Thursday, May 30, 2013

1 + 1 = 3

Take a whole lot of Jason, mix it with a little bit of Darcy...

And what do you get?! A perfect little Madi! We can't wait to meet you Baby Girl!

PS. I have no idea how or why Jason and I have baby pictures with the same background. My mom said the background was from the newspaper announcement pictures taken in the hospital so maybe the year 1985 had the same one everywhere since Jason and I were born in different States and eight months apart...(Too bad we can't find it again to use for Madi! Perhaps we can photoshop something...)


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Book Worms

Jason and I are not your typical book worms. In fact, the only reason Jason applied to the Colorado School of Mines (and it was the only school he applied to...) was the fact that he didn't have to write an essay for admission. Also the reason Jason chose to pursue a Master's program when he found out the University of Houston didn't require a thesis or essay for the degree. :-)

But he's been incredibly supportive and interested in reading some of the same books as me to help prepare ourselves for the arrival of Miss Madison. Some of the books I would mark passages to read him and others he read completely and we discussed together our thoughts. I've truly enjoyed this new way of bonding that we hadn't ever experienced before. I value Jason's opinions incredibly so it's been a huge blessing to talk about our parenting strategy and feed off of one another's thoughts.

Here's the collection of books we've read thus far -

Everyone is going to have different opinions about what should/shouldn't be done when parenting. (Read this exhausted new mom's hilarious perspective on advice.) Here is our two-cents on the top ones we would recommend.

Stingerie's Top Five List (in no particular order)-

1. Taking Charge of Your Fertility - great resource for anyone trying to get pregnant and wanting to understand the biology, hormornes, etc. that are involved. I personally charted my temperature and had no idea where babies came from until reading this book. :-)

Since that doesn't really count as a book resource once you are already pregnant though, I would also recommend...

1.5 Mayo Clinic Guide to Healthy Pregnancy - I didn't honestly use this book much as a resource since I got really lucky and have had a fabulous and basically symptom-free pregnancy. However, it includes monthly updates that tell you what things you may or may not notice during that time in your pregnancy and I found that interesting. It also had recommendations for what to be concerned about and when to call your doctor throughout the pregnancy. Fortunately, we never had to refer to any of those sections, but it was good information.

2. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth - this is one where I just marked select passages for Jason to read. The first half is entirely birth stories and while some of them were encouraging and interesting, I found a lot of them to be... how do I put this... slightly too "hippie" for me. I would skip the first half of the book and jump to the second where she talks about childbirth and how your body naturally adapts for the process of delivery.

3. Do Chocolate Lover's Have Sweeter Babies - highly recommend this one. It's absolutely hilarious and interesting. The author does a fabulous job of balancing the amount of science she includes with personal anecdotes. It's amazing how our decisions and choices now are already impacting our baby and future generations. Also, don't you want to read about why it's possible for men to be able to breastfeed?! Jason and I got through this one with me reading it out loud to him during our commute to work. It's written in short chapters that you can read intermittedly without needing to read the whole book front-to-back if you are only interested in specific topics.

4. On Becoming Baby Wise - if I had to pick a top book this would definitely be a contender. I had quite a few people give me both negative and positive feedback on this one. I asked Jason if he would read it as well so we could discuss it together. He was also skeptical going into it having seen reviews of people commenting that the book tells you to let a hungry baby cry until it's time for the next feeding. This is NOT, I repeat NOT at all what the book recommends or suggests. He specifcally says he does not support "hyper-scheduling", which is what the last comment refers to. He also point-blank says that you should not start "scheduling" until after the baby is a couple weeks old because in those first two weeks the baby should eat whenever he/she is hungry.  He goes on to give examples of schedules throughout the baby's growth and how to transition between them at different age ranges based on your baby's specific development. Both Jason and I really enjoyed the book and its principles and have decided to try and implement a flexible "eat-play-sleep" schedule for Madi. I will say that I think it will be hard to implement this technique and find the balance that doesn't lean too much in either the direction of "attachment parenting" or "hyper-scheduling", but I think the benefits that you will reap with this parenting routine make it worth the effort.

5. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer - this book has a lot of the same recommendations as On Becoming Baby Wise. She recommends a similar flexible schedule of EASY - eat, activity, sleep, you. However, she encourages you to start immediately with this routine. Her other big take-away from the book is that your baby is a person and should be treated with respect like you would anyone else. You should give your baby a tour of the house when you first arrive and always speak to them about what you are going to do before doing it. (For example, "Madi, I am going to pick you up now and change your diaper.") Slightly odd concept to me at first, but she points out that we do not know what our baby's intellectual capacity is for understanding and how would you feel if someone just did something to your body without telling you first. Her other big point that both Jason and I really liked is the concept that "attachment parenting" gives your baby the control and teaches them thay they run the household rather than you which doesn't demonstrate respect on both yours and the baby's side. There are obviously adjustments that need to be made when this new person enters your life, but the key is finding a balance on how things are done in your household that works for everyone and doesn't short you or the baby. She also talks about specific personalities babies have and how to reverse bad habits that parents inadvertently create that begins to negatively impact them as the baby grows.

If you want my thoughts/opinions about any of the other books I will gladly tell you straight-up what I thought about it. Just leave a comment below or contact me any of these other ways.

Additionally, we have a list of books we'd still like to read, but that are appropriate for when Madi is a little bit older so we haven't gotten them crossed off yet. If you have any other books you'd recommend (whether appropriate for now or later in parenting) we'd love to hear them!


Sunday, May 26, 2013

DIY Nursery and Baby Accessories

I'm definitely no DIY-expert. (As is evidenced by the lack of any "progression" pictures of the following crafts...) But every now and then I like to tap into my creative side and make things.

My first DIY project was Madison's wall name. I knew when I saw this picture on Pinterest that it would be perfect for displaying a name.

When we were in Houston I got all the necessary items and I love how it turned out! I couldn't have done it without help from this little one though - 

Here's the only progression picture of any of the crafts. :-)

And the final product!

I convinced Jason to buy me a sewing machine for Christmas and have been putting it to good use.

First I started with something simple - basket liners. A much easier solution than trying to find the right size baskets and nursery themed liners. :-)

Next we purchased a crib mobile at a used baby sale. It was a cute jungle theme, but obviously not what we were going for in Madi's nursery. So I had the idea to make my own shapes and re-cover it. I, of course, didn't take a before picture of the old one, but I found this picture that shows it a little bit and Madi's name on the wall.

And the new mobile. I think it turned out great and I am really happy with it.

Next I turned my attention to more practical accessories - burp cloths, pacifier clips, and headbands. :-)

I bought cloth diapers and covered them with the different fabrics my mom and I bought in Houston.

I also made pacifier clips!

Of course I made a matching set in her damask nursery-theme.

And last, but not least, I made her headbands. Really I just sewed together doilies and buttons onto hair clips. I sewed a couple buttons onto the actual headbands, but the others are changeable. Now which one should she wear home from the hospital... :-)


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Week 37

How far along: 37 weeks, 5 days

Size of Baby S: 19 in, 6-1/3 lbs

Fruit/vegetable comparison (according to Baby Center): Swiss chard

Total weight gain: 26 lbs. I am officially over the recommended weight gain my doctor gave me back in October. :-/ I am hoping it's mostly water weight since I have been noticing a little swelling this week.

Sleep: Good. I'm still comfortable and have been able to sleep most of the night. I did have a couple early mornings though. I woke up and think that everything running through my mind kept me awake. I finished a major report last week and have two major presentations coming up this week. In addition I started thinking about all the stuff I needed to get finished this week - pack hospital bag, pick out Madison's going home outfit, etc. Fortunately I've had a huge burst of energy that's kept me going!

Movement: Lots still. She was going crazy last night and Jason and I found ourselves watching her wide-eyed. She kept twisting from left to right and making my stomach lopsided.

Unglamorous body changes: I already mentioned that I'm having a little swelling. Besides that nothing else too major. Oh, except, honest question - how in the heck is one supposed to shave their legs anymore?! I successfully was able to shave them on Monday, but it wasn't without significant effort. I am thinking Jason has to put up with slightly hairy legs for awhile...

Maternity Clothes? Yep. Except for the weekly pictures outfit. :-)

Showing: Yes! And I think starting to make my co-workers nervous, hehe. By this point the Norwegian women would be out of the office on their maternity and here I am trucking along (albeit slower than before). I'm being asked more regularly when I start my maternity and believe I would love to know the answer myself, but Madi is staying mum. Although it might cutdown on the number of questions after my presentations if I start having contractions... ;-)

Food cravings: I desperately want cake. Not Norwegian cake. I'm sorry to my Norwegian peeps that read this, but your country cannot do cake. I would give anything for an Ooh La La cupcake or slice of cake.

What I miss: Honestly nothing really. Pregnancy has been sort of easy (hope this doesn't jinx me) and while I have temporarily missed certain things (alcohol, icing, American food in general), I don't think I have much cause to complain about missing anything.

Anything making you queasy: Nope.

Strange experiences: I was having a lot of pressure this morning - almost feeling like a constant braxton-hicks contraction. Fortunately, it's gone away now and I am feeling back to normal now.

Milestones: We are FULL TERM!!! This means if Madi decides to make an appearance before my due date (June 15), then she will be able to breathe on her own. She's practicing inhaling/exhaling, blinking, gripping, and sucking. Oh and squirming! I know I said this before, but she's definitely running out of space now. :-)

Best moment this week: We had our Week 37 appointment with the midwife. Everything is still looking great and the midwife is really happy with how we are doing. I will see her weekly from now on. Next Tuesday we will try acupuncture during my appointment. It's a natural pain-relief method during labor, but they recommend trying it ahead of time if you've never done it before.

I decided to purchase my own delivery gown for the hospital. I got two since we will be staying there fore a few days afterwards. My mom got those shipped out (along with our bassinet mattress pad: long story short - the moving company lost the one that came with it and slightly cracked a piece of the toddler bed conversion kit so we got reimbursed for the entire crib and found the pieces we needed to replace them). Anyway, I LOVE the Gownies and would highly recommend them (and the matching headband obviously).

And now that I have the delivery gowns, the hospital bags are packed!

Looking forward to: Meeting Madi!! In a couple of weeks though. :-)


Friday, May 24, 2013

Da Stingeries

Those that know me personally, know that I am pretty gangsta. I definitely have the music collection to back this statement up. I attribute my 'hood introduction to my first music video - Gangsta's Paradise. I still know all the words and can bust that song out at anytime. Holla!

So imagine my excitement when I discovered that I could introduce Madison to her first gangsta song! Enter Rockabye Baby - Lullaby Renditions of Kayne West. And while he's no Coolio, I think it will suffice. I was equally as excited to find the Jay-Z version. That is until I realized it's unavailable. Oh snap.

I also figured I'd spice up the blog to have more street cred using Gizoogle. You can check out Da Stingeries  here. I particularly like my Week 36 post where my future daughter's referred to as a "hoe". (Disclaimer - Gizoogle translator may contain graphic words. I mean come on homies, it's the 'hood translation.)

And if that wasn't enough proof of my gansta validity, I grabbed these snapshots as further evidence. Representin'.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Weekend Getaway in Ålo

One of the perks of working in Norway is their hytta (cabin) system setup for employees. Most companies own a number of different "cabins" (could also just be apartments, houses, etc) around Norway as well as other countries (ConocoPhillips has some in Sweden, Demark, and the Canary Islands - don't worry we are likely never going to get that one!)

They run a lottery system each spring and fall for priority to the different cabins. Depending on your number of years with the company and a few other factors you can increase the odds for a high season cabin (ones close to skiing in the winter and ones near the water in the summer).

I threw my name in for a hytta near Kristiansand for this past four-day weekend after unsuccessfully convincing Jason that we should fly somewhere ("But sweetie, technically, I can fly up until the end of my 36th week, which is Tuesday and we will be coming home Monday!" Yeah that obviously didn't fly (pun intended) with Jason.)

Fortunately, we were able to get our first choice, a cabin by the water in Ålo, just 30 min from Kristiansand. We headed down there after work on Thursday and were greeted by one of the neighbors warning us that we'd have an early wake-up call to start the festivities of Norway National Day on Friday, May 17 (you can read more here).

Here's a shot of the cabin. We had the entire second floor to ourselves, including the amazing double-deck patio that we used to soak up the rare weekend sun. In fact I got burned. Uncool Norway.

Saturday we headed to Kristiansand and visited Dyreparken, a really fun zoo. We love walking around and looking at the animals (even though they didn't have our favorite, the okapi). It was definitely a tiring day though!

We treated ourselves to dinner out afterwards at Christiansand Bryggehus and enjoyed our fish and pork.

Sunday we slept in and then did - get this - nothing. Okay so technically you can't really do nothing, but we spent the entire day eating, sleeping, reading, and playing lots of dice and card games. It was fabulous!

And of course got a change in scenery for my Week 36 picture.

We headed back to Stavanger today excited that we got to spend the weekend relaxing and seeing another Norwegian city (even if we really didn't do much touristy stuff). It was nice to have a quiet weekend since this is our last getaway before Madison arrives! :-)


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Week 36

Jason and I are enjoying one last weekend getaway before Madison's arrival. :-) (More to come on that in tomorrow's blog post.)

How far along: 36 weeks, 6 days

Size of Baby S: 18.5 in, 6 lbs

Fruit/vegetable comparison (according to Baby Center): crenshaw melon (what in the world is that?!)

Total weight gain: ? + 22 lbs

Sleep: Good. Still having to get up to use the bathroom, but besides that I am still able to sleep 7-9 hours.

Movement: Tons! She's getting crowded in there and a bit uncomfortable sometimes with her positions. We love feeling her move though and I know I am going to miss it after she arrives. :-)

Unglamorous body changes: Since Madi is pressing on my bladder quite a bit these days, it's becoming very strategic for me to cough or sneeze. Jason no longer panics when I all of a sudden bolt to the bathroom because I feel a sneeze approaching.

Maternity Clothes? Yep! Still going strong with my weekly outfit though, hehe. I think I'll wear this combo until the top turns into a tube top. Then I probably should retire it.

Showing: Yes! I'm started to move a lot slower too, but Jason swears I am not waddling yet.

Food cravings: Nothing really this week.

What I miss: Walking up the stairs without being winded.

Anything making you queasy: Nope.

Strange experiences: Going to the hospital this week. We had our hospital registration Tuesday afternoon and then our birth class toured the hospital Tuesday evening. When we were in the hospital in the afternoon I was kind of freaking out thinking "oh my gosh, is this really happening? are we really going to have one of those small humans in the next few weeks?!" However, when we went back that evening and actually walked around the fødeloft and saw one of the rooms I felt completely different. The atmosphere was calm and relaxing, the rooms are spacious and nice, and I found myself actually being excited to get to go there in a few weeks! We also toured the rooms on the first floor and there was a definite medical-feel distinction between them. We are still praying that we will be able to give birth naturally and remain in the fødeloft. (Not sure what I'm talking about? Get up caught reading my post about the differences between the States and Norway regarding pregnancy/maternity and check out our birth plan.)

Milestones: Madi is shedding most of the downy hair covering her body as well as some of the vernix (waxy substance that covers her skin while she's swimming in amniotic fluid during pregnancy). She's getting closer to being able to breathe on her own and her circulation and immune systems are good to go.

Best moment this week: Mother's Day! :-) Even though I'm not technically a mother yet Jason surprised me with flowers and a beautiful card that he made.

We also finished writing our birth plan and we finished up our birth course with the hospital tour and an evening of breastfeeding information for the moms.

Looking forward to: Spending the rest of the weekend relaxing with Jason! We brought lots of books, cards, blankets, and hot chocolate and plan to just enjoy one another's company and a bit of calm before the Madison storm.

I'm also looking forward to my appointment this week to check on Madi. From now on we will go in every week until she arrives. Eeeek!


Friday, May 17, 2013

Gratuler Med Dagen!

Gratuler med dagen literally means "congratulations with the day". It's used most often for our Happy Birthday but is also heard on other days like today, May 17, which is Norwegian National Day!

We partook in some of the festivities down in Kristiansand, about 3.5 hours south of Stavanger.

We're staying at a cabin in Ålo along the fjord. Check out this amazing view!!

We were warned that we'd be getting an early wake up call this morning with a band playing on the docks.

We went back to sleep afterwards and woke up too late to make the Children's Parade. We walked around and enjoyed seeing a Rose Ceremony and Car Parade though. We also loved seeing the the traditional Norwegian attire that's worn today called the bunad.

I was smitten with this cutie and totally plan to but Madison her own little bunad or next May. :-)

In honor of today, and the fact that we've been here six months now (can you believe it's already been that long?!), we thought we'd capture some observations we've made about our new home.

While some of these might apply to places other than Norway, they are at least all different than what Jason and I are used to in the USA.

Only in Norway...

1. Do you import a Ford Excursion through a loophole in the system classifying it as a "semi". They have since closed the loophole.

2. Does the tap water temperature get to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. And there's no regulator to adjust that.

3. Do you have two stoplights and 20 roundabouts on the way into the office.

4. Does your work group have a wine pool on Friday afternoon.

5. Does everything close on Sundays except for a few shops that are under a certain size limitation.

6. Do you have to bring your own urine sample to the doctor's office for your appointment.

7. Do you have to purchase tissue paper for gifts at the florist.

8. Do you need a fødselsnummer (basically a social security number) to open a grocery store rewards card.

9. Do you leave your child outside in the stroller for nap time, lunchtime, coffe time, etc.

10. Do you spend almost an entire month partying hard before graduation while wearing blue and red colored overalls and giving one another challenges to accomplish (see russefeiring).
We witnessed a multitude of them today in one of the parades.

And my favorite (probably solely because of this music video :-) ) -

11. Does the alphabet contain three extra letters that Jason and I still have trouble pronouncing in words!

Size Matters - Æ Ø Å


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pregnancy, Delivery, and Our Birth Plan in Norge

Even though we haven't yet had a baby in Norge (Norway) we've gotten a lot of questions from friends and family as to the differences between the States and Norway when it comes to pre-natal care and delivery. Obviously the delivery portion is yet to come (and even then I won't have a comparison perspective to the States), but we have seen some differences in what's standard here and how things are approached in Norway. (Some of these might very well be the same or similar in the States, but perhaps not standard or routine.)

1. You have a choice between doing your pre-natal care with a routine physician that's part of the public system or choosing to see a private midwife and/or ob-gyn. Since I have insurance with ConocoPhillips and the coverage is amazing it didn't make sense for us to use the public system. The care you get at either is going to be great, but we have the flexibility of spending more time at each visit and getting additional ultrasounds if we choose (which as you know has worked so well, read here).

2. Every woman is allowed one ultrasound at 18 weeks. This ultrasound is done at the hospital (since everything in the hospital is covered and you pay nothing inside) and they check the baby's measurements, look for any signs of potential genetic disorders, and inform you of the gender if you choose. This is the only ultrasound that you would receive if you opted to visit a public physician (pending any health risks/concerns obviously).

3. Your pre-natal caregiver (whether midwife or ob-gyn) does NOT deliver your baby. There are midwives and an ob-gyn who work at the hospital 24/7. If you are having a natural delivery and have no complications, than a midwife does the delivery. If you have an epidural or a c-section, than they have the ob-gyn there to assist. My midwife does work in the hospital so there is a slim chance that she would be working when I go into labor, but probably not.

4. You carry all of your medical information with you, called a helsekort for gravide (healthcard for pregnancy) to every appointment and to the hospital. We had an appointment today at the hospital to register and they put all of my information in the system so that it doesn't have to be done when we arrive in labor.

5. There is no genetic screening/testing or gestational diabetes testing unless the doctor sees a concern. When you have your 18 week ultrasound they will recommend genetic testing if they see anything of concern. Pregnancy is viewed as a natural process which does not constitute testing unless there is a reason.

The same goes for gestational diabetes. Every appointment I have to bring a urine sample with me. Yes you read that correctly. I bring my own urine sample to the appointment (which amused Jason's coworker Ingrid when I asked her to clarify if I had misunderstood when I made the appointment!) They test for protein levels and sugar levels and, once again, if they see anything of concern only then will they test you.

6. Is an epidural available? Yes, they are available and an option when giving birth in Norway. It's the less intense "walking epidural". However, they encourage you to go natural is you've had a healthy pregnancy and there are no complications, but they will not prevent you from having an epidural if you choose to take one.

7. Labor. If you choose to go natural, then you will be on the 7th floor called the fødeloft (birth loft) of the hospital (there is only one in Stavanger). There you will have the freedom and flexibility to labor as you please - eating, walking around, taking a bath, changing positions, have acupuncture, etc. You will have a midwife and/or nurse checking in on you, but otherwise the atmosphere is very non-hospital like. It's laid back and relaxed with no rushing around or major emergencies since everyone on that floor is delivering and doing so naturally. If you choose (or it's recommended) to have an epidural, then you will be on the 1st floor and have a more "hospital-like" feel, be checked more frequently, and have your delivery with an ob-gyn.

8. After your delivery you are transferred to the hospital hotel. You stay in the hospital, obviously, for the delivery and a few hours afterwards go to the hospital hotel, which is connected to the hospital. You stay there for roughly 3 days depending on how long it takes for you to get your milk and how your delivery went. There are midwives showing you how to feed, how to take care of the baby and yourself, and allowing you to rest if you need additional recovery. Your spouse can stay at the hotel with you and there is a restaurant there which you can order food or go down for meals during your stay.

9. Women in Norway get one year paid maternity leave mandated by the government. They are mandated to start their maternity three weeks prior to their due date. I do not qualify for this since I am on US payroll and considered a US expatriate. When a co-worker asked me when I was headed out on maternity I replied "when my water breaks, hopefully not in the middle of a meeting". :-) Additionally, dads receive two weeks after the birth as well as a three month paid paternity leave after the mother returns to work. Jason as well does not qualify for either of these benefits. 

Instead, I qualify for the "maternity" policy in my home country so I will have either six or eight weeks paid leave falling under Short Term Disability. I do not qualify for FMLA as it's a jurisdictional regulation and does not apply outside the States. Fortunately, I have a very supportive company and boss who have all agreed to my taking a six month Leave of Absence after Madison is born. I will not return to work until January 2014! Additionally, Jason's bosses told him to plan to take two weeks after Madison's birth to spend at home with us. How incredible!! We feel very blessed that we have been given the opportunity to spend additional time with our daughter after she's born!!

10. Babies born in Norway do not receive dual citizenship. Madison will be a US citizen once we travel to the Embassy in Oslo (a good 9 hour drive or 1 hour flight away) and report her birth. Until then she is an illegitimate alien belonging to no country. And we plan to tell her that. ;-)

11. It's recommended to put together a birth plan that you bring with you to the hospital for your midwife. Since we're engineers it was only natural to make ours a flow chart.

After attending a yoga session, homeopathy course, and birth preparation weekend (including a hospital tour this evening), Jason and I are very reassured about the care that we are going to receive here in Norway. The most important thing to us is getting to meet our beautiful, happy, healthy, baby girl Madison and we are encouraged that our desire to labor and deliver naturally (pending any health concerns with me or Madison) will be supported and encouraged here.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all the amazing women I know out there!!

Both Jason and Madison gave me some wonderful Mother's Day gifts even though I am not technically a mother yet. :-)

Friday we had an appointment with the doctor and our last ultrasound. Miss Madi cooperated this time and let us get some semi-unobstructed pictures of her face (she kept an arm across her chin, but considering her past behavior, I'll take it!). She even smiled...sort of. ;-)

She's also getting chubby as you can read in my Week 35 post. Check out those cheeks!!

Jason came home from work Friday and surprised me with flowers. He also made me an incredibly sweet card. I love that man!

It's still surreal to me that in just a few weeks I am going to be a mother. I feel so blessed and fortunate to have an incredibly amazing mom who's set a wonderful example to me of what a mother should be for her daughter. It's days like today that I especially miss her and loathe the distance between us, especially during this time of preparing for the arrival of our little one!

Thank you Mom for everything that you've taught me, everything that you've shown me, and for helping me to become the woman that I am today! I can't wait to see you in July and introduce you to your granddaughter Madison!

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