This is going to be a barely-coherent stream of thought because for the first time in a week both my kids are asleep and I am awake! It’s my first full week as a stay-at-home mom of two (hallelujah for 3 weeks of paternity leave!) and I feel like I just leveled up at a video game I had only begun to master.
The difficulty has increased, I’m constantly juggling, and I can feel the background music speeding up to match the frenetic pace of this new arrangement. (The background music is Laurie Berkner’s “We Are the Dinosaurs,” FYI.) To make sense of my days, I have found myself mapping out on a post-it note approximately how I’m going to spend each hour (mostly so I don’t surrender to my anxiety at 8 a.m. and let The Toddler watch 8 straight hours of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie).
Many of those hours are spent building “flatbed trucks” out of Mega Blocks with one hand while I nurse The Baby. Because he requires holding so much, I actually am finding myself more attentive to The Toddler during these times because it’s not like I can do the dishes or fold laundry while I nurse. I can build a carwash and collaborate on an elaborate plot involving two flatbed trucks driving through over and over again, though.
This assuages my guilt very slightly when I’ve spent 20 minutes trying to get The Baby to nap in his bassinet in my bedroom only to notice it’s very quiet, and when I go out to the kitchen find The Toddler buckled into his chair at the kitchen table in front of a mountain of raisins, which he has managed to procure from the pantry and serve himself like a two-year-old Kevin McAllister who is just trying to make the best of his abandonment. (<—longest run-on-sentence in the history of the world, but there’s no turning back! There’s just no time for editing!!!)
I’ve been really lucky this past couple of weeks to have the support of my local MOMS club–these women have taken turns bringing hot meals every other day for the past week and a half! Many of these meals contain desserts! And they’ve been my sole source of vegetables!
I’m blown away by their generosity and consideration, especially because they all have their own wild broods to deal with. I can’t wait to pay it forward, because it’s been so very helpful (and because I am so very uncomfortable asking for or accepting help, and I’ll feel less like a freeloader if I can feed some future new moms.)
Let’s see… what else can I say about this first week and change? I can’t tell if this baby is more laid back than his older brother was, or if I’m just less prone to anxiety and more accustomed to what I can expect from a baby this time around, but this time definitely feels easier. It’s way harder to handle a two-year-old than a newborn, in my experience so far.
I can’t think of anything else to say by way of updates (other than The Baby is four weeks old today and holy shit that went fast.) Instead, here’s a list of the “birth affirmations” I made up for The Husband to repeat back to me that really helped me get through the hard parts. I knew I wasn’t going to have the time or inclination to decorate my labor space or keep my eyes open to read any pretty decorated signs, so instead I wrote them out on index cards and had him yell them to me over my loud moaning. (I even put helpful tips for what situations/stages of labor they’d work best for on the back.)
Pinterest and the Internet at large are rife with birth affirmations (and I think Hynpobirthing is a big source of these?) But for my particular makeup, some of these were eye-roll inducingly hokey, or put thoughts in my head I didn’t really want to invite.
(You know that thing where if you say, “Don’t think about a polar bear,” all you can imagine is a polar bear? I submit that if you repeat back to yourself, “I am not afraid,” or “My baby will fit,” you might just trigger thoughts like, “Yes I fucking am afraid,” or “Holy shit maybe my baby won’t fit?”)
Anyway, here’s a list of birth affirmations designed for your birth partner/doula/etc. to read back to you. Some are taken straight from Pinterest, some are helpful reminders from books I read, and a couple, honestly, are cheesy mantras from high school cross country. (See if you can guess). My labor was so fast he didn’t get through the whole pile, but I starred the ones I did hear that I found particularly comforting/motivating.
Maybe in 25 years when I have time to myself again I’ll make them into lovely printables free for download.
Each surge brings the baby closer.
You are a badass.
This is a wave. You can ride it out.
The pride lasts longer than the pain.
You’ve got this.
You are prepared. You are strong. You are capable.
Women all over the world are birthing with you right now.
*You have done this before. You can do this again. I believe in you.
Your body knows what it’s doing.
Why don’t we wait through this contraction and see how you feel? (Repeat as necessary – in case I start talking epidural).
*Melt around the pain.
Our baby is doing this work with you. Work together.
I’m here. You’re not alone.
*Relax your jaw. (This should just be my general life mantra. I may get this tattooed on my wrist.)
When you feel like you can’t do it, it means you’re close. You can do it.
Don’t rush pushing. Let your body stretch.
*You’re not hitting the wall. You’re crashing through it, and our baby is on the other side.
Don’t forget: There’s a baby at the end of all this.
*Your contractions are strong because you are strong.
*Stay low. (If I’m screaming/starting to lose control – remind me to put that energy into laboring and stick to deep/low noises if I need to make noise.)
Your contractions can’t be stronger than you because they are you.
Don’t fight against this. Let your body open.
Breathe in for strength. Breathe out and let go.
You can do anything for a minute.
All right, I’m going to take the remaining moments I have of this rare double-naptime (which, might I add, I got only because I took the boys on a meandering hourlong drive that coincidentally took us past our nearest prison) and maybe go brush my teeth for the first time today.
The latent sense of not feeling prepared for the baby at the end of this pregnancy is becoming more of a constant buzz in my consciousness as I find myself at the end of my 33rd week of pregnancy. Assuming I go into labor around the same time I did with my first, I have just five more weeks to get my shit together, and my to-do list looms long and neglected while life keeps getting in the way.
At 33 weeks, the baby is somewhere in the 17-19 inch range and anywhere between 4 and 6 pounds, and the estimations from here on out look to be pretty sketchy at best, as babies start to really diverge as they approach their final birth weight/length. Judging by the movements I’ve been feeling lately, the baby is mostly feet. One weird progression I read in my weekly updates is that, while awake, baby is keeping his or her eyes open in utero. I wonder what it looks like in there.
As for me, well…
I think this about sums it up.
I’m humongous. I can’t stop eating, but also, heartburn. I can’t breathe. It takes me 30 seconds to roll over in bed and a full minute to get up off the floor. My back hurts if I’m on my feet too long (oh, and also if I’m sitting too long). I’ve been super emotional–crying over very silly things, or for no reason at all. My abdominal muscles hurt from being stretched. I’ve had a few dizzy spells. I’m getting to the stage where only really long maternity shirts cover my huge, huge belly. My huge, huge belly that my toddler thinks is a trampoline.
And while I’m starting to look forward to not being pregnant anymore, this past week with The Toddler has also reminded me that I’ll be trading in immobility and indigestion for mind-numbing sleep deprivation.
While I’ve been using it as a blanket excuse for every behavioral hiccup for the past five months or so, The Toddler is finally, truly sprouting two-year molars, and that has manifested in really rotten sleep. He’s pretty miserable, and his parents are pooped. I think it’s affecting his dad more than me, because in the middle of the night, I am the last person The Toddler wants to see. So I get to go back to bed while The Dad tries to soothe him. It’s a good thing we put a twin bed in his room.
Though the teething hasn’t been particularly fun this week, we have pressed on in one important way toward preparing our household for the baby: The Toddler has started going to daycare (though we’re calling it “school”) a few mornings a week. I’ve been both meaning to do this forever and putting it off, first because my freelance work has been so feast-or-famine, and then because I wanted to feel he was fully through potty training before I threw off his routine.
So when my freelance work picked up this week, it ended up being the perfect catalyst for getting him out of the house a few mornings a week. (And, conveniently, the perfect excuse for further baby-prep procrastination.)
The Toddler has been struggling with drop-offs a little, but otherwise has a great time. And so has his mom! I’ve gotten a bunch of work done–mostly the paid version, but this morning I spent most of daycare time blowing leaves that have piled up on our front sidewalk and then did some shopping.
I picked up some stuff for my hospital bag (future post to come–after my next midwife appointment this week I plan to finalize my checklist to share with you) and for those special breastfeeding-time play kits to keep The Toddler occupied. That, too, will be a future post.
In the meantime, here’s hoping those teeth pop so The Husband and I can catch up on some sleep and tackle more of our to-do list.
This blog has been almost completely dedicated to pregnancy updates for the past few months, due mostly to my inability to muster the energy to write more than once a week. Despite this, my days are full to the brim with toddler stuff and farm stuff, and my bump (and even the heartburn) are more of an afterthought. Really, this space is the only place pregnancy has taken a front seat. So it’s well past time I made some room for an update on all the other stuff! Today, I’m focusing on The Toddler, if for no other reason than to remind my future self what 21 months looks like.
But because I’m still pretty tired/lazy, I’m going to let my camera roll do most of the talking…
The Toddler is (Thank God!) back to napping pretty regularly after a very trying couple of weeks where he was flirting with the idea of quitting forever. Unfortunately, the solution to his nap reluctance has been rocking him to sleep in a soft-structured carrier. As my belly gets bigger, this becomes more and more difficult, so I’m going to have to find a new fix any day now. Setting him in his crib to fall asleep on his own, or even trying to get him to sit still while I rock him in a chair, are not feasible, as he just never stops moving.
It could be faulty memory, but I swear there was a period of time in the not too distant past I could keep the house within spitting distance of tidy at least a few days a week. That is absolutely not the case anymore. Whether he’s ransacking our closet to try on his dad’s shirts, dumping snacks everywhere he goes because he’s too busy to sit down and eat a meal, scattering a basket of clean laundry across the living room, or filling his dump truck with dried noodles and dumping them out on my bed, this kid is hell bent on destruction.
While he is sometimes willing to help with the clean-up, I often find it takes less energy for me to just wait until he’s asleep to deal with it myself than to try to battle with him/trick him/reason with him to help me clean up. The only thing that seems to get him excited is the prospect of vacuuming.
“High! High!” he says
Twisty slide expert
The kid has boundless energy these days. We’ve been spending a lot of time on the playground, where he’s either doing full-speed laps up the playground equipment to go down the twisty slide, or yelling, “High! High!” on the swings, tricking people into thinking he’s being friendly when really, he’s just bossing me around.
When we’re outside at home, he’s obsessed with dragging around heavy logs, dragging our garden wagon around, or digging in a dirt pile that happens to also be littered with goat poop. This means he’s been getting an exasperating number of midday showers. I’m hoping my Best Mom award hasn’t gotten lost in the mail, but I have not received it yet.
In other news, it’s been just over two weeks since we embarked on the potty training mission, and while we’re far from perfect at this stage, I thought I’d provide a brief overview of how it’s gone so far. We’re using the book Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki as our guide, which in very brief advises potty training in phases or “blocks”–from naked (and watched like a hawk), to commando (no underwear, but yes pants) at home, to commando out and about in the world, etc.
We’re still in Block 3, and while prompting and built in potty break times (immediately when he wakes up, before and after getting in his carseat–we take the potty chair with us, etc.) are still very necessary to success, we are going most days without accidents and he is even self-initiating a few times a day.
Our biggest hangup right now, which I think is pretty common for the under-2 crowd, is that he isn’t figuring out the mechanics (or the necessity) behind pushing his pants down before he sits on the potty. Sometimes he’ll just walk over and hover over/sit down on the potty, fully clothed, and let loose. So I need to be there to help him with that, but since I need to be around anyway to help with wiping and emptying the potty chair, it’s not a big deal for now. We’ll get there.
He seems to take a lot of pride in being able to use the potty, and I feel fine about the pace of our progress. My main goal is to have him completely out of diapers (he still wears them for naps/night) by the time Baby 2 arrives.
We went to a new pediatrician last month who scoffed at the idea of potty training at 21 months, telling us we needed to wait until he was 2 1/2 to 3, or we’d just be “training ourselves [his parents],” but all this did was make me want to prove her wrong.
Yes, I know there are possibly risks for potty training too early (though some of these claims seem pretty dubious), and yes, I have the luxury of being the primary person to help my son get to the potty when he needs to go and not needing to rely on day care to do so, but he was enthusiastic at the outset and seems to prefer using the potty to diapers (even going so far as to wake me up a few times in the middle of the night to pee on the potty because he’d prefer not to go in his diaper.) So now felt like the right time for us, and I’m glad we went for it.
In particular, here’s what I like about Oh Crap! Potty Training, for anyone who is looking for potty training resources:
The author recommends ages 20-30 months (with some markers–like retreating somewhere to poop, being able to ask for something to drink when they’re thirsty) as the best time to potty train. We were getting some signals that The Toddler was seeming ready, and this book basically says, “Go for it.” There’s no waffling about readiness within that window — you decide to do it (setting a date and getting ready) and go full steam ahead. This is the attitude I find most motivating in the rest of my life decisions (taking a new job, deciding to have kids, moving to the farm), so I knew this was the approach we needed for this particular project.
There’s no incentivizing/rewards system. After having pushed through a brief bribery period with getting The Toddler into his carseat that got out of hand very quickly and made me feel like I was very much losing a power struggle, I can see how treats/stickers/etc. would get with potty training, and am happy to avoid it.
Glowacki is staunchly anti Pull-Ups, which greatly appeals to my sense of righteous indignation at the commercial exploitation of every possible childhood milestone. It seems clear to me that the point of Pull-Ups is not to help get kids potty trained, but to make them reliant on diapers way longer than they need to be, so diaper companies can sell more diapers.
The book is realistic about the variations in timing that each kid will take to fully adapt to using the potty, and doesn’t make you feel like a failure based on a recommended time frame.
Well, there’s a way-too-long post about my SAHM-of-a-toddler life right now! Stay tuned for exciting updates about my ever-expanding belly.
It’s been a heck of a week already (more on that later), so I am *super* glad I reached out to an old friend from high school, who just launchedher own blog to help people coping with eating disorders (and, oh yeah, NBD, had her second baby) to help me out with a guest post, Q&A style. As the reality of being a mom of two sets in, I am grateful to have her share some wisdom on motherhood.
Without further ado, I am pleased to introduce Erin.
My family and I recently moved to St. Louis from Georgia for my husband’s job when I was about halfway through my second pregnancy. The Second Kid, a baby boy, is now 4 months old and The First Kid, a girl, turned 2 years old at the end of May.
In Georgia, I owned a private practice as a dietitian specializing in eating disorders and related issues. Right now, I’m staying home with the kids until we’re ready for me to go back to work part-time. Until then, I’ve been enjoying writing my blog atRecoveringWithGod.com.
How were your two pregnancies different? In general, do you like being pregnant or is more of a necessary but miserable means to an end?
I thought I liked being pregnant until The Second Kid! I had more nausea, fatigue, and discomfort with the second pregnancy. I think moving out of state and chasing around a toddler made the experience much different.
What were some things you learned in your first pregnancy, childbirth experience or early parenting days that you wanted to be sure you did differently the second time around? What were some important consistencies you wanted to maintain between the two?
This is a BIG question. The short answer is: get less tests and be choosy about health care professionals. The explanation is long and intense, but worth sharing with you and other parents.
We almost lost my first child based on a diagnosis that was made in utero. We were told by a specialist doctor that our baby would likely not survive to term and if she did there was a 0% chance that we’d have a healthy, normal baby. The doctor insinuated that terminating the pregnancy was the way to go based on a growth he spotted on the back of the baby’s head at 11 weeks. He said that it was an encepholocele, a type of neural tube defect in which brain matter protrudes through an opening of the skull. He left us with very little hope, no follow-up appointments, and no recommendations for other consultations or specialists.
It was the absolute worst day of my life. But our friends and family prayed. After I made the initial call to the abortion clinic (please no judgments), I felt God nudging me to get a second opinion. More prayers.
The second-opinion-doctor made us feel like we were in this together and gave us options. We waited. With every visit thereafter, the growth miraculously shrunk or stayed the same size. By the third trimester, the malformation was no longer detectable and the issue was considered resolved.
Against the odds, our baby was born as healthy as can be.
SOOOOO, how did all this change the second pregnancy? Well, the reason we went in for that 11-week ultrasound with The First Kid was because we were going to test for a genetic disorder that runs in my family that has the potential to be fatal. With The Second Kid, we decided NOT to get that test. We learned that (1) test results don’t always predict outcomes, (2) the test results wouldn’t change our actions during pregnancy—we wouldn’t terminate, and (3) God can heal.
I’m not really sure how to segue from that, but there are plenty of other things I did differently as well. I chose a birthing center instead of the typical hospital setting to give birth. Reasons include the following experiences that I had at the hospital with The First Kid: (1) getting my membranes stripped without consent, (2) my birthing plan was not followed or even saved in my chart to refer to, (3) I had to wait for the doctor to arrive before I could push, even though my body was screaming at me to PUSH! (4) Oh yea, I had to go through the transition stage of labor in the crowded waiting room, like WITH THE FAMILIES (who were staring at me because I was apparently making scary noises). In contrast, I loved the birthing center. Their practices were in line with everything I wanted, so I didn’t have to constantly worry or double check what they were doing. They listened. They didn’t rush. Gosh, I loved them so much. If you don’t like your healthcare team, look for someone else. I say that as a healthcare professional and I would say it to my clients too.
How were your two labor experiences?
I was told the second labor is typically half the length of time as the first. This made me quite nervous because I barely made it to the delivery room with The First Kid, but it was true! I was in labor from about 6pm-midnight for The First Kid and 9pm-midnight for The Second Kid. (To the women who have long labors, I am sorry and you are all amazing warriors).
There were no false alarms with The First Kid—once contractions started, they were regular and the real deal. With The Second Kid, I experienced contractions that didn’t turn into labor, which drove my anticipatory anxiety out the roof!
I labored at home longer for The First Kid because I was only 1 cm earlier that afternoon. With my second labor, the midwives never checked dilation at any appointments, but I knew I had to leave ASAP once contractions were at regular intervals.
Both babies arrived the day after their due date.
Both labors were medication-free. I used some Hypnobabies concepts with both labors even though I personally think it’s a bit cheesy. I really enjoyed the practices in Mindful Birthing by Nancy Bardacke and highly recommend that book. It’s more evidence-based, less judgmental, and the skills can be used throughout the parenting experience. I need to go back and reread some sections!
I keep being reminded to expect my two children to be very different from each other, though it’s hard to imagine my second baby beyond what I know from my first. How are your two babies different so far?
The First Kid came out small and dainty and always falling asleep. The Second Kid came out sturdy and big and eager to eat. The First Kid was laid-back and The Second Kid is usually tense, but both happy. The First Kid was very observant and could entertain herself easily, interested in the smallest of details. The Second Kid (at least in this stage) seems to need a lot more stimulation. Thankfully, he loves watching his older sister as she runs around, dances, and gives him toys.
How did you prepare your first child for the arrival of your second? How has she adjusted to being a big sister? Are there any specific books/philosophies/etc. you relied on to help guide you through getting her prepared?
We talked about baby brother while I was pregnant and read the book “I Am a Big Sister” by Caroline Jayne Church, which I highly recommend. I’m not sure how much she understood, but she does mimic the girl in the book by helping. I also instituted “special time” with her while I was pregnant. We sing a song about special time, set a timer, and I spend 10 devoted and undivided minutes with her. Quality (attentive time) is over quantity (distracted time).
She’s loved and adored her baby brother since she met him. It was an adjustment (aka Tantrum City), of course, but she took her frustrations out on her dad and me for not giving her enough attention. She never acted resentful toward her baby brother. I’d say it took about 3 months for her to adjust. Now that she’s adjusted, she can truly be a big help to me at times even though she’s only two.
Talk about the first few days/weeks of being a mom of two, in general. What was the hardest part? Was there anything that went easier than expected?
The hardest part was definitely not having the ability to be there for my little girl. There are moments when you have to choose which child to attend to first, and the crying baby usually takes priority. Thankfully, The First Kid encourages me to go help The Second Kid when he cries, but she forgets that means she can’t get what she wants right away!
Taking care of a baby in general has been easier this time because I knew what to expect. I’m no longer trying to follow every rule or sift through all the conflicting baby advice on the internet…there’s no time for that!
I had a really rough time getting started with breastfeeding the first time around. If you nursed both times (and are willing to share), what was it like starting again?
It was a cinch! I had some insecurities the first time around, which I think most women do, and a naturally petite baby, which our first pediatrician freaked me out. However, a year’s worth of practice with the first child makes a huge difference for the second. Now the real challenge is breastfeeding while doing other tasks, such as reading a book with The First Kid in my lap, pouring a glass of milk, or putting on a shoe!
How did you and your husband adjust to having two?
In general, my husband watches the The First Kid and I’m in charge of The Second Kid, especially in the beginning when I was nursing non-stop. We had visitors the first several weeks who we could hand either kid off to, which was loads of help! Then we were forced to figure out how to handle both at the same time when my husband returned to work and I had occasional appointments I needed to attend. We’re still figuring it out!
In general, what advice that I may not have covered that you’d offer to parents expecting their second child?
Go easy on yourself. You won’t be able to do it perfectly, if there is such a thing. It’s okay to plop your toddler down in front of the TV to attend to the baby, or *gasp* get a moment to yourself. (My husband is constantly reminding me of this). Are they smelling a little ripe because you haven’t bathed them in awhile? They won’t remember! Did you just yell at your toddler for a stupid reason? Genuinely tell him you’re sorry and that you feel sad/mad right now, and hey it turns into a teaching moment! Even if you don’t muster up the apology, life goes on and you are a good mom. Some mood swings and bending the rules won’t change that.
Do what’s easiest. Opt for grocery delivery, Amazon Prime, carryout meals, a cleaning service, and any other convenience you can find. If you’re thrifty like me, tell yourself it’s just for this season. You’re in survival mode the first couple months, so only expend energy on the priorities.
And finally, picking your nutritionist/disordered eating expert brain, I wondered if you had any wisdom regarding self acceptance/body positivity for new moms and/or setting a good example of this for your kids.
It’s important for postpartum women to give themselves space to grieve their old bodies. We have constant messages thrown at us to “lose the baby weight fast”, and then we’re also told to “appreciate our stretch marks and mommy tummy” because it’s “so worth it.” We feel guilty if we can’t get back to our pre-baby bodies AND we also feel guilty if we aren’t “positive” about this new body.
It’s okay to feel sad about your body sometimes. It doesn’t mean that you’re vain or shallow. It doesn’t mean that you lack gratitude. Avoiding feelings and pretending you’re fine never ends well. Journal or talk to a trusted fellow mom. Give yourself grace—your body just went through a traumatic experience, you’re healing, your hormones are crazy, you’re tired. Look the way you look and feel the way you feel.
Try to accept both your body and your feelings, and don’t beat yourself up if acceptance is a tough concept right now.
As for setting a good example for your kids, be nice to yourself. Even when we think they may not be looking, kids notice those under-the-breath remarks in the fitting room or self-deprecating comments over second helpings of ice cream. Then they mimic us. Give yourself the love and respect that you give to your kids.
There you have it! Aren’t I lucky to know her? She shared such an incredible story — I’m stunned at her strength through the terrifying diagnosis in her first pregnancy and utterly appalled at her hospital experience with her first childbirth!!! — and so many good ideas — the “Special Time” idea is getting implemented STAT in our house, and I’ve got some new reading to tackle. (As usual, nothing on this site is sponsored, so the Amazon links are just for your convenience.)
I really needed some encouragement today and was so happy to find Erin’s words in my inbox. I hope you enjoyed it, too.
While her blog is a faith-based resource for people struggling with disordered eating, and not a mom blog, I know that there certainly is overlap between those two groups of people. In addition to selfishly picking Erin’s brain to prepare myself for parenting two, I also hoped that connecting with her would help connect any of my readers who might be struggling. If you are (or know someone who is) dealing with an eating disorder, visit RecoveringwithGod.com for words of encouragement. (And, as Erin points out in her bio, you should also seek treatment with a health care professional.) Take care of yourself, Mama.
P.S. I can’t figure out how to get someone a draft for review on WordPress without it going live, so sorry if you got a blank/password protected email post!
Last week, The Husband took off work and stayed home with The Toddler while my dad and I drove 100 miles to pic up two nuclear hives of bees (known in the bee worlds as “nucs”). This was the final of three additions to our little hobby farm, and while I was apprehensive about keeping them alive, I was also excited for honey and felt righteous about pressing ahead, because bees need all the help they can get these days.
Unfortunately, we arrived to find a handwritten note on the door and a few sheriff’s deputies collecting everyone’s names and phone numbers. Apparently the apiary had lost its load of bees, and instead of trying to notify all its (prepaid) customers, some of whom had driven from out of state, they left a short note. The deputies explained that the owner said she’d be issuing refunds in the next few weeks. (They had been called to the apiary by angry customers who arrived before us–it’s not a criminal matter until/unless the owner doesn’t refund us our money.)
I made a bunch of phone calls that afternoon trying to find another source for bees. My local beekeepers association and even the Ohio State Beekeepers Association were incredibly helpful and sympathetic, giving me lots of leads to chase. It’s very late in the season, though, and most other apiaries are sold out. The closest one I found was a 2 1/2 hour drive, which isn’t something I can do with The Toddler, and The Husband can’t take more time off work before the end of the school year. We decided we’ll wait until next year to try bees. It’s frustrating, because we spent close to $1,000 on all our hives and equipment (and no-show bees), but a small part of me is a little relieved we have a year to get the hang of chickens and goats before we add bees to the list. I just hope I get my money back!
In other news, spring has truly sprung around us. The flowers are blooming and the trees are leafing out, and our morning walks, though muddy, are so fun. It has been a wet spring, so we took advantage of our one warm, sunny day this weekend to cut the grass, and I spent a good hour or so pulling poison ivy up from around the garden beds surrounding our house. (I’m covered in poison ivy now, because I did a crap job covering up. Don’t be like me.) We’re continuing the tradition of accidentally neglecting our vegetable garden, but despite this, there are carrots and beets and greens sprouting. The Husband planted a bunch of new fruit trees, which he waters dutifully every evening.
On our daily walks, The Toddler mucks around on his boots, blowing dandelion fuzz and collecting gravel from our driveway and carrying sticks. He’d live outside if we let him. It’s unbelievable how quickly he’s growing, in every way. He is tall and sturdy on his feet. He can run and play ring-around-the-rosy and nod his head when I arrive at his chosen option for snack. He wiggles his butt to music and shriekingly chases the pets and puts all the toilet paper rolls away when we come home from shopping. He knows the words for lots of things but prefers to imitate their sounds than to name them: nay, moo, meow, choo choo!
Yesterday, my friend and her sister came over with her sister’s new baby, who is two months old. It felt like 100 years ago that my kid was that small. The Toddler hasn’t been around a baby that young, and I was curious to see how he reacted. I wasn’t disappointed — he was over the moon. He kept bringing up toys and trying to hand them to the baby. He patted his knee, rubbed his belly, held his hand. He wanted to sit right next to him, and even got his baby doll out to hold in imitation of the baby’s mom.
It almost killed me, it was so cute.
Good thing The Toddler is 95% a joy during the day, because we have concluded he is going through a precocious “18 month” sleep regression (he’s 16.5 months, but close enough), as he literally will. not. go. to. sleep. unless someone is in the room with him, and has been waking 2-5 times a night. We had about four blissful sleeps through the night before this struck. Please, please come back.
So that’s been the past couple of weeks. Oh, to update you from the last post– the bunny died the following morning, to my mild dismay but not to my surprise. Also that evening, our dishwasher died. I’m waiting on delivery as I write for the new one, so most of my time the past 1.5 weeks has been spent washing dishes by hand–that is, when I’m not helping The Toddler down from a dining room chair or picking up the dry cat food he has scooped and scattered across the pantry.
The Husband built the goats a new, wooden day shelter that they have not yet attempted to scale, but which, I daresay, can handle the weight of a goat or two. Good man.
On Saturday, The Husband and I left The Toddler with Grandma and drove an hour and a half into the heart of Amish country to pick up three young Nigerian Dwarf goats we found online. Their owner was selling them as almost year-old wethers (the name for neutered male goats), as she has milk goats and her herd was getting too big.
We ended up cramming the poor guys into a dog crate in the back of my Subaru hatchback because we need to do some repair work to the cool but temperamental old yellow 1972 Ford F250 we co-own with our friends. The ride home was a quiet but tense one, The Husband gripping the steering wheel and doing his best to keep the turns smooth and slow on the winding back roads, carefully passing Amish families in buggies while the goats stumbled around in an increasing puddle of urine in their crate. Not an ideal way to start the relationship, I’m sure, but they were exceedingly patient with us.
They arrived at our house and we corralled them into an area we have cordoned off with portable electric fencing very near our house. This is one of the big garden beds my grandparents used to manage, but which has over the past decade or two become utterly overrun with poison ivy, wild roses, blackberry bushes and feral garlic (from the time my grandmother threw some old, sprouting garlic cloves out her window. Advice: Do not do this. All last spring and summer the overwhelming scent of garlic wafted through our windows.)
Anyway, to answer a few questions we’ve been getting:
The goats’ main purpose is to help us manage this overgrowth (they prefer “browse” or “forage” to pasture–they like reaching above their heads to eat, more like deer than cattle. So the brambles and vines and saplings are prime eating for them.) They will also serve as pets. Also, their poop makes great fertilizer. Also, they’re pretty cute.
We have no interest at present in running a dairy. Nigerian Dwarf goats are bred for milk, but you have to breed goats about annually to keep the milk flowing, and breeding goats brings an overwhelming element to the adventure that we’re not willing to entertain right now: stinky, aggressive bucks (non-neutered males), helping with deliveries and keeping kids alive in the dead of winter, when they’re usually born, twice-daily milking and figuring out what to do with all those extra goats.
We haven’t picked new names for them. They’re still pretty leery of us (they were quite friendly toward their former owner, but being a year old and only with us for a few days so far, they’re taking their time warming up to us). So we’re keeping their old names for now in hopes that a little consistency in that regard helps open the lines of communication. I’m not going to get into what the currently are, because it’s kind of a longer story than you’d think, but we’ll let you know when we settle on new ones.
The Toddler adores them. He can see them out his bedroom window, and they have been added to the good night tour each night along with the chicks.
The Dog, poor Louise, got a nose full of the (honestly potentially not strong enough, it feels only slightly worse than getting a static shock from socks on a rug) electric fence when she first encountered the goats, and holds me personally responsible. She’s avoided eye contact with me since Saturday.
Here are some photos for your enjoyment… I hope as the goats get more used to us, there will be better shots, but I can’t get very close right now (and if I am, I have a spoonful of molasses in one hand and a lead in the other, which doesn’t make for easy photography.)
In chick news, the girls are getting bigger and bolder and feathering out nicely. I bring them a treat each day (either hard boiled eggs… yep, the original chick feed, as weird as it sounds, or smashed chick peas, or raisins or freeze dried meal worms, but eggs are their No. 1 jam) and they hop into my hand and go nuts. A couple of them have even been testing out the mini perches we put in their brood box. So cute!
They also survived an attempted massacre by my cat while we were out picking up the goats. Fortunately, everyone was accounted for soon after we got home. We have reinforced the boxes to keep that from happening again (I hope.)
Matilda the Silver-laced Wyandotte testing out the perch. She fell asleep like this. 🙂
The mess of pine shavings on my basement floor after my cat decided to push the brood box off the table. Everyone survived.
In parenting news, The Toddler is 15 months old now. He’s absolutely a toddler, exploring everything, throwing tantrums, picking up more and more words (his current favorite word is “gouda.” Ha!) and being equal parts heart-explodingly sweet and unbelievably challenging. I am addicted to his hugs.
This week, The Husband is on spring break from school so we’re finally working on a gentle approach to night weaning. (Yeah, I know a lot of moms figure this one out 6 or 10 months in or whatever, but we’ve been lazy and he’s been down to one quick nurse a night unless he’s sick or teething.) Anyway, every night the husband is “on duty” no matter what for an increasingly longer amount of time. Usually if I send him in, The Toddler screams and points at the door for me until we cave, but he’s going to have to take comfort with his dad for longer and longer period of time until he figures out we can’t all get 3 a.m. milkshakes every night.
Speaking of 3 a.m. milkshakes, The Toddler’s dwindling need to nurse, coupled with my persistent attachment to frozen yogurt and string cheese and buttery toast, means I’m starting to gain back a little of the baby weight that fell off so easily from breastfeeding. So today starts a conscious effort to pay attention to my appetite and get some exercise. I went running outside for the first time in eons. It felt like I was running with a backpack full of bowling balls, but I got through it and it felt good to break a sweat. Here’s hoping my saying it on the Internet will help me stick to it.
Time for a very desperately needed shower! Until next time.
A few weeks after The Baby was born, The Husband and I tentatively got out the stash of cloth diapers we had accumulated leading up to baby’s arrival. We were hoping to save some money and reduce the environmental impact of our family, and, if I’m being honest, prove wrong the people in our family who told us we’d get sick of it and give up, as they had.
When we finally braved the transition at around four weeks, I realized it really wasn’t a big deal. There was already a mountain of laundry, so it didn’t feel like much of an extra burden (although our second-hand all-in-ones that made up the most of our collection took forever to dry). It felt really good to not have to run to the store when we were out of diapers. We stuck with disposables for nighttime, and I expected smooth sailing at least until The Baby was no longer exclusively breastfed.
The Baby, however, had other thoughts on the matter.
He hated having a wet cloth diaper, so much so that it would rouse him from each and every nap during the day.
Finally, after about two months of trying to power through it, in the midst of our big, overwhelming move, I conceded. We started using only disposable diapers, and I sadly packed away the cloth diaper stash in hopes our next baby might be more amicable to them. While the rational side of me knows that The Baby’s comfort, and above all, SLEEP, are more important than my proving a point, I am also really stubborn and didn’t want to hear, “I told you so,” from the people who had told us so.
Nobody really did that, but I still felt a little sour about having to give up this thing I had been pretty sanctimonious about.
About a month ago, The Baby and I were visiting the library when I saw another baby, a little older than him, crawling around with a big fluffy butt–obviously cloth diapered. I had honestly forgotten about them. A few days later, running low on diapers and not particularly wanting to go buy more, I unearthed our stash and decided to get back on the proverbial cloth diaper horse.
It worked! The Baby sleeps soundly through a wet diaper (though we’re still disposable at night, I’m not crazy!) and we’re back to saving a million dollars a month on diapers and not throwing away so much.
To be clear, I totally get that cloth diapers aren’t for everyone. I was one of those people for most of The Baby’s life. The further into parenting I get, the more I realize I really like the path of least resistance… for me, that’s eliminating a Target trip here and there to buy diapers.
I’m so glad I decided to try again. It’s probably a good lesson for parenting in general–I’m not going to get to decide how everything goes, and I have to be flexible; but also, just because something doesn’t work during one stage of our lives doesn’t mean it’s off the table forever.
I also use these liners now that The Baby is pooping more than just breastmilk (I’m thinking about getting the hose thing that attaches to the toilet, but for now, these have been working pretty well.)
1 Kanga Care pail liner (suspended from the door, rather than using a pail, because my baby is essentially Godzilla in his room)
Charlie’s Soap for the diapers – I haven’t had much issue with staining; actually, we started using this soap for all our laundry and I’m really happy with it. You only need like a tablespoon for a whole load! I wash in hot/warm and run everything through a presoak and extra rinse cycle
I also dry everything with wool dryer balls (except the pail liner, which hangs dry). As I mentioned, the downside of the all-in-ones is they take 300 years to dry, but when the weather is nice I’ve been hanging them out to dry either straight from the washer or after an hour in the dryer to finish them off. There’s something so nice about seeing your laundry swaying in the breeze, and the sun also helps with staining.
I wash whatever is in the wet bag at least every other day, or when we start to run low on the all-in-ones. Now that The Baby is almost 10 months old, we’re going through probably six cloth diapers and one disposable a day (which feels like nothing compared to those early days!)
Now here are a few questions I have for you:
Do you use cloth diapers? Any tips and tricks or favorite products?
What’s something you had your heart set on for parenthood that didn’t work out the way you hoped?