with family members that had occurred (bound to happen after all the time we spent together I guess, but they had all been so kind and generous to me and I hated the thought that I had hurt them), the loss of my friends, and the isolation I felt on the other side of the country from my family.

I am sure hormones had a good deal to do with the emotional upheaval but I had never had even a hint of baby blues or postpartum depression with my first two children. In my mind a voice emerged, one of self doubt and defeat. It told me that the reason I had lost the ability to have children was that I was too impatient with the ones I already had, that I wasn't a good enough mother to have more children, that I shouldn't even have the ones I had already been given. There was a phrase I heard over and over in my head, that I was "fundamentally unlikeable" and that anyone who had ever gotten close enough to really know me, besides my husband, had realized this about me.

Even now, as I type these words, knowing that they are not true, I can not stop the tears from coming. It was tremendously painful and I will always have nothing but the deepest sympathy and love for anyone who has struggled with depression. If it is anything like what I experienced, it is crippling and consuming.

Thankfully, there was also a voice of reason and love, I believe the Holy Spirit, who comforted and reassured me. I knew that this was a bad time, but just a season; that I would come out the other side stronger and happier. I kept picturing my three children as teenagers and adults, I knew that as hard as life felt at that point, I had to persevere because I did not want to miss the wonderful opportunity to see them grow into the amazing people they will one day become.

Jared returned home from his trip one afternoon and I held it together until the kids were in bed. Then I told him, "While you were gone, I had a hard time," I think were my words. "I know," he said, then held me as I cried and told him everything.

That was a turning point for me. A couple of days later I started running for the first time, little by little, on the treadmill we had recently purchased. The endorphins from exercise, added to diffusing uplifting essential oils, eating right, and the loving support of my husband, gradually healed my heart and emotions. I still have sad moments, but the awful thoughts are gone, and I am able to enjoy all the wonderful things that life has to offer.

We believe that what happened after my birth was a combination of a large baby and possible placenta accreta, where the placenta penetrates into the muscle of the uterus instead of just attaching to the uterine wall. There was one indication for this possibility at my 20 week pregnancy ultrasound but because I had no risk factors for it, we declined follow-up testing. Kelly relayed what happened to me to a close friend of the family who is also a well-respected perinatologist and he told her that even if we would have known ahead of time, there is a good chance I still would have lost my uterus.

My family's story is still being written. Jared and I adore our three children and feel complete, at least for the time being. Although I do wish we were still able to have more kids, I know that there are many options and opportunities that have and will come along as a result of this experience. I am thankful for all that we have been given and that we are all still here to share this wonderful life together.

Thank you so much for reading, and for all the notes of love and support. I love all of you very much!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Are you crafty?

Are you crafty? I am not. I mean, I have sewn a couple of things in my life (most recently, burp cloths for baby Ray). And I do enjoy crocheting. But beyond that, any craft ideas that I ever have turn out terribly. That's okay though! The way I look at it, that's why Etsy was invented. I can buy all those cool crafty things that others make and pass them off as my own enjoy them.

Fortunately, I've had the pleasure of meeting some very crafty, talented ladies as we have moved around the country. One of those is my friend Rachel, who has a great blog called Family Ever After. It has been fun to watch her blog take off in the last few years, she has gotten so popular! I can see why, even though I am not crafty in the least, I still enjoy her blog.

I mention her blog today because Rachel is trying to win a contest for a living room makeover. Her post explaining why you should vote for her is hilarious, so head on over and check it out: Please and Plank You.

Do you like to craft? If so, what was your latest project?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Life is Beautiful

Just a short post to thank all of you who entered my giveaway! Congratulations to the winner: Michelle Wong! I will be contacting you shortly to get your address so I can send out your Introduction to Essential Oils Kit.

Here are a few pictures of our life lately:

Nathan and Ray

When Nathan wrote this he was very excited about a birthday party invitation from his friend Brandon. From the top it says: Netflix, play, pretend, books, read, 3, Brandon, invite

Hannah and Ray, she loves to "hold" him, even though he weighs about as much as she does!
Awhile ago I blogged about my resolution to involve my kids more in the kitchen. I have been following through with that decision and we have made waffles, muffins, and cookies together so far. Most recently we made Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies together.

It is fun how much more excited the kids are about dinner in general when they help prepare part of the meal.

I am thinking about making this salad for dinner tonight: Chicken and Pears over Arugula.

What are you making for dinner?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Last Call for Giveaway

Hi friends! Just a quick reminder that my giveaway ends tonight. Be sure to enter now if you haven't already!


Monday, September 3, 2012

Sweet Baby Ray's Birth Story, Part 2

To read the first part of this story, click here: Sweet Baby Ray's Birth Story, Part 1.

***Warning, this is a continuation of a childbirth experience in which things went wrong and medical interventions were required. A few medical procedures will be described and while I am not going out of my way to be graphic, some of this may not be particularly pleasant to read.

With each step towards the bed, blood gushed from between my legs. I knew it was a lot of blood, much more than there should have been. It truly hit home, however, when the midwife began asking the nurse to give me shots of pitocin and another drug to help my uterus contract and clamp down. I knew from previous conversations that the midwives only used pitocin if they had to, so it was obvious this was not routine.

The placenta came out with a couple of pushes but the bleeding would not stop. Jessica, my midwife, massaged my abdomen and called for an iv of pitocin to be started. Before long, a team of ob-gyns, residents, and nurses were called into the room to assist.

Meanwhile, Jared was across the room taking pictures of Ray being measured and weighed.

At this point the pictures end because Jared looked up, saw the blood, and rushed back to be with me. We would not take another picture that day. At some point the nurse called that Ray was 9 lb, 9 oz and I remember saying something like "That's ridiculous!" in disbelief that he could be so huge.

The bleeding continued, and it was decided that one of the doctors would perform a "manual exploration of the uterus" which basically involves the obstetrician reaching her hand inside and scraping any remaining clots out of the uterus with her finger. If this sounds painful, I can assure you it is! Most women who undergo this procedure are fairly numb at this point from an epidural, but I had received no pain meds up to this point. An iv with pitocin had been started and narcotics were added to this as well. It took a few minutes for them to kick in, however, and I remember Jared crying with me as he held my hand and tried to help me through the agonizing pain.

Somewhere during the manual exploration process, a very stern young Eastern European doctor (we would later learn her name was Stefka and she was the Chief Resident) got in my face and told me I needed to be brave. I told her "I already was brave!" thinking "I just gave birth to an almost 10 lb baby without pain meds, it's supposed to be over." Her response was, "Well, unfortunately it's not over, you can do this."

They performed the "manual exploration" a couple of times and removed at least one clot to my knowledge. An ultrasound machine was brought in so they could look and see if there was anything else in the uterus causing the bleeding.

After awhile the bleeding slowed and the room calmed down. I was lying in pools of blood and had blood crusted to almost every part of my lower body. The nurses tried to clean me up as best they could and I was able to nurse my baby and be fed bites of an omelet by Jared. I also called my mom and told her a little of what happened. She was at our house caring for Nathan and Hannah and it was so reassuring to know that in the middle of our crisis they were in good hands with Nana.

At this point, due to a combination of the blood loss and narcotics I suppose, I felt like I was in a fog. Usually right after I have a baby, the rush of adrenaline and oxytocin makes me feel very energized and excited. With Nathan and Hannah, I couldn't sleep for hours afterwards and just laid awake and stared at my beautiful new baby while Jared and the baby slept.

This time was different. Although I was thrilled about my sweet new baby, I felt very lethargic and kept thinking "I just want to sleep, I'm so tired."

The attending obstetrician came in with my midwife Jessica and talked about what had happened. The doctor attributed the bleeding problems to the size of my baby and told me I just shouldn't have any more kids because they would continue to get bigger. (My other two were 8 lb 14 oz, and 8 lb 4 oz). "Well, we'll have at least one more," I said. She replied that hopefully it would be a girl since girls are generally smaller. At this point it was unfathomable to me that we would stop at 3 kids, this had never been an option to us. We had originally wanted 6 kids although during my pregnancy with Ray we had started leaning more towards 4.

Every time I shifted in bed, blood would gush out again. I was lying on chux pads and soaking them every few minutes. The nurses would massage my uterus every 10 minutes and the bleeding would stop, only to start again a minute or two later. The nurses started weighing the pads to try determine how much blood had been lost. It was not looking good, so a blood draw was ordered. We were told that depending on how it looked, a spinal may have to be administered and a D&C performed.

Jared and I were left alone for a minute and he asked me if I wanted him to give me a blessing. I agreed, but he was only a sentence into the prayer before the doctors were back in the room. He started to ask for a minute alone but we could see in their eyes that things were urgent.

My blood work had come back even worse than had been feared. We learned later that my hemoglobin was 3.8 (normal for an adult woman is between 12 and 16) and my hematocrit was 13 (normal is between 38 and 46). Instead of a spinal, I would be placed under general anasthesia. And if the D&C didn't work, a hysterectomy would be performed. What a shock to be told as a 27 year old who has always been perfectly healthy and had textbook periods and pregnancies that you may have to undergo such a drastic surgery! But there was no time to process this. As I was rushed off to surgery I barely had time to kiss my husband goodbye. "I love you. It will be okay," I told him.

It is strange what that amount of blood loss does to your brain (when all was said and done I was told I lost 3.5 liters of blood total). By the time I was put under, I knew there was a chance I might die and I was strangely at peace with it. I felt bad for Jared knowing that he was waiting outside the operating room, worried sick, but for myself I knew that whatever happened, I would be asleep. And at that point, that was all I wanted. Sleep.

Several hours later I woke up, still in the operating room. Everyone seemed so happy to see me awake! "You're husband and baby are right outside!" they told me. "They're waiting to see you!" My lower abdomen felt like it was on fire.

"I hurt," was my response. I knew the pain was a bad sign, but no one had told me what had happened yet.

I was wheeled out into the hall and there were Jared and Ray. I'm sure Jared said something sweet to me but all I could say was "I hurt." They continued to wheel me down the hall and we got in an elevator. The nurse who had been my nurse since we arrived at the hospital that morning was with me. "Do you know where you are?" she asked me.

"Yes, I just came out of surgery," I said. I hesitated, not sure I wanted to hear the answer, "Did I have a hysterectomy?"

"Yes," she said. Then, "I'm sorry," as I began to cry.

I was taken to what they called the PACU for post-op care. In my memory it was a long room with lots of beds with people in them looking half-alive and hooked up to lots of beeping machines. I am sure I fit right in with all of them. I kept telling the nurses that I hurt and they sent for a pump for pain meds (morphine I think, but I am not sure). It seemed like it took forever for them to get it, and I could not understand why they would not have had it ready, knowing I would be in pain after surgery. Looking back, I realize I probably had received plenty of pain medication already, and I can not imagine how horrible I would have been feeling otherwise!

My midwife, Jessica, came to see me in a few minutes. She was such a sweet, reassuring presence. Jessica told me that Jared had been outside the operating room holding Ray the entire surgery. Since he could not come into the PACU, he had gone home briefly to visit Nathan and Hannah and make sure my mom had everything she needed for the night. Soon I would be transferred to ICU and Jared could see me there.

Then Jessica told me about the surgery. What happened was described to me in detail several times by Jessica, Stefka the Chief Resident, and the attending physician. This is what I was told:

After they had put me under, the doctors had tried the manual exploration procedure again. When that failed to control the bleeding, they performed a D&C. The bleeding continued and they attempted to place a balloon catheter into the uterus to control the bleeding. This also failed and the decision was made to cut me open to see if they could figure out what was going on. A stitch was placed on the outside of the uterus to try to force it to clamp down. Once again it failed and at this point they were running out of time. Stefka told me, "At this point, we had to perform the hysterectomy to save your life." Jessica and both doctors all told me that they knew how much I wanted to have more kids, and so they tried everything they could to avoid the hysterectomy. I received 9 units of blood total and 2 units of plasma. We are so thankful for blood donors!

Before long, one of the nurses told Jessica that she should leave me so I could rest. I really wished she could have stayed, she was such a comforting person. After awhile I was taken to the Burn ICU (I guess because the regular ICU was full). I had my pain pump at this point and was pushing the button as often as I could and starting to feel slightly better although I was hooked up to all kinds of contraptions.

Jared came into the room and immediately started crying, I think from relief to see me alive. I have always felt that we had a good marriage, but the events of that day bound us closer together than ever.

Jared asked if I wanted to see the baby and I said "Yes!!!" just thinking he meant a picture. But he had talked to the baby nurses and they had agreed to bring Ray down, which was so kind because the maternity/postpartum ward was nowhere near the Burn ICU.

When they brought him in, he was so sweet. They helped me hold him and his nurse even did some checking and found out that I could nurse him. I had been really nervous about this because I have always breastfed my babies for a year each, and I did not want to get off on the wrong foot by giving him bottles the first couple of days because I was on meds. But the doctors said I was fine to nurse him, and we got started right away.

I wish that I could remember the name of Ray's nurse that night. She was an angel. She set Jared and Ray up with their own room on the postpartum floor so Jared could sleep and tend to the baby in between feedings. Every 3 hours she brought Ray down to me and helped me feed him (not an easy thing for me to do with two ivs in one arm, one in the other, an O2 moniter on one finger, and a blood pressure cuff on one arm as well). Each feeding took 30-40 minutes, but she never complained that she had other things to do. I am so grateful for her efforts.

That was a hard night. I slept fitfully, about ten minutes at a time, always awakened by the pain, or by a machine beeping, or the blood pressure cuff inflating periodically. When I would wake up, I would be disoriented then I would remember everything that had happened. Pain and grief would wash over me, then I would look at the clock and think "In 1 more hour, I will get to see my baby again," and it would be okay. When I held Ray, I didn't feel the physical pain anymore. It was impossible to feel sad while holding such a precious, new baby boy.

I knew how blessed I was to be alive and to have the opportunity to raise my three beautiful children with my husband by my side. I felt God's presence with me that night, and I knew I was not alone. He showed me His love by providing comfort to me in one of my hardest times, and I am so thankful for that.

To be continued...

Sweet Baby Ray's Birth Story Part 3