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March 18, 2015 / bethanyshondark

My Birth Story II 

Seventeen months later here I am – back writing a birth story from my phone at Princeton Plainsboro Hospital while nursing. When I took my first birth class (which I still so highly recommend, yay Manhattan Birth and the Bradley Method!) my teacher Tanya said over and over how different second babies were from first ones. And yet again she was so, so very right. 

My daughter was born on her due date. My water broke on Friday night, I was induced with Cervadil late Saturday night and she was born early Sunday morning. My midwives, along with Tanya, warned that my second birth would be half the time as my first, which they counted as eight hours start to finish once contractions actually started. Turns out, it was actually a forth, if that. 

A week past my due date and anxious about a possible induction (my midwives’ cutoff is 42 weeks but with close monitoring between 41 and 42) I was getting quite anxious. I woke up on the morning of my 41st week with a packed schedule. A trip to Walmart in the morning (we haven’t been shopping in a while anticipating a baby), an acupuncture appointment to put me into labor and a midwife appointment for fetal monitoring. I nursed my daughter upon waking up (as I always do) and felt uncomfortable so I ran to the bathroom to discover I was bleeding slightly. I called my midwife practice immediately, at around 6am, who told me to come into the hospital in the next hour. We puttered around, I did dishes and made all of us a big, elaborate breakfast. I wasn’t even contracting and figured “what’s the rush?” despite many warnings about fast labors with second babies. Not smart.  

As I was doing these last minute chores the abdominal cramping that I had noticed overnight seemed to be coming in waves, every nine minutes. It was uncomfortable, but just felt like I had to make an urgent bathroom trip, not like the contractions I felt with my daughter. We dropped her off with my sister in law and went to the hospital and by the time we arrived at 9:30am I wasn’t comfortable but also didn’t feel like I was really truly in labor. I was a bit afraid we were there for another false alarm (we had showed up two weeks prior just to be sent home immediately). 

The midwife on call, Yelena, greeted Seth and I and our doula Dorothy and after an exam said I was 3cm dilated. Within minutes the contractions went from uncomfortable to straight up painful. Our nurse was a bit old school and spent some time explaining how I could go about ordering pain medication, even though my birth plan said I had no plans to use it. She was very nice, but not quite as on board with natural and midwife-led childbirth as our nurse was with our daughter. 

During the exam our midwife said she didn’t feel the head down, nor did she feel the amniotic sac. She was afraid he was breech or crooked and that my water had been leaking for days without my realizing. An ultrasound confirmed he was slightly crooked, but head down, but couldn’t verify the integrity of the sac. I had called the office days prior worried my sac had been leaking but was told that based on my symptoms, it didn’t sound like it was. We were now afraid that I had been leaking for days, opening up the sterile environment to infection. I was panicked, but nobody else seemed to be, which I figured was just for my benefit. 

We arrived at the hospital by 930am and that exam was around 10am. Immediately my contractions got worse. With my daughter I had a chance to get a handle on them but this time every time I felt like I had control over a contraction’s intensity it got worse immediately with the next one. They went from 9 minutes apart to 3 minutes apart within half an hour of being at the hospital. My doula did a hip squeeze and put on a TENS unit, which was enormously helpful in managing the pain. I don’t know how I would have managed the intensity of those contractions without either, or without Dorothy’s gentle reminders to relax my muscles and try to calm down. 

At 1040am I had almost back-to-back contractions where I felt my water burst in two waves. With my daughter when it burst I didn’t even feel it, but this time, it felt like an explosion in my pelvis and especially the second time, was excruciating. When those bursts happened, we knew that the sac had probably been intact all along, which was a relief. We were hoping, due to the quick escalation of my labor, that he had shifted totally into the birth canal. 

At this point, at 11am, I requested to use the hospital’s birthing tub and Yelena offered to do one last cervical check before I hopped in. She did an exam at 11:08 and said my dilation was 9.5cm and then quickly changed her mind and said 5.5cm. When she said 9.5 I exclaimed “WHAT?” The second number made more sense. There was no way I was ready to have a baby that quickly. Or so I thought. 

As soon as I stood up after that exam I felt the urge to push. I didn’t say anything because I knew I was only 5.5cm dilated seconds prior, but soon Yelena and Dorothy asked “you’re pushing huh?” Even though the birthing pool was ready I wasn’t moving from next to the bed. I apologized and said that I knew that I wasn’t dilated enough but that I couldn’t stop pushing. I apologized for not being honest and not telling them but said I refused to stop pushing. They both, thankfully, told me to listen to my body. 

Between contractions I told Yelena that I couldn’t manage anymore and she kept assuring me that I was in transition, that I would soon be done. In no way did I believe her that he would be out so soon. I just thought I was going to die. As with my daughter, the thought of medication never crossed my mind. I don’t think I remembered it existed. I asked her if she was going to leave and she said no. I asked in a childlike voice “is that because you think my baby is coming?” And she nodded and smiled. Through the whole time we were there Yelena was totally calm, totally and completely in control. After the birth Seth said “I would never want to play poker with that woman. She never showed her hand. She knew what was going on and never gave an indication, just calm and reassurance.”

At 11:08am I was 5.5cm dilated and by 11:15 I felt him crowning. I yelled out in surprise when I felt his head and the nurse asked me to get back into bed. I refused. I was afraid to lay back down. I couldn’t handle the contractions standing and laying down only would have made them worse. Yelena, unflappable Yelena, shrugged and said “okay! you can stand.” I heard the nurse say to her “what if the baby comes out? we don’t do that.” To which Yelena replied “I do. I’ve done it before and I will do it again. It’s fine.” In my mind I silently cheered “Yay midwives!!” 

With my daughter the pushing stage wasn’t that hard, wasn’t that painful (well, considering). The transition stage, on the other hand, was mind-bogglingly difficult. With him it was the total opposite. I was able to talk during transition (which convinced me it wasn’t actually transition) but the pushing stage was unimaginably painful and primal. With every push I felt like my insides were on fire, like I was being torn open. With my daughter during pushing it was a gentle slide out as I breathed deeply, made jokes and deeply focused. With him I screamed like an animal, leaning forward on Seth, who was crouched down in front of me. When my daughter was born the only hard part was the head, she was a straight shot out after that emerged. With him I felt the head emerge after an epic struggle to get it out and yet he was still totally lodged in, despite the fact that I was standing and thus had the benefit of gravity on my side. At this point we heard Dorothy exclaim “Wow I’ve never seen that before!” As a doula Dorothy has attended hundreds of births, so hearing that exclaimed was worrisome to Seth and I, who weren’t looking down below at what was happening. Dorothy quickly followed up with “Not bad! Just different!” With a few pushes his shoulders were out one by one, and each was a struggle. I heard the nurse worriedly exclaim “do you have him?” To which Yelena calmly replied “yes, I’ve got him, he’s fine. And peeing.” She passed him through my legs to me and I sat down on the bed and held him as nurses and Dorothy rushed over with blankets. As they did I felt my hand fill with sludge; he was already pooping on me. 

We learned a minute or so later, when I asked why he wasn’t crying yet, what Dorothy meant when he was coming out. He had been totally entangled in the cord in three different ways; around his arm, neck and torso. There had been a slight delay unwrapping him before he was passed through to me, though I hadn’t noticed it at the time, just in retrospect. 

Unlike my daughter’s birth I felt the placenta and desperately wanted it out. I pushed once and Yelena gave a tug, at my request, for it to come out completely. 

Despite the intensity of pushing, I again didn’t need any stitches, which was shocking. He was a bigger baby, which I noticed the second he was handed to me. Our daughter was 7lbs14oz, he clocked in at 8lbs11oz. The way he was wrapped in the cord also made delivery more difficult. 

I took a shower a few hours later and generally felt as good, if not better, the second time around. Because I’m still nursing my daughter nursing this time around has been quite easy so far also. My son isn’t as calm as his sister was, but is overall still a pretty chill baby, born with long and light hair. Everyone who has seen him who knows my daughter has remarked that we’re going to have another ginger haired baby on our hands. His eyes, like his sister, are a beautiful deep blue, which she was born with and retained.

Start to finish from the arrival of real contractions to arrival of baby the labor was about 90 minutes in duration. It was easily the most difficult hour and a half of my life, but how many people can say they pushed out a baby standing up? For bragging rights alone, let alone having a beautiful new son to show for it, it was an intensely awesome birth made awesome in large part due to Seth, Dorothy and Yelena. I wholeheartedly recommend the ladies, but I won’t be sharing my husband any time soon. Though he does make beautiful babies.

August 25, 2014 / bethanyshondark

Review of gDiapers


Every month I send a picture of my daughter to friends and family wearing just her diaper. Every month she’s in a different colour gDiaper. This has led to most of the people in our lives knowing what kind of diapers we use and that we’ve stuck with them, even when everyone told me we’d give up within weeks. We cloth diaper for several reasons:

  1. Cost: I was raised by the biggest penny pincher on the Eastern Seaboard. Spending money that gets thrown in the garbage makes me feel ill. I knew when I first started talking to friends that cloth diapered that it was worth a try, for cost alone.
  2. Environment: It may be surprising, but conservative people care about the earth as well. The idea of thousands of diapers in the landfill because of our family, which will pretty much never decompose, was an incentive to go the cloth route. 
  3. Cute: Okay, I admit this was a motivating factor. 
  4. Fewer blowouts: I didn’t know this would be an advantage at the time, but cloth diapering has saved us a lot of diaper blowouts. When we were using the disposables we got free from the hospital, every time she went #2, we had a lot of laundry on our hands (we were still laundering poop, even if we weren’t using cloth diapers). When we switched to gDiapers we haven’t had a single one. 

There’s a lot of misconceptions about cloth diapering. I don’t have a bucket of standing water somewhere in my apartment filled with dirty diapers, nor do I swirl anything in the toilet, nor do I ever touch poop (more than any other mother, that is). I’m going to go over terminology, my washing method, and how to cloth diaper as cheaply as possible with gDiapers. 

gDiapers are the only kind of diapers we’ve tried. I know there’s a million other ones out there. We chose them for the following reasons:

  1. A friend introduced me (thanks Aviva!). The world of cloth diapering is really overwhelming and my friend Aviva spent the time to sit down with me and go over what gDiapers are, and how to use them. 
  2. They have a disposable insert option for when you’re out or on vacation. We use these inserts overnight as well, they absorb a lot more than cloth. I bought two cases (four packs come in each case) when they were on sale on Amazon (I had a price alert set when I was pregnant) and we are still going through what that initial purchase was. The disposable insert can be flushed or thrown away. If it is thrown away, it’s much more degradable than regular disposable diapers. These disposable inserts are available on subscribe and save on Amazon Mom as well, which saves even more money.
  3. They are available on Amazon and in person at big box stores like Target, Babies R Us and I think Buy Buy Baby as well. This came in handy when I had to buy an extra pack of disposable inserts, and also when I was setting up our registries. 
  4. The support is fantastic. They have a chat option on their website that I’ve used at least a dozen times. The chat box is staffed by moms who have been using gDiapers for a long time, and I’ve always found the women who are there to answer my questions to be professional, really kind, and thorough. 

What different parts are there in gDiapers?

1. gPants: These are the cute outer cloth shells. They come in tons of colours and the company releases new patterns all the time. They come in packs of six or they can be purchased individually. There’s a six pack you can buy with just green and orange for $13 a pant, $80 total. Their website, and sadly only their website, has a rainbox six pack available for $90 total. They come in four sizes: small, medium (this is what most kids spend the vast majority of time in), large and XL. 

On Amazon standard gPants are $19 each. I wait to buy them when they go on sale on for 3 for $39 – $13 each. That’s the price you get buying them in a pack, and this way you have the option to have a variety of colours. 

Screenshot 2014-08-25 at 8.41.25 PM

2. Plastic pouches: These are what seal the diapers, making sure that nothing that’s liquid gets out. They come in two sizes: small and medium/large. It’s good to have two of these pouches per every gPant you have. They are the part of the diaper that gets dirty, and they can be switched out, saving you from cleaning the whole gPant. I get them on Amazon, they aren’t easy to find any cheaper than what’s available there. 


3. Inserts: These come in either a cloth variety or the disposable option that I mentioned above. The subscribe and save on Amazon Mom is the best way to get these cheaply. Set a price alert as I did on camelcamelcamel for these. 

A word on cloth insert options: For the first six months of gDiapering I used their inserts. When my cleaning ladies emptied my diaper pale, throwing out 2/3 of my cloth inserts, I started to shop around to see if I could find a better option. I discovered charcoal bamboo inserts thanks to a gDiapering moms group on Faceboook and I don’t know how I ever cloth diapered without them. They are so much more absorbent and because they’re not white, they don’t stain. I got them quite cheaply from a mom coop that I belong to on Facebook, but they are also available on Amazon. If you email me (bethanyshondark at gmail dot com) I can add you to the Facebook coop group. They do the buys periodically. If you’re not in a hurry to start cloth diapering, this is a great money saving option. 


4. Cloth diaper liner: When using cloth inserts, a liner can make cleanup a lot easier. We have this on top of the cloth insert and if there’s solid waste, it gets lifted right off and flushed down the toilet. We’ve been using the gDiapers liners but I’ve not been that happy with their quality, I find they are too rough and they disintegrate too easily. When we run out of the gDiapers brand liners I’m going to give the Bumkins brand a try – the reviews are much better and it’s the #1 seller on Amazon. It’s also nice to have these as a barrier between the cloth insert and the skin in case a diaper cream or lotion has to be used.


How do I wash my gDiapers?

With the gPants and plastic pouches, they get thrown into the laundry along with the rest of the baby clothes. gPants have the Velcro closed before washing. The pouches go in the washing machine but not in the dryer. The gPants go through the dryer with the rest of our clothes. 

With the inserts, I store them in a regular diaper pale and use a reusable liner (I have two, for when I’m doing a load of laundry I have a bag for the inserts in the meantime). When it’s time to do inserts laundry (I aim to do it every 3-4 days) I empty the whole bag into the washing machine, turn the liner inside out, and do a wash on cold/cold without soap. I then do a second wash with Charlie’s soap on warm or hot. Sometimes I do a third rinse if I still smell the soap on the inserts. I dry the inserts as I would any other clothing in the dryer.


If you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comments section. Thanks for reading. All of the Amazon links are affiliate links – I get a small percentage of anything you buy if you use it. I’d appreciate it if you did! 

June 29, 2014 / bethanyshondark

Best Teething Solutions

We got an amber necklace from this local Jewish woman. She’s very nice and shipped quickly. She doesn’t wear it during nights and naps.

As far as medication the best we found is Hylands Teething Tablets. It’s homeopathic and dissolves instantly in her mouth. 

Sophie the Giraffe is a longtime favourite and a great chew toy.

My daughter loves frozen grapes, breastmilk in ice cubes, and other frozen objects in this mesh feeder. It can get kind of gross and it’s hard to clean. 

This frozen teething ring is a great short-term solution but it gets too cold to hold after a while. 

Do you have any suggestions? 

May 4, 2014 / bethanyshondark

Favourite Jewish toys

I’m going to be adding to this list as my daughter gets older. 

KidKraft has a lot of sets which are all really sturdy and well made. My daughter really likes her Shabbat set. We also have Passover, Hanukkah and Rosh HaShanah sets for when those holidays roll around. They also have a cute holiday puzzle set.

These Uncle Goose Hebrew blocks are really, really well made. (They also sell a much more expensive American presidents set that is on our wish list)

These are cute plush toys: an aleph bet ball and aleph bet stacking blocks. From another company: a plush Torah.

A small, relatively cheap aleph bet puzzle set.

This is expensive, but the entire Shalom Sesame series is available on Amazon.

Noah’s Ark shape sorter.

Plush lulav and etrog set for Sukkot.

Plush Torah for Simchat Torah and year-round.

January 27, 2014 / bethanyshondark

My Top Registry Suggestions

A friend recently had a baby and was at a loss as to what to put on her registry. Here were some of my suggestions, for items that she’ll likely need past the immediate newborn stage.


Snack cups (it may make sense to ask for two)
Messy kid bibs for first foods
Refillable squeeze food pouch – I think this is a must-have and I didn’t add it to my registry because I only heard about it recently, so I have a price alert on it to buy myself. You will be SHOCKED at how much money these things cost and kids love them.
Sippy cups

Frozen teether; some kids love it, some don’t, but for the price I say YOLO
Frozen fruit mesh holder – I’ve heard very mixed things on this, people say it’s really hard to clean but a frozen piece of mango is game changing for teething kids. Someone bought it for us so I’ll let you know how it works for us, but again, for the price, I think it may just be a YOLO thing

The only pacifier my daughter will use. We started with her on it at about four or six weeks, it’s really really important to us now for sleeping/naps. We have probably six and are always losing them.
Three components for good sleep: blackout blinds, a sound machine and this book on establishing healthy sleep patterns.
Soft bibs that we put on her when we think she’ll spit up so we don’t have to do an outfit change.. Keep her upright for 15 minutes after feeding and try not to nurse her to sleep. That’s what helped ours stop spitting up as much.
Tons of moms have told me gDiapers (which I use and love) are great as swim diapers if you don’t put an insert in. You just put this on their bums in the water (they come in different sizes and adorable colours, size small lasts to 14 lbs and medium lasts til they’re almost potty trained usually)
It’s not fun but a rectal thermometer is the best kind to get.  I use this and like it a lot and our daughter doesn’t even notice it.
Carseat bag and stroller bag for airplane travel – I’ve been told this is really important if you plan on flying with a carseat (which you should because carseats in rental cars are old and may be damaged); I’m buying this for our trip next month so I can tell you how it works out.
Diaper bag – I think this is a really personal decision but I love this one and I tried another two before (which I now have sitting around the house). It’s big enough, I like all the pockets, I think I’ll especially appreciate it when she is eating solids and it has the cooler pockets on the bottom with the side pockets for sippy cups/bottles. It’s also gender neutral so Seth doesn’t hate it.
Keep these reusable and washable waterproof bags in your diaper bag. If anything messy happens, you can put dirty clothes or used burp cloths in here.
VTech walker – multiple people told us this was their kids fav toy
Play mat – Our daughter tried two others and only likes this one. She can sit and stare at it for an hour, a game changer; the price is really good right now (it takes C batteries so buy them at the same time unlike we did)
Floor and crib mirror – mirrors are baby crack, they love looking at faces. Kinda wish we had two; one for the floor and one for the crib. I don’t want her crib to be a fun time place so I’m not putting in a crazy lights and sounds mobile.
Lamaze firefly – all of their products are great. Colourful, different patterns, they have a mirror and different textures and make different sounds when you handle them.
KidKraft has a lot of fun Jewish toys like a Shabbat set, PassoverRosh Hashanaha holiday puzzle set; I put price alerts on all of them on but you could put them on your registry and hope someone buys them.
Munschworks and Mo Willems books are both really great and I recommend all of them. They’re fun to read.
December 15, 2013 / bethanyshondark

These Are A Few of My Favourite Things: Newborn Edition

Here are some gifts that we’ve received and some that we bought for ourselves that have been great the first two months of our daughter’s life. In case you’re looking for inspiration to buy something for a new parent, here are my suggestions:

The Moby Wrap: We got this used off of a mother’s listserv where we used to live and it has been essential. We wrap our daughter in it because she doesn’t like to go in the stroller so this is how we carry her out of the house. We also put her in it when we’ve tried everything to get her to take a nap. She falls asleep almost instantly in it and it’s a great way to keep my hands free while comforting her.

The Miracle Blanket: We hated the other swaddle blankets that were just blankets that didn’t have dummy instructions and that had velcro (a disaster in the washer/dryer). The second we put her in this we get nothing but smiles and soon after, sleep.

Infant bathtub: Our sink isn’t clean or big enough to bathe her and almost always has stuff in it. This bathtub comes with a newborn sling and she loves it. It’s also useful to put her in when I need to put her somewhere when I’m going to the bathroom. Nobody said motherhood was this glamorous…

gDiapers: We wanted to use cloth diapers but have a disposable option for overnights, when we’re out or for babysitters and after talking to a good friend who uses these, we settled on the gDiapers. Haven’t been disappointed, far from it.


I prefer them to the disposables we used the first weeks which we received from the hospital and friends. This is a whole other post by itself, but suffice to say we’re happy with the gDiapers system. The newborn bundle doesn’t make sense as most babies are already too big for it when born or will within a week or so grow out of it. The small size is for weights between 7-14 pounds — financially you break even when you buy a stash of these with your first kid, the second kid and beyond is where you see the cost savings. It’s unreasonable to ask for cases of diapers but you can ask for these as gifts and make it cost-effective that much sooner. You can blackmail friends into buying them by promising to reveal the gender in order to get gender-appropriate covers (not that I did that…). The mediums are what the baby spends the vast majority of their time in and are the most cost-effective. We only have the bare minimum stash in smalls but a bigger and cuter assortment in mediums. I’m happy to chat with anyone that would like more information about them. Why use cloth? They’re much cheaper, easier than you’d think to use and clean, better for her sensitive skin, eco-friendly and CUTE. REALLY FRICKING CUTE.

White Noise iPhone app: How many hours have I spent rocking her while playing this app in her ear? I don’t want to think about it. She likes it LOUD.  We know about this trick thanks to Dr. Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block DVD, which we watched before she was born, one of the smartest things we did. All of his tricks really work. 

My Breast Friend pillow: Makes breastfeeding as easy on my back as it can be. Has a place to stash breastfeeding essentials and a granola bar.

Hands-free breast pump bra: For the few times I’ve had to pump, this has made it a far more simple experience. Other pumping essentials are the pump itself (many insurance companies have to pay for one now because of ObamaCare so check with yours; this is the pump I have, I can’t speak to others since I’ve only tried this one), storage bags, a bottle brush, and a storage on the go cooler bag.

Glider (aka rocking chair): I tried a million gliders out in a baby store and this was by far the best one. It reclines (HUGE PLUS) and is quite comfortable.

Changing pad waterproof cover: Before we found these we were washing our two changing pad sheets twice a week, each.

Baby wipes dispenser: When you buy baby wipes by the case they don’t come with a dispenser. This is easy to operate with one hand and keep the wipes moist.

Bundle Me and Jolly Jumper carseat cover: We have these two winter baby items, one in her stroller (which she refuses to lay in) and one in her carseat. We have the bundle me in her stroller and the Jolly Jumper in her car seat. It’s unsafe to have babies in large coats in strapped into car seats so this keeps her warm while inside of it and it’s also unsafe to have anything sit between the baby and the back of the carseat.

Car mirror: The brand doesn’t matter but it’s really nice to be able to see what’s happening with the baby while driving.

Infant carseat: We really like our carseat. We bought another one and it was an absolute DISASTER trying to get her into it at the hospital when we were bringing her home. It was such a shitshow the hospital almost didn’t let us leave. I sat in the backseat with her with my body practically draped over her and Seth drove 30mph home the whole way. My in-laws ran to Buy Buy Baby to get this for us and were also kind enough to get us a snap-and-go stroller as well, another essential.

Birpy bibs: These are big, double as bibs or as burp cloths and are super absorbent and cute. We have four of them and they are always in rotation (one in each room and one or two in the hamper).

What are your new baby essentials? Comment below!

October 17, 2013 / bethanyshondark

Must have baby items: Week 1

According to Jewish tradition, one isn’t supposed to prepare for the arrival of an infant until he or she is actually here and healthy. It’s that whole counting your chicks before they hatch idea. While we more or less adhered to that tradition, we did accept gifts and handmedowns when they were offered when I was pregnant, though we asked that gifts hold off if they could.
This list of items includes some stuff I bought ahead of time and some stuff I realized we really needed after she arrived and had sent via Amazon Prime.
For anyone Jewish or superstitious like we are, I suggest buying this stuff and keeping it somewhere else or filling your Amazon cart with it do that you can just press “Buy It Now” from your cell phone in the hospital.
The following items we have found absolutely necessary our first week home with our daughter. Comment with the items you couldn’t live without your first week home with a new baby!

For baby

Car seat (install this beforehand – the hospital won’t let you leave without it. try putting a doll in it to test how it works.)
Diapers and wipes
Cosleeper bassinet (this is a must-have half because I’m a hippy mom and half because I just don’t understand how anyone can sleep if they have to get up and down and go into another room to nurse every 1-3 hours. there’s a lot of proven benefits to cosleeping, which doesn’t necessarily require a child be in your bed. studies have linked it to fewer instances of SIDS.)
Burp cloths
Clothes hamper
Grooming kit with nail file
Baby mittens and long sleeve onsesies with gloves (baby fingernails are SHARP!)
For mom
My breast friend pillow (this is better than the Boppy)
Nursing bras (buy these a size or two bigger than you normally wear.)
Pads (of the super duper variety)
Spray for sore lady parts
Witch hazel pads for sore lady parts, line your pad with these
Cereal and granola bars