Let’s Talk About Breast, Baby…

… let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be; let’s talk about BREAST

milk, that is.

If you haven’t heard, I’ve had my sixth baby. She’s about to be six months old in a few weeks.

Well, I’m ashamed to say that with my sixth, I’ve finally learned the ins and outs of breastfeeding.

How can that be, you ask? Well, no one ever told me some of the things one would need to know in order to successfully feed from the breast.

That’s right! I took lamaze, and child care classes with my first; they didn’t tell me.

I had a lactation consultant in the hospital and they didn’t tell me.

Obstetricians, pediatricians, nurses, midwives… no one told me!!!!

They were all so concerned with the latch and supply at birth (two things I thankfully never had any issues with), not what happens 4-6 months down the road.

Finally with my sixth, I was determined to make breastfeeding past 6 months successful (it wasn’t with the others) and so when I registered for my insurance they asked,

“Are you expecting?”

“Yes!” I replied.

“Would you like a free breast-pump?”

I figured if feeding the baby myself wasn’t going to last, maybe pumping would at least keep her drinking my milk, so I accepted.

A few days after my baby was born, with an abundance of milk, I tried out the pump.

I read the manual cover to cover and learned something that probably would have kept my first five daughters on the breast a lot longer.

You have to prime the nipple!!!!!!

I never knew that the baby needed to suckle for up to two minutes before the milk would flow, all of my babies would reach the four-five month mark and fuss every time I tried to nurse them. Only a few seconds of getting them to the breast and they would wriggle and squirm and cry, cry, cry.

Apparently, I assumed the milk would flow like it did for the first few months…just pour out of me with or without the baby, but, girl was I wrong!

Your body and hormones change. The milk supply regulates according to the baby’s needs. If the baby doesn’t eat it, it won’t come. (the opposite of the field of dreams)

So, learning this vital tidbit of nursing information, I know to have patience with my little one right now. Instead of giving in to her fussiness and handing her a bottle like I did five times before, I soothe her and sing to her and stroke her bald head while she fusses for two minutes, the time it takes for the milk to flow, and then I hear it; the soft sound of swallowing; she’s got milk.

 

***This is a hot-button topic among moms nowadays getting into the #mommywars but just to be clear on my position:

FED IS BEST no matter bottle or breast!

It’s just my personal preference to nurse my babies.

Maybe in another post I’ll go into all the reasons behind my preference but today is not that day.

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I Can’t Homeschool: I Need ‘ME’ Time

Always nice to be reminded of the importance of taking time for ourselves. Too often we caught up in the mundane tasks of everyday life…

A Homeschool Mom

i_cant_homeschoolHomeschooling can seem like a daunting journey, especially for those who are new to the concept. We are unsure of where to start, overwhelmed by the notion of taking on our children’s education, and feel as if we are not enough. May we offer encouragement for families unsure of the adventure called homeschooling.

…..

Our day starts pretty early. From the minute I get out of the shower, till the minute my kids’ heads hit their pillows, I am on my toes. There are days I feel like I’m rushing from one activity to the next, constantly feeding hungry mouths, cleaning up endless messes, and running a myriad of errands. If I’m not careful, I can easily run myself into the ground. Taking personal time is not only recommended, it’s a must.

One of the arguments often heard against homeschooling is the lack of personal time afforded parents. With kids in…

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NPS FREE ENTRY WEEKEND

 

We are hitting the road again!

Just for the weekend and not too far from home but the sunshine is calling our names.

Urgency to get out there arises from our National Park System’s Free Admission Days; April 18 and 19 is opening weekend for our nation’s most treasured places, and entry fees, although regularly minimal, are waived!

“If it’s FREE, it’s for me!”

I urge you to get up and get out there to visit and support our parks because if we don’t, future generations are at risk of losing these historic and beautiful gems.

The park system relies heavily on visitor contributions and support so we’ll be donating in spite of our waived fees.

If not for the parks, our big trip last summer would not have been as enriching as it was. My patriotic duty is to spread the love I feel for those memories with my readers (if I have any).

When you hear National Park, you may think Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore but you’ll be surprised to find many right in your own back yard.

Here is the list of participating parks who waive their entrance fees.

Be sure to browse around the nps.gov website for information, trip ideas and web-based ranger programs.

Also, follow along for posts from the road and don’t miss anything by subscribing!

Family on the Road: Portraits

This gallery contains 24 photos.

Family Portrait Photo Album 2014 Thanks to our tripod, a few strangers and my long arm we collected a family portrait from all our favorite places along our 8,000 mile trip. Enjoy!

Our Last Leg

It has taken me months to finish posting about our trip from last summer. I’ve been inundated with life. My apologies. Without further adieu, here it is, Our Last Leg!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014 Day 51

After first learning about Mt. Rushmore and the four most influential presidents of our country, Juniper took a strong interest in Abraham Lincoln. It was crucial to learn more.

We were ecstatic to find out Abe’s boyhood home and birthplace was on our way and part of our National Park System. Most americans don’t know he was born in Kentucky, with Illinois being nicknamed “The Land of Lincoln.” We spent today learning about his family, their struggles on the frontier, and how he acquired some of his many nicknames. We visited the farm he was born at with his actual cabin on display. We learned about his life and death and with all our new knowledge and another badge, we continued through Kentucky.

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We made it to the place where Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia meet and tried to acquire some geocaches. While Darryl fed the girls dinner, I went on a mighty hunt but did not succeed until my fourth attempt.

Feeling some time was waisted, we moved on as far as we could with the PA air so close Darryl kept it moving and stopped just before our home state line.

Thursday, October 2 Day 52

This trip has been more amazing than I dreamed it would be. I would do it again in a heartbeat but home is calling our names.

The last leg is bittersweet as Darryl and I are anxious to get home, Ash expresses her want to “see more places.”

“I don’t want to go home,” she pleads.

Ironically she was the first to mention going home way back on day 20, now after this grand adventure she didn’t want it to end. Who could blame her?

That one statement from my three-year-old made these 8,000 miles, 52 days, 22 states, all the trouble, hassle, heartache, pleasure, fun, sweat, tears, laughter, learning, vomit, diarrhea, vet bills, junior ranger badges, pictures, souvenirs, and MEMORIES all worth it, in those sweet three-year-old words.

“I don’t want to go home; I want to see more places.”

Well, the beautiful thing is we will see more places. After we recharge our batteries, fix all the kinks with our rig, and get through the holidays; we will get that eminent itch and we will go on the road again.

Rest area round of duck-duck-goose:

We made it home in record time with little stops and breaking our travel guidelines; Darryl drove over 500 miles today!

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We were home in our beds by 8:00pm and it never felt so good to stand in my shower ( I think I was in there for over 45 minutes) and flop into my bed and stretch out; it was heaven!

Life Lessons from the Road

Simple living means more memories.

Family bonds grow stronger when you can’t escape each other.

More space means more clutter.

Experiencing life first hand is nourishing to the soul, more so than reading about it in a book or watching it on TV. Without the space, clutter and TV, our lives were spent exploring, singing, talking, DOing.

Time saved from cleaning a smaller space was spent on more enjoyable adventures.

Go with the flow.

Think positive. If you encounter stormy weather, keep moving. Tomorrow is a new day.

No, My Hands are NOT Full!!! An Open Letter to the Old Lady at the Bank

Yes, They are all mine and no my hands are NOT full

Well, maybe they are sometimes full of peanut butter or soft baby hair going into a ponytail, or they are full of love for my kids as I hug them tight…

An open letter to the strange man at the park or cashier at the supermarket, the old lady in the bank:

My hands are NOT as full as you suggest because to be so, then by what you are implying is that my kids are a burden when in fact they are a blessing, thank you very much…

My response to the unwarranted comments we receive:

“You’ve got YOUR hands full” The only thing my hands are full of is blessings!

“Five girls…that’s a lot of weddings.” And a lot of funerals… you’re point?

“I feel bad for you when they get their monthly (really)” I don’t even know what to say to this appalling rude personal invasion.

“Are they all yours?” No, I picked up a few strays at the park. (I know some people babysit and such but it can be in an offensive tone like asking a pregnant woman if it’s twins because in your eyes she is huge!)

Well, I know this all sounds like I’m angry but truth be written, I’m not. In fact I’m quite content with my little piece of heaven on earth and to be completely honest, I pity those that feel the need to make such remarks. It tells me they never had the joy of feeling what I feel because if they did, they would be smiling or telling me how lucky I am(which I have had my fair share of joyful commenters to prove this point). I also find that most of the people telling me how full my hands are never had any children of their own. How would they even know?!

Anyway, next time you are in the supermarket or bank or wherever and you see a mother or father with a gaggle of kids please bite your tongue unless to offer some normal conversation without judging a parent just living their hectic life. We don’t have all day to parade around answering to strangers about our choice of contraception or in my case, lack thereof.

Thank you!

Schooling At Home: Unusual learning

We love our little home school!

I’m not about to preach and boast my kids’ test scores or reading levels.

I’m not about to try to lure you’re public-school-going-kids over to the dark side.

I’m about to share some of our unique ways of incorporating learning in our everyday lives.

These ideas are suitable for home school, unschool or to support their public school education at home, and let me know what you think!

Within These Walls:

Your home, whether you realize it or not, is full of free educational resources. The key to a well-rounded education doesn’t exclusively mean reading, writing and arithmetic. Sending your kids out into the world without common life skills is, in my opinion, worse than not teaching them to read. We all need to be able to manage money, prepare a meal or fold laundry. So, LET THEM HELP!

I know, it’s easier to brush them off and faster to do it yourself, but you’re not doing anyone any favors. Loving them is letting them do.

In the Kitchen

Math and reading tools:

Cookbooks and measuring cups support reading, calculating, understanding fractions and the process of following instructions.

Science:

Achieving a meal using ingredients is like performing experiments and learning science. Try a recipe that calls for baking powder twice, once with the baking powder and once without. Have your little one observe the difference and draw a conclusion.

You could simply boil a pot of water and watch what happens.

Try this musical experiment:

Water glasses experiment

Need: Water and glasses

Instructions: fill glasses with different amounts of water.

Wet finger tip and run around mouth of glass.

Do the same for all glasses and hear the difference in sound.

Draw conclusions

The kitchen isn’t the only place to home school, we’ll get deeper into these walls in another post.

Out In The World

The Backyard

Observing wildlife is an intrinsic part of childhood. Any little person marvels at the site of a squirrel or bird. Encourage your child to follow the bird and see where it goes. Did it hop? Fly? Walk? Where is it going? To a tree? Nest? Water?

Walking down the sidewalk or road is helpful to teach nature, geography and social studies. Point out a mailbox and explain how sending a letter works. Then, send a letter to someone asking for a return letter. Who doesn’t love getting mail? (as long as it’s not a bill, of course)

Observing the weather, saying hi to the neighbor, watching the garbage truck and other neighborhood experiences are all opportunities for learning!

The Grocery Store

Choosing products by reading labels and observing nutritional value teaches comparison by value as well as price and healthy eating habits. Teaching that the unit price is a portion of the purchase price depending on size, weight or quantity is invaluable. I didn’t learn this trick until I had a family of my own and I save so much money keeping an eye on the unit.

Watching for deals and coupons helps emphasize the importance of not paying more than you need to and saving money. Money that your child may have earned at home doing chores and how to manage while shopping will definitely teach the value of the almighty dollar.

The Public Library

I have yet to come across a paid library as I’m sure they exist but your local free public library will have the obvious, books, but also magazines, movies, computers and internet, as well as forms publications and a plethora of information about homeschooling and education.

The World Wide Web

This blog is free! Along with many other blogs teeming with free lesson plans, printables and downloads. A simple internet search of the grade level and materials will provide days of learning and seat work (if that’s what you’re going for).

Many websites offer free ebooks in exchange for subscribing for emails or newsletters. *you can always unsubscribe after downloading your goodies. Then again, why would you, when you’ll risk missing out on future deals and promotions being offered?

A popular shopping website known for books and great deals has free ebooks for download to any mobile device. The application is also available for pc or apple download. Finding the free books can be time-consuming but that is where the free subscriptions come in; websites devoted to sharing home school deals have done the work for you, just check your inbox.

Sites that offer free products need to earn money to keep what’s free, free. So, it’s important to make a purchase now and again. Be sure to never pay full price and search for coupons as well as get rebates on your shopping by joining that website that pays you a percentage of your purchases, you know the one.

So obviously, this post only touches the tip of the iceberg of homeschooling resources. I have not included any affiliate links because i do not have permission to do so (a quick search will get you there), I’ve only listed the ones that we use regularly or know to be helpful. As alway, share your thoughts or add your own free resources in the comments.

 

I’m working on getting more out here about our schooling life and hope you’ll stick around! Don’t miss a post; subscribe for emails.

Mammoth Heeey Boo-Boo

September 29 Day 49

We woke up 14 miles from the Kentucky line and made our way into Mammoth Cave National Park just before lunch. We checked out the Visitor’s Center and bought our 3:30 cave tour tickets then ate lunch and while Papa Bear and our younger three daughters took rest, I brought Juniper and Lemon to the exhibits in the museum. We learned about the different rocks and how this cave system was formed by an underground river.

 

Upon waking we had about an hour to have a snack, use the restroom and finish our Ranger booklets before descending into the cave.

It was chilly walking down the 62 steps and once inside, our guide showed us into a big “room” where early settlers extracted minerals and used them to process and make gunpowder.

It was cool to see the 200-year-old equipment preserved in here like it was just used yesterday.

Our tour was more of a talk and less of a tour, we barely entered the Mammoth Cave system and then it was time to turn around and come back out.

We were left wanting more cave and less guide.

He did tell us about early cave explorers that died in the cave and because of the cave’s steadfast temperature and humidity, their bodies and artifacts did not decay they would mummify.

 

After our cave talk, we were walking back to the visitor center when one of our many fans…I mean a stranger approaches; comments how beautiful all our girls are, proceeds to count them, comment on my looks and hand each of our daughters a $2 dollar bill. Yep, another random encounter… a day in the life…

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Juniper and Lemon received their 10th Junior Ranger Badges. Then, we went to the gift shop for a postcard and souvenirs. While there, a friendly lady approached and we began talking. Before we knew it, it was 9pm and we were neighbors at a nearby campground exchanging phone numbers.

Some times things just click and this was no exception. Our commonalities linked us inexplicably. It’s eerie and weird that I felt like soul mates with this wonderful couple but fun and comforting to know them and their beautiful family.

It is funny how things work out because we didn’t much enjoy the cave but hope a long-lasting friendship arises from the ashes of the Mammoth Cave and the end of our trip.

Tuesday Sept. 30 Day 50 (holy cannoli… 50 days!)

Jellystone Campground is cute with Yogi Bear and all his friends. This particular place has a humongous trampoline-like-pillow that we all had an absolute blast bouncing around letting off steam. I did some laundry, the kids played at the playground and Darryl caught up on some work.

This slide show is a bit long but the joy is immeasurable!

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This break from the road is just what we all need to replenish our spirits enough for the final push(800+miles).

We’ll stay here and rest one more night and our last leg from Cave City, KY to our home in Pennsylvania will begin tomorrow.

 

 

Health Foodies Fishing

I’ve done some serious soul-searching… in it all I’ve begun overhauling everything in my world to create a happy, healthy stress-free existence. I’d love to be able to share it all with you but I respect you, reader, enough not to leave you floating at the balloon museum…so I’m not giving up. I’ll take you home with us. Then, when I’ve worked all the “other stuff” out, you can try it with me and see if you, too can get happy, healthy and stress-free. If you want.

Wednesday September 24 Day 44

On our way out of the park we went for a walk for a geocache. We met fellow northeasterners and chit-chatted about RV’ing. The heat of the day hit us fast, so we were back on the road in no time.

Another long day of driving and we entered TX and strived for Amarillo. Darryl was craving steak dinner and without Costco or healthy edible options in the grocery store we had dwindled our supplies of snacks and easy meals so we were all craving something other than carrots, macaroni or cheese sandwiches.

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We spent the night in Amarillo and made a point to get grocery shopping as soon as possible.

Thursday, September 25 Day 45

These days of straight driving are long but go by quick. They’re also running together in my mind making it difficult to recount for journalling’s sake.

Into Oklahoma and it’s a “drag-our-feet” kind of day the girls alternated playing with their dolls, singing songs, coloring-workbooks and snacks…lots of snacks. Days like today i pump ’em full of snacks hoping they won’t notice we’ve been riding more than not, lately.

A visitor’s center packed with pamphlets, maps and books proved our suspicions 100’s of miles of nothing; well that’s not entirely true and if you are a Oklahoman, I’m deeply sorry to offend.

Even the friendly volunteer had little to offer besides obvious water parks in Oklahoma City. (not our cup of tea)

We like to go off the beaten path so we picked up the outdoor guide and found a state park close to the interstate with our must-haves, water and electric hook ups, a playground and a minimal camping fee. This park also offered a lake for fishing (something Lemon has asked to do).

It was perfect! Only it was on the other side of the state.

Friday September 26 Day 46

Our mission was to find a grocery store, of which we found…one.

We bought orange juice.

Everything in the store was sprayed with, made with or just chemicals in a box.

Not in line with how we eat and we were sad.

We thought maybe there is no demand for organic non-GMO gluten-free food in a small town grocery so we swallowed hard and ventured the nearby Walmart.

As we’re walking in we see about a dozen locals meandering either in or out and we had an observation: all but one of them was severely overweight.

Darryl and I discuss the cause for this and its a topic for another post, another day but i feel like shaking these sheep and yelling “Wake up! You’re dying a slow miserable death.”

Is it the water? Culture? T.V.? Technology? Education? Lack of options? Just plain stupidity?

EGH!

We picked up what little of “our” food we could find and chugged along across the state landing in Eufala Lake State Park just about lunch time. The girls played while Darryl and I got our fishing gear ready- Off he went with our little cherubs and I blogged while the 3 youngest of our brood slept. We cleaned up , they played, we ate dinner and after a game of bingo we all went to bed.

Awesome side note about Lake Eufala Park: The nature center was educational, fun and just really cool! With an amphibian house we entered a sweltering jungle-like atmosphere to see frogs all over. on the floor the ceiling the windows, we could literally reach out and touch them. The turtles were cute too swimming in the water feature. The main building had its moments as well, the touch table was the highlight but the girls wandered exploring and learning like crazy.

Some fun from today:

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Saturday September 27   Day 47

More fishing, cleaning house and bodies then into Arkansas we go. Rest time ended at a welcome center at the state line and another geocache found.

We walked around and stretched our legs before eating dinner at our favorite pastime, Panera Bread in Fort Smith.

Miles and miles and hours and hours to make it into Forest City, AR where we crashed. Not literally, figuratively we were exhausted!

This part of the trip is just as boring and miserable as I had agonized over it in Las Vegas.

We have the best kids in the world though, occupying themselves with card games, pretend play, Nintendo DS, watching movies quizzing each other in Math problems, reading stories, telling jokes and simply being sweet and silly.

I know riding down the road may sound miserable but we all had fun while looking forward to getting home.

Full of hot air

Tuesday September 23…. Day 43

New Mexico is warm at 7am. Lazily I went into the convenience store for coffee, juice and fruit. We ate breakfast and shuffled into the trading post just after they opened their doors.

The two-story gift shop was littered with wooden beams and indian artifacts mostly pottery and jewelry but the girls found these handmade dolls that are just darling and I fell in love with a turquoise ring with onyx inlay! As we wait for our purchases to be wrapped up, the sound of pounding metal is in the background. Oak and I follow the noise to see a lady pounding silver strips with a mallet. She’s preparing them for the craftsman to fashion them into earrings, necklaces or whatever their destiny.

It makes us feel good to support the locals and make it a constant decision not to purchase anything that isn’t home(USA) made.

The girls even know why we don’t, or hardly ever step foot in a Wal-Mart “China-crap”

We kept heading East on I-40 and into Albuquerque for a visit to the balloon museum.

This trip is filling up with fulfilling dreams. The trip in itself is my long time dream come true only my original version (quite askew) involved only me and a Volkswagen. Years later, more dreams piled up; like seeing the Redwoods and driving through a tree or walking along the Grand Canyon; riding a “duck” down the Wisconsin River or visiting Mount Rushmore.

If you’ve known me personally or been to my house you’ll see balloons- paintings, calendars, puzzles, sun catchers, garden wind spinny thingy. Hot Air Balloons Everywhere!

When Darryl and I officially got engaged, his proposal was accompanied by a gift certificate for a Hot Air Balloon Ride. In fact he expressed we would have been in a Hot Air Balloon for the proposal if life hadn’t gotten in the way, as it too often does.

See, at the time, Darryl was about to receive a corneal transplant and the altitude and pressure would put him in danger. So, we waited- then a year later we were married and a few short weeks after expecting Ash’s arrival.

needless to say we’ve been busy working, having babies, and just living our life.

Well, this day I didn’t ride in one but I learned a lot and we got to play with simulators, try ballooning experiments and see a ton of memorabilia. It was a very special place and the very next best thing to an actual Balloon ride. It’s the kind of day and place I will never forget!

After lunch, we worked our way almost clear across the state and into Santa Rosa.

I feel bad coming into towns like this-more empty lots, dim lights and boarded windows. A motel, gas station, bank and grocery store.

A grocery store with not more than five aisles. A grocery store with dusty cans and brown meat-meat that’s been frozen -thawed and relabeled because they just can’t throw out another piece of it. They’re about to go under holding onto a thread of beer sales and the ever popular rice and beans meal of the locals.

This town sits on historic Rt. 66. A town that’s flailing in this terrible economy and corporatacracy of Wal-Marts and interstates. I’m again reminded of Radiator Springs.

Towns once filled with life and lights are now dead and dim. Crippled.

So, what brought us here, you ask?

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While looking for a place to spend the night, we found a campground here in Santa Rosa Lake State Park. The fee is minimal and we managed full hookup with a great lake view.

It was quiet and peaceful with a playground where Darryl took the girls for a while so I blogged before we all showered and hit the hay.