Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Family Tradition: Hamburger Hotdogs

I don't remember the first time I bit into a hamburger hot dog. As far as I know, it was the first solid thing I ever had to eat.

When I think of family, traditions and my childhood a few things are aroused in my mind - one of them being the hamburger hot dog.

Is it a hamburger? Is it a hot dog? Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

The answer is yes...yes...not quite...and definitely not. 

Who came up with the recipe? Who knows...all I know is that my mom made them and now I make them though somehow, tonight was the first night in all the time Ackerman and I have known each other that we have had them. 

Sad, I know. Maybe it's the thought of having a child and one day serving these hot puppies to her and her siblings, friends, family, pets and anyone else willing to scarf one down, made me long for the nostalgic taste.

List of Culprits:

1.5 lbs of ground beef
10 slices of American Cheese 
1 small red onion 
1 package hot dog buns
salt and pepper to taste
ketchup or other hot dog/hamburger toppings (optional)

Start out by browning off the ground beef and red onion in a skillet. Go ahead and add a dash of salt and pepper to flavor the meat. Once browned, drain off excess grease into a tin coffee can like my grandpa used to do.

Also, talk your husband into getting a decent camera so your photos will turn out semi-well.

After the grease has drained, add the 10 slices of American cheese. I am sure you could use cheddar, Swiss or any other combination of cheese you desire. We have always used American and dang it if I'll stop now.  Stir the now melted cheese into the beef.

Preheat the oven to 325.

As the cheese is melting, go ahead and get the buns ready. Place a piece of tin foil (Ackerman gives me grief about calling it tin foil. I have always called it tin foil and dang it if I'll stop now. (See a trend?)) on the bottom of a baking pan. Open up each bun and put a line of mustard down the center. Go ahead...I'll wait....

Once the cheese has thoroughly melted and you've ate two spoonfuls of it just to be sure that it's not poisoned, fill the hot dog buns with the beef mixture. This is where it would be handy to have one of those Taco Bell meat scoopers that puts the perfect amount of meat in each taco. But since I don't work at Taco Bell a spatula worked fine.

Once all of the buns are filled, place in the inferno (aka oven) until the buns are toasted on top.

Scarf Place hamburger hot dog civilly on a plate and enjoy!

This meal doesn't get the healthy seal of approval but it does get the "I am tired and want something quick, easy and yummy" award.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The One About the Newborn

Gwen is now almost 5 weeks old. It is incredibly insane how quickly the last month has gone by. People always tell you how quickly time goes when you have children and they weren't kidding. Right now my life mainly revolves around this little girl.

Right after her birth, my first thought was "I am never doing this again...ever." Every time I thought about giving birth, I felt traumatized. When I saw the clothes I wore to the hospital, I was stricken with fear. I couldn't even listen to my labor playlist in fear of having flashbacks. But then, Gwen and I have moments like this:

And I remember why I did what I did and birth doesn't seem that traumatic anymore. There is a sort of amnesia that happens. While I remember being in intense pain, I also feel detached from it. As if it wasn't really me that gave birth or like I watched it on TV and sympathized with the woman pushing on the bed for 43 minutes. So, the next birth will not involve meds though I am sure when the time comes I will be begging Joseph for them just as I did with Gwen's birth.

Our first night home with her, I was so scared that she was going to die. I cried so much that night and Joseph just held me and prayed for me. I was extremely emotional for the next few days, overwhelmed with the thought of having to care for this little creature in such a scary world. I felt irresponsible for bringing her into such a crazy place. But I was also overwhelmed with love not only for Gwen but a new kind of love for my husband. Both loves were much more intense than I could ever have imagined.

We are slowly getting used to each other. Getting to know each other. She knows that I will pick her up when she cries (not fusses...but truly cries) and that I am the keeper of the milk. I know that she likes to bounce in her Daddy's arms and that no amount of coercing will get her to take a pacifier. 

Though there have been so many sweet moments with our little Gwenrito, (or Nugget, Ducky, Gwen-a-roo, many nicknames!) there have also been many frustrating moments for me that leave me feeling extremely guilty. If I can't figure out why she cries, I get mad and I know she can sense it. It makes me feel as if I am a bad mother - only a month in and already getting frustrated to the point of tears. I had prepared myself so well for birth but failed to prepare for life after birth.

Many of us do this with weddings as well. We plan our perfect day - focus on our dress being just right and get upset if our bridesmaids don't do as we ask. We cry if our cake is the wrong shade of white. Our attention is completely diverted to the physical aspects and we forget to prepare for the aftermath. I know I did and our marriage suffered for the first year because of it.

I am glad that I am recognizing this now, instead of a year from now. This time I won't become disconnected, discontent and defiant towards our little family as I did when we first became man and wife. It is an extreme life-alterning event and being prepared (well as prepared as one can be) is so important.

There are a few things I know: her smile is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. More beautiful than the ocean and the view of the clouds from above. Baby poop no longer scares me as it once did and yes, sometimes there is projectile poop (as we learned on our first night home with her). Finally, I have the most amazing little family.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Saying Adieu to the Baby Bump

I miss my bump. Before I was pregnant I had a fear of getting big - of my body changing and not being able to recognize myself after the bump was gone.

But now that my tummy has deflated, I kind of want it back. It isn't only the look of being pregnant that I loved (minus the swelling) it was feeling my little mermaid inside of me, kicking and swimming around in her private hot tub.

I was one of the lucky ones, no stretch  marks have taken residence and I have pretty much gone back to the way I was before getting pregnant (actually losing 10 additional pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight). Things are a little bit more saggy and my naval ring has permanently found it's home in my jewelry box (but let's face it - I am's probably time for me to say goodbye to that piece of metal anyway).

I miss rubbing my tummy and resting my hands on the bulge. I miss watching it move with my little one's movements - especially the morse code-like movements when she had the hiccups. I miss people telling me that I "barely" looked pregnant at 6 months. Such a compliment for someone like me who has had body-image issues.

Luckily, Joseph and I decided to have maternity photos taken by the wonderful Christy Gant at Studio 9 Photography.

On a beautiful, South Carolina December day, we headed out to the Sandhill REC Farmer's Market property (owned by Clemson no way do I support Clemson. My husband on the other hand...).

This was a day where I wasn't feeling beautiful  but more swollen and large. Christy made me feel completely comfortable and beautiful and the confidence showed in the photos.

After the farmers market, we went to a christmas tree stand right down the road. The gentleman that worked the stand was very gracious in letting us use the stand!

I cannot even begin to explain how happy I am that we have this brief moment in our lives captured in photographs. I also cannot begin to say how happy I am that we found Christy!

So while I have said goodbye to my baby bump and hello to a precious little girl, I know that the future holds at least two more baby bumps for me! 

Just for are a few more:

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The One About Birthing. Part III.

The time had come. All of the uncertainty, pain, sadness, joy, mystery, beauty and love of the past year and a half since we had lost Lord Voldemort (for more on Lord Volde, click here) had come to this. 

The birth of our little girl.

Going into this pregnancy, I knew that I wanted to have a natural birth. There had never been any doubt that I wanted to forgo the stress of an epidural as my unnatural fear of needles hindered my mind of even thinking about getting one. 

In order to prepare for a natural birth I read all of the books, the Bradley Method, Hypnobirthing:The Mongan Method, Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, What to Expect When You're Expecting...I watched videos on Youtube of women -  strong, beautiful woman, bringing babies into the world without the aid of pain medication or hospitals for that matter (most of the videos were of waterbirthing at home). I wanted to know what I was in for, what the pain would be like. I was hoping that these texts and testimonials of births would give me some indication of the adventure I was about to embark on. I will tell you that no amount of reading, listening or watching could prepare me for what would come after the initial onset of labor.

As you read before, everything up to this point had gone pretty well. (Click for Part I or Part II) The pain was becoming unbearable. The midwife, Debbie, had finally shown up and it felt like a bowling ball was about to be pushed out of my bum.

What started everything was not my desire to push (though the desire was there) but rather that Gwen's heart rate dropped significantly low, low enough that the midwife came into the room to check me and instruct me to start pushing.

Out of the whole labor process, this was the time I most felt out of control. I wasn't prepared for what I was supposed to do. Yes, I know, push the baby out. But how? 

Debbie, the nurses and my mom where "yelling" at me to PUSH PUSH PUSH. And boy, did I push. I thought if I kept my eyes open that they would pop out of my skull, so I learned to keep my eyes shut during the pushing. I ended up busting a blood vessel in my right eye and vessels in my right eye lid because of how hard I was pushing. My mom held back one leg and Joseph held back the other. Honestly, how do women use the stirrups? I thought I was pretty flexible and there was no way my long legs were fitting in those stirrups.

Someone kept telling me to use my legs as leverage to push, but I was working against myself, pulling my legs up and in and stead of up and out. After several attempts at grasping my legs, I guess I got it right and I got into a better rhythm of pushing.

Here is where things went wrong: I thought with every contraction that I was supposed to be pushing Gwen out, instead of slowly working her down. I quickly got discouraged, wondering why I wasn't succeeding in getting her out into the world. I should have voiced my concern, annoyance and confusion but I didn't. The feeling of being out of control was overwhelming. I remember thinking that I couldn't do it anymore but what choice do you have when your little one depends on you?

At one point, the midwife told me to stop pushing which you would think would be a relief but not when every fiber of your being wants - no needs - to push. Oxygen was placed over my nose. I can still remember the strong, manufactured smell of the plastic face mask. I don't remember very well, but my mom said I had to quit pushing for 12 minutes as Gwen's heart rate dropped significantly again.

Then a doctor came in.

 I had never seen said doctor in my life. It is never comforting to hear a doctor ask "is there a heartbeat" when you are in the middle of attempting to push said heartbeat out of your body. I'm sure the midwife said something reassuring that I don't remember (who am I kidding...I don't remember a lot of this. I had to ask my mom a TON of questions about what happened because as I said before, I felt completely out of control and out of it.)

Eventually I was able to push again. And push. And push. And push. I pushed for what seemed like forever, falling over to my right side like a tree after every 10-second pushing session. I was almost waiting for Joseph to say "Tiiiiiimber" as I kept falling over.

After 43 minutes of pushing, Gwendolyn's head popped out. People had told me about the "ring of fire" that you feel as the baby's head crowns but it was one sensation I didn't have. In a way, I was disappointed. I had a morbid wish that I would silently sing Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" as the head emerged. 

Side note: While Gwen was being born, my dear 21 year old sister was by my head. When all of the blood and fluids came out she passed out. Between that and my making mooing noises earlier in the labor, I am pretty sure I scarred her for life. End side note.

As her head emerged, Debbie told me to once again, stop pushing. At 8:13 pm, after 16  hours of labor (3 hours of active labor) I had the greatest feeling of relief. In an instant, the pain went away and all 7 pounds 5 ounces and 20 inches of Gwendolyn Raye left the confines of my womb and entered the world. They laid her on my stomach and Joseph cut the cord (which he said felt like cutting through a big slab of bacon. Mmmm bacon.)

Nurses then whisked her away to the other side of the room to check her out since her heart rate had been so low and  meconium was present in the fluids.

I asked Debbie if I had tore and I was taken by surprise when she said I had second degree tears due to Gwen's shoulders (she will probably be a swimmer with those broad shoulders!). Debbie then began the process of stitching me up which was not that painful considering what I had just been through. 

Not much later, they brought Gwen to me and I got to hold her and feed her for the first time. 

I don't know how some women actually look gorgeous after giving birth. I look like death.

Up next: After the delivery. Feelings and thoughts on giving birth naturally.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The One About Birthing. Part II.

"On a scale of 1-10, what is your level of pain?" 

Before January 18, my level 10 of pain was when I broke my toe. I was 15 and tripped over my brother's guitar amplifier. Or maybe it was when my face was mauled by a dog when I was 2 (or was I 3) but I don't remember that pain. 

The thing about pain is that it is relative, it is personal. No one experiences pain the same way just as no one experiences music, art or life in the same way. Sometimes pain is beautiful and in the moment it doesn't seem that way, but looking back it is the most beautiful feeling.

This was one of those times.

After I recovered from the intense trauma of receiving an IV (click here to read Part I, detailing the traumatic event of getting an IV) and antibiotics, I began laboring the way I had planned. By this time, I was having contractions that were extremely uncomfortable but were manageable through slow, even breathing, silence by those in the room (including nurses...I was not hesitant to tell a nurse to give me a second if I was working through a contraction) and by focusing on my labor playlist. For me, during centimeters 4-7, music was the greatest help, singing through the contractions helped them pass more quickly and relaxed my body and mind. I found that worship music was the best.

While not hooked up on the monitor, I was able to use the birthing ball and walk the halls to help labor progress. I visited our family in the waiting room and went by the nursery to look at the cute babies and remind myself why I was doing what I was doing. 

At about 5:30, Joseph encouraged me to get up to walk the halls... again... despite my reluctance to do so. I wanted to lie in bed but he won out in the end and I began my waddle down the halls that went like this: waddle, waddle, waddle, stop and lean on the rail, waddle, waddle waddle, lean on rail. When we got back to the room, labor had progressed and the midwife mentioned the option of breaking my water which after talking it over we decided to do. While the procedure wasn't painful, it was incredibly uncomfortable but it made things move much more quickly (and I think made the contractions a lot worse than they should have been) and before I knew it I wasn't handling the pain as well as before.

This is where the fecal material made contact with the rotary air stirrer.

I remember looking at the clock. 7 pm. The nurse checked me and I was only 8-9 centimeters. My thoughts were as follows:

"Wait, what? That's it? Surely I was 10 centimeters and ready to push out this baby out."

"Why was the midwife not here? Doesn't she know that I am about to pop a baby out?"

"Why does it feel like I need to poop out a bowling ball? Certainly babies still come out of the lady parts not the bum."


 No amount of breathing would help ease the discomfort and by this time I was begging Joseph for medicine in between attempting to munch on ice chips. Repeating, "I can't do this." At one point, I yelled out the "F" word and I might have hit the side of the bed. I immediately apologized to those in the room (mostly to the nurses). I'm not sure why I cared what they thought about me but I wanted them to know that I usually didn't yell out cuss words. No amount of begging resulted in me getting the meds I so desperately felt I needed at the time. 

During all of this, I felt completely out of control. The pain was overwhelming and I couldn't focus. Joseph and my doula (who is also my mom who I cannot imagine not having at the birth. Please, please, please do yourself a favor and have a doula at your birth) were flanking the bed, my knees resting on their sides. At one point Joseph left the bedside (and made my leg move) to get some water and I am pretty sure I threatened his life. I would thrash my head side to side, I felt my hair getting more and more knotted each time I turned my head but I didn't care. I tried imagining the muscles of my uterus bringing my little one down into the birth canal (I read a book that says that would work).

By this point everything was hazy. I'm not quite sure when nurses started prepping the labor room but seeing them lay out blue paper and medical equipment was reassuring. And I mean a little reassuring. Like the size of a pea reassuring.

Then I saw the face of an angel, my midwife.

It was time.