Monday, August 28, 2017

Just Between Friends of Everett / Monroe Fall 2017 Sale (Giveaway)

This is my first year of having a full time school aged child!!! Ahhh!! Penny is starting her first year of kindergarten, after having done a year of 2 day pre-school. Preparations for yet another big life change of the summer (right behind the birth of our third child!) have been in full swing for the month of August.

As I go through my own personal list of fall seasonal items that my kids will need and thinking ahead for the school year all I think of how much all of this back to school business costs! And this is for a kindergartener who doesn't really have an extensive class room supply list and she doesn't need a ton of clothes. So this idea intrigued me and I set out to run an informal survey in one of my local mama facebook groups to see how much other local families spent on back to school clothes.  Of the 60 mamas responded, the vast majority spend $250 or less per child, though a remarkable amount spend $500 per child as well. When you add in all the other things you need to buy for the start of the school year, like classroom supplies and electronics), it skyrockets so fast!

If you're like me, I'm always looking to save money where we can and my kids clothes are still very much a large part of our budget where we can cut corners. Having two daughters, two years apart helps in the handmedowns department and they both are pretty gentle on their stuff. But even so, they are still growing out of them quickly. I stretch our dollars even further by purchasing their clothes through Just Between Friends consignment sales - which have saved me boku bucks over the last 5 years that I've been shopping at these events!

What is Just Between Friends, you ask? "JBF" is a pop up consignment sale that occurs nationally and there happens to be one in Monroe, WA just in time for back to school!

Just Between Friends of Everett / Monroe 

September 13-16 2017
Evergreen State Fairgrounds
Full sale schedule here

You can find anything you need for back to school shopping at these events. Local families consign their gently used baby, kids and maternity items for up to 70% off the retail price. Each of the items is hand inspected to make sure it meets the high standards of JBF, so you can rest assured that these clothes will look brand-spankin-new (in some cases there are still tags on them) and not have to pay full retail. You'll find clothes, shoes, sports gear, toys, baby gear, books, dvds, kid related furniture, and seriously so much more. Each time I've shopped I've been able to fill my girls' closets with the upcoming size and season needs as well as a surprise or two. So don't miss out!

The best part? I've been an ongoing partner for Just Between Friends of Everett/Monroe and am sharing some awesome prizes for Pierogie Mama readers in preparation for the upcoming JBF Everett/Monroe Fall 2017 sales event! So check out the giveaway widget below for your chance to win presale passes and JBF bucks. Remember to check back daily because there are a few daily entry options that you can do in order to increase your odds of winning! And stay tuned for September 13 when I come back to let you know what I found when I went shopping - it's always fun to do the math and compare how much I paid versus how much I could have paid in retail!

Disclosure:  This post was sponsored by Just Between Friends of Everett/Monroe. 
All opinions are my own.

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Great American Solar Eclipse - from Sedro Woolley, WA

Up until this morning I wasn't into all the hype over the "Great American Solar Eclipse." But a friend gave me some of her extra viewing glasses so I gave it a shot!

So what did I do? NASA recommends getting special filters for your camera, but given my short time frame and a bit of googling, I decided to take apart one of my pairs of viewing glasses and taped the lens over the lens of my Canon camera. I set up the tripod and my remote shutter in the best viewing spot in my yard and hung out there. I kept my children inside because at 5 and 3 I couldn't entirely trust them that their glasses would stay on or that they'd be able to tell me if they didn't fit properly.  I wore a billed hat to shade over the tops of my eyes and alternated between looking at the sun through the viewing glasses and also putting my regular glasses over top so that I can see the images a little more clearly.

A post shared by Bianca @ The Pierogie Mama (@thepierogiemama) on

Here's what I got!

And there ya have it! While I didn't notice a difference in light, it definitely got markedly cooler. I went from feeling very warm and comfortable in my tank top to feeling like a light jacket would be nice.

The next Great American Solar Eclipse is April 24, 2024 but it'll be going across the Eastern US.

The next one close to Washington State will be viewable in Montana on Aug 23, 2044. I'll be 58!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Oko Creations for all that Post Partum Stuff

 Let me preface this post by saying that post partum recovery is a pretty sensitive mess, 
so naturally you can expect that I'll be pretty frank with terminology. Thanks for reading!

Yay! He's here! Even though I'm on a self-induced maternity leave, there's one set of items that I wanted to talk about with you that have made turning that corner of post partum recovery a lot easier. Oko Creations was so awesome to send me a few of their products aimed at giving me some soft, gentle relief during that tender time - nursing pads and heavy flow cloth menstrual pads for lochia (post partum discharge).

The first time I ever tried cloth menstrual pads was during my post partum recovery with my second child, Ruby. And I'm seriously so glad that I did! I had an interesting tear that led to a prolonged, tender recovery and I couldn't imagine suffering through that with paper pads. So, that honestly really positive first experience, while truly diving into the deep end, encouraged me to continue to use cloth pads / mama cloth for when my cycle returned at about 10 months post partum.

Now that Holden has arrived (!!!), I am excited to share again my experience in using cloth pads during post partum recovery. Another preface that I'd like to mention is that while Oko Creations does not have a designated post partum size and shaped pad (yet), I can personally recommend it based on my experience. My normal menstrual flow is pretty typical, not too heavy and not too light. 

My post partum recovery was much faster this time around, which was shocking to me given how big he was and how much work I had in pushing him out. My daughters were just under 7 pounds and 8 pounds; Holden was 9 1/2 pounds. My second birth took much longer for me to recover due to an interesting tear and I was very surprised that I didn't tear at all with Holden. I experienced a very heavy, typical post-birth flow for about a week (during that time I used dedicated post partum sized pads from a different brand) and used my Oko Creations heavy flow pads for the following two weeks of heavy lochia flow. The heavy flow pads were perfect for this phase of post partum recovery. The length was just right to make sure there wasn't any spills while I was still laying in with baby and the super absorbent hemp topper and core didn't stick to me like disposable pads had done for my first post partum recovery. 

The biggest difference that I could see between the heavy flow and the regular size pads from Oko Creations was that the heavy flow are longer and also featured dual wings to help secure the longer pad around your underwear. Both pads feature 3 layers of absorbent hemp material and a unique integrated waterproof breathable layer (which has been explained to me that it looks and feels a bit like plastic wrap; it's not as thick as traditional PUL). For as absorbent both sizes of the Oko Creations pads are, they are very trim and are my favorite to reach for during regular to heavy flow days in my cycle! 

Now let's talk breast pads. I typically leak during the first 3-4 months of nursing; after that my milk seems to regulate and I don't have super strong let down. I like to use reusable breast pads because just like cloth menstrual pads and cloth diapers - I'm all about reduction of waste and cloth just feels better to me!

Oko Creations has two types of breast pads; hemp and merino wool toppers.  I got to review the hemp pads, but have reviewed their oh-so-adorable handmade merino wool baby hat in the past (which we still affectionately call "the snail hat." The pads are made with two layers of hemp fleece (the same material that the cloth pads are made from) and backed with waterproof PUL. This prevents any leaks through your pad, bra and shirt. These thick pads made to be super absorbent so they do show through a thin nursing tank or bra, so I either wear a secondary layering shirt or save these for night time. From 2 weeks of age Holden has been sleeping straight from 9 pm - 4 am.  I have definitely put my time in for long night nursing sessions with my daughters; I know exactly how big of a blessing this is!! But the cost is super full breasts in the early morning that are ready to feed that baby! While nursing him on the first side, my other breast is well protected with my Oko Creations breast pad without any leaking. I feel confident because the same hemp material that I trust in my menstrual pads is catching my extra milk in these pads and the PUL backing makes extra sure that it doesn't go any further. 

Oko Creations is a family owned based in Quebec, Canada. All of Oko Creations products are handmade and ethically produced locally with sustainability and long term quality in mind. Hand-made products are so special because you can just imagine the dreams and inspiration that went into the product that you hold in your hand. I am proud to support hand made, family owned businesses (even at the higher cost) because you know that supporting their products supports a dream.  Check out their work shop - it's such a friendly and homey atmosphere!

You can find out more of Oko Creations products on their website and follow along on facebook.

Disclosure: I received product in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was provided.
All opinions and photography are my own. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Holden's Birth Story

This birth story is one that's taken me about two months to process. It was a strangely intense but sobering experience; it wasn't what I was expecting for my third natural birth.

Two points to preface; I had my two previous children unmedicated, in the water, at stand alone birth centers. Click over and you can read Penny's and Ruby's. Throughout my pregnancy my midwife, who is a mother of four, mentioned that third babies tend to be a total gambit. Their births are so different from the previous two and from any future babies. I waited, curiously, to see how that would unfold. The second point, which I mention in full anonymity but want to include it in my story because it made a bigger impact on me than I had expected. The evening before I went into labor I learned that a friend had lost her precious baby girl to SIDS.

In the early morning of 40 weeks and 3 days I went into labor after having a bit of prodomal labor for the past week. That previous night my husband's aunt had arrived to stay with us for a week and I took a bath before bed. At 3:40am I was awoken by 90 second contractions that were spaced about 3-4 minutes apart. I probably had been laboring in my sleep and it was the real ones that woke me up. They weren't painful; they caught my attention and given my very fast birth with Ruby - I wanted my midwife to know right away.  My waters had broken but it wasn't a gush as it had been with my first birth. My midwife, Eloisa, agreed that it would be a good idea to carefully pack up and head over. My bag had already been ready for a few weeks, so all we needed to do was pack a few last minute essentials, tell "Nana" that we were headed out.  Let me tell you what a huge relief it is when you are in labor and you know your other children are well taken care of and they don't even need to be moved. When they would awake that morning, they would already be big sisters!

It was about 5:00 am on that Saturday morning when we drove the 20 minutes to my stand alone birth center; The Bellingham Birth Center in Bellingham, WA. My contractions weren't making me anxious. In fact, I was pretty damn chill. Chill enough to ask my husband to stop at the closest coffee stand to get us lattes and muffins. We laughed, said "#3rd baby!" What a difference this was from our first birth; when we got pulled over by a police officer and I yelled at him to either give us a ticket or to let us go...

We pulled in to the birth center at 5:30 and checked in. It's a small historic home that was tastefully converted into a birth center and a very comforting place to me. It has two birth suites and I could hear that there was another mama-to-be laboring in the other room - which was a first for me, in all of my appointments and hours of labor and post-partum through 3 children to be in the birth center while another mama was actively laboring. It is interesting to hear another woman in labor! Unfortunately for this mama, she was sent home a little later. She came in a bit too early.

Eloisa let us settle in and my husband hooked up my cell phone to their stereo and turned on the Pandora station we had been jamming out to lately (Mumford and Sons). I paced and sat on the bed while Eloisa prepped her paperwork too. I was feeling great, calm and relaxed. I was already pleased that this wasn't a "drop everything and run" kind of birth that I was preparing myself for. I was at the birth center, in the place that I wanted to have my son, and I was content. Whatever else was thrown at me - I'm fine. In retrospect, I was too comfortable and fine!

I pace some more, leaking my waters and working through contractions that were becoming more intense. But I quickly was able to overcome that discomfort and whatever position or action that I was doing would quickly become tolerable. Eloisa thought it would be worthwhile to check where I was at, and we discovered that my cervix was pulled back a bit, which was not helping baby boy get into the best position. She had me straddle the birth stool and during a contraction she pulled my cervix forward to help. No surprise, this was not my favorite thing to do, and I believe she had to do it two or three more times during the course of my labor.

Pretty soon I was over pacing, leaning over a couch arm and using the birth stool. I had my daughters in the water and I was wanted to get in. So I labored there for several hours...and AGAIN it was just too comfortable! My dear friend That Mama Gretchen had given me some protein cookies that I stashed into my labor bag so those got brought out and they were amaze-balls (G - I will be needing that recipe!). I asked my husband to send her a text just to emphasize how delicious they were. So there I was, relaxing in the birth tub, laughing, eating cookies and contracting a bit. The perfect image of a mother in labor, right? No. I wasn't getting anywhere!

As I process this experience I know that this stall in my labor was because of the position of my cervix and because of my emotional state. I wasn't excited, I was calm. Peaceful. Patient. Too patient. I don't feel like my head was in the game. I didn't push myself to make the contractions more intense because I didn't want him to come too soon. I knew my body would do what it needed to do. But a question that I ask myself often is "where was my heart in all of this?"

Around noon Eloisa gave me a couple homeopathics to encourage more labor and I used a sling in which I hung my upper body on and lunged through contractions using a stool. For my second birth I had done something similar just doing lunges on the edge of the outside of the tub. Angry contractions for a few minutes, and again - I adapted and it wasn't working anymore.

The final try was to lay on my side in the bed with three pillows stacked between my knees; around noon. WOW that was working! And with vengeance! I lost track of time, but got into the mode of labor where I contracted hard and slept for the couple minutes between contractions. Eloisa gave me some saline to help boost me along. Finally I began roaring through my contractions and I knew it was time to start pushing. And push I tried.

Nothing was happening.

I know the feeling of bearing down and pushing a baby out. I knew what was coming. And nothing was happening; I was pushing with all of my might and I felt no progression. I must have gotten those words out, and all at once I realize that there is a mask being put onto my face. I thought it was nitrous, which is used for pain management and I tried pushing it away (it was my husband who was placing it there). He resisted and kept the mask there. I was hyperventilating and it was oxygen, but I was in "the labor zone" of my consciousness and wasn't really listening to what was being said to me. He was pressing the mask to my face and providing counter pressure to my back that I was asking him for. He was right in the middle of the hardest moments of my life.

Quickly Eloisa tells me that baby's heart rate is down, even with the oxygen, and I need to get on all fours. His head was out (I didn't know this) and I quickly flipped onto my knees. More roaring pushes, not having the sensation I was expecting. I could hear Eloisa say calmly and quietly to the birth assistant to call the paramedics; just in case. She then reached in and pulled my son out.

It was but the smallest moment in time; but to me it was an eternity. The sounds were muffled to me, but I could hear Eloisa saying "call them, he's not responsive." She gives him a puff of oxygen and tells me - "talk to your son. He needs to hear you." I scream in pure terror and agony; all I could think of was the precious baby that my friend had lost just a day earlier. My husband whispers in my ear, "His name is Holden. Talk to Holden," and I scream to him, reaching out to touch him and Eloisa exclaims happily "HE'S FINE!" The paramedics never had to come because everything was fine. I was fine, he was fine.

From that point on everything was normal. He pinked up, he came to me and I hugged him so tight. We nursed. My husband, so physically and emotionally exhausted, quickly settled down next to us on the bed and napped.

A couple hours later Eloisa asked if she may weigh him and he came in a whopping 9 lbs 9 oz. No one was expecting a baby of this size because my larger daughter had been 8 lbs at birth. I didn't have an unusual weight gain. I ate healthily with the guilty pleasure of chocolate, but who could deny me? Besides the difference of having a boy, I don't really have an explanation of why he weighed so much more than his sisters had. But I am thankful for the 11 hour labor, my frustrating patience, even my difficult cervix because it helped extend the length of my labor and give my body time to accommodate a larger baby and of course - the skilled hands of my birthing team.

I have hesitated telling that final part of the story. I know that for many people that may give a sense of fear; maybe that I was extremely lucky and should have been in the hospital. Risk occurs everywhere. My pregnancy was extremely low risk and a stand alone birth center and midwife wouldn't accept an at risk mother. Births are unpredictable and that's kind of what is so magical about them. In processing this experience and speaking with my sister in law, who is a labor & delivery nurse, she had helped me reframe the part that scared me - that he was "unresponsive." "Babies born naturally and of that size are just born stunned. Imagine what they went through to be born. They just need a minute to catch up," she told me. It changed my perspective from one of fear to acceptance of the norm. Sure, it was hands down the scariest moment of my entire life, but does it mean that I've failed or made a foolish decision to have my child away from a hospital? No. He was born into the hands that he needed to be; hers were the ones that God knew would be the best to guide him here. I don't think there is enough thanks that I could give this woman for what she did for us.

Two months later and Holden is such an amazing addition to our family. The love that his sisters lavish upon him is without a doubt the sweetest thing I have ever seen.

As a final note, one part of a lot of births that is overlooked is how the dad is doing. In our case, Adam had taken the front row seat for all of my births but this one was particularly intense.  Pushing the mask onto my face, seeing his wife do the birth exactly as she was supposed to and not being able to get the baby out, and the final adrenaline spike of his first moments in life. Personally I felt completely fine and was recovering normally after getting Holden in my arms, but dads are a different creature. I experienced it, but he SAW it all. Be sure to give the daddy the opportunity to process as well. 


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