May 31, 2013

Henry Poolside

The thing about Maryland weather is there is no regularity to it.  Memorial Day weekend we were freezing.  Seriously we had the heat running and kept to indoor activities most of the weekend.  Wednesday it was in the 90s.
So we have officially moved to the pool.
His pool side isn't much different from his nap time and play time.  But he still dresses the part.  
I so love this hat I found at Target.  No where near fitting him but that doesn't stop us from putting it on that darling little head.  He's kind of a cross between Jay Gatsby and Sky Masterson without the dice.
And of course, the girls had to stop their play to ooh and ahh over him for a few minutes.  Being Addison is such a tough life!

May 30, 2013

Early Morning Light

This morning Allen left early to make the four hour trip to southern Virginia for meetings with customers.  
I typically wake at the slightest sound.  I think this last month I must be catching up on all the sleep I missed during my pregnancy.   I go to sleep at midnight and don't hear a thing until morning.  Even Allen getting up.  
But I did hear his alarm this morning at 5:30.  Well, sort of.  Do you ever hear a noise and it becomes part of your dream?  Allen was long since out of bed so who knows how long that phone was ringing before I realized it was an alarm.   I got up, turned it off and crawled back into bed. 
As much as I wanted to, I couldn't go back to sleep.  So I started thinking of all the things I could do.  It's been very hot here the last few days, so I settled on getting my run in before the sun got too high.
No sooner had I climbed out of bed than I heard Addison.  Which is odd, especially at that hour of the morning.  I usually have to wake him at 7 to eat.  When I got to his bed he was raspy and I didn't like the way he was breathing at all.  So I picked him up and we played and he ate.  I wanted to keep an ear on his breathing for a little while before I laid him back down.  
The light outside was so beautiful.  I love the early morning light.  It is my very favorite part of the day.  I love the summers when it is warm enough to be out early in the day.  I think this is what the light will be like in Heaven.
So we grabbed the girls, and a blanket and some books and headed to the secret garden for a spell.
We read.  
And snuggled. 

And laughed.  And Carmella even cried for a minute but we don't really know why.
And Brianna brought the camera.
Henry has the biggest feet of any baby I have ever seen.  We have been marveling over them since he was born.  The one on the left is his.  The one on the right is Carmella's.  See what I mean?
He has big beautiful blue eyes, too.
And the most darling ears.
I love when he sucks his thumb.  He's been doing it since his first sonogram at 9 weeks.  
So feet are too cute to pass up
So it looks like Elisabeth will have big feet, too.  At least big compared to mine.
They are nice in black and white, also.  
Carmella has the best giggles in the world.  When she laughs, she laughs with her whole body and you can not help but smile, too.
I can not think of a better place to be than here with these precious ones.  I am so grateful that the Lord has given me a few more years with a gaggle of youngers by my side.

May 29, 2013

And in Other Wachter News

Now that I finally got Henry pictures up, I thought it was long past time for an update on the general Wachter news.  A lot has really happened since my last photo post.  Actually, when I looked back I realized it's been more than two months.  Eeek!  A quick look at April.  May update to follow... hopefully.
We had some friends come for a day and the boys spent the rainy day building domino effects.  Click the arrow and it will play for you.
The first week of April we had some very hot and humid days.  Our pool was not yet open for the season so the kids dragged out the pink baby pool and spent and entire day cooling off in it.  Like our other kids, Carmella is a serious pool girl.  She will even abandon shoes to run to the pool.
And then there were the birds.  All five of the eggs hatched and were doing well.  Which is rather unusual.  Typically, there are some that will never hatch.  Anyway, the two youngest died while Allen and I were in the mountains.  The three remaining birds were named Wynken, Blynken and Nod.  They were doing beautiful... growing big and attempting to fly.  The morning before I was admitted to the hospital, when the birds were about 4 weeks old,  we woke up to a crazy racket.  The mother bird was attacking the oldest bird wildly.  He was literally covered in blood from where the mother had pecked him.  We did what we could but there was really nothing to do for him at that point so we kept him warm and comfortable until he died a few hours later.

We separated the mother to another cage so she wouldn't hurt anyone else.  According to google sometimes the mothers snap like that.  It was crazy and yucky.  She has moved into another home with an elderly lady where she will be a single bird.  So with the ones that died and the one we gave away, we ended up breaking even on the bird front.  We were all amazed at how fast they grow.  By 6 weeks, when they are old enough to separate from their parents, these guys were indistinguishable from full grown birds.  It's kind of neat to see our dumb father bird act as the single parent to the babies after we had to remove the mother.  He fed them and taught them to perch and fly and everything.  
OK... and I am amazed that Elisabeth can sleep this way.  More mornings than not I find her on the floor asleep.

And I love these over dolled overalls Kaitlin has been making for Ellie from Sam's outgrown overalls.  So cute for a little girl who wants to wear her dresses while climbing trees with the boys.

Carmella loved Ellie's sparkly pink shoes so much, we finally got her a pair of her own.  I love eBay.  $2 for a pair of shoes that looked brand new.  She has since outgrown those and at not even 2 years old she is on her second pair of pink sparkly shoes.  

The neighbor who got the boys started on chickens has become very interested in our square foot garden.  The kids spent some time one afternoon helping him get his own started.

One of Aedan's Lego creations from the new set he got for his birthday.  I don't know who likes them more.  Allen and the boys will sit up until 10:00 building things.
Carmella loves bags, and shoes and sunglasses.  So much so, she even wears them to bed sometimes.  She always puts them on upside down.  

The boys were so excited to welcome Henry into their club.  The day after we brought him home they went shopping with Allen to pick out an outfit to match them.  They settled on this sleeper because the colors match the older boys and the dinosaurs match Sam's pjs.  

My little gardeners.  With us so busy and distracted by other things, the boys have almost exclusively tended the garden.  They spend hours pouring over gardening catalogs, books and magazines.  They are amazing.  The garden looks better than all the years that Allen and I tended it.
So, there you have it.  April in a nutshell.  Hopefully, I will move on to May shortly.

Until next time,


May 28, 2013

60 Days to a Healthy Heart

Last July after a check up Allen was reported to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure and he was overweight.  Lot's of lessons in there.  Not the least being that compared to most everyone else he was a little guy.  Most of us carry way more pounds than is good for our health.  Also, you might note that his evenings and weekends are spent in hard physical work around the house or doing something active with the kids.  No sitting around watching television here.  And yet, he had added 30 extra pounds over the years.

Another good lesson is to ask how he got in such a precarious health situation?  Everyone who spends much time in our home knows we live a very healthy life style.  We are physically active and cook well balanced meals full of fruits and veggies.  We avoid processed and junk foods.

Allen's problem was two fold.  His job requires sitting at a desk, in meetings and in a car more than 40 hours a week.  Prior to his check up last year, he took part in no regular physical exercise.  Second, when not at home, he ate whatever happened to be in his path when he was with customers or on the road.  He reasoned that once in a while was no big deal.

For some time he had been feeling less energetic and from time to time had chest pains.  He had begun to snore and frequently took Advil for headaches.  With the blood report in hand, I set about to find a way to get him back to good health without dangerous cholesterol lowering medications.  In 60 days his HDL's were well above the minimum.  His LDL's were well below the maximum.  His weight was down.  Chest pains were gone.  And his energy level was up.

The first part of the plan was to get his full commitment.  Allen has a way of dragging his feet when it comes to food he doesn't care for and definitely wanted nothing to do with exercise.  Furthermore, he really hates having to limit things like dessert and stops at Chick-Fil-A.  I had to put on some tough love with this one.  I knew it would be good for him and that he could do it if he really applied himself.   When he asked if I could help him I told him only if he ate what I prepared, no matter what it was, and did everything in the plan.  Oh, and this was the big one... he had to do it without whining or complaining.  He signed on and I got busy making lists and menus and workout plans.

Exercise was the next step.  He had to work up to 20-30 minutes of cardio each day.  Stretching was also to be part of the daily routine.  He skimped on the stretching at first.  I didn't push him on it because I knew eventually he would feel the results and get serious.  And sure enough after a lot of pain  he got on board with the importance of it.  Exercise literally started out with one minute of running at a time and worked up to several miles a day.  In the beginning he fussed and whined at Emma (his assigned workout buddy) the whole time.  What a difference a little effort makes.  Now he loves running and puts in 5-10K at a time.  When he travels, instead of using it as an excuse not to exercise, he enjoys looking for interesting places to run.  On long travel days, when he used to stop for junk food, Allen now breaks up his 2-4 hours of driving time by finding a good place for a run.
Running together on the beach is an awesome way to start vacation mornings.
The one form of exercise Allen and I use to enjoy together was biking.  Since moving here in 2001 we gave it up as a family because we have a serious lack of family friendly places to ride.  His bike long since was passed on to someone else.  Last summer he invested in a new bike and began following his daily runs with long rides.  We live in a very hilly area so both running and biking are maxed out on the strenuous and cardio intensive scales.  

Another note on exercise is how his involvement got the whole family excited.  I have always been an advocate of exercise.  Just about everyday of my adult life has included some form of intensive exercise... running, aerobics, weight training or a stop at the gym... but my family never did get interested and if they did, it never lasted.  Fueled on by Pa's enthusiasm however, all the kids got into running.  By January Samuel all the way up to Kaitlin were training for a 5K race.   Which, incidentally, came on the weekend after Henry was born, so no one ran.

The important point here is 1- that dad's have a huge influence on their kids.  He never asked anyone to take up running.  They did it because he was doing it.  They mimic us.  If we live on junk food and a sedentary lifestyle we are setting our kids up for an unhealthy life.  2- when we get excited about something, our kids will, too.  Apply that to just about anything.  3- A family can really pull together to encourage each other for good, and it doesn't actually take much effort.  4- And there is always a place where we can improve.  Our kids have never sat around.  Just the same, they found a way to become even more active and build a lifetime habit that will serve them well.  And it put fun into Pa's exercise with a new family passion.  5- Their enthusiasm has encouraged a number of our friends who thought it looked like so much they are running regularly now and feeling the lasting health benefits of a more active life.

And think how that can be applied to far more important areas of life.  Take our personal relationship with the Lord.  Allen took up running for his own good.  His excitement spread to the kids. As the family got busy in running, first one friend took it up and then another friend and her family and another friend...

Imagine if we lived our walk with the Lord with such enthusiasm!  What could we do for the world?  I'm running out of time here so I'll let you think through that bunny trail on your own.
I personally don't think I'd want to be caught dead in that color, but I sure love seeing the girls take off together in the shirts Allen got for them.  
So anyway, the other part of the plan was diet.  The focus was on increasing foods that raise HDL  (that's the good cholesterol) and lower LDL (that's the bad stuff) and eliminating foods that increase LDL and hinder production of HDL.
Any fruit and vegetable can be beneficial to good heart health.  However some are especially good when trying to increase good cholesterol and reduce the bad.

* Spinach
* Oatmeal
* Olives
* Artichokes
* Cranberry
* Tomato
* Nuts
* Onions
* Garlic
* Peppers
* Fish (particularly salmon)
* Eggs
* Berries
* Okra
* Unsweetened cocoa powder
* Banana
* Pumpkin
* Legumes
* Olive Oil
* Avocado

What to avoid?

*  Animal products, including meat and dairy products
*  Processed foods.  If it has an ingredient list, we probably should not be eating it
*  Sweets and sugar products (this includes sugar substitutes which are often far worse than sugar)
*  Grains... especially processed white grains
*  Caffeine
*  Sodas
* Meals that come in bags... think fast food
* Fats and oils that aren't olive or canola oil

I wanted to pump as much of the good stuff into Allen as possible.  One of the ways I did this was to create a smoothie for him to start his days.  He was not a regular breakfast eater so this was also a good way to get energy into him for his morning workouts.  He loves this smoothie so much he is always telling other people about it.  As a result I get a request for the recipe almost every week.

The Spinach Smoothie

1 cup unsweetened cranberry juice, almond milk or coconut milk
1 banana
2 very big handfuls of spinach leaves
4 Tablespoons raw or unsweetened cocoa powder (good old fashioned Hershey's)
1 Tablespoon honey or sugar

Blend all very well.  Then add frozen fruit (I use a strawberry blend) until you get the consistency you like.  I use about a cup of frozen berries.  Some people like it more runny.  Allen likes his thicker, more like a milkshake.  It's all a matter of preference really.  This makes a large amount.  I have a huge Tupperware cup that is Pa's smoothie cup.  He will sip on it all morning.  

The ingredients seem like they wouldn't be very tasty but I am here to tell you, if you like a chocolate shake, you will like this.  If there is some that won't fit in his cup, the kids like to have the leftovers.  Carmella likes this so much, she has several a day.  (Minus the chocolate, which gives her a rash).  You will be full of energy after one of these drinks, too.    

And odd as it sounds, if you have pumpkin, avocado or a leftover sweet potato in the fridge, it is also an excellent addition to this recipe.  We bake our own pumpkins every fall and freeze tons of it for the rest of the year.  This can be added frozen right into the vita mix or blender.

Meals didn't really change much because I already cook with lots of leafy greens, fresh fruits and vegetables.  The only oils I use are olive and canola oil.  We already make almost all our food from scratch and the only grains we eat are whole grains, typically ground from wheat berries in our kitchen right before baking.  The biggest difference in our meals was that Allen started eating key heart healthy ingredients he used to pick out and push to the side of his plate.  He once commented on how delicious healthy foods were when you cleared your palette of the junk.

A typical days menu would look something like this.

A spinach smoothie

Breakfast:  Oatmeal made with 1/2 cup regular oats, 1 cup water, 1/4 cup dried blueberries and 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Lunch:  Spinach salad with beets, caramelized onions, orange slices, and chopped walnuts.  I try to serve a dish of fresh fruit with every meal.

Dinner:  Salmon brushed with olive oil, salt and pepper cooked rare on the grill.  I top that with lots of different things but one of our favorites is to saute garlic and onions in a little olive oil.  Then toss in some chopped tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and olives.  A sprinkle of fresh herbs and you are really looking at something delicious.  Baked sweet potatoes, some grilled zucchini and grilled pineapple are excellent on the side.

Snacks are usually popcorn with olive oil, raw fruit and cans of roasted nuts.

Allen's need to eat on the road several times a week didn't change.  But the choices he makes did.  At business lunches he traded out burgers and fries for salads topped with grilled salmon.  He requests that his salads be made with fresh spinach or field greens instead of ice berg and romaine lettuce.  If he must eat at a fast food restaurant he asks for oatmeal (yes, McDonald's oatmeal is very good) and changes the deep fried chicken sandwich for a grilled chicken salad.  And when he makes stops to fill up on gas, he grabs a bag of nuts instead of chips and cookies.

The effort brought great rewards.  In 6 weeks his sleep improved and snoring stopped.  The headaches and chest pains disappeared completely.  And the numbers?  Not only did he lose  those 25 extra pounds but his cholesterol came down to a beautiful 145!  And it all started with 1 minute of running and a spinach smoothie.
"If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health."  -Hippocrates

May 25, 2013

Henry... One Month Old

I know I have been slow to post photos of the newest Wachter.  This post will make up for it by containing more photos of him than you ever cared to see.  The problem is he is so beautiful that every ten seconds someone is taking his picture.  It is so hard to narrow it down to just a few!

One  night Allen put Henry in Carmella's crib while he was putting her PJs on.  Only she thought it was so neat to have baby in there she wanted in also and didn't want to come back out.  She even shared her back up "Olivias" with him.

One week check up with Dr. H who wants to know if we are going to even it up.

There is always someone waiting to hold this fellow.

Rocking Henry is another favorite past time

Aedan rises early like me so he usually gets to hold Addison more than the rest

After one of his million blood draws

Don't know who took this or why but I love the look on his face as he salutes his fans

And well... that's just too cute

Bad picture but great moment.  When my girl friend came to do Henry's photo shoot is was a rather nasty day.  All his "girls"  stood around holding sheets and stuff to try to maximize the light and minimize the background clutter.  I mean, really, it's going to be a tough life... this little guy in the middle of all these people surrounding him waiting to do whatever is necessary for the Prince.

Carmella thinks Henry is just a live baby doll for her.  You rarely see these three apart if it is not nap time.

Singing the Old Rugged Cross

Yeah, it took five of us to put his foot and hand prints in his baby book

Did I mention there is always someone to play with Henry?

And sometimes I might go to get him up and find my baby has been snatched from his bed

Emma and Grace spent hours upon hours dressing Elisabeth and Carmella up when they were babies.  Henry is a happy victim

On a nice day he joined all the kids under the cherry tree while I made a picnic for lunch

If he is awake at meal time, Pa gets to hold him all through dinner

Anytime during the day you can find this duo hanging out by his bed

Or enriching his mind

And... well, I LOVE baby feet!

I can not believe how much he can scoot about already.  One afternoon when I went to get Addison up from his nap he had flipped and turned himself into this position.

And he is doing an incredible job of lifting his head.

You can see it better from this angle

And there are the baby snatchers, at it again.