Inniswood Gardens

Columbus has a wonderful Metro Park system. And Inniswood Gardens is one of my favorites. So when Owen was asking last week if we could go, I was more than happy to say yes! Inniswoods is a botanical gardens. There are no playgrounds, but still plenty for kids to do and see.

The boys ran ahead with Daddy,

while Aria and I came along at our own pace.

The first stop is always the water tower. There is a button on the back side that turns on the water for a couple of minutes. The boys play in the water and use plastic slats to direct the flow.

Another favorite is the tree house. It’s insanely cute, and the boys have a great time climbing up in it and running across the rope bridge behind it.Notice the biggest kid is having as much fun as the little ones.

This beautiful garden has a Native American creation story etched into the stone pathway. You follow the numbers around the garden and read the story as you go. It’s a beautiful story of how the wife of the Chief of the Skypeople fell through a hole in the sky to the water below, and the water creatures had to swim to the bottom of the ocean to bring up earth for her to stand on. The earth was placed on a turtles back so the woman could have a place to stand, and that became the whole world.

The gardens change with the seasons, so there is always something new to see. Today there were mums all over, and they were the most brilliant colors.

This is the knot hedge in the herb garden.

And there is lots of open space for rolling down hills.

And tons of interesting water features.

As a family, we love spending time with nature, and with each other.


Continuing Effort to Declutter

It’s official. The kids have too many toys. And with birthdays and Christmas fast approaching, I need to do something to remedy the situation ASAP! With one child in preschool this morning, I took the opportunity to tackle the toy corner. My problem is a combination of too many toys, and too many random parts that don’t really go to any particular toy, and too many wood puzzles, which the boys never play with. They just get dumped. I’m the only one who has put together a wood puzzle in the past 12 months. Here’s what I was dealing with this morning.

The weight of the books on the bookshelf had collapsed the top shelf. My kids idea of putting toys away is to stand at the far side of the room and heave toys with all of their might in the general direction of the toy shelves. In this kind of chaos they can’t find anything they want to play with, and sit around board while surrounded by toys. And this is only about 1/3 of all of the toys we own. With a plethora of loving and generous grandparents and great grandparents, these children will never want for something new to play with. But with a 900 sq ft apartment and 5 peoples things to store, I have to let some things go. Two hours, 1 trash bag, and 2 good will boxes later and we have this:

I still need to tackle the other 2/3 of our toys that are waiting rotation in the basement, but this makes such a huge difference in the livability of our living room. I love before/after photos and posts. What have you been working on?

Some Gratuitous Baby Pictures

Just because she’s so cute!!!

Aria Elizabeth’s Birth Story

Aria’s Birth Story: A lesson in relinquishing control

With Connor’s birth being so fast and furious, I was incredibly paranoid the whole last month of not recognizing labor in time and the midwife missing it entirely. I also had a lot of intuitive feelings which I did recognize as most likely wishful thinking about the baby arriving a little early (Owen was a week late, and Connor came on his due date). With Christmas fast approaching, the earlier this baby was born the more likely I’d feel up for attending family functions and Christmas activities.

I’d been contracting off and on for weeks, and had had my midwife and doula on high alert two or three times already. On Sunday evening, Dec 13th, I started having contractions again, about 10 minutes apart, for a couple of hours. Kathy, my midwife, told me to drink a glass of Gatorade, take a bath, and call her back if things changed at all. Well the bath calmed things down and I went to bed. I woke up at about 12:30 am with contractions 5 minutes apart, and pretty darn serious. I woke up Brad and had him make up the bed. I called Kathy, but she wasn’t convinced this was the real thing yet, and felt I was probably still doing some preparatory work. With Connor’s 3.5 hour birth seared in my memory, and Kathy living an hour away, I finally called her back at 2:00 and asked her to come. I also called Kim, my doula, who had woken up about 20 minutes earlier thinking about me and was waiting for my call. It was a beautiful night for the middle of December, and we walked around the apartment complex for a while, and sat on the birth ball for a while. When Kathy arrived she checked me and I was at a 3, but not very effaced and still firm. She still thought it might be early, but I was pretty convinced this was it. By 7:00am I was very tired, having gotten no sleep all night, and alternating sitting on the birth ball and walking around the apartment complex. Kathy suggested I try to lay down and if I was able to sleep at all, they would sneak out, and I should call them back if things started to pick up again. Disappointed, but very tired, I went to bed. I slept off and on for about two hours, when contractions started picking up again in intensity and frequency and I really couldn’t sleep. I got up around 9:00 and sat on the birth ball, reading online and timing contractions. By noon, I was again convinced that this was it, and called my birth team again.

Everyone came back. Kim had gone straight to work from my house that morning, so she had had no sleep at all, and Kathy had an hour drive home and about an hour and a half of sleep before heading back my way. After only 2ish hours of sleep myself, I was still tired, but wanted so badly to meet this baby. At about 2:30, Kathy checked me again, and I was still at a 3. 14 hours after calling her the first time, I had made zero progress. I was devastated. Kathy asked if I was able to let go of the idea of having this baby today. I nodded, and sniffled, and wiped some tears from my face. Kathy and Kim both said to go ahead and cry. It’s been hard work, and sometimes letting go and having a good cry can help things along. So I cried. Brad held me while I sobbed. I was embarrassed for having called everyone too early, and for not knowing real labor from prodromal even though it was my third baby and second natural birth. I was exhausted from the previous 14 hours of work that led to no progress, and I was so very disappointed that I was not moments away from holding my daughter like I thought I should be. When I ran out of tears, Kathy told Brad and I to have a nice dinner out just the two of us, and to get a good night’s sleep. Baby would come when she was ready, and not a moment sooner. I sniffed and nodded and blew my nose, and my birth team went home…again. I took a nap. When my neighbor got home from work that evening we asked her to watch the boys so we could get out of the house. I had my heart set on Spagio’s lobster bisque and brie pizza. When we got to the restaurant, we discovered that Spagio’s is closed on Mondays. I knew this. I had run into this very problem before. But of course it never crossed my mind on the way there, and my heart sank as we approached the darkened entrance. I stood there in front of the locked doors trying very hard not to cry again, and thinking desperately of another restaurant that sounded remotely appetizing. Brad suggested steak. It didn’t sound as good as lobster bisque, but it sounded better than going home and making macaroni and cheese, so we went to Texas Roadhouse and had a filet and mashed potatoes. It was very good, and we had a nice time, even though it wasn’t the bisque I was longing for. I continued having pretty intense contractions throughout the evening, but they were much farther apart then they had been. When we got home I went to bed while Brad got the boys from the neighbors and did their bedtime routine. I slept better that night then I had in 3 months.

I woke the next morning at about 6:00, again with contractions too intense to sleep through and close enough together to make me thing that this could be the real deal. I timed contractions for about an hour. I was pretty sure this was it, but still dubious due to my previous history of crying “wolf”, so I took myself up to the bathroom for a self check. I could tell at once that my cervix was much softer, easier to reach, and there had definitely been progress. I called my birth team out again, for the third time in less than two days. Kim arrived, followed shortly by Mandy, Kathy’s new apprentice. I put my birth music on the computer, and sat on the birth ball. Brad was a wonderful support, rubbing my back and bringing me drinks. When Kathy arrived, I could tell she was still slightly skeptical, as I was chatting easily between contractions, and focused but very relaxed during them. But she is a dear, and didn’t say anything about it, just unpacked her gear and listened to the baby with the Doppler and let me go on about my business. The contractions were getting longer and stronger, but remaining about 5 minutes apart. I’m not really sure on the frequency, I had given up timing them quite a while ago. At around 10:00, I started feeling a little pushy at the peak of some of the stronger contractions, and I mentioned this to Kathy. She checked me again, and I was at 9 cm, so we went upstairs to the bedroom where Brad had double made the bed with a layer of plastic between the nice sheets and the old ones. Someone had brought up the birth ball, so after a few contractions leaning against the dresser I felt like I had been making better progress sitting. I sat back down on the birth ball, but that first contraction resulted in a major hip cramp, so I nixed that idea. I spent the next few contractions trying to find a position that was comfortable. I tried leaning on the bed. I tried squatting holding onto the bed – that hurt a lot. I tried kneeling on the bed with my upper body supported on a stack of pillows but felt like I couldn’t really relax my legs and bottom that way. I ended up with Brad sitting against the headboard, and me sitting between his legs and leaning back against him. I could relax my body and let the contractions work, and I had really wanted to be in a position where I could catch the baby myself, and this would work well for that.

Pushing this baby out was very different than when Connor was born. With Connor I spent the 5 minute ride to the hospital trying desperately *not* to push, and he was born anyway, with almost no conscious effort on my part. Pushing this baby out was hard work, and crowning was painful. Upon checking her notes Kim said I was only pushing for about 8 minutes, but it felt like a lot longer. Brad was really helpful while I was pushing. He rubbed my arms and stroked my hair between contractions, and during contractions he held me tight and was very grounding, giving me something to anchor against as I pushed. My water broke only a couple of minutes before the baby was born with a huge pop and a gush. As I felt the baby’s head move down, I was able to reach down and feel her crowning, and once I pushed the head out the rest of her body followed easily and I caught her and lifted her to my tummy.

She wasn’t crying, but she was squirming and cooing and Kathy assured me that she was fine, just rub her back and talk to her. The placenta delivered shortly after. Within about 10 minutes Aria was making smacking and sucking noises, so I put her to my breast and she latched right on.

Brad cut the cord. Kathy, Kim and Mandy went downstairs then to inspect the placenta and let Brad and I have some alone time with the newest member of our family. Aria was absolutely perfect. At 6 lbs 11 oz she was the smallest of my three babies, and every tiny bit of her was exquisitely beautiful. After a few wonderful hours, Mandy drew an herbal bath for me and the baby, and then they did the newborn exam, cleaned up all the birth supplies, started a load of laundry, tucked me and the baby into a nice clean bed, and left us to revel in the bliss of a tiny new life.

Everything about Arias birth was so peaceful and perfect. After Connor’s rocket like entrance into the world, I had some pretty definite ideas about how this birth should go, but it wasn’t until I let go of my preconceptions and let the baby take over that things began to get underway. Aria Elizabeth Martin was born at 10:34 am on Tuesday, December 15th. 6lbs 11oz, and 20 inches long, and I am madly in love with her.

My Garden

So this year I actually did it. I built and planted my garden! Now I only have all summer to keep it from drying out and dieing like my tomato plants did last year. I built a box out of 2×10 boards, filled it with dirt, laid out my grid, and planted my square foot garden. My box is 5×5 instead of the recommended 4×4 to allow room for a border of marigolds. Marigolds are pretty, and I’ve been told they keep the bunnies out of your garden. Now that we’re past the reasonable expectation of frost (although Columbus’s official frost free date isn’t until May 15 or something ridiculous like that), I’ll be getting the flowers in soon. Maybe next weekend. Or tomorrow. We’ll see. Currently my garden contains: peas, carrots, spinach, kale, and lettuce. I have two empty squares for tomatoes, and I’ll probably put two more tomato plants into the same pots I had last year, and hope for a better outcome. I also have four more empty squares. I’ll probably get some herbs to put there from the farmers market when it opens in May. I may also save a square for one of my neighbors to put in some beets. It is a community back yard, so the least I can do is share some garden space with my neighbors who have all agreed not to complain to property management about my garden box.

My peas are looking great!

My carrots are hard to see, because I just thinned them so they have all the space they need to grow big and fat and sweet. These will be dragon carrots. I thought the purple looked really cool. I may try another variety when these are harvested.

And here is my spinach. It’s also doing very well, and I just thinned it down to 9 plants in a square.

I’m worried about my Kale. So far, I don’t see anything in my two kale squares that looks like I planted it there. I may have to try again. My lettuce is looking good, but there are only 4 per square, and they’re pretty small, so I didn’t bother to take a picture. I’ll get more pictures as the plants get bigger, and hopefully share how much harvest I get from my little square foot garden. And of course my two biggest helpers:

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies, EVER!!!

Today I’m going to share my very own, completely made up by me, original recipe chocolate chip cookies. (If this is also your recipe, well then great minds think alike because I swear I came up with this on my own in my mothers kitchen)

I will update with pictures later if I can find my camera before the cookies are eaten.

The story:

Last September I was visiting family in Colorado. I had flown out with just the boys, since my husband couldn’t get the time off work. Our stay was extend by several days due to the unfortunate timing of a case of the chickenpox, leaving the boys and I stranded at my parents house while they took off for a vacation they had planned months ago to coincide with my leaving for home. So there I was with two sick kids, my mothers gorgeous kitchen at my complete disposal, and absolutely nothing to do. I decided it was a perfect time to make cookies. I got out the chocolate chips, read through the recipe on the back, and started gathering ingredients. Peering into the fridge, I encountered only a single lonely stick of butter. The recipe of course calls for two. What to do? I suppose I could have just made a half a batch of cookies, but honestly, at the time it never even crossed my mind. So I racked my brain and scoured the kitchen for something to replace that missing stick of butter. No, oil didn’t cross my mind either. However, my mom had about 5 bricks of cream cheese in the fridge, and I thought that would do the trick. The one other major modification to your typical chocolate chip recipe is that this one does not contain eggs. The reason for this is twofold. First, as I was baking and simultaneously tending to two sick kiddos, I forgot to add them in. The cookies came out great, and upon subsequent experiments I decided I liked the egg-free version better anyway. Second, the cookies are now bowl-licking safe for munchkins, and no salmonella risk to worry about. Since I’m sure very few of you really care how the recipe came about, thank you for bearing with me thus far and without further ado, the recipe:

Preheat oven to 350*
Using your stand mixer, cream together:
1/2 C (1 stick) butter
1 (8oz) brick of cream cheese
3/4 C granulated sugar
3/4 C packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla

In a small bowl, combine:
2 1/4 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Slowly add dry mixture to butter/sugar mixture, beating well after each addition. Stir in 1 C chocolate chips. Place by rounded spoonful onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Try not to eat them all at once.

My first attempts were with regular white flour and normal sugar, and they were delicious. I have since made the recipe substituting 100% whole wheat flour and Sucanat (unrefined sugar) for part or all of the flour and sugar in the recipe with terrific results. This most recent batch was all whole wheat flour and all Sucanat. My kids are used to eating whole wheat, so they didn’t even notice, but I bet you could sub up to half of the flour with WW without the munchkins noticing at all.


Green Smoothie, Baby!

In an ernest effort to improve my health and energy I have taken up the habit of starting my day with a green smoothie. These wonderful drinks are a terrific way to boost the amount of leafy green vegetables you consume, especialy for those of us who dispise vegetables. A mixture of 40% greens by volume and 60% fruit by volume, and enough water to get things moving in the blender, and you have the greenest drink you’ve ever seen that tastes just like fruit. The one pictured above is Strawberry/Banana/Pear/Spinach.

The nutrition research I’ve been doing points to the idea that the average American does not consume enough green leafy vegetables. In fact, most don’t even come close. In her book “Green for Life”, Victoria Boutenko compares the Standard American Diet (SAD) to the diet of our closest primabe relatives, the Chimpanzee. 50% of a chimp’s diet is composed of fruit, 45% is leafy green vegetables, and the other five is comprised of seeds, bark, pith, and insects. In stark contrast, the SAD is composed primarly (more than 50%) of cooked starches such as rice, pasta, bread and potatoes, almost 25% animal protein, and hardly any greens at all.

Leafy green veggies such as spinach, kale, dandylion, and collards are nutritional power houses. They pack the most vitamins and minerals per calorie than any other food you can consume. And despite the USDA’s claim that you need significant amounts of animal protein and dairy in your diet to meet your protien requirements, greens provide all 9 essential amino acids in ratios that are directly in line with your daily needs. (Please do not look to the USDA for accurate nutrition information. Their hands are planted firmly in the back pockets of the meat, dairy, and corn industrys, and they have anything but your best interest at heart.) In fact, 1 lb of kale provides more or less the exact amounts of essential amino acids needed for the day. Different greens are a little higher in some and lower in others, so it’s important to rotate the greens you’re eating.

1 lb of leafy greens a day sound like a lot? Well it is. Don’t worry, it’s really best to start adding greens to your diet slowly and work your way up. If you’re not used to getting all of that fiber and all of a sudden start eating a pound of greens in a day, your poor abused digestive system will most likely revolt. So start with a green smoothie. Then slowly start adding more greens and less fruit. Eat a salad. And enjoy your new found energy that’s based on real nurtition.

And the best part of the Green Smoothie? My baby loves them. He is quite upset if he sees I have one and I’m not sharing! (My 3 year old won’t touch them with a 10 ft straw, but I’m working on him)