Sunday, July 31, 2011

An end...and a beginning

I have just over an hour of maternity leave left. We spent the final week of my leave in wild, wonderful West Virginia. While it was not the best timing for leaving our homestead, it was in many ways the best timing (in that we couldn't see all the things begging for our attention since there were four mountains between us and Fruit Farm Lane). We enjoyed a mix of work and play, and I got a lot of naps throughout the week (if only you could bank them for when most needed). Mom and I enjoyed canning 32 quarts of ratatouille one day and freezing two large sacks of sweet corn on another. There were other small food processing adventures squeezed in here or there, and I enjoyed the luxury of canning with a speedy pro (Mom) who did more than her share of the work while I came in and out as Alida's needs allowed. I missed her today after our arrival home, when I attempted and was successful in doing a canner load each of beans and pickles to "get ahead" of things before the week gets underway.

I'm trying not to think (or feel?) too deeply about the dawning of tomorrow. These four months have been a gift, a huge gift. And I know we won't ever have a time quite like this - nor will Alida ever be a newborn again. I sometimes feel a bit panicky when I see how fast she is growing up. She is getting VERY interested in what the big people around her are putting in their mouths - to the point that we gave her tastes of banana and watermelon this week so she didn't feel completely excluded from the feasting. She is also allowing us to wash diapers less frequently - yes, that's right, our little gal enjoys going potty in the sink and big potty. She completely "gets it" and most of the time seems quite impressed and happy with herself.

Now to get some rest before tackling the catch up job ahead of me. Here's to hoping that the day will go well on the home front too. A few of my favorite shots of late are included below and show that Alida will clearly be in very good hands while I'm at work!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

West Virginia bound, with a few less diapers...

Doing a blog post is not on the "to do" list of essential items to get done before we leave to spend a week in wild, wonderful, West Virginia with my parents. However, sometimes there are very important things worth noting, and it feels like a week full of those!

As is not surprising for the end of July, we are deep into food processing. The things that have come out of the garden today include tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow squash, beets, carrots, swiss chard, kale, and green beans. One canner load of pickles just finished and there is one more to go in yet today. We are enjoying onions and garlic that are all pulled now and there is basil for a batch of pesto here and there. There are potatoes to dig whenever we need more, and as always lambs quarter and amaranth are there for the getting when we want it, as well as wild blackberries that were the cause of me using up my last jam jars. The watermelon are currently tennis ball size and about the cutest things I've ever seen!!

But that isn't the main reason for this post. It is mostly that we continue to be in awe of our littlest gal. She did just as great on "trial day #2" this week. She took 3 bottles for Jason and was sacked out in his arms (see photo) when I got home. She seems to be growing up way too fast and various "new things" this week have made it seem that she is already becoming a little independent girl. She took her first bath with Kali this week which was a big hit, even if her Mommy was a little nervous as she became a chubby slippery fish in the bathtub.

And, as I mentioned in the previous post, she now goes potty like a big girl (okay, almost - she goes in the sink). However, I'm not sure we were fully prepared for her getting accustomed to this quite so soon. I was doing it "just for fun" as we had decided to not invest fully in the "diaper-free" method from the get go. However, after taking her potty for the last 4 mornings or so, she seems to prefer not going in her diaper when possible. This afternoon she has gone in the sink every single time I have taken her and also went for Jason. She has even starting rooching around in her circle seat or in my arms and when I ask her if she wants to go potty and take her, she gets a huge grin when I take off her diaper and hold her over the sink. Am I really ready for this??

So I better get back to the "to do" list so we are ready to take off in the morning. We will spend my final week of maternity leave in the mountains, hopefully resting up and also doing some fun, good work!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Emotional exhale...

So for those that don't know me well, the title of this blog post should be a warning to you: it is likely to be long. I don't tend to be all that concise with words anyway, and when I'm feeling emotional I can get very wordy. So to spare Jason, Kali and Alida from my excessive chattiness I'm going to put it out there in cyberspace for whoever wishes to take it in!! But for those that just want a quick Alida and Kali story (both of which have been alluded to on Facebook) here you are:

1. Kali made up a new joke this week: Why was the mommy snowman mad at her baby in Spring? Because he kept having meltdowns!

2. Last night on our way home from town at about 9pm, Alida was restless. I was on entertainment and "calm the baby" duty in the backseat and was trying my finger, her fingers, and the pacifier (what she really wanted was to be swaddled in bed). We had the kids tape on in the car and a little silly song about it not being any trouble just to l-a-u-g-h was on and was not calming her. I told Jason to turn it off and I started to sing the lullaby Jason wrote for her. I promise I had not gotten out the whole first line, "breath deep now my baby girl," before she turned her head into the side of her carseat, stopped rooching and promptly fell asleep. I could hardly keep singing I was so shocked.

We were all similarly shocked with the events of today. Here's a brief synopsis:

After weeks of worry (me more than Jason or Kali, or Alida for that matter), today was "trial #1" for me heading into the office. We gave up trying the bottle consistently a few weeks back as it was mostly stressful to try to time it at a good time for all of our schedules and Alida had been pretty resistant to the attempts we had made. I left Jason with 8 ounces of expressed milk (even though I dreamed last night she took 24 - though I also dreamed that there were two bears in our house) and drove down the driveway in tears. To say I did not want to leave would be a serious understatement.

What made it even more difficult was it seemed that Alida was also on a bit of a "nursing strike." She had started not nursing as well while we were in Maryland but I just thought it was a change of schedule or scenery or that there were just too many exciting things going on. It seems that it is a bit more than that - the most likely culprit is teething. So she really hadn't nursed much all night or in the morning until right before I left, with more coaxing than I would like.

So I was a bit of a "basketcase" at work (as my Dad would likely call me). I had promised not to call and we left it that Jason would call with really good news or if they were in dire need of me heading home but if I didn't hear anything that things were going "ok." I left around 9:30am and got a call a little before 12:30pm - during those 3 hours I was able to get started on "catch up" in the office and felt like I had a big exam the next day (by the constant butterflies in my tummy).

The news: it was going well. Alida had not been fussy at all. She had enjoyed hanging out and even took a really good nap in Jason's arms, transitioning to the front pack. She had not taken anything from the bottle - wasn't interested on his one attempt. He would give it another try before I headed home.

As I was heading home I had to make a few stops and on one of them (likely the groundhog pickup...) he called and left this message: "she took her bottle." He promised the details when I got home. By the time I got home, she had taken a second bottle. So she downed 4 of the 8 ounces that I left for her with hardly a fuss. All were happy when I got home and Alida kind of looked at me like, "back so soon?" I, of course, immediately took her out of her airplane bouncer where she was quite content and smothered her with hugs and kisses, which she accepted nonchalantly.

So then the flood of relief hit, the exhaustion from all the worry, and my new fears - here is the emotional exhale part. Jason got to hear all my mommy insecurities several times - what if she doesn't need me now? what if she is happier when I'm working? what if she doesn't love me? Oh, the difficulty that comes with letting our self esteem rise and fall with the developmental stages and phases of a baby!

We took a little snooze together this afternoon and she has now carted around with me while I picked garden produce and got ready for the evening fun. And that is where we are at. I started this while she was napping but she is now chattering on my lap and I imagine getting hungry, but we'll see if she thinks eating is a good solution to that or not. No time now to expound more, so this won't be quite the epistle it may have been earlier in the afternoon!

If you have made it this far you get to get in on a few more interesting tidbits:

1. Alida has been dry the last two mornings and has gone potty for me both mornings. Big girl!

2. Our supper menu - a fresh roasted chicken with carrots and potatoes, fresh cucumber dill salad, corn on the cob and kale chips. Mouth watering??

3. Evening agenda includes canning dill pickles and possibly dilly beans (Jason will help Kali and I IF he gets done butchering the groundhog in time).

Until next time...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Welcome home dinner!

We are home safe and sound from a few days vacationing with my family at Deep Creek Lake in Maryland. And all of us are home - we are happily reunited with Kali!! It was a little ways into our car trip home that Alida caught sight of Kali in the backseat of the car and she just stared at her for quite some time. I think she is very glad to have her big sister back - talking on the phone didn't quite cut it!

When I told Kali over the phone while she was in WV that eggplant had arrived at the farmers' market she quickly informed me that that would make a good welcome home dinner for her. Well, I hadn't been planning on a welcome home dinner, but things evolved from there and I would say that Kali's welcome home dinner this evening was a great success!! It didn't hurt that it included some of Jason's and my favorite foods of this time of year, and we enjoyed some of our garden's firsts. Our dinner was comprised of fresh string beans, the first cucumber dill salad and fried eggplant. The sun gold cherry tomatoes never made it to the dinner table.

For dessert, after Kali and Jason played a little frisbee and I watched Alida put herself to sleep again and while a fresh batch of blackberry jam was boiling away in the canner, we enjoyed organic ice cream cones, organic sprinkles (Kali only) and organic strawberry ice cream (all thanks to the newly opened Friendly City Food Coop in Harrisonburg).

It's good to be home!!

The upcoming week is a "big one" for our family. Alida has yet to befriend the bottle and, after laying off with trying it consistently for the past week or so, I will head to work twice this week for a few hours each time to give Jason, Kali and Alida some practice with the bottle and without me. I don't think any of us are looking forward to those times right now, but are hoping for the best. The last few months have been such a gift and have held so many treasured times and built many sweet memories. I know there will be a lot more to come, and I am glad Jason will have more time with both girls soon. However, currently my worry and sadness about the upcoming transition definitely overshadows the potential benefits the changes to our household could hold. It will be much easier on all of us if Alida is willing to accept her mommy's milk through a different delivery system, though none of us blame her for wanting it in the way that has worked quite well for her for the past 3 plus months - she's not convinced that this change is necessary, which makes it hard for me to feel good about it.

To end on a more happy note, a Kali story: Kali tends to get fixated on certain things whether it be a food, a certain activity, a game we play together, a book or series of books she is reading, a hairdo or in this case an outfit. She has an outfit which she calls her "running clothes" that she loves. She wears it at almost every possible opportunity (to the point where I'm kind of glad when I can say that it is in the wash). Well, it was freshly washed this evening and so after her bath she of course wanted to wear it. As she was getting dressed, she said, "This is the kind of thing that I don't know how I lived without. If I didn't have these clothes I would have to run around naked at least 2/3 of the time." :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Shared moments

I, Jason, write this at ten minutes to twelve. Why, you might wonder, are we still up at this hour when Alida's been asleep for hours, and Kali is not here to agitate for ever-later bedtimes?

The answer can be summed up in two words: "Movie Nights"

Yes, friends, Jason and Janelle have summoned some uncharacteristic media appetite and have watched, in five nights, five different movies:

Lars and the Real Girl

Rating them on a scale of one to five is too blunt an instrument, so suffice it to say that both of us got the most feel-good, old-fashioned movie buzz from Lars and the Real Girl. Beyond that, it depends what you like.

The fact that this baby of ours (photographed here - some of our recent favorites) made this rash of home cinema a possibility is something we treasure as a gift from her, albeit unawares. They tell you that each child is going to be totally unique and won't follow the patterns laid down by older siblings. With Alida, nowhere is this more true than in her fondness for beddy-bye. Let me tell the story of the start of this night's sleep.

Long about 8:15 (the usual time), it became clear that everyone would be happier if Alida were asleep. So after a clean diaper and some swaddling, it was "night-night time", one of her favorite times of day. However, in contrast to her usual pattern recently, she did not fall asleep nursing, but rather continued her kicking and general tired-baby thrashing while failing to settle into a nursing rhythm. Janelle decided to try a lullaby (the one I wrote for Alida). As Alida often will do during singing, she joined right in, making some of her own adorable vocalizations. This time, however, something made Janelle call me in to listen. It came as a bit of a shock to realize that her vocalizations were approximately in cadence with the phrasing of the song. That is to say that at the risk of making too much of it, I will venture that she seemed to be...well...singing along! I was dumbstruck, which is good because nothing I could have said would have improved upon what I had just witnessed.

And this on the same day as her first true laugh! At the supper table (while Janelle and I were enjoying without a seven-year-old's critique our meal of pickled eggs and beets, squash saute, and rolls with jelly or pesto), Janelle began an episode of one kind of tickling that Alida has been enjoying. To our parental delight, there emerged from Alida that longed-for sound--one of the few instinctive human vocalizations besides sneezing and sobbing--a clear and hearty giggle! She did it over and over until the game got old (for her...not us!). And we, the owners of a broken tape recorder, were left with no option but to preserve the moments in our memories. Which is where they really belong anyway. We can't wait to be reunited with our Kali-girl tomorrow (who has had a fabulous week in WV) and be able to share these moments with her again.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Dedicated to the earth's bounty...

I'm a happy gal!! Thanks to the generosity of friends who have access to an endless supply of wineberries, we enjoyed an evening out with friends picking until daylight waned in the shaded woods and came home with plenty of berries to freeze and to make jam tomorrow. And thanks to Alida who stayed up until almost 10pm and was very patient in the berry patch, even if she isn't old enough to snack on them with us.
Well, I went to add photos to this post and was going to put a bunch of garden produce and all the wonderful green goodness we are consuming these days. But instead I have once again picked out a bunch of my favorite pictures of Alida. She is experiencing so many new things these days and continuing to charm us with her smiles and coos/shrieks. She is enjoying playtime in her circle seat, trying out the doorway jumper for the first time and gnawing on her fingers at any opportunity she gets. Can she really be teething so soon? Oh, it is going so quickly!!
We are, however, loving our garden (and our garden fence) too. Right now we are eating a lot of kale and swiss chard and lambs quarter - in bread, pasta, sauteed, etc... And we just enjoyed our first garden potatoes last evening. And Jason and I (Kali is enjoyed a WEEK in WV with Grandma and Grandpa Myers and her cousin Christina) split the first sun gold cherry tomato. There will be plenty more where that came from. While it seems that we didn't get to near as much of the long "project list" during my maternity leave (which is sadly coming to an end at the end of this month) that we might have hoped to get to, we certainly are not needing to do much grocery shopping and our garden has never thrived in the way it is this year, thanks to the many hours Jason has been able to dedicate to it (and the previously mentioned garden fence).

And in case anyone is wondering where we are going to store all the produce, take a look!!! Jason did finish a project this week that had both my mom and me very excited a few days ago - we stocked the newly installed shelves of the root cellar with all my empty canning jars (after removing Jason and Kali from the shelves!!), to be filled in the coming weeks/months. We enjoyed putting the first canned things on the shelves too - the cherries that we processed the day Alida was born and a batch of blueberry jam made a few days before the completion of this project. Tonight I go to bed feeling very wealthy, in so many ways!