TWO WEEKS!

That’s right. Two weeks until Baby #2’s estimated due date. This iconic scene from Total Recall is all I can think of:

We’re ready…ish. Readyish. With Willem, I really had no idea what to expect. Sure, you read the books and the blogs and absolutely soak up all the information you can about caring for your newborn (or at least I did). You get all the baby “stuff” that is supposedly essential to having a happy baby these days. You stock your freezer and buy 20 extra rolls of toilet paper so you won’t have to send your husband out at 2 am.

20160115. Baby blanket for #2.

But no one can tell you how your body and brain will react to insane hormones, nursing all day and all night, the physical pain and recovery your body must go through on zero sleep, and a tiny creature you don’t quite understand, are just getting to know, and are trying to keep alive and, preferably, from crying.

End of the year snapshots.

And so now I know all of that… which makes it both easier and even more terrifying. That’s where the readyish part comes into play. I know I will never be truly “ready” for the newborn shock to the system. It’s just something you’ve got to get through, in all its sweet messiness.

End of the year snapshots.

This time, of course, I also have a wonderful little boy in the mix, a little dude who amazes me daily with his smarts, sense of humor, gentleness, and sweetness. Latest cute Willem-ism: he has this running monologue lately that goes something like, “big car, red car, green car, big big car,” etc. as he’s going about his day. Yesterday I asked him what was in mommy’s tummy. His response? “Baby car.”

I am so proud to be his mom, and I can’t wait to see how he and his little brother become a team. And I worry I am not going to be able to live up to being the mom Willem knows and loves.

Warm December chicken petting.

And then I worry that I’m going to sell this new little guy short, that he’ll just be along for the ride. And I know this is all silly and, really, pointless to fret about because, in TWO WEEKS (+/- two weeks, of course), Baby #2 will be here.

We’ll be fine, we’ll be great even, and when it comes right down to it, I absolutely cannot wait to meet this kiddo.

20160116. 38 weeks.

Doing Good and Being Awesome: Turning Over a New Leaf

As the snow slowly melts away in our corner of the world, tiny seedlings grow strong in our basement, and the promise of many, many new faces leaps up in my near future, I’m reminded of how dynamic life really is. All winter, we hole up, cozy and warm in our house-cocoons in a sort of stasis, with vague recollections of buds on trees and crocuses popping up through thawed dirt.

20150301. It's beginning to look a lot like... March 1?

As Kurt Cobain would say, though, spring is here again, friends, and this spring in particular promises to be the beginning of something amazing, something much bigger than me (or any one person, for that matter), something dynamic and shifting and growing and changing.

Drum roll, please: Thanks to the nudging of a new friend and neighbor, Sara Croft, and the powers of Facebook, this spring we will be organizing our neighbors to create a community garden in the Keystone-Monon neighborhood of Indianapolis. Just writing those words makes me feel giddy, excited, and a little terrified, but mostly all warm and fuzzy.

Whee. I want to read this whole book, right meow! And get these flyers posted! Also, Willem totally said "kisses" just now, which i think makes it his first legit word (beyond mama, dada, and neigh, of course).

Sara is an energetic, get-it-done kind of woman, and with just one simple Facebook post describing her vision of this project, she had me, hook, line, and sinker. See, what we’ve already discovered is that there is tremendous power in numbers. What feels like an incredibly daunting undertaking for just one person – finding and securing land, building the community involvement needed for success, seeking out water and supplies, building beds, managing volunteers, and countless other things we haven’t even begun to imagine – seems not only manageable, but fun and fulfilling with many hands, many faces, many ideas driving us forward.

Why a community garden? As followers of this blog know, we have a very healthy backyard (and, increasingly, front yard) garden, as well as chickens, bees, and compost. What I’ve longed for, though, is the shared wisdom, commiseration, fun, and all-out neighborliness that comes from sharing such a garden space. The summer of the drought and triple degree temperatures a few years ago, when our garden became a study in suspended animation, all our plants simply shutting down? How nice would it have been to have a group of friendly faces to commiserate with, to work side by side in the sweltering heat to keep those plants hanging on?

20120727. RAIN CLOUDS.

That year the rainclouds formed, but no rain came.

I want to be a part of creating something bigger than me, something that not only feeds our bellies but also nourishes our minds, our need for social connection and community, our ability to care for ourselves and the motivation and drive to look out for one another. There is nothing more basic, more human than cultivating our own food.

20130504. Garden hands.

20150301. Inside, everything's green.

I’m also so looking forward to the “community” part of community garden. When I was a kid, we buzzed all around the neighborhood, a pack of wild dogs on Big Wheels and bicycles, until the streetlights came on and it was time to go home. I want my son to have that sense of togetherness, of community, of learning and growing and struggling and succeeding together. Though this process is only just beginning, I’m already reminded of how there are still so many amazing people I have yet to meet in this world.

In other “new leaf” news, my amazing husband starts what will hopefully be an amazing new job on Monday…

20121103. Birdie, three months old.

And my little family recently started our second year around the sun together with Willem’s first birthday. Happy birthday, you wonderful little babe! Like I said, life? Dynamic.

Willem's really into raising his food in exaltation before eating it these days. Praise you, pancake!

Willem turns one!

A Year Ago Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

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.

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

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

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.

IMG_0080

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?

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?

The Baby (Food) Bourgeoisie*

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.

Fleeting Fall

The leaves seem to already be falling to the ground, and I feel like I’ve barely had the chance to enjoy them shifting from green to yellow to orange to red on the trees. What’s the deal, fall?

We’ve been in the throes of fall cleanup around here. A few weekends ago, the chickens got their coop and run deep clean. Last weekend, I dug the sweet potatoes and put more of the garden to rest.

There’s always so much excitement to see what’s buried under the soil on sweet potato digging day:
20141004. Sweet potato digging day!

And then? Sometimes, this happens. Yup. That is the entirety of our sweet potato “crop” this year.
20141004. Sweet potatoes... And this is all we got, folks.

Sad trombone.
20141004. A rather lackluster sweet potato year.

Still left to do: planting the garlic, cutting back the perennials in the back, and cutting back our newer/smaller perennials up front. Then the snow can fly.
20141004. Putting the garden to bed for the winter.

This weekend? This weekend, I took care of most of the older perennials in the front yard. We usually leave the coneflower all winter for the birds and other little critters, but we were a little distracted this summer and didn’t do much in the way of staking them as they grew. The end result was a bunch of beautiful, wild, crazy flowers laying across the lawn and each other. So… they had to go.

I feel like we should be doing “fall stuff” with Willem – taking him on hay rides and to pumpkin patches and little kid costume parades. But really? At this point, those things would be more for us than him, and he’s just not terribly keen on big crowds. He had such a great time playing on his blanket in the sun this morning, watching me hack away at the bushes of false blue indigo, butterfly weed, and coneflower. So instead of pictures of Willem with pumpkins, we’ll have pictures of Willem on my Grandma Farm’s colorful quilt in the front yard.

20141012. Fall cleaning of the front yard and play time.

20141012. Fall cleaning of the front yard and play time.

20141012. Fall cleaning of the front yard and play time.

Can you also tell our latest exciting development? Willem now has two bottom teeth coming in! His gummy smile is a thing of the past. Sniff…
20141012. Fall cleaning of the front yard and play time.

I must say, though, I can’t wait until he’s old enough to snuggle up on the couch with us and watch a movie or go play at Conner Prairie or the Children’s Museum or really have a blast watching the Christmas train display at the Eiteljorg Museum. Don’t grow up too fast, kid… but when you do, we’ll have some awesome stuff to do.

20141012. Fall cleaning of the front yard and play time.

Our Freezer Has Never Witnessed This Level of Beauty

No, for real. Look at how pretty our freezer is these days! I could cry.

20140930. Our freezer is a magical, colorful land of baby food.

We’ve got carrots, pumpkin, apple sauce, black beans, berries, sweet potatoes, chicken noodle soup, peas, and spinach all in puree form… and some chocolate peanut butter ice cream for the grown ups.

Also, Willem had spaghetti (mixed with winter squash puree) for the first time today. I think he’s a fan.

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

In other “I like to eat things” news, here I am trying to teach Willem that eating grass is icky. It’s a work in progress. He IS quite small.

Baby Spiders and Chicken Poop

This morning, well before I was sufficiently caffeinated to take on the day, I accomplished one of our big fall chores: deep cleaning the chicken coop and run.

20140920. The biannual massive coop cleaning.Chickens, you ask? We have chickens? Oh, right! We DO have chickens. What with all the all-baby-all-the-time lately, I can understand how you forgot about our five backyard dwellers and purveyors of fine eggs.

20140920. Boo dust bathing.

Raggedy, molting, super-layer Boo.

The girls are still alive and kicking, although I realized the other day they are starting to get a little, well, OLD. At least in terms of productive layers. We’ve had no problem with egg shortages yet, but the girls were born spring/summer of 2012. Two and a half years old, all of them!

20140920. Little Red and Dino Puppy, temporarily friends.

The only time Little Red willingly gets this close to Dino Puppy, who is a total bully.

Here are a selection of sentences I uttered to my husband before 10 am. Some weekends are just… like this:

  • “I have chicken poop all over me.”
  • “There’s some oregano in the front walk.”
  • “Don’t forget about the baby spiders.”
  • “There are three mosquitoes on Willem’s head.”
  • “I didn’t really scrub it. I just powerwashed it and poured vinegar all over.”

Speaking of babies (did someone mention babies?), Willem is now seven months old!
20140918. Seven months.

And he’s going to be a little lamb for his first Halloween:
20140915. Little lambie's first Halloween costume.P.S. I almost forgot about the baby spiders! Upon removing the wheelbarrow from its hanger on the wall, I discovered two sweet spider eggs hanging out, one of which had hatched. Hundreds of baby spiders smaller than poppy seeds were moving oh so silently around their little web. And by “sweet” spider eggs, I mean “terrifying.” And by “silently,” I mean “with great malevolance.” Spiders? I love them in theory, but not so much in practice. Or hatching in my garage.