Just wanted to share this great giveaway from a blog I came across. Visit http://bjmangelson.blogspot.com/2012/12/little-green-pouch.html and follow the instructions at the bottom to submit entries. I just ordered some of these myself and can’t wait to get them in the mail. I’ve actually been reusing the disposable ones by cutting a slit in the bottom to refill and folding the bottom edge to hold in the stuff but now that the little one has discovered the fun in squeezing the pouch, the contents usually end up everywhere but her mouth.

I’ve been spending a lot of time outside over the last couple of weeks trying to get everything ready for our vegetable garden: building and filling the raised bed (with a lot of help from hubby, of course), starting summer seeds, weeding and watering, etc. But I’m a little saddened to report that we don’t quite have vegetables ready to be planted.

I tried starting seeds for 3 different types of cucumbers, 2 types of legumes, a squash, kohlrabi, sunflowers and amaranth but they just didn’t do anything. They were planted in a seed tray with a lid and in the more expensive coconut coir pots instead of regular old peat pots. I left the whole tray outside, thinking I would get a jump on having to harden off the veggies by just letting them grow outdoors. I may have overwatered the whole tray a bit, thinking too much water would have evaporated in our hot Arizona clime. I dug up a few of the seeds just to take a peek and they really hadn’t done anything. Well, one of the bean seeds was a little mushy (this is what clued me off about the overwatering). So a few days ago I decided to just drop one more of each type of seed into the pots and keep the tray inside to sprout and, lo and behold, I’ve finally got some life in my seed tray. You have to learn a few lessons in the beginning, I suppose. Now that things seem to be back on track I hope we haven’t lost too much in the way of a future harvest because of my ignorance.

Besides the veggies that were started indoors, I’ve also sown some carrot seeds in the containers that once contained pea plants. I’m hoping my nitrogen factories have made the potting soil rich enough to produce some lovely carrots (white and purple heirloom varieties). I had started a couple of varieties of globe carrots in smaller pots a couple of months back and didn’t have much success with germination. We might get enough for Reagan to have a snack in about a month.

On another note, one of the two tomato plants that I purchased has just started flowering. I just planted it in a cactus bed that was already set up in our yard and it seems to be able to get enough water there. The other tomato was planted in the same corner as my leafy greens and it just doesn’t seem to like the clay. I am very surprised that with the onslaught of aphid, worm and bird attacks that nothing has touched the tomatoes. Who would have thought mustard greens were tastier?

It’s hard to explain why I’ve been ignoring this blog over the last year and a half. But so much has happened in my life and there are a million new things I’m trying. It’s time to start writing again!

The first thing I feel I should share is my baby’s birth story because it’s the most important and most amazing thing that has happened in my life. Don’t worry! I’ll start writing about knitting and gardening soon enough.

The eve of my due date was no different than most days throughout my pregnancy. I slept a little through the night, did some grocery shopping, washed some dishes, took a nap, and felt like I had swallowed two whole watermelons. Shortly after waking from my nap at 5pm I started feeling some cramping across my entire abdomen that wouldn’t really subside. My mother had just come home from work and we sat at the table and chatted for a while and I realized I should eat something but felt really nauseous. I managed to eat some dinner but made frequent trips to the bathroom because I was fighting the urge to vomit and peeing like crazy. Over the course of a few hours I passed my uterine seal (mucus plug) and the cramping worsened but I was finally able to distinguish the pain of a contraction and the resting time between. I sat in a recliner and watched parts of a movie and started timing my contractions. At first they were anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes apart but by 11:00pm they were consistently 6 minutes apart. The blood that I was passing increased enough to alarm me so I called Alisa and she told me the blood was normal and that I should call again when the contractions were 4 minutes apart.

We decided to pack up the car and head to my sister’s house because she was only 10 minutes from the hospital whereas we were an hour away. We had to wake my dad and I think he was more nervous about what was happening than I was. By 11:30pm I had also called Brian (who was just getting off of work) and told him it was TIME and that he should meet us at the rendezvous point. It was hard for me to leave the toilet because it felt the most comfortable to labor there since every contraction made me pee. The 45 minute drive was long and by this point I really started moaning with each contraction. I focused on taking deep breaths and the fact that after each contraction was over, it was one less that I would have to endure. My parents were in the front seat trying to tell me to ‘stay calm’ and ‘just relax’ which was getting a little annoying because I was already doing that. I guess they mistook my moans for signs of panic. My dad was trying to recount all of the things he had learned in the few labor support classes he attended with me and decided turning on the radio would help (and it might have) but what came blasting out of NPR at that hour was the 90s song Boombastic by Shaggy. I snapped and asked them to turn off the radio and for the remainder of the ride my parents chatted quietly in the front seat while I labored in the back.

When we got to my sister’s house around 12:30am I really started feeling the contractions peaking and realized they were coming closer – about 4.5 minutes apart. I labored on the toilet through some and got on my hands and knees in the living room for others. Lying on my side on some pillows on the floor was the most comfortable for my resting periods. My parents and sister tried to make sure I was drinking water and were helping by massaging my back and feet. Brian finally arrived and came right to my side. (He later admitted that when he first walked through the door he felt a tinge of panic because I was in the middle of a moaning spell but quickly regained control.) He walked me around in the kitchen and sat with me in the bathroom and offered to perform the double hip squeezes we learned in class and I was surprised to hear myself telling him I didn’t want them! I kept telling him I wanted to vomit and returning to the toilet to labor while my sister was floating around in the background trying to anticipate what we needed. I was starting to feel a little hysterical through some of the contractions and it took a great deal of concentration to bring my focus back to my breathing. I managed to make it back to the living room to labor on all fours and during a contraction, in a bout of hysteria, I heard a sound like a giant water balloon popping and felt a wetness come from within me. My water had exploded! I was told that everyone backed up for a moment and then rushed toward me again with towels and drinking water. When the contraction subsided I told everyone that someone needed to call Alisa and there was a scramble to find her phone number in my purse. Brian informed her that my bag of waters had broken and that my contractions were 3.5 minutes apart and we were heading to the hospital. I remember joking and saying ‘I thought that only happened in the movies’, referring to my water breaking and later apologizing to my sister that it happened all over her carpet. I returned to the toilet for a few more contractions and I started to feel the urge to push. My sister freaked out a little and told me not to push so I tried holding everything in with super kegels and bundled up a towel to cover my crotch for the car ride because fluids just kept leaking out.

We got into two cars around 1:30am – my parents and myself back in my car and my sister and Brian in his. I gripped the sides of my seat and fought the urge to push the whole way to the hospital and did the same as I was being wheeled to the Labor & Delivery floor. We got into a room pretty quickly and once we were in I was hooked up to monitors and had to answer a bunch of ridiculous questions like whether I had ever broken any bones and whether I learned better visually or by reading. They made me lay on my back on the bed because the fetal monitor kept shifting and even though I felt uncomfortable, I was ever reassured by Brian whispering in my ear and bringing my focus back to deep breathing. When Alisa arrived she gave me a quick vaginal exam and said something like ‘Oh my goodness, you’re ten plus two. You can get into whatever position you want and start pushing with the next contraction.’ I managed to flip back onto all fours while I was still on the bed and everyone helped me pull my dress and bra off. The first contraction came and I beared down to push with all my might. Alisa said she saw hair and it made me feel excited to know my baby was almost out. The next contraction came without a peak so I just moaned through it. The third contraction brought another urge to push so I gave in to it and I could feel great pressure moving downward as my birth canal opened up. From what I could tell, her head was out and there was a pause until I immediately felt like pushing again. Alisa barely had time to assess the baby’s position and clean off her face before she was completely out and crying on the bed! My baby was passed to me through my legs and I could feel the oxytocin coursing through me. The monitors were removed and I was able to flip over to lay on my back with her on my chest. I couldn’t believe how alert she was. She started nursing within minutes. I had never seen anything more beautiful in my life. In the meantime, Brian cut her cord and Alisa helped deliver my placenta. I was told I was bleeding quite a bit and a nurse had to work on massaging my uterus to stop the bleeding while Alisa tried to suture a small tear. The pain of the uterine massages was worse than the labor pains and after a while I couldn’t focus on holding the baby. Brian took off his shirt so he could hold our baby to his chest while Alisa and the nurse finished working on me. The bleeding finally slowed and our baby was looked over, weighed, measured and had her footprints done.

Reagan Alexis Wray was born at 2:55am on November 13, 2011. She was 19.25 inches long and weighed 7lbs 8oz. My active labor, transitional labor and the birth took less than 3 hours together which is was a rarity for first-time pregnancies. She also came right on her due date which I was told happens for only 5% of births. I have to thank Chama for preparing myself and my family for all of the possibilities the labor and delivery might have brought even though it happened so fast we didn’t have a chance to use many of the techniques we were shown. For you mothers that are still pregnant, take all of the advice you can get but remember that sometimes it’s okay to just go with the flow. Your baby will come however it wants to come, 24 hours of labor or not. I also have to thank Alisa, my parents, my sister and of course my amazing fiance Brian for their roles in bringing Reagan into this world. I needed every one of them and am glad they were all part of the experience.

The days of summer are winding down here in the Dakotas. The sun has finally started setting at a time that I’m accustomed to and I’m pretty sure we’ve seen the last of the 90-degree days. At least a third of the seasonal employees have already checked out of their apartments to return to school or other jobs and the rest of us are going to hang on for another month. I still can’t believe how much I’ve been able to see and do in the short amount of time I’ve been here. From riding horses to flying over the park to hiking new highpoints; I simply could not have asked for more adventure this summer. And to add to the list, Jacob and I plan to get another highpoint point this weekend on our way to Minneapolis where we’ll watch a Twins game. Anyway, here are some photos from the last few weeks.

A pronghorn (often mistaken as antelope) let us get close and personal during a hike.

Gelatin, anyone?

Dave (left), Sam (middle) and me on a long hike.

An area in the park called Wind Canyon has formations that look like a giant brontosaurus jaw bone to me.

Unfortunately, Fantastic Mr. Fox (my car) is out of commission for a while. His CV-axles ‘fell off’.

I finally made it back to the Rapid City area in SD to hike the highpoint. We chose the long trail from the north side (a 10-mile yo-yo that left from a horse camp in the Black Elk Wilderness). The weather was perfect and we only passed one other hiker along with some people on horseback.

When we stopped for a water break a deer buck wandered right up our path and passed within 10 feet of us, completely unafraid.

The first thing the boys did when we reached the summit was crack open a couple of beers.

Highpoint #25: Harney Peak, SD on July 30, 2010

Some photos of us hanging out on the lookout tower.

After descending the highpoint, we headed to Mt. Rushmore to park the car. Cody guided us to his favorite camping spot in the wilderness about a mile from the monument. We actually had a nice view of the heads between the trees there at camp. We got up early the next morning, packed up, and I snapped this before leaving the boys to get a head start on the hike back to the car.

While I was waiting for them near the car, I spotted a beaver!

Later in the evening we met up with Cody’s friend for beer and pizza. We were able to sleep on the floor at his place before heading back to ND.

We get some pretty crazy storms out here and sometimes they are followed by rainbows and sunsets!

This is just before Jacob took us flying.

We flew over the town that we live in.

And we managed to find a herd of bison (black dots) hanging out on a prairie dog town (white patches).

Highpoint #26: White Butte, ND on August 27, 2010 (It was really windy and you can see my hair flying everywhere!)

Here are some views from the highpoint.

I’m no geologist, but I’m pretty sure all that white stuff is sandstone and you can see where this butte gets it’s name.

An abandoned farmhouse near the trailhead.

That’s White Butte in the distance. I’m standing in a field of alfalfa.

That’s it for now! I should have more to share in a few weeks.

I realize I’ve been here a whole month and haven’t really shared any photos of the amazing park I’m working at, so here is a large group of random ones.

The second week I was here, the park superintendent took us for a short hike around the Elkhorn Ranch site. This is where T. Roosevelt had an 8-room cabin built and tried his hand at ranching. The cabin is gone but the Cottonwoods are still around.

A wooly bully!

My buddy Sam and I went camping and hiking at the north unit of the park. I love cooking gourmet food over an open campfire.

We only got lost a few times…most of those times were spent wandering around in big grassy fields looking for the trail.

Sam was so proud that he could make us a bridge to cross the creek.

I made my friend Joe go on a treacherous climb with me and about halfway up the face of a butte he informed me of his fear of heights. This is a view of our apartment buildings from the top of the butte.

We scared up a few owls when we were climbing around here.

Some of the park’s native flowers.

I always manage to get muddy.

The clover has grown up to my elbows on some of the trails.

I finally saw some elk in our park! There were 2 separate groups of them.

I ran into a band of 9 horses.

Bison bones.

I camped and hiked with Jacob along the Maah Daah Hey Trail.

It’s a horny toad!

One of the locals let us borrow his kayaks so we took a 2-hour paddle down the Little Missouri.

We’re a bunch of misfits.

Roommates!

When we pulled the kayaks up, the boys discovered a big mud pit next to the river so we returned the next evening so they could roll around in it.

Good for the skin!

That’s it for now! Stay tuned for more in another month or so.

I didn’t have any time to post the photos from the road trip earlier, so here they are with a few captions.

We found a good number of abandoned places along the way and this is one of the more interesting ones.

The clouds have much more character out west. Or maybe it’s that the view is unobstructed by trees?

A color-changing lizard I found on Black Mesa.

Black Mesa, OK, and the view to the south of the mesa.

Mt. Sunflower, KS.

Like I said, a lot of abandoned places, especially homesteads.

Panorama Point, NE.

A herd of bison!

I’m beginning to see why they call this area ‘Big Sky’ country.

Camping in Ft. Robinson State Park with some views from inside my bug tent.

Camping in Custer State Park with some large visitors.

Camping in Bear Butte State Park with a view of the butte.

The ‘buffalo’ toe.

Mt. Rushmore Memorial, SD.

June 5-7, 2010

When I woke the grass was still a bit damp but the sun was rising and the air had warmed enough. I got a fire started and put some coffee on. I was able to cook the last of our bacon and begin sauteing some pepper and onions. I got Ingo out of the tent and we drank all of the coffee before I could even put eggs in the pan. I stoked the fire a little and tried to get another pot of water boiling but the wind was blowing in every direction and all the heat was disappearing from the grill area.

We spent about 2 hours trying to get water boiled for more coffee so we could put the eggs on the fire. Between attempts at restarting and coddling the fire I shook all the water off of the tarps and packed up our sleeping quarters. Ingo ended up throwing more wood on the fire and basically starting it from scratch. We finally got enough heat for the eggs to cook and I ended up pushing the grill grate back and putting the water pot for the coffee directly on the fire. We had hot enough water for coffee in about 10 minutes.

We both felt a little defeated by breakfast but washed our faces and packed up the car and headed for North Dakota.

When we arrived at the park, I met up with the Chief Ranger and checked into my apartment. It’s a cozy little space with a shower stall and a stove and two twin sized beds with a couple of feet between them. I have to admit it’s much nicer than my accommodations the first year I was in college and the rent is very cheap so I have no complaints. I was able to meet my roommate briefly but she took off shortly after because she had just started a second job for the summer. From what I can tell a lot of my colleagues have second jobs in town.

Ingo and I checked into a little motel in Medora and sat on a patch of grass out back to watch the sunset but quickly had to move inside because the wind made us chilly.

The town (ahem, village) of Medora is very quaint with a permanent population of less than 100. I’m told most of the businesses in town are owned by ‘The Foundation’ and close after the season is over. There is a good amount of foreigners who have come to work at the restaurants and I have met people from Macedonia and from the Ukraine. The park employees are also from all ends of the country: California, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Kansas, and now Florida (represent!).

I’m grateful that the V-Dub made it all the way up here, but he’s going to need a few small repairs before I do any major driving. I got a post office box and may end up renting a bike for the summer. My neighbors have all been really friendly and I have an excellent view from my apartment. I can tell I’m going to have an excellent summer.

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