Wednesday, November 25, 2015

On the eve of our travel adventures...

So tomorrow we embark on our first substantial trip (longer than to town and back) with Terah in tow!  So what am I doing blogging when there is plenty of packing, cleaning, food preparations, etc... to be done?  It just seems that anything pre-travels will seem like old news by next week when we land home again (in a whole new month)!  So I figured I might as well note a few things from our week.

The girls enjoyed their last playdate day with I & M this week since they will be traveling until the new year.  We enjoyed an evening get together with their family, complete with Alida sacking out on the futon from sheer exhaustion to Kali reading Calvin & Hobbes  (an 8 hour playdate is a lot for that gal!).  I was sure we were going to have a rough night with Terah as she fell asleep right before they arrived around 5:30 p.m. and was still sleeping when they left around 8:30 p.m. It's the only night we've ever had like this but she really never woke. I changed her diaper, fed her and headed to the bedroom.  It was about 6:30 a.m. when I next changed her and my goodness what a mess we both were.  We pretty promptly got in the shower...  She was super happy after her night of sleeping more or less 13 hours (rousing just to nurse).  We haven't had a night like that since - was it the few sips of elderberry wine I had at dinner??

This past weekend Kali cashed in a birthday coupon for a 2 night sleepover for her and Alida at Aunt Emily's.  They had a grand time, which was not a surprise to any of us! They went to the play A Year with Frog and Toad at EMU and Alida has been talking about it ever since.  This morning she came into the kitchen walking funny and told me it was how Toad walked.  I had to wonder if Terah missed them as she had two trying evenings, while they were gone.  But she has had at least one since so I'm not sure if my hypothesis is correct or not.  Jason and I had been hoping that with only one child under our roof we might snag a bit of time together and might also spend part of the night in the same bed.  Terah had other plans - I ended up sacking out in the recliner when she finally settled close to 11 p.m. the first night.  The day in between the two nights was great though, complete with Jason and I getting to work on a project together outside.  He had dug the next biochar pit for our humanure compost and we worked together on the burn.  It was the perfect job to do together on a chilly clear day. I could help with Terah in the front pack and we could talk while we worked.
Sunday morning the three of us headed over to Emily and Jonas' and were treated to a delicious breakfast. I then hung out with Emily and the girls while Jason did some work on their house (he's getting in hours here and there as he is able to in between vast amounts of venison broth canning).  All of us girls enjoyed a railroad walk until Alida got too tired to go any further.  An 8 hour playdate may wear her out, but a 2 night sleepover definitely tops it.  She was coming apart at the seams by the time we got home Sunday afternoon.  Nothing a good night's sleep couldn't cure!

Last evening we had a record number of people in our home since Terah's birth.  Our monthly supper club has grown significantly in size over the past few years to the point that the children now out number the adults 11 to 8.  The three other families graciously offered to provide the food and we just provided the space.  At the time we set the date of November 24th for our next supper club, I thought I'd be up for cooking, but they insisted.  My goodness I'm glad they did. I incorrectly assumed I'd have my stride back no problem by the time Terah was 6 weeks old.  She is doing an excellent job of keeping me on my toes.  She did a great job last evening with 10 older children running around the house having a wonderful time together.  And I even got to enjoy a leisurely dinner and conversation with friends while she snoozed.  Once they left she did her routine of nursing, seeming to fall asleep, popping back awake, repeat... That went on until after 10 p.m., but she wasn't sad throughout (she just wore her mommy out!).

As she was laying awake on the changing table after the older girls were both in bed, she was giving me the sweetest smiles and coos. I asked her if she was buttering me up for the night ahead.  If that was her goal, she was quite successful.  She really couldn't be much cuter or sweeter.  I love her expanding "vocabulary."

I've spent a good amount of time thinking about her "fussy times" which I have chosen to rename "emotional exhales" for my own processing of and dealing with them.  While there is not a real consistent pattern, if there is one at all it is that sometime in the evening (often between 7-8:30), Terah will have a time in which she gets so worked up she is not easily comforted by distractions, nursing, rocking, dancing, singing, etc... It takes my full focus and energy to try a bunch of things in close succession in an attempt to keep her from screaming so hard she can't catch her breath.  I normally can do it, but it is incredibly hard for me to not feel anxious about her sadness or wonder what we are doing wrong or what she needs to "fix it."

However, as I've paid close attention to these "episodes" there are many ways in which is seems that she just needs to work something out. It's as if she has an excess of stored energy inside and needs a way to release it.  So I've started to think about responding to Terah in those times the way I would want someone to respond to me if I felt strong emotions and needed to release them. I was just walking with a good friend the other day and talking about how we struggle to know how to deal with anger, especially when faced with situations of obvious injustice.  It's not that I think that Terah is necessarily experiencing a lot of anger or injustice, but I do like the thought that how we respond to her strong emotions now might give her a good foundation for dealing with strong emotions as an older child and even an adult.

Speaking of strong emotions, she has awoken in the pack and is sharing some with me right now. They are clearly attributed to what she would like to deposit in her diaper. So time to sign off. The next time I write we will have traveled to Pennsylvania and back and introduced Terah to lots more of her family.   

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A random assortment of things...

The days are getting away from me. I had an unspoken goal of trying to get an update done about weekly, at least in the initial weeks of Terah's life.  Her one month birthday has come and gone, and I missed my "virtual scrapbooking" last week.  Part of it is the sheer lack of time with two hands to type (Terah is asleep in the pack on my front and that is precious time in which multiple other things are vying for my attention, including but not limited to food preparation, playing with the older girls or redoing their braids, attempting to pass her off to someone so I can shower, cutting down on the cobwebs in the house or sweeping a few floors, paying a bill or catching up on work stuff).

Lack of two-handed writing time is not the entire reason for not posting as often.  Part of it is that I struggle some days to know what to say.  The fact that I'm writing a blog post already puts the day in the "more positive than negative" category.  If I'm feeling good enough to attempt to articulate something about my/our life, then it is probably a pretty good day.  I have a desire for this blog (which I do mostly for us, and particularly for the girls when they are older) to be as close to an accurate reflection of our life as possible.  However, it's a public space and not my journal!  In the last few weeks I've been unsure how to not paint an overly rosy picture of this time. It would be easy to do - the cuteness abounds!  Sweet photos are easy to come by as you can see here.  There are so many fantastic moments - I've had so many little surges of emotion where I feel so very grateful to be alive at this time, in this place, with these people.  On the flip side, I've had a good number of moments/hours/even days where I feel completely strung out, tired beyond belief, not able to articulate much of anything, and just do my best to muddle through.  Yesterday was one of those days, today is a day where the brightness of life is shining through more strongly.  So maybe all I want to do here is acknowledge that life is a big mixture right now.  I guess if one of my girls is reading this some day down the road when she is a young mother herself, I want her to know it is ok if every day doesn't feel amazingly wonderful.  And I'd like her to extend to herself more grace than I often am able to give to myself.  And I want her to know that none of these stages last forever and it's ok to soak up as much of the beauty as possible and it's ok to wish for some of the aspects of particular stages to pass as quickly as possible!

One of the things I've been urging myself to do is to keep trying stuff!  That process can be exhausting because a whole day can feel like I'm just trying various things and some things work and some things don't so I'm just bouncing from one thing to another sometimes.  I'll put Terah in her blue seat and get about two dishes done before her protesting makes it clear that she is not pleased with that plan.  Then I'll cart her around and start setting the table and then she'll need a diaper change and be hungry.  Then I might sit down to catch up on a few emails and she'll be content for half an email and I leave that undone or sign off quickly.  Each day is highly unpredictable and calls for a lot of letting go of expectations.   Sometimes there are also big surprises, like the other day when I put her in her little seat to set up the corn grinder. I was going to ask Kali to grind corn for polenta as I figured the grinder would be way too loud for Terah.  But I cranked it a few times and watched her - immediate calming effect.  The grinder kind of jiggled the table and therefore her seat and she seemed soothed by the sound and the motion. It practically put her to sleep and I got all the corn ground in no time.

Last Saturday was the older girls' last soccer games. I really wanted to get to one more game.  So speaking of trying things, I decided to try taking them on my own so Jason could work.  Terah slept to and from both games and in the pack for both games. She transferred to and from the carseat like a trooper.  I was very glad I tried it.  I felt exhausted that afternoon, which seemed silly as everything went perfectly well.  But it was the first time I'd gone out with all three girls on my own, and we managed to do it twice in one day with the first game requiring that we leave home by 7:30 a.m.

As I mentioned above, Jason has started working.  He's enjoying chipping away at Emily and Jonas' project list a few days a week, and even more than the work I think he is enjoying the 2 mile bike ride to and fro his job!  It couldn't be a more convenient location and he couldn't have more flexible and kind bosses!  I felt rather emotional the first day he road off.  While most days he has been working on homesteading projects that I can't do with the girls, it kind of felt like saying goodbye to my security blanket.  But it has gotten easier, as most things do, with a few more days practice.  Kali and Alida are great company and a big help (Kali pretty much always and Alida when she wants to be).

Terah is still sleeping a lot.  Her days are a string of naps until mid-late afternoon and then she has settled into having a number of evening hours where she is awake and more demanding of attention - wanting to be entertained, fed, changed, walked around, nursed for comfort, etc...  She normally finally sacks out close to 10 p.m. and has been sleeping really well at night.  I'm still mostly in the recliner with her as that is where we fall asleep together and I can't muster the energy most nights to transition to the bed.  I've gotten one or two blocks of sleep closer to 3-4 hours and that has felt wonderful. Most nights I don't get up until about 5 when I need to pump and then if Terah wakes we do the first diaper change of the night. If not, I just let us continue to get each other wet and try to fit in a little more sleep (her diaper is always sogged through by that hour and I've normally leaked milk onto her).  Her mornings tend to be her "happy time" where she is relatively content and I can often get in a little morning burst of getting laundry started, food preparations under way for the day, breakfast on for everyone and cleaned up. The older girls have been waking earlier ever since the time change.  They even both woke before Terah the other morning and were cuddling with her in bed.  Yes, that was one of the "sweetness in abundance" times.  Pretty much anytime Terah is with one of her sisters, it's a beautiful site to behold.

Most days after lunch, I'll put Terah in the pack and Alida in the jogger and Kali and I head off down the road for a walk. I'm treasuring those walks - the exercise, fresh air, time to chat with Kali (and often with Alida as the frequency of those walks turning into a nap for her is decreasing to almost zero).  I often think while we are out walking how grateful I am that Kali (and soon it would also be Alida) are not away from our home many hours a week.  I can't imagine her missing out on a lot of this time in our family's life together. She feels so central to the workings of our homestead and it seems she packs each day full of learning.  And I've also unofficially turned Alida's schooling over to Kali.  I'm amazed at how great Kali is at answering Alida's many questions.  On the flip side I'm rather appalled at my inability to do the same.  I hate what a sucker I was for rewards and how those grades on my report card was my main motivator for learning (which only necessitated short term retention until I aced the test). The other night Alida wanted to know why it gets dark earlier at some parts of the year.  I got a little snippet of Kali explaining, complete with a drawing, the reasons to Alida.  The video is shaky because, as you can hear in the background, this was during the evening fussy/needy times!  John McCutcheon has been helping out some and Terah and I have enjoyed dancing together on a few occasions.  In the video Jason is in the background working on a venison broth canning project.

Okay, Terah is starting to squirm in the pack so I'm thinking this particular nap-stint is about to come to a close!  Just one more quick note on how happy we are for what a fit homeschooling is for our family right now.  I was marveling at what great kids we get to interact with when the girls' friends were over the other day.  They often play "birthdays" where each kid gets to choose what everyone does together for a set amount of time when it is their "birthday."  They noticed the corn sitting on the dining room table and wanted to help shell some.  They got so into it that after lunch M wanted to do that for her "birthday."  As the kids were giggling and shelling corn so rapidly it was spraying all over the floor, I felt so in awe of how cool they are!  I feel like I'm a better person just by hanging around them - and hopefully having them rub off a bit on me.

I should note for the record before signing off that Jason is busy processing chickens today and tomorrow.  On Sunday he butchered 27 chickens (6 of them were for a neighbor's customer and one for Emily and Jonas but the rest will find their way to our freezers and canning shelves).  It's nice to have lowered the number of non-laying hens and roosters we'll be feeding through the winter.

I keep hoping we'll wrap up some of these projects that are taking up most of Jason's time and he will get in on more baby cuddling time (for his sake, Terah's sake and my sake).  I'm thinking we are going to need to start planning it into our days, as the projects just seem to be never ending and while we are wrapping up things earlier in the evenings, that tends to be when Terah is mostly interested in being near her food source just in case she wants another snack.  Kali will be cashing in a birthday coupon this weekend for her and Alida to have a double sleepover with Aunt Emily.  As soon as I finish this up, I'm going to write "Daddy time with Terah" on the schedule as one of the things we will attempt to carve out time for in their absence.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Sister love, popcorn, and dreaming of red raspberries...

I don't imagine this blog post will get written in one sitting.  Terah is doing her evening nurse-snooze-wake routine and is laying on the boppy staring up at me with sleepy but content (for the moment) eyes.  Jason is sitting next to me at the table shelling red popcorn. I had forgotten how driven my hubby is when there is corn around to shell.  And the daily "popcorn testing" has commenced; Alida's was last evening (superb) and we just downed the first trial run of Kali's (equally superb). I believe we'll do a second round yet tonight to try out the red!  I just beat the older girls in a round of SkipBo and so far Alida is dealing with the loss very well (helps that Kali got last place!).  The rain is pouring down outside and I just "had" to turn the oven on and bake something.  So we whipped up a batch of pecan, chocolate, maple cookies and since I don't like the oven on for just one thing, I have a triple batch of granola going.  I thought we might get the wood stove going this evening but it is feeling comfortable without (maybe it's the little heater on my lap or the oven is adding enough warmth to not need an additional heat source).

I realized that I completely neglected in the last post to share some Halloween photos.  Kali dressed up as Zebeth (the dragon that she and Aunt Emily made up), Alida dressed as an angel (which inspired some interesting conversations about angels) and Terah had no choice but to be a little terah-o-lantern in a hand-me-down outfit we received.  We took the trio down the road for a one stop trick-or-treating outing to Aunt Emily and Uncle Jonas' place.  The two mile car ride was plenty for Terah, though we discovered that the dark car scared her and turning on the interior light made the ride more manageable for her, and therefore us.

The content baby has now had a diaper change and is nursing (this gal is processing a lot of milk!). And speaking of processing food, I realize that our blog is often dominated by food unless there is a baby in the house!  We still talk about food a lot, marveling that we are still enjoying lots of fresh green stuff.  Just this morning I made broccoli, paprika pepper, garlic scape omelets for Jason and I.  At lunch I made a mashed potato and carrot tops bake with fresh chives and dill and also a carrot top loaf (that was a little too much of a good thing - we have eaten so many carrot tops and I was trying to use up the last of them and went a little overboard on the loaf!).  We are enjoying enough fresh spinach to use it for cooking and have made multiple rounds of hot spinach dip (pictured here).  Meals are still an array of colors and textures. I'm enjoying cooking when I get the chance, but we've also been so grateful for the breaks in cooking when folks have come out with meals for us.  I'm enjoying cooking more right now because I'm not having to do it 3x a day...

And you'd think we'd say "enough already" with our freezers and pantry and root cellar full, but Jason's project for this week was finishing up getting red raspberries transplanted to a few new locations.  If the plants do well, which we expect they will, we should have plenty of raspberries for Jason to have his fill of jam!  And, of course, as we expand some of these plantings our hope is that at some point we'll have abundance in a quantity that we could actually market and it provide a portion of our income.  So far one regular customer, bartering and giving away is all we've done with our surplus.

Change seems to be a pretty common theme around here and probably the most remarkable changes for us to absorb right now are in our three girls.  They are each growing and changing so much.  Keeping up with those changes and being attentive to their needs in their unique stages is a beautiful and wonderful challenge!  For Kali one of the biggest challenges is keeping up with her soaring height such that she has clothes that fit her. I told her today I think someone attached a string to the top of her head and stretched her up this year.  For Alida we have to keep up with her need for constant silliness and rambunctious indoor soccer matches!  I'm often nursing Terah in the recliner in the front room with Alida in the backdrop playing an intense soccer game by herself, even arguing with herself about the score. It's rather entertaining!

And then there is the big sisters' love and adoration of their little sister. I love it, except when they fight over her... Here they are:

And big sisters are not the only admirers that Terah has.  She thoroughly enjoyed a little visit with her Aunt Emily the other day!
I am down to one hand, my left, so time to close!  Here's Terah enjoying the ladybug tummytime spinner for the first time. I've been so grateful for a reduction in fussiness such that we have been able to do more than feed and change her.  She's enjoyed a shower with me, tummy time, walks around the house with Kali, being held by both girls while awake and alert, etc... May this general trend towards happy contentedness continue for all our sakes!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Blood drive and other news from the week...

Saturday has come around again (4 weeks since my due date and the day Terah starting making her exit!), and it seems that going much more than a week without writing is not smart these days - all week I've had on my list to blog about Monday's blood drive and it is quickly seeming like history from long ago!  Kali, Jason and Alida just took off a bit ago for Kali's second to last soccer game of the season and Terah is sacked out on my chest. I have some quiet (with no prediction as to how long it will last!) and hands free time to myself which could be used for any number of things - a nap would probably be wisest but instead I've got my feet up and will rest while typing and if time allows I might also journal and if I'm really lucky also get the breakfast dishes done.  I've been trying to make the most of Terah's nap times because it seems like more days than not of late her awake times have demanded much of my focus, attention, patience, and definitely both hands!
Would I characterize Terah as a "fussy baby?"  It completely depends on the day!  I'm sure that no one that attended the blood drive Monday evening would believe me if I did. As we got ready to head out Monday afternoon, I was not feeling very hopeful about the evening (it seemed like getting her fed, changed and ready to be strapped in the car seat for the trip into town had used up most of my reserves!). We would be at Virginia Blood Services for close to 4 hours and the longest Terah had been out and about previously was more like 1-2 hours.  I figured I'd spend the majority of the evening either nursing her, changing diapers or walking/bouncing/dancing around the place attempting to keep her content. I even figured I might have to leave early or at least retreat to the car if things got to be too much for her.  Well, I did nurse her and changed a few diapers but mostly I got to thoroughly enjoy the event and visit with the 20 plus donors, their accompanying kids and others that stopped by to hang out.  I couldn't stop marveling at how content Terah was - even the obnoxious door bell that rings anytime anyone comes in or goes out didn't seem to phase her. She got to snuggle with her aunts and others and even cooed for the first sustained time to her Aunt K. It was so so sweet!

For me, it was probably the most meaningful blood drive to date. It was sweet to have Terah there, meeting most people who came for the first time.  It was very special to have a few people stop by to just be present with us or to drop off two beautiful huge mums for us.  We had more donors than ever, including some new folks and at least one first time donor, and all but a few were successful at both passing the screening and giving blood.  The snacks disappeared and the sounds of happy kids playing together was a wonderful back drop to the evening.  It really does feel like a party; everyone seemed to be in good spirits and very patient with the staff who were doing their best but an hour or so behind schedule with getting folks in.

As we left, I wondered what the rest of the evening would hold for Terah. I figured she might have used up all her alert, content time for the day and might have a really hard time settling after being so stimulated for hours.  She surprised me again.  She was content for the rest of the evening and fell asleep placidly in my arms. Maybe we need to host a blood drive nightly!!

The nights since Monday have not been so easy. Most evenings have ended with me stumbling about in a sleepy stupor attempting to settle Terah to the point where she can let sleep overtake her.  We have yet to determine if her discontent is connected to something I'm eating, whatever developmental stage she is going through currently, adjusting to processing the quantity of milk that makes one grow ounces a day, or maybe she is missing her Grandma!  Her worst fussy evening was Tuesday, the eve of my mom's departure after a couple day visit.  I had really been hoping for a good night before she left so I would feel confident in my ability to handle stuff on the home front without her again.  That was not to be, but we are handling things ok (just maybe not as gracefully).

Yesterday was probably the worst daytime fussies that we have had. Mostly the worst discontent has been focused on the evening hours.  Last night it seemed she had to work through a lot from late morning until late evening and then got very settled and content as we neared bedtime. She went to sleep without much trouble and had a decent night.  If only I could figure out the cause, if there is a clear one, of her unhappiness...  I will say that for now I'm "scared" of lentils. I don't know if there is a correlation, or even what the time lapse is between me eating something and Terah feeling the affects of it, but it seems like lentils could receive a portion of the blame. In the off chance that that is it, it seems a small thing to just nix them for a bit at least to see if it helps.  So far today has been lovely - woke cheerfully during a diaper change, was awake/alert/happy for awhile and then went down for her first nap of the day without much fuss.  May the day continue in the same vein!

So this morning I was looking back on our blog from when Alida was a newborn. Everyone has been asking who we think Terah looks like. Well, there is clearly some resemblance to Alida, that's for sure.  And I noted (which is what I was looking for) that it was about this same age - a few weeks old - that Alida has some very fussy evenings. It was lovely to watch a few little videos of Alida months later as a happy, seemingly well-adjusted little one. Many times lately I have reminded myself that this too shall pass, and probably even more quickly than I want it to (at least in retrospect).  It's precious time, and the most demanding phase for me (both physically and emotionally).  I try to not get rattled by her cries, but I don't think I have it in me.  It just ignites an"I've got to fix this" response in me.

Knowing that I'll be looking back on this, as will our girls, I don't want to paint a picture of Terah as a constantly crying little gal.  Hardly!  Her cries are usually very easily consoled by hugging, walking, talking, singing, bouncing or time on her changing table.  It just takes my full attention to her needs/desires to keep her happy - and that is hard at times when I feel that other needs in the family are getting pushed aside because of it (I have a really hard time focusing on my Uno Gang of Four game with Alida when Terah is squawking in my arms!).  There are, however, many other times where she is the most interested, easily entertained, content, happy, and active little gal.  One of her all time favorite past-times is to hang out/air out on her changing table looking up at her "dancing clowns."  I can often get changed myself or brush my teeth or I even snagged a super fast shower yesterday while Kali hung out with her there.  She has also done some long tummy times moving her head back and forth and she often enjoys her little blue seat (which I have deemed her "pooping chair" as it often seems to get things moving).  The picture here with my dad can attest to the fact that she has moments of sheer joy in her life and seems to take in all the loving we can lavish upon her!  We will keep piling it on!!!