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.


ladies-craft-beer-society

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.

mitten
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

Friendship application

FRIENDSHIP APPLICATION – REANNA
Please fill this out to the best of your ability and return to thelastmommyblog@gmail.com. DON’T LIE. I’ll be able to tell.
Your name:
Most interesting social media handle:
1. The latest you would ever call Reanna in the evening is.
A) 7 pm
B) 9 pm
C) 10 pm
D) Trick question. I would only text, and I know Reanna has a DND setting on her phone beginning at 8:30 p.m.
2. You walk into Reanna’s house and notice everything is covered in dog hair and graham cracker crumbs. You feel…
A) Disgusted. You’ll just stand up the whole visit.
B) Aroused. Here’s a freebie: This is the wrong answer.
C) Confused. Reanna doesn’t have a dog?
D) Relieved. You won’t have to clean your house if she ever visits.
3. The best approach to resolving conflict in a friendship is:
A) Stop communicating until enough time has passed that you can both pretend it never happened.
B) Immediately pretend it never happened.
C) Use humor or sarcasm to suppress any real emotions.
D) Have a mature and respectful conversation full of “I feel” statements, but goddamn if I’ll ever be emotionally mature enough to use that approach.
4. Please choose the least reprehensible situation on this list:
A) You are driving in the rain at night.
B) Despite the rain, you arrive safely, but it’s to a party where you only know the host.
C) The party is a LulaRoe sales party.
D) The party ends early due to a small house fire in which no one is injured.

5. True or false: It’s OK to drop in unannounced.
6. You have two free hours to yourself and you can’t take a nap. Which of these activities is most appealing?
A) Mimosa mani-pedis with your friends
B) Go to Target and impulse-spend $75 on household goods then go through the McDonald’s drive thru and eat in secret
C) Hit the gym, intending to sit in the sauna, but you forgot a towel, so you slowly walk on a treadmill while scrolling Instagram
D) Are you sure I can’t nap?
7. Essay question: Disclose an embarrassing moment or confess a guilty pleasure that you think may make you relatable, or at least, unintimidating. Bonus points if it elicits laughter.
This concludes the test portion of the application. Below, please list five references–that is, five cultural references that you believe are central to your identity.
Here’s an example: “Workin’ on my night cheese.”
(You may link to gifs as appropriate.)
Thank you for your interest in befriending Reanna. The committee will review your application and respond within 2-3 weeks.
Friendship application

The Fog Settles In…

This will genuinely be a short post because I’m exhausted, the baby is asleep (in his bassinet!!!) and I have to get up in 3 hours to put a goddamned chicken in the refrigerator because I can’t time a slow cooker meal to save my soul. (All that prep work and we ate frozen chicken nuggets for dinner.)

We’re surviving, and that’s about it. This is that deep, foggy newborn period that will be a blessed distant memory someday. Which already breaks my heart whenever that thought occurs to me while staring deeply into Baby 2’s eyes and watching his little nose wrinkle and his fingers grasp my hand. Even though I’m bone-deep tired, it feels easier this time because I know how short it lasts.

The Toddler is amazing me with his sweetness and brilliance even as he tests every last boundary. He is careening through toddlerhood, and we are slogging through this snowy week. Always busy, he’ll pause from coloring on his own face with markers for a brief moment to snuggle next to me and rest his head on my shoulder while I nurse the baby, and tell me he loves me, before dunking his whole hand into my water glass and getting up to see if he can open the freezer by himself.

My house looks like a tornado hit it. I haven’t looked in a mirror for more than 20 seconds this week, and I usually have to brush my teeth while peeing.

It feels absolutely crazy, but not in a bad way.

And with that, it’s bedtime.

The Toddler’s idea for waking me up one morning.
Competing for attention and losing.
The Fog Settles In…

Leveling Up: My first week solo with two kids

This is going to be a barely-coherent stream of thought because for the first time in a week both my kids are asleep and I am awake! It’s my first full week as a stay-at-home mom of two (hallelujah for 3 weeks of paternity leave!) and I feel like I just leveled up at a video game I had only begun to master.

The difficulty has increased, I’m constantly juggling, and I can feel the background music speeding up to match the frenetic pace of this new arrangement. (The background music is Laurie Berkner’s “We Are the Dinosaurs,” FYI.) To make sense of my days, I have found myself mapping out on a post-it note approximately how I’m going to spend each hour (mostly so I don’t surrender to my anxiety at 8 a.m. and let The Toddler watch 8 straight hours of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie).

Many of those hours are spent building “flatbed trucks” out of Mega Blocks with one hand while I nurse The Baby. Because he requires holding so much, I actually am finding myself more attentive to The Toddler during these times because it’s not like I can do the dishes or fold laundry while I nurse. I can build a carwash and collaborate on an elaborate plot involving two flatbed trucks driving through over and over again, though.

This assuages my guilt very slightly when I’ve spent 20 minutes trying to get The Baby to nap in his bassinet in my bedroom only to notice it’s very quiet, and when I go out to the kitchen find The Toddler buckled into his chair at the kitchen table in front of a mountain of raisins, which he has managed to procure from the pantry and serve himself like a two-year-old Kevin McAllister who is just trying to make the best of his abandonment. (<—longest run-on-sentence in the history of the world, but there’s no turning back! There’s just no time for editing!!!)

I’ve been really lucky this past couple of weeks to have the support of my local MOMS club–these women have taken turns bringing hot meals every other day for the past week and a half! Many of these meals contain desserts! And they’ve been my sole source of vegetables!

I’m blown away by their generosity and consideration, especially because they all have their own wild broods to deal with. I can’t wait to pay it forward, because it’s been so very helpful (and because I am so very uncomfortable asking for or accepting help, and I’ll feel less like a freeloader if I can feed some future new moms.)

Let’s see… what else can I say about this first week and change? I can’t tell if this baby is more laid back than his older brother was, or if I’m just less prone to anxiety and more accustomed to what I can expect from a baby this time around, but this time definitely feels easier. It’s way harder to handle a two-year-old than a newborn, in my experience so far.

I can’t think of anything else to say by way of updates (other than The Baby is four weeks old today and holy shit that went fast.) Instead, here’s a list of the “birth affirmations” I made up for The Husband to repeat back to me that really helped me get through the hard parts. I knew I wasn’t going to have the time or inclination to decorate my labor space or keep my eyes open to read any pretty decorated signs, so instead I wrote them out on index cards and had him yell them to me over my loud moaning. (I even put helpful tips for what situations/stages of labor they’d work best for on the back.)

Pinterest and the Internet at large are rife with birth affirmations (and I think Hynpobirthing is a big source of these?) But for my particular makeup, some of these were eye-roll inducingly hokey, or put thoughts in my head I didn’t really want to invite.

(You know that thing where if you say, “Don’t think about a polar bear,” all you can imagine is a polar bear? I submit that if you repeat back to yourself, “I am not afraid,” or “My baby will fit,” you might just trigger thoughts like, “Yes I fucking am afraid,” or “Holy shit maybe my baby won’t fit?”)

Anyway, here’s a list of birth affirmations designed for your birth partner/doula/etc. to read back to you. Some are taken straight from Pinterest, some are helpful reminders from books I read, and a couple, honestly, are cheesy mantras from high school cross country. (See if you can guess). My labor was so fast he didn’t get through the whole pile, but I starred the ones I did hear that I found particularly comforting/motivating.

Maybe in 25 years when I have time to myself again I’ll make them into lovely printables free for download.

relax your jaw

  • Each surge brings the baby closer.
  • You are a badass.
  • Surrender.
  • This is a wave. You can ride it out.
  • The pride lasts longer than the pain.
  • You’ve got this.
  • You are prepared. You are strong. You are capable.
  • Women all over the world are birthing with you right now.
  • *You have done this before. You can do this again. I believe in you.
  • Your body knows what it’s doing.
  • Why don’t we wait through this contraction and see how you feel? (Repeat as necessary – in case I start talking epidural).
  • *Melt around the pain.
  • Our baby is doing this work with you. Work together.
  • I’m here. You’re not alone.
  • *Relax your jaw. (This should just be my general life mantra. I may get this tattooed on my wrist.)
  • When you feel like you can’t do it, it means you’re close. You can do it.
  • Don’t rush pushing. Let your body stretch.
  • *You’re not hitting the wall. You’re crashing through it, and our baby is on the other side.
  • Don’t forget: There’s a baby at the end of all this.
  • *Your contractions are strong because you are strong.
  • *Stay low. (If I’m screaming/starting to lose control – remind me to put that energy into laboring and stick to deep/low noises if I need to make noise.)
  • Your contractions can’t be stronger than you because they are you.
  • Don’t fight against this. Let your body open.
  • Breathe in for strength. Breathe out and let go.
  • You can do anything for a minute.

All right, I’m going to take the remaining moments I have of this rare double-naptime (which, might I add, I got only because I took the boys on a meandering hourlong drive that coincidentally took us past our nearest prison) and maybe go brush my teeth for the first time today.

Leveling Up: My first week solo with two kids

Pregnancy Week 37: Would You Rather…

I’m well into my 38th week of pregnancy and losing momentum on keeping up with these weekly posts. No worries here, though. Sooner rather than later, it’ll be a wrap on this pregnancy and I’ll be a zombified shell of my already zombified self whose priorities will be miles away from blogging.

In the meantime, here’s a taste of what Week 37 was like.

I’m continuing to gain mass somehow, even though I’m full all the time. Every meal feels like the last few forced bites of Thanksgiving dinner, but I’ve found plenty of reasons to stress eat nonetheless. Stepping on the scale at my midwife appointment each week feels like kneeling at the guillotine (even though I haven’t really gotten any shit for it. It’s just baffling to see the numbers continue to climb).

My hips hurt and I can’t roll over in bed without my knees glued together unless I want to hear and feel the unsettling popping of SPD. I cling to the dreaded Snoogle every night like a life raft, drooling and snoring and waffling over whether to get up to pee again.

I’ve been having tons of Braxton Hicks still, sometimes through the night despite drinking lots of water and changing positions and all that. This remains an unsettling pattern, because I had none the last time around and the onset of labor was obvious. I’m a little worried I’m either going to not notice when labor starts because of the BH, or spend lots of time driving back and forth the 45 minutes to the hospital for false alarms.

Anyway, the big theme of Week 37, now that I’m officially safe to go into labor at any point, was playing the miserable late-pregnancy game, “Would You Rather?” As in:

  • Would you rather wrestle yourself and your two-year-old into snow gear to go outside and play, or go into labor?
  • Would you rather find something other than sweatpants to wear to the store and risk having your bare belly hang out for the world to see, or go into labor?
  • Would you rather crawl under the porch to refill the chickens’ water, or go into labor?
  • Would you rather water the Christmas tree, or go into labor?
snowangel
Nothing I did in my first pregnancy, including pushing the baby out, prepared me for wrestling my firstborn into a snowsuit while 37 weeks pregnant with my second.

You get the idea. Labor sounds better than just about anything involving me existing in this giant, cumbersome, uncomfortable body anymore. Obviously, this is nature’s way of making what is an intense and painful experience seem enticing.  Yes, I know this is a frying pan-fire situation. I’ve done this before. I know what I’m in for (for the most part). And still, I’m ready to be done.

The Husband has had to pick up a lot of my slack, including most of the goat and chicken care and all night time potty checks with The Toddler. I try to ease my guilt by reminding myself I’ll be nursing a new baby 24/7 in no time, and no matter how much we work to split the workload, I’m going to bear the unique burdens of new motherhood again very soon. It’s what we signed up for. So I’ll try to put my feet up in the meantime when he insists.

Pregnancy Week 37: Would You Rather…

Pregnancy Week 36: Easy tears (and an easy Christmas craft)

I’m officially 37 weeks now. Which means, in addition to the baby being basically fully cooked and safe to come out, I am officially eligible to labor in the tub at the birthing center, if I want. Hooray!

But let’s talk about Week 36.

The primary features of Week 36 this time around:

  • Braxton Hicks contractions
  • Lightning crotch
  • Hairtrigger crying reflex
  • Stress eating, and the subsequent return of heartburn

Pregnancy-wise, it wasn’t too rough of a week. I think I’ve finally completed the midwife circuit at the practice I go to, and I’m now on a weekly appointment schedule. At the 36 week appointment, I got the Group B strep test (presumed negative, as I didn’t get a phone call), so I won’t have to get antibiotics during labor.

Life-wise, it wasn’t an especially pleasant week. I’m still swamped with freelancing work (which is a good thing! And a fun project! But not the greatest timing on my part), had to spend two daycare mornings dealing with minor but inconvenient car issues, and The Toddler is once again going through a weird developmental phase (please, God, let this just be a phase) where he is refusing to nap and regressing with his potty-training habits. The Husband, too, was stretched thin, and worked late three nights last week, so while he did his best I felt like I was flying solo through a lot of turbulence.

The Toddler napped one. time. last week. And has had about four costume changes a day, thanks to his refusal to tell me when he needs to go. On the bright side, no naps means he is crashing for bed by 6 p.m. But then again, so am I.

All of which made that freelancing work pretty tricky to tackle, and all preparation for his family birthday party on Saturday had to wait until Saturday morning, which meant by 2:30 on Saturday afternoon I was just frantically running around the house, tears streaming down my face, as I tried to put everything together at the  last minute. I’ve got to stop being enormously pregnant during the holidays.

Fortunately, The Toddler’s grandparents and aunts and uncles were (at least outwardly) unbothered by our mediocre food offerings and only wanted to shower the Toddler in gifts and affection. He had a blast, and is enjoying the infusion of new toys. (And my mom gets to live to see another Christmas, despite her gift of a thousand-decibel tractor toy with no off switch, because she watched him Saturday morning so we could pull everything together.)

I don’t have any additional pregnancy wisdom or whining to throw your way this week, so here are a few shots of the quick-and-dirty advent calendar I put together for The Toddler. Obviously, it’s way too late for this to be useful for this year, but maybe it will come in handy next year if you feel obligated to make something homemade but want to keep it super simple (like, say, if you’re enormously pregnant.)

 

Super-simple Toddler Advent Calendar

Materials

  • 1/2 yard green felt
  • A way to affix the felt to your wall (maybe Command strips/velcro? I’m lucky to have a brick hearth that holds the felt all on its own)
  • Several yards of cotton string (I used craft baker’s twine)
  • 25 buttons
  • Yarn or ticker cotton string the length of your mantle
  • Multicolored cardstock
  • Hole punch
  • 2″-ish circle template (I traced the inside of a roll of masking tape)
  • 25 clothespins
  • Metallic Sharpie
  • 25 stickers (optional)

Directions

  1. Cut out a triangle shape from the felt. (Mine is about 30″-36″ tall and 18″ wide at the base).
  2. Sew 25 buttons onto the felt to give your toddler a way to hang up the ornaments.
  3. Hang the felt tree on the wall with Command velcro strips/brick.
  4. Cut out 25 circles from the cardstock. Number them 1-25.
  5. Punch holes in the circles and tie a loop of string to each.
  6. String up the yarn/string on your mantle and evenly space the 25 clothespins out.
  7. Pin each ornament up on the mantle, clipping a sticker behind each. (For older kids, you could also write something on the back of each ornament — an activity they get to do that day, a special memory you have with them, a riddle, whatever.)
  8. You’re done! Just help your little one take down an ornament each day and hang it on a button on the tree. I like to use the empty clothespins to hold Christmas cards as they come in.
Pregnancy Week 36: Easy tears (and an easy Christmas craft)

Pregnancy Week 33: Preparing and procrastinating for baby’s arrival

The latent sense of not feeling prepared for the baby at the end of this pregnancy is becoming more of a constant buzz in my consciousness as I find myself at the end of my 33rd week of pregnancy. Assuming I go into labor around the same time I did with my first, I have just five more weeks to get my shit together, and my to-do list looms long and neglected while life keeps getting in the way.

At 33 weeks, the baby is somewhere in the 17-19 inch range and anywhere between 4 and 6 pounds, and the estimations from here on out look to be pretty sketchy at best, as babies start to really diverge as they approach their final birth weight/length. Judging by the movements I’ve been feeling lately, the baby is mostly feet. One weird progression I read in my weekly updates is that, while awake, baby is keeping his or her eyes open in utero. I wonder what it looks like in there.

As for me, well…

I think this about sums it up.

I’m humongous. I can’t stop eating, but also, heartburn. I can’t breathe. It takes me 30 seconds to roll over in bed and a full minute to get up off the floor. My back hurts if I’m on my feet too long (oh, and also if I’m sitting too long). I’ve been super emotional–crying over very silly things, or for no reason at all. My abdominal muscles hurt from being stretched. I’ve had a few dizzy spells. I’m getting to the stage where only really long maternity shirts cover my huge, huge belly. My huge, huge belly that my toddler thinks is a trampoline.

And while I’m starting to look forward to not being pregnant anymore, this past week with The Toddler has also reminded me that I’ll be trading in immobility and indigestion for mind-numbing sleep deprivation.

While I’ve been using it as a blanket excuse for every behavioral hiccup for the past five months or so, The Toddler is finally, truly sprouting two-year molars, and that has manifested in really rotten sleep. He’s pretty miserable, and his parents are pooped. I think it’s affecting his dad more than me, because in the middle of the night, I am the last person The Toddler wants to see. So I get to go back to bed while The Dad tries to soothe him. It’s a good thing we put a twin bed in his room.

Though the teething hasn’t been particularly fun this week, we have pressed on in one important way toward preparing our household for the baby: The Toddler has started going to daycare (though we’re calling it “school”) a few mornings a week. I’ve been both meaning to do this forever and putting it off, first because my freelance work has been so feast-or-famine, and then because I wanted to feel he was fully through potty training before I threw off his routine.

So when my freelance work picked up this week, it ended up being the perfect catalyst for getting him out of the house a few mornings a week. (And, conveniently, the perfect excuse for further baby-prep procrastination.)

The Toddler has been struggling with drop-offs a little, but otherwise has a great time. And so has his mom! I’ve gotten a bunch of work done–mostly the paid version, but this morning I spent most of daycare time blowing leaves that have piled up on our front sidewalk and then did some shopping.

I picked up some stuff for my hospital bag (future post to come–after my next midwife appointment this week I plan to finalize my checklist to share with you) and for those special breastfeeding-time play kits to keep The Toddler occupied. That, too, will be a future post.

In the meantime, here’s hoping those teeth pop so The Husband and I can catch up on some sleep and tackle more of our to-do list.

Pregnancy Week 33: Preparing and procrastinating for baby’s arrival