Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Last Sunshine

It is tying the 1972 record for cold weather here today.  Rainy, cold, and windy is forecast for the next seven days.  I was really ready for parks and outside stuff, damn it.  We had a lovely day far away in the mall; I'll have to post pictures of the shoes that Pequita selected for herself out of a pile of nice sturdy shoes.

We picked out some pines for the front yard yesterday.  They are on order - we have to be careful since the road salt will definitely affect them, and there aren't that many medium sized tolerant spruces.

We're off for more errands.  What else, in the rain?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Rainy Day

We are headed for the mall an hour away to exchange some gifts we received a few months ago. 

Really we are going because Pequita is hypersensitive and crying at the drop of a hat for no apparent reason, and Monito has a horrible cold that I am afraid will turn into asthma again and is miserable and wants to be held all the time.  An hours nap up, some playing with toys and being overstimulated by passers by in the mall, then an hours ride home sounds like just the ticket to me.  I'll listen to my Pema Chodron cd all the way there and back and will be in such a state of zen that I won't even recognize myself.  One can hope.

Cheers.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lifetime Quality

Both Homestead Mama and I grew up with parents who worked hard for what little they had, and like most folks have grandparents who lived through the depression and passed on frugality as a lifestyle. While this frugality seems to fade a bit more with each generation, H-Mama and I each have parts of our lives in which we live very conservatively and purposefully more out of choice versus need. We strive to live with less consumption both to save money but also to keep frugal habits that we can pass on to the kids. Frugal living is a muscle that must be flexed; it is all too easy to get in the habit of buying whatever you want.

I remember my father's workbench in the basement, the surface covered in decades of paint drips and nicks from tools put there by many previous owners. The edges of all the shelves rounded and softened with years of use. The vice clamped permanently onto the edge of the bench was good for many fun experiments. The smell of sawdust, paint thinner, oil, and that cool, dusty but embracing smell of basements accompanied all our activities down there. I love that scent to this day. We got to spend our precious alone-time with Dad down there, doing projects, playing, and being taught how to use tools. It was a huge treat to be allowed to help change the powdery mantle on the lantern before a camping trip, or have his big hand cover ours and guide the wood burner as we made patterns and burned our names onto mother's day projects. I got the Visible Woman model for Christmas one year and Dad spent hours at the workbench putting her together alongside me.

Homestead Mama remembers her first solo woodworking project at her dad's workbench - a boat made with scrap wood and nails. As many nails as she wanted [do you see where this is going?]. Her dad gave her the hammer and let her whack away until she felt it was done. She was so proud of her boat, and her father encouraged her wildly. She sadly, and much to her father's dismay, insisted on filling the bathtub for a maiden voyage. All the structural integrity offered by the better part of a box of nails holding the boat together was the source of the devastation of all her hopes and dreams for her beloved boat as the water rose around it and over the top of it as it failed to float. In confused desperation, she picked it up, dried it off and set it gently upon the surface of the water. It made an audible clunk as it hit the bottom of the tub, sinking like a ten-penny nail-encrusted stone.

My dad had all his paintbrushes carefully washed and wrapped in newspaper to protect the bristles and hanging in the tool cabinet. They were years old, but the bristles were in perfectly good condition due to good care. This same respect for paintbrushes was instilled in both H-Mama and I, so when we bought the Homestead we invested in Purdy paintbrushes which will last through decades of painting if you care for them well.

Over the past few years, as our own work on the Homestead has lessened, we've loaned out our painting supplies and other construction materials to friends to help out their projects. Everyone has been generous to us with their time and tools, and we are happy to pay that forward. However, I was ready to paint the new kitchen shelves and couldn't find any of our brushes. Very sad, as I assume they died a lonely and paint-encrusted death long before their usefulness should have been up. So when Homestead Mama and I went to pick her car up from its oil change site yesterday, we stopped at Home Depot on the way home to buy some paintbrushes. At $15 or so per brush, this is an expense I had hoped to not have more than once, but we now have a few new brushes to get our immediate projects taken care of. I'll build our supply back up over time so as not to crack the budget. H-Mama called in a take-away order of Indian food for our dinner and drove home with the sleeping babies, leaving me to pick up the food. I drove by the restaurant and noticed how packed it was, assumed that I had at leat 25 minutes to waste before the food was ready and headed over to the massive book sale that our town puts on twice a year to fund our library. It was torture to leave after only 15 minutes or so - I've killed entire afternoons at the book sale before - but I still managed to score a bunch of books to help me crack the mysteries of child-rearing. I'll have to play years 4 and 5 and 8 by ear since they didn't have the books from the much-recommended Ames and Ilg series for those years, but otherwise I'm good through puberty. I feel more confident in my parenting already, and at at the huge bargain of about $1.50 a book.


You can see some some crappy books fell in my bag on the way out and I was too lazy to pull them out.

Stranded

Last Friday morning was a whirlwind of efficiency. We were up by 6 am [as is sadly becoming the norm] had the kids dressed, fed and ready to get in the car by 8 am so we could drop H-Mama's car off at the shop for an oil change first thing. With a two-hour daily commute, we do that frequently. I had a 10 am acupuncture appointment to help ease the nasty cold and back spasm out of my system, so I dropped H-Mama and both babies off at our friend's house for playgroup [H-Mama's first, I believe, and she loved it] and ARRIVED EARLY at my blissfully quiet, relaxing and child-free hour on the treatment table. I got to hear about my acupuncturist's recent trip to Dharamsala which made my wanderlust flare up a bit even through my zen like state of needled relaxation. Then I fetched the rest of the family from playgroup and we headed home. H-Mama took off for work in my car and I spent the day with the kids and the carpenter. Early afternoon, we headed outside to pile in the stroller to walk walk walk our way to a nice nap which was to end up at the alpaca farm that is three miles away, but - lo and behold - no stroller. H-Mama was running so late she forgot to take it out of the car. How do you get two tired babes to sleep with a carpenter drilling and sawing intermittently in the kitchen? Not very well. Pequita hollered and cried for 45 minutes before I gave up and saved her. Monito slept like a log as long as I held him, so his nap was over when I went to fetch Pequita from the hell that is her crib. We decided to stay outside for a change of pace and get a little yard work done, so we went next door to the neighbor's house to borrow their big wheelbarrow. Pequita and Monito prefer this mode of transport when they can get it; when we stop by the mailbox on the way past for some reading material, all the better. Everyone in cars who pass us wave and chuckle when the see the little heads peeping over the rim of the barrow, and the kids love that.

Even with the Pequita trying to feed conkers* to Monito - the perfect choking size and shape - I managed to get some flower beds raked and ready for blooming. About time, too, as the plants below were almost entirely obscured by mounds of leaves and winter yard debris. They should have been cleared off weeks ago. I snapped some pictures early this morning when Monito and I took the dogs out at 6:30 am, replete with picturesque dew.

Lily of the valley encircling the base of our massive Norway spruce; our favorite neighbor's house visible in the background.
Hosta that I planted in a ring around the base of our big maple tree in the front yard.

Toad lilies that grow around the base of the maple tree and all through our front lawn. If you live anywhere near us, please speak up if you want a bunch of any of these plants. They all need to be thinned.

It doesn't take much for me to feel like I've accomplished something. Twenty minutes of raking and hauling away of pine cones, twigs and tree debris and both the front yard and I are glowing. I'm sure the neighbors appreciate the efforts to eliminate the unkempt look.

*I was a champion conker player in Switzerland. We went to a private school filled with Brits, and it was kill or be killed. You don't know pain until you've been whacked with a whizzing chestnut on a string. It is all in the selection of the nut - you have to listen for the right tone when thumped, like selecting a melon.

Hairless

Ahhh. I've returned to my previous haircut. The 2" long crop of post-pregnancy regrowth finally got to me and I had my stylist [you wouldn't think I had one, eh? Yeah, me neither but I do] fix it but good. I walked into the salon a frumpy new mom and walked out a lesbian with cool hair who happens to have kids. Homestead Mama thinks it makes me look younger, which excited me a lot until I realized that I have arrived at 'that certain age' where looking younger is even a concern. Phooey. I don't even have to really wash it all that much, just run my wet hands through it to realign the 'do and run. I feel liberated and surprisingly cute. You'll have to ignore my early morning puffiness to agree, I fear. Thirty-nine *is* middle-aged, isn't it? My birthday is in less than a month.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Standing Tall

Here's the boy's first time rolling over and pulling himself up in his crib. The pride is evident. He received much kissing and cooing for his efforts.

And yes, Dad, we did replace the electrical outlet with one impervious to a now-standing child. Funny now that we thought we'd have an entertainment center in that corner and not the second crib. Life is good as we know it. Monito is definitely entertaining, too.

Sunny Saturday

Finally, winter is gone. We usually have a Nor'Easter or killing frost at least once every spring, but for the most part we are in shorts and t-shirts now for the next six months.

This past Saturday we decided to take Cosmo the new puppy for some socializing at the dog park next to the marina in our town. He has graduated to being loose in the invisible fence in our yard and has acclimated remarkably fast. He is out hunting small animals and romping for hours with the other dogs; his spirits are so good and he continues to be a super dog. Not having to walk him on a leash outside anymore? Priceless.

Homestead Mama takes him into the fenced-in dog park to play while I walk around the perimeter with the babies in the stroller. They like to watch Cosmo and H-Mama from afar, and pass him cookies through the fence when he comes close enough. Afterwards, we took him along the lake and let him have his first - possibly ever - swim in a lake. All his breeding descends from water dogs, and he was clearly excited to be splashing around. He'll have to have another dog show him the ropes with swimming - he didn't even attempt it.

Pequita really likes to throw stones in the water - they only go about six inches from her body, but she like the ripples nonetheless. Monito is still happy in the stroller watching a lot of the time, and it is easier to keep him out of the sun that way. We took him out for a walk as we headed back to the car. Pequita wanted to hold his hand and help him like Mommy does, but tends to run these days instead of walking and kept pulling him over. He loved it, and was cracking up as he picked himself up over and over. Watching them crack each other up is really funny and heartwarming.

We got popsicles on the way home to cool off, and the kids are really getting the hang of eating them. The all-fruit mango and melon are their clear favorites. We had a lovely day. Sunday we spent wandering around the local plant nursery picking out the pine trees we plan to buy to buy ourselves some privacy from the road at the corner we live on. We will buy three nice thick wide ones and plant them a little too close to each other so their branches will block the view of the road. We'll also buy another five or six holly bushes to keep working on our hedge. I am expecting the gorgeous open fields we are surrounded by to be fully developed within the next fifteen years or so, and want our yard to have lots of privacy when that happens. Planting now gives us time to get things nice and large and full by then. When we lived in Switzerland when I was kid, all the houses had 6' tall or bigger hedges all around the yard. They were a beautiful way to keep kids safe and in the yard and traffic noise out, and also helped neighbors enjoy each other a bit more. I have always wanted that again - it seems such a civilized way to live. Homestead Mama likes the idea, and so we plant a few more things each year. I'll get before and after pics of that up as well soon.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pequita's 18 month Stats

Solidly healthy except for this cold, and measuring in at the 83rd %ile for both height and weight.  Good all around.  No more vaccinations until kindergarten - yippee!

Monito Flips

Yeah, sure, he's turned over before, from back to front, front to back.  But the little boy hasn't ever realized that he could DO IT ON COMMAND. 

Last night, Monito was quite sad when I tossed him back in his crib at 3 am in a fit of irritated exhaustion after the fourth HOUR of the must-keep-nipple-in-mouth-or-I'll-scream-bloody-murder bonanza.  Pacifiers are so very nine months, you see, and only live flesh will do now.  Anyway, he listened to his mobile and watched stuff spin around for 20 minutes while carrying on a chat with his zebra, then fussed (wah, wah, wah, pause, pause, repeat) for about 30 minutes, then hunkered down for some serious crying.  Pequita and Homestead Mama dozed through all this but I was awake and listening for the change in tone that signified irreparable mental trauma from neglect.  All of a sudden, Monito thrashed in anger and accidentally rolled over onto his stomach in his crib.  Instant quiet.  Shock.  Then I could hear the smile crack across his face.  From this new position on his stomach, he immediately did what his sister has taught him and stood up, held onto the crib bars and bounced.  This feat of self control precipitated such an episode of happy chortling and mirth that it was nigh impossible not to leap up and dance him proudly around the room, but I was  busy laying the groundwork for the crib training that is rushing at the little nipple-obsessed booger by ignoring him.  Then he realized that although he was vertical, he still had no nipple in his mouth and began to cry in earnest.  At this point I took pity on Pequita who was stirring and fetched the boy back into my bed. 

Man alive, but things are moving fast with him now.  He has been pulling to a stand and scooting along furniture with ease for a few weeks, and can beat me to the dogs' water bucket with enough of a head start.  He has begun to crawl to the center of a space where there is no support and perform a maneuver that resembles a surfer trying to rise to his feet on his board on the open ocean - hands extended out for balance, a slow rise to one knee and then the wobbly attempt to rise to a stand on both feet.  He still inevitably falls kerplunk onto his butt, but he grins the whole time.  (Finally, Dad, we really can't leave him unattended on the diaper changing table.)  It has been a blissfully long run of him being a potato and not even making efforts to move, but the days of Monito being where we put him down are gone for good.  I have a picture of him standing in his crib, but have to wait to post it until I download it off the camera.  It is almost 3 am and I can't sleep because of the cough that I have, but I'll be damned if I commit to being awake enough to deal with more technology than simple blogging. 

Friday, April 18, 2008

$5 Buys a Lot of Happiness


The dragon is for bouncing on. The kids love it.

Mary Mary Quite Contrary

If Mary = Pequita, then yes, contrary it is. She is going through a developmental spurt that prompts her to sag as if boneless to the ground and lie there like Gandhi passively resisting any sort of intervention by me or H-Mama. Two seconds is far too long for her to be expected to struggle with any task; after that she flings things away from her and either wails or growls, depending on the prevailing emotion. The only saving grace is that the spells are short-lived. One of the parenting books I like says to talk to a kid like a caveman during these episodes, keeping any complicated words out of it since they are shut down anyway. Sage advice.

On a lighter note, we have joined a CSA this year. My herb plot is near the kitchen and after two years of lying fallow due to pregnancies and babies it is 2/3 cleared and almost ready for the first crop of lettuce, tomatoes and basil, marjoram, thyme and whatever else strikes me as yummy this year. The oregano comes back each spring, which is always a treat. The CSA will give us a weekly crop of organic veggies that will cost out at cheaper than the grocery store and also supports local farmers. Win-win. Maybe this summer we can get our big plot at least tilled in preparation for planting next year; right now it is just a marked off acre in the field we own next to the house and a dream. A few beds prepared each year should be manageable, no? We'll see.

Monito's Ten Month Stats

A rip-snortingly hearty child, despite the two days of intestinal flu that preceded his appointment. Blowouts are easier when we aren't dressing him in layers and snowsuits, to be sure.

Monito is 31.5 " long [98th percentile] and 24 lbs [83rd percentile]. He has a lead level of 4.1, which prompted congratulations from the staff. I begged to differ and will retest him in three months instead of waiting a year like most folks. Hopefully once he is no longer crawling his level will go down. He is also a little low on iron, which is surprising. Summer is coming and with it the dark leafy greens that will make us all healthier. Until then, he's getting lots of white bean mush, white beans being the highest iron content of all the beans, according to my little How-Not-To-Kill-Your-Baby-With-Food book.

Today I take Pequita in for her 18-month checkup, and will ask about the deep rattly chest cough she is sporting. A little cough medicine for nighttime would be super, but my guess is that the suggestion will be to keep using the humidifier.

And for those of you wondering, yes indeedy, I did get both the chest cold AND the intstinal bug. Yay for Mommy.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sensitive Little Bloke

A Year Ago

My blog friend and frequent commenter Becca is pregnant with her second kid, and is reveling in the connection the two kids have even though one is still in utero. I totally get it. Here is a picture of Pequita at seven months old resting on my eight month along belly. Please note the large lopsided lump on the left side of my belly - that would be Monito trying to play with his sister from the other side. It was really wild to have him respond to her in that way, and it happened increasingly as he grew inside me.

Now, he follows her around like a puppy getting all in her business and wanting whatever she has. She pretends to hate it, but whenever she sits down somewhere she pats the seat next to her and says, "Bubba!". When she is put in her car seat before him, she points to his seat and yells, "Bubba! Bubba!" until he is placed in his seat too. She looks out for him all the time, saving some of her food for him and reserving one nipple always for him. She'll steal some milk from it, but smiles because it has been designated as Bubba's and she's getting extra. This is one of the best parts of having them so close.

Naptime

Monito falls asleep in the living room to the strains of bluegrass music on the television [and right now, the intermittent pop of the nailgun as Dave works in the kitchen].

Pequita falls asleep upstairs in the master bedroom in her crib clutching this picture. It is slightly crinkled, but that in itself is amazing, as she's had it for weeks and clearly values it enough not to ruin it.

We Passed

Well, I think the home inspection went well.  We all stood around the kitchen island and chatted about our histories and told the stories of the babies and the probation officer was very nice.  No one slept very well, what with Pequita's whooping and Monito's return to constant nursing or begging to nurse [a sound that goes like this at increasing volume: heahnnh heaenhhhnh].  Not so great as a lullaby.

She was surprised and pleased that we used the same donor; I think that anyone who hasn't gone through the process of selecting a sperm  donor hasn't really considered that a] you have to pick someone sight unseen, or b] that you could have different kids using different sperm.  She liked the house, even in its imperfect state.  She lives within a mile of her sister who has 7-month old triplets so was unphased by our own Homestead version of morning routine a.k.a. mayhem.

We received the last letter of support late last night, and were able to hand over a complete packet of personal info.  Now all we have to do is wait until we get notice of the court hearing date.  She said that the judge usually lumps all the happy events on the court docket onto one day and spaces those days out, so s/he gets a lovely vacation from the usual family court fodder of broken homes, broken families, broken people.  Makes sense to me. 

I am heaving a HUGE sigh of relief.  I am already planning our announcement that we'll send out - this will be a huge and joyous occasion.  Homestead Mama and I have talked about using Father's Day as our 'Family Day' celebration, the day we do something wonderful and fun and celebrate how we all came to have each other.  I like the idea, but then I'm a sucker for ritualized fun.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Homestead is Back to Rights

Our friends left this morning to return to the wilds of Canada (actually, a lovely little town that is decidedly unwild) and Homestead Mama and I are bustling around getting the house ready for our co-parent adoption home visit tomorrow.  YIKES, you might say and you'd be right.  I've changed the batteries in the smoke detectors, checked all the baby-proofing, the fridge is filled with food for kids, I hung up a carbon monoxide detector - all these things have been checked during the home visits of friends who have gone through this process before us.

We have secured five lovely letters of support from friends.  I have been so busy getting all our ducks in a row with the paperwork, cleaning, tidying, yardwork, et cetera that I forgot that the letters of support would be effectively love letters for our family.  I have been moved to tears at each and every one.  This annoying adoption process has forced Homestead Mama and I to be very conscious about things that many folks don't have to think about.  Being given the chance to read what other people that we love and respect think about us, our parenting, and our family has been an amazing experience.

And most fittingly, Pequita seems to have croup.  She was awake last night for a while barking like a seal and shnuffling with each and every breath.  She got a fair amount of sleep, as did we, but the 2nd or 3rd night of croup is supposed to be the worst, so we are expecting less sleep in the next few nights.  It is quite unsettling to hear your child struggle to breathe.  We have been running humidifiers all day and will continue to do so through the nights.  We'll be up and dressed by the 8am probation officer's visit tomorrow morning, and appropriately enough for parents of young kids, will be bleary eyed and tired.  Thankfully, the woman coming to inspect us is a mother herself, and bonus for us, her house is also under construction.  These facts ought to help our case, as things aren't as pretty as a Pottery Barn catalog in our home.  Yet.

Pictures to follow in the next few days.  There was much playing and 'nay-nay' time (naked) for the babies while their friend Canadian Baby visited.  They all ran (or crawled) screeching through the house nay-nay and giddy before their tubby every night.  Pequita and her friend got on exceedingly well, and were able to really enjoy each other this visit.  All us parents are thrilled, as we expect to have family vacations together with some regularity over the next few decades.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Stealing Time

We have house guests who are here for the week, which explains my blogging absence.  Beloved Canadian Friends and their daughter who is only a few months older than Pequita.  It is going wonderfully despite two babies with colds and one adult with a raging feverish cold.  The weather has turned here and I wore shorts for about two hours today without being cold.  We spent the temperate and sunny afternoon at a playground by the lake.  I took 111 photos in just under an hour - I'll post some when I get a chance. 

High points?  Having one of my best friends in my house to pal around with and feel her calm and humorous energy throughout the day; it really is easier having two adults on hand.  Also, Pequita and Canadian Baby are at perfect stages to enjoy each other's company and are having a really good time taking joint tubbies, playing in the travel crib together, and trying to out-generous each other with toy sharing.  And we have four whole days left! 


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Thank You, Gentle Readers

I have gotten much support for the scratching issue, and some much needed commiseration.  Thanks.  And for anyone wondering, Anon is indeed my mother, and the biter was indeed me.  I was, apparently, quite the little ripper.

I have discovered nirvana.  I know a few of you will enjoy this as much as me - I can't wait to try it. 
http://www.notmartha.org/archives/2008/02/27/bacon-cups/

Homestead Mama is thinking of making the grilled scallop & shrimp salad that she made on vacation last year and serving it in these.  Heaven, I say.  Speaking of food, we are making one or two loaves of the 'No-Knead Bread' each week, some savory with rosemary or other herbs and others plain. 

I adore Homestead Mama, and used to do birthdays with a lot of preparation and fanfare.  This year, all we could handle was low-key and it was perfect.  Sunday night I made H-Mama her belated birthday dinner, the boneless leg of lamb I had bought the week before.  (Not that the Vietnamese takeout I served her on the actual day wasn't delicious, but we still had the lamb in the fridge.)  I spent five minutes browning the meat and a handful of onions, tossed them into the slow cooker with potatoes, mushrooms, barley, carrots whole garlic cloves and some mushroom consomm√©.  Five hours later, served with our home made bread lightly toasted and scraped with a raw garlic clove for some zip, it was fit for a birthday meal.   And to think that we used to eat like that all the time.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Eureka!

We've struck water! In the kitchen, that is. Dave the Carpenter finished the plumbing and hooked the sink & dishwasher back up today. I am basking in the hum of a full load of dishes cleaning themselves as I type this. I got two coats of hand-rubbed beeswax and linseed oil finish on the counters last night, and oh my goodness but they are stunning. Photos soon. I kind of want to just do the before and after pics, so I don't bore you with the minutiae, but it is hard to resist posting the progress reports.

Pequita has had a stomach bug for the past two days, and awoke to a vomiting episode last night at about 11pm. I'm waiting for anyone else to get it, but so far so good. Tomorrow is the day I call our houseguests arriving this weekend and give them an update and an opportunity to bow out, but all seems well, and Pequita was never really ill, just had some exciting diaper blowouts.

I am stymied at how to deal with Pequita's new past-time, scratching Monito's face until he bleeds. I need to find parents of sibs to ask. He follows her all over the house and wants to play with her. He definitely gets in her business. She pushes him over onto his back and claws at his face, leaving scratches and little bloody half moons the size of her finger nails on his face. It is really upsetting for me; the kids seem to get over it in moments. I recently bought the "Sibling Without Rivalry" book, and like what I've had time to read, but haven't read anything that covers this! Anyone out there have experience & suggestions? I'd welcome some help.