Thursday, September 22, 2016

On racism and parenting

While I was off capturing another birth (yes, I do this. It's my favorite.) and feeling all good about the world, two men were shot and killed. Two dads. Within 24hours of each other. By police officers. Because they were black.

I used to be really concerned with our fairly white circle of friends- in that most of our friends look like us. We live here, where sadly our statistics show our area as pretty diverse... because there's a maximum security prison less than 5miles away- I'll skip the prison racism rant for now, that's not why we're here today...
I used to avoid talk of diversity- because then our kids would notice and it would be a thing.
Until one day, when Noah was around 4, he said he didn't like someone because their skin was dark (he didn't know skin was referred to as white or black .... because we weren't labeling).
Adrenaline rush (on my part) and trying not to stammer too much as I ask for more clarification.
It was true. He liked people who were boys, with white skin, and preferably brown hair.
I researched like crazy. This wasn't right. The plan wasn't working! We were raising a racist white male.
I found an article like this and this.
And we started explicitly talking to our kids about race. Taking ownership for what our race had done, the atrocities committed, the need for change - still! We worked at seeking out picture books that show nonwhite characters (this is harder than you'd think - randomly pull a picture book off the shelf at the public library, and 90% of the time, it's filled with white kids) - and not books that specifically talk about race. Just books that show kids being kids -even *gasp* - black kids.

And now, 6 years later, I hear words come out of my kids' mouths and feel reassured that the race inequalities shock my children. We have recently been talking about the insane number of murders recently .... but then also talking about how it's probably the average number of killings - we just have social media to heighten awareness. The kids make big plans to go to a black person's defense in a heartbeat. Our kids are angry. And they can be, at no risk to them - because they are white. I'm so glad that they get it. I don't have to be explicit about how incredibly horrendous this is. They get it because they know that people are people and each one is worth fighting for (if needed). That it isn't about skin color - in terms of who you stand with - but it is about skin color in that it's something we're really thankful for. We're thankful that everyone doesn't look like us and we're thankful we live in a country where this is the case to the extreme. Our kids get it. Even if every.single.neighbor is white. They still get it.

I recently told Noah the story of when he was four ... and how it made me realize we weren't doing this right. He was mortified.

But I keep feeling like we could do more. I don't know what - but if more killings are happening, then it means we're not doing enough.
And this simple list came up on my newsfeed. We have a responsibility, as white people, to be the change. Black people don't have that power. They've tried. But as the suppressed group, they only have as much power as the dominant group (white people) give them. Think about that. That's a big responsibility. Take it. Own it. Do something.

And especially as a white mother of a white son who will grow to be a white man .... Big responsibility. It's a conversation that we have to keep having. It's actions that we need to keep taking.

What are the conversations with your kids like at your house around racism? Around these recent lynchings? How are you addressing this?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Dear Noah :: 10 years old

Dear Noah,
I remember ten. It was a big deal. Double digits and all. But you're taking it all in stride. You are excited to be ten ... but also relish being a kid and don't want to be a teenager (or grownup). You love your life and don't want it to change.

Your favorite favorite thing is playing video games. Hands down. No competition. Minecraft, roblox, pokemon Go!. That's your life. But there isn't enough video game time in a day, in your opinion. We totally feel that unschooling makes sense - and that leads to whole-life "unschooling. We've read, you'll self regulate - food, video games, sleeping ... Not true! You will (and have) play(ed) all day, every day. Video games are very very important to you. If you're not playing ... you're watching youtube videos of someone else playing.
So we talk about how even if you wanted to eat green beans for every meal, we wouldn't let you - because your body needs a variety in your diet. In the same way, your body needs a variety in your choice of activity. So we play board games, read books, go swimming, watch movies.... But all that time, you're thinking about video games, applying life experiences to video games, and scheming about video games. I think this is also that you're ten.

We recently went on a nature walk with a biologist from Paul Smith's and you were less than enthused. When he asked if you liked Minecraft, your head snapped up and you were all of a sudden very interested in talking about dragonflies and pitcher plants and the depth of a bog ....
You were amazed that he guessed you liked minecraft. But he confessed that it's not that hard to guess when he meets a ten year old boy.

You're lately having times of frustration and increased anger. My easy-going boy is not always so easy going. This is all new and confusing for both of us at times - but also a relief. It's great to see you be self aware enough to realize you have opinions, attempt to articulate those opinions, and feel strongly enough about them to get angry if you feel it's needed. And usually it's needed for your sister. The older of the two. You're not always the best with words, and sometimes your actions have been coming out before your words. But we realized, that those actions are ones you learned from Del ... she just isn't as strong and you're feelings (and body) don't become as hurt, so we don't react as strongly as perhaps should - you included! But we're learning to co-exist as we enter into teenagehood.

Yep. I said it. It feels unreal that you're ten. You're a breath away from being as tall as I am and you weigh as much as I do. And you're 10. Which is close to 11, 12, and 13. It's unreal to imagine the baby you were is the big kid you are, and the teen you're becoming. When I tell you: "I think you might be feeling that what I'm saying doesn't make sense and that I don't understand and you'll be feeling that way more and more as you ge-..." and I notice you looking at me in disbelief. You are shocked that I get it. You say that you already feel this way a lot. And I laugh. Not at you. At the situation. That this is a pattern that happens in families all over the place every day. I try to be more patient and remember what it was like when I too was frustrated that my parents didn't understand and their rules and expectations seemed silly or too demanding or both.

But you're also quick to say that you appreciate that your life is pretty blissful. Your responsibilities are minimal. We've recently started talking more about how you do pitch in and help when asked, usually without fuss, but you need to notice when things need doing - and just do them. If given the choice, you prefer inside tasks to outside ones (too buggy, too hot). You prefer solitary tasks as opposed to joint jobs - because it's hard not to feel that you're doing the larger load of the job.

But you're initiating conversation more (with a heavy emphasis on video game talk). It's like it always is with you - from walking, to talking, to reading... you want to feel that you have a pretty strong ability to accomplish the task at hand before attempting it. You don't want to fail.

You love swimming. You resist showers. And changing your clothes. Or wearing socks. Ever. Or pants. We live in the Adirondacks - just a reminder. No matter. Crocs and basketball-shorts and tshirts are your wardrobe ... and occasionally a winter coat or vest.
I tell people you're the poster child for "Homeschool Kid" - except that you would be this way if you were homeschooled or not. I know this because I know your dad.

We're so thankful for you - even if we are still kind of surprised that we've been parenting for a decade - and you're the one who has taught us how to be parents.
Thanks for making it easy on us.
Can't wait to see what the next ten years brings.
Love you always,

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Dear Rye :: 12mos + 13mos

Dear Rye,
I can't believe we're already a day away from 13months! We tend to be a busy family with lots of things going on - which we love - not the "busy" part necessarily, but all the things we're doing are so rewarding and we don't want to give any of it up. And summer time just means more busy! So let's talk about 12 and 13 months together.

Your birthday seemed unbelievable - but also not. You've been around forever, it feels, and I can't imagine life without you! It's hard to believe that we were birthing a year ago - and you were a tiny-curled-up-dark-headed-blue-eyed baby. So much has happened in the last year! But all those feelings were a good reminder that birthdays aren't really about the person who was birthed but the person who birthed - especially that first birthday.

You are more and more toddler and less and less baby. You like to pull things off shelves, stack and restock objects (sockets, for example), hold a pencil/pen/crayon and insist on paper to draw on, climb on anything and everything - stairs, the rocking horse, the dog ...
You crawl everywhere. Sometimes your arm doesn't hold your weight like you expect, and you topple. You've discovered that you can stand up by yourself. You do this regularly. In the middle of a room. Then smile proudly and start laughing. Until you carefully squat back down ... and then do it again. You've taken a few steps - something you're clearly proud of. People keep saying "any day now!" but I really assume it will be a few more months until you're walking. Del and Noah were both 15months and your trajectory seems similar.

The closer you get to walking, the more you want to b held. You are not as content to sit on the floor and play. I think there's a connection. Like this emerging independence given by soon-to-come-walking means you want reassurance that I'm still here. I sit you in front of me on the floor to feed you, and you insist on turning your back to me, and resting your little bum in my lap. You want to be carried more. And if you are on the floor, you'd prefer to be walking hand in hand with me. There's lots of practice needed for walking.
Not stair climbing apparently - because before we even knew it was happening, you have become very adept at stair climbing. And if you get to a spot where you feel stuck and uncertain, you don't hesitate to call out for someone to come find you and help.

Noah and Del are your best entertainers. You are quick to laugh when they make a funny face and you've just recently started laughing when they giggle about something. You love when they walk with you or spin you in the air. You will reach for them when you're sad and your parents aren't around. You love to give kisses and will randomly making kissing sounds - asking for a kiss. This is not something Del and Noah are interested in participating in and they are committed to teaching you that kissing is gross. So I get all the kisses I can now - before their influence about this issue becomes a bigger impact on your preferences.

You're affectionate in general and like to hug and occasionally say "awww" while patting someone's back. When you hear the word "gentle", you rub your face gently. If someone gives you something soft - a stuffed animal, a blanket, a pillow - you lay your cheek down and squeeze it close, giving it a hug. If I'm not where you want me, you'll pull and tug with all your might to get me in a different position. You rub my belly or arm randomly. You're just snuggly and like touch. It makes me so happy to see you reach for Del or Noah or Daddy.

If you are done eating or don't like a certain food, you'll spit it out and very purposefully throw it on the floor. You will fill your mouth too full of water - insisting you want more - then let it all dribble out.

In the last few months, you've had your first camping trip (yay! Sand! Water! Fire!!), done a road trip to Boston (with a few museums thrown in for fun, a turned-off-hot-tub dip, and exploring a thoroughly not-kid-proof house), and a bonfire at home. I'm always surprised at how engaged you are these days. You laugh when things are unexpected - like feeling grass underneath your bare legs, someone playing peek-a-boo, or a smiley baby in the mirror. You had so much fun splashing in the hot tub and exploring the museums. The tops of your feet are dirty, your hair is crusty because you like to put food in it, and you're just starting to show your 6th tooth! This fun baby-toddler phase!

Keep being you. It's so fun!
Love you baby,

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Boston Children's Appointment that was not

Del's neurofribromotosis (NF) minimally effects her life. She has a bump here. A bump there. We recently started going regularly (every 6mos) to our local optometrist to closely monitor her eyes as growths on the optic nerve are common and most likely to effect her ability to function in life (ie she could go blind).
Since the NF diagnosis, Del's regular pediatrician has been saying that at some point, we should have her seen by an NF specialty team - the closest options being Boston or NYC.
Del is now 8, and it seems prudent to have her seen before she gets into full swing puberty as this is one of the times in life when neurofibromas tend to grow (the theory is, this is a result of increased growth hormone in your system).
I quickly said Boston as my preference because we have family and friends in the Boston area who we could stay with and it's a closer drive than NYC.

Del's appointment was scheduled for July 7th.

Coincidentally, Del's routine eye appointment on June 8th showed some swelling in her right eye, which lead to an MRI, which lead to confirmation that yes, she has a fibroma behind that eye. So phew! We already have this appointment in Boston. We'll figure out what the best course of action is then.

I received a letter from Boston Children's recommending I get the referral confirmation number so that I have no trouble with insurance paying. After some run around, my impression was that the appointment at Boston was covered, but there was no confirmation number - but don't worry.

After driving into Boston (about 4 hours to my brother's house where we spent the night, and then another hour into Boston) - did you read that? I'll say it again - after driving from rural NY ... as in, right near the Canadian border inside the Adirondack Park to Boston, I decided to call and confirm that everything was per-approved from the parking garage of Boston Children's. We'd arrived about 45 minutes early, so why not?

The poor call center person. I get it. Awful job to work for an insurance company answering these calls.
She read the long winded denial.
Request is denied because the patient can see a pediatric neurologist in state (in network), Boston is not necessary. There are pediatric neurologists in state.
I explained that it's not just an ophthalmologist, neurologist, and geneticist she needs to be seen by - it's necessary that these specialists also have expertise specifically in neurofibromatosis. And we're human beings. While it may work better in their system for us to stay in state - it doesn't make practical sense. Is the insurance company going to pay for a stay in NYC? The gas money to get there? Create some sort of support network when Del likely needs surgery which will require a stay near the hospital?

I called our pediatricians office and they got on the phone with the insurance - including Del's actual nurse practitioner - explaining that we are at the hospital in Boston.
The insurance company faxed over a copy of pediatric neurologist in NY - Syracuse or NYC - (4+ hours for Syracuse - never mind NYC), to be helpful.
The insurance company didn't seem to understand that more than a neuro specialist is needed - what about the geneticist, the ophthalmologist? They also apparently don't realize that they do cover these specialists in Burlington (an hour and a half away) - across a state line - and we've used those specialists before. What they failed to also see was that these specialists are not neurofibromotosis specific.


So we drove home.
What makes this hard, is realizing I was holding my breath until this appointment.
Del still has a fibroma behind her eye. We still need to figure out what the course of action is.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Everybody says it - because it's true!

"That first year goes by so fast."

We've had such a crammed packed year with lots of changes - I can't believe it's only been a year since Rye was born.
I also can't believe she's grown and changed so much in a year.
But I'm also still trying to figure out how the first baby I birthed is now a 10 year old, the same size as me ....
Life goes by fast after you have kids!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dear Del :: 8 years old

Dear Del,
Aunty Chels wrote on a helium balloon for you on your birthday: "happy 9th birthday". So I keep thinking about writing your letter and think: "oh, I can't believe she's nine!! ... oh wait. She's not ... I should really write her letter before she turns nine though.
So you're eight. You're still you. Tough and gentle, inquisitive and all-knowing, insistent and agreeable, serious and funny.

You love to read. You spend hours outside in the spring and summer weather - mostly on the hunt for frogs and tadpoles. You delight at ducklings, chicks, and newborn calves.  You spend many many hours riding your bike. You love drawing, walking the dog, and doing detail work like knitting/beadwork/etc.
You are always helpful - on your own terms - but also really adept at anticipating another person's needs and offering to meet those.

You're very sad that you're not the oldest kid in our family and also that you don't have blue eyes. You ask why I didn't birth you first or why you weren't born with blue eyes. You call your brother names and get really really angry with him. We talk about how he has a super power - and that is to get you angry - but the antidote for his super power is to not let it bother you. But this is all really really hard to do. To be fair, many times he unknowingly drives you crazy. Sometimes you forget that the power of your feelings is inside you and that even with big feelings, you're still responsible for your actions. At this point in life though, it's really hard to feel that you can control your response to someone else's maddening behavior. It's a life-long thing that you will probably always be working on. Ask me how I know.

You love hanging out with your friends and really value that connection - even if it's someone you've only met once. You don't necessarily connect with everyone - but you do connect with many and those you enjoy being with, you ask when we're going to see them again - over and over and over. For better or worse we live in a rural area (according to you "this stupid farm") and our friends are far and wide - even our local friends are not always easy to track down and align schedules with. But you've discovered texting and facetime and enthusiastically use both regularly.

You're enjoying various video games and regularly negotiate passionately for more screen time. We talk about how if you insisted on eating green beans all the time, I would say: "you need a variety in your diet", and the same goes with life. We've tried free-for-all-screens, but then life lacks variety. We're still finding our way with this one, for sure.
You insist on a hug before you go to bed every night. And then you stay up late reading in bed. You read fairy books and comics. I don't pay a ton of attention to your reading choices - I'm just so excited that you love to read as much as I do. We were recently at a bog doing a nature walk and you pointed out a pitcher plant. I assumed this information was coming from a recent trip to The Wild Center. But no, you said you'd read about it in Never Girls. So there you go. Read away, my friend. I will suppress even my internal judgements of your reading choices.

It's been a big year for us. A week before your last birthday, our girls went home after living with us for 18mos. A few months later your baby sister was born at home. Everyone kept saying to you: "how do you like being a big sister?" and you would say: "I already am a big sister".
One of the reasons I was so excited about having a new baby was that you would experience normal birth and witness breastfeeding and just baby life. It would all be normalized and you will have a very good idea of what is involved should you choose to birth a baby in the future.

We asked you ahead of time if you wanted to be at the birth. Yes, yes! Of course you did. As the birth intensified, Grammy went to check on you both. We'd done a good job prepping you, because apparently the crazy noises I was making weren't bothering you - besides keeping you from sleeping. You weren't surprised. When birth was imminent, I yelled for someone to go get you. The baby was coming, and I didn't want you to miss it!
You were so excited. You loved holding her and snuggling her and just being close by. I'm so glad she has you and you have her.

We opened our store/coffee shop/bakery/cafe and you immediately took to the role of frequent-counter-person. I have been told, you are part of the charm of the Farmhouse Pantry experience (also known as the "stupid store", when you're frustrated at being tied down to the store's schedule). When you're gone for a weekend (off with a grandparent), we get regulars asking "where is your little girl?" and I point to Rye and they say: "no no, the older one". You impress everyone with your register skills and how well you know the inner workings of the store.

This is the year your neurofibromatosis is going to start impacting our lives. Our pediatrician mentioned a few years ago that she'd like you to connect with a team that specializes in NF at some point. We agreed that we'd go to Boston Children's at some later date.
Well, you're 8 and puberty is coming and now is the time to start that relationship. So we have an appointment scheduled for early July. Coincidentally we had your regular twice-a-year appointment with the local optometrist. He is very thorough and noticed one of your eyes looked swollen. Pictures confirmed his suspicion. There are no nodules visible, just the eye is swollen - not noticeably without the optometrist examining your eyes. Your eye site is still perfect (this is disappointing to you - you want glasses).
So an MRI was ordered, and the optometrist suspicions confirmed once again - you have a fibroma behind your eye, putting pressure on your eye. There's a lot of going back and forth with all the medical players - including a fair amount of: "why does she need an mri? That's really serious, we don't just do those .... so she's going to need an mri as soon as possible, don't wait ..."
We haven't told you yet that there's a fibroma behind your eye. We'll talk about it when we know more and have an idea about what options are - if there are even any decisions to be made right now. Fibromas tend to grow slowly, so we may just be advised to wait and closely monitor its growth.
It's turns out - below your tough shell, sometimes things are really scary - like MRIs. You were rather uncertain - especially when you learned you'd be in the room by yourself. So, unlike our usual protocol of being very up front with you, we're holding back until we have more information.

I'm amazed at how grown and mature you seem recently. Your long and lean, your face is thinning out, your hair is longer .... and then you stamp your foot screeching at me insisting it's all unfair. Or ask me to put your hair in pigtails. It's a funny mix right now -between baby girl and teen.
You have found great enjoyment in cooking - brownies at the store and pancakes at home - are your go-to cooking projects.

You expect the world to work for you and are enraged when it doesn't. You have little sympathy for someone who you deem has done you wrong and will make this clear in no uncertain terms. You are already making an impact on this world. You just haven't realized you have your own super power - the power to make change through your passion, dedication, and logical thinking. You're learning though. Figuring out how to use your power for positive change and learning how to balance that with other people's feelings.

I'm so proud of you.
Thank you for always taking on every challenge, with barely a blink. And for also knowing your limits and reaching out for support when you need it. Just make sure you keep eating when you're hungry and sleeping when you're tired. The rest will all work itself out.
I love you forever,

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dear Rye :: 11mos

Dear Rye,
When people asked, I told them you were 10 months old. Then days before you turned 11 months I realized I'd missed the part where I normally say "x-and-a-half-months". You were days days! from 11months! Dad is quick to point out that 11 months means that next month will be 12 months! Eek! How has 11 months sped by so fast.
I'll tell you. We've done a whole bunch of stuff! And you've definitely been a huge part and made it all more exciting and fun.

You are now a total pro at moving around. You can crawl. You can pull yourself up. You can slowly lower yourself from a standing to a sitting position. You can roll.
It's a whole new world out there - ready for you to pull apart explore. We shake our head at your antics and are surprised at what you find to get into investigate. You are very interested in plugs - whether a cord is inserted to them or not. You love opening the woodstove grate and cabinets and drawers ... and pulling out the contents. Boxes are also fun to empty. As are bookshelves. And laundry baskets. You've even recently made it up a stair or two.

You tagged along with Nina and I on a garage-sale-ing adventure one Saturday and happily smiled and waved to everyone who passed by. You seemed quite stunned that the wave and smile wasn't reciprocated by everyone. It was a crowded day and people didn't always see you. It was as if they weren't all there to see you. I know this is surprising because at the store - you are the highlight. You smile and wave, or shyly tuck your face into my neck ... before smiling big ... for anyone who comes in the door. When customers get their meals, you will often crawl right over to their table, waiting patiently - because surely they are going to share their meal with you! It's so fun to watch other people find you as charming as we do. Occasionally, if you're not in our arms, you will take a dislike to someone - usually someone with a beard - and burst out crying, terrified. This is a new phenomenon. Usually a quick snuggle and you are on your way again.

Nina got a new dog this month and you are loving him. Fortunately, he is tolerant. He avoids you, or patiently waits while someone rushes over to rescue him - on the few occasions where you've been too enthusiastic in your attentions. He also comes at a convenient time as you are eating more and more solids ... which means more and more messes under your seat at the table. The dog never complains about having clean up duty.

We went to visit friends on the other side of the Adirondacks this month. You are okay in the car if we start early enough ... but in general, the later in the day, the less tolerant of life you are - but that's all relative, because you're still relatively chill. So the last third of the trip can be long, when you really need to fall asleep. But then you are all smiles when we arrive and it's fun to realize the huge developmental changes that have happened since a previous visit (in this case, about three months). You are way more interested in the other kids now ... and are interested in tasting chalk, crayons, grass, paper, video-game-controllers ... It's always exciting.
You do better in the car if Noah and/or Del are there to be a friendly face. But you spent most of that trip, taking whatever Noah offered and immediately throwing it on the far side of your seat - out of Noah's reach. Only to fuss again and Noah hand you another random item that has found itself in our vehicle.

It's fun to see how quickly you catch on. You clearly understand words like "up" and "bite" and your name and "c'mere" and "dog/cat". You're waving and clapping, and playing peek-a-boo. You might be signing some things but it isn't too obvious yet (did she just sign "milk" or was that random??). You copy what other people are doing - drinking from a cup, whacking a block on a table, waving. You crack up laughing when someone does something you didn't expect. And your giggle is irresistible.

I can't believe how big you're getting and how quickly you're maturing - but I'm also loving every second of it! You're such a cool baby.
Thank you for being you.
Love you always,

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Dear Rye :: 10 mos

Dear Rye,
You're crawling! Not fast or very coordinated - but you can move your body. The thing is, you usually are happy to just sit tight and not move. I see babies your age fighting diaper changes because they just want to m-o-v-e!! Not you. I can leave you on your back and go and get wipes from a different room ... when I come back, you're where I left you. Maybe not super happy that I left you - but definitely still in the same place you were when I left the room.

The noises you are making are more varied and more conversation-like, often insistent. You laugh a lot and you find the unexpected particularly hilarious. You also giggle for tickles.

Not only are you crawling - but you also gained three teeth this month ... pretty much simultaneously. And you were relatively chill about the whole thing.

Along with the crawling has come social anxiety. It could be worse, I suppose. You're still mostly smiley with strangers but will snuggle into my neck when they talk to you and are much less enthusiastic about reaching for anyone who reaches for you. And interestingly, people who made you nervous before - you're getting better with them - I think because now they are the familiar faces. When you crawl away from me and someone talks to you, you sit back on your bum and burst into tears.
With crawling has also come a lot more falling and you are so sad whenever you fall - backwards, forwards, sideways - it happens all over the place!

You've recently started this sad-crying face that isn't actually crying ... and it reminds me so much of Noah. I think because we have video of him doing the same face. What adds to the similarities, I think, is that while your hair isn't as thick as his - it's starting to be long enough to go in your eyes - just like him at this age.

You're eating solids like crazy. Good thing Dad is around, because my go-to is to nurse you. Sometimes, when you're fussy, he'll ask: "when did she eat last?" and I'll realize I didn't think to feed you solids all day! You're growing like crazy and apparently more-than-mommy-milk is part of your growing plan.

The bigger you grow, the stronger. Your scratches, grabs, and pinches are getting ouchier and we're working on gentle hands. Your sweet soft hands are so loving when they are gentle. Sometimes the loving is too hard. But it also means so very passionate hugs and kisses.

I recently was going through pictures and found one of Dad sleeping on June 15th ... nothing June 16th .... and then you, you, you! I can't believe how tiny you were, how dark that full head of hair was, how much Noah and Del have also grown and changed in the last 10months. I'm so glad you're part of our family. It's so fun getting to know you more and more and knowing you're part of us.

For your 9month checkup, you'd jumped percentiles again - something like 7th for weight and 50something for height. I think you're going to more than triple your birth weight. We look at your rolly thighs and wonder that you're only in the 7th%ile.

We love you forever,

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Dear Rye :: 9mos

Dear Rye,
You rose-y cheeked wonder, we continue to be totally smitten. Noah wakes you up in the morning because he wants to play with you ... even when a bit more sleep would do you good. But you roll with it and he is rewarded with a big grin and even some giggles.
You're sitting up really well and even moving to an almost-crawling position, but you're not quite there. Everyone is holding their breath, waiting for you to crawl ... but everyone also knows that life is going to get a lot more hectic once you're on the move. You have one leg that gets stuck underneath you and if you don't move back to a sitting position, you'll move to your belly ... which isn't fun for very long. Or you reach just a little bit too far and get stuck and can't get back up to a sitting position. You can roll from front to back but not back to front ... but the opportunities for practice are minimal as you are often carried ... or sitting on the ground, not laying on your back.

You love to engage with your siblings and if they are talking and giggling back and forth, you join right in! You don't like it when they leave the room and will call out after them and cry when they don't come back. You burst into giggles when they surprise you by peeking back around the corner - every time!

We moved the crib to our room (really, by "we", I mean "I") and side-car-ed it to our bed. Bittersweet packing away the cradle. It's exciting that you're growing older (I didn't imagine you'd be able to be in the cradle as long as you have!) but I'm not sure I'll ever be parenting a baby that needs a cradle again. I thought you'd seem so tiny in the crib, but it has quickly become normal and it's easier to night-time parent as our mattresses are at the same level and all that.

You're still all adorable gummy grin! But you're gnawing on things more - including your fingers. So I checked and couldn't feel anything. But looking carefully, I can see two faint white strips of your bottom front teeth. Your top gums have been swollen for a while - like you can see the teeth right under the gums!! - pushing forward - but still high. I was thinking they might appear first just because there was no sign of bottom teeth. As strange as top teeth first might be, teeth are teeth, and at least you'd have them! But it looks like they will come in the bottom after all and maybe in the next month. You have broken many records - big surprise of a baby, born the earliest, only baby where the water broke first, smallest baby, and now also baby with the slowest-to-appear-teeth.

For the first time in your life, you were sick this month. It was sad sad. A super nasty cold that was hard to breathe through - especially at night. You had rose-y cheeks, you were warm, and you were more snuggly than usual. It was so hard and sad to see you struggle with your red, bleary eyes - but we counted ourselves lucky that this was the first!

You clap like a champ - and even when you're sad, if someone says: "yaaaayyyy" you clap.

You are such an affectionate baby. You grab my face and kiss me open mouthed, sucking on my lower lip if given the chance. You'll also shove someone's face out of your way so you can get to their earings. And you'll gently pat or rub someone's cheek before suddenly grabbing for their eyeball/nose/cheek. It's so unexpected and so passionately aggressive!
You're really enjoying kids close to your age .... but you want to grab them too - by the hair, the shirt, the eyeball - you're not picky. And when they aren't within arms reach, you yell and yell at them.

So often, it feels, you suddenly change. And this month, a big change was that you were suddenly not enthusiastic about being passed off to just anyone. You're generally easy-going and there's been a lot of speculation over whether you being passed to her, him, and everyone at Farmhouse Pantry will ease the typical 9-month separation/stranger anxiety. Maybe you would have been more anxious? Suddenly you're not reaching for people who put their arms out to you and you turn away and snuggle into my neck, maybe peeking back at the person smiling warmly at you. You're definitely more easy going in the morning or right after a nap - but the more tired you become, the more you want your mom, dad, sister, or brother. You don't often strongly prefer one over the other - but you want it to be one of us who is holding you. Fortunately, your brother and sister love hanging out with you and are generally patient about doing so - even during the rare times they aren't fighting over who gets to play with you or hold you or make you giggle.

Like I said, we're smitten.
We love you so much big girl!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

February 26, 2016 ~ A day in the Life

I've been thinking I should do a day in the life as our life is hectic and interesting (right?!?) and has changed a lot since the last day-in-the-life post I did, two years ago (how has two years already passed?!?!). I wanted to stick with Tuesdays as that has been when I've done these posts in the past - but Friday is the first day of my work-off-farm week and would give a good indication of the majority of my week. Tuesday is my first stay-at-home day of the week (so first day of the weekend), so there tends to be a lot of hanging out (which is very much needed by Tuesday!).

Here's a fairly average Friday these days:

Some things to keep in mind: I had spent the few days before finishing painting the store, the week before that an overnight in Boston to go to an appointment with my mom, the week before that painting the first half of the store painting-project ... you get the idea. Store days take up a lot of our days, and we squeeze a lot in on our off days - and while we try to prioritize having at least one day to just be ... it doesn't always happen.

So given my painting agenda of the week, Rye had been woken earlier than usual in the mornings. I expected her to sleep to her typical 8:30-9am time on this Friday morning ... but that didn't happen - she was awake before me. So no sneaking out to do chores while she was still sleeping. But waking up to this face is pretty awesome ....


I smiled at her, and she grinned big back. I could hear Noah downstairs stacking wood. He likes to get his chores/school list done as soon as possible in the morning. It's only recently that we went back to a system where the kids have a list of things they need to get done every day. Del still negotiates regularly (what if I do extra pages in this book and none in this one today? Can I do extra pages tomorrow and none today? What if I pick up 3 things in my room instead of my whole bedroom? etc). Overall though, it's such a relief not to be micromanaging their day and stuff to actually be getting done!


Contacts put in, teeth brushed, barn clothes put on ...

Ren Man is already at the store. Friday is the big baking day and my dad goes down early with Ren Man to man the counter ... until my dad starts his telecommute-regular-workday. While Ren Man can handle the store by himself, I'm doing my best to get down to the store as soon as possible.

With Rye awake, I dress her. The kids always wake up before Rye and are ready (if not always super willing) to take care of Rye while I go outside.

But first I should stoke the fire....

... and move a load of laundry ...

... and I really need to get outside - but Del needs her hair braided....

...We talk about how fast (or slow) the kool-aid dye is leaving her hair and how she wishes it was so crazy wavy all the time - and not just a result of braiding wet hair.

Finally outside. It's so icy and I'm thankful for a decent layer of snow this morning that will provide something for my boots to bite as I walk more and skate less than usual.

First thing is going to the 3-ton feed silo and getting two buckets worth of grain - one for the pigs, one for the growing egg-layers (who will start laying in April).
The pigs are growing fast and their antics show me that they are healthy and happy.

Next throwing hay to the dry (cows not currently being milked because they are relatively close to calving) and young cows (those who have never calved). From the hayloft, I noticed these two standing next to each other - and realized they are mother and daughter. Shadow is one of our two original cows (and the other cow from the first two has been beefed, so this girl is the one we've had the longest) and her only calf (one she calved too early stillborn and another late and also stillborn), Spring. I love Spring's markings so much.

Milking time. This includes milking four cows, feeding the two calves that are young and still in the barn for the convenience of being able to bring them milk, bedding cows, re-stocking water for them and hay, feeding the livestock guard dogs, feeding and watering the growing egg-layers.

Time to go get the milker - I leave it in the heated wash room as long as possible to minimize chance of freezing before I start milking. Passing the van on the way, I dip into my secret cookie stash.

Chores done. Just about when Rye is starting to fall apart. That's usually the way. It's like she knows how long chores take!

Ren Man and I recently talked about how when I come in from chores, Rye is usually ready for nursing but I try to get down to the store as soon as possible - so hold her off until we get to the store. But it's not super helpful to come to the store and immediately need to nurse. So I decide to slow down, get back in bed, and nurse. This works well because Rye has been so distractible lately that she's nursing less during the day and more at night. The store is not super conducive to focused nursing - there's too much socializing to do!

Diaper change .... we're in the process of reorganizing rooms (ideally before Rye starts crawling!) so our clothes are in a different room ... Rye is sad to see me walk away.

Time to go! And Noah usually carries Rye out to the car (calling her "a sack of potatoes").

Just stoke the fire one more time ...

We've arrived! And it is really really windy.

Noah takes Rye out of her bear suit and the kids ask Ren Man for breakfast, while the flour covered dad is juggling customer orders and multiple cooking projects.

Del takes Rye to the play kitchen and it's fun to hear them interact - Del's gentle instructions and explanations and Rye's babbling and enthusiasm for the toys she can reach.

Fridays are hit or miss at the store - sometimes it's really busy and sometimes it's slow - and today is one of the slower days - so I take advantage of that and jump on the piano to practice. It's a recent hobby I've gone back to after lessons as a kid that I wasn't very enthusiastic about at the time. Now I'm thankful for that foundation as I tinker around.

Del has given up on the play kitchen, but Rye is still exploring.

Until she's ready for a nap. It's tricky at the store because there's limited options on where to put Rye for a nap. Often the heat from the cooking stoves and wood stove make it too hot to wear her- so on this day, a highback chair works. And another reason I'm thankful for her lack of mobility so far. I'm not nervous about her falling off in her sleep.

Coffee, coffee. I didn't think this picture-taking through and it's hard when it gets busy and/or when I'm working with a customer to be taking pictures!

We have several regulars - and this is one of them. Judy says she comes for "Chai and Rye". She loves Rye and Rye loves her. Rye reaches enthusiastically for Judy and kisses her, grabs her face off, etc.
We're so thankful for Judy's enthusiasm for Farmhouse Pantry - whether it's holding Rye when things are hectic, raving everywhere about our chai, or filling us in on Saranac history - as a lifetime resident, she seems to know just about everybody.

Coffee coffee making. And only some for me :)

Mmmm almond latte .... it's so satisfying to make our own flavor syrups.

Realizing I haven't eaten since my secret cookie snack - I grab some chocolate bread pudding - because it comes with whip cream, of course. And remind myself that there's a reason I'm as heavy as I was when Rye was born :) Embrace it! This body has grown and birthed three babies! And continues to sustain one.

Even when the kids are done with their to-do list, they need to wait until 1pm to get on screens. And then negotiations for who gets what screen can be intense. (note that the kids are still very anti-pictures of them ...)

Rye is cranky, and the store is kind of slow at this point - so I try a new wrap technique ... but it ends up being a case of: just get the baby on! - and turns out nothing like the intended wrap job. But she's on and it's comfortable. And you can't ask for more than that!

Except this. A sleeping baby. And piano playing.

Baking. Baking. Every day. Mostly Friday. This means Ren Man is running around like someone who has an ever revolving to-do list. Bread is usually ready by 2pm, but there's also cookies, eclairs, pies, cheesecakes, bread pudding, pastries, muffins.... and several meal orders among the regular Friday baking to be done. Generally he works the kitchen and I run the front of the store. So while Friday is hectic for him at the store, It's not always that way for me on a Friday.

We close at 7pm and try to get most of the cleaning up and putting away done as quickly as possible. But not always - and this was one of those slower nights. Noah knows that Rye is not to be on screens - it doesn't mean he can't keep her happy while he gets his own youtube watching in ... and knowing we're running behind, it's good to be hands free to bust through a bunch of closing-time-chores.

Even though it makes some grownups nervous, Del loves spinning Rye because she gets such huge giggles from Rye. And again, all helpful toward the goal of getting home. It's a long day on Friday, and night time farm chores still need me.

But it's also nice to kick back for a few minutes....

Home! yay! The week before (during that road trip to Boston) I spent hours and hours of research (an embarrassing amount of hours), choosing winter boots that will meet my warmth+waterproof+cute+comfortable+easy criteria. And now the boots have arrived!

Quick demo and then time to do chores!

I get on barn clothes and then nurse the fussy baby so Ren Man can get her to bed while I do farm chores. I leave the family to their winter habit of PBS and head out.

It's feeding the pigs and cows and only milking one cow. Then slipping and sliding back to the house where there is a wash room off of the mudroom. There I wash the milker before pulling off my mucky boots and hay-covered hat. Inside I peal off insulated coveralls, stiff with muck around the cuff. I hate to bring them in the house, but here they'll dry before their needed for morning chores - and dry overalls are worth the hassle of a drying rack in the house. The house is quiet when I come in. Everyone is in bed.

Turn off all the downstairs lights and head to teeth-brushing, a cozy tshirt, and a warm bed.