DIY: Drawer Dividers

If you’re anything like me, your undergarments drawer is a fabulous mess. Once those socks are paired and underwear sorted out from the clean laundry, they’re thrown straight into the abyss of the undergarments dresser drawer.

Then I saw this…

But I wasn’t about to pay $9.79 at Target to buy some diamond-shaped dividers–Especially when I have free cardboard, a ruler, a box cutter, and a hot glue gun!
I found some relatively easy instructions to follow and made my own. Ta-da!
DIY drawer dividers

Boom! Roasted.

Finnegan’s Birth Story

It’s been 7 weeks since my little Finn-ster was born, but it seems like it happened just yesterday…

The night before Finnegan arrived, I was laying in bed complaining to my husband Donncuan about how I thought the baby was never going to come.  “The baby will be here tomorrow,” he said to me.  I rolled my eyes, rolled over and went to bed. Around 1 a.m. I woke up to contractions lasting 20 seconds, about 5-10 minutes apart… Dammit, I thought to myself, Donncuan was right! The contractions were so strong that I could not sleep through them, so I went downstairs and watched that Chaz Bono documentary on Netflix. The doc was a good distraction, but the contractions were still very strong. 

At 3 a.m. I decided it was a good time to call my midwife Aly and let her know my contractions were regular. Aly told me to get some rest and call when things changed. I tried to take her advice and laid down in bed next to my peacefully slumbering husband… Sleep wasn’t going to happen for me! At 4:30 a.m. I woke Donncuan and told him the contractions were too strong for sleep. I then phoned my mom and she asked if she should come over. I replied, “I kinda want my mom.” Mom was there for my labor with Charlie, and there is a certain comfort that she provides me (no offense to Don, but sometimes one just needs one’s mommy!). I waited on the couch and watched the news when my mom arrived at 5:10 a.m. Donncuan rolled out of bed and began filling the birthing tub. 

It was nice to just sit on the couch and talk with mom and Donncuan while we watched the morning news. It provided a good distraction for me while my contractions got stronger. Around 6:15-6:30 a.m. things started to really pick up. I can’t remember if it was mom or me who called Aly to tell her to come over, but we let her know it was time. I looked at my mom and said, “I think I should move upstairs.” The birthing tub was upstairs in the extra bedroom, and I knew that because I started moaning through the contractions, I had better move to the birthing area! It’s funny how instinctual it felt for me to move upstairs (like my body was telling me this baby is coming, get to where you need to be safe and comfortable), because it didn’t take long before the cursing started… The contractions were lasting 30-45 seconds and coming 2-4 minutes apart. 

Mom woke Charlie before I had the chance to wake him from my screaming/moaning/cursing, and brought him in the extra bedroom to say hi real quick before taking him downstairs for breakfast. I was so happy to see his little, sleepy face, even though I was in so much pain. The contractions were coming on faster and more powerful than I had remembered with Charlie’s labor. I was on my knees, elbows resting on an exercise ball, hands clutching the edge of the birthing tub, leaning toward the tub during each contraction thinking that would help me not feel as much pain. I could hear mom giving Charlie his breakfast and Donncuan preparing the room and tub for labor. 

Meanwhile, mom was on the horn calling my father to come pick up Charlie to take him to his Auntie MacKenzie and Uncle Kyle’s house. During this time, I thought about my sister Chastity. I was wondering what time she would show up because she was going to be my birth photographer again. I texted Chastity around 3 a.m., but had not heard anything from her.

It was 7:10 a.m. when my midwife Aly arrived. Aly took no time to get her equipment/supplies ready, and called on both my mom and Donncuan for the remaining birthing supplies we needed that I didn’t have in the birthing room yet. As Aly called out to Donncuan and mom for receiving blankets, water, Gatorade, etc., I would chime in and tell Donncuan where he could find each item. It was another welcomed distraction from the pain for me. 

I distinctly remember the moment Aly dipped her hand into the birthing tub and declared, “oh, we don’t have time for the tub.” A little part of me cried inside–my water birth with Charlie was so wonderful, I wanted to experience that again, but this baby had different plans! The contractions became really powerful at this point. Aly was so wonderful to me, leaning in close to me after a contraction to tell me I was doing great and that she knew that it hurts, but that baby was coming. I could hear my that my father arrived to pick up Charlie and I thought to myself, he’s gonna hear me swearing through this next contrac—-“SHHHHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT! Shit! Shit! Shit!” (Mom later told me that, like Charlie’s birth when dad heard me screaming over the phone, he couldn’t hear that.) I remember thinking I didn’t know how much more of the contractions I could handle. The contractions were so fierce and sharp, such a departure from my contractions when I labored with Charlie.

Dad and Donncuan were outside buckling Charlie into the car when Aly called out for Donncuan. Mom popped her head into the birthing room and said, “What do you need?” Aly proclaimed, “I need Donncuan!” Baby was coming NOW! I remember feeling like I had to go #2, but there was nothing I could do at that point in the labor about it. Hey, shit happens, am I right? 

Donncuan raced up to the birthing room and my water broke. I remember how intense it was once my water broke–it was like BOOM!–baby’s head was right THERE and ready to come out. I screamed hard. It was hurting so bad and I wanted to be done. I pushed with everything I had and then some. Baby’s head came out. Aly had to maneuver the baby’s shoulders a little bit because he was stuck a little bit. I remember Aly telling me to put my left leg up, and then her hands pushing my leg up so I could get better leverage with pushing the baby out. Donncuan says, “push!” Aly says, “gently, slowly….” And I’m all like, I’m pushing as hard as I can because this contractions is telling me to! One last push and baby’s little body fell out and into Donncuan’s hands; 7:35 a.m. baby is born.

Baby immediately began crying and I was so thankful and happy. Aly said, “reach down and grab your baby.” I remember thinking how in the world was I going to do that?! I was still kneeling, with a death grip on the birthing tub. I figured it out quickly, reaching down I grabbed my baby and held it to my chest, crying, looking at my mom exclaiming, “MY BABY! Oh, I’m so glad it’s over!” Then it hit me, “She missed it!” I was referring to my sister, Chastity. She didn’t make it and I felt so bad for her. I knew her excitement for this baby’s arrival. 

A couple minutes had passed before I thought to check baby’s gender. I looked down, peeled back a leg, and saw… A BOY! I think I said something along the lines of, “There’s a penis, it’s a boy!” HAHA!

After Donncuan and I got situated on our bed and began enjoying our baby, Chastity arrived. I’ll never forget the look on her face as she entered our room and looked at me, then at Donncuan, then back at me and saw I was holding the baby–utter disbelief and totally let down! She was happy he was finally here, but she was sad and upset that she missed the birth; but, that’s how it goes. Babies wait for no one, and Finnegan Leo Dunlevy was no exception!


Charles’ Birth Story

In honor of my son Charles’ first birthday, I am FINALLY posting his birth story. I may edit it a couple more times after I post it because it’s hard to remember and reflect on everything my husband and I experienced that wonderful day!

The night of November 28, early labor contractions began.  Before I went to bed around 9:30 P.M., I had noticed that I was getting somewhat regular contractions, but thought they were just Braxton-Hicks.  I woke up every hour after that to pee and continued having moderate contractions.  Still, I was unconvinced that it was early labor.  Baby was due November 17 and I didn’t want to get my hopes up like I had so many times before when I felt contractions; but by 2 A.M. I knew this was it—early labor had finally begun!  I got on the phone and called Aly, our Midwife, and she instructed me to get as much rest as possible.  I went back to bed feeling excited and anxious.  Baby had chosen today as the day.

My husband had already taken the week off in anticipation of our baby’s arrival, so when he woke up I requested that he take me out to IHOP for breakfast. I was still getting regular contractions, but they were light and easy to walk and talk through. After some delicious French toast and hashbrowns, we made our way to midwife Aly’s office in St. Paul. She gave us a few “releasing techniques” to do at home. Next was a visit to my chiropractor Amber. Then we met up with my brother Tristan to have a late lunch at Olive Garden. He came to our house afterwards to pick up his dog because we had been taking care of the dog for him. Tristan agreed to take his dog during the first couple of weeks that we had our new baby. Once Tristan left, my husband helped me perform all the “releasing techniques” and helped me climb into bed. I was feeling tired and wanting to nap. I no more than laid my head on the pillow when—POP!—I asked my husband, “Did you hear that?” He told me no and then I said, “It felt like something popped…” He asked, “Did your water break?” I sat up and said, “No, I think I just need to go to the bathroom.” Well, right when I stood I felt a gushing and said ohhhh, all while racing to the bathroom and holding my legs together. My husband was right—my water broke!

It was about 4:30 P.M. I immediately got on the phone and called Aly. To my surprise, SHE WAS ALREADY ATTENDING ANOTHER CLIENTS BIRTH! (I remember Aly telling me that in her 7 years of practicing, she never had 2 clients go into labor at the same time.) She told me to keep her posted on my contractions and that her intern midwife Rebecca would be coming over. Then I called my mom and my sister Chastity, both of whom would be at the birth of my first child. Mom was excited; I could hear it in her voice as she kept asking me if I wanted her to come over “right now.” Chastity was equally excited. She was my photographer for the big day. By the end of my phone conversation with Chastity, I had to stop talking in order to get through each contraction… things were picking up!

I went upstairs and got completely undressed because each contraction was sending more fluid down my legs, and wearing shorts/underwear seemed pointless at that time. At the same time, my husband was frantically working to try to fit the hose to the bathroom sink in order to fill the rental birthing tub. He discovered that the attachment he bought didn’t fit the faucet! (In retrospect, I think it was a good distraction for him while my contractions were picking up. I was starting to get uncomfortable.) Meanwhile, I tried to find a good position to get into in order to try to make the contractions “feel better.” IMPOSSIBLE! I tried laying on the bed first… I mostly just laid on my side and kicked my leg back and forth, trying to distract myself from the pain of each contraction. It was during this time that my body made me throw up lunch and part of my undigested breakfast. I actually felt better after that happened. It also made me feel like my body was preparing itself for the arrival of the baby.

Then I moved to the bathtub. I sat cross-legged facing the side wall of the tub. That last about 5 minutes! However, it was during this time that my mom showed up. I vividly remember her sitting at the top of the stairwell (located right outside the bathroom), talking with my husband while I was in the tub. When I got out of the tub and stepped into the hallway, I looked over at her and said, “I’m dying.” She laughed and it was at that point that I knew she was thinking, here we go!

I also remember laboring on the bathroom floor with my legs tucked under my butt; but that didn’t feel right either. Finally, I laid a towel on the exercise bath and sat down with a hand on each knee—PERFECT! Now I was really feeling powerful contractions. I started moaning, then screaming, through each contraction. I had been keeping track of when and how long each contraction was occurring, but when the contractions got that strong, I made my husband keep track by telling him, “Donncuan, NOW!” whenever another contraction began and ended. To this day, we still have notes on our iPhones of contraction start/stop and duration times.

Rebecca arrived around 7-7:30 P.M. I distinctly remember her coming into my bedroom and hurriedly setting up all her gear and thinking, wow, I must really be having this baby soon! Rebecca got the fetal heart rate right away and began hounding me to eat something. Having already thrown up, I was in no mood to eat anything. My body was rejecting the very sight of food. My mom made me some oatmeal. I took one bite and the consistency made me want to vom. Then my husband made me a piece of toast—again, one bite and no more! My sister Chastity then showed up. She stared at me in my bedroom from down the hallway and said, “Oh, you’re already naked.” It was pretty funny, but I wasn’t laughing. Chas brought me Pocky sticks (thin breadsticks covered with chocolate) and set them on my dresser. Rebecca persisted with the food issue, so I finally slammed my hand down on the box of Pocky sticks, opened them up, and begrudgingly ate them while giving Rebecca the stink eye. (Sorry Rebecca! You know I have nothing but love for you hun!)

Sometime after eating the dreaded Pocky Sticks, I felt the urge to go to the bathroom. I moved to the toilet, but I definitely didn’t need to go. Rebecca recognized what I was actually feeling and asked, “Kelsey, do you feel like you need to push?” I nodded my head in agreement and then she asked if I wanted to move to the birthing tub. Yup! I was ready for the warm, welcoming water! (Chas had been helping my husband warm the water in the tub by adding boiling water because our hot water heater was out of hot water.) The water felt so good. I settled into a comfortable position and screamed through each contraction. At one point, Rebecca asked me to reach down and tell her what I felt; so, I reached down and said, “I just feel my opening.” Thinking back on my response, I laugh and reflect on how it probably wasn’t the best reply, but in that moment I was so focused on each contraction that I had no time to think about what I should say. I was simply finding the strength inside me to get through the next contraction. I fancied the thought of asking Rebecca how much longer it would be before Charlie arrived, but I thought better—I knew I wouldn’t like the response she would give me so I just kept that question to myself. (Later, when I told this to Rebecca, she informed me that her response would have been, “As long as it takes.” We had a good laugh at that!)Image

I believe it was around that time that Kate of Twin Cities Midwifery arrived–because my main midwife Aly was already attending another home birth, Rebecca called on Kate to be the official midwife overseeing my birth. Kate was 8 months pregnant and had a very comforting tone of voice when she spoke to me. Having only met her that night, it was wonderful to of her to be so cool and calm. She suggested that I move into a different position to move the process along. I didn’t really want to get out of my “comfortable” position, but she suggested it so nicely that I obliged. I was glad I did because the birth moved right along! Rebecca had me recline on my back (mom holding my head and shoulders above water) during the breaks between contractions. The breaks were really short now and I could feel baby coming stronger now. I felt his head crown and started whimpering. This was my point of no return. (Later, after birth, my husband told me I had said, “I can’t do it!” Something very uncharacteristic of me, but in that moment, I felt such a pain that I do believe I said it!) I realized that I needed to commit–there was only one choice–just pushing! I gave it one last hard push and baby’s head come out. One more gentle push and the rest of baby’s body slid out into the birthing tub. Rebecca said, “Okay daddy, grab your baby!” But I still had a death grip on his hands and Rebecca swooped her hands in to help. She then told Donncuan to put the baby on my chest… there was no greater feeling in the world… I cradled him in my arms and against my chest and cried. Donncuan joined me on the right, my mom on the left and Chas took a picture of us all admiring this sweet little baby.

It was probably 4-5 minutes before I asked Donncuan, “Did you see?” I had no idea what our baby’s gender was, as I made it very clear prior to the birth that I wanted to see it for myself. Donncuan said, “Take a look.” I peeled back the blanket cover baby’s little body, pulled baby’s leg back and exclaimed, “IT’S A BOY!”

Charlie’s birth went by so fast; it’s hard to remember every detail of it. After his birth, I was on an adrenaline high for days. My husband couldn’t believe the energy I had to take care of Charlie every time he cried to eat, have a diaper change, or simply wanted to be held.

When all is said and done, I am extremely thankful for the home birth we had. I’m a big proponent of  birthing options and love to talk about home birth. I totally respect every woman’s right to choose where to birth, and home birth remains to be the right decision for my husband and myself. I love the fact that I could stay in the comfort of my own home, surrounded by people that I care about and that care about me. I loved being able to have skin-on-skin contact with my son. I loved birthing in the water.  I loved being in the capable and caring hands of my midwives.

Here’s a final picture of Donncuan and I with baby Charlie, before I even knew he was a boy…


Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! This year I decided to be one of my idols… JUDGE JUDY. I try to watch her show every weekday from 4pm-5pm. Two days ago, there was a case with people from Minnesota! (I get irrationally excited when Minnesota cases are shown.)

So here I am, dressed up as Judge Judy at my brother and sister-in-law’s annual Halloween party…

Sorry I had to crop out my son and husband–I don’t share many photos of my son online!
If you want to DIY your own Judge Judy costume next year, here’s the anatomy of my costume…
Wig, wig cap, gavel, glasses, and HUGE diamond earrings (I set the earrings in the wig to show how big they are and to keep them upright, facing the camera). I got everything except the earrings on for around $20. The earrings I bought at Kohl’s, with a coupon, naturally.
For the judge’s gown I used my old graduation gown. I got a piece of doily lace and safety pinned it around the collar. Boom! 

Of course, every time I introduced myself at the party I went through the Judge Judy show’s opening… “You are about to enter the courtroom of Judge Judith Sheindlin. The people are real. The cases are real. The rulings are final. This is Judge Judy.”

DIY: Milk Jug Ghosts

Thanks to Instagrammer Colleen, I took up this Halloween DIY project. 

So I started collecting milk jugs over a month ago. Then I used hot tap water to remove the labels…

Use hot tap water to remove milk jug label

I got all my milk jugs together and a few Sharpie markers to create my designs.

Then I cut out the back so I could insert a string of Christmas lights…

Finally, I put together the final product, ready for display outside my front door for Halloween night tomorrow!

Thanks for the cute Halloween project, Colleen!

Fishing & Grilling Salmon

Papa David & Nammy Joan took the kids out fishing yesterday in Hudson, WI, and while Papa was the only one to catch a small perch, we were still able to grill up some salmon he had in the freezer. Before I get to the salmon recipe I used, here are a couple pics of the kids with the one and only fish Papa caught!
Katsie was brave enough to take the fish from Papa! A girl after my own heart.

After fishing, we headed home to grill up some salmon. I hopped on to search for a good recipe to make a salmon. I normally follow the rules that my brother-in-law Jason’s dad follow (only make recipes with 5 star ratings) but when I came across Maple Salmon at 4.5 stars with 2,200 ratings, I HAD to try it.
Just mix up:
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Marinate a pound of salmon in the mixture for 30 minutes. Then grill it up using tented-tinfoil. Voila!
It was so delicious. I didn’t think the maple flavor would go so well with salmon, but I was glad I was wrong.

“Baby Cakes” Cake Pops!

Nammy Joan came over today to help my niece and nephew, Katsie and Jacob, make cake pops! Nammy Joan bought her “Baby Cakes” cake pop machine from Micheal’s craft store (using a coupon, of course).
Nammy Joan’s cake pop machine came with a couple different cake recipes, and we used the vanilla recipe to create our pops. Here are the kids helping Nammy make the batter…
We used a plastic zip bag to dispense the batter into each cake pop vessel…
And the machine came with a handy dandy double-pronged tool to take the cakes out…
The cake pops only took about 3-4 minutes to bake—really fast!
Then we dipped them in melted chocolate and peppermint white chocolate.
Sprinkles were applied while the chocolate was still melt-y. Then the cake pops were propped up in a foam block to solidify. (nevermind the cake pop that slide down it’s stick…)
These cake pops are so good, I have already had about 3 of them! Thanks, Nammy Joan, for helping the kids in the kitchen today!
Lastly, here’s “URANUS” cake pop. This was all Nammy Joan… She was cracking up at this cake pop’s shape…Image

DIY: Homemade Playdough

It was an exciting day at casa de Uncle Dunk & Auntie Kelsey because Great Auntie Barb came over make homemade playdough with the kids! (I call her “Great” Auntie because she’s “Aunt” to me and “Great Aunt” to my niece and nephews.)
Great Auntie Barb’s homemade playdough recipe came from an old book…
The recipe called for the following ingredients:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt (I think 1/4 cup would suffice though)
2 Tablespoons veg oil
1 teaspoon alum (Great Auntie Barb had something called septic pencil that we used instead of alum)
Mix the first set of ingredients first, then add:
food coloring
1/2 cup water (slowly add the water, you may not need all of it, or you may need more)

The kids helped Great Auntie Barb mix up the playdough ingredients…
We added the food coloring to the water in order to help it mix in the dry ingredients better.
After they were done mixing, it was time for playing!
Of course, Uncle Dunk made an alligator…
Thanks for the fun day, Aunt Barb!

Fresh-Picked Strawberries

After yesterday’s adventures in homemade strawberry jam, I decided to stay on the theme with designer Vickie Clontz’s Fresh-Picked Strawberry pincushion. Her pattern for this crafting project can be found in the March/April 2013 Quilt-It…Today magazine (or you can order the kit through her website). 

This project took me about 2 hours, and I STILL need to improve on my sewing techniques. Next time I make these I want to use red velvet to make the strawberries. Anyways, here’s my take on it…
I left the white flower off because I think the white ribbon looks fine in its place. I’ll be giving this strawberry to my niece Katsie tomorrow. First, I need to find some kind of ribbon/lace to use to hang it like a necklace. I think she’ll love it! It will be a way for her to remember picking strawberries with her brother, her Nammy Joan, and her favorite auntie–ME! 😉

Homemade Strawberry Jam

Yesterday, my mom and I took my niece & nephew (Emily & Jacob) to the opening day of Afton Apple’s strawberry picking season. It was a hot and muggy day, but we still managed to pick 13 pounds of strawberries! My mom did most of the picking. Here’s our bounty…
We proceeded to make strawberry jam using the recipe found in the box of Sure Jell.
First, I removed the stems and washed all the strawberries.
Then, I crushed the strawberries using the Pampered Chef’s can strainer because I don’t have the potato masher (that’s what a KitchenAid mixer is for) that the instructions called for. The can strainer worked beautifully!
Per the Sure Jell directions, I combined 2 cups of crushed strawberries and 4 CUPS OF SUGAR! I could not believe it required THAT MUCH sugar. This concoction was mixed for 10 minutes.
Halfway through mixing, mom started the Sure Jell–combine 3/4 cup water with 1 packet of Sure Jell and bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute then mix it into strawberries and sugar. Stir for 3 minutes.
Once we were done mixing the Sure Jell into the strawberries and sugar, we were ready to put our strawberry jam into old glass jars. I love being able to re-purpose old jam and jelly jars.
My mom put jam into 3 baby food jars for her 3 oldest grandchildren, Jacob, Emily, and Silas. Here is Jacob & Emily with their jars–they love it!
Here’s another picture of the 2 monsters with all the jars we filled…
And last, but not least, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that I accidentally spilled about 4 cups worth of crushed strawberries on my floor because I wasn’t holding on to my Ziploc bag…
I told my mom that this picture reminds me of her favorite show, “Dexter.”