Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Experiencing the Extremes of Childbirth; This Mom has Done it All!

For mother-of-two Jessica Utt, childbirth has been anything but typical.  Her first child, daughter Lillian, was born after 37 hours of grueling labor. Two years later, her second daughter, Evelyn, brought her to the extreme by arriving so suddenly that she never made it to the hospital, and gave birth to Evelyn in her bedroom. Both of Jessica’s birthing experiences are extremely rare, according to Denita Speyer, MD, OB/GYN of Reston Hospital

“In my career I have treated only three or four patients that weren’t able to make it to the hospital in time, and in each case it was not their first delivery”. 

Evelyn was born July 30th, 2014, less than two minutes after a team of paramedics arrived, and after only an hour of intense “active” labor.  She had her first contraction around 8pm, after attending a prenatal yoga class.  They were mild, and longer than seven minutes apart until about 1:45 am, when she suddenly experienced what she termed a “monster” contraction that made her fall to her knees.  This wasn’t something she that had been prepared for.  “They told me to go to the hospital when they were five minutes apart, but that never happened!”  Soon the contractions had moved from two to one minute apart, and Evelyn was born about an hour later. Jessica recounts: 
Jessica Utt with her daughters Lillian (left) and Evelyn.
Photo Credit Jacki G Photography, Richmond. 

"Around 2am, I finally made it upstairs to tell my husband Tyson that I was in labor. I had a contraction and lay on the bed moaning. He said "You need to relax, we have a long way to go!" Based on what happened with our first child, he thought I was in early labor!  At that point, I decided to get in the shower to try and slow things down, but I never made it. I was having contractions one on top of another, and within minutes I feel myself pushing!  I had him call 911- I could feel her head! Thankfully, the paramedics arrived fast, because the baby was crowning when they walked in! The next contraction I pushed her shoulders out and there she was!

Most women experience shorter labors in 2nd or later pregnancies, though typically the difference in duration is nowhere near so dramatic as Jessica’s.

Jessica approached her first delivery, of baby Lillian, hoping for a natural, drug-free experience.  But as a trained Physician Assistant at a Richmond area family practice, she was resolved to prepare herself for anything that may come. Two years before Lillian was born, Jessica also had the unusual opportunity to serve as a doula for the delivery of her identical twin sister’s first child.  Her nephew’s birth had been the result of more than 22 hours of labor, so Jessica had some suspicion that her own labor might be on the long side. However, a 37-hour labor wasn’t even on her radar.  Dr. Speyer would have concurred, stating that “labors lasting 24-30 hours occur in less than 5% of all births, and a 37-hour labor is extremely rare.”

 According to Jessica, however, the length wasn’t even the worst part-- it was the extended, unrelenting pain.  Her midwife later confessed that Jessica’s early labor contractions seemed “on par with the pain level most women experience towards the end of active labor, which is called transition.”  In fact, Utt had strong contractions one or two minutes apart or less for 28 hours straight.  She went into labor at 3am on April 17th, 2012. She labored at home and in the birth center for almost 24 hours before her water broke and showed mecomium- a sign of fetal distress.  She was transferred to the hospital immediately, and received an epidural as well as pitocin, but it took an additional 13 hours for daughter, Lillian Christine, to arrive.

Asked if she would’ve done anything differently, Jessica said that with her first, she may have tried to spend more time at home before going to the birthing center, but that she probably wouldn’t have gotten an epidural any sooner. “My contractions slowed down dramatically when I got the epidural.”  With her 2nd, she admits she probably should’ve woken her husband sooner, but doesn’t believe she would’ve made it to the hospital either way.  Besides, who can blame her? She was expecting another marathon labor!  Jessica also has some hard-earned advice for new moms: “Babies come when they want and how they want. Accept your birth as your experience and embrace it. Labor is not easy, it's the most difficult thing a women can do, but women are strong!”  I also asked Dr. Speyer if she had any advice for moms worried about either of the above scenarios happening to them: “Be prepared for both a marathon and a sprint!” 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Leesburg Animal Park and Pumpkin Village- Updated for 2014!

Welcome to Pumpkin Village!
If you're looking for an alternative from traditional garden center and farm-style fall festivals, Leesburg Animal Parks "Pumpkin Village" is for you!  The fabulous new indoor play areas and expansive zoo, in addition to the the gigantic fall festival area, make this festival one you don't want to miss. There are so many attractions and activities that a family could easily spend an entire day exploring.

I took my 4 year old son on a Friday afternoon.  It wasn't crowded, and my son didn't have to wait to participate in any of the activities.  When we purchased our tickets ($11.95 for children and $13.95 for adults), we also bought a cup of animal feed, a bit pricey at $5 a cup (they also have smaller sizes), but the large cup was worth it when entering the animal exhibits.  The animals were healthy and well-cared-for, and included many beautiful and rare species; gibbons, lemurs, and sloths, in addition to dozens of farm animals.  My son enjoyed feeding the many varieties of cattle, deer, and goats the interactive exhibits had to offer, and the feed was gone before we knew it.

We then ventured into the festival area, and sampled some delicious cider and apples (free) before making our grand entrance down one of the giant hill slides.   First, my son jumped on the various high-quality moon bounces, which included a giant jack-o-lantern.  We then checked out the camels (rides available!) before climbing up a mountain made of hay bales.  One of his favorite exhibits was a kid-size maze made out of hay-bales, with a playground in the middle.  He also loved racing around the go-kart track, with several high-quality and easy to use pedal-karts for children and adults alike.  The hay-ride was nice and long, shaded, and passed through fun halloween exhibits. My son got a kick out of the giant, realistic T-Rex "attacking" a school bus.

Indoor Seating by the Playground
The last thing we did was explore the inside the brand-new indoor play facility, animal enclosures, and shop, which opened earlier this year.  The highlight was the modern, high-quality playground, complete with trampoline, three fun levels, and other features.  An additional large play area for toddlers is located next to the playground.  We also stumbled onto an arts and crafts/ educational room, where kids can use all sorts of craft supplies to make fun creations, read a book, or, like my son did, put together a giant floor puzzle.   Regularly scheduled animal shows are also held in in a small auditorium inside.  

Before we left, we went back outside to snag our free pie-pumpkin, and check out the farmers market.  My son summed up our day nicely by saying "Mommy, can we come back tomorrow?"

Leesburg Animal Park's Pumpkin Village Fall Festival is open daily 9:30-6 (5pm once Daylight Savings time begins).
19270 James Monroe Highway, Leesburg VA, 20175.
(703) 433-0002

*I was not paid or compensated in any way for this article.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Birthday Parties at Great Country Farm; A gift for parents and kids alike!

Everyone riding the Cow Train!
My son turned 4 years old last week, and for the first time in my life, I actually enjoyed his birthday party! We had it at Great Country Farms, in Bluemont, VA, about 30 minutes from downtown Sterling.  I hosted the first 3 parties of his little life in our home; spending months planning ahead, stockpiling decorations and food, preparing my home days in advance,  running around like a police chief during the parties, and cleaning up confetti, cemented blue frosting, and scraps of wrapping paper for days afterward, I decided enough was enough!   I made a promise to myself; no more home birthdays!  Boy did I make the right decision.    They took care of everything, and we even had our own party host to help us with set up, tear down, and organization!  I tried to take as many pictures as possible, some before the party in March, which explains the rain gear, but most were taken on the day of the party.  Enjoy!

The kids had an absolute blast; Great Country Farms is like a beautiful, educational version of an amusement park.  It has more attractions than any family could possibly hit in one day, spread out of acres of beautiful country scenery, including  extensive customized
The Lifecycle of a Monarch
 play structures, a giant bouncing pillow, a mining sluice, petting zoo, and more! Also, wherever you look, there is something to learn.  They have detailed interactive displays on the lifecycles of apple trees, butterflys, and more!

We started out in one of their two party venues; ours was the "corn crib," a beautiful historic structure covered in real grape vines, and decorated with fairy lights.  Our host met us with a golf cart at the
car-- no lugging decorations, cake, and presents! It was wonderful.   She also brought us the pre-ordered food and drinks- kettle corn cones, home-made apple cider donuts, and a adorable tin beverage barrel filled with water, soda, and juice.  Miles better than anything you will find with other kid birthday packages!  They have an extensive menu, and everything is prepared on-site in their "Roosteraunt," most with local ingredients.   The party is customizable as well; you can choose from the "barnyard bash", "laser tag," or "evening bonfire."  We chose the "barnyard bash," and it included a cup of animal feed for each child, to feed the animals. We also chose to include a trip on the "cow train" for each child, but the options are endless!
Feeding the goats!

Jumping Pillow!
The best part about this venue was the variety.  We had children from age 0-9 at the party, girls and boys, each with their own interests and developmental skills.  With all of the different attractions, everyone- including the adults- found something they enjoyed.  The older kids jumped on the bouncing pillow, or mined for gemstones and fossils, while the younger kids played on one of the many beautiful playgrounds*,  dug up dried corn with bulldozers in the corn bin, or fed the barn animals.   Additionally, the farm doesn't close until 6pm on the weekends, so although you can only use the actual party for about 1.5 hours, there is no limit to how much time you can spend exploring on the farm.  The entire day was very relaxed, fun, and easy; unlike every other birthday party I've had for my son.  As icing on the cake, the prices are actually CHEAPER what I spent on home birthdays; less money spent on food, decorations, and preparations, not to mention the unpaid mommy hours spent cleaning before and after the party! Thank you Great Country Farm! We will definitely be back again!
The Fabulous Corn Bin!

*playgrounds include a giant wooden ship, wooden monster truck, spider-web, play houses, sandbox, giant tube slides, and more! See pictures below.

Monster Truck Playground

Adorable Pretend House!

Giant Chess Board!

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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Zoodles Kid Mode App; A Safe, Fun, All-inclusive Environment for your kids!

Zoodles Kid-Mode creates a customized, secure, and easy to use environment for your children.  It is a free app, with premium options, available on every device.
While inside Zoodles, children cannot access the main operating system of your phone/tablet, which means they can’t make calls, buy stuff, or open Apps that you don’t want them too!  While inside, children as young as 2 can easily navigate the fabulous kid-friendly interface to play games, draw pictures, or listen to storybooks.  It also includes a “Parent Dashboard” app, where parents can customize zoodles for each child with their age and photo, block ads, allow and disallow downloaded apps, and promote subjects like reading or math.
Kids can’t get “out” of kid-mode! Only parents can exit the app; either by following a written instruction “draw a Z” (perfect for toddlers), entering a birthday, or entering a passcode (great for literate older children).  Parents can leave their children alone with their phone or tablet without worrying about them accessing things they shouldn’t! *Note, Zoodles does not protect against spilled apple juice, broken screens, or falls ; ).
There are 4 main features: Apps, Drawings, Storybooks, and Video Mail. 
Apps and Videos!
If connected to wifi or a network, the App tab updates with new, age-appropriate and educational apps and videos, for free!  My son has been using zoodles since he was 2.. and he has never had trouble navigating.  Instructions are spoken and visual, as opposed to written. It is also extremely intuitive.  Children can navigate the available apps, videos and features on their own, no help needed!
Audio Story Books
With the free version, there is one storybook included; The Three Little Pigs. Children turn the “pages” on their own, and the pages are read to them through a built-in video recording. The best part? You can record yourself reading the book, so your own voice/video is used! Perfect for business trips and military parents!  With the premium version, about 10 additional books are included. All books are high-quality classics, such as Casey at the Bat, The Elves and the Shoemaker, and Jack and the Beanstalk.
Video Mail (Premium only)
Video Mail is included as well; this allows your child to easily record themselves and send videos to allowed emails; like grandparents!
Parent Dashboard
Parent Dashboard
When I download a new app for my son, I visit the parent dashboard, a separate app that is also included when
you download Zoodles.  The parent dashboard allows you to customize each environment for your children: set age, filters, security levels, and add/remove allowed external apps.
Premium Features
The premium version of Zoodles features additional parental controls, such as time limits and violence filters, weekly reports, and more apps.  Upgrading to premium costs $4.95 per month.  Additionally, as mentioned above, about 10 more recordable storybooks are included with the premium edition, as well as the video mail feature. With premium, parents can also access information about their childs usage, including time, apps, subjects they’ve been focusing on, and app recommendations on their website.
Safe, Worry-free Fun!
Zoodles Kid-mode is available on iTues, Google Play, or online, for your home PC!

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Zoodles Kid-Mode, a safe, all-inclusive environment for your kids! @potomacfallsmom #apps #parenting

Quiet, fun and educational self-play activities for toddlers

We've all been there.  It's 7 am, you haven't had your coffee yet, and your toddler is jumping up and down, full of energy (jealous much!?), asking you to play with them or worse... watch TV (cue ominous music).  You are still in survival mode, and turning on the TV sounds like a pretty darn good idea!  There's nothing wrong with a little TV every once in awhile, but making a habit out of it, especially for children under three, can cause attention problems, and take time away that they could be using exploring their environment and being creative.  You don't have to suffer to give these opportunities to your child; there are hundreds of options for quiet, engaging, fun, SELF-guided play for toddlers.  I'm going to share a few of my favorites!
"Playful Patterns" by Discovery Toys
"Playful Patterns" by Discovery Toys
Pattern Matching.
Pattern games help children learn to distinguish shapes, colors, and set the stage for learning ratios and fractions.  We found "Discovery Toys" original "Playful Patterns" set at a consignment shop for $10; It has easily become MY favorite toy in the house.  The set comes with 50 different cards, and 6 sets of different colored foam shapes.  Each card has a picture, either abstract, or a scene, like a boat, fish, a clown, ect.  The goal is to arrange the shapes to complete the image.  My son is obsessed.  When I'm not feeling well, I suggest he go get it and bring it to my bedroom, or sit by my recliner.  While he plays, I offer suggestions, guidance, and encouragement, and praise.  We are playing together, but its an activity I can do while laying down!  "Playful Patterns" retails for over $50; however, Melissa and Doug have a similar set for under $20, called "Pattern Blocks and Boards."

Sewing cards.
This an activity that, once your child gets the hang of it, they can do completely on their own.  Sewing cards increase hand-eye coordination, dexterity, pattern recognition, and are the first steps to learning to sew!  There are dozens of options available; gender neutral, like animals, or sets designed specifically with boys or girls in mind.  I got my son a set of different local animals.. turtles, birds, cats, dogs, frogs, ect.  They are brightly colored, and come with rounded shoelaces perfect for little fingers! I couldn't find the exact set I got online, but again, Melissa and Doug came though with their own "pets" sewing cards, which is fabulously priced at $9.99 and comes with a storage box!

Counting games. 
Anything that teaches number recognition and adding will give your child a leg-up in preschool, and set the stage for success and confidence in Math.  One of my favorites is the  "Go Fish Game with tackle box," by Fisher-Price.  The child places cardboard fish upside down on the floor, and uses an adorable plastic fishing pole, complete with an adorable worm, with a suction cup on the end, to "catch" the fish.  Each player chooses a colored boat, and "fishes" for fish that match the color of their boat.  Each fish has a number on it, and after "filling" their boat, they add the numbers together to see who "caught the most fish."  My son is 4, so we have an abacus to help him count the numbers together.  When I'm not feeling well, he catches fish for me as well, and we add the numbers up together.  This game usually is played with me sitting in the recliner with a cup of coffee, and him on the floor.  It takes about 45 minutes to complete the game, and by the time he's done, my morning meds have kicked in, and I'm ready to get up!

When all else fails: educational, age appropriate tablet apps
Before you succumb to turning on the TV, try educational apps!  We use "Zoodles Kid Mode" (click the link for details and my full review).  The app allows you to create an all-inclusive environment for your child on your phone or tablet.  The app makes it impossible for your child to place phone calls, or purchase anything, it also prevents them from accessing anything for adult eyes only.  You can customize it with apps that you've downloaded yourself.  Some of my favorite apps are "Sid the Science kid Science fair," which teaches the basics of scientific research, and the "Monkey preschool lunchbox" series, which teach math, reading, and science.

*Check out my new blog especially for parents with chronic illness:, and my childrens book on chronic pain, Fibromyalgia and Autoimmune Disease: "Why Does Mommy Hurt?" 

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Quiet, fun, self-play activities for toddles, when you need to rest! @parentswithpain #parenting

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Friday, May 9, 2014

Why Does Mommy Hurt? Now Available!

Why Does Mommy Hurt? Helping Children Cope with having a Parent or Caregiver with Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, or Autoimmune Disease is now available for purchase on Outskirts Press! *IMPORTANT: Link goes to store, search "Why Does Mommy Hurt" to find it.
 The book will also soon be available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

Want the eBook?  It is now available on and  Coming soon to Amazon, iTunes, and Nook!

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Why Does Mommy Hurt? Now available! @potomacfallsmom #fibromyalgia #chronicpain #autoimmune #parentswithpain

**Check out my new blog especially for parents with chronic illness:, and my childrens book on chronic pain, Fibromyalgia and Autoimmune Disease: "Why Does Mommy Hurt?" 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Great Country Farms CSA Program; Local, Fresh, and Sustainable Produce!

A Typical CSA Weekly Box!
This week, I interviewed Jacyln Jenkins, who runs the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at Great Country Farm, voted "Best of Loudoun: CSA Program" this year in a poll by Leesburg Today! Great Country Farms also has a whole lot more to offer than just produce; it is a fun, educational, utopia for children and adults alike; Great Country Farm demonstrates healthy eating and sustainable farming through dozens of exciting and fun attractions, including pick-your-own produce, interactive exhibits, farm animals, wagon rides, a school field trip program, and more playgrounds, rides, and slides than your children could dream of! Watch for the Potomac Falls Mama's upcoming article on GCF's childrens attractions and birthday parties, coming in June, or read about why they were featured in my "Best Educational and Family Friendly Activities in Loudoun" post.

Now, on to the fruits and veggies! Yum! 

The "Great" Great Country Farm CSA Program!

Berry Seedlings in the Greenhouse!
Sustainable and Conscientious. Each season,  1500 local families choose Great Country Farms CSA program for their families produce. Although the farm is not certified organic, it is pretty close, as they use sustainable methods and minimal chemicals.  It is also a conciountious program; all unsold produce is donated to Loudoun Interfaith Relief, which serves thousands of local families in need.

Local Meats, Dairy, and Eggs!
Experience and Variety. The GCF CSA program is now entering its 21st season, and offers over 70 varieties of fruits and vegetables, including, okra, eggplant, collard greens, apples, peaches, pumpkins, blackberries, and a whole lot more, 100% of which is grown by GCF.  They also sell local meats, eggs, dairy products and honey in our farm market that are from other farms including: Ayrshire Farms, Mountain View Farm, Oakland Beef, Goot Essa Cheeses, and (my personal favorite), 7-4 Peace Gluten Free Flour!

Support Health, Community, and Local Farmers. Signing up for a CSA program doesn't just help your family eat healthier, it also helps the community, the environment, and most of all, the farmers, who rely on the passionate CSA members who want to support their community!

Equal in price to tired, old grocery store produce! The price of the CSA program is comparable with standard grocery store costs (*delivery memberships do have additional fees), with the added benefit of it being a local program, not to mention all of this awesome stuff!: 

Additional Benefits of Membership

  • Each familiy receives a membership card granting them free admission to Great Country Farm, including all Events & Festivals (!!!), for the entire season! (April 5- November 25).  
**This benefit alone is a tremendous value; GCF was also voted best in "Agritourism" and is a fabulous, fun, and educational experience for the whole family! Attractions include pick-your-own produce, a cow train, fossil and gemstone digging, several high quality custom built playgrounds, for all ages, slides, a giant  2200 sq ft  bouncing pillow, a "corn bin," farm animials and petting zoo, 18 hole Cow Pie Putt-Putt, 100' slides, mazes, tractors to climb on, pedal carts, swings, catch & release fishing, and of course, the "Roosteraunt," serving delicious local food, including my personal favorite: "Apple Cider Donuts" (which I believe is my all time favorite food, ever.)  (Roosteraunt open weekends)
  •  A weekly u-pick bonus at no additional charge 
  • 2 free one-time passes for visiting family or friends
  • 10% off additional u-pick and in store produce
  • 10% off parties. *watch for my upcoming post on awesome GCF birthday parties!
  • Vacation make-up options so you don't miss a week due to traveling!
  • Free, exclusive wine tasting at Bluemont Vineyard after a visit to the farm
  • Crop Talk weekly e-newsletter with u-pick bonus amounts, recipes, fun on the farm activities, growing news & more!

Membership Options

  1. Pick Up. (most popular): Members come to the farm to pick up their CSA box. You can pack your own Box at a value of $419*, or have it packed for you at $449* The prices are comparable to a full season of buying your produce at the grocery store, but members get the added benefit of fresh, local produce, and several other fabulous benefits! (See below).
  2. Delivery: Don't live close by? GCF can delivery CSA to your door for an additional $150 with a total of $599*- They deliver all the way to Crystal City in Alexandria!
  3. Group Delivery. To save money, a group site delivery is a fabulous option; you can save $50-$100 this way, depending on how many members are in the group. Small groups (2-4) save $50, but if you join a group with 5 or more boxes, you save $100!
Each season fills up very quickly, so sign up today!

Ask the farmer

Why would you recommend CSA to local families? 

The Beautiful Fields of GCF
Jaclyn. Today, we all care more about the foods we eat, how they are grown sustainably and how it supports the communities in which we live.  CSA members receive 20 weeks of seasonal fruits and vegetables varying from week to week providing diverse and healthy eating options. By committing to a CSA program, you create a partnership with the farmer accepting the  risks and rewards that come throughout the season. CSA also provides the opportunity for member’s to reduce their carbon footprint, and expand their knowledge of how to harvest and preserve their harvest. If you are looking for fresh, local, seasonal produce and regular on farm adventures, then CSA membership is for you! We pick, pack and deliver produce weekly from June to October to your home or office or offer pick up at our Farm Market. So get the kids off the couch this summer and outside picking and playing on the farm.

Is there anything else you think people would like to know about the GCF CSA program?

Jaclyn. Know that your produce is grown with minimal chemicals, or none at all using sustainable growing practices. We are NOT a certified organic farm, but feed our own family daily from the farm so we care very much how our produce is grown. We grow our CSA garden without adding any synthetic, chemical fertilizers or herbicides, and we use extensive composting and worm cultivation for enriching our soils. We are constantly researching and implementing steps to use only sustainable growing practices to care for the land with which we have been blessed to farm.

CSA FAQ page

GCF; offering much more than produce!
In addition to produce, Great Country Farm has a large market which carries many local and hand-made items, including farm-made furniture! They also offer tons of educational toys, gifts, and jams, jellies, sauces, and their famous kettle corn... nom nom nom!

About your CSA Program Manager!

Jaclyn Jenkins
Jaclyn. I grew up here in Loudoun County and have 2 young children. I have been here at Great Country Farms for 4 years Community Supported Agriculture "CSA" program by assisting members with questions about having healthy, local produce be delivered right to your door.

For our School Field Trip Program, I have developed new educational material for tours, trained staff and spent hours teaching students about the importance of farming. I help book birthday parties to create a fun filled day, as well as coordinated corporate parties and weddings. I have planned Annual Festivals each weekend bringing new ideas and adventures to the farm and received Visit Loudoun’s “Event of the Year” in 2013 for the Bluemont BBQ Bash. Now I am focusing on our e-newsletters, social media posts and updating the website to inform our followers with current news on the farm.

Sign up for the Great Country Farm CSA Program before space runs out this season!

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Parents with chronic pain and illness may also be interested in following me @parentswithpain, and checking out my new childrens book on chronic pain and fibromyalgia! 

Tags: Loudoun, Ashburn, Sterling, Leesburg, Reston, CSA, local, sustainable agriculture, community supported agriculture, farm, kid-friendly, pick-your-own, produce