Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Adoption Day

We are family. On the way home from becoming officially and legally siblings, the kids held hands in their car seats.

Yesterday's adoption hearing went without a hitch. My mother was there with balloons, the kids were beaming and Homestead Mama and I were ebullient as we tossed our belongings onto the x-ray machine to be admitted into the courthouse. We were clearly in court for a different reason than all the sad, sullen, angry looking folks loitering in the hallways who were losing their drivers licenses, their freedom, their children. The process only took a few minutes. My father missed it, as he was joining us from his bike trip in the Northern part of the state. I didn't realize why he was late until afterwards - he had to bike 60 miles to an airport where he rented a car to drive the remaining 90 miles. He said he misjudged how long it would take to bike that particular 60 mile stretch. No matter - he met us at the Homestead as we arrived and enjoyed the party.

We had a house full of family of choice - moms group families, neighbors, and friends from years past. Plenty of food, beer, and toys for the kids. We had enough strong help to lift and re-situate the swing set on a level part of the yard which H-Mama and I have been wanting to do. Despite the cool damp weather, a few kids chose to play outside which was where we had hoped to have the whole party. However, the layout of the homestead really accommodates a crowd well as it comfortably held over 32 adults and kids, but I cracked up when I realized that the two adults eating with their kids at the tiny kids table were the huge rugby player and the 6'5" dad. [Yes, I know my windows need a wash, but I won't do it until all the sawdust and painting ends.]
One of the markers of a good party is that the hosts have no lonely guests to introduce around, and last night people were so well matched that it seemed as though the groups overlapped and integrated effortlessly, which meant I could flit around and enjoy myself. I had a super time and H-Mama and I were very touched that everyone turned out to celebrate on a school/ work night. Having my mom come from six hours away and Dad miss a day of his bike trip was amazing; they have been so supportive in every way of this process that it was important to include them and let them bask in the love too.
Dad had to rejoin his biking party for the last leg of their trip, so he left early this morning. Monito and I had a half hour with him while everyone else slept in. The kids are old enough now that they remember my parents from visit to visit and it takes them very little time to get over their shyness and swarm over Grandma and Grandpa. Monito and Grandpa shared some Veggie Booty and a little love at 6:30 am.

Monday, May 26, 2008

First Thing, Last Thing

How our Sunday began: computing on the cluttered kitchen island.

How our Sunday ended: story time with singing.

Babies R Us taking back BPA bottles for store credit

There are rumors that the Babies R Us stores will give you store credit for used BPA bottles because it is a safety hazard.  Each store can set its own policy regarding this issue.

I called one of our local stores.  Their policy is that if you were registered at Babies R Us, or have a receipt for bottles, they will offer store credit towards trading in your BPA bottles for different bottles.  Other stores don't require a receipt at all - call ahead to see where you can get the best deal.  I bet few if any moms have the receipts for bottles.  Sheesh, I can't even find my keys.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Watermelon Love

The pantry isn't done being built and painted, so the contents are still all over the kitchen & dining room. The kids are very much enjoying having access to all the jars of animal crackers and Veggie Booty. Here they are admiring the counters.

The Birthday That Keeps on Giving

Weeks ago I ordered three Fat Albert Colorado spruce trees from a local nursery; they were finally planted on Friday. They are to shield the corner of our yard from passing cars and possible future building, but are so lovely I'd have put then in anyway even if we didn't want the evergreen coverage. The Fat Alberts will max out at about 25 feet, and be much fuller around the bottom than a regular spruce, which will offer us good visual cover from the road. They are stunning.

In what was quite possibly the best birthday present of all, Monito fell asleep Friday night at 7 pm and slept through to the morning. He was up at 6:32 am and H-Mama swept him up and took him away and let me sleep in with Pequita. Once we all got going around 9ish, H-mama went out to buy a replacement part for the lawn tractor that I cracked mowing over a big rock. She was unsuccessful in finding a store open with the part we needed but had managed to buy my birthday present, five hellebore plants for the shaded spot near our front door. I've been wanting some of these in my yard for years, and finally have the beds ready for the plants. She also bought a very cute cast iron owl for me. We left the lawn tractor in a pile of bolts, belts and cracked bits and loaded the kids in the car and drove to our former landlords' house. They are moving to Hawaii in a month and had offered us free pillaging of their established and lush perennial beds - too good an offer to pass up as we rebuild our flower gardens. We were most successful, coming home with Bachelor buttons, Jacob's Ladder, forget-me-nots, hardy sage and marjoram, yellow iris, hens and chicks, two kinds of allium, three kinds of flowering creeping ground cover, and columbine. We will likely be going back in a few weeks for more.
Once cannot drive to our old landlord's house without passing the local quarry, which - fortuitously - had a sale going on. Two sleeping babies + sunny weekend day + a love of all things rocky, and voila, a fabulous two hours of activity. The kids woke up within the first thirty minutes, but this was all for the best because there were skid steers moving rocks everywhere and the babies LOVED watching the activity, climbing all over the boulders and getting filthy. I regret that I didn't have my camera.
I don't know how many other people there are in the world who go out to fetch some free plants and end up buying 6.25 TONS of rock on a whim, but we did. We bought a huge boulder to put on the corner of our property. Every winter we get a couple cars skidding onto our lawn since we live on a rounded corner lot. Most stop at the road's edge, but not all. I want to protect our new spruces and also discourage foolish people who speed when it's icy from careening into our yard. The boulder we bought outweighs H-Mama's Toyota. We almost didn't get it, because the fellow heading the sale told us it was $400 per ton [= a $900 rock] because it was not just your average rock but the very dear type of rock they split into slabs and use for architectural facing and stone furniture. The manager happened to wander down from the office as we were picking out some meager stone scraps with which to make a project for the kids and overruled the price quoted us on the boulder, giving it to us for the same price as all the other rock, over $300 less per ton, saying, "Happy Birthday, Ma'am". We also selected two massive lichen-covered field stone slabs to sink into the yard for the kids to climb on. Homestead Mama and I both love an expanse of sun-warmed rock upon which to climb in the summer, and since our yard didn't come with one we are retro-fitting one in. We can imagine our kids playing on it for years to come. In addition to all this, we ordered 2.5 tons of thick cut stone to line our driveway garden beds. We now have a bit of prep to get the sites ready for the delivery - there is a huge truck with a 24' boom to swing it all into place. I will be placing the driveway edging rocks myself, but this is where all the lifting and carrying 50+ lbs of baby 8000 times a day will come in handy. My shoulders have never been stronger.

We rushed home at 6 pm from with our plants and I raced to put them in the ground before their roots dried out while H-Mama started mowing the yard with our neighbor's mower. Monito took this opportunity to climb onto a 2' high pile of rocks in our front yard [yes, some would call us rock crazy; I prefer to think of us as avid hardscapers] and found a twelve inch metal spike that used to hold a bit of our house together. He had a lovely time whacking it on things until I noticed him chewing away on it. Sad boy had to finish out the evening on Mum's back in the Ergo carrier. Harder for me to dig this way, but safer for the wee bairn. Pequita entertained herself by shoveling mulch in and out of the birdbath.

H-Mama ran out of daylight in which to mow around 9 pm and came inside. I was already inside with bathed, pajama-clad exhausted babies. Monito was asleep within seconds of starting to nurse, and Pequita and I ate watermelon and watched Sesame Street on the couch until H-Mama came in to put her down. We had boxed macaroni and cheese for dinner at 9:45 while we watched Top Chef. A most stupendous birthday.

Homestead Mama will be home from work for three more days because it is a holiday weekend and she took Tuesday off from work to celebrate the adoption. It feels like a birthday bonanza. Yay!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Small Karmic World

Our marvelous carpenter Dave has a son he has been speaking very highly of for months; this son is looking for work over summer break.  Painting, yard work, that kind of thing.  DING DING DING - we have a winner!  Andrew came over today to meet me and see the kinds of things we need done.  With Dave's glowing recommendation I hired him on the spot and he is - right now- outside hacking down the massive and ever-growing thorn bush in the yard, the one which is so vicious and strong that it tears through denim if you mow too close to it; you should see the bloody mess it leaves when a toddler gets entangled.  Then he's coming inside to put the first coat of paint on the pantry shelves his dad built us so we can have them loaded up and pretty for when my mom arrives on Monday.

I have visions of a painted garage, of front flower gardens returned to their former glory with new tiered low stone walls.  I have fantasies of our step back cabinets stripped and repainted, then installed by Dave.  Sigh.  I am in heaven.  I am poor, paying two people to beautify my home, but in heaven.  The bright side is that we could still be paying $600 - $1000 per month for inseminations and fertility treatments.  Joyfully, we have succeeded in having two kids and can sink their college money into the house for another couple of years.

I have a second helper

Monito just grabbed my shirt off the table while I was dressing and tossed it on the floor.  I said, "Monito, I need that.  Can you give me back that shirt?"  And he leaned over, picked it up and handed it to me with a smile. 

Fluke?  We'll see. 

Monday, May 19, 2008


My birthday is just around the corner. The lily of the valley always bloom just in time.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Monito, Month Eleven

Dear little buddy,

You turned eleven months old last week. You are completely exploding right now like all kids do who are simultaneously teething, learning to walk, and shifting from three naps per day to NOT ENOUGH SLEEP. You are a total joy to be around in the mornings when you frolic and explore on your own, artfully evading the attempts of your sister to engage you in her games. Those games usually result in you mashed on the floor under her, or with her sitting on you, or with you crying because every toy you touch is yanked from your grasp. She is also practicing her undressing skills on you, and I regularly find the two of you in a quiet corner of the house, you on your way to being naked and shoeless and Pequita busily trying to cram your massive skull through the neck hole of your shirt.

You are doing extremely well learning how not to bite Mommy with all your new teeth - three on the bottom and 1.5 on the top. After that first massive double puncture wound that resulted in much painful bleeding from the bottom of my left nipple, we have had no further incident. Lucky for you, I must say, as I was considering playing the weaning card.You are so busy that you frequently don't have time for nursing during the day. You are surviving, though, as you manage to squeeze in seven or eight hours of nursing each night while I contort my body painfully to keep a nipple in your mouth. The soothie will no longer do; it has to be flesh between your tender lips. If you fall off the breast, you awake with a squawk of protest that turns into a loud squall if you are unheeded for more than thirty seconds. Big plans are afoot to resolve this for you if it doesn't stop on its own; Mommy without sleep is not as much fun to be around.

You are crawling like a little hurricane around the house, yard, Home Depot, and play grounds all over town. Homestead Mama's favorite version is your bear cub crawl: both hands and both feet, totally off your knees, with your tushie high in the air as you zip around. I am partial to your standard crawl when you apply turbo; you mosey along shopping for something to tip over or grab and when you set your sights on the object of your desire you ZOOM at triple speed in a blur of hands and knees thumpity thumping with reckless abandon. It is no wonder that your shins are covered in bruises.
You also quite keen to be standing up. Everything vertical exists for you to pull up on. I blew your mind the other day by putting you on the kitchen counter to stand up. You had never been that tall, and I dare say you enjoyed it.You melt my heart regularly by crawling into the middle of the room and looking around to make sure you have an audience before slowly and with much caution rising to a wobbly stand exactly like a surfer getting up on his board, arms out for balance, knees bent. You flash me a huge grin of pride when you are upright and hover there for long seconds before falling over as you lift a foot to try to walk. It won't be long until you are successful.

Your personality is also blossoming. Your sister smiled the mad, whole-face grin of someone on a roller coaster for much of her first year. You have been a tad more subdued and preferred to sport a jaunty half grin with raised eyebrow. You are clearly coming into your own, though, as your new preferred expression is a gleeful nose-scrunching roaring grimace that would be suitable for sporting in a rugby scrum. It is typically accompanied by a loud scream of joy that has startled folks all over town who are not used to the kind of vigor we are breeding here at the Homestead. It is also your first useful tool in quelling the marauding forays of your sister; you have managed to make her think twice about stealing your toys with this scream, no small feat.

You are voracious and willing to try anything. I can feed you a huge meal in your high chair and then turn you loose to play while I eat my lunch only to find you clutching my pantleg and grunting for bites, madly clapping your hands as you ask for MORE! MORE! MORE! in sign language. Avacado and mango are clear favorites, but last night you polished off with gusto my sardines in hot chile oil on crackers. For breakfast this morning, after I fed you all that I could think of that was appropriate for 9am, you had spinach pizza dunked in raspberry yogurt. I fully expect you to be off the charts again at your next weigh-in.

You are super company much of the time. Late afternoons are a little rough right now since your days are so full that you get pretty tuckered out a couple of hours before you fall asleep, but since you are in the midst of the 'I only want Mommy ' stage I have an easier time than your Mama, with whom you mostly cry until she hands you over to me if I am within hearing or sight distance. You are much more snuggly than your sister was at this stage, and bury your whole body into me, and a select few other humans, nuzzling and chuckling with joy. You let me love on you whenever I want for the most part, which is one of the benefits of having babies [and a smart move on your part, as it makes up for the aforementioned kicking all night.]
Your first birthday is looming, and I cannot believe I've known you almost a year. I am so glad to be with you all day, every day.



Perfect Eggs

Ham cups. Genius. How else can you have an ovenful of eggs ready to serve at a brunch - or to starving toddlers - all at the same time?

Line cupckake tray with one slice of ham. Put a dollop of anything yummy [cheese, sofrito, veggie, etc.] in bottom of cup and break an egg over it. Bake for about 8 minutes in a 375 degree oven or until the yolk is how you like it. Turn out onto tray. Try not to eat too many.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

'Love Makes a Family' is crap

'Love makes a family' is crap.  Legal second parent adoption makes a family here at chez Homestead.  And guess what?  We have a court date for both my adoption of Pequita and H-Mama's adoption of Monito on May 27th.  Excuse me for a minute...


The relief is palpable here, and the bonus is that my parents were scheduled to be visiting then and can celebrate with us.  Actually, Dad will be on a week-long bike trip in our area and Mom will be here soaking up grandma time, but we'll likely drive the hour away and fetch my Dad for the duration of the court hearing and ensuing celebration dinner and then drop him back off on his bike trip.  This means that this June 15th, American Father's Day, will be the first annual Homestead Family Day.  We can start planning what that will entail now in our free time. 

Soon we'll be able to apply for passports for the kids with both legal parents' names, travel through states like Oklahoma and Alabama with less worry, and reply to all the asshats who ask me with disbelief dripping from their tones, "Is that YOUR daughter?" a resounding 'Uh huh' before whipping out both boobs and tandem nursing the kids just to hammer home the point.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Kitchen Peek

This will only be exciting for those of you who are familiar with the bare white walls, ineffective or complete lack of storage space in the kitchen and pantry, and makeshift [plywood] counters we have been suffering with for the past few years. Here's a peek at the glory that is built-in wall shelves, cherry butcher block counters, and a pantry that is taking shape before our eyes.

Homestead-Mama cooked breakfast this morning for us all and left in a rush to help the neighbors*. I stayed behind with the kids and was walking around the kitchen trying to figure out what the ever-so-faint whooshing noise was that I heard and couldn't track down. I had all but decided that it was wind coming in a window somewhere when I realized that it was our super duper stove vent fan that Dave installed last week and H-Mama decided to use when frying up our eggs. I splurged and bought the extra quiet model and damned if it doesn't live up to its hype. 1.5 sones is pretty inaudible and is, I immediately decided, worth the extra money. Rejoice, Mom, cooking has been elevated to a pleasant experience here at Chez Homestead.

*She went to go shoot a possibly rabid skunk that is attacking the neighbor's dogs [when I say we are homesteading, I'm not entirely joking]. H-Mama isn't an animal control agent or anything, just a woman raised by her father in the Adirondack mountains who has won awards for her marksmanship. She'd be on a national rifle team if she had time to travel.

The Dark Side of Milestones

Last night, for the first time ever, Pequita performed and act in the bath tub that caused an immediate and abrupt evacuation of the tubbie by both babies and me, followed by cleansing showers all around. Enough said?

In an amusing turn of events, H-Mama had been videotaping some cute antics that the kids were doing at the time and caught the whole episode on tape, including the horror/disbelief as I figured out what was going on and the laughter and urgent pleading to put DOWN the camera and take the kids out of the water. We'll be deleting it, I suspect. If she's ever to be in a high powered job it just won't do to have that footage floating around. [All puns intentional.]

Happy Mother's Day

Mother's Day may be a Hallmark contrived holiday, but we worked damn hard to get here and are basking in it as much as we can. Save for the random and generally fleeting moments, we agree that we have never been happier or more satisfied with our lives. We feel damned lucky.

Frankly, I have never felt more like a mother. Pequita is going through a most fun stage wherein she cries and pulls a Gandhi* at the drop of a hat. I believe it is called the terrible twos, and she's right on target. I have many mothers and grandmothers all over town patting me on the back and telling me that it gets easier as they smile that smile that means 'oh thank god my kids are
through that stage.' I am quite touched that they reach out when they do, as it actually helps when she is on the floor of the grocery store bathroom/ parking lot/ playground/ gym/ children's museum having a tantrum. Monito, my little golden boy, is smack in the middle of the mommy-centric phase wherein he screams when anyone other than me tries to touch him. H-Mama will do in a pinch unless I am in the vicinity. This coincides with his teething. My nip.ples are raw and swollen because of Monito's top teeth coming in. He now has three on the bottom and one on top; that second top tooth is right on the verge of breaking through and he is still figuring out how to nurse without killing me. Who am I kidding - he isn't trying anything, just happily chewing away aaaaalllllllll the tiiiiiiiiiime. Homestead Mama remembers almost quitting breastfeeding in this stage, and I can totally see why.

To celebrate the day [= to get twenty extra minutes of dozing] we lolled in bed watching Thomas the Tank Engine when the babes woke up. I mowed the Figure 8 last night, so we are going to take a morning walk on the back 40 once my coffee brews. In years past we've mowed a path for our old dogs on the nine acres we let remain meadow to make it easier for their old arthritic bones to meander along short grass. Now, we'll keep it mowed for the babes. As summer progresses, the flowers, weeds, shrubs and grasses grow up tall on either side of the path and it is jolly good fun to see what is blooming or what animal is nesting at any given time. I love to mow it, as whatever grows back there smells very distinct and sweet when cut. I've never smelled a better mowing smell and I revel in it. Right now, the wild strawberries are flowering. In a few weeks, we'll have tiny red fruit to pick and eat along the path as we walk.

We Homestead Mom's have been, well, homesteading. I've been spending every spare minute that could have been used for blogging changing a grass-challenged bit of our garden into a glorious shrub and flower garden. It isn't glorious yet, but will be in a year or two when all the
tiny plants I have put in fill out a bit. Right outside the front door is a large pine tree which has been overshadowing the yard completely. I decided to get rid of the foundering grass and plant native woodland plants that will flourish in the acid-rich soil and with only partial sunlight. We killed the grass by spreading out black plastic on it last spring, then - whoops! - had Monito and had no time to finish the job. A few weeks ago, I pulled up the plastic [the neighbors must have been thrilled!] spread out three cubic yards of mulch and started putting in plants I harvested from other places in our yard and a few evergreens from the nursery. Our carpenter Dave is unbelievably generous and has brought us pot after pot of plants he and his wife have thinned from their yard - hosta, Solomon's Seal, a few varieties of lilies. Pequita was bereft when the massive hill of steaming mulch disappeared from the front yard, as she really loved climbing it and rolling down to the bottom. [My children both looked like vagabonds, filthy and wet with dirt ringing their mouths as they continually tried to find a tasty piece of earth. Sadly, they remain that way and likely will for the duration of summers.] I eased her disappointment by installing a bird bath with WATER in it - the birds will clearly never come to it, as it is constantly getting emptied all over a certain younger brother, as well as having shovels, rocks and Legos left in it. So while I am holding off on showing you kitchen renovation pictures until it is done, behold my latest time investment. I couldn't be more pleased. It was completed almost entirely with one baby sleeping in the car and the other either on my back while I shoveled or moving mulch right along side me with her little shovel and big dump truck.

The patch of yard before. [I'd like to cut down the tree and put in a cluster of 8-12 foot tall pines for privacy, but H-Mama will hear nothing of it. I am holding out hope that we'll get the rest of the garage painted grey this summer.]

Mulch Mountain.
Monito, a.k.a. Bubba, loves to help.
The bare wall leading up to the front door is now flanked by Solomon's Seal. It will fill in and be lush in a few years. You can see the broken flower pot that serves as a toad house in the lower left corner. We check it each and every time we exit or enter the front door to visit the toad that lives under it each year. Poor toad.
The clematis plant that I gave H-Mama for mother's day. She has wanted one for years.
And the after picture. There's plenty of room left to put in perennials and more rocks to climb on, but the bones of the garden are in.
*Pulling a Gandhi: sinking bonelessly to the ground in an effort of passive resistance. Unlike the real Gandhi, Pequita's is accompanied by much screaming, clawing and crying. Most impressive. I'll try to get tape of it for you.

Friday, May 2, 2008

summer product - positive review

Despite the cool and dreary weather, we just had a round of Popsicles here at the homestead using the Dripstik holders we bought on Amazon a few months ago.  It was such a resounding and tidy success.  They are cheap, actually work, and the kids really seemed to like being able to hold onto it and not freeze her hands which is what usually happens.  Best of all?  We can set them down for a while and they stand on their own.