It’s #EarthDay, and I’d like to remind you all that you have your very own mountain.
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.
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.
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!
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
(That’s me below dodging an aggressive butterfly at a meeting in the summer of 2014.)
I’m late again for my weekly update, but I have plenty of excuses!
I am in the middle of potty training The Toddler. I’m not going to talk any more about it until we’re successfully on the other side, so reserve your horror stories, advice, dismay, etc. because it’s not up for discussion, other than for me to mention I have been watching my kid like a hawk.
I have a miserable cold. How I got it is a mystery, because every illness I’ve had since The Toddler was born came directly from his sloppy sneezes into my immune system, but he’s (*knocks on wood*) fine.
I enrolled in an online creative writing course through my local library (you guys, do you have any idea how many free resources are available through your library? It’s miraculous) so my writing time lately has been devoted to trying to stretch my creative muscles and work on avoiding cliches, run-on sentences and passive verbs. (Don’t expect to see this effort here, on my blog, because of #1 and #2 and I just don’t have the energy for it.)
Now that I’ve wasted 200 words on explaining why I’m a day late despite no one caring, let’s talk about Pregnancy Week 23!
Baby size: Papaya, large mango, Barbie doll, box of Kraft macaroni & cheese, can of WD-40. Or somewhere around 8″ crown to rump/11″ total and a little over a pound.
Symptoms: Heartburn, of course. Also this week I started noticing periodic tension in my abdomen that must mark the beginning of Braxton-Hicks contractions, which I didn’t experience the first time around (except for one day late in my pregnancy when I had to literally run home from work to make it to our breastfeeding class on time). It seems BH are more common in subsequent pregnancies, and they have become a regular feature in mine. I’ve been trying to chug water when I notice them and give myself a break when I can, but toddler mom, blah blah.
Baby #2 is also kicking more frequently and with more force. I felt a little nostalgic lying in bed one night this week with The Husband’s hand on my belly, catching the feeling of kicks as he drifted off to sleep. I remember him doing that with The Toddler and felt such tenderness thinking about how he’ll fall in love with this baby just like he did before. I wonder if he’s more excited this time around (maybe rather than nervous) since he knows what is to come. I guess I should ask.
Speaking of childbirth, my other main symptom this week has been growing anxiety about having everything (anything?) ready by the time Baby #2 arrives. We haven’t touched our plans to rearrange the bedrooms, we have literally zero boy names that we can agree on (and don’t know the sex of the baby, so we need a shortlist for both), and I can’t help but think I should count how many weekends we have left before the due date. And then maybe sign The Toddler’s grandparents up for a few long-term babysitting gigs so we can get anything done.
Speaking of that, we’re headed to a wedding next weekend sans-Toddler. I’m looking forward to potentially sleeping in (or at least just watching TV in the hotel room). I frantically drove out to the mall yesterday with the realization that I needed to purchase a maternity dress for the occasion, and My. God.
Malls are terrible, I’m glad they’re dying, it’s incomprehensible to me that the one I visited was filled with people, and the whole experience filled me with a judgy, frustrated befuddlement. There were two puppy-mill purveying pet stores and still a place to physically buy CDs, but there were maybe six wedding guest-appropriate dresses for pregnant women in the entirety of that sprawling monument to bougie suburban consumerism.
Only H&M and Motherhood Maternity had any maternity clothes. H&M had a small section, and of the three dresses I tried on, only one came close to working but was too long. I wish I could find the one online that had a floral print with ladybugs and a pair of boob-bisecting ruffles that made me look like I was cosplaying as a pregnant eight-year-old 90’s-era Sunday school student, but you’ll just have to use your imagination.
Motherhood Maternity, as usual, was a laughable combination of headache-inducing prints, unforgivably cheap construction and insulting prices. I walked out with a form-fitting black dress made of the same polyester you’d find if you bought a ballet leotard at Walgreens, and something I never thought I’d own… a pair of what amounts to pregnancy Spanx.
Not feeling great about my MM purchase, I stopped at a nearby Kohl’s, bought two more dresses without trying them on, consoled myself with a Halloween-themed Cadbury egg at the checkout (now that I own pregnancy Spanx, why not?) and went home, feeling defeated.
Obviously, I should have just shopped online. But the three hours to myself were, admittedly, pretty nice.
It’s been a heck of a week already (more on that later), so I am *super* glad I reached out to an old friend from high school, who just launchedher own blog to help people coping with eating disorders (and, oh yeah, NBD, had her second baby) to help me out with a guest post, Q&A style. As the reality of being a mom of two sets in, I am grateful to have her share some wisdom on motherhood.
Without further ado, I am pleased to introduce Erin.
My family and I recently moved to St. Louis from Georgia for my husband’s job when I was about halfway through my second pregnancy. The Second Kid, a baby boy, is now 4 months old and The First Kid, a girl, turned 2 years old at the end of May.
In Georgia, I owned a private practice as a dietitian specializing in eating disorders and related issues. Right now, I’m staying home with the kids until we’re ready for me to go back to work part-time. Until then, I’ve been enjoying writing my blog atRecoveringWithGod.com.
How were your two pregnancies different? In general, do you like being pregnant or is more of a necessary but miserable means to an end?
I thought I liked being pregnant until The Second Kid! I had more nausea, fatigue, and discomfort with the second pregnancy. I think moving out of state and chasing around a toddler made the experience much different.
What were some things you learned in your first pregnancy, childbirth experience or early parenting days that you wanted to be sure you did differently the second time around? What were some important consistencies you wanted to maintain between the two?
This is a BIG question. The short answer is: get less tests and be choosy about health care professionals. The explanation is long and intense, but worth sharing with you and other parents.
We almost lost my first child based on a diagnosis that was made in utero. We were told by a specialist doctor that our baby would likely not survive to term and if she did there was a 0% chance that we’d have a healthy, normal baby. The doctor insinuated that terminating the pregnancy was the way to go based on a growth he spotted on the back of the baby’s head at 11 weeks. He said that it was an encepholocele, a type of neural tube defect in which brain matter protrudes through an opening of the skull. He left us with very little hope, no follow-up appointments, and no recommendations for other consultations or specialists.
It was the absolute worst day of my life. But our friends and family prayed. After I made the initial call to the abortion clinic (please no judgments), I felt God nudging me to get a second opinion. More prayers.
The second-opinion-doctor made us feel like we were in this together and gave us options. We waited. With every visit thereafter, the growth miraculously shrunk or stayed the same size. By the third trimester, the malformation was no longer detectable and the issue was considered resolved.
Against the odds, our baby was born as healthy as can be.
SOOOOO, how did all this change the second pregnancy? Well, the reason we went in for that 11-week ultrasound with The First Kid was because we were going to test for a genetic disorder that runs in my family that has the potential to be fatal. With The Second Kid, we decided NOT to get that test. We learned that (1) test results don’t always predict outcomes, (2) the test results wouldn’t change our actions during pregnancy—we wouldn’t terminate, and (3) God can heal.
I’m not really sure how to segue from that, but there are plenty of other things I did differently as well. I chose a birthing center instead of the typical hospital setting to give birth. Reasons include the following experiences that I had at the hospital with The First Kid: (1) getting my membranes stripped without consent, (2) my birthing plan was not followed or even saved in my chart to refer to, (3) I had to wait for the doctor to arrive before I could push, even though my body was screaming at me to PUSH! (4) Oh yea, I had to go through the transition stage of labor in the crowded waiting room, like WITH THE FAMILIES (who were staring at me because I was apparently making scary noises). In contrast, I loved the birthing center. Their practices were in line with everything I wanted, so I didn’t have to constantly worry or double check what they were doing. They listened. They didn’t rush. Gosh, I loved them so much. If you don’t like your healthcare team, look for someone else. I say that as a healthcare professional and I would say it to my clients too.
How were your two labor experiences?
I was told the second labor is typically half the length of time as the first. This made me quite nervous because I barely made it to the delivery room with The First Kid, but it was true! I was in labor from about 6pm-midnight for The First Kid and 9pm-midnight for The Second Kid. (To the women who have long labors, I am sorry and you are all amazing warriors).
There were no false alarms with The First Kid—once contractions started, they were regular and the real deal. With The Second Kid, I experienced contractions that didn’t turn into labor, which drove my anticipatory anxiety out the roof!
I labored at home longer for The First Kid because I was only 1 cm earlier that afternoon. With my second labor, the midwives never checked dilation at any appointments, but I knew I had to leave ASAP once contractions were at regular intervals.
Both babies arrived the day after their due date.
Both labors were medication-free. I used some Hypnobabies concepts with both labors even though I personally think it’s a bit cheesy. I really enjoyed the practices in Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke and highly recommend that book. It’s more evidence-based, less judgmental, and the skills can be used throughout the parenting experience. I need to go back and reread some sections!
I keep being reminded to expect my two children to be very different from each other, though it’s hard to imagine my second baby beyond what I know from my first. How are your two babies different so far?
The First Kid came out small and dainty and always falling asleep. The Second Kid came out sturdy and big and eager to eat. The First Kid was laid-back and The Second Kid is usually tense, but both happy. The First Kid was very observant and could entertain herself easily, interested in the smallest of details. The Second Kid (at least in this stage) seems to need a lot more stimulation. Thankfully, he loves watching his older sister as she runs around, dances, and gives him toys.
How did you prepare your first child for the arrival of your second? How has she adjusted to being a big sister? Are there any specific books/philosophies/etc. you relied on to help guide you through getting her prepared?
We talked about baby brother while I was pregnant and read the book “I Am a Big Sister” by Caroline Jayne Church, which I highly recommend. I’m not sure how much she understood, but she does mimic the girl in the book by helping. I also instituted “special time” with her while I was pregnant. We sing a song about special time, set a timer, and I spend 10 devoted and undivided minutes with her. Quality (attentive time) is over quantity (distracted time).
She’s loved and adored her baby brother since she met him. It was an adjustment (aka Tantrum City), of course, but she took her frustrations out on her dad and me for not giving her enough attention. She never acted resentful toward her baby brother. I’d say it took about 3 months for her to adjust. Now that she’s adjusted, she can truly be a big help to me at times even though she’s only two.
Talk about the first few days/weeks of being a mom of two, in general. What was the hardest part? Was there anything that went easier than expected?
The hardest part was definitely not having the ability to be there for my little girl. There are moments when you have to choose which child to attend to first, and the crying baby usually takes priority. Thankfully, The First Kid encourages me to go help The Second Kid when he cries, but she forgets that means she can’t get what she wants right away!
Taking care of a baby in general has been easier this time because I knew what to expect. I’m no longer trying to follow every rule or sift through all the conflicting baby advice on the internet…there’s no time for that!
I had a really rough time getting started with breastfeeding the first time around. If you nursed both times (and are willing to share), what was it like starting again?
It was a cinch! I had some insecurities the first time around, which I think most women do, and a naturally petite baby, which our first pediatrician freaked me out. However, a year’s worth of practice with the first child makes a huge difference for the second. Now the real challenge is breastfeeding while doing other tasks, such as reading a book with The First Kid in my lap, pouring a glass of milk, or putting on a shoe!
How did you and your husband adjust to having two?
In general, my husband watches the The First Kid and I’m in charge of The Second Kid, especially in the beginning when I was nursing non-stop. We had visitors the first several weeks who we could hand either kid off to, which was loads of help! Then we were forced to figure out how to handle both at the same time when my husband returned to work and I had occasional appointments I needed to attend. We’re still figuring it out!
In general, what advice that I may not have covered that you’d offer to parents expecting their second child?
Go easy on yourself. You won’t be able to do it perfectly, if there is such a thing. It’s okay to plop your toddler down in front of the TV to attend to the baby, or *gasp* get a moment to yourself. (My husband is constantly reminding me of this). Are they smelling a little ripe because you haven’t bathed them in awhile? They won’t remember! Did you just yell at your toddler for a stupid reason? Genuinely tell him you’re sorry and that you feel sad/mad right now, and hey it turns into a teaching moment! Even if you don’t muster up the apology, life goes on and you are a good mom. Some mood swings and bending the rules won’t change that.
Do what’s easiest. Opt for grocery delivery, Amazon Prime, carryout meals, a cleaning service, and any other convenience you can find. If you’re thrifty like me, tell yourself it’s just for this season. You’re in survival mode the first couple months, so only expend energy on the priorities.
And finally, picking your nutritionist/disordered eating expert brain, I wondered if you had any wisdom regarding self acceptance/body positivity for new moms and/or setting a good example of this for your kids.
It’s important for postpartum women to give themselves space to grieve their old bodies. We have constant messages thrown at us to “lose the baby weight fast”, and then we’re also told to “appreciate our stretch marks and mommy tummy” because it’s “so worth it.” We feel guilty if we can’t get back to our pre-baby bodies AND we also feel guilty if we aren’t “positive” about this new body.
It’s okay to feel sad about your body sometimes. It doesn’t mean that you’re vain or shallow. It doesn’t mean that you lack gratitude. Avoiding feelings and pretending you’re fine never ends well. Journal or talk to a trusted fellow mom. Give yourself grace—your body just went through a traumatic experience, you’re healing, your hormones are crazy, you’re tired. Look the way you look and feel the way you feel.
Try to accept both your body and your feelings, and don’t beat yourself up if acceptance is a tough concept right now.
As for setting a good example for your kids, be nice to yourself. Even when we think they may not be looking, kids notice those under-the-breath remarks in the fitting room or self-deprecating comments over second helpings of ice cream. Then they mimic us. Give yourself the love and respect that you give to your kids.
There you have it! Aren’t I lucky to know her? She shared such an incredible story — I’m stunned at her strength through the terrifying diagnosis in her first pregnancy and utterly appalled at her hospital experience with her first childbirth!!! — and so many good ideas — the “Special Time” idea is getting implemented STAT in our house, and I’ve got some new reading to tackle. (As usual, nothing on this site is sponsored, so the Amazon links are just for your convenience.)
I really needed some encouragement today and was so happy to find Erin’s words in my inbox. I hope you enjoyed it, too.
While her blog is a faith-based resource for people struggling with disordered eating, and not a mom blog, I know that there certainly is overlap between those two groups of people. In addition to selfishly picking Erin’s brain to prepare myself for parenting two, I also hoped that connecting with her would help connect any of my readers who might be struggling. If you are (or know someone who is) dealing with an eating disorder, visit RecoveringwithGod.com for words of encouragement. (And, as Erin points out in her bio, you should also seek treatment with a health care professional.) Take care of yourself, Mama.
P.S. I can’t figure out how to get someone a draft for review on WordPress without it going live, so sorry if you got a blank/password protected email post!