Cooking with Toddlers: Moose Muffins

We recently checked out from the library If You Give a Moose a Muffin, and The Toddler loves reading it (along with the OG¬†If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.) While I haven’t posted a recipe here in about 100 years, we just succeeded in a small baking experiment that works for killing some time, delighting a toddler, connecting literature to real life and prepping breakfast for the week, all in one.

Moose Muffins - inspired by the children's book
Moose muffins! Very little added sugar, no added oil, contains both fruit and vegetables, and best served with a good book ūüôā

If you’re anything like me, it also provides your young baker a lesson in flouting the specific measurements of any given baking recipe and enjoying or suffering the consequences. (Fortunately, this turned out pretty good!) I’ve never been one to closely follow a recipe, so consider this a basic roadmap from which you can detour depending on what’s in your pantry and what your family likes to eat.

The Toddler gobbled a few mini-muffins up as soon as they were cool enough to eat, and seemed pretty impressed that his pouring and mixing turned into food. He even helped clean up afterward!

I kept these pretty low-sugar so I wouldn’t feel guilty about serving them for breakfast and didn’t add any oil (though I use whole milk/yogurt in my muffin recipes and entire eggs.) I do find that the no-oil muffins I make tend to stick to the muffin cups/tins more than usual, so don’t be afraid to be a little liberal when greasing them.

Finally, thanks to The Husband for being a second set of hands during this activity; it’s doable with just one adult, but a nice weekend-morning family activity. (If you’re doing this solo, try to gather everything up before your little one is waiting anxiously to get started or you may run out of attention span.)

Moose Muffins - baking with toddlers (The Last Mommy Blog)

 

Moose Muffins

Makes 12 regular muffins and 12 mini muffins

Dry ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • pinch of salt

Wet ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 heaping tablespoons of raw sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of raisins (we used golden raisins)

Directions

  1. Read If You Give a Moose a Muffin with your toddler. Ask, “Would¬†you like to bake some muffins for a moose?!” If they respond enthusiastically, “Yes!!!!” proceed. If not, try again some other time.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  3. Strap your toddler in to a booster seat/high chair at the kitchen table so they can’t run amok with ingredients, and then pile everything up just out of their reach. Gather a wet ingredients bowl, dry ingredients bowl, a teaspoon, your measuring cups, muffin tins and muffin liners.
  4. Have your toddler line your muffin tins. (We don’t have mini muffin liners, so I swiped at the mini muffin tin with an oil-soaked paper towel.) See note above about these being sticky; feel free to grease the muffin liners themselves to avoid this.
  5. Put the dry bowl in front of the toddler and measure out each ingredient for him and let him dump the measuring cups into the bowl and stir in between. To make it even more educational, do lots of counting: “This is one cup of flour.” “We need two scoops of baking soda.”
  6. Do the same with the wet ingredients, cracking each egg into the measuring cup and letting him dump, etc.
  7. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet (or is it vice versa?Whatever muffin recipes usually say.) Try not to over-mix. Fold the raisins in last.
  8. You should probably do the scooping of the muffin batter into the papers/tins, but count while you do it.
  9. Bake muffins. The mini muffins were done in about 12 minutes, and the standard-sized in about 20-22 minutes, but your mileage may vary.
  10. Allow to cool, serve with blackberry jam! (Consume while re-reading If You Give a Moose a Muffin.)

Substitutions and variations:

  • Finely chopped walnuts would be really good in this (if your kid is of the age to eat such things.)
  • Swap out some or all of the applesauce for pumpkin puree; switch the shredded zucchini for shredded carrot. (I’d also probably switch to regular black raisins for this alternative.)
  • Don’t like raisins? Use frozen blueberries! Or chocolate chips! Or nothing!
  • Don’t have zucchini? Shred a fresh apple instead to make these extra-appley. I’d swap out the allspice for ground ginger in this case.
  • If we had any plain yogurt in the house while I was making these, I would have used that instead of milk.
Cooking with Toddlers: Moose Muffins

Pregnancy To-Do: Get acquainted with this gear before baby arrives

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how preparing for my second baby differs from my first. It’s really nice knowing what to expect (or so I presume) as it relates to how contractions will feel, a semi worst-case-scenario with starting to breastfeed, and the postpartum recovery and getting-to-know-you dance with a new baby. I am thanking my lucky stars I don’t have a bunch of mysterious gear and equipment to wrangle this time around–just about everything that I’ll use to care for, hold and carry my baby are old friends I’m pulling back into commission.

For first-time moms approaching their due dates, do yourself a favor and spend some time getting acquainted with your gear before baby gets here. Yes, you may gasping for breath be leaning over a writhing watermelon to get your carseat installed now, but let me assure you it’s still easier to do now than when that watermelon is transformed into a squalling newborn and you haven’t slept more than 6 hours in the past three days.

Pregnancy To-Do- Get acquainted with this gear before baby arrives.png

First things first: This is a team activity

If there’s a partner in the picture, make him or her participate in this orientation with you. They’ll feel boxed out enough in the early days, especially if you’re on maternity leave and they’re back at work, and especially especially if you’re breastfeeding. You’re going to arrive at a knowledge gap that may make you feel overburdened and them feel out of the loop. (“He doesn’t like to be burped over your shoulder, you have to hold him on his belly,” or “No, I moved the wipes to the shelf over there because it’s too hard to get to them in the drawer.” Or, “How do you not know where we keep his socks?” etc. etc. etc.) Having a shared proficiency with your gear is a nice big step toward equally sharing in the experience of early parenthood.

Your Stroller

The first day it was warm enough to take The Baby out for a neighborhood stroll, I had to watch¬†three Youtube videos to figure out how to unfold my stroller. I had gotten it¬†into¬†the folded position precisely once before, but never took notice of a little clip that kept it folded and nearly dissolved into sleep deprived tears when I couldn’t find the strength to open it back up.

So, make sure you know how to do the following:

  • Collapse the stroller
  • Open the stroller back up
  • If you’re using a “system” with your bucket-style infant carseat, how to attach and detach the carseat without flipping it upside down (the baby would not appreciate that method)
  • If you’re not using a system and your stroller accommodates newborns, figure out how to recline and incline the seat back and adjust the straps. Do yourself a favor and adjust the straps to the lowest/smallest setting. Make sure you know how to clip and unclip the harness.
  • Apply and release the parking brake
  • Flip up and down the canopy
  • Check and make sure you know your particular model’s rules/capacity for holding a diaper bag on the handle. Now that my kid far outweighs the diaper bag, I don’t have a problem slinging the diaper bag over the handle even though the stroller says not to. But if I had done that with a newborn in the seat, it would have become a baby catapult.

Your Carseat

This is obviously a big one, as you won’t be allowed to leave the hospital or birth center without a properly installed infant seat. I won’t be breaking any ground with the advice to follow both your car seat’s manual and your car’s manual (especially for proper use of the LATCH system — some cars, mine included, have LATCH anchors only on the outer two seats and not in the middle. You¬†could probably reach one on each side from the middle seat, but it’s not advisable.) So make sure you reference both before you do the install.

Before you get everything stuck down safe and snug in your car, though, I’d also advise you to do this rundown:

  • Figure out how to adjust the straps in your carseat and set them to the lowest shoulder strap setting so you have less adjustment to do once the baby arrives. **If you discover your infant seat doesn’t allow you to easily adjust the straps from the front, like mine¬†doesn’t, and you can afford to exchange for a seat that does, I say it’s money well spent.** I have a Graco SnugRide that, while cute and affordable, forces me to flip the dang thing over and unthread then rethread the shoulder straps to adjust it, and I wanted to drop kick it off a tall building every time I realized on my way out the door that it was time to size up. A few friends of mine went with a Britax model that I coveted deeply.
  • While I wouldn’t recommend disassembling the whole thing, figure out, via the manual or a basic inspection, how you’d have to remove the cover if, hypothetically, your sweet sweet baby had a physics-defying shit all over it. Review what, if anything, is machine washable, and how you would handle cleaning the straps and clips.
  • Figure out what, if any, of your accessories are safe to use while the carseat is in the car. I used to be a Safe Kids child seat inspector, and while I’m not sure if this is still the rule, we advised parents to never drive around with the handle of an infant seat over the baby’s head because in a crash the seat is designed to raise up a bit and the baby’s head could hit it. This is in direct conflict with all the cute dangly toys designed to hang from those handles. Similarly, there are 1,001 bunting-type products that are supposed to help keep babies warm in their seats, but if they go between the baby and the back of the carseat, they can cause the straps to be too loose. When I was an inspector we even advised against headrest mirrors and retractable sun shades because they could detach and become dangerous missiles in the event of a crash. It’s your call how meticulous you want to be, but it’s good to do a safety review of all your stuff before you commit to using it. If you’re concerned, find a Safe Kids event near you to get some guidance or check with your local fire station.

Baby Carriers

If you don’t have a baby carrier of some sort (stretchy Moby-type, ring sling, Baby K’Tan, mei-tei, soft structured carrier, etc.) do yourself a gigantic favor and go get one. If you aren’t sure what kind you want, try to find your way (together, before baby arrives) to a Babywearing International meeting, where you can, for free, get assistance from certified “educators” in trying on, testing out and safely wearing all sorts of carriers. They also usually have a lending library, and for a nominal annual membership you can “rent” a carrier for a month to try it out. If you’re not into that scene, Youtube has lots and lots of instructional videos.

My personal favorite for wearing my newborn was a stretchy wrap. It seemed really intimidating to figure out how to wear it right, but ended up being easy and way more comfortable than the Baby K’Tan. But everyone is different, so do a little research! Again, do this with your partner, because dads and babies can benefit from babywearing, too (and sharing this tool might just get you a nice extra-long shower every once in awhile.)

Please trust me: Babywearing is not the exclusive domain of diehard attachment parents. IMO, baby carriers are¬†essential for easing a new baby into the world and keeping new parents sane. Think of it this way: When your baby is born, the only thing he or she knows is the warmth and familiarity of constant contact with you. A lot of times, newborns aren’t down with being solitary for very long–they like to snuggle up close to their favorite people. You can worry about encouraging their independence after they’re out of the newborn phase. And if you can make yourself a sandwich and maybe take the dog outside to pee while your baby sleeps soundly on your chest, things feel a little less bleak four weeks in. Baby carriers also making shopping easier in those early days before baby can sit in a shopping cart, and discourage creepy strangers from sticking their grubby hands in your baby’s face.

Portable crib/bassinet

Near the top of my dropkick-this-shit-off-a-tall-building list was the hand-me-down Pack ‘N Play we used for living room naps in The Baby’s earliest days. I was grateful to have something free, but holy hell was it hard to set up and take down. It was exactly too wide to fit through any doors unless fully collapsed, and with every move to a new room, I also almost fully collapsed.

Maybe they’ve gotten easier to use in the proceeding years since the model I had. Either way, if you have a portable crib setup for your bedroom/living room/etc., make sure you know how to use it.

As I alluded to in a recent post, I’ve been coveting a certain portable crib to replace the nightmare Pack ‘N Play, and recently purchased it for an overnight trip we’re taking this week. It rhymes with Schuava Schmotus and I freaking love it.

Baby monitor

Get your baby monitor set up.

  • If you have a wi-fi version that allows you to see baby from anywhere, make sure you’ve got the security under wraps (change the password, etc. I don’t have this kind so I don’t know the full ins and outs, but I have heard stories of monitors getting hacked and Internet creeps talking to people’s babies over the microphone, so please, please, review the security features.)
  • If you have a regular audio or video monitor, test the range and see how far you can go in your before you lose a signal.
  • If your monitor has extra features (a nightlight or why, God, scary nursery-rhyme music you can accidentally activate from the receiver with the slightest nudge of the wrong button in the dark), familiarize yourself with those.

Other baby paraphernalia

Obviously, your mileage will vary depending on where you land on the minimalist to maximalist spectrum, but it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with how to wash, assemble, dissemble, and otherwise use any implements you plan to try out with baby. You’ll already be spending almost every “free” second you have Googling “Why is my baby grunting so much?” You don’t need to also be Googling, “How to put Dr. Bronner’s bottle back together.” Here’s a quick rundown of some stuff I could think of that maybe, possibly, gave me pause when I was really tired and overwhelmed:

  • Breast pump parts: Cleaning, assembling, and operating (Hint: Youtube! Take a breastfeeding class! Ask a mom friend to show you the ropes! If you can meet with a lactation consultant before baby arrives, bring your pump!)
  • Bottle parts (See Dr. Bronner’s note above. Grrr…why so many pieces?!?)
  • Baby clothes: I know this sounds crazy, but I definitely cried at least once trying and failing to line the leg snaps up on baby pajamas. Maybe you’ll come up with a system where you use fabric markers to match up corresponding snaps. Maybe you’ll just be more easygoing than I was. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to take a quick look at what you’ll be facing at 3 a.m.
  • Any other baby holders:¬†This includes swings, bouncers, Rock ‘N Plays, etc. Know how to adjust the straps (again, unless you’re expecting a honker, go ahead and put them on the smallest/lowest settings), and how to remove and wash the covers in the almost certain event of a spit up/blowout situation.
  • Swaddling and sleep accessories: I have a photo from about three days in of The Baby swaddled up to his nose. We got a gentle but urgent text from a concerned relative who saw the photo and wondered whether we might be smothering our kid. Sleep safety is a big deal, and there are a hundred million products out there that promise to safely and effectively give you infinity hours of sleep a night. Your success widely depends on the temperament and preferences of your baby, but make sure you at least have a general sense of how to properly use what you have so you don’t do anything risky/stupid.
  • Your diaper situation:¬†For cloth diaperers, this means figuring out your setup — how do any snaps work to appropriately size your diapers? How do you wash them? For disposable users, did you get one of those odor-locking diaper pails? How the hell does it work? For everybody: Can you easily and safely reach everything you’ll need from your diaper station?

Readers, let me know if I missed any key pieces of gear you should figure out before baby arrives, and be sure to share your gear-fueled new parent nightmares!

Pregnancy To-Do: Get acquainted with this gear before baby arrives

Pregnancy Week 11: Crackers in the bed

Other titles I considered for this week’s post:

  • Nothing is possible
  • It’s not really morning sickness if you don’t sympathy vomit with your toddler
  • Ode to Daniel Tiger
  • Pennymouth returns

While I was looking forward to my first trimester symptoms beginning to fade, Week 11 has been a doozy. I think it’s a combination of the true arrival of summer heat, a particularly busy week of freelancing, an extended visit to The Toddler’s gut from a stomach virus (one that I thankfully did not catch), and the fact that I am growing a baby from scratch. That never helps.

Last weekend, we drove to a friend’s backyard wedding celebration with The Toddler in tow, all of us wearing our garden party best. As soon as we got off the highway I heard a retching from the backseat and turned around to find The Toddler had gotten (what I thought was) very, very carsick all over himself and his carseat. We parked and cleaned him up as best we could (fortunately there was a trashbag full of clothes destined for Goodwill in the trunk that we used to mop up) and put his backup clothes on. We thought we were in the clear until he repeated that act on the ride home. And then again at 2 a.m. And then again two mornings later.

I won’t get into further detail other than to say the lingering effects of this bug have made diaper changes a blast (gross gross pun not intended), and that I know my morning sickness can’t be that much to complain about if I was able to dismantle and hose chunks of string cheese and strawberries out of his carseat without joining in on the fun.

I decided to keep The Toddler away from other kids this week in case he was still contagious, so we spent our mornings taking strolls around Hinckley Lake (I’m trying to keep up some semblance of a walking routine with this pregnancy). I don’t think this has been particularly beneficial for my energy level, but it feels good to exercise and I’ve even dropped one or two of the alarmingly quick LBs I put on in the earliest weeks of pregnancy.

We even took a dip in the swimming area one hot morning after our work. Also, we found a tiny toad hopping across our path.

This hit-by-a-truck afternoon fatigue has me leaning on a new crutch in the form of Daniel Tiger. Six months ago, I nearly smacked my father-in-law’s phone out of his hand when he dared try to show The Baby a streaming football game. When we moved to the new house a year ago I insisted our 46″ TV live in the basement so we wouldn’t give into temptation to watch TV in front of our kid. I was, as I often am, probably pretty insufferable about this hard line, but now that he’s venturing into 18-month territory (and I’m flirting with narcolepsy), our post-nap routine involves an episode of DT almost every day. No regrets.

I thought I had left behind the terrible metallic taste in my mouth that plagued the first few weeks of pregnancy, but it returned with a vengeance this week, along with pounding headaches and serious food aversions. I even skipped a few meals because I just couldn’t bear the thought of eating.

The misery peaked on Thursday, and as soon as The Husband got home from work I retreated to bed with my eye mask and a bag of Goldfish crackers. The Husband has stepped up to an impressive and humbling degree over the past month or so, taking over as the primary caregiver from dinnertime on and cleaning up after I fall asleep like a GD magic elf. I know at the end of this all I have to push out another 7.5 lb baby out of me and then breastfeed him or her every two hours for a month, but The Husband is really putting in the early work that is making me think I probably won’t curse his name in labor.

The Toddler has also been really impressed with The Husband this week, and wants very little to do with me if Dad is home. I thought my feelings might be a little hurt but it’s actually really freaking great. Best of all, it seems I’m off the hook for bedtime, which has been my sole purview for months and months and months. The Toddler is now nursing just once a day, and while I’ll probably mourn nursing a little bit when it’s over, it’s feeling really liberating right now that he is nearly weaned.

One last thing I’ve noticed about my second pregnancy so far is that it seems to be going an awful lot faster than the first. I remember reading the “your baby is the size of X” each week the first time around and thinking, “Raspberry? kumquat? Come on kid, grow!” Now we’re almost in lime territory and it’s really hard for me to fathom that we’ve gone from poppyseed to lime in what feels like no time at all.

Then I look at my toddler who is running and climbing and picking up new words almost daily and I almost lose my breath at how vanishingly fast it all goes.

Pregnancy Week 11: Crackers in the bed

Week 10: Older, Wiser Baby Registry

We’re halfway through Week 10 of pregnancy with Baby No. 2. I have no exciting updates to tell you about my symptoms. I’m still exhausted, still nauseous. Maybe more than the weeks before, so it’s my hope I’m at peak yuck and will be feeling better soon. The food aversions I had during my pregnancy with The Toddler hadn’t cropped up much this time around, but lately they have returned. I managed to put a frozen pizza in the oven for the family before retreating to my bed as soon as The Husband came home, and then ended up eating feta cheese on Flipside crackers. In bed. For dinner. Because pizza, and basically anything except Flipside crackers and feta, sounded absolutely repulsive.

Enough about my appetite, though. I went to a baby shower for my college roommate over the weekend, and it got me thinking about what I’d register for if I did it all over again. So instead of directly inundating my roommate (and several other friends) with unsolicited advice about what they should get, I thought I’d make a shortlist of things I’d get if I were a first-timer, and they can choose to read or ignore as they wish.

*My blog is too smalltime to make any money. I’m not getting anything out of recommending these.

**For real, fam & friends: This is a list of suggestions/cool things that have come out just in the last two years to help out other expectant parents. Some of this is stuff I already have, and some is just a better version of something I already have. Don’t take this as an unsubtle request!

Without further ado:

Lotus Everywhere Travel CribLotus Everywhere Travel Crib ($189)

Forget your tricky, cumbersome travel cribs of yore. This is super easy to set up, with a cushy mattress, a backpack-style carry case, and a zippered side panel so you don’t have to figure out how to lower a sleeping or nearly sleeping baby all the way to the floor through the top. I used this a few times at a friend’s house for naps and have wanted one ever since. My only wish is that it had a silent zipper. I think we’re going to get one (our hand-me-down Pack ‘N Play tore) along with the bassinet attachments for the new kid.

Mason Bottle set ($20)

We registered for glass bottles the first time around, and ended up with plastic. Which is fine, but while Dr. Bronner’s may be touted for being anti-colic or whatever, having FIVE pieces of a bottle to wash and reassemble every time is less. than. ideal. I saw an ad for this on Instagram, which converts your basic 4 oz. or 8 oz. mason jar into a bottle, and WANT! We use mason jars for food storage, drinking glasses, etc. so this is a natural next step in our collection. I like the silicone sleeves to help prevent breakage, too.

Milkies Milk-Saver ($27.95)

Breastfeeding was the mystery of mysteries before The Baby arrived. It was the apex of the unknown that surrounds new parenthood. I didn’t know how to do it, or how it would feel, or what I’d need, so I didn’t get much before The Baby arrived. (And what I did get was gifted to me by friends who knew better.) One thing that would have really come in handy, especially those first weeks when my supply was out of control and we were still working out the latch, was a way to catch any extra. These handy little nursing covers collect that leaked milk so it doesn’t go to waste.

Lalabu Soothe Shirt ($75)

Babywearing was clutch for me from the very beginning. Intimidated at first by the complicated baby wraps, I got a Baby K’Tan for both me and The Husband (two of them, because they’re sized to the wearer.) They were pretty easy to use, but I ended up finding my stretchy wrap to be more comfortable as The Baby got bigger, and the K’Tan ended up being a short-lived, though very helpful, piece of baby gear. If I did it again, I’d get us a set of these, instead. I’m definitely not spending the money when what we have now will suit us fine, but if you’re building your registry and don’t already have a newborn babywearing solution, I think this is pretty sweet!

Zutano Booties ($20-ish)

I might have already included these on a long-ago registry recommendation, but they’re so good. It’s really hard to keep things on baby feet. This is the exception. They snap snugly around the ankle, are super warm and super cute. I bought a size big so they’d last a little longer (and because The Baby has giant feet.)

That’s all I can think of right now, and I gotta shower before The Toddler wakes up from his nap. One more quick recommendation for soon-to-be moms: The Birth Hour podcast. I’ve started listening to it to reacquaint myself with the thought of childbirth, and more than I could have imagined it has taught me some really helpful things about preparing for labor and childbirth. I’m focusing on the low-intervention/unmedicated stories, because that’s what I’m aiming for, but this features everything from scheduled C-Sections and epidurals to some more unusual circumstances. (Obvious caveat: Only listen to what you’re prepared to hear. There are stories about loss and emergencies and such.)

I’m a little turned off by the fact that a lot of the storytellers are also “sponsors” of the episodes (people with Etsy shops for baby headbands, birth centers themselves, etc.) and the host isn’t the most compelling interviewer, but the moms themselves are usually really good storytellers, and so far this is the best I’ve come across in terms of pregnancy/childbirth-related podcasting content. It definitely has value for anyone with a due date in the future, and I’m glad I found it despite these minor complaints.

May your (baby) shower be as relaxing and invigorating as the shower I’m about to take.

Cheers,

R

Edited to add: Backpack-style diaper bag, because it’s really fun when your shoulder bag swings around and bashes your kid while you’re getting him out of his carseat.

Week 10: Older, Wiser Baby Registry

The Indignities of Pregnancy Brain

pregnancybrain

I sort of hate to lament or even acknowledge the existence of “pregnancy brain,” because I don’t want to feed the problematic stereotypes that pregnant women can’t hack it at work, or are a liability in some way. When I worked during my first pregnancy, I pretty consistently knocked it out of the park in my estimation–or at the very least, was just as productive and satisfactory as any other time. And as a stay-at-home mom with a small side gig, my performance is now measured a little differently, but my kid is still fed, dressed and reasonably happy (though admittedly getting more than zero screen time now that I can’t lift my arms and legs after 3 p.m.)

But there’s no denying that it’s harder to apply myself while I’m fighting to stay awake and trying to keep morning sickness at bay. When I succeed at remembering to buckle my toddler into his car seat, it is sometimes at the expense of remembering to refill his diaper bag. Early pregnancy, at least for me, is a graceless slog. For your entertainment, here’s a brief list of some of the self-inflicted indignities I’ve endured over the last few weeks, thanks to pregnancy brain.

  1. Abandoning things I’ve recently paid for: This has happened at least three times in as many weeks. I’ve dropped $50 at Target and had the clerk shout after me as the sliding doors open, gesturing to the bags I didn’t even glance at as I left the line; I paid for dry cleaning at the local grocery store, put it in my cart, parked the cart (which is not allowed outside this particular store) and gone home with my husband’s shirts abandoned–he was pretty amused when he got the phone call; and at that same grocery store, I went through self-checkout, loaded my groceries into the cart, once again parked it near the entrance, cajoled The Toddler into the car, and did a quick lap around the parking lot before I reached for the ginger ale I thought I had bought and realized I needed to reverse course and retrieve my bags from customer service.
  2. Coming completely unprepared: At the tail end of another grocery excursion, The Toddler filled his diaper and wouldn’t get in his car seat with that load (I don’t blame him.) We were already at the car, so I popped the hatch and stripped him down, only to realize I had one remaining wipe and nothing but a swim diaper to put him in. I cleaned him up as well as I could, pleaded with him not to pee on the way home, and felt like a complete dumb-dumb.
  3. Emulating my toddler: Pregnancy brain isn’t just about forgetfulness. This state of mind also includes some really fun emotional meltdowns. Just one example: I really wanted some nasty Chinese takeout (the only kind of Chinese takeout available in a semi-rural Ohio town) the other weekend. The Husband valiantly volunteered to go pick some up. I gave him my standard garbage food order (wonton soup, sweet & sour chicken) and anxiously awaited his return. I ate my soup and a few bites of doughy, greasy chicken with Red No. 40 sauce before I started feeling really queasy and guilty for eating it. I felt rage and tears welling up, directed at that poor asshole who married me, for daring to indulge my disgusting craving.¬†He should have known it wouldn’t end well, I thought to myself, trying really, really hard not to vocalize my feelings. It has given me a bit more sympathy for my wildly irrational 17-month-old who rages at me when he drops and breaks something. We have no control over how we feel or whom we feel it toward, Little Guy. Don’t I know it.
  4. Putting on a free show: The grocery store seems to be the main setting for most of my pregnancy brain antics. Just last week, because laundry has sunken to the bottom of my priorities lately (below toddler wrangling, eating, napping and sleeping), I threw on a button-down shirt I rarely wear and set off for a quick shopping trip. It was about 10 a.m., and I cruised the aisles for about 10 minutes, sipping my half-caf latte and smiling warmly at the many elderly shoppers who had been dropped off by bus from a local retirement community while The Toddler steered our behemoth car-cart (God, I hate those). It took that whole 10 minutes and at least one very uncomfortable-looking old man for me to notice the draft across my ribs. I looked down to see that the two middle buttons of my shirt were wide agape, exposing me from the bridge of my bra to my belly button.¬†You’re welcome, Medina!!!

It doesn’t warrant its own story, but I also found a fork in the freezer the other day. Damn, pregnancy. I’m only nine weeks in. Here’s hoping I recover my wits soon.

The Indignities of Pregnancy Brain

Bringing home baby (chicks)

Yesterday was the big day… chick day! My brother accompanied The Toddler and I to the farm supply store to retrieve our flock (he traded shifts with someone at work, explaining he was going “to pick up chicks with my sister,” heh, heh. So he was my wingman, wink, wink.)

Anyway, I would have posted yesterday but The Toddler decided to nap for only 20 minutes and I spent all that time trying to convince the chicks to love me.

I promised lots of baby chick photos, so here you go:

baby chicks in a box
Our chicks came home in a donut box! There are two Golden Buffs, two Dominiques, one Buff Orpington and one Wyandotte.
Chicks on the ride home
Chicks snuggled up on the ride home – that sock you see in these photos is filled with rice and black beans (a combo I sorely regretted as it smelled like The Toddler had taken a giant stinky dump for the entire ride there and the entire ride back… pro tip, use just rice). Anyway, I microwaved it a few minutes before we left and put it in the cake box so they had a temporary heat source for the ride.
Chicks in the brood box
Water, scrambled eggs, grass and dirt for a welcome home feast. (The chick feed is in the other “room,” accessible through the “chunnel” you see on the upper right.)
New chicks
Temperature regulation has been the toughest part of all this. I’ve learned chick behavior is way more important to watch than a thermometer. Two of the chicks are a week old and want it a little cooler (were panting a bit), but the group as a whole doesn’t dig the recommended 90 degrees and stuck to the perimeter when it was that warm. I’ve been keeping it closer to 80-85 and they seem happier. The chick in my hand is the Buff Orpington. She’s currently the smallest but will outpace everyone eventually!
Cat watching chicks
Bills, our mellow-AF former tomcat, is enamored with the chicks. They’re pretty secure in the box, and he seems to just watch them like TV, but I don’t super trust him. (Note, that chick is fine. Just sleeping. Sweet baby!)
Cat sitter
This is what I discovered at 4 a.m. when my cat (who usually sleeps on me) disappeared for awhile. He’s babysitting the chicks IN HELL!!!! (J/k, infrared heat lamp for nighttime.) I’m researching alternative night heat sources that better mimic a mother hen because I’m a mom and they’re motherless and that makes me weepy… there’s a feather duster in my Amazon cart that will likely end up in here soon.

There you have it! Day one of the chicken adventure. I hope they like me!

Bringing home baby (chicks)

Cooped up with kids (and life is sweet)

Good morning, Internet! As I’ve alluded… we’re going through some exciting additions to TLMB household and I’m thinking of shifting gears to a more hobby farm/parenting blog… workshopping the title, which I hope will make sense to you soon as it is basically one clever turn of phrase after another.

Cooped up

I have been up since 3 a.m. with inexplicable insomnia. Except it’s not really inexplicable… If I’m being honest, it’s a shadow of the sleeplessness I felt waiting for The Baby to arrive, fed in equal parts by sheer excitement and my obsessive need to plan. Because, my friends, in two short days I will be welcoming six new babies into my house.

Fluffy little chicken babies.

dominique_chicken
Dominique chicken By gunthercox (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Yes, The Husband and I are taking the leap into hobby farming with a half dozen chicks, who will, if luck prevails, provide us abundant eggs and entertainment.

I’ve trawled chicken blogs, researched breeds, assembled a brood box (though I still have to finish the second one and build a “chunnel” today), bought feed and bedding and heat lamps. We thought about building a coop, but¬†after careful reflection on our carpentry skills and less than ample free time, we decided to buy a ready-made one that is now waiting for us at Tractor Supply to see if we can get our old yellow truck started to pick it up. (Note: A Subaru Impreza hatchback is not large enough to transport an 8 chicken-sized coop, even unassembled.)

First thing Tuesday morning, The Baby, my brother and I will head over to Grace Brothers Nursery¬†to pick up the girls (which, despite its lackluster website is a great small business… and while we’re now closer to the North Royalton location I highly recommend anyone on the West side of Cleveland check out their urban farm shop on W. 65th.)

We’ll get some combination of the following breeds, selected for their temperament, hardiness, size, egg production and status (as available) as heritage/threatened breeds:

  • Golden Buffs (apparently a.k.a. Golden Comets or Red sexlinks, I think). This is a hybrid bird, and the sexlink means that female chicks are one color while males are another. They are bred to lay a lot of eggs.
  • Buff Orpingtons. These are extremely common, extremely big/puffy, and known in chicken circles as the “golden retriever of chickens” for their friendly, easygoing demeanor.
  • Dominiques. This is the breed I’m most excited about, as they are among the oldest American breeds, developed by some of the first European settlers to North America. Their barred black and white feathers provide camouflage against predators, they are extremely active foragers, very cold hardy and friendly. They’re also medium sized, I think about on-par with the Golden Buffs.
  • Silver-Laced Wyandottes. These are probably the showiest of our selection… check out those feathers. They’re big like the buff orpingtons and cold hardy, too. Perusing the chicken forums, I suspect these might have the greatest potential to be less friendly, but they’re still considered pretty easygoing and docile.

The chicks will spend about 6-8 weeks indoors getting bigger and growing feathers before they move out to their coop. I’m excited to see how The Toddler takes to them! (Don’t panic: No small children or dogs or cats will be left unattended with the flock. Handwashing precautions and kissing bans will be in place to prevent salmonella.)

So that’s the news in chickens.

With kids.

We still just have the one human kid (15 months old now. How?!) But in a week, we’ll be adding three literal kids to the family. Goat kids.

The Husband and I found three Nigerian Dwarf wethers (neutered males) available for sale from a lovely woman who lives in deep Amish Country, about an hour and a half south of us. We went to “interview” them a couple weeks ago and decided we had found the pets/weed eaters for us. They’re actually almost a year old, so maybe not kids much longer, but they’re super cute!

nigerdwarfgoat
Nigerian Dwarf goats. Ours have different coloring, but you get the idea. Cute! HoppingRabbit34 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons
No, we’re not doing dairy goats. I know we’re already teetering on “more than we can handle” territory and can’t imagine keeping up with milking, let alone having to breed regularly and deal with newborn kids. And no, despite our jokes and hypothetical talks last summer when this crazy idea first crossed our minds, we’re not raising them for meat. They’re going to eat all our poison ivy and wild roses and enjoy the sunshine and sleep in the barn.

What I’m most nervous about with goat ownership is parasite/worm control. There is definitely a learning curve, but the woman selling the goats has already been really helpful in sharing resources, and we’ve been doing a lot of research and reading on our own. There’s no greater teacher than experience, though, right?

So on Saturday, we’ll go get our little herd. Today we will be setting up the electric fence and finishing setting up their barn stall and outdoor shelter to keep them out of the rain. And finding a mouse-proof place to keep the goat pellets we bought that isn’t the dining room.

More on goats as the story develops.

And life is sweet.

beekeeper

Our smallest new charges will arrive by the thousands in April. This is the piece of the hobby farm pie I’m most nervous about, as it seems you need an advanced degree to keep up with all the maintenance and disease prevention, but we’re going to start beekeeping.

We’ve been taking classes with the Medina Beekeepers Association over the past month, learning about bee anatomy and hive dynamics and mites and pollen and honey. While it will be really nice to have fresh honey if it works out, I feel a moral duty to at least try to take on this task, as honey bees continue to die out and be threatened by insecticides and pesticides and mites.

I don’t have much more to say about beekeeping yet because I still have so much to figure out, but by late April we’ll have the hives installed, and if the weather conditions are right, we might be able to harvest a little honey by the end of the season.

So there you have it. Our little homestead is taking shape, and my days of reading books and folding laundry and freelancing will also be days of sweeping a coop, trimming hooves and checking hives. It’s going to be a big change for our family, and thus a big shift in topic matter for the blog. I hope you don’t mind. Stick around–if for nothing else than the many, many pictures of baby chickens I’ll inevitably post in the coming weeks.

 

 

Cooped up with kids (and life is sweet)