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

Pregnancy Week 25: Nesting mania

Pregnancy Week 25 has come and gone, and with it came a rush of crazy nesting instincts.

First, stats:

Baby is approximately the size of an acorn squash, a rutabaga, a cabbage, or any number of other fall vegetables. (Translation: 13.5 inches from head to toe, and about 1.5 lbs.)

As far as how I’m feeling, mostly the answer is big and cumbersome. I caught myself waddling a few times this week, which horrified me. Mostly it was because I ended up wearing heels to the wedding I went to last weekend (dumb) or otherwise over-exerted myself (which, sadly, means I walked 3 slow miles behind a stroller, but that’s my current fitness threshold.)

Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I kept up my once-a-pregnancy tradition of audibly farting in a prenatal yoga class. What is the purpose of a personal blog with your real name attached to it, if not oversharing and publicly humiliating yourself? Whatever, farting is funny.

Speaking of funny, a friend texted me the link to this video comparing a first pregnancy to subsequent ones. Enjoy:

Hehehe. Accurate. (Minus the “all the drugs.” I’m doubling down on an unmedicated birth this time around. Call me crazy, but I’m looking forward to it!)

Oh, yeah, I was going to talk about the nesting instinct. The first time around, I had little else beside my day job and the guidelines that I should avoid paint fumes to prevent me from going buck wild fulfilling every nesting fantasy that crossed my mind at 4 a.m. (Here’s a snapshot of the nursery in our old house–the fruits of my intense nesting instinct and my equally intense ability to boss my husband around.)

This time, nesting has been primarily limited to fantasizing about what I would like to do with the house before Baby 2 arrives, because all my actual time and energy is devoted to laundry, chasing chickens off the porch, loading the dishwasher after The Toddler finally succumbs to sleep, reading stories to The Toddler while he poops, vacuuming up broken dried pasta from the living room rug (haha j/k, that’s also just a fantasy), and frantically trying to throw together dinner at the last second before we all starve.

By the time I get through even the most rudimentary daily housekeeping tasks each day, it’s 9 p.m. and I’m falling asleep sitting up against my headboard, waiting for the Tums to kick in so I can collapse for the night.

This week, though… this week is different. The Husband took a bunch of days off and I have mapped out every waking hour of every day to maximize our to-do list.

Already in the past three days, we’ve done a bunch of furniture rearranging, cleaned out half of the garage, moved the goats to a new patch of jungle, taken a minivan load of my grandparent’s stuff to Goodwill, made an equally large pile of stuff to drive to the dump, bought materials to finish trimming the floor in our kitchen (which we’ve been trying to do for more than a year), and ordered a new bed for The Toddler.

And we still have four more days of backbreaking, unrelenting nesting. I’m in heaven.

My feet are in hell, but I’m in heaven.

Pregnancy Week 25: Nesting mania

Farm Life Interlude: And then there were five

Remember for a chunk of time how this became barely a parenting blog and more a blog about very tame backyard farming? If not, here are a few samplings from that time:

Well, because I generally have the brain power for just one post a week, and because I’m pregnant again and therefore have a pretty easy framework for new material, I have neglected to talk much about our little menagerie for awhile. But I wanted to take a moment to memorialize a sad milestone in our farming adventure.

Last week, on a dark and stormy night, we lost a chicken.

Hera was a good chicken. She was about 17 weeks old, the only Buff Orpington in our little half-dozen flock. She was timid and sweet, she didn’t like to be pet but would eat out of my hand. She was getting big and nearing the time she’d start laying eggs. She had recently lost a bunch of tail feathers, making her look (to me, at least) the most dinosaur-like of all our chickens whenever she broke into a run.

Hera
Rest in peace, chickie.

I promised him I wouldn’t invoke the wrath of the Internet when telling this story, and I hope not to because he doesn’t deserve it: The Husband took a break from working on his laptop last Monday to lock the chickens in their coop for the night. (They free range all day and put themselves to bed at about 8:30.) He went out to check on them before the storm rolled in — even counted them all because they dogpile in their nesting boxes instead of roosting and are sometimes hard to see (need to figure that one out…) and then, unfortunately, went inside without remembering to close and latch the door to the chicken run.

In the night, something (fox? raccoon? coyote?) crept in and snatched up Hera. Whatever it was left behind a trail of bloody feathers and a rattled remaining flock. I think the thrashing, hours-long storm that struck was a stroke of luck because it probably kept away any later predators who would have taken advantage of the situation.

The Husband was beside himself with regret the next morning when I went to let the chickens out and found all but one emerging from under our porch. I felt sadder than I expected to, but not angry. For as absent-minded as I’ve been lately, it could have just as easily been me who forgot to latch the run.

Or, it could have been if I were ever awake late enough for it to be my job. The Husband has picked up so much slack since the pregnancy fatigue sunk in, including night chores for the animals, I feel bad that the responsibility has fallen almost solely on him.

Today, while walking around our pond with The Toddler before bedtime, I heard our dog crunch something (unusual, as she’s not a stick chewer) and found she had unearthed a chicken thigh bone with a few orange feathers stuck to it. Hera’s remains.

I can’t count how many chicken thigh bones I’ve discarded over the years without a second thought, but I picked up this one and brought it back to the porch.

Maybe it’s silly to bury a chicken, but that’s what we’re going to do.

She was a good egg.

 

Farm Life Interlude: And then there were five

The Great Slowdown: making peace with the pace of life as a parent

The great slowdown: making peace with the pace of life as a parent

I’ve been doing a lot of walking around a very hilly trail with The Toddler in his stroller. This is the route I used to run in high school cross country practice. Though I was never a very fast runner, retracing my steps behind a stroller  (especially on the uphills), has been a pretty apt metaphor for my life as a mom compared to my pre-baby days: Kids are wonderful, but there’s no denying they slow you down.

I love being a mom, and I love my kid. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have gotten back in line to jump on this roller coaster a second time. Even though I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, I have been finding myself wishing for more time.

Yes, it would be cool to be able to go out to brunch with friends more or to catch up on a little self care. (The great thing about my horrifying overgrown hair style is how my long, long bangs cover up my unruly, unpruned eyebrows.) It’s not even the indulgences I’m really missing right now, though. What I really want is more time to get shit done.

I want to be a better blogger–write more often, more relevant and helpful information for pregnant and new moms, and give this site the serious facelift it sorely needs. I want to spend more time socializing the goats (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type. They’re still a bit skittish, and I know they’d keep warming up if I could spend more time raking their pen and scratching their heads.) I want to learn how to code, cultivate more freelancing opportunities, log my business expenses. I want to finish clearing shit out of my garage that is destined for Goodwill and/or the trash sometime before winter hits so one or both of us could park our cars in it. I want to revamp my Etsy shop and add more items. I want to be a better friend and reach out to people I’m thinking of more often.

I have a list 100 miles long of all the things I wish I could be doing, and sure, I had a list before I was a mom, too, but there is an undeniable slowdown built into parenting very young children that I can’t find my way around, and it’s hard not to feel a little defeated.

Theoretically, I could surrender some sleep to tackle more of my list, but it’s really not feasible with pregnancy fatigue and would only make the days harder to get through.

It would just be nice to go to bed every once in awhile with the satisfaction of having accomplished anything beyond emptying the dishwasher that day.

I know the solution is to prioritize what’s really important to me and learn to accept the fact that my goals must either be bite-sized or very long-term for the foreseeable future.

One way or another, I have to make peace with the pace of life as a parent of young children. While the basement bathroom remains unrenovated and my desire to take a creative writing class languishes, I am taking immeasurable joy from holding my son’s hand as we walk around our pond looking for frogs. I don’t want to let go of my list forever, or let my own identity diminish to nothing but motherhood. But stressing out about what I’m not doing is only going to cloud my view of the really wonderful and fleeting moments I am getting to experience. The good news is the same as the bad news: These deliciously, agonizingly intense years of early parenthood won’t last forever.

The knowledge that it’s probably going to get harder–that I will look back on the days of having just one child with fondness as I slowly drown in dirty laundry–is pressing on me today.

Fellow parents, how do you cope with the limitations on your time and energy as they relate to your goals as human beings?

Also, approximately how much harder is life with two children than one? (Please lie.)

The Great Slowdown: making peace with the pace of life as a parent

No bees, green trees, baby knees

dogwoods
Dogwood in bloom

Last week, The Husband took off work and stayed home with The Toddler while my dad and I drove 100 miles to pic up two nuclear hives of bees (known in the bee worlds as “nucs”). This was the final of three additions to our little hobby farm, and while I was apprehensive about keeping them alive, I was also excited for honey and felt righteous about pressing ahead, because bees need all the help they can get these days.

Unfortunately, we arrived to find a handwritten note on the door and a few sheriff’s deputies collecting everyone’s names and phone numbers. Apparently the apiary had lost its load of bees, and instead of trying to notify all its (prepaid) customers, some of whom had driven from out of state, they left a short note. The deputies explained that the owner said she’d be issuing refunds in the next few weeks. (They had been called to the apiary by angry customers who arrived before us–it’s not a criminal matter until/unless the owner doesn’t refund us our money.)

I made a bunch of phone calls that afternoon trying to find another source for bees. My local beekeepers association and even the Ohio State Beekeepers Association were incredibly helpful and sympathetic, giving me lots of leads to chase. It’s very late in the season, though, and most other apiaries are sold out. The closest one I found was a 2 1/2 hour drive, which isn’t something I can do with The Toddler, and The Husband can’t take more time off work before the end of the school year. We decided we’ll wait until next year to try bees. It’s frustrating, because we spent close to $1,000 on all our hives and equipment (and no-show bees), but a small part of me is a little relieved we have a year to get the hang of chickens and goats before we add bees to the list. I just hope I get my money back!

In other news, spring has truly sprung around us. The flowers are blooming and the trees are leafing out, and our morning walks, though muddy, are so fun. It has been a wet spring, so we took advantage of our one warm, sunny day this weekend to cut the grass, and I spent a good hour or so pulling poison ivy up from around the garden beds surrounding our house. (I’m covered in poison ivy now, because I did a crap job covering up. Don’t be like me.) We’re continuing the tradition of accidentally neglecting our vegetable garden, but despite this, there are carrots and beets and greens sprouting. The Husband planted a bunch of new fruit trees, which he waters dutifully every evening.

On our daily walks, The Toddler mucks around on his boots, blowing dandelion fuzz and collecting gravel from our driveway and carrying sticks. He’d live outside if we let him. It’s unbelievable how quickly he’s growing, in every way. He is tall and sturdy on his feet. He can run and play ring-around-the-rosy and nod his head when I arrive at his chosen option for snack. He wiggles his butt to music and shriekingly chases the pets and puts all the toilet paper rolls away when we come home from shopping. He knows the words for lots of things but prefers to imitate their sounds than to name them: nay, moo, meow, choo choo!

Yesterday, my friend and her sister came over with her sister’s new baby, who is two months old. It felt like 100 years ago that my kid was that small. The Toddler hasn’t been around a baby that young, and I was curious to see how he reacted. I wasn’t disappointed — he was over the moon. He kept bringing up toys and trying to hand them to the baby. He patted his knee, rubbed his belly, held his hand. He wanted to sit right next to him, and even got his baby doll out to hold in imitation of the baby’s mom.

It almost killed me, it was so cute.

Good thing The Toddler is 95% a joy during the day, because we have concluded he is going through a precocious “18 month” sleep regression (he’s 16.5 months, but close enough), as he literally will. not. go. to. sleep. unless someone is in the room with him, and has been waking 2-5 times a night. We had about four blissful sleeps through the night before this struck. Please, please come back.

So that’s been the past couple of weeks. Oh, to update you from the last post– the bunny died the following morning, to my mild dismay but not to my surprise. Also that evening, our dishwasher died. I’m waiting on delivery as I write for the new one, so most of my time the past 1.5 weeks has been spent washing dishes by hand–that is, when I’m not helping The Toddler down from a dining room chair or picking up the dry cat food he has scooped and scattered across the pantry.

The Husband built the goats a new, wooden day shelter that they have not yet attempted to scale, but which, I daresay, can handle the weight of a goat or two. Good man.

No bees, green trees, baby knees

I stepped in it.

Let’s just get into it. It’s spring here on the “farm,” and despite all very filtered (in more ways than one) #farmlife Instagram posts, things can get a little nuts and aren’t always beautiful.

Today was the morning after The Toddler decided he prefers to sleep if I’m lying on the floor next to his crib touching him. And today was also Day 3 of my desperate attempt to back myself off the way-too-much coffee habit I’ve found myself underneath again. So I was already at a disadvantage when naptime finally hit. I’d been kinda disengaged from everything all morning–going through the motions, slowly.

By 7 a.m., I had gotten the goats out with The Toddler on my back (and he is getting heavy!), and I kept him up there to feed and water the chicks and throw in a load of laundry. We puttered around the house all morning, me halfheartedly vacuuming and making my bed to try to feel somewhat productive because I just didn’t have the energy to invent or execute an errand to run. I played with The Toddler here and there, but definitely wasn’t particularly fun today. I also barely acknowledged my poor dog or the cats.

It was one of those “I can’t even” mornings. I thought about climbing into bed for a quick snooze once The Toddler went down. I loaded up my laptop and answered a few work emails before I heard the cats meowing at the back door to be let in.

The cats rushed past my legs, and there in front of the door was a little black creature. At first I thought it was a dead mole — not uncommon. But it looked weird: hairless, not mole-shaped, and definitely breathing. I sighed, shut the door and sent my husband a message. He suggested I mercy kill whatever it was, and as sorry as I felt for myself for having to squash a half-alive rodent, I agreed. So I grabbed an empty bread bag and a handful of tissues and braced myself to buck up and do a mercy kill.

When I opened the door again, though, I realized what I was seeing: A newborn baby rabbit.

Shit. I’m going to have to mercy kill a BABY, I thought, almost indulging in a little cry, as I lifted it with a tissued hand.

But then it rolled over, showing off a fat pink belly with just a couple little scratches, and nuzzled my hand. My maternal skinlessness was activated.

Long story short, it’s in a shoebox with a heating pad and the Internet research I’ve done up to this point has revealed the following information:

  1. It is illegal to try to rehabilitate injured wild animals in Ohio without a permit. (Sounds insane, but makes sense, I guess — wouldn’t want crazy animal lovers “rescuing” perfectly healthy babies/injured coyotes or whatever as an excuse to keep them as pets.)
  2. Baby rabbits are really, really, really hard to keep alive. One major reason is because they won’t get the right gut bacteria to survive without their mother’s milk (wahhhhh #breastfeeding), and one way to remedy this is to feed it a little rabbit poop from a healthy rabbit. I don’t exactly have the resources to fulfill this need.
  3. My cat knows exactly where the rabbit is. He also knows where its nest was, though he won’t tell me. I know this because he also tore apart one of the baby’s siblings all over my sidewalk, driving home the point that nature is a cold, cold son of a gun.

I left a message with a permitted rehab person and hope that either he calls me back and I can hand off the little bun to someone who knows what they’re doing, or that it will die at least peacefully and warm without too much suffering. (I am doing my best to feed it with kitten formula and wipe its tiny butt to get it to poop. I’m not going to starve it while I wait for a callback or fate.)

The Husband eventually made it home and I told him all about the bunny, and its dead sibling, and the subsequent live snake the cat left at the door today (sigh), and how just minutes before he had gotten home, our poor neglected dog ran away to my parents’ house while I walked her and gave the goats a hay refill. I figured that was enough craziness for the day.

So I was cutting the tip off a kitten bottle nipple with a razor blade while The Husband got The Toddler’s pajamas on, preparing to feed the bunny, when he yelled, “Reanna, you have to go outside right now! Cudi is on the roof of the hut!”

The “hut” is a temporary rain shelter, tarp over wire. We bought it when there was still snow on the ground last month and we needed something quick, but it’s a dog kennel. It is not meant to hold a goat’s weight (and honestly was pretty tall? Like, not something I expected them to be able to scale???)

I ran out the front door in my socks, razor blade still in hand because I was afraid of dropping it in the house. I set the blade on the porch and pulled my socks off as I ran to the goat pen, shouting, “Kid Cudi, no!!” as sternly as I could. He was unmoved, if seemingly a little annoyed that he was starting to sink.

It quickly became clear I was going to have to wade into the wet straw, mud and goat shit and get him down. Another opportunity to buck up and deal with #farmlife, I thought with mixed dismay and amusement, as I grabbed the fence to unlatch it…

…forgetting I was barefoot, standing in wet mud, grabbing a powered electric fence.

The Husband’s squeals of laughter weren’t cruel, but they were distracting.

I shook off my near electrocution and pressed in, trying to avoid obvious piles of goat pellets as I made my way to the goat on the roof. He sunk one side of the roof before hopping off. I sighed with relief and turned to leave. Heard from the window as I approached the fence, “He’s doing it again!”

Back through the goat shit, quick as I could, in time to watch him sink the whole roof. He managed to get out without help or injury, but I had to circle the hut and pull off the tarp because he obviously wanted to get right back up.

So that’s how I found myself nursing The Toddler before bed with probably a little goat shit on my feet.

Guess that’s what happens when you jump into hobby farming with both feet.

I stepped in it.

Winter Interlude

If I hadn’t been up every few hours last night, the scene this morning would have shocked me.

winterinterlude
April in Northeast Ohio.

For some reason, everyone in the house was hungry all night long — the cats woke me up three times (the first time for food, the second time to get locked in the basement for waking me up again, and the third time loudly scratching at the basement door and me letting them up so they wouldn’t wake up The Toddler, whose room is next to the basement stairs. Then, The Toddler woke up at 4:30 a.m. deciding he was starving and desperately wanted to nurse. My refusal sent him into a rage, and I had to send The Husband in to comfort him until the leisurely hour of 5:06 when I decided it could be “morning” and he could nurse.

(My sleep training logic is that if he wants to nurse, he has to get up for the day so as not to backslide into night nursing. 5:06 is disgustingly early, but he went to bed at 6:30 last night, so unfortunately I see 5 a.m. almost every morning. That’s our next hurdle to overcome, once sleeping through the night becomes more routine. So far we’ve only achieved it twice since the night weaning week, but usually wake-ups are quick and easily squelched without nursing.)

I digress. My point is it snowed like crazy last night.

While The Husband ate breakfast, I ran out to the barn with food for the goats. They’ll be stuck inside today, as the portable electric fence we use is rendered useless under heavy snow.

By the way, we renamed them finally! They came with the names Sehnsucht and Saudade (twin brothers) and Bazyll. While foreign names for the feeling of profound and melancholic longing are certainly poetic, we tend toward a sillier flavor of pet names in our family. So now Bazyll is Grover (after our favorite blue monster), Sehnsucht is Regular sized Rudy (or just Rudy), now our second pet named after a Bob’s Burgers character, and finally, the most inspired pet name I have ever or will ever have… the leader of our herd, formerly known as Saudade, is now Kid Cudi.

3goats
Thick as thieves: (L to R) Kid Cudi, Regular Sized Rudy and Grover

Because he’s a kid. And he chews cud.  Also because he loves weed(s). Please don’t make me explain it to you.

The chicks are getting bigger and featherier and braver at an improbable rate. We had to upgrade them to one of these last week because they seemed crowded in the brooder I constructed, and moved them into the guest bedroom so we could put the cats in the basement at night as needed without worrying for the chicks’ safety.

dominique-chick-3-weeks
Lincoln’s feathers are coming in nicely!

So if you’re planning on spending the night at my house any time over the next month or so… you’re going to have roommates.

Well, I thought I had a cogent point to this post when I started it, but there just isn’t enough coffee in the world this morning to bring me to a neat conclusion. It’s still blustering outside like it’s February and the toddler is sitting next to me covered in yogurt and trying to get me to name all the parts of the house he can see (Door! Floor! Ceiling! Clock!) so I had better sign off here.

Winter Interlude