Friday, December 02, 2011

A Midwife Helped Me Out: Birth, Done Right at Home

Previously I wrote about a few of the ways prenatal care with my midwives has been pleasant, personalized, and has contributed to keeping my pregnancy healthy and low-risk. While aiming not to be too graphic, I would like to highlight a few things about giving birth with midwives at home that were healthier, more evidence-based, or more pleasant than my experience giving birth with a doctor in a hospital. Some of these things could be done in a hospital, but were not, and some are specific advantages to giving birth at home.
  • No pressure to induce labor. I was "measuring small" again this pregnancy, but it seemed to be that Malachi was up far enough in my ribs that we just couldn't get an accurate measurement, a much more reasonable diagnosis than IUGR (which is what Tobias's records stated, although I didn't know that until I saw Tobias's records during this pregnancy).
  • Less exposure to germs such as MRSA or various flu bugs and illnesses during birth and postpartum visits
  • Water birth: provides significant pain relief, also lessens tearing and swelling. Laboring in water was encouraged at the Sunnyside Hospital, to their credit, and was beneficial to me, but I had to get out for delivery. And for the curious, babies don't breathe until they feel air on their face. It's pretty cool!
  • In the hospital, delivering while laying in a reclined semi-laying position was the default, and I was in no condition to argue. This position contributes to tearing, and also oxygen shortage to the baby, both of which we experienced to some degree with Tobias. Malachi ended up coming out while I was kneeling in the water. I did most of the work, but it doesn't hurt to have gravity on your side too.
  • Spontaneous pushing (pushing when/how you feel you need to) instead of directed pushing: again, less risk of tearing and oxygen shortage for the baby. Also, it felt a lot more comfortable and I think was a big factor in how great I felt afterwards (very minimal tearing and no swelling or soreness at all).
  • Umbilical cord was allowed to finish pumping important blood and stem cells into the baby. Evidence supports this as the healthiest (reduces risk of anemia and respiratory distress among other things), but my doctor would not allow it even though I asked.
  • Comfort/Personalization: we could have Tobias come home and meet Malachi when we were ready (no visiting hours), I got to enjoy hot cider, pumpkin oatmeal muffins, and chicken soup while in labor as opposed to little cans of juice and the food that we snuck into the hospital with us, no riding in the car while in labor, having all the baby clothes and equipment close by instead of having to decide what to pack.
  • Home court advantage: being in familiar, safe surroundings and having less distractions (no filling out paperwork or drawing blood during labor) lowers the stress hormones that would otherwise slow labor and make it more painful. Overall, the day was very laid-back (and exciting at the same time!).
  • Kristin was very "hands-off" during labor. She did check my blood pressure and listen to Malachi's heartbeat with the doppler, as well as ask me questions about what I was feeling and occasionally listen/watch how I was dealing with the contractions. She stayed in the dining room most of the time. No cervical checks was obvious without them that labor was progressing.
  • Choosing which procedures we wanted. For example, we declined the newborn eye ointment because we don't have STDs.
  • Thousands of dollars cheaper
As far as disadvantages, some things were more "work": having various supplies, including food on hand for during and after the birth, preparing the birth tub, etc. And those table trays in the hospital that allow you to easily eat in bed...those are kind of nice. Other than that, I can't think of any big disadvantages.

Safety-wise, many large studies show that for low-risk women, home birth is equally safe as hospital birth when you compare the rates of death for mom and baby (one recent Canadian study even reported it to be safer). It is much safer in terms of the incidences of c-sections, infections, etc. that happen in hospitals. Most cases of needing to transfer from home to the hospital are not time-sensitive emergencies. Midwives are thoroughly trained and licensed and carry a lot of equipment/medication with them for more common needs as well as bigger emergencies. Hopefully you all know me well enough that you know I wouldn't do something that is unsafe!

Unfortunately, there are many entire states (including my home state of Iowa) where giving birth at home with a midwife is not even a legal option; CPMs are not allowed to be licensed and there are very few or no CNMs that offer home birth services. Currently about 1% of babies are born at home, but as the number of people choosing and supporting home birth grows, I hope that more states will make this choice available to families.

For those of you who are pregnant or will be in the future: wherever you give birth (home isn't for everyone!), find a caregiver that will listen to and respect you, and insist on evidence-based practices that keep you and your baby as safe as possible!

Please feel free to ask me questions about anything if you're curious or facing some of these same decisions yourself!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Birth Announcement

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Tobias introduces his brother

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Little Guy Malachi!

Ooh, I'm behind. Malachi's great-grandma blogged his birthday before I got around to it!
Malachi Reese was born at 5:19 p.m. on Thanksgiving day, November 24. He weighed 7 lbs and 6 ounces and was 21 (and a half? I forget) inches long. We are so excited that he's here and very thankful that he and I are both doing well.

He was born at home and we really appreciated the care that Kristin provided before, during, and after the birth. Unfortunately Lorri could not be there as another family was also having a Thanksgiving baby! There's lots I could say about how it was different (and better for us) than our experience giving birth to Tobias in a hospital with a doctor, but that might be another post. Feel free to ask me about it though! I will say that although I felt fine after giving birth to Tobias, I feel great compared to how I felt 2 or 3 days after having Tobias, even without a single ibuprofen. Midwives really help keep the process as gentle as possible.

Tobias and Malachi were in their carseats next to each other in the car today on the way home from church and Tobias reached out and touched his hand and said "I like him. I like his little hands." So I think it is safe to say that Tobias is adjusting OK!

We know Tobias has already established quite a fan club for his videos, so we'll try to get a video up soon of Malachi so he can share the spotlight.

Thank you everyone for your prayers, congratulations, video chats, and support! Malachi is looking forward to meeting many of you soon!

Monday, November 07, 2011

They really look different!

our eggs are the ones on the top/right

Friday, October 21, 2011

Half a Dozen Eggs

Four and a half months after buying our chickens on Craigslist, we have started getting eggs. I was shopping in Spokane when I got a text message from Nate. We rarely text, and I was only vaguely aware that my Tracfone was capable of receiving a picture in a text message, but I was very excited when I saw the picture of the egg, and the caption "one of two". So far we have found 6 eggs in about 8 days. We suspect that Ginger is the one laying the eggs. I'm looking forward to having the other 3 chickens start laying too! The eggs are small, have very dark yolks (that means they're good for you!) and seem to be very tasty. Tobias talks about the chickens and the chicken coop a lot (even in his sleep), so the educational part of the chicken raising process seems to be working as well as the nutritional.

Our eggs aren't technically "pastured" eggs, but we do try to feed the chickens plenty of fruits, veggies, and green things. I found this chart that shows what "store eggs" are missing compared to eggs from chickens that eat a variety of healthy food. Not shown in the chart is the statistic that "pastured" eggs contain 4 to 6 times as much Vitamin D as regular store eggs. Recently, I heard the phrase "you are what your food eats", meaning that eggs, dairy, and meat from animals on a healthy diet have better nutrition in them. So, adopt a chicken, find a friend with chickens, invite yourself over to our house for an omelet, buy eggs from healthy chickens, or at least make sure you're getting lots of extra Vitamin D, E, and A, Omega 3's, etc. from other foods or your vitamins!
(click on the picture to make it bigger if you can't read the words here)

Sunday, October 09, 2011


We decided we had to get Tobias's unique pronunciation of the word "underwear" on video before we worked on getting him to say it correctly. We though you might enjoy hearing it too, as well as a few other moments.

P.S. "Gebbi sauce" = spaghetti sauce. We need to work on that one too.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Lazy Blender Apple Butter

I'm trying to make a dent in the medium-sized pile of apples I have in my kitchen. I have a peeler-corer-slicer which is great for some things like dried apple slices, but for this batch of apple butter I decided to try something even easier. All the vitamins are in the peels, right?

First I cut up the apples. My "lazy" way of doing this is to cut off one side, avoiding the core. Then cut off 3 more slices, leaving a rectangular core. I took a few bites off each core and then fed the rest to the chickens.
Next I blended up these chunks in the Vitamix blender. I had about 10 cups of the blended mixture.
I added 1/2 c. of sugar, 2 teaspoons of vanilla, 1 Tablespoon of cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves. Then I turned the crock pot on high and placed the lid on sideways so steam could escape.

My kitchen smells amazing and I've snooped a few spoonfuls that tasted great. I will update tomorrow with the finished results!

Finished product: I left the crock pot on high for about 4 hours, and then on low for about 4 hours, stirring occasionally. By this time it was about half the volume of when I started. I plan to freeze some and keep some in the fridge. Maybe next time I will try making a larger batch and canning it!

Now to keep at that pile of apples...we are about to eat German Apple Pancake for breakfast!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Turkey, Cake, Chicken, Peach

Here's a hodge podge video of G&G H and Aunt Holly's visit in July, plus some peach picking footage just because!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

A Midwife Helped Me Out: Prenatal Care

It will hopefully be another 11 weeks or so until this baby is helped "out" out, but I wanted to write a post to all the things I have appreciated so far about my prenatal care with my midwives, especially compared to my experience last time going to a family doctor.
  • Appointments are usually 45+ minutes long and cover a variety of topics including any questions I have. When I say "variety of topics", that includes things like chicken-raising advice, tasty ways to cook with coconut oil (fry your french toast in it!), the logistics of flying with a newborn at Christmas, what's going on in my life, etc. Mostly health or baby related, but not necessarily.
  • Appointments start on time and I don't have to sit in a waiting room with annoying cartoons on, and with people who might be sick. Tobias comes along and plays in the toy room or "helps" measure my belly.
  • They're directly available by phone or e-mail if needed. When I was pregnant with Tobias I had some unexplained abdominal pain (not during office hours, of course) and my choices were to go in to the ER (the ER or OB department understandably can't give any advice over the phone) or wait it out with some extra-strength Tylenol. I haven't had any medical reason to contact them, but Nate did e-mail Lorri asking for a reminder on which Chinese restaurant in Prosser she had recommended during childbirth class. It's the Golden Horse near exit 80, if you're curious! Nate's there right now meeting someone for lunch.
  • Nutrition is really important to them. My blood work showed I was low in Vitamin D and probably iodine, so I'm taking supplements to correct those things as well as some other supplements and vitamins. They also give lots of specific advice on healthy eating and haven't stressed or lectured me about my weight at all. Who knows if these changes are why I haven't experienced any leg cramps, bleeding gums, etc. during this pregnancy!
  • Kristin stopped by my house for a prenatal appointment when she was in my area, which was nice. If everything continues to go well they will both be here at my house for the birth too, and postpartum checkups. I'm looking forward to not taking a 1 week old baby in to the doctor's office for a checkup...I remember Tobias screaming with hunger while I tried to fill out a bunch of paperwork. But I'm getting ahead of myself there, this is supposed to be about prenatal!
  • With many tests and procedures I am presented with the pros/cons and all the options, and then I can decide. For example, since I am at low risk for gestational diabetes, I chose to test my blood sugar with Holly's meter after a meal rather than spending time and money on an official glucose tolerance screening.
  • Thousands of dollars cheaper. I'm guessing the prenatal care and birth will come to $3150. Even if for some reason the baby had to be born in the hospital, I think $3150 is a great deal for such excellent prenatal care.
Doctors' knowledge and experience can be crucial, which is why the Midwives Model of Care includes "identifying and referring women who require obstetrical attention". However, since I am currently very healthy and low risk, I can't imagine going back. Why pay more for less?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Easy Microwave Pink Lemonade

Earlier this summer I threw a few lemonade concentrates into my grocery cart to make popsicles. The popsicles were delicious, but I wondered if I could make my own with ingredients I already had on hand, and maybe a tad healthier (no corn syrup). I think it ends up being a little cheaper too.

Here is my recipe, which I adjusted from several recipes I looked at online:

Easy Microwave Pink Lemonade

Add 3/4 cup sugar to 1 cup water in a microwave-safe container.
Microwave approximately 3 minutes until the sugar is dissolved, stirring after 1 or 2 minutes.

Add 1 cup lemon juice.
Add 3-4 cups water. Use 3 cups if you are going to be making popsicles, serving with a lot of ice, or just like tangy lemonade; use 4 cups for a more standard lemonade.

Add 4 drops red food coloring if you would like your lemonade to be pink. I did this because I had used rapadura sugar, which is brownish, and it gave the lemonade a dark color.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vitamin D: You Make Me Happy When Skies are Grey

Vitamin D: a fat-soluble vitamin that can be manufactured by the human body in the presence of sunlight, and that has many functions within the body.

With my prenatal bloodwork, my midwife had my Vitamin D levels tested, and it was 31. Levels of less than 30 are considered deficient, and many experts believe that 50 or above is much better, with 80 or above being great. I was surprised to be "low" since I was taking vitamins that included D (approximately 600 IUs, which is marked on the vitamin label as 150% of the recommended daily allowance) and do spend time outdoors without sunscreen.

She recommended a supplement of 5,000-10,000 IUs a day to help me catch up, as well as a smaller supplement for Tobias, since I was likely deficient during the last almost 3 years in which I have been pregnant and/or nursing. I am curious what a few months of this supplement will do for my Vitamin D levels, and I plan on getting them re-tested if it is not cost-prohibitive. (Update: after taking daily supplements of ~8,000 IUs, my Vitamin D blood levels rose to 50-something a few weeks before my due date)

Why is Vitamin D important?
  • Important for bone health
  • Good for the immune system. Low levels of Vitamin D during the winter due to less sunlight may be one of the reasons for "flu season".
  • Babies born with low Vitamin D levels are six times more likely to get RSV. Taking a supplement while pregnant can reduce the risk of this happening.
  • Babies born with low Vitamin D levels are more likely to experience childhood dental problems. Tobias has some tooth decay between his front teeth that will likely require some pricey fixing (at his age they would have to put him out to fill it); perhaps Vitamin D supplements during my pregnancy with him would have made this less likely to happen.
  • Levels of higher than 40-60 ng/ml are likely to reduce the risk of breast cancer.
  • Low levels of Vitamin D contribute to high cholesterol and cardiovascular problems

Supplement, Salmon, or Sun?
  • The Canadian Cancer Society recommends that adults take 1,000 IUs per day during the winter.
  • This article from Harvard Medical School states that if you live above the 37th parallel, you are not getting much Vitamin D from the sun, except in the summer months.
  • Salmon, mackerel, and tuna provide 200-360 IUs of Vitamin D per serving
  • Your body can generate 10,000 IUs of Vitamin D during a day at the beach. Vitamin D is an oil-soluble substance that is manufactured on the surface of your skin, and soap breaks up oils so they can wash away. Avoid soaping up your entire body after your beach adventure, or you might lose a lot of the benefits. Water will not wash away the Vitamin D.
  • Older people's skin is not nearly as efficient at producing Vitamin D, and dark-skinned people also do not get as much from the sun.
  • If you're not sure whether or not to supplement, you can always get your blood levels tested. All the published incidences of too much Vitamin D involved doses of over 40,000 IUs a day, so it is unlikely you'd get too much by taking a supplement.
  • Vitamin D supplements are available in an inexpensive, almost tasteless drop form.
I wish I had found out more about Vitamin D sooner! I'm glad that it is such an easy and cheap thing to improve about our family's health. We don't like to think about it now, but the dark winter months always follow summer, so look into Vitamin D!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Vos Reunion 2011

We had a great time at Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, at a Vos family reunion. At the last reunion, Nate and I were not engaged yet, so a lot has changed for us, and it was good to get to see others too and catch up with them. Tobias enjoyed being teased by his great-great-uncles and going hiking. We did have one trail injury; Tobias tripped on our very first stop and cut his forehead, and then the next day got it bleeding again by running into a rock. Thankfully it wasn't more severe and it seems to be healing well.

A highlight for me was our hike to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake. I thought it was neat how each lake was different: Nymph Lake had lots of lily pads and baby ducks, Dream Lake was very clear and reminded me of the book Hatchet, and the highest, Emerald Lake, was secluded and surrounded by steep rocky sides. I was carrying 25 weeks worth of baby on me and felt tired by the end, but Nate had 25 pounds of Tobias on him for most of the hike.

Emerald Lake
Julie, Doug, Rebecca, Ryan, Lois, Nate, Tobias (in backpack, asleep), Hannah + baby
click here to see more of Doug's reunion pictures

Letter to Sioux County Board of Supervisors

On Tuesday, August 23, 2011, the Sioux County Board of Supervisors will meet to make a decision on whether or not to allow a gun range to be built at Sandy Hollow. This is my letter to them; I encourage you to write a letter or e-mail ( if you would also be affected by this decision, or to sign the petition if you have not already.

To: Sioux County Board of Supervisors: John Degan, Arlyn Kleinwolterink, Al Bloemendaal, Mark Sybesma, Denny Wright

I am writing concerning the NIOSC application and my correspondence is for the record. I lived in the vicinity of Sandy Hollow for many years and now visit my parents and family there a few times a year. I am concerned about how the proposed NIOSC shooting range would affect myself, my family, friends and former neighbors in the area.

The first thing thing that would affect me as a regular visitor is the level of noise. I have one toddler who loves spending time playing outdoors and another child on the way who doubtless will as well. My husband and I like to spend time playing games, gardening, grilling, sledding, doing photography, and enjoying the fresh air at my family's house.

The noise of the shooting, especially so close to the Sandy Hollow driveway, would make it unlikely that we could continue such activities at the level we currently enjoy. Walking down the Sandy Hollow driveway to get to the playground, campground, or bike trail would expose my children to levels of noise that would be frightening and could damage their hearing (an estimated 105 decibels, the level of a rock band). Even in the yard of my parents' residence and in their home, the noise would be enough to disrupt conversation and activity, and would likely even disrupt sleep. A decibel level of 45 is considered enough to make it difficult to sleep, and in my experience, kids can be very sensitive to unexpected noises while trying to fall asleep. Gunshots would be louder and much more surprising to a child than the "whoosh" of a car going by or muffled conversation through the walls. Of course, with two kids and possibly more in the future, I know that sleep is important for a child's health, and for their parents' well-being as well!

The noise from a shooting range is the reason the NRA strongly recommends a 1/2 mile buffer between the range and nearby residences; there are 70 residents within a 1/2 mile of Sandy Hollow, in addition to businesses and farms. Many of these are in areas zoned as "residential" and they deserve to have the residential character of their beautiful homes and yards protected. The level and frequency (2500 shots per day at half capacity, more during busier days or tournaments) of noise generated by a shooting range would not be tolerated in an area immediately bordering a city residential housing area, and Sandy Hollow area residents deserve the same respect. In addition to the 70 residents in the immediate 1/2 mile area, there are an unknown number of people within 1-2 miles that would certainly hear the shots while trying to enjoy their own yards, and there are many people who currently enjoy the fishing, biking, and camping opportunities at Sandy Hollow that would choose not to visit there if the shooting range were to be built. Many people would be negatively impacted.

I am convinced that a shooting range does not mix well with a family recreational area, for safety reasons. With the shooting stations so near to the edge of the proposed range, nearer than recommended by the NRA, I would avoid walking or taking my children along the Sandy Hollow driveways and trails during shooting hours even if it were not for the noise. Accidental shots do happen, and a buffer safety space around shooting stations is recommended for legitimate reasons. I think a site should be found that can accommodate those types of safety recommendations instead of trying to squeeze a shooting range into the Sandy Hollow site.

In addition, the airborne lead dust and lead shot deposited by the shooting range would pose a health and safety risk. The ideal level of lead in humans is zero; it serves no purpose to the human body. Lead poisoning, even at low levels, can cause symptoms such as fatigue, behavioral problems, raised blood pressure, headaches, reproductive problems, and anemia. It can be difficult to pinpoint the cause of such symptoms, meaning that children or adults with lead poisoning can suffer for an extended amount of time and incur permanent damage. As a mom and a teacher, I am glad that our society has taken steps to eliminate lead in fuel, paints, and toys. Allowing a shooting range so close to crops, water supply, residential and recreational areas is a step backwards that would be hard or impossible to undo.

Please make the sensible choice that benefits and protects the whole community: reject the NIOSC application.


Hannah Vander Wilt

P.S. Read Heather's letter too, or browse them all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fun with Birthday Gifts

Disclaimer: Tobias's name prediction is totally his own (well, it may be a shortened form of Hallelujah) and not based on any name discussions or gender knowledge of ours (we have none).

Thursday, July 07, 2011


In the first conversation, Tobias practices the names of some of his favorite people. In the second conversation, he nearly falls asleep while eating a peach; is he worn out from being goofy with David all morning, or because he got up at 6:00 a.m.? Who knows.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Toddler Backpack "Winging it" Tutorial

What is a "winging it" tutorial, you may ask? Isn't that an oxymoron? Perhaps it is.

While searching for directions or patterns to make Tobias a little backpack for his birthday, I found several very cute backpacks and the directions to make them. None of the patterns looked quite like what I was thinking, and I'm a little scared of doing zippers. So I ended up "winging it" and making my own pattern.

I took pictures of what I did so that I would be able to finish the second backpack (for his friend). Here are some simple instructions of how I did it so you can make one too, in case completely winging it isn't your style.

You will need an unspecified amount of canvas (I used misc. scraps), 2 buckles or sets of D rings, an unknown amount of webbing, and some elastic. The seam allowances for the main seams of the body and top flap are 1/2 inch. Pockets and details have smaller seam allowances. Use a heavy duty needle for canvas or denim, or be prepared to go through a lot of needles.
  1. Cut 11" x 6" rectangle of canvas or sturdy cloth for the bottom of the backpack
  2. Cut 35" x 14" (or desired height plus 2 inches) for the body of the backpack
  3. Cut 2 pieces, 12" x 5", for the straps.
  4. Cut a piece of newspaper 10.5" x 7.5". Then round two of the corners to make the paper into a "D" shape. This is the pattern for the top flap of the backpack.
  5. Place your D-pattern with the long straight side on the fold of the fabric and cut that out.
  6. Create the straps by sewing the pieces into tubes, turning right side out, and then pressing them with the seam in the middle (this seam will be towards the child's body when wearing the backpack, or towards the outside if you prefer). If desired, place a small rectangle of fleece inside the top of each strap for padding, avoiding the very top inch or two that will end up being in the seam allowance. I used a pencil to shove the fleece into the tube and flatten in out.
  7. Press one end of each tube into the pointed shape shown in the picture below by pushing the side of each strap towards the inside of the tube and then ironing into place. (I have 4 straps because I was making 2 backpacks, if you are making 1 backpack you should have 2 straps!)
  8. Fold the tips of each piece of fabric towards the inside of the tube and press. All the raw edges on this end of the strap should now be pressed to the inside and it is ready to sew to the webbing portion of the strap.
  9. Sew 6.5" or 7" piece of webbing onto each buckle or set of D-rings.
  10. Insert the other end of the webbing into the folded tips of the canvas straps. Topstitch to secure the webbing in place and continue topstitching around the edge of the entire strap.
  11. Cut a front pocket, if desired, 12.5" or 13" wide by 8" tall. The finished width of my pocket is 8" and height is 6". Each side has a "bellows pocket" type pleat in it to give it a little depth. Hem the top of the pocket, zigzag stitch the side edges if desired so they don't ravel inside the pocket, and press the sides into the pleated shape. There should be 6 vertical folds in your pocket. I put a few stitches in the middle of the "M" pleat so that it stays pleated. The picture below shows the finished pocket from the top so you can see the shape of the side folds. You can do another style of pocket if you prefer, or another size.
  12. Add a small piece of velcro to the center of the pocket (if you forget like I did, you can still do it later).
  13. Sew the bottom piece of the backpack to the center of the body piece of the backpack,
    including the bottom of the pocket in the seam.
  14. The sides of the pocket will still be un-sewn, topstitch them down.
  15. Finish sewing the body to the bottom and then sew up the back seam. Trim any extra fabric from the back seam and zigzag inside seam edges to prevent fraying if desired. It should now look somewhat bag-like.
  16. Make a loop of elastic for the top that, when stretched, will allow the bag to fully open.
  17. Press the top of the bag to form a casing, then sew with elastic inside. Here's a picture of the elastic casing on the finished backpack.
  18. Sew straps and hanging loop to the top back of the bag, right underneath the casing.
  19. Make top flap: sew a seam around the edge of your D-piece, leaving a hole to turn right side out. Turn, clip curves, press, and topstitch. I did two rows of stitching for a decorative effect.
  20. Topstitch the flap onto the body of the backpack, right over top of the topstitching that attached the straps and loop in step 18.
  21. Cut two 8.5"-9" pieces of webbing. Finish one end (by sewing or using no-fray solution).
  22. Seam rip two small openings in the bottom back seam for these pieces and sew them into the seams. Attach to buckles or D-rings.
  23. Make a pull-tab from extra fabric or webbing. Attach pull-tab and velcro pieces to top flap. I used a square-and-X design to firmly attach the tab, and hand-sewed the velcro to the tab in order not to make extra stitching marks on the front of it.
  24. Attach the opposite pieces of velcro for the top flap and the pocket.
  25. Insert firm rectangle (cardboard or plastic) into bottom of backpack if desired to help hold shape. Make any needed adjustments to the backpack and try it on the child!
There, only 25 steps. Simple, right! I would love to hear from anyone who has found this tutorial useful. Please comment with questions, suggestions, and variations that you came up with.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Be a Dear, Face the Rear

Today I had a curious friend ask me "Why is he facing backwards, is he not big enough to face forward yet?" as I put Tobias into the car. I've heard this question many times, and it is not a silly question at all! Until fairly recently, 1 year was the minimum amount of time that kids were required/recommended to face backwards. While the law still allows kids to face forward at their first birthday in most states, the American Academy of Pediatrics and other safety organizations now recommend a minimum of 2 years facing backwards in the car.

The difference in safety is significant: a child riding rear-facing is five times safer. Another way of stating this (taken from this site) is:
In 100 collisions of rear facing kids, 8 rear facing children will die or become seriously injured. 92 will walk away fine. In 100 collisions with forward facing kids, 40 will die or become seriously injured. 60 will walk away fine. Those are large differences which help to save lives.
Nate and I laugh about our society's over-protectiveness; Nate once joking that "in the future, all toys will be colorful plastic wiffle-spheres". Certainly turning all toys into "safe" but bland objects would have an impact of kids' development, and they'd surely find more interesting (and dangerous) things to play with. We can't eliminate all the risks. Based on the statistics, though, I don't think that keeping your child rear-facing for 2 years or more is excessively overprotective, or that anything in their development will be sacrificed for the increased safety.

Today's families seem to be putting on more miles at higher speeds than previous generations, and it is good to know that we can keep reducing the number of serious injuries and fatalities that occur.

If you have children or will soon, and your car situation allows it (our pickup truck is not very conducive to rear-facing, so Tobias does face forwards in the truck now), I strongly encourage you to research and follow these recommendations.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Peanut Butter Cookies and Invisible Coffee

It seems like my favorite blogs are always posting beautiful pictures of the tasty things they have been cooking up. We've been cooking too, although the pictures are maybe not as mouth-watering as they could be. Tobias is getting less destructive when he helps in the kitchen. He helped stir and shake cinnamon into cottage cheese pancakes, and helped squish peanut butter cookies with a fork.

The recipe for the peanut butter cookies (Aunt Janet's recipe) is:
  • 1 cup of peanut butter, slightly melted
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Roll, squish, and bake 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees

We re-shaped the cookies featured in the video and do plan to take them to church.
What are your favorite places to get new recipes?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Captions By Tobias

Our bike trailer.

Warm apples.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Progress, Pain, Cost, Risk, and the Greater Good

My sister Heather wrote an excellent post describing how disillusioned she is by the decision of the Sioux Center City Council to approve the Sandy Hollow gun range, despite being presented strong evidence of it's risk, and over 400 signatures from those opposed.

These are some thoughts that I wanted to add to hers:

There are risks in all areas of life. And yes, "progress" sometimes causes pain, and it costs something. As a pregnant woman, I'm well aware that that the progress of bringing another child into the world will involve risk and pain, and it will cost something. There's road construction near my house. There's an element of risk there to the workers working with construction equipment. The progress will cost the city money, and the detour I am sure is causing excess noise to a residential community, for a short time.

There is a tiny element of truth in most lies, and I think this idea that
"a little risk is OK, a little pain is OK, progress always has it's costs" is one of the ideas causing people to support the gun range. However, they are failing to realize the bigger truth that whenever possible, a good leader will minimize the risks, and the risks are borne by consenting adults, hopefully for a short time in order to have a long-term gain. A good leader follows the reasonable recommendations of expert organizations: I take my vitamins and eat healthy and get prenatal care, and I see the construction workers using safety equipment and directing traffic away from workers. A good leader speaks up for those less powerful than himself.

People undertake the risk of having children, building roads, etc. because the situation of never having children, or continuing to use an old and overcrowded road system would be, in the long run, more dangerous and risky than the temporary risks of pregnancy and road construction.

These situations are entirely different than the situation of the gun range, where the City Council (and others) are asking someone else to bear long-term or permanent risks, costs, and pain of "progress" that isn't essential at all, and meanwhile ignoring the safety recommendations of experts such as the NRA and EPA.

John Byl, president of NIOSC, the gun club planning to build the range, said

"All progress is not good for everyone in the community." (quote in Northwest Iowa Review).

I think this statement admits that the gun range plan would have a significant negative impact on a lot of people, including neighbors of Sandy Hollow and people who do or would participate in other recreational activities there.

I think Heather's post excellently demonstrates that the thinking behind approving this range just isn't right, and it is a shame to those that approved it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sandy Hollow: Better Options

Hello readers! I feel that perhaps my last few Sandy Hollow posts, by necessity, have been a little information heavy and negative. I do not know what the next steps will be in the process of trying to stop the gun range. Today I would like you to help me brainstorm some great ideas that could be done that would not be controversial, that would allow current attractions such as camping and fishing to continue undisturbed, that would not decrease the quality of life and property value for Sandy Hollow area residents, and that would not present a safety and health risk. Some ideas that have been proposed so far, plus a few of my own, are:

  • Three hole golf course. putting green, driving range and mini-golf. This level of golf activity would not compete with the Ridge and would likely foster more desire in people to actually golf at the Ridge, which would increase their business.
  • Facilities for sporting activities such roller hockey, volleyball, and disc golf could be made or upgraded
  • Ponds, beaches and shorelines could be improved. There are many people that enjoy fishing and swimming at Sandy Hollow, and these improvements would increase their numbers.
  • Improve the camping facilities and add camping spots. As other improvements are added more campers will come. They will spend money in Sioux Center also.
  • Improve and add shelter houses
  • Prairie, wetland, or nature areas with walking trails
  • Connect the bike trail to Orange city, which is connected to Alton
  • Archery range
  • Community gardens
  • Cabins that could be used for camping, family reunions, etc. I have enjoyed spending time with family at Inspiration Hills at their cabins, which are available year round, and I think something similar would be great at Sandy Hollow.
  • Rock climbing wall
  • Low ropes course for teamwork activities
  • Outdoor exercise and fitness equipment such as that available on the Orange City/Alton bike trail
What activities would you like to see at Sandy Hollow that would provide excellent recreation for residents and visitors?

More brainstorms that have come up (added August 2011):
  • Gazebos: good for relaxing, small group meeting place useful for day camps, retreats, reunions
  • Paddleboat rental
  • Paintball area

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Who Would Pay for Lead Cleanup at Sandy Hollow?

Here is an excerpt from the document presented by opponents of the gun range planned at Sandy Hollow, to the Sioux Center City Council, on May 18, 2011:

Liability and Financial Risk for the City of Sioux Center:

As the owner of the Sandy Hollow property, the City of Sioux Center is likely to be held partially responsible for environmental degradation caused by the proposed Outdoor Sporting Complex, should it occur. Given the nature of the site, and the operations currently planned, ground and surface water contamination are likely, and the cost of remediation could be substantial. Applicable federal laws and regulations include the Clean Water Act (CWA), Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund). (National Shooting Sports Foundation, ‘Environmental Aspects of Construction and Management of Outdoor Shooting Ranges, p. 1-3 to 1-9).

The proposed lease with the NIOSC Board indicates that the Board is responsible for managing the lead shot dispersed on the property, but does not include language specific enough to ensure that the site will be decontaminated prior to termination of the lease. Contaminated land (defined by statute) would have minimal resale value, and if the shooting range was no longer in operation could be subject to RCRA statutes requiring decontamination at the owner’s expense. Given the extensive areas that will receive lead deposits at Sandy Hollow, the land area is very likely to be considered ‘contaminated’ at the end of the lease, leaving the City and its residents with a substantial (hundreds of thousands of dollars in comparable cases) cleanup bill.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sign the Petition Against Sandy Hollow NIOSC gun range

Wednesday update: The City Council voted unanimously to approve the lease of Sandy Hollow to NIOSC. Opponents managed to collect almost 400 signatures in just two days and presented a comprehensive packet of information detailing the problems with the current plan (which I will post later) but unfortunately it still passed.

, Wednesday 18, the Sioux Center City Council will be meeting to discuss a proposed 25 year lease, with the option to sell, of Sandy Hollow to NIOSC (Northwest Iowa Outdoor Sportsmen's Club).

Residents and property owners of Sioux Center are invited to show up and voice their concerns and opposition orally or in writing. There is also a time for public input open to non-residents.

If you are opposed to the building of this complex (see previous posts for information on the sound issues, lead contamination risk, etc.), please sign the petition. Your signature carries more weight if you own property or live in Sioux Center. However, please sign anyway if you are a regular visitor to Sioux Center, a student in Sioux Center, someone in the surrounding area (especially if you are in Orange City and your drinking water wells are at risk for lead contamination from this project), or just concerned about the general risks of this project.

Also be in continued prayer that this issue can be resolved quickly and without legal action.

What does the petition say?

We the following people of the City of Sioux Center and surrounding area hereby object to the City’s leasing of City property to the Northwest Iowa Outdoor Sporting Complex Board for the purposes of a public shooting range and sports complex. We object to the City’s involvement in such shooting range and sports complex as it will inevitably subject the City to future liability for personal injury, property damage, nuisance, diminution of surrounding real estate values, and environmental waste and cleanup under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

How do I sign the petition?

Contact someone who lives in the Sandy Hollow area to sign the petition in person, or sign electronically by sending an e-mail to warren at parkingdesigngroup dot com (replace at and dot with the appropriate punctuation). In the e-mail, you need to include a jpg or tiff file of your signature (take a picture of it or scan it), along with your address and phone number.

If you prefer, you can e-mail me (hnnhhyr at gmail dot com) and I will send you a pdf document of the petition that you can print, sign and then scan and send in by e-mail, or deliver to someone.

Why should I get involved?

NIOSC board chairman John Byl says that only a handful of neighbors are opposing the plan; please sign the petition to show that this is not the case and that a wide variety of people are concerned about it. He also stated in an interview with the Northwest IA Review, about the residents of the Sandy Hollow area:

"If you want to go to a place where you're protected from what your neighbor does, you ought to live in a community".

Please show your support and that "community" is something larger and deeper than simply the city limits of Sioux Center, it is a group of people who want to support each other and do what is safe and respectful of all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Residences within 1/2 mile of Sandy Hollow

The NRA recommends that shooting ranges be built in an area where there is 1/2 mile or more to the nearest residence. This map shows (in black) the approximately 25 houses, apartments, and businesses within a 1/2 mile of Sandy Hollow (proposed shooting range shown in yellow).

Exposure to noise can cause sleep disruption, increased stress hormones, higher blood pressure, and hearing loss. When describing the health effects of noise, the World Health Organization's "Guidelines for Community Noise" states:
Stronger reactions have been observed when noise is accompanied by vibrations and contains low- frequency components, or when the noise contains impulses, such as with shooting noise.

This means that impulse noises such as gunshots have a stronger effect (even physically) on people than the rumble of aircraft, traffic, or a talking crowd at the same decibel level.

Although the Sioux County Planning and Zoning Committee has voted approval of the planned shooting range, it is important that Sioux County residents (or frequent visitors such as myself) get involved in the effort to halt the plan.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Flood pictures at Sandy Hollow

At the proposed Sandy Hollow shooting ranges, 15-30 tons of lead shot would be deposited on the ground each year. The DNR plans to clean up the lead every several years. However, as you can see in these pictures from 2010, the West Branch creek that runs through the proposed shooting range can flood, covering the area of the proposed gun range. This would wash the lead into the stream where it could soak into the groundwater or harm wildlife. Both Orange City and Rural Water have wells downstream from this area. The EPA's Best Management Practices for Lead at Outdoor Shooting Ranges states:
In areas of groundwater discharge such as river flood plains and most flat areas, the groundwater surface is often a few feet below the surface. Remember, the shorter the distance traveled, the greater the risk that the lead will migrate into the environment. Shallow depth to groundwater is indicative of higher risk for lead to reach the water.

Due to the flooding creek, the ground water being close to the surface, and the sandy soil, building a shooting range at Sandy Hollow would pose an unacceptably high risk of lead contamination.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sandy Hollow Gun Range DNR letter

For the last few months my parents have been working hard organizing opposition to a proposed gun range at Sandy Hollow, near Sioux Center IA. My sister Heather wrote a great letter to the DNR expressing many problems with the gun range. She already said everything, basically, but I wrote a letter too, expressing my own perspective as a mom with a kid who eats dirt, drops things in the dirt, plays in the dirt, etc.

If this topic affects you, please contact Dale Garner ( to express your concern. Use the subject line "NIOSC gun range Sioux Center Iowa".

Here is a portion of my letter:

Lead poisoning is a dangerous problem, especially to children under 6 years old. The symptoms include irritability, learning difficulties, and fatigue. These symptoms can be easily confused with other problems or be ignored, meaning that children can suffer for extended periods of time without being diagnosed. Lead poisoning can cause miscarriage or premature birth for pregnant women.

Widespread lead contamination has been documented from shooting ranges. For example, the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware had contamination levels in the groundwater of 400 micrograms to 1 milligram per liter due to a shooting range in the area. The Sandy Hollow area is at risk for lead contamination since the west branch of the Floyd River runs through the area, and there are frequent floods that would contribute to the lead spreading downstream, soaking into the soil, or reaching the groundwater. The floods often reach over farmland nearby or downstream, and it seems that this poses a risk to farmers, livestock, and possibly even to the food supply. The EPA states that shooting ranges should not be near water for this reason.

As a parent I watch my child very closely, but as there is no fence planned around the edge of the shooting range, and guns might be shot very close to the borders and driveway of the property, I worry that my curious child might come into contact with lead pellets in the soil near the borders of the shooting area while taking a walk. I know that simply touching a lead pellet once is not likely to harm a child, but there is a definite risk for children who might accidentally ingest the lead. Even with close supervision, children tend to put objects and dirt in their mouths, or eat food that has been dropped in dirt. Children who live in the area could also be exposed to long term contamination through water or soil.

The noise level is another concern to me as a mom of young children, since the noise levels along the driveway at the edge of the property (estimated to be around 100 db) are high enough to cause hearing loss. Even in neighborning residential areas, the noise would be loud enough to disrupt outdoor activities, and would be concentrated in the times that people would want to spend outdoors.

If a shooting range is to be built in the Sioux County area, a site should be found that follows current expert recommendations: it should be a half mile or more to the nearest residence as recommended by the NRA (currently there are over 25 residences within a half mile of Sandy Hollow), the noise level should be 55 decibels or less at the property line as recommended by the NRA (at the Sandy Hollow site noise levels are estimated to be around 100 decibels at the property line), and the shooting range should not be near water, as recommended by the EPA. It would also be sensible to find a site that does not interfere with other healthy outdoor recreation and exercise such as fishing, biking, camping, running, walking, picnicking, photography, swimming and more.

The current plan would benefit only a few, while having a negative impact on many and causing risk to the smallest and most vulnerable.

The shooting range was designed by a DNR employee, and would depend on funding from the DNR, but as you can see it goes against the DNR's mission to enhance the quality of life and preserve natural resources. Please act to prevent this gun range from being built.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


As Tobias learns new words and phrases every day, we find ourselves having plenty to laugh about every day. Here are some of my favorites from the past few weeks.

Turning onto our street for the first time when coming back from Italy: "Our room!". He had forgotten the word "home" but he knew where we were!

First manly sentence (while grocery shopping): "All done. Shopping. Back home!"

For awhile he would come to us with a banana or orange and say "Zip, zip!". I was almost sad when he learned the word "peel", because "zip" was so cute!

Me: "What does mommy have in her tummy?". Tobias: "Cereal." Well, the answer we were going for was "baby" but I guess cereal was also correct. On another occasion he answered "airplane" (which is not correct at all, for the record).

Cloth Diapers in Italy

I know, I know. I need to be writing posts for my own blog. Don't worry, I have some in the works.

But, hoping that others could get ideas from my experience taking the cloth diapers along to Italy, I wrote up a guest post on what I took along and how the washing went, etc. for a cloth diapering blog. Washing the diapers was a little harder than at home, just because I had to haul the wet laundry out of our basement and through the other apartment to get to the drying racks and sunny terraces. But the view while doing so was gorgeous so I shouldn't complain!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Ups and Downs of Being a Toddler

Ups: Playing with friends at church, getting cool packages in the mail, wearing cute hats
Downs: Falling on head and visiting emergency room
Ups: Being silly while eating peas

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Guest Post at

Recently I enjoyed getting to write a guest post for a favorite blog of mine, Happy Money Saver. It is a blog that helps people get good deals on groceries, online purchases, and fun freebies and samples. After seeing several posts with excellent tips on how to combine coupons/sales to get good deals on disposable diapers, I asked Karrie if I could write a post for her on saving money with cloth diapers. Some of the tips I learned from experience, and some I had heard from friends. I had a lot of fun writing it up and I hope it was helpful to lots of readers!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Knows letters, prefers trucks

Don't worry, we don't have him doing "big kid" schoolwork all day, but he likes guessing the letters I draw on the Magna Doodle or iPod. T is his favorite letter so far and he likes to find all the capital Ts in his books.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Next Up: Brain Surgery

These toys are meant to blink, spin, or ding when you connect the matching colored other half. For a new challenge, Nate taught him to push the tiny buttons directly with a chopstick.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Somersaults and Spins

The things we do to wear him out before bedtime...