Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Recipe: Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti is such a kid-friendly meal (even if it's not so clothing friendly) and while I am often tempted to buy a jar of the store-made stuff, nothing has ever come close to my mother's recipe for spaghetti sauce. This sauce found it's way onto our table as a child pretty much every week. Boil up some pasta and top it with parmesan cheese and the whole family is happy. I like to cook this is big batches and freeze it in family meal portions so I can defrost it when I have no better plans. If you have a picky kid (like I was!) the onions can be blended in with a can of tomatoes so you can avoid the texture but keep the taste. You can add other vegetables like peppers and carrots the same way. I also like cooking in some shredded spinach for a boost of nutrients!


1lb lean ground beef
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
2 cloves garlic minced (you can substitute with garlic powder)
1 tsp basil
1/4 tsp pepper
1 T dried parsley (use less if you're using fresh as fresh spices are more potent)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp crushes chilies (feel free to add more if you like some heat in your sauce)
1 large onion chopped (or pureed in your blender)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup of wine (optional)
1 6oz can tomato paste

Brown your meat in a little olive oil. Add the mushrooms and onions (unless pureed) and cook them. Add the can of diced tomatoes (and onions if pureed) and spices. Let simmer for about an hour, stirring every so often. The sauce will reduce and the tomatoes will break down. At the very end at the tomato paste which will thicken the sauce. If you like it even thicker add a second can of the paste. It's important to save the paste for the end as the sauce will more than likely burn if you add it too soon. Serve it up with some freshly cooked pasta, some parmesan cheese and enjoy!

And Baby Makes 7

We're slowly adjusting to our life with a new baby. Really it hasn't been all that difficult as the little man has been nothing less than calm and composed. Unless he's hungry, then make sure you have a good set of earplugs. In the past three and a half weeks, each of us as a family has had to find a new rhythm for our daily life. While the first week was pretty hectic, I must say I was surprised with how seamlessly we slipped into our new routine, tucking our baby into our life without too much disruption. I can easily credit this to a few very fortunate circumstances.

First of all, meals. We were given so many meals by loving an well-meaning friends. I had tucked a few meals away for these days, but most of them had been eaten in the last week of pregnancy. From day one with the new baby we had friends dropping by every couple of days with meals that I only had to reheat and serve. We had stews, soups, chilis, pasta dishes, egg bakes, not to mention the array of sweets that found their way almost directly into the mouths of our happy children. I still can't get over the tremendous blessing these meals have been for us. My gratitude is so incredibly deep, and if you're one of the beautiful souls who dropped off a meal, know that you helped this Mama survive those early days and helped usher our family with joy into our new life.

Besides the meals, there's the kids. I realize that for the older three this is nothing new. Babies come. They need a lot of my time. They are tiny, noisy, squishy, slightly smelly, and overall not just loads of fun. For the first time in our many years of overlapping babies, I saw a change in their interest level. When I'm feeding the baby they are curious, helpful, and gentle. There is no jealousy, unless you count a few fights over whose turn it is to kiss the baby. When I lay him on the floor for tummy time, I can rely on the fact that the brand new big sister will immediately lay down with him and smile, chat, and laugh with him. As overwhelming as I'm sure it is for the baby, he seems to be taking it all in stride. He's peaceful and equally curious about this brood of noisy, loving people who consume his waking hours.

And there's himself, our cute baby boy. Not unlike his older siblings, he is the ideal baby. He only cries when he's dirty or hungry. He nurses almost all day (he does sleep sometimes!) and sleeps at night, with only one or two wakings. Because we choose to co-sleep, when he wakes up through the night to sleep, I wake up when he stirs, before he even cries. I turn over to feed him and then we all doze back to sleep peacefully. It sounds silly, but anyone who has followed our struggles with nursing over the years will know this is a big deal, but he's growing. He's actually growing. And at a fairly good pace too. Last we checked he was already above his birth weight and then some. While he is not the chunkster his eldest brother was, he is himself, perfectly. With all this growing and exactly himself perfection, I couldn't be more pleased. He is a bright-eyed little boy who is already fascinated by the world and so entirely in love with his family. There really is nothing more beautiful than recognizing the look of love and devotion that crosses your child's face when he stares up at his Daddy and big siblings.

I see the proof again and again that every child is unique and beautiful and that adding another child doesn't divide my capacity for love and patience, it multiplies it exponentially. I am so blessed and rich beyond compare. That's why when people ask me if we're "done" having kids or if we want more, I can't help but say that more would be wonderful. My children are my greatest blessing and who am I to say no to those blessings as I stare into the eyes of my fifth child?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Baby 5: Delivered

I was getting a little worried I was going to end up writing another pregnancy update, but after some hard work, we're on the other side of pregnancy. Baby boy is a mere 4 days old, but we're already falling into a nice routine. I'm still a little worn around the edges from his delivery, but overall I feel really great. He was worth all the work and stress. For those of you who had asked, I figured I should share a little glimpse into his birth as best as I could. We weren't as prolific about tweeting this birth (primarily because I couldn't get onto the hospital wifi until after he was born), so while there are a few tweets from my husband and I, most of this will be from my memory. I figured I should write it out now before it got too hazy!

To do this right, I'll have to take us back to Friday, May 24th. A just shy of a week overdue I started feeling some cramping. At first they were all over the map, but by the time the evening hit, they were starting to be quite regular, at around 10 minutes apart. I lost my mucous plug, and while they stayed at 10 minutes apart, they gradually picked up in intensity. After a full weekend of contractions holding steady at 10 minutes apart, we decided to check in at the hospital on Monday to make sure baby was okay and that my water wasn't leaking. By chance our family doctor (aka Baby Catcher Supreme!) was on rotation that day and talked us through everything. I was clearly in early labour, but my water was intact and I wasn't dilating quickly at all. Because baby was sending some pretty clear signals that he was done cooking, we decided we should book an appointment with the post-dates clinic to see how favourable things looked for an induction. On Wednesday we went in for that appointment and were told that my cervix was favourable for having my water broken, but that it still wasn't much more dilated. We also discovered that what I by this point had figured was Braxton-Hicks (aka practice contractions) were indeed real contractions. They just weren't intense enough to do more than just efface my cervix. I had maxed out at around 3cm and %70 effaced on those contractions, which was great, but not enough. So they put us on the list for inductions, and told us we were on the list for the next day, Thursday. We were told to wait by the phone for our call to come in. Stressful! On the way home we stocked up on a few extra groceries and made the best of our afternoon with the kids, getting in all the extra cuddles we could. I then somewhat frantically went about setting our house in slightly better order, finishing up the last of the lingering chores.

Thursday came. The day of our induction. We got up ridiculously early (who can sleep with dreams of labour and newborns dancing in their heads?) and waited for the call. And waited. And waited. After a while I decided to call ahead and see what the state of the Birth Unit was. Inductions are always bumped by how many emergencies and deliveries come through. As it turns out, I was third on the inductions list, and by lunch time the first Mama hadn't even been taken in. It turns out that there were no less than 4 emergency C-sections (a rarity at our hospital) and that they'd had to call in extra nurses to fill all the gaps as what was apparently a higher than normal number of women went into labour at the same time. As we called to check in (which we were advised to do) our hopes of a Thursday induction or even a May baby dwindled. Finally at around 10pm we were told they might call us through the night, but not to count on it.

Friday morning came. Another sleepless night. We were woken suddenly by the phone's insistent ringing at around 5:15am. We were being called in. A spot had finally opened! After calling our kind and awesome babysitters we rushed to the hospital. They quickly broke my water and after some discussion we decided to hold off on hooking me up to an IV drip of Pitocin to get some productive contractions going. Once my water was broken which was done in what I figure must have been the most painful way possible because baby was so low the on call Doc had to shuffle him away so she wouldn't scratch him with the little plastic hook they use to break the bag. At first the water was clear, but then as it kept spilling there was a tinge of very pale yellow. Meconium staining. Not exactly ideal.

Not too long in there was a shift change and you can't imagine my joy when the same nurse we'd had for our third child walked through the door all full of smiles and happiness. She is for sure the best nurse at our hospital (a hospital blessed with lost of incredible nurses). We knew as soon as she walked in the door that no matter what happened, our delivery experience was going to be a positive one. She's Catholic and comes from the same part of town as my husband, and shares a lot of our parenting views. The whole first part of our delivery felt like catching up with an old friend, even if it was punctuated by contractions. Speaking of contractions, after my water broke I kind of expect things to go gangbusters, but, well... they didn't. They got a little stronger, and definitely painful, but never enough that I couldn't talk through them. I didn't show any progress at all, even after 2 hours of walking, rocking, lunging and standing. Nothing. So after talking it through with our lovely nurse and doctor, we decided together that it was time to start the Pitocin drip. As I alluded to before, I'm not a big fan of Pitocin. It's synthetic chemical that causes contractions. But not regular old contractions, but big, intense, incredibly painful contractions. At first the contractions weren't too bad. They were intense for sure, but with a little calm thinking and breathing it was no big deal. For the first two hours of the Pitocin I was convinced that maybe I had imagined how bad the contractions could get. Then, it really started ramping up. Almost before I knew what was happening I suddenly felt I couldn't take the pain. I had been relaxing on the bed and then I jumped out of the bed and had my husband putting counter-pressure on my back. That lasted for about 10 contractions before even that wasn't helping. After talking options, the nurse hooked up the gas (laughing gas like at the dentist) and using that and still more counter-pressure on my back I worked through quite a few more contractions. I was even laughing and joking between the contractions. Although in retrospect most of the jokes I was making weren't particularly funny, and surely hilarious only to me as I was really digging that laughing gas. The contractions were coming in pairs, and then only with about a minute of break between the pairs. In my head I could practically see the ticking time clock set in motion by the meconium staining in my water. Around then my Doc showed up (rejoice!) and she could see I was working through the contractions with great effort and lots of prayers from my husband (who doesn't love a man who will chant the Hail Mary in your ear as many times as it takes to last a contraction while rubbing your back and holding your hand?). She figured we had some time before I was fully dilated since I had been at 4cm about an hour and a half before, so after a short chat she went about some business she had around the hospital.

While my nurse was on a short break I felt things starting to escalate beyond my control again, even with the gas. I remember asking the relief nurse to check my dilation and what I remember so strongly was that I heard her say I was at 4cm or maybe 5cm in the midst of my pain. My husband and I both cried in somewhat hilarious unison: "You've got to be kidding me!!!". The nurse smiled like an angel and then clarified that she said I definitely WASN'T 4 or 5cm, but had in fact hit closer to 7 or 8cm. Even though I was in agony I couldn't help but laugh at our reaction. I was so excited we were on our way as I usually hit transition at 7cm and knew we were in the home stretch. Within a few moments of that little ray of hope, the pain went off the charts. Even the gas couldn't distract me from the pain. I started clutching in desperation onto the side rails of the bed and moaning and crying out. Somewhere in my mind I knew that the pain was good, but I was fighting with all my will to see the good in it in those moments. I kept trying to direct my thoughts towards the prayer intentions I had brought with me. One particular intention for a family in deep mourning kept coming to mind and giving me glimpses of purpose and peace. While I was still sitting at around 8cm I could feel myself losing control of my body and I started to push. My Doc was still on another floor and they started calling for her to come quickly. My nurse had just come back from her break (just in time!) and asked me to hold off on pushing so I didn't bruise my cervix. I held off for one more contraction and then just gave in to the undeniable need to push. While I was already pushing my Doc came in and got her gown on in haste and got there just in time to see baby getting ready to crown. While she was still getting her gown on I cried out to my husband I thought for sure I was tearing and stopped pushing for a few seconds before the urge to push overcame my instinct to protect my own body. With my Doc, nurse, and beloved husband all with me, I pushed through a few more contractions and almost before I knew it he was out. I can't even begin to express the level of relief that washed over me when I felt his little shoulders pass as baby girl had had shoulder dystocia. The Doc told us after he had come out face up, which explains why I thought I was tearing. Once I pushed out the placenta the Doc announced with a note of surprise I didn't have any tearing at all and everything was in good order.

As for baby, there was a tense second for us, as we were scared about the results of the meconium staining. Against their best efforts he'd let out a gorgeous and hearty cry before they had the chance to suction him, which mean any meconium in his mouth would have been sucked into his lungs. He was whisked away to the other end of the room and the neo-natal team got to work on him. As it turns out, he hadn't breathed in any meconium! Considering he had been in the meconium stained water for about 12 hours, I'm convinced this was nothing short of a miracle. He did had a little bruising on his forehead from the brief moment I had held back from pushing when I thought I was tearing, but that's already resolved at a mere four days later.

That's the long version of how our 5th baby and our 3rd son came into the world. On Friday, May 31st, 2013, at 5:56pm our beautiful boy came to meet us. At 8lbs3oz he was medium size for our family, and has already filled a gap in our lives. He is the source and recipient of so much love, and the answer to many prayers. We have thanked God for him every day since the pregnancy test let us know of our joy, and for the past four days, we have tasted the deepening of joy in holding him, seeing him, and sharing him.