Isla is completely fascinated by our chickens and spends a lot of time in our backyard shouting, “HEWWO!” at them and talking to them and peeking her little face between the slats in the fence to watch them run around. She also has a healthy fear of the chickens, after a run-in with our resident grumpy hen, Carson. If you ask her what chickens do, Isla will solemnly tell you, “They bite.”
She also loves getting into the garden. At our housewarming, she and a couple of the other kids spent the majority of the party throwing dirt from the garden at each other (not a big deal, since our winter garden has just about run its course and the whole mess will have to be pulled up within a few weeks anyhow.) Isla also likes to hunt for “catuhpihwuw” and “nail” (caterpillars and snails) and help pick broccoli, kale, and greens. She “helps” us water the plants by standing under the spray from the hose and getting soaked to the bone.
So what activity combines two of Isla’s favorite things in the whole wide world? Picking kale straight from our garden and feeding it to our chickens! Kale is a healthy treat for chickens, as long as you don’t give them too much and feed them other things as well, and helps boost egg production, or so I’ve been told. The chickens certainly love it. When they’ve gotten into the garden, they’ll gobble the kale down to nubs! They also love turnip and collard greens, and they really enjoyed getting an entire broccoli plant to themselves.
Here are some snaps of Isla feeding the chickens.
For the last several weeks, each morning before Isla headed off to daycare ended with a screaming fit over combing her hair. It was hard to blame her. She woke up every morning with her fine, curly, wispy locks snarled into a single matted ball on the back of her head, and getting the tangles out, even with the help of detangler, was almost impossible. I’m sure it was painful.
So she would run screaming from me as soon as she saw the comb and would vigorously shake her head screaming “NOOOOO” while I tried to get a comb through it. I wasn’t shooting for presentable. I was just shooting for not hopelessly tangled.
Kellen and I were feeling pretty distressed about this daily source of stress in our morning routine (among others.) A quick google search yielded a pretty obvious answer: if your child doesn’t want to sit still while you comb and style their long hair, it’s time for a haircut. I’d been toying with the idea for a while, but this bit of advice pretty much sent me over the edge. I collected recommendations from other parents in my area about the best place to get a toddler a haircut, then made the appointment.
Saturday morning, bright and early, we headed to Sharkey’s. I was worried Isla was going to refuse the haircut, but she was given a lollipop, a car to sit in, and her choice of video. 5 minutes later, her hair was cut, with no more than a few momentary tears over being required to wear a cape to keep the cut hair out of her shirt. I was obviously a little sad to say goodbye to the sweet little baby wisps we oohed and ahhed over when they first made their appearance last winter, but she looks a lot less unkempt and a lot more grown up, and our mornings have been much more peaceful.
I love to give my chickens special treats, in addition to their regular feed. They get cupfuls of oatmeal, raw chicken livers, and lots of kale and greens from the garden.
Over the weekend, Kellen read about how you can uproot broccoli plants that are at the end of their life and tie them upside down for your chickens to peck at. We have several broccoli plants that are past their prime, so Kellen dug one of the larger ones up and tied it up in the run. The chickens loved it!
So I wanted to share some snaps of our broccoli piñata. The girls sure have had a great time nibbling away at it.
I recently read a new mom ranting about being left at home with her baby overnight for the first time ever. She was mad at her husband for leaving her alone. At her mother for not being able to be there. At every parent who’d come before her who had failed to tell her how hard being a mother was. And frustrated, overwhelmed, and terrified about being the only person responsible for her little one’s well being.
What I did not tell her was that the feeling of terror never really goes away. You may get used to the idea of being left alone with your kids, but the idea that you are wholly responsible for this tiny person’s health, well-being, and future success and happiness never stops being absolutely terrifying. My daughter is 2, and while I’m pretty okay with being left alone with her most of the time, there are times when I’m still utterly overwhelmed by the fact that I’m responsible for her entire childhood. What I do (or don’t do) will shape her future behavior and attitudes and relationships and profession, and I am grossly underqualified to raise a child. Seriously. What the heck have I ever done that would make me an expert in raising a child? Oh, sure, I was one myself once, ages ago, and I’m a responsible, self-sufficient adult in a happy marriage and in good financial standing. Still. I know absolutely nothing about kids, beyond what I’ve read on the internet and in child development books, and I’m pretty sure “read some articles on the internet” is not exactly the same as being an expert in child-rearing.
The only thing that helps me cope with the occasionally paralyzing sense that I’m not up to the task of raising my child is that billions of other people have brought children into this world before me–and will continue to long after I am dead–and that the vast majority of them have as few qualifications to be parents as I do…and some of them far less. What’s more, for eons, people raised children without Google, parenting magazines, or What to Expect books, and still managed to raise at least a few happy, successful people. Humanity survived for many thousands of years with no other source of parenting advice than what parents received from other members of their community. Considering some of the off the wall things I’ve had friends, family members, and neighbors tell me to do with my child, I find the fact that humanity has survived this long at all to be pretty astonishing. Perhaps, though, it’s the best testament to the resilience of children humanity has to offer.
I try to focus on those facts rather than the popularity of therapy, anyhow, or the chances my daughter will someday need it.
The other thing I did not tell this new mom is that parents are constantly trying to explain to non-parents just how hard this job is. It’s just that childless people, much like our own kids, don’t listen to us. They think we’re exaggerating the challenges of parenthood to paint ourselves as martyrs or making excuses for our rotten kids’ rotten behavior. Maybe they disbelieve us, because if they actually took what we said to heart, they’d likely never have children, and the human race couldn’t survive anymore if everyone realized how tough parenting is before they became parents themselves.
Maybe they don’t take us seriously because while we crack a lot of jokes about wine and sleep deprivation, it’s difficult for parents to convey just how tough being a parent is. After all, how do you explain to people accustomed to free time and thinking mostly of themselves that their world will, in all of a second, change from being all about them, to all about someone else? How do you explain to them that becoming a parent is basically like invasion of the body snatchers? You look the same on the outside, but everything on the inside is completely different–your priorities, your interests, your hobbies, your relationships, your fears, your identity?
I don’t know how you can begin to explain to someone how much responsibility is involved in parenting. It seems fairly simple from the outside. You just make sure your kids are fed, clothed, healthy, loved, and have a safe place to live. But when you look back on your own formative years, and you think about how the very fabric of your childhood was interwoven with your parents’ goodness and awfulness and mistakes and successes and ingenuity and failings and love and selfishness and selflessness, and how much all the things they did and didn’t do have led you to be the person you are…well, it’s no longer so easy. Lots of people love their children, but do a terrible job of raising them, and the only thing more awful than the idea that someday, the sweet little baby you brought into this world and love more than anything won’t want to speak to you or have anything to do with you, is the thought that you may have done something that makes them fundamentally unhappy people.
It’s a big job. And never is it more clear just how big it is than that first time you are left alone for a few hours with your newborn, and they are crying and won’t stop crying no matter what you do, and then they finally fall asleep in your arms, and even though you’ve never needed to pee so badly or been so thirsty or been so flipping uncomfortable in your whole entire life, you just sit there holding them, helpless, frustrated, crying, covered in milk and spit up and god knows what other body fluids, wishing for nothing so much as 15 minutes to yourself. 15 minutes of silence to take a shower, put on clean clothes, get a drink of water, use the bathroom, watch whatever you want on TV, run down to the mailbox without having to worry about what to do with your baby, eat a hot meal before it gets cold. But you suppress all of those needs and wants and you just stay there holding your baby, because you know more than anything, this is what they need, and what they need will forever after be far more important than anything you’ve ever needed or wanted.
No wonder you’re mad and scared and frustrated and overwhelmed. You just realized your entire world and identity have shifted. Radically. Forever.
No one told you about this because no one can. It’s something you can’t know until that awful, harrowing moment, usually when you are all alone and overwhelmed by your baby’s needs and just how much those needs demand your immediate and undivided attention, and you have no one else to turn to, because now you are the mom or the dad. You will forever be the person that tiny, precious, vulnerable, beautiful, fragile, malleable ball of human potential turns to for safety, comfort, protection, and love. It’s all on you.
Welcome to parenthood.
I feel like we’re finally starting to get settled in to our new home! The boxes are (mostly) empty, and the ones that aren’t have been hidden away in the garage or the closets. We’ve bought the necessary furniture to fill out all the extra space we have here.
There’s still a lot of work to be done. It’s a 40-year-old house, so there’s plenty of things to be fixed. The roof and the windows are probably the biggest items on the list, but they are just the tip of a gigantic iceberg. Sometimes I worry we’ve purchased The Money Pit, but so far, it’s a really lovely place. It just needs a bit of TLC.
Plus, we haven’t had the funds to update drapes (which we inherited from the owners) or our bedding or attempt to either replace or fix up our mismatched furniture, some of which dates back to our childhood bedrooms. So things still look a little odd.
But we have tons of space to grow into, which is wonderful, plus a big back yard with chickens and a garden, which Isla and Pippin are both pretty wild about. The neighborhood is lovely, hilly and tree-lined and peaceful. It definitely has that late-60s, early 70s charm, with lots of unique ranch style homes and big yards and wide streets and old trees.
For the first time ever, it feels like we’re really home, which is a good thing, because we’re here for the long haul!
Last weekend, we had our housewarming with all our friends here in Austin, so for the first time since we moved in, everything was cleaned up and packed away. I snapped a few pictures and wanted to share.
The last time I checked in here, I was in the midst of writing an epic cloth diapering guide for prospective cloth diaperers. I have a full post on how to wash cloth diapers sitting in my drafts, and have for two weeks, but I haven’t posted it. Why?
Because the very day I wrote the rough draft, I went out and pulled the nastiest smelling load of cloth diapers out of my dryer that I ‘d ever smelled, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to de-stink them ever since. I won’t bore you by telling you how many times and methods I’ve used to strip my diapers, how many detergents I’ve tried, how many experiments with amounts of detergent and amounts of water I’ve conducted, how many diapers, inserts, and wipes I’ve hand washed. Needless to say, I’ve spent the better part of the last couple of weeks washing diapers, and while I’ve (mostly) got the stink under control, I’ve got six inserts that are destined for the garbage because I just can’t de-funk them, and at least one rogue inserts that keeps stinking up the entire load of diapers every time it goes through the dryer.
I think my problems stem from: 1) moving into a house with very hard water, and 2) a load of diapers being left unnoticed in the diaper pail in my garage for nearly a week. The smell is definitely ammonia-related, and after Dawn and bleach and Mighty Bubbles all failing to kick the stink, I’ve got Rockin’ Green’s Funk Rock ammonia bouncer en route to my house. We’ll see how it goes. I’m in maintain mode right now, though, and not feeling any degree of confidence in my laundry expertise, so I will have to continue putting off the laundry post until I solve this issue.
In the meantime, between the last time I wrote and now, Isla transitioned out of her crib and into her big girl bed and the crib, along with the high chair Isla has been boycotting since the holidays, went into storage. The big girl bed transition went much better than expected. The first week was a little rough, with long bed times and nighttime wake-ups, and getting Isla to nap in her bed on the weekends a challenge, but she’s now very happily going to bed every night. After Isla’s bath and jammies, we sit and read books in bed for 10 or so minutes, and then I turn off the lights, give her a kiss, and leave, and there she stays usually until 7 AM and even later on the weekends. Sleep comes in cycles and I know we’ve probably still got some rough nights ahead, but for now, I’m very grateful for all the sleep happening in my house.
Also, after two weeks of Isla asking nightly to use the potty–and usually meeting with success–we started potty training again over the weekend. Saturday went really well, but then Kellen left for London on business on Saturday evening, and my parents arrived with all the attendant spoiling and routine disruption grandparents always bring. (I’m not knocking this, btw. I’m very grateful for my parents’ help while Kellen is out of town and having two more grown-ups in the house means I’ve had more time to get stuff done than I’ve had since before Christmas.) We had two accidents on Sunday, though, and Isla refused to use the big potty at all, throwing a tantrum every time I so much as mentioned it, so I’ve decided we’ll leave off until Kellen is back home and our routines are back to normal.
Over the weekend, I had my first sewing party with a few of my girlfriends. All 4 of us own sewing machines, but for the most part don’t use them, and only 1 of us really knew how to use our machines (I learned in high school, and sewed a little in Oregon, but it’s been many years since I’ve had a decent machine or the time to sew anything, and my new machine is, you know, not 30 years old, which makes it very different from every machine I’ve ever used before between my mom and grandma’s machines and my high school home ec class.) So all of us picked a pattern, collected various supplies, and converged upon my dining room table with our sewing machines, and my friend who can sew, Sarah, graciously and patiently sat down and taught all of us n00bs how to do things like…load our bobbins and sew in a straight line. Despite our inexperience, though, we all ended up leaving with usable wallets, so I would say all in all, it was a success!
The weather here has alternated between freezing cold with a terrible biting wind and worse traffic problems (you’ve probably seen the jokes on the internet about how things shut down in the South any time there are a few flurries) and being 70 degrees and gorgeous. On Saturday evening, I was running errands in shorts and flip flops and had the air conditioner running. When I woke up Sunday, I had to bundle up just to go let the chickens out of the run and avoided being outside as much as possible. Such is Texas weather. 40-degree swings in a 24-hour period are completely normal, and honestly, I’m so grateful for the days of sunshine, it’s hard to complain a whole lot about the bad weather. It’s such an improvement over my last several winters in Oregon, Washington, and Minnesota, in some ways I feel like the cold days are just our karmic retribution for getting to enjoy so much warmth and sunshine in January and February.
All in all, I’m feeling very grateful for being in Texas, for the (mostly) good weather, and for all the friends and family and support we have here. I’m also so grateful that we were able to buy a home, and one that has been so perfectly suited to our family. We’ve had fresh greens and eggs to eat the last few weeks, and Isla has lots of room to run around and explore. We haven’t been here long, but it feels like the place we were always meant to be.