A Year Ago Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

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I don’t think I will ever feel as strongly, strangely nostalgic for “a year ago today” as I do right now. See, in a few days, my first baby turns one. A year ago, he was still part of me. And after his first birthday? Well, a year ago from then, every day moving forward for the rest of his life, he will have been his own little awesome person. You follow me on that one? Good.

Stats have been taken! Now the kid just needs to turn one.

Why do I feel so strongly about this? I mean, there are anniversaries, of course. This past September 7, I certainly reminisced fondly about a year prior, when I got to marry my love, my best friend, and one all-around awesome, standup dude.

But, just as all the Bradley classes and relaxation techniques in the world could not possibly prepare me for how painful labor was, I also couldn’t begin to fathom how completely life would change once Willem joined us. I read up on every possible thing I could before Willem was born: labor, caring for a newborn, baby sleep, cloth diapering, hospital packing lists, stroller reviews, etc. etc. etc. I read until I could read no more… and then I rallied and read some more.

None of those things could ever prepare me for life as it is today. It sounds so cliche, and I can’t even quite describe it. The closest I can come, though, is thinking about where I was a year ago. I remember how excited I was, how ready I felt, how impatient… and I laugh at myself for how completely unprepared I really was. 

So where was I a year ago? A year ago yesterday, 2/15, was my due date. Chris and I celebrated by getting splurge yarn at Mass Ave. Knit Shop and eating delicious Mexican food at La Margarita in Fountain Square.

Splurge yarn:
Hearts.

BELLY:
20140215. Hello, due date!

A year ago today, 2/16, Chris, Birdie, and I tromped through over a foot of snow at Holliday Park, determined to walk this baby out of me.

Birdie and the Sleepies

A year ago tomorrow, 2/17, was my first day of maternity leave. I visited the midwife in the morning, bought some photo frames, and made it home in front of an ice storm. I framed a bunch of our wedding photos, got the diaper changing area ready… and as I walked out of the nursery, my water broke.

I remember that feeling like it was yesterday. Up to that point, it was all theoretical, the whole “having a baby” thing. Once your water breaks, you realize, OH HOLY CRAP, child birth is imminent. Like, it is ON, people. You also quickly realize that you are both the train conductor and passenger on this ride and at a level of intensity you might never experience again. This is actually happening to you – you’re the only one who can actually do this whole child birth thing – and, at the same time, you are totally just along for the ride. Oh holy shitsnacks.

And then a year ago the day after all that? Well, on 2/18, Willem was here.

Baby K has arrived.

Baby K has arrived.

Baby K has arrived.

Baby K has arrived.

And nothing will ever be the same again. What a lovely life.
20150127. Sickie kid.

It’s Never Too Early, Right?

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Disclaimer: While in my brain I know it may still be a tad early to start seeds, in my green-growing-things-loving-heart, I just don’t care. 

This year, we have a seed starting Renaissance of sorts going on in the basement.

BEHOLD! We have shop lights! With adjustable chains! And a heat mat! I even have a table to work on (so what if the “table” is two saw horses with a piece of wall paneling for the table top?). As the seedlings grow, I’ll move them up to the upper shelf to make way for more babies in the seed nursery on the lower shelf. 

20150208. Seed starting upgrades! Lights that raise and lower and a heat mat.

20150208. New planting setup (sawhorses and a piece of paneling).

What did it look like before, you ask? (That’s the polite way of saying, “How in the world is THIS an improvement?!”).

Last year: Note the boxes used to bring the seeds up to the lights, which were zip tied to the bottoms of our shelves. Also note that wimpy-ass lights, which required constant rotation of the seedling flats lest we have plants growing sideways. Oh, and let’s not forget the wood paneling used to steady the seed flats.
20140209. The seeds are planted! Our no frills growing setup.

2013: I think it was also this year that I used every cookie sheet in our house to try to provide some way to manage the seedlings as they grew and grew and grew. Yeah. Cookie sheets have no place in your seed starting setup, FYI.
20130209. In hindsight, I may have planted a few too many seeds this spring.

 

What seeds have we started at this point? So far, we have a small army of greens, lettuces, and onions going. I also couldn’t resist the siren call of the pepper and planted a load of those.

We had horrible luck last year with seedlings in general and peppers specifically, so I think from here until planting day, I’m just going to start a new round of seeds each week. That may be a bit of an exaggeration… but only just.

 

 

Best Urban Homestead-y Children’s Books (according to Willem)

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I started reading to Willem when he was around two weeks old. He would get his little legs kicking and really seemed to enjoy it, so we just kept on reading.

20140313. Reading time with Willem.

Fast forward to today: in one week, he will be one, and reading is very much a part of our everyday life. We read book after book before naptimes and bedtime. Willem can spend a good 10 minutes simply turning the pages of one of his favorite books or, like today, pulling each book, one by one, out of our “library stash” in the living room.

Christie Reading to Willem

We also have kind of an awesome collection of garden, farm, chicken, and homestead-y type books. I thought I’d share Willem’s top five!

      • Ten Seeds, Ruth Brown: I love, love, love this book. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous, it’s a wonderful CIRCLE OF LIFE tale, and we count the seeds on each page, so I’m pretty sure it will be solely responsible for Willem being able to count to ten.

    • Chicky Chicky Chook Chook, Cathy MacLennan: This book is just fun. At first, I felt a little awkward reading it, but once you get into the flow, man, it just rolls right off the tongue. Percussive would be the right word for this book. This is in Willem’s limited right-before-bed rotation, and it’s one of his faves.

    • Mama, Is It Summer Yet?, Nikki McClure: Nikki McClure can do no wrong in my mind. I’ve gotten her calendars for the last four years. Her art is just beautiful, and it really speaks to the baby brain (high contrast). This is the first of her books we’ve gotten; I look forward to more.

    • On the Farm, David Elliott and Holly Meade: The inner wanna-be block printing artist in me sings with joy at the artwork in this book, and the melodic, entertaining poetry is just grand. They have a book called In the Sea, too, which is now on Willem’s wish list.

    • Chicken Cheeks, Michael Ian Black and Kevin Hawkes: Hey, it’s written by Michael Ian Black! What’s not to love? We haven’t read this a ton yet, but I’m guessing once Willem reaches that magical age where anything related to butts is hilarious, this will be in constant rotation.

20140208. 39 weeks.

Happy reading, all!

Breastfeeding: The Un(der)told, Rather Mundane Story

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Take a moment to peruse the mommy blogs, and you’ll find an abundance of highly sentimentalized accounts of women’s breastfeeding relationships with their children. You’ll read about gut-wrenching, tear-inducing (for the mom) weaning processes; of middle of the night, oh-so-peaceful nursings; of moments spent smiling down on your baby’s shiny locks, just the two of you nestled away from this big, loud world.

There aren’t a lot of accounts, however, that fit my experience with breastfeeding. My experience? Breastfeeding: it’s just what we do. How’s THAT for a t-shirt slogan? Probably not going to win any La Leche League contests with that one. If I’m breastfeeding in public without a cover, it’s not some political statement, nor is it because I’m a perv. It’s just the way my son eats. I would venture a guess there are a lot of women in this same boat.

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But before I hurl myself headlong into this particular topic, I have to first acknowledge how incredibly thankful I am to have been able to breastfeed my son for the last 11+ months. Breastfeeding, I DO love you, I swear. Let me count the ways:

  1. I am (or, rather, my milk is) literally all the nourishment my son needs in his first year on this planet. Let’s ponder on that for just a moment. Seriously, I love being a mammal. We are amazing beasts.
  2. No bottles to scrub, no pumping sessions many times a day, no formula measuring. Just whip out a boob, and voila: breakfast (lunch, dinner, second breakfast, elevensies, supper, etc.) is served. I am incredibly grateful, too, because, while many a lactation consultant would have you believe that the vast majority of women can OF COURSE do the whole exclusive breastfeeding thing, this is really not so true. I would say at least half if not more of my mom friends have supplemented with formula or pumped regularly or pumped exclusively or any combination of the above for all sorts of reasons. And that is not only totally okay, but normal! It annoys me that a woman might feel guilt or “less than” because she’s been told the lie all her life that breastfeeding is easy and foolproof. But I digress…
  3. Antibodies are freaking awesome. And I quote: “When a mother kisses her baby, she ‘samples’ those pathogens that are on the baby’s face. Those are ones that the baby is about to ingest. These samples are taken up by the mother’s secondary lymphoid organs like the tonsils, and memory B cells specific for those pathogens are re-stimulated. These B cells then migrate to the mother’s breasts where they produce just those antibodies that the baby needs,” says Lauren Sompayrac, author of ‘How The Immune System Works.'” HOW COOL IS THAT?!

20140616. Working on the sippy cup action.

Breastfeeding, it’s not you I have a beef with, but rather the (well-meaning but, in my experience, misguided to the point of detriment to the mother) “breast is best” community and the very odd, pervasive message that breastfeeding should be this beautiful, profound experience – and that experience is actually one of the primary motivators for a woman to breastfeed in the first place (or hold off weaning, extend breastfeeding, etc.).

So what has my experience been, you ask? 

  • First two weeks: Sheer awfulness. Absolutely horrid, complete with toe curling pain and, ahem, damaged nipples. That’s right. DAMAGED. NIPPLES. Two words that should never go together. I made it through thanks to my own stubbornness and the promises from many friends that it would get better. There is nothing more demoralizing than sad nipples, particularly combined with exhaustion and insano-peppers post-partum hormones. It was during this time that I was told by various lactation professionals that, “We are just fine tuning here,” “Your latch looks great,” and, “I’ve seen worse.” Super helpful, right? I would have a lot more respect for lactation consultants as a whole if they could admit that BREASTFEEDING DOES HURT for many, many women. The insistence that it SHOULDN’T hurt if you’re doing it right (insert many new mothers’ first introduction to a lifetime of mommy judgment and mommy guilt, thanks a lot) is insane. If you applied 30 minutes of suction every two hours to ANY part of your body – like, say, your elbow – it would probably be pretty raw after a week or two, too.
  • Next three months: I started metering out the pain killers I was prescribed for the pain of giving birth, instead using them so I could have at least a couple of nursing sessions a day that didn’t induce toe curling pain and the urge to cry. I was healing, but it pretty much hurt like crazy for months. MONTHS. And that, my friends, puts a serious damper on any warm, fuzzy emotions you might have about breastfeeding.
  • Three months until about 11 months: This was when breastfeeding really became… just what we did. And it was lovely. We started getting it down, aided in part by the fact that nursing sessions were slowly decreasing. We got on a better schedule, and Willem nursed in the morning, after each nap, before bed, at night a couple of times… and soon he was sleeping through the night (or at least not needing to eat when he needed some help getting back to sleep).
  • And then we hit 11 months (aka last week): Willem and his four top teeth suddenly started marathon, half-hour nursing sessions again. He got his first cold, so I’m guessing his little body recognized that it needed some extra antibodies. Within days I was having flashbacks to those first awful months. We will not go through that again. Oh no, we won’t. Enter in the first thoughts and efforts toward weaning.

Willem has an appreciation for green things, too. Kale, collards, and garlic scapes, coming right up!

So what’s next for us? No clue, but I think we’ll know when one or both of us are ready to go cold turkey. I know I have an almost one-year-old who’s eating solids, drinking milk, and clearly thriving (hello, 25.5-lb. baby!).

Breastfeeding the babe, seven months and counting.

In truth, I shy away from highly emotional representations of breastfeeding, partly because I just don’t relate and partly because they leave me feeling guilty for NOT having this crazy personal breastfeeding relationship with my son. But I’ve decided this is one particular thing that I refuse to feel guilty about on this whole parenting journey.

20140930. Willem's first spaghetti (with winter squash).

I hope coming clean with the fact that breastfeeding is not always some divine experience makes it that much easier for the next person to just FEED HER BABY however she chooses, without guilt or judgment. And some of us will even be honest about the fact that breastfeeding is HARD AS F*CK and sometimes REALLY, REALLY SUCKS and, for a lot of women, is just NOT POSSIBLE. And also that all of that is completely normal.

How Has It Been Almost a Year?

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The baby’s-first-year-on-the-planet time warp is REAL, folks. How is it that our son is almost one? Well, really, he’s almost 11 months old, but since I’ve begun planning his first birthday party, it feels like his first trip around the sun is really almost here.

It simultaneously feels like the longest year of my life AND like he just arrived yesterday. Kind of for the same reasons, actually – Willem has changed SO MUCH in the last 11 months (and so have I), and the changes are happening faster and faster every day, it seems. Suddenly, we have a waving, giggling, steady on his feet (at least when standing), sweet little guy with his own PERSONALITY and stuff. Oh, and he can say “mama,” which is about the cutest thing ever.

And to think: a year ago, he was still IN MAH BELLY. Totally crazy.

20140112. 35 weeks.

One year ago today.

Anyway, I’m getting pretty excited for his birthday. The kid has so many toys already, so we are definitely not getting him much in the way of “stuff.” Instead, on the actual big day, Chris will take off work so we can go do something fun as a family – I’m thinking we’ll go to the Children’s Museum. Then we’re having a small party of family and friends to help celebrate.

I am ALL OVER Pinterest these days re: party decor. See Exhibit A:

First birthday crafting.

Willem loves reading, so the big “thing” he’ll get from us is something along the lines of this:

Chris is going to build the tent frame, and I just ordered this fabric for the tent sides. I am probably, definitely a little WAY TOO EXCITED about it. I think we’ll really enjoy reading together, lying in our tent:

I’m also putting together some fun little camping supplies to round out the whole tent gift idea. Like… have you ever knitted a log? Because I am currently knitting a log! (I mean, I don’t have a LOG….)

Any other ideas to add to the tent/camping gift? I need to go thrifting and see if I can find some fun metal cooking camp pots, maybe a metal mug. A fake/wooden Coleman lamp? Or, heck, a REAL (but baby-friendly) lamp of some sort?

New Year’s Intentions, Part 2: What to NEVER, EVER Buy Conventionally (or What to Grow in Your Garden)

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I was so excited about all the fancy words in my last post that I neglected the real meat/reason I wrote that post in the first place: to document which foods are best to buy organic and which are passable when conventionally grown.

During the summer, we hardly buy vegetables at all. We have so much growing in our yard that it’s difficult to eat it all at times. During the winter, though, we rely on others to grow our produce. The insane things we allow to be sprayed on our fruits and vegetables in this country totally freak me out, particularly now that we have a tiny, small being who loves fruits and vegetables in the house.

But the thing about buying organic or solely at the farmers market? $$$$. Really. I hate to say it, but $$$$. And also? Selection (at least at the standard chain grocery stores). And getting downtown to the weekly winter farmers market with a baby is just not always practical.

Dirty Dozen: The Environmental Working Group has a list of foods you should absolutely, never, OMG-you’ll-turn-green-and-die buy if conventionally grown. Strawberries are a really great one to grow at home instead (as well as spinach, snap peas, hot peppers, bell peppers, celery… shoot, just grow ‘em all)!

  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Nectarines (imported)
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Snap peas (imported)
  • Potatoes
  • Hot peppers
  • Blueberries (domestic)

Clean Fifteen: Look how many of Willem’s favorite foods are on this list! SCORE!

  • Avocados (BABY FAVE)
  • Sweet corn (BABY FAVE)
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Sweet peas (frozen) (BABY FAVE)
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Mangoes
  • Papayas
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe (domestic)
  • Cauliflower (BABY FAVE)
  • Sweet potatoes (BABY FAVE)

Resolutions: Confessions of the Garden and Eating Variety

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So this is kind of embarrassing to admit, considering I love my garden and all growing green things so much AND considering I work for an urban micro-farming/health and wellness/general “get awesome with your bad self” non-profit… but wow, have we ever fallen off the healthy eating wagon as of late.

My biggest intention for 2015? Get back into whole, healthy, organic eating. Period. As much as possible.

20141231. Good intentions for 2015.

It started when Willem was born. I had no energy to make much in the way of healthy food, and I was starving ALL THE TIME, breastfeeding Willem, so getting calories of any kind was more important than trying to piece together healthy meals. 

Add to that the fact that the garden itself was rather sad last summer (I was a little too preoccupied with general functioning and raising a wee babe), and so even during prime eating season, we weren’t eating super great. Then… in saunters winter. And everything falls to shit.

Willem eats wonderfully. He is very much interested in food, and at 10.5 months, he still has never had a jar of store-bought baby food. The problem? Willem eats better than us. By a lot.

Which brings us to my goal of getting more healthy, whole, organic foods back into our lives. We’ll be looking into a meat CSA again for the early winter/spring and going organic (and hopefully local) for our vegetables. It’ll get easier once our SUPER-AWESOME GARDEN OF 2015 starts producing this spring, but the next few months will be a good testing ground.

20140104. Garden planning, v.2015.

Also? I just got this amazing book from my in-laws for Christmas. So excited to curl up with this, a wee glass of whiskey, and watch the snow fly outside.
Day 71. Wonderful Christmas gift from my in-laws and SNOW and football. Ahhh, Sunday. #100happydays

Hello, Blogness, My Old Friend

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WOW. Has it really been a month and a half since my last post?! HELLO, little long lost bloggie. And how are you?

I wish I could say I’ve been solving world hunger or writing a manifesto that will lead to sustained peace on Earth and good will towards mankind, but no. I’ve just been busy - working, living, prepping for and then celebrating Christmas, playing with my super amazing kid, and watching movies in my jammies with my husband.

So what drove me to post today? It’s pretty self-serving: garden planning has begun, and this is still my official place to store such knowledge for future seasons. This is the second year in a row that I’ve received a gift card to Seed Savers Exchange for Christmas, which is pretty much the best idea ever for a gardener in the winter. Just cracking open that amazingly colorful catalog on these insanely gray December days has been good for the soul.

Day 43. I think Seed Savers Exchange has perfected when to send their dreamy catalogs, full of promises of beautiful, colorful, delicious growing things. Don't worry, Willem, we'll get plenty of green beans. #100happydays

And today was the magical seed ordering day. I also ordered a heat mat, and we’re heading to Lowe’s later to step up our game with lighting in the basement. No more lights zip tied to the bottoms of shelves; no more of this propping up of seedling trays on various boxes to get them closer to or further away from the lights depending on their stage of development; no more needing to constantly rotate the trays so they actually get sort of, kind of equal lighting. We will have adjustable, bright, wonderful lights this year, and my life will be so much easier for it.

Here’s what I ordered today. It also turns out I have an insane number of seeds packets from last season, too, which I’m hoping will still germinate somewhat successfully. Mama needs her arugula!

Exciting things this year: cucumbers will make their return to the garden, and we’ll be trying to grow acorn squash and muskmelon for the first time this year. Oh, and I’m going to have a lot of space dedicated to growing onions right this year. And maybe an entire husk cherry area somewhere. And tomatillos!

  • Tomatillo, Green Husk
  • Swiss Chard, Five Color Silverbeet
  • Tomato, Mexico Midget
  • Tomato, Italian Heirloom
  • Squash, Table Queen
  • Radish, French Breakfast
  • Pepper, Tequila Sunrise
  • Pepper, Jalapeno Traveler Strain
  • Onion, Red Wethersfield
  • Melon, Schoon’s Hard Shell
  • Kale, Lacinato
  • Ground Cherry, Aunt Molly’s
  • Cucumber, Japanese Climbing
  • Beet, Bull’s Blood

Basically? After my disappointing seed starting endeavor last year (I DID have a baby in the midst of prime seed starting time, so I have a  good excuse), I AM NOT MESSING AROUND THIS YEAR. You hear me, future garden? NOT. MESSING. AROUND.

Wendell Berry: Still the Man

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I don’t know if I’ve posted it here before, but I stumbled across one of my favorite writings from Wendell Berry today. I love being reminded of a beloved poem or essay or quote and breathing in the words all over again. This poem is an old friend who I haven’t seen in a while, and re-reading the words is like meeting over coffee and picking up right where we left off.

Day 18. Willem's magnet board, covered in cards, prints, and artwork from loved ones. #100happydays

Case in point:

“Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.”

Day 14. Chive and carrot seeds, shaken loose from their seed pods to feed us next summer. #100happydays

And the closing:

“As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.”

Day 16. Church sign wisdom I can support. Let's all fail gloriously today! #100happydays

The Baby (Food) Bourgeoisie*

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The other day, Willem had a late harvest medley with deconstructed meatballs for lunch. Oh, yeah. We’ve reached a new level of fine baby dining.

Willem's dinner: chard, lentils, and some sauce.

What exactly is that, you wonder? I’m glad you asked. It’s actually pureed spinach and carrots mixed with ground beef, onions, and garlic I had cooked up for chili for the grown ups in the house. But it sounds so much more intriguing when described all fancy-like, doesn’t it?

The chard is as big as Willem.

I’m kicking myself for not planting some more fall chard. Willem loves spinach, and chard is basically like spinach on steroids, right?

The other day, he had chard from the backyard mixed with lentils and apple sauce from our trip to Andersen Orchard. And yes, I sampled it. Pretty delicious, I must say.

*NOTE: You know how I remember how to spell “bourgeoisie”? I pronounce it in my head “bur-gee-OY-zee.” Every time. One of these days, I’ll slip and say it out loud.

What else is new? Well, our sweet guy is eight months old today. Consequently, getting his monthly pictures has gotten a tad trickier.

20141018. 8 months old.

20141018. 8 months old.

Love love love you, you majestic little creature, you.
Hanging with my favorite almost 8-month-old.

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