Pregnant? Here’s a great gift for the grandparents-to-be

A couple weeks ago, an author’s assistant contacted me to see if I wanted to check out Jane Isay‘s new book, Unconditional Love. I love reading and have been on a big parenting-book binge lately (you know, three pages at a time, over the course of eons because it’s so hard to find time to read these days), so I said yes!

So I got a free book. And I’m writing about it in exchange. But that’s it–my opinions are my own.

Unconditional-love
Unconditional Love by Jane Isay

And the short version of that opinion is, I wish I’d had this book to give my parents when we first told them we were expecting, three years ago now. I’d have told you to read this book even if I’d just chanced across it at the library.

There are thousands of books on becoming parents, yet despite the huge role grandparents often play in a growing family, I haven’t come across (or honestly thought to seek out) any books about grandparenthood.

Isay’s book fills this gap by helping elucidate some of the friction points in the evolving parent-grandparent relationship (“Enough with the ice cream!” “Why do you have to bring a pile of presents every time we see you?!” “What’s the big deal if he stays up a little late tonight?” etc.) in a way that, I think, honors and respects parents’ prerogative without discounting the vital and unique role grandparents play in their grandchildren’s lives.

While Isay’s book speaks to grandparents directly, I got a lot out of reading it as a parent. I also handed it off to my parents–who live across the street from me, and who have flourished as grandparents even while we’ve butted heads on some things–for their take, and they both really enjoyed the book, too.  My mom even commented that it would make a great gift for announcing to one’s parents that you’re pregnant.

Both new parents and new grandparents can feel incredibly vulnerable and defensive (new parents, because they’re trying to find their footing and find so many “hills to die on” as they make decisions for their children, and grandparents, because they’ve been there, done that and want to help–and feel that rabid affection for their grandchildren that can hardly be contained), and Unconditional Love sets a neutral ground for some really tough conversations.

Isay employs storytelling to get her points across, so while it feels a little like therapy to read, it’s not your run-of-the-mill, dry and unrealistic self-help book. Her stories (both from her own life and from other grandparents’) conjured a lot of memories for me, both in my own childhood and now, with my kids.

If you’re a parent, or approaching parenthood, I’d highly recommend gifting this book to your parents and/or in-laws. And if you’re a grandparent-to-be, I can’t think of a much better way to show your child that you’re committed to rising to the occasion by picking up this book and taking notes.

One more thing–Isay opens the book with this beautiful, heartrending poem. So I didn’t get past the first page without crying. I miss my grandparents so much, and am so grateful that I had their time and love and stories, that it reminded me just how important it is to do the work to give my children that same gift.

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Pregnant? Here’s a great gift for the grandparents-to-be

Your very own mountain

It’s #EarthDay, and I’d like to remind you all that you have your very own mountain.

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Today, we’re finishing filling the third (fourth?) dumpster since moving into my grandparents’ house two years ago. This one is mostly filled with stuff from the attic of their garage and the loft of the barn. This particular dumpster contains their pajamas from the 1960s, 20 or so sets of electric garden shears and every pillow they ever owned, to name just a few things.

My grandparents weren’t very good at throwing things away. Even though they left behind literal truckloads of trash for us to deal with after their death, I don’t think their level of consumption was particularly far from the norm. They just didn’t throw away. So the unfortunate part of the legacy they left behind is a mountain of trash.

Guess what: You have your own personal mountain of trash somewhere. Just because your garbage gets picked up and removed from your sight every week doesn’t mean it’s gone. The $5 t-shirts that fall apart after a month and the K-cups and the broken Dollar Spot toys we all joyfully consume Do. Not. Disappear. They  accumulate and they take their toll on the environment both in production and in their long, long lives in landfills.

Cheap, disposable stuff is cheap because someone else has to bear the cost: in unsafe and unfair labor conditions, in cruel treatment to the other living beings, in natural resources tainted with waste. Our neighbors, our fellow human beings and our grandchildren foot the bill. (One dumpster alone costs about $700-$800, for starters, but of course the full cost of all this trash is far greater.)

I’m not immune to the allure of cheap, convenient stuff. I have two kids, and sometimes I just need a frozen pizza so we can eat dinner, and  I don’t want to begrudge them the joy of a new toy here and there. The fact of my existence means I generate waste. But I have spent my children’s lives so far living among the choices my grandparents made to acquire and accumulate. And I have begun to weigh every purchase I make with the impact it will have. I walk around with my imaginary mountain, trying to slow its growth.

When I beg people not to bring gifts to my kid’s birthday party, it’s not because I hate fun, it’s because we have plenty, and excess will only contribute to their own mountains of trash.

This Earth Day, I hope you will join me in taking a serious look at your own consumption. We can plant all the trees and pick up all the litter and walk instead of drive as much as we want, but if we don’t start living as though the things we’re done with *don’t go away,* we’re sealing a grim fate for future generations.

If we as consumers start buying things that last, buying used, trying to repair more often, insisting on less packaging and, I think most importantly, just buying less, we can change the course of the future for our own grandchildren.

Your trash mountain may not exist in your garage, but it does exist. Starting today, let’s all start thinking about our personal trash mountains as we go through life and let it help guide our choices.

 

Your very own mountain

Hiatus

It happens every so often, and I’ve once again found myself in a not really planned but unavoidable hiatus. Parenting, especially parenting of more than one very young child, is all about shifting and shrinking priorities.

Blogging is a fun outlet for me and a nice way to keep track of what’s going on my life, but when I’m drowning in laundry and trying really hard to figure out how to make my toddler feel secure in his new role as a sibling and keeping up with freelancing work and trying to coordinate a home renovation and looking for the chickens’ latest hidden nest and snatching a few hours of sleep when I can, that fun outlet becomes one burden I can put down.

Hopefully not for long. I just need to catch my breath.

Talk to you soon,

Reanna

Hiatus

Sharks, Sunsets and Spring Break

The past few weeks have been tough, so sorry for the lack of updates. (Also, not being pregnant anymore has removed the system I had in place of updating you weekly on my growing belly and list of aches and pains.)

I’m really tired. The Toddler and I have been at odds a lot this week — he’s definitely struggling with sharing his mom, and I’m struggling to figure out how to split my time and attention between a needy two-year-old and a needy nearly-three-month-old. It’s leaving me feeling epically guilty and negligent of both of them.

Sleep has been hard, naps have been sporadic and interrupted and snatched with whatever terrible crutch I have leaned on. The TV has been on more than I’d like to admit, and we’ve had more grazing all-day junk snacks than lunches lately.

(Serious question: How does one establish anything of a nap routine with an infant when there are big siblings in the house?)

Compounding this unsurprising challenge, I have stretched myself as thin as possible in every other area of my life in the immediate aftermath of having a new baby.

I committed myself to quite a bit of freelance work (which sends The Toddler to daycare twice a week, but guess what: An infant still requires quite a bit of care! Oops.)

I launched the Ladies Craft Beer Society website and have been trying to find the time to develop a plan for both maintaining the website and formalizing some of the aspects of the club that have been pretty relaxed since it was created.

I’m also coordinating the earliest steps of a very exciting project–we’re going to be finishing our basement to essentially double our living space–which has meant a lot of phone calls (with either a rooster  crowing or a screaming toddler or both in the background) and people coming by the house and me having to try to clean.

We’ve been busy with social commitments — fun ones, like getting to go to the Greater Cleveland Aquarium for a birthday party — but those still take energy!

The Dad and The Toddler marveling at an underwater world. I took this picture while nursing Baby 2. I would like to sit in front of a shark tank for all future nursing sessions.

Oh, and we also have goats and chickens (and, Oh God, two hives of bees reserved for the near future) that The (very busy with work) Husband are trying to keep healthy and happy.

It’s no one’s fault but my own, but I’m feeling in pretty over my head right now.

Being present has never been a strength of mine, but I was reminded this week that this is a fleeting time, and although it is exhausting, it’s also beautiful. Baby 2 was having a fussy night on Thursday, and the only thing that calmed him down from a screaming fit was being carried around outside so he could watch the sunset. I had no phone, no lists, no free hands–just the weight of a baby in my arms, the sound of my own voice, and the cold March air on my cheeks.

While my biceps ached by the time the sun finally dipped over the horizon, I figured out that my wise little baby was trying to teach me an important lesson: I just need to put one foot in front of the other and try to look at the bright side when I’m having a tough time. (And also put my effing phone away more often.)

A sunset (but not the one Baby 2 and I watched together this week – I was phoneless and reconnecting with him in the midst of a really tough week.)

Fortunately, The Husband has some time off this week, and we’re going to try to strike a balance between tackling our to-do list, finding time to relax/recharge, and figuring out how to make life slightly less chaotic when he goes back to work. Wish us luck.

Sharks, Sunsets and Spring Break

Finally introducing: Ladies Craft Beer Society

Miss me?

I’ve had a busy couple of weeks, and after alluding to it a dozen or so times on this blog, I’m happy to finally introduce you to Ladies Craft Beer Society! There’s finally a blog and website to accompany the club that has been my primary source of friendship, creativity and beer over the past four years.

We had our March meeting yesterday, and made all natural body wash (while enjoying our first sponsorship.)

I’m reposting my introductory blog entry here to give you a little background. I’ll be back to complaining about motherhood in the near future.


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First Things First

When I started Ladies Craft Beer Society four years ago, I never envisioned it would become such an important part of my life. (Its very premise is about as low-key as it gets: We gather together to drink beer and make something to take home. It’s like those free classes at Home Depot where your kids can make a bird house, except we’re the kids, and there’s beer.)

But LCBS, as silly as it sounds, is also a tremendous source of support and friendship for me. When I started it, I was wrestling with that weird, mid-20s feeling of settling into the place where friendships are hard to maintain. With a demanding job, a new house, a husband and a Netflix account, it was easy to fall into the routine of answering “omg so busy” whenever anyone asks how you’re doing. But I was feeling a little lonely and disconnected and just couldn’t figure out how to make friendships fit into my life in a way that made sense to me (an admittedly socially awkward, mostly introvert).

Ladies Craft Beer Society started out as a dare to myself. I would commit, out loud and to a group of women I admired, to hanging out on a regular basis. I would let them into my house–the one I neurotically cleaned for hours and hours and hours as an outlet for my social anxiety any time I had people over–once a month, and let them into my life and start getting comfortable with being more vulnerable.

I decided to frame the club around crafting to give us something to do that didn’t require homework (here’s looking at you, book clubs).

I invited friends and acquaintances I had met through various jobs, at uncomfortable networking events, through my husband, and even a high school friend or two, to get together.

And I decided we’d also drink seasonally and thematically appropriate beer at each meeting, because I’ve always preferred it to wine (and let’s be honest: 28-year-old me’s solution to social anxiety was to drown it. In beer.)

That first meeting went better than I expected. There was the getting-to-know you chit-chat, there were nametags, there were snacks. There were also sweater mittens, which turned out to be way too hard of a craft to tackle in a couple hours. We were just getting acquainted when the night started out, but by the time the last thread was snipped, we were united in our hilariously ill-executed sewing project.

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A mitten, in theory. (Photo credit: Melissa)

When the first guests arrived at the first meeting of LCBS, I wanted everything to be perfect. When they left, it was the first hint of a lesson that the mistakes and the admitting we had no idea what we were doing were what made the night fun, and what made me feel connected to these women.

In the ensuing years since that first meeting, I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with imperfection. I never would have guessed my silly little club would become so important to me, and I’m so excited to–along with my esteemed fellow members–finally share it with you.

Cheers!

Reanna K.

(That’s me below dodging an aggressive butterfly at a meeting in the summer of 2014.)

Finally introducing: Ladies Craft Beer Society

Mother of invention

My Instagram feed is choked with ads for seemingly ingenious solutions to the myriad inconveniences and aggravations of parenthood. I am not immune to the siren’s song of an easier life offered by things like a bathtub shrinker or a shirt you can wear your baby in, despite my pursuit of minimalism (and to varying degrees of satisfaction). Sometimes, when you’re really tired and really desperate and really overwhelmed, you throw money at the problem.

I bet a mom invented whatever this is! Also it may look like these kids were ridiculously overacting, but The Toddler has demonstrated this move almost exactly, almost every singly time he’s carried food into the living room.

Somehow, though, motherhood continues to be difficult even though there are bluetooth white noise machines and refillable baby food pouches and dual-action breast pumps. In fact, I’m not sure parenting is any easier than it was 30 years ago without these space-age gadgets. (And back then you could leave your kids in the car while it was running for 10 minutes to pop into the store without someone calling CPS on you, and there was no such thing as sexting, so in many ways I think parenting back then might have actually been easier.)

I digress.

I’ve been encountering a number of instances of necessity that are birthing ideas for invention that I simply don’t have the resources to bring to fruition. So, Internet, if you beat me to production on these items, please message me so I can direct you where to send the royalties. Here’s a list of things that, if they existed, would make my life a little easier:

Compostable, one-wear nursing shirts.

I just spent $30 on like 6 clearance-rack Target t-shirts to serve as my postpartum uniform for the next few months. I did this the first time around, too, when I was still figuring out my new (temporary?) body shape and not interested in spending real money on clothes. They’re actually pretty soft and not horrifically unflattering, but after one wear apiece I already can’t wear them out of the house without feeling like a dirtbag because they’re stained front and back with breast milk and spit up. (which, for those of you who have never gotten breast milk stains on anything, is like salad dressing or butter. It’s just grease stains.)

Yeah, yeah, I know I could pretreat. I could also hypothetically dust my fan blades or organize my pantry. The very nature of my life right now is I have to prioritize feeding my baby and keeping my toddler from accidental death at every turn over all other activities, so carefully sorting through my laundry and applying extra soap to every shirt I own is a laughable fantasy.

So, how about somebody invent really cheap, biodegradabe one-wear shirts that I can just toss on my compost pile when Baby 2 upchucks down my back? They could even be somehow made out of recycled cotton shirts from all those 5ks and local political campaigns that get dumped in developing countries when Goodwill rejects them. They don’t have to be particularly durable. They just need to be cheap. (Wait… is this secretly the LulaRoe business model?) And they need to be eco-friendly enough that I don’t mind wearing them once or twice. These would also be great in toddler sizes.

Child-proof humidifier

I don’t have any further guidelines on this. But I’m super tired of The Toddler picking up the tank on our humidifier and running wild with it.

Electrical outlets that are 6′ high on the wall

This is not an invention so much as a building specification. We installed those cool slidey outlet covers when we moved into this house, which is all well and good when there’s nothing plugged in, but we either have to shove heavy furniture in front of anything that is plugged in or just accept that we’re in a perpetual state of having half our stuff unplugged at any given time. (Yes I know we could buy these, but I would like it a whole lot more if more of my outlets were just at eye level. I’d hang pictures over them.)

Ceiling-mounted shelving on pulleys

For all those electronics, mugs of coffee, permanent markers and other items your toddler seems better able to reach with each passing second no matter what you do. There isn’t a surface in my house he can’t access, and we just aren’t blessed with enough space to have anywhere truly be off-limits. Again, yes, I could just get more organized! Have a place for everything and everything in its place! But whenever I suggest to my husband that he leave with both kids for at least a week so I can finally clean enough for us to live our best life, he looks at me like I’m crazy. And even when I get part of the way there over an especially fortuitous naptime, it’s undone in a matter of minutes.

It would just be nice to have very high, adjustable ledges and shelves all over the place that I can quickly set down my coffee to chase after The Toddler before he trips with a kazoo in his mouth and knocks out all his teeth.

Cheap, nonceramic lamps

First of all, I’m not talking about night lights, so don’t send me night light ideas. I’m talking about a light by which you can read bedtime stories.

This certainly must exist, but judging by the selection at my local and online go-to retailers, you’d think no one else’s two-year-olds spend their naps knocking lamps off their bookshelves. Why are they all ceramic? Why are any nursery lamps ceramic? You understand that babies become toddlers, right?

Lamps intended for children’s rooms anywhere in a house that has children should exclusively be made from wood, or… a metal rod shoved through a very plush stuffed animal, I don’t know. Yes, I know those both sound like fire hazards now that I say them, but they’re fire hazards no matter what when they’re switched on and lying sideways atop a rug.

Ok, so a cheap, nonceramic lamp that easily bolts to the surface upon which it sits.

With fully shatterproof, heatproof LED bulbs.

And a lampshade that doesn’t crinkle and break if you throw the whole thing across the room.

Is that so much to ask?

Like I said, I don’t have time to bring any of these ideas to fruition, but I look forward with great hope and anticipation that these products will start showing up on my Instagram feed in the extremely immediate future.

Mother of invention

Real people

Today on the way to open gym at a local gymnastics place, The Toddler was explaining to me from his car seat that only real people ride in flatbed trucks and only real people live in houses.

“You not ride in flatbed truck, only real people.”

“Only real people? Am I not a real people?”

“No, you Mommy. You not ride in flatbed trucks. Only real people.”

So, confirmation of my persistent suspicion that parenthood has stripped me of my identity.

I thought I was making progress because I tweezed my eyebrows this weekend for the first time since November, but nope. I look forward to returning to my state as a real person in the eventual future.

Real people