Easier or harder? Life as a mom of two

First week with two

Baby 2 is 9 days old and we’re deep in newborn territory. During my entire pregnancy, I found myself comparing Baby 1 and Baby 2, and of course, I continue to do so. I prowled pregnancy forums after Googling things like, “Gestation duration first baby vs. second,” “Linea nigra first pregnancy but not second,” etc.

I also hounded every mom of more than one kid I know to get her take on whether the second time around the block was easier than the first. (I got mixed messages, but usually “harder.”) So far I’ve found that it’s both easier and harder.

So in a quick recap of the last nine months, and the last five days, I thought I’d run down what has been harder, easier, or just wildly different about my first and second children, just in case it’s interesting fodder for another second time mom-to-be someday. (Of course, making no promises that your pregnancies or babies will be even remotely like mine.)

First Trimester

Harder.

My first trimester this time around was definitely harder. I had more in the way of morning sickness (still no vomiting, fortunately, but loads more nausea) and didn’t have the luxury of as much free time, as I was chasing around a 15-month old at the time.

On the bright(?) side, I didn’t have food aversions like I did the first time around, so I had no problem eating… or packing on some early pounds.

Second Trimester

Harder.

I felt pretty good during the second trimester, but having a toddler is still way more physically taxing on a pregnant body, even when you feel good. I know I spent a lot more time getting down and up from the floor with my second pregnancy than my first. And was far more worn out because of it.

Third Trimester

(Way, way harder.)

Same issues with toddler chasing and just not having as much free time to relax as I did when I was pregnant with the first baby. Because I wasn’t getting as much exercise, I avoided the hip bursitis I developed the first time around, but I also gained a little more weight, am two years older, and just generally more prone to joint pain. So by about 36 weeks with Baby 2, I felt immensely more pregnant than I did at the end of first baby’s pregnancy.

One night, after my least favorite midwife told me I had better “try spinning babies” because my baby *might* be sunny side up, I got fully stuck lying flat on my back with my feet propped up on the couch, both crying from the pain and laughing at how ridiculous I felt (and probably looked) as the husband gingerly tried to reposition me so I could get up. When my toddler threw stuff on the ground, it felt like a personal attack. Getting him down for a nap was torture.

Childbirth

Shorter, maybe a little easier? (Not less painful, to be clear.)

While the pain was just as unbelievably intense the second time around as the first, knowing just how hard it was going to get (and that there was an upper threshold, and that I could survive it) made labor and delivery a little easier this time around. Having a big tub of warm water to labor in was really nice, too. While my movement wasn’t restricted too much at the hospital I delivered Baby 1 at, I was grateful to have switched to the birthing center.

Also, I made clear that I didn’t want any sort of directed pushing, and letting my body guide the pace felt a lot more productive. I also avoided the tearing, as well as the burst blood vessels in my eyes and face, further indication that pushing this time around was far gentler on me than the first time.

Postpartum recovery (so far)

Easier and harder

I’m still a little achy, and having to take it easier than I’d like, but I feel pretty good overall. The Husband got me a FitBit for Christmas, and I’ve noticed if I exceed about 5,000 steps a day, I get sore and my bleeding picks back up.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to keep my feet up and relax with a two-year-old demanding our attention, even though The Husband is picking up all my slack these first few weeks. So while I left the hospital feeling better than I did, and other factors are considerably easier this time around, it’s way harder to rest as much as I should.

Breastfeeding

So much easier (thank heavens)

I had a really rough time with breastfeeding the first time around. I told the lactation consultant at the hospital this time that my first baby’s latch seemed infinitely stronger and more painful than Baby 2’s. She asked me if anyone had recommended chiropractic care/cranial sacral massage (no), that my first baby could have had a tight jaw from childbirth that made his latch so strong.

It was oddly disappointing to hear a potential solution for an issue that ended up causing me so much angst and pain; I wish I’d had that advice the first time around. But that’s neither here nor there now, as Baby 2 is latching perfectly, I have had no pain to speak of, and am optimistic that I’ll dodge most of the breastfeeding complications I remember from last time.

Sleep

Easier

When Baby 1 wouldn’t sleep without being held, The Husband and I struggled enormously with the decision to co-sleep. It was the only way to secure more than a couple broken hours of rest each night, and when I found myself nearly falling down the stairs carrying the baby one morning because I was so tired, we finally decided to go for it, as safely as we could.

Even so, I felt terribly guilty and ashamed. We were obviously prioritizing our own comfort over the baby’s safety. I wasn’t tough enough to do things the “right” way. We lied to our pediatrician. I endlessly fretted to my mom friends. I imagined our decision had doomed us to a years-long sentence of a kid sleeping in our bed, if he survived.

But you know what? It worked out fine for us. I got rest, we maintained an excellent breastfeeding relationship, and before Baby 1 was a year old, he was sleeping in his own crib, in his own room, just fine.

So this time around, after the first night in the hospital when The Husband and I took two-hour shifts holding Baby 2 while the other slept, because he wouldn’t stay asleep in his bassinet, I unceremoniously brought him to our (again, set up as safely as possible) bed. Every night since, I’ve averaged (again, thanks to FitBit data) at least 6.5 hours of sleep each night. It’s way harder to “sleep when the baby sleeps” with a toddler in the house, so this has been vital for my well-being (and thus my ability to care for both kids).

I’m not saying cosleeping is right for everyone. If your baby sleeps fine alone, and/or you function all right on very little sleep, the bassinet is probably the better choice. But bedsharing is working out for our family, and I’m not remotely ashamed of our decision this time around.

Keeping Up with Milestones and Traditions

Harder, of course

With Baby 1, I diligently took week-by-week photos, had already half filled out his baby book, and was glued to his side watching for every first (first smile! first diaper blowout!) I also had knitted a baby blanket that was finished by the time I hit my third trimester. I had birth announcements pre-designed and plenty of time to set up a photo shoot in the week after we came home.

Of course, this time around, I finished the baby blanket the day I went into labor (and frankly, I cut it off a little early so it’s more of a wide baby scarf), the baby book remains untouched, and my monitoring of firsts is far less precise. My house is too messy to take photos for a birth announcement I have considered only in theory.

That’s just how it goes when there are two kids. And while I’m getting in as much snuggle time as I can with Baby 2, I am often simultaneously building with blocks or reading books to The Toddler. My days are fuller, and while I honestly couldn’t conceive of it before Baby 2 arrived, my heart is fuller, too. Things are harder, but I’m happier.

Easier or harder? Life as a mom of two

Hey new mom: Neglecting yourself? Schedule a photo shoot.

Blah blah blah, it’s been awhile. As I mentioned in my last post (and like every post, because I like to complain-brag about being the busiest mom everrrrr, even though I’m not, and complaining about busyness as a mark of superiority is just about the worst)… I’ve been hustling. Writing freelance articles. Babysitting once a week for a friend. Painting the living room. Clearing away storm damage. Flossing, occasionally. Fantasizing the plot to the novel I’ll never write write someday. Oh yeah, and coparenting The Baby with my superhuman husband.

So let’s skip over that part where I whine about not having enough time to blog and just check in about more interesting things.

Mandated self care

I’ve been following a local (we’re nearly neighbors) photographer on Instagram for awhile and scheduled a mini session for last weekend, something I’ve been wanting to do for months, which meant I had to address the growing list of sad, new mom atrocities going on with my personal appearance.

I schlepped The Baby out to Old Navy for a quick low-budget shopping session, as my day-to-day uniform, without fail, is a stretched-out V-neck tee from Target with a pair of shorts. Or jeans, if it’s not 80 degrees out. Or workout pants, if I’m taking a walk.  Since becoming a WAHM, my wardrobe has shrunken considerably and nothing I had was up to the task of making me look autumnal, maternal and sophisticated enough to warrant the cash we were shelling out to capture this moment in our life.

I wound up getting a dress, a cozy cardigan, and (of course) a baby sweater and pants.

Old Navy floral cami dress
This dress.

I also got my first haircut in 11 months. The previous salon encounter was a week or so before my baby shower. I was teetering into “enormously pregnant” territory and ended up getting a bob, which I opted for because my hair was greasy AF from pregnancy hormones. This time around, I left it long because it stays ponytailed at all times lest I lose it by the handfuls to my grabby, grabby monster baby.

Being really awkward at haircuts is sort of my thing. I get them really infrequently so I never have a go-to hairstylist to catch up with, I know nothing about hairstyles so my description of what I want is usually unhelpfully vague (and generally limited to an angled bob, or the light trimming of a very long, grown out bob), and I do almost nothing to help move the conversation along.

I’ll answer any question I’m asked, but it always feels weirdly intrusive to ask questions of the person I’m paying to groom me, so the usual back-and-forth of a conversation ends up being a lopsided exchange that fades into awkward silence. Helpful hint for fellow awkwards: Just have a baby, and get a stylist who also has children. The only lull in conversation this time around happened when she was blowdrying my hair.

I didn’t even feel particularly embarrassed to discover I had grey primer (wall primer, not makeup) on my face as I checked out my new (very conservative trim of a) haircut. Because motherhood makes it easy to utterly give up puts everything into perspective.

Finally, for the first time since a friend’s wedding last June, I painted my nails. (I was pretty paranoid about chemicals during pregnancy, so other than that one time, I didn’t bother. Also, I almost never bother to begin with.)

sad-manicure
My manicure as of yesterday, because the house painting never ends.

Yeah, this is about as low of a bar as I could hurdle in terms of personal grooming, but it’s higher than the bar I’ve set for myself for many months now, so I consider it a success.

So, new moms if you’ve been neglecting yourself terribly, put a non-refundable deposit down on a family photo shoot. You’ll take care of yourself if the alternative is spending money to forever memorialize your frizzy split ends, stained shirts and unibrow!

That’s it for tonight. The Baby is turning nine months old in a few days (what?!) I will be back soon, if for no other reason than to report back on how many babies he succeeded in poking in the eyes at tomorrow’s lap-sit story time at the library.

lilly-handmade-chocolates
People watching and eating some chocolate

Oh! One quick P.S. The Husband, The Baby and I traveled up to our old neighborhood to have brunch and indulge in a little wine and chocolate, c/o a raffle we won for donating to a friend’s Kickstarter. So there was some legitimate, non-mandated self care in there, too. Don’t forget to make time for eggs baked in cream, truffles and a stroll through your favorite city.

Hey new mom: Neglecting yourself? Schedule a photo shoot.

Ask a New Mom: Part Three

It’s the third and final installment of my Ask A Mom series with Melissa from I Crashed the web. If you missed the first two parts, find them here and here. (You can also read the corresponding blog posts where I answer many of the same questions over at Melissa’s blog: Part 1 and Part 2).

I started watching a third friend’s baby on Wednesdays, sometimes at my house and sometimes at her house. This friend had her baby 10 days after mine, and she is a former neighbor, so it’s been nice to get out of the house and back to my old neighborhood once every other week, even if it means I’m soaked with sweat and almost literally juggling two babies. Parents of twins–hell, parents of more than one kid–I don’t know how you do it, and I don’t know how I’ll do it if we end up there. I adore my small charge, and it’s so fun to see the two boys interacting, but I am practically comatose after the day with the two of them. I’m not sure how people do it day in and day out.

What does this have to do with Melissa, you ask?

Well, friends, Melissa is a downtown Clevelander and has met me twice now to walk the babies around the Ohio City neighborhood after she shops the West Side Market. I’ve taken to scheduling a long walk during morning naps (The Baby usually naps twice, briefly, on babysitting days). I hold The Baby in the carrier and push the stroller with The Friend’s Baby. I get an hour and a half’s walk in the city and they get a good snooze. See why I get so sweaty?

Walking buddies!

Really, though, it’s been amazing to get catch up time with Melissa. Her baby is getting so big and squishy, and we get to talk about life and motherhood and exchange war stories and advice. For this third and final installment of Ask A New Mom with Melissa, we’re getting deep. Enjoy!

melissa-i-crashed-the-web
A recent shot of the beautiful Melissa with FW, whose little jelly belly I want to tickle real bad.

Part Three: Parenting philosophy and self reflection

How would you describe your approach to parenthood so far? Do you think it parallels your approach to life pre-baby, or has it been a major shift for you? 

My approach to parenthood so far has been as follows: Flexibility. I’m a semi-type A person and not in that I plan every detail – but more that I love having my to-do list and checking things off of it. I thrive on productivity and am not content just sitting still. (Just ask my husband – I’m the worst Netflix binge watcher and get antsy after 1-2 episodes) This has changed since becoming pregnant and now with the baby. I’ve had to realize that I probably won’t get everything done on my daily to-do list, because frankly, it’s out of my control. Fussy baby from 3-7 pm? The chances of me making dinner goes down significantly. Cluster feeding baby from 6 pm till midnight? The chances of me leaving the couch and writing a blog post (I’m still getting used to breastfeeding and haven’t quite mastered the one-handed feed) are slim to none. And that’s okay. So how is a to-do list person supposed to adapt? I still make my lists, but now I have a weekly list and prioritize one thing in a day. And these are small tasks, like “do laundry,” “buy stamps,” “write thank you card for X,” etc. This way if I have one of those days where I end up having to binge watch Sex & The City for 3 hours while FW feasts (Seasons 4 and 5 are too relatable now for me), at least I know I have the next day to get something done.

What is something you’re super proud of about your approach to parenthood so far?

I’m really proud that I haven’t let FW change too much of my “normal” life and change me. Since we brought him home, while of course our lives have changed a lot, there is still have sense of normalcy. I still bake (somewhat). I still blog. I’m back running (somewhat). I’m still showering daily (but kudos to you moms who don’t shower daily – I’ve always been a person that HAS to shower…I took 2 today!). I also haven’t let him keep me homebound – within the first week or so we took him to Coastal Taco for our first lunch out. Nearly every Friday night, B and I go out for a happy hour beer to celebrate the weekend. We went out for beers and dinner tonight on E 4th to celebrate B’s brother’s birthday. He’s really been all around downtown. These are all things that keep me sane – they make me, me. I’m not saying that all moms should make sure to leave the house daily, go for runs, go out to restaurants, etc. Do what you’re comfortable doing – but do what makes you feel like YOU.

I haven’t lost my identity since becoming a mom – I’m still me, just me as FW’s mom.

A mindset I’ve adopted that I’m proud of is giving myself ONE thing to do each day to help me feel like me. Whether that’s making sure I shower, telling myself we’re going to go for a walk, or just having one sit down meal, I try to do one thing to help me feel sane.

Confess without shame: What’s one thing you’ve screwed up as a mom so far?

Not letting the baby sleep! The first few weeks I did not realize that FW should be sleeping nearly all day. Honestly, I thought he was just cranky and not tired. So, I mistakenly overstimulated him. We went for 2-3 walks/day, played with his playmat, read books, etc. By 3 or 4 pm, he was super cranky and I didn’t know why. Well, now I know – he was tired and couldn’t get himself to sleep! Now I make sure or at least try to get him swaddled and in his crib 1-2 times a day for a nap. It’s not nearly enough, but he’s much happier when he has slept.

What is something your husband is really good at, dad-wise?

Honestly? Nearly everything. B has excelled at bottle feeding FW, carrying him, bathing him (something I still haven’t done…whoops!), and being my support system. I’m so lucky – he is much more of a natural than I ever could have imagined and I’m so grateful that he is around. He was off for two weeks when I gave birth and it definitely made the transition that much easier.

Have you read any parenting books? Any recommendations? Any discussion about how they make you feel like drinking because you’re clearly failing?

I have two books that go through infant development the first few years- does that count? And unfortunately I haven’t read much of them. I haven’t gotten the hang of reading while holding or feeding a baby yet … maybe that’s a good thing so I can just drink and not feel like I’m failing?

You had a bunch of friends have babies right before you did. How do you think this affected your own experience/approach to pregnancy and early motherhood?

I am so so so so so so so so (etc) lucky to have friends have babies right before me. I have been able to learn from them about pregnancy and childbirth and now motherhood and it has been so great to have people to talk to and know what I’m going through. I didn’t know much about pregnancy and childbirth and postpartum life (breastfeeding, raising babies, healing your body, sleepless nights, etc.). I feel like we don’t talk much about it as a society and I was clueless – until I had friends going through the same thing. Yes, we’re all different and experience everything differently, but it’s nice not to feel alone or too surprised by anything!

This was so much fun! Don’t forget to head over to her blog to see my own answers to some of these questions (and if you’re still expecting, here’s a great post on unexpected essentials for new moms.)

Ask a New Mom: Part Three

Ask A New Mom: Part 2 with Melissa at I Crashed the Web

Last week I kicked off a series of interviews with old friend, new mom (and fellow blogger, though fellow implies we are equals and she is way better and more prolific than I am in this sense) Melissa.

Melissa and I (and two of our other new-mom friends)  have been texting back and forth about new mom problems (#momprobs?) the past week or two, and they have centered mainly around sleep. Yes, the thing that is incredibly boring for people to read about if they’re not in it, but the thing that has more power over your life than almost any other element of parenthood. Of the four babies I know, one is still a newborn with erratic and unpredictable sleep (Melissa’s); the only girl of the pack, formerly a through-the-night unicorn who merely flirted with daytime naps, is now waking up to “chill” several times a night at five months old; one has been successfully Ferberized and wakes up a few times a night to eat but goes down easy — and naps up to four times a day still at almost eight months; and one, my one, is sleeping 11-12 hours a night and has decided this week that one nap is plenty for him, thanks.

Or at least, this is what I decided is happening yesterday after reading from my own personal advice column/bible Advice Smackdown on AlphaMom.

Here’s an adorable picture I took of how he sleeps now. You know, once a day, if I’m lucky. Everyone keep your fingers crossed I find time to shower today!

Child's pose
Child’s pose… *that’s* why they call it that.

Anyway, here are a few more Q&As from her present, my distant past, on newborn life.

Here’s part two, with Melissa from I Crashed the Web.

melissa-family
Melissa, her husband B, and baby FW enjoying Cleveland Pride at Public Square.

ASK A MOM: MELISSA AT I CRASHED THE WEB

Part Two: The Newborn Life

Development/growing check-in: How old is FW right now, and what’s he up to?

FW is 6 weeks!

[Update: He’s like 9 weeks now. I hope Melissa will update us in the comments with what 9 weeks is like, but I wanted to commemorate the 6-week-old FW in this post since that’s still very newborn.]

He’s probably in the middle of another growth spurt (he’s eating, sleeping and crying a lot) but when he’s awake and not cranky he is enjoying his playmat and his bouncy chair. He likes his pacifier and most of the time likes when I sing to him. He has started smiling, which is a ton of fun (and don’t tell me it’s just gas) and he loves looking in the mirror.

You’re in the middle of maternity leave. How are you feeling? What are you thinking about as going back to work draws nearer?

It is a bittersweet feeling – I’m finally feeling like FW and I are bonding and we’re getting in the groove of things together but now we’re more than halfway through! I know that going back to work will be good for both of us, but it’s something I can’t think about now without getting a little choked up. I am just trying to enjoy every minute of my days with FW!

Newborns are scary! What was hardest for you to get the hang of: Diapers, clothes changes, baths, breastfeeding…?

Baths. They scare me. In fact, I haven’t given FW one yet- no, he’s not a stinky baby, it’s just become “father-son bonding time” (really so I don’t have to do it. I hope B isn’t reading this and catching on…).

Thanks again to to Melissa for letting me grill her. Don’t forget to head over to her blog to see my own answers to some of these questions (and then go find out WTF Freekeh is and make yourself some curry!) And tune in next Friday for the final part of this interview series – Part Three: Parenting philosophy and self reflection.

Ask A New Mom: Part 2 with Melissa at I Crashed the Web

The first seasons of motherhood

Seasons of Motherhood

For the first time in weeks, the windows are open and a cool-ish breeze sways the wind chime over our kitchen sink. The apples and pears are beginning to ripen on the trees. School is back in session. The familiar nostalgia of this time of year is particularly strong today.

It’s not autumn by the calendar, but all signs are pointing toward the end of summer. My first summer as a mother. My third season as a mother.

The Baby will be eight months old this week. I look back at photos of him from just a half a year ago and he is so transformed from the wrinkly skinned, thin-legged newborn that it’s almost unbelievable. While the same spirit of exuberance and indomitability has shone through him every day of his existence, he is so, so different now than he was last week, last month.

The same goes for me. I am by many measures the same person I was on Christmas Eve, dogged by nerves and striving to do my best; craving reassurance and order and also inexplicably willing to jump with both feet into the unknown. But by so many other measures, I am unrecognizable to myself eight months ago.

Because each second of parenthood feels so ethereal as it passes, I want to document the road this far before the fog thickens any further.

Winter

You are so fragile. You are so insistent. Your size is almost unbelievable. You are like a fingerprint under magnification–impossibly complex for the space you occupy. You are like a bird, a butterfly, fragile and fluttering. And you are mighty, howling.

I am tentative, battered. My heart is a raw beating thing that feels both fiercer and more uncertain than it has before, than I knew it could. I learn finally what instinct means, and I go by it. Some days, it is all I go by.

I am bleeding, lactating, hesitating, rocking, singing, gasping, crying for joy and crying from pain and crying for reasons too complicated to dwell on.

I am tired. I am soaring.

This is the first winter I don’t mind the long hours of darkness. We three huddle together against the world and learn how to be a family.

Spring

Our life is is a tumult of boxes, decisions.

You are enjoying the world. You are still small, but with each stretch and kick you are gaining strength. You laugh, marveling.

Motherhood starts to feel less like stumbling and more like dancing.

You lead.

I am stretching out, daring a little further. We take walks as the leaves unfurl. I pack up my old life in more ways than one. I am stepping into a new vocation.

Our days are a series of experiments in nonverbal communication. I am talking to you in public, feeling sometimes as though I am talking to myself. I am still learning. Misunderstanding your cues. Are you tired? Are you hungry? Hot, cold, bored? The signals grow clearer or I get more adept.

You light up the faces of the people who held your parents as infants. Some of those people die. You give us joy in our grief.

The water in the pond warms and we feed the fish. Their fins glimmer in the sunlight. You reach for bread crusts.

Summer

Our new home begins to take shape around your days.

We sweat. It is hot, hard work to make our house a safe place for you.

The cicadas wake up from a long, long sleep and the soundtrack to your first summer is a cacophony of humming–a frenzy of life. After they retreat, it is crickets and tree frogs. A nest of hungry wrens peeping for grubs.

I feel maternal in every direction, feed the fledglings smashed ants with tweezers while I carry you on my back. Find that during your nap they have flown the nest.

Your hometown celebrates its first victory in my lifetime (and, of course, in yours). This does not interest you. You have your own pursuits.

The work you’ve been doing your whole life to set yourself into motion begins to accelerate. Your back straightens, and you are sitting upright. You reach for everything you want. My hair twines around your fingers. My dinner ends up in your mouth. Your curiosity is bottomless as your bottom teeth grow in. Then the top. Then more.

From sitting, you crawl, from crawling, you stand. You are a tightrope walker. I am the net, and also the anxious onlooker, astonished by your daring and amazed by your skill.

You babble, you guffaw, you play peekaboo and you impel us to chase you.

I noticed today your knees are getting rough from crawling. Your impossibly soft skin will continue to accumulate calluses and bruises and cuts and scrapes as you amble on into your place in this world.

My heart will carry, too, each bruise and cut and scrape. But not the calluses.

 

The first seasons of motherhood

Weekend warrior and half a year…

It’s been a busy week at the TLMB compound, and the only time I’m finding to blog is while rocking a napping, teething baby, so forgive the stream of consciousness/lack of a clear thesis to this post. In no particular order, some updates:

The Baby turned six months old on Saturday!

He is *eating solids. He is scooting across the floor toward anything (cords, table legs, dog toys) he thinks he might be able to put his mouth on. He is picking up the main concept behind playing peekaboo. He has endured another round of shots and he has cut two teeth. My tiny baby is careening headlong into toddlerhood and I am just trying to keep up without my heart breaking/bursting. This wasn’t the only.milestone we hit since my last post. In fact…

*Mostly smearing on his head/massaging into his hands and arms like lotion.

My marriage turned six years old on Friday!

My dear husband brought home a bouquet of flowers and we celebrated by driving up to our old neighborhood in Cleveland, eating some of the best bakery in the universe, having a beer at Nano Brewery while The Baby slept in his carrier, and then going home and tearing the carpets out of our hallway and The Baby’s room. It may not be super romantic, but it reinforces the fact that The Husband and I make an amazing team. Which is critical right now, because…

The home improvement saga continues

We’ve been trying to make some urgent upgrades to our house (formerly my grandparents’ house) since we moved here in April. Most pressing has been replacing the 30-year-old shag carpet that resembles a basset hound’s back in its wrinkles. With The Baby making it clear he will never again remain where I put him down on the floor, we chose this past weekend to go for the hallway and his room. (We had someone else do our living room, kitchen and pantry a few weeks ago, but committed to doing the rest of it ourselves.) I actually really like doing this kind of DIY, but the corners and closets are awful. We also painted both rooms while we had the subfloor exposed. Last night when we finally moved the furniture vack into The Baby’s room it felt wonderful to be so nearly done with this project. But it’s just one of many projects, the craziest and next one being…

We’re getting goats?!?!

It sounds like a very bad idea, but the overgrown flowerbeds and yard around our house are brimming with poison ivy, brambles and wild garlic to such a degree that getting goats has become the most timely, affordable and eco-friendly way to solve this problem. The property has a barn (currently stuffed almost literally to the rafters with broken lawnmowers) that we’re tricking our friends into helping us clear out a bit. Then we’re charging full steam ahead into acquiring some goats. I am still in disbelief that I’m doing this, but that’s sort of how I felt about parenthood, so…it will be fine? Stay tuned.

A final note of congrats…

My good friend and way better blogger Melissa became a mom last week! I’m so excited to meet her little guy and hear how her birth went. Check out her post (and blog in general… especially if you love food and running and Cleveland.)

How’s your summer going? Any tips for new goat owners? Any tips for new crawlers? Any suggestions for what beer I should buy myself to deal with all this?

Weekend warrior and half a year…

Weeknight Meal Weds: Black Bean Burgers

Weeknight meal for new moms: black bean burgersFinally, the return of my extremely popular not-really-recipes food series for haggard new parents. I hope you all weren’t starving in the meantime!

Kind of a good-news/bad-news situation here.

The bad news: This is varsity-level effort for new parents. Something I’d recommend you work on during a Sunday afternoon while you have some extra help with the baby. (What can I say? I never thought the day would arrive, but it does start to get easier to cook when your baby can crawl under the couch entertain himself on the floor for awhile.)

The good news: Make a batch of these, pop them in the freezer and you can have several easy weeknight meals. The other good news: They’re super healthy and really tasty. The other other good news: This is a baby led weaning-friendly recipe.

The other bad news: This is a great example of what I refer to as “improv cooking” which means I didn’t measure anything and used leftovers in the recipe, so… good luck. Be creative. You’ll be fine. I adapted my recipe from the Pioneer Woman who clearly pays closer attention to her cooking than I do (and has stronger forearms and/or forks).

Black Bean Burgers (Good Enough for Baby)

Ingredients

  • About 1.5 cups of cooked black beans (If you’re feeding this to your baby, cook the beans yourself so you know there’s no added sodium, as babies can’t have salt and canned beans are super salty.)
  • 3-4 slices of bread (check the sodium content in your bread, too)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small onion
  • About a half cup of leftover mashed potatoes (optional)
  • 1 small beet
  • Dried herbs of your choice – I used oregano and thyme
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic powder or chopped fresh garlic
  • Kosher salt (just for your portions)

If you’re eating the burgers tonight, you’ll also need

  • Washed baby spinach
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Hamburger buns
  • Mustard, ketchup, etc.

Instructions

Black beans

Drain your cooked black beans. Don’t rinse them. (If you’re using canned beans, remember this probably isn’t a good BLW meal, because of salt.)

mash black beans

Mash them up in a bowl so they’re still chunky but smashed enough to stick together well. The Pioneer Woman used a fork but I guess my arms aren’t strong enough for that.

DIY breadcrumbs

Meanwhile, toast some bread. I used four pieces of whole wheat bread, but three of them were butts. Making your own bread crumbs is another good way to control salt, but if you can find low sodium breadcrumbs (and I’m leaving it entirely in your hands to do your BLW/sodium research), skip this step. (If you don’t like the state of my toaster oven, you should see my office hahahaha someone please come clean my house.)

breadcrumb grind

Let your toast cool off a few minutes so it doesn’t steam up, then grind it up in a food processor/bullet/etc.

black bean burger mix

Add to your black beans: The breadcrumbs, the herbs and garlic, a half teaspoon or so of chili powder (The Baby seems to like a little spice, but I didn’t go nuts on this recipe), the egg, a shredded small beet and a shredded small onion, and if you have it, some leftover mashed potatoes. (Mine had sauteed onion, zucchini and peas in it from some zucchini boats I made the night before. Salt reminder goes here.)

mixed black bean burger

Mix well and let sit for a bit. (The beets make it look like bloody red meat a little, don’t they?)

salt and blw

If you’re giving some to baby, pull out a portion to leave unsalted, then add kosher salt to yours.

burgers sizzling

Heat a cast iron skillet and add a little canola oil (I also used some butter – aim for unsalted, said the broken record.) I’m getting used to a new stove (backdoor brag) so I got the pan a little too hot. Don’t be like me. Cook your burgers thoroughly on both sides. If you’re planning to freeze any, turn the heat down so they’re good and cooked but not super browned.

black bean burgers dressed

To serve, melt some cheese on your burger, then put it on a bun (or two pieces of bread if you’re improv cooking and don’t believe in grocery lists). Add mustard and baby spinach and enjoy.

baby's black bean burger

Here’s The Baby’s portion. The cheese helped hold it together a little, and because I was cautious about how much salt was in the burger itself (and he didn’t have anything else with salt in it that day) I didn’t feel nervous giving him any.

freeze black bean burgers

I froze the leftover portions first on a cookie sheet then wrapped them up and put them in a freezer bag. I’ll just turn the pan on nice and low and cook them from frozen the next time we eat them.

Bon apetit, my dear mamas. I know this is a more time-consuming recipe, so if you can’t pull it together, may I offer an alternative *recipe from my earlier days:

3 string cheeses, eaten on the couch while nursing. Three heaping tablespoons of frozen yogurt, eaten in front of the refrigerator. No more than two high fiber cereal bars, eaten in front of the computer while the baby naps. One very well-earned bottle of your favorite IPA.

*Not suitable for BLW.

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Weeknight Meal Weds: Black Bean Burgers

Baby led weaning, indeed!

adventures in baby led weaningI hadn’t heard about Baby Led Weaning until I was pregnant and a friend asked if I planned to try it, but once I started reading about it, I was committed. It makes a lot of sense to me that babies should be given lots of variety, and the agency to decide what they want to eat and how much of it. As someone who was fed purees as a baby and grew into a kid who didn’t eat anything but peanut butter and jelly, mashed potatoes and chicken nuggets until basically college, I wanted to give The Baby every opportunity to start off on the right foot with food.

When I explained to my mom what BLW was, you’d have thought I was explaining how I was going to feed The Baby lit firecrackers and broken glass. When she was raising kids, purees were the only way to go because choking.  (As the BLW book explains, gagging ≠ choking, and babies gag easily and regularly as they figure out how to manipulate food in their mouths. As long as you’re supervising and not giving them nuts, whole grapes or other obvious choking hazards, they’re going to be fine.)

And while my mom still is adorably cautious about the whole ordeal (she peeled cherries for The Baby and then proceeded to cut them into pieces about the size of a small booger), I think at this point her delight in The Baby’s messy, exuberant dinners has diminished her fears about having to rescue him from a too-big piece of food.

This all started about a week ago. Although The Baby has been advancing pretty rapidly developmentally, sitting up with very little assistance needed, putting anything in sight in his mouth and gnawing on it with his gums, everything I’ve read has said not to start BLW until baby hits the six month mark, that any earlier than that is just too early for the baby’s digestive system and can up the risk for choking.

But I was holding a fussy The Baby at the dinner table during family dinner on Sunday, trying to finish up my corn on the cob so we could get him to bed, when he grabbed the other end of the corn cob and started chewing and sucking on it with the determination of a starving dog.

After that, The Husband and I tiptoed around the fact that this particular baby was leading us headlong into a new phase, trying to stick to the 6-month recommendation. The Husband would surreptitiously let the baby suck on the bitten side of a whole apple; I’d offer a chunk of banana in the mornings after TH left for work. Finally, unceremoniously, we gave in and started offering food on the regular. Each day The Baby has tried something new, and each day he has impressed us with his enthusiasm for whatever’s on the table (and his capacity for making a gigantic, gigantic mess.)

Here’s a short list of things The Baby has *eaten so far during his short but promising career:

  1. Corn on the cob
  2. Apple
  3. Banana
  4. Toast fingers with apple butter
  5. Cheddar cheese
  6. Mushrooms, beet greens and carrots out of a tomato-based soup
  7. Broccoli
  8. Penne pasta with broccoli and chicken
  9. Roasted potato
  10. Asparagus
  11. Roasted green beans
  12. An assortment of Indian food on naan
  13. Watermelon
  14. Peaches
  15. Frittata with spinach, onion and cheese
  16. Roasted sweet potato fingers
  17. Rice with sweet potato and chick peas mixed in
  18. Cucumber sticks
  19. A taste of mom & dad’s morning smoothies (usually beets, bananas, blueberries, spinach and almond milk)

So far, he hasn’t outright rejected anything, though the texture of cheddar cheese threw him a bit, and the tartness of some fruits makes him go a little walleyed. I’m really happy we opted to go this route and can’t wait to continue exploring new tastes and textures with my favorite little gourmand.

As a bonus, his eating our dinners has forced me to step back toward healthier meals from my exhausted and defeated approaches to dinner in the recent past. Someday soon I’ll revisit Weeknight Meal Wednesdays with a BLW-friendly meal.

Join the conversation: Did you go the BLW route? What were some of your baby’s favorite foods? Any tips for someone just starting off?

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Baby led weaning, indeed!

A New Mom’s Summer Reading List

summer reading

I was one of those kids who wiled away a lot of my summers at the library or with my nose in a book in any number of beautiful summer settings – treehouses, porches, tents. (To be perfectly honest, I also squandered much of my summer days in front of the TV. I grew up in the ’90s, after all.)

Anyway, one positive change I’ve been able to adopt somehow during the process of moving to a jungle-like old farm with a baby is reading more. I credit most of this to the fact that The Baby is still sleeping in our bed at night (shut. up.) and I can get about two 40 minute stretches of staying awake time before he really can’t go back to sleep without me. With daylight pressing through the curtains at 9 p.m., I’ve got some time to kill before I can fall asleep, and reading feels more soul-nourishing than endlessly scrolling through my phone. Plus, writing more (blogging) makes me want to read more, and reading motivates me to write more.

While I love reading, I’ve never been very good at keeping track of what I’ve read, the authors I I like, or what I want to read next. So to propel me to a more successful next library trip, I thought I’d do a rundown of what I’ve read over the past few months.

Before I get to the list, a small item of blogkeeping: I made a Facebook page for TLMB! I figure there’s no quicker way to lose Facebook friends (especially the dude variety) than incessant posting about things like childbirth and baby poop. So instead, people who like reading about childbirth and baby poop (ya weirdos) can follow me here. If you’re a regular reader and on Facebook, won’t you do me a solid and like my page? Leave me a comment below if you are a fellow mommy blogger with a Facebook page and I’ll happily return the favor. Thanks, friend.

Okay, onto the book list.

TLMB Moms Summer Reading List

What I’ve loved, and what to skip

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

This was my first foray back into reading after the birth of The Baby. Nothing like reading about post-apocalyptic, gut-wrenching loneliness to cure the baby blues, am I right? Really, though, I loved this book, and if one can find hope after the apocalypse, can’t one find hope that breastfeeding will eventually stop feeling like nursing a baby crocodile? The writing was beautiful, and while I did wake up The Husband because I was sobbing during one particularly sad scene, I woke him up because I was reading really late into the night because I could not put it down.

5 stars.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Have you heard of this book? Of course you have. No, I haven’t seen the movie yet. Yes, I know I am way behind on Oprah’s book list. Honestly I finally decided to read this book because I binge-listened to Cheryl’s podcast (along with Steve Almond, whom I’ve also never read) Dear Sugar, and while it is way more earnest, almost uncomfortably so, than any other podcast I listen to, they do have a seductive way with words and I decided I finally needed to read for myself about Cheryl’s heroin binge. This is another tearjerker, and while sometimes I find myself resisting the urge to eyeroll when Cheryl describes how she got a tattoo with her ex-husband to commemorate their marriage/divorce or how she chooses her new last name (come on), the earnestness I caught on her podcast is the same earnestness and committed jumping-in-head-first approach to life that makes her story so compelling. If you’re like me and haven’t read this yet, it’s worth crawling out from under your rock to check it out.

4 stars.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Okay. I’m starting to sense a pattern I didn’t notice before. I have been bellying up to books that are seemingly way too sad. Books I actively avoided because of their obvious ties to loss. After my pregnancy loss and throughout my pregnancy I couldn’t think about sad things because I didn’t think I was strong enough to handle them, and I didn’t want to even acknowledge that sad things happen. I guess I’m stronger now. Anyway, this has been my favorite book of the summer so far, in spite of the fact that the shortest description I can offer you is, “Kid’s dad died in 9/11. His grandma was a survivor of the WWII Dresden fire bombing. Adventure!” I really loved this book, though. And I only cried a little.

5 stars.

Girl Walks Into a Bar by Rachel Dratch

I love Rachel Dratch. Most recently I’ve loved her small part in Broad City. And yes, like the rest of America, I wondered with some chagrin at what happened to her after SNL. The beginning parts of this book felt very similar to Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please! (which I am just now remembering I also read… I love Amy, but this book didn’t hold a candle to Bossypants and is best reserved for an easy beach read… uh, 3 stars). Anyway, lots of “this is how my early comedy career went down” stuff, but when she gets into trying to date in her late 30s, the book gets better. I’m really glad I didn’t do any research on her or this book before I picked it up, because it was a really fun surprise (sorry, spoiler, but it’s in the GoodReads synopsis) that she became unexpectedly pregnant and had a baby! Yay, surprise mom book! Anyway, Rachel and Amy both fall short of Tina in their ability to move me or feel particularly insightful, but they are funny and charming and I will always root for them.

3.5 stars

It Sucked and then I Cried by Heather Armstrong

I picked this book up at the library because it sounded familiar, then I remembered I have been a sporadic reader of Heather’s blog, dooce.com, for awhile. I decided to read it with the embarrassingly aspirational perspective of a new and not particularly successful blogger who (though I will deny it to my ever-encouraging mother) will not die happy unless I publish a book. I like Heather’s blog. I think she’s really funny. Her book felt…like a bunch of blog posts. Like it could have used a lot more tightening up and thoughtful editing. Um, I didn’t even bother finishing it. I’m not trying to be a jerk, and yes, she’s the published blogger, but it made me feel reassured that I could write a book someday if she pulled it off. God, I’m a jerk. But meh.

2.5 stars

On that sour-grapesy sounding note, I will close for now. But I plan to do this every few weeks so you can keep up with my literary escapades. On my nightstand now: Baby Led Weaning (of course), The No-Cry Sleep Solution (also of course), Cannery Row (took a stack of my high school summer reading books from my childhood bedroom) and A Doubter’s Almanac, another random library pick-up that sounded pretty good.

What are you reading this summer? Anything I should pick up during my next library trip? (Parenting books, really sad novels (I guess), memoirs and classics I likely never picked up are all welcome suggestions.)

One last quick reminder to find me on Facebook and click the little pink picture below if you’re picking up what I’m putting down.

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A New Mom’s Summer Reading List

First Father’s Day Card from The Baby

DIY Father's Day Card from the BabyI’ve been meaning to share this craft since last weekend, but life got in the way again. It was The Husband’s birthday last weekend, and The Baby and I decided to make him a birthday card. I love how it turned out, and it was easy and fun to make, so I thought I’d share it with the wider momosphere in time for Father’s Day.

The Baby has been a kicking machine since he can-canned his way out into this world. He’s one of those babies who prefers to stand assisted on your lap than to sit. As I’ve mentioned before, his nickname is Kickpuncher because of all his flailing.

This craft actually first emerged on Mother’s Day, when I woke up early in the morning and tried it out on a pair of canvas totes for both of The Baby’s grandmothers. My tactics got a little more refined for this birthday card, but the essential formula is:

paint + kicking baby feet + surface = awesome abstract art

DIY First Father’s Day Card from the Baby

Materials

  • Watercolor paper
  • Non-toxic paints
  • Masking tape
  • Sponge brush or other paint mixing tool
  • A big piece of cardboard or wide, shallow box
  • A large container to use as a palette – even big paper plates work
  • Dish tub or other baby-sized bucket
  • Old towels and old wash cloth
  • Baby soap
  • Blank card and envelope
  • A helper or a place to put baby where he can’t reach his feet
  • Mod Podge

Instructions

Take some time to prep. This is best done outdoors or on a floor you can wash up quickly (obviously, avoid carpeting.) Put on some old clothes, strip The Baby down to his diaper and let him play nearby while you set up.

Lay out the cardboard or box and tape a few pieces of watercolor paper to it. You can also use the masking tape to mask off some parts of the paper to make a decoration.

20160527_112822
Tape your paper to the cardboard.

Fill the dish tub/baby tub with warm water and add a few squirts of baby soap.

Pick your paints. I used acrylic because it’s what I had on hand and it says on the bottle it’s non-toxic, but do your own research. Tempera paint is probably better. I like to hold up two paints and let The Baby pick his favorite. I squirt out some of this color onto my palette (I used big paper plates for the Mother’s Day craft and that worked really well; I couldn’t find them so I used bread pans for this one. The Baby has monster feet so this was kind of tough.) Anyway, for the Father’s Day card, I cut in some white to whatever color he chose, but only with about half the paint, to give it some variation. The picture below is just the tinted paint, but in the other half of the pan I squirted just the red, so he’d basically get a foot with each color. You can also do two similar colors (red and orange, say) in one go.

paint palette
Paint palette with The Baby’s first color selection, mixed in with a little white paint.

Pick baby up and hold him over the palette and let his feet press into the paint. Then pick him back up and hold him over the paper. If your baby isn’t squirmy, maybe you’ll get some neat footprints. But as I said, my baby is part Tazmanian devil and I wasn’t expecting or intending to get footprints, just fun colorful smears.

Once you’ve gotten a few good smears of your first color, dunk baby’s feet in the dish tub and give them a decent wipe-off with the wash cloth, pat dry. (Don’t worry about getting them immaculate; as you’re going to repeat the first several steps again.)

This is where it’s nice to have a helper to hold the baby, while you reset your paints. The goal is to keep baby from reaching his lower half, where there could be paint, at any time during this activity.

I did a total of three colors (with the white tint each time), as selected by The Baby. I let them dry for just a few minutes, basically the time it took me to clean baby’s feet and get new paint ready.

Baby footprints painting
A blurry photo of the finished painting. The Baby is an athlete and an artist!

Once you’re done, give your baby an actual bath. (Full disclosure: The Baby had green toenails for a few days afterward… whoops.) Also, the underside of your baby’s diaper will probably be a beautiful piece of art all its own, but resist the urge to keep it.

Once your baby’s artwork is dry, you can cut it to fit the front of your blank greeting card. (I suppose you could paint directly onto the card, but the watercolor paper doesn’t wrinkle when it gets wet, so it looks nicer.) I used Mod Podge to glue the painting onto the card and then put a coat of Mod Podge over the top of the painting too, to give it a little sheen.

Finished Father's Day card
Here’s the finished card. I cut and glued The Baby’s painting to a blank craft-paper greeting card.

There you have it! Easy, colorful Father’s Day card. I still have the other half of the painting that I plan to cut into strips and glue onto other, smaller cards I have, to use as thank-you notes. The next time I do it I think I’ll mask off the center of the card so I have a blank strip to write “Happy Birthday.”

It’s clear that The Baby has a blast when we do this, feeling the slippery paint on his feet, seeing the cause-and-effect of his kicking, and getting to splash around in the tub. And I like to think I’m instilling in him an early sense of generosity and the importance of appreciating others. I know he’s too young to really understand what we’re doing, but I figure if I start early, he’ll absorb the lesson more thoroughly as he grows.

Join the conversation: Have you enlisted your baby to help with any gifts or craft projects? How are you planning to celebrate your partner’s first Father’s Day?

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First Father’s Day Card from The Baby