This will genuinely be a short post because I’m exhausted, the baby is asleep (in his bassinet!!!) and I have to get up in 3 hours to put a goddamned chicken in the refrigerator because I can’t time a slow cooker meal to save my soul. (All that prep work and we ate frozen chicken nuggets for dinner.)
We’re surviving, and that’s about it. This is that deep, foggy newborn period that will be a blessed distant memory someday. Which already breaks my heart whenever that thought occurs to me while staring deeply into Baby 2’s eyes and watching his little nose wrinkle and his fingers grasp my hand. Even though I’m bone-deep tired, it feels easier this time because I know how short it lasts.
The Toddler is amazing me with his sweetness and brilliance even as he tests every last boundary. He is careening through toddlerhood, and we are slogging through this snowy week. Always busy, he’ll pause from coloring on his own face with markers for a brief moment to snuggle next to me and rest his head on my shoulder while I nurse the baby, and tell me he loves me, before dunking his whole hand into my water glass and getting up to see if he can open the freezer by himself.
My house looks like a tornado hit it. I haven’t looked in a mirror for more than 20 seconds this week, and I usually have to brush my teeth while peeing.
Pregnancy Week 25 has come and gone, and with it came a rush of crazy nesting instincts.
Baby is approximately the size of an acorn squash, a rutabaga, a cabbage, or any number of other fall vegetables. (Translation: 13.5 inches from head to toe, and about 1.5 lbs.)
As far as how I’m feeling, mostly the answer is big and cumbersome. I caught myself waddling a few times this week, which horrified me. Mostly it was because I ended up wearing heels to the wedding I went to last weekend (dumb) or otherwise over-exerted myself (which, sadly, means I walked 3 slow miles behind a stroller, but that’s my current fitness threshold.)
Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I kept up my once-a-pregnancy tradition of audibly farting in a prenatal yoga class. What is the purpose of a personal blog with your real name attached to it, if not oversharing and publicly humiliating yourself? Whatever, farting is funny.
Speaking of funny, a friend texted me the link to this video comparing a first pregnancy to subsequent ones. Enjoy:
Hehehe. Accurate. (Minus the “all the drugs.” I’m doubling down on an unmedicated birth this time around. Call me crazy, but I’m looking forward to it!)
Oh, yeah, I was going to talk about the nesting instinct. The first time around, I had little else beside my day job and the guidelines that I should avoid paint fumes to prevent me from going buck wild fulfilling every nesting fantasy that crossed my mind at 4 a.m. (Here’s a snapshot of the nursery in our old house–the fruits of my intense nesting instinct and my equally intense ability to boss my husband around.)
The finished nursery – Note the poster (very well secured!) over our changing table.
Dropcloth curtains, a perfect little thrift store chest of drawers and a rocking chair in the corner.
My favorite Jenny Lind crib, with a wooden thrift store duck and a framed set of six vintage postage stamps on the wall.
This time, nesting has been primarily limited to fantasizing about what I would like to do with the house before Baby 2 arrives, because all my actual time and energy is devoted to laundry, chasing chickens off the porch, loading the dishwasher after The Toddler finally succumbs to sleep, reading stories to The Toddler while he poops, vacuuming up broken dried pasta from the living room rug (haha j/k, that’s also just a fantasy), and frantically trying to throw together dinner at the last second before we all starve.
By the time I get through even the most rudimentary daily housekeeping tasks each day, it’s 9 p.m. and I’m falling asleep sitting up against my headboard, waiting for the Tums to kick in so I can collapse for the night.
This week, though… this week is different. The Husband took a bunch of days off and I have mapped out every waking hour of every day to maximize our to-do list.
Already in the past three days, we’ve done a bunch of furniture rearranging, cleaned out half of the garage, moved the goats to a new patch of jungle, taken a minivan load of my grandparent’s stuff to Goodwill, made an equally large pile of stuff to drive to the dump, bought materials to finish trimming the floor in our kitchen (which we’ve been trying to do for more than a year), and ordered a new bed for The Toddler.
And we still have four more days of backbreaking, unrelenting nesting. I’m in heaven.
This morning, The Toddler and I drove up to the Rocky River Nature Center (highly recommend if you’re in Northeast Ohio!) for a quick hike and playtime at the center itself, which is free and houses a small animal exhibit, an awesome tree-themed playhouse, and a few really big, climbable animal models, plus a bird-and-bee viewing area and a big deck over the river where you can watch wildlife. God love the Cleveland Metroparks.
We had a great time, slowly scaling the 150 or so steps of the Fort Hill Stairs (The Toddler repeating, “Step. Step. Step.” and flatly ignoring several high-five invitations from fellow climbers) before doing a few laps through the nature center to admire the taxidermy and live animals on display.
On our way back to the car afterward to fulfill The Toddler’s three-string-cheese snack quota (Every. Day. I realize this probably isn’t good, but he also eats his weight in fruit and it seems to be the only thing keeping him from exploding from all that fiber. But I digress and overshare.) Anyway, on our walk back through the parking lot, we came across two school buses parked and vacant of children, with their drivers hanging out.
The Toddler is obsessed with school buses (and tractors, and bulldozers, etc.), so I walked him toward the buses for a closer look. I pointed out the wheels, the stop sign, etc., and we were standing close enough that the drivers took notice. One of them asked us if we wanted to climb aboard to see the inside of the bus.
In a voice that I hoped communicated surprise (feigned) and gratitude (sincere), I said, “Really?! Oh, [Toddler], do you want to get on the bus? Thank you!”
So we climbed aboard and The Toddler spent a few delighted minutes walking up and down the aisles, sitting on the seats and pointing at the steering wheel. It made his day.
Which is great.
And which is also the second time this exact scenario has played out in the past week.
Last week, we were at a closer-to-home park where two buses were waiting for a middle school cross country team to finish its practice. A kindly bus driver who was waiting for her infant grandson to come visit with her daughter invited us aboard.
Both times, the drivers were really gracious and seemed genuinely excited to have a toddler on board. The first was emphatic that she encourages young kids to hop on the bus whenever they show interest because it helps alleviate eventual first day of school jitters.
And it makes The Toddler’s day when we get to do this. I’m just going to have to figure out how to keep up this new hobby of ours without becoming the creep who loiters outside of every parked bus I find.
This announcement guarantees that last night’s sleep training success will be short-lived, but it feels so monumental that I cannot pretend it didn’t happen, even if it the victory is fleeting.
The Toddler slept from 7:45 p.m. to 5:55 a.m. With no wakings, no nursing, no tears.
This is huge.
Sleep has been our family’s battleground for the past 15 months. Yes, breastfeeding was rough at first, but since we figured that out, sleep has been my white whale, my Sisyphean boulder, my biggest source of frustration and guilt and (of course) exhaustion as a parent. Ever since that little balogna loaf decided he wouldn’t sleep unless we were armpit to shoulder and boob to face at a week old, I’ve been daydreaming about the day I could put him in his crib with a, “See you in the morning!” and have it come true.
First it was months and months of first terrifying (thanks, unhelpful public health campaigns!) then resigned, then generally tolerable but still quite limiting and often uncomfortable bedsharing, then a month or two of his crib “side-carred” to our bed, then that fourth wall up and the crib in our room, then the big jump of the crib back to his room, and there we stalled for about the past five months.
We hit wave after wave of colds or teething in between brief but delicious spells where he’d drift off to sleep peacefully, waking once at about 3 a.m. for a quick nursing session before easily going back to bed. The fact he could do that made me start believing I might be able to convince him he could make it a few more hours.
Well, I couldn’t… not by myself. It’s just been too easy to nurse him back to sleep when I’m still 60% asleep during his night wakings.
So we waited until The Husband was on spring break from work and didn’t have to wake up at 5 a.m. and enlisted him to be the night time hammer for the week. Usually, The Toddler screams in frustration if The Dad shows up during a night waking and points at the door until I relent, relieving The Dad of his duty, administering the night nursing. Not this week.
It was rough. The first four nights were hard going for The Dad and The Toddler. Lying in bed across the hall, I didn’t get much sleep, either, between the loud crying and the guilt. But we stuck it out. Even on the fourth night, when at 3 a.m. I decided to give The Husband a break and went in, I managed to refuse to nurse. The Toddler was enraged, but he eventually fell asleep. The Husband slept in a little in the mornings, and The Toddler took 3.5 hour naps every day this week (admittedly a bit of a silver lining through all this.)
Then last night, because I suspected he wasn’t really getting that much milk at his pre-bedtime nursing session, leading to that 3 a.m. wake up, and because I was hopeful for some success, I gave The Toddler a bottle of cow’s milk with his bedtime stories. He finished that off, then nursed, then gave me a hug and kiss good night (Oh my God, the best feeling ever, this new habit), and I left the room saying, “See you in the morning.”
And it worked! At least this once!
(I still slept fitfully, dreaming for the second night in a row about forgetting to take care of The Toddler the next day, and getting repeatedly awoken by our jerk cat who wants me to walk him to his full food bowl a few times a night because he likes the company?! But still, the potential for a full night’s sleep is closer than it has been since my second trimester.)
So. Here’s hoping this isn’t a fleeting taste of the rested life. The Toddler is just about done cutting his last canine, and we’re almost through cold season (though I know that’s a bit of a misnomer/pipe dream for someone who still licks food off the floor), so maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally start getting some sleep.
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.
Good morning, Internet! As I’ve alluded… we’re going through some exciting additions to TLMB household and I’m thinking of shifting gears to a more hobby farm/parenting blog… workshopping the title, which I hope will make sense to you soon as it is basically one clever turn of phrase after another.
I have been up since 3 a.m. with inexplicable insomnia. Except it’s not really inexplicable… If I’m being honest, it’s a shadow of the sleeplessness I felt waiting for The Baby to arrive, fed in equal parts by sheer excitement and my obsessive need to plan. Because, my friends, in two short days I will be welcoming six new babies into my house.
Fluffy little chicken babies.
Yes, The Husband and I are taking the leap into hobby farming with a half dozen chicks, who will, if luck prevails, provide us abundant eggs and entertainment.
I’ve trawled chicken blogs, researched breeds, assembled a brood box (though I still have to finish the second one and build a “chunnel” today), bought feed and bedding and heat lamps. We thought about building a coop, but after careful reflection on our carpentry skills and less than ample free time, we decided to buy a ready-made one that is now waiting for us at Tractor Supply to see if we can get our old yellow truck started to pick it up. (Note: A Subaru Impreza hatchback is not large enough to transport an 8 chicken-sized coop, even unassembled.)
First thing Tuesday morning, The Baby, my brother and I will head over to Grace Brothers Nursery to pick up the girls (which, despite its lackluster website is a great small business… and while we’re now closer to the North Royalton location I highly recommend anyone on the West side of Cleveland check out their urban farm shop on W. 65th.)
We’ll get some combination of the following breeds, selected for their temperament, hardiness, size, egg production and status (as available) as heritage/threatened breeds:
Golden Buffs (apparently a.k.a. Golden Comets or Red sexlinks, I think). This is a hybrid bird, and the sexlink means that female chicks are one color while males are another. They are bred to lay a lot of eggs.
Buff Orpingtons. These are extremely common, extremely big/puffy, and known in chicken circles as the “golden retriever of chickens” for their friendly, easygoing demeanor.
Dominiques. This is the breed I’m most excited about, as they are among the oldest American breeds, developed by some of the first European settlers to North America. Their barred black and white feathers provide camouflage against predators, they are extremely active foragers, very cold hardy and friendly. They’re also medium sized, I think about on-par with the Golden Buffs.
Silver-Laced Wyandottes. These are probably the showiest of our selection… check out those feathers. They’re big like the buff orpingtons and cold hardy, too. Perusing the chicken forums, I suspect these might have the greatest potential to be less friendly, but they’re still considered pretty easygoing and docile.
The chicks will spend about 6-8 weeks indoors getting bigger and growing feathers before they move out to their coop. I’m excited to see how The Toddler takes to them! (Don’t panic: No small children or dogs or cats will be left unattended with the flock. Handwashing precautions and kissing bans will be in place to prevent salmonella.)
So that’s the news in chickens.
We still just have the one human kid (15 months old now. How?!) But in a week, we’ll be adding three literal kids to the family. Goat kids.
The Husband and I found three Nigerian Dwarf wethers (neutered males) available for sale from a lovely woman who lives in deep Amish Country, about an hour and a half south of us. We went to “interview” them a couple weeks ago and decided we had found the pets/weed eaters for us. They’re actually almost a year old, so maybe not kids much longer, but they’re super cute!
No, we’re not doing dairy goats. I know we’re already teetering on “more than we can handle” territory and can’t imagine keeping up with milking, let alone having to breed regularly and deal with newborn kids. And no, despite our jokes and hypothetical talks last summer when this crazy idea first crossed our minds, we’re not raising them for meat. They’re going to eat all our poison ivy and wild roses and enjoy the sunshine and sleep in the barn.
What I’m most nervous about with goat ownership is parasite/worm control. There is definitely a learning curve, but the woman selling the goats has already been really helpful in sharing resources, and we’ve been doing a lot of research and reading on our own. There’s no greater teacher than experience, though, right?
So on Saturday, we’ll go get our little herd. Today we will be setting up the electric fence and finishing setting up their barn stall and outdoor shelter to keep them out of the rain. And finding a mouse-proof place to keep the goat pellets we bought that isn’t the dining room.
More on goats as the story develops.
And life is sweet.
Our smallest new charges will arrive by the thousands in April. This is the piece of the hobby farm pie I’m most nervous about, as it seems you need an advanced degree to keep up with all the maintenance and disease prevention, but we’re going to start beekeeping.
We’ve been taking classes with the Medina Beekeepers Association over the past month, learning about bee anatomy and hive dynamics and mites and pollen and honey. While it will be really nice to have fresh honey if it works out, I feel a moral duty to at least try to take on this task, as honey bees continue to die out and be threatened by insecticides and pesticides and mites.
I don’t have much more to say about beekeeping yet because I still have so much to figure out, but by late April we’ll have the hives installed, and if the weather conditions are right, we might be able to harvest a little honey by the end of the season.
So there you have it. Our little homestead is taking shape, and my days of reading books and folding laundry and freelancing will also be days of sweeping a coop, trimming hooves and checking hives. It’s going to be a big change for our family, and thus a big shift in topic matter for the blog. I hope you don’t mind. Stick around–if for nothing else than the many, many pictures of baby chickens I’ll inevitably post in the coming weeks.
There’s something about winter that presses down on me every year and makes me feel incapable. And not just incapable of achieving goals but of having original thoughts. I don’t even really hate winter, but after noticing a pattern the last 3-4 years, I have to acknowledge that it really gets to me.
Which is why I’m super relishing the unseasonably warm weekend we just had and the week that is ahead, even if it probably points to the catastrophic, irreversible climate change we’re pretending as a country is not happening. (But that’s a train of thought for another post. I can’t think and talk about politics all the time. I just said winter makes me depressed as hell.)
The reason I’ve mustered the strength to think about getting back to blogging, beyond the nice weather and sunshine we’ve had lately, is that our household has finally emerged, still sniffling a little, from two weeks of snotty, coughing, sleepless hell. The Toddler (new nickname. Catchy, right?) caught it first, either from licking every toy at the library or from a birthday party we attended. He started excreting more mucus than seemed possible, quit eating much in the way of solid foods, and coughed his way pitifully through the night.
Immediately, the amazing progress he had made learning to fall and stay asleep by himself, vanished like it had never existed.
Then The Husband caught it, so night duty became my exclusive purview for a few nights. At least I’m not sick, I thought, trying to console myself when The Toddler called out for me the fifth time in as many hours.
A few days later, of course, that was no longer the case. In the middle of all this, bless his little heart, The Toddler cut THREE TEETH — two molars and a canine. So even when he was starting to recover from his cold, he woke screaming from tooth pain. And even when The Husband wanted to help with night wakings, he couldn’t. Only MOM. (Technically, only MOM’S BOOBS.) I absolutely spent some of those night wakings crying while he nursed, and most of the others gritting my teeth and trying not to be a resentful asshole to either The Toddler or The Husband, neither of whom really deserved any blame for this miserable situation.
I was sleeping like I had been when he was a newborn. Even the mess was similar, though instead of pooping hourly he was vomiting hot mucus all over me whenever he nursed at night. The days felt endlessly long because I was too tired to do much and we were quarantined from going anywhere, because cursed be the parent who brings this cold to another family.
He’s had a cold before, and I remember being this spent before. It breaks you down so that you don’t even realize how broken you are. It feels hopeless and eternal.
But then the night before last, he only woke up twice. He even puked the second time, soaking me down to my underpants in breastmilk and snot. But you guys: He slept in until 7:45. And then he napped for another solid 2.5 hour stretch yesterday.
Last night was even better. It’s 6:45 a.m. and I’m alone. He’s not awake yet. He’s truly feeling better and starting to catch up on his deep, deep sleep deficit. I’m glad for him, because of course it breaks my heart to see him in pain, but if I’m being honest, I’m also super excited for me. I feel like I’m surfacing from two weeks of barely treading water.
It feels so good to feel good again.
(If any of this sounds like nonsense, I remind you that I’m super rusty in the blogging game.) Also, in other news, I made my first Etsy sale on my Granny’s stuff, we’re starting to play “Are we really doing this” chicken regarding actually getting goats this spring and I think it’s happening for real, and having a sick toddler made me wonder sincerely how anyone keeps two or more children alive at any given point.)