A Virus

A Day in the Life

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When Edie was just a few months old, she came through pertussis, which left her lungs a little weak. When she’s healthy we can’t tell the difference, but as soon as she gets the slightest bit sick, her lungs gum up and the faintest “whoop” resolves her worst coughs. She is likely to grow out of it eventually, but for now it continues to add a special pathetic note to any illness.

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So when the early morning was punctuated by a spastic choke, I knew it was going to be a sick day.  Usually the coughing doesn’t slow her down much, so I wasn’t sure she’d need much extra attention until she wandered into the living room with those glassy fever eyes. “My ankles hurt right here. I might vomit.” I felt a bit of panic, but when we got safely to the potty it became clear that “vomit” was just her polite euphemism for productive coughing.

I tucked her back into bed with an appeal to a few familiar examples of sick children who stay in bed all day: Allen Say as a child in his autobiographical “Tree of Cranes,” and the Stevenson Counterpane poem. We brought out the little TV with a built-in VCR, which she can operate on her own to watch a selection of kids’ tapes left over from my childhood. The MagiClip princesses joined her for Pete’s Dragon and Peter Pan. She munched some immune support gummy bears, homeopathic children’s cold tablets, and a little herbal cough syrup, along with plenty of lemony tea.

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She loved my egg flower soup last time, but this time she didn’t get much down. It took all morning to eat half a mandarin orange. Although she’s in reasonably good spirits, I can tell the virus is probably going to win a few rounds. For now,  I’ll give her a little back up, keep her comfortable and protect her rest, and settle in for a quarantine watch.

That’s what you get for scheduling a date night.

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A Virus

A Day in the Life

image

When Edie was just a few months old, she came through pertussis, which left her lungs a little weak. When she’s healthy we can’t tell the difference, but as soon as she gets the slightest bit sick, her lungs gum up and the faintest “whoop” resolves her worst coughs. She is likely to grow out of it eventually, but for now it continues to add a special pathetic note to any illness.

image

So when the early morning was punctuated by a spastic choke, I knew it was going to be a sick day.  Usually the coughing doesn’t slow her down much, so I wasn’t sure she’d need much extra attention until she wandered into the living room with those glassy fever eyes. “My ankles hurt right here. I might vomit.” I felt a bit of panic, but when we got safely to the potty it became clear that “vomit” was just her polite euphemism for productive coughing.

I tucked her back into bed with an appeal to a few familiar examples of sick children who stay in bed all day: Allen Say as a child in his autobiographical “Tree of Cranes,” and the Stevenson Counterpane poem. We brought out the little TV with a built-in VCR, which she can operate on her own to watch a selection of kids’ tapes left over from my childhood. The MagiClip princesses joined her for Pete’s Dragon and Peter Pan. She munched some immune support gummy bears, homeopathic children’s cold tablets, and a little herbal cough syrup, along with plenty of lemony tea.

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She loved my egg flower soup last time, but this time she didn’t get much down. It took all morning to eat half a mandarin orange. Although she’s in reasonably good spirits, I can tell the virus is probably going to win a few rounds. For now,  I’ll give her a little back up, keep her comfortable and protect her rest, and settle in for a quarantine watch.

That’s what you get for scheduling a date night.

To Wrap My Baby Bunting In

A Day in the Life, Farm Book

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Long ago we stuck some rabbit pelts in the freezer, and after a week of thawing and rounding up supplies, today was the day to process them. Rory came to help out. We had a reliable looking recipe from Mother Earth news, which gave us the option of using a salty solution of either alum or sulphuric acid… Weirdly, the acid was easier to find and purchase, so we are trying that out first.

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Basically the tanning process involves brining the hides in this solution for a week and a half, then cleaning and “breaking” them: stretching the leather until it’s pliable and soft. It’s not as difficult as I imagined. Actually so far it seems pretty easy, though I’ll have to remember to stir the brine each day.

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Our rabbits are Silver Foxes, a breed developed in the US to mimic the furs of the wild silver fox, which was endangered by overhunting early last century. Apparently many rabbit pelts so closely resemble the fox that DNA tests are required to verify authentic fox furs. No wonder the demand was high; the furs from both animals are quite beautiful. This shot of processing of course doesn’t show off the coloring, but I’ll post a photo of the finished product when we’re done. I’m pretty excited to see how they come out!

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Other cool stuff we did today: Kevin harvested the turkey tail mushrooms…

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Edie did lots of ballet, here demonstrating her second position…

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Baked some French breads…

And built Glinda’s tower for the Oz figures to play in. It’s been a pretty good day.

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First Day of Gardening

A Day in the Life, Farm Book

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It’s been one of those warm snaps where we get a few crocuses opening up and spring suddenly doesn’t feel so far away; although we’re sure to have a few more freezes before spring really kicks off, Adventure Time found us thinking about all the food and flowers we hope will pop up sometime soon. Edie picked out a “garden girl” outfit. I expected to stick Rory in the backpack for a little rest, but he beat me to it and took a nice long nap in the nest.

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Since we weren’t sure how long he would sleep, and we didn’t have much of a plan, and it’s too early to plant seeds outside, we decided to prep one of the front beds. After swinging through the yard for tools, we scooped up some poops from the bunnies to fertilize our chosen garden bed.

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Bunny poop is great for gardens, especially because it doesn’t “burn” plants fresh the way other manures can. We used Edie’s rake, Kevin’s welder, and my trowel to clear out some gnarly dandelions and grass patches that had taken hold since last summer.  As we worked, we remembered our last real garden day together when I was so pregnant, I couldn’t reach to seed the middle of the beds. The stuff we planted that day hadn’t done so well. In fact we have yet to experience much real success gardening.

For a long time I have always assumed that I would eventually be well enough resourced and coordinated to take my kids on more or less daily excursions, as I was required to do with my preschool class in Seattle. The benefits for  kids in a class setting was fairly obvious; children get exposed to the world outside the classroom and have a chance to work out their energy in ways besides destroying things. Supervising children on a playground is actually easier in a way than keeping them off each other in the classroom.

However as I’ve delved deeper into Unschooling literature over the last few years, I’ve questioned and shed a lot of the expectations I was accustomed to as an early childhood educator, and I’m not sure why it took me so much longer to question the daily bustle goal. I guess I was just so bad at actually accomplishing it that my ideal image was never really challenged. The season we entered as a family when we came home with the new baby has been one of energy and initiative for me- thankfully, since life got so neglected and out of control during my pregnancy that I am still digging out of that hole.  Today for instance I was putting away laundry and realized that a stack of clothes for sorting had been there very nearly a year. Now, I’m able to keep on top of routine chores, chip away at backed up projects, and even make daily time for something a little exploratory and unusual.

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A big part of the excuse for not “getting out of the house more” has been our long term car-free lifestyle, which has vascillated between voluntary and less voluntary. Sometimes I’ve been super proactive about bussing and walking, and we have always had generous friends and family offering use of their vehicles when we really needed it. This year is a new season for us; I expect to buy a car sometime in the next month. So, with ready access to wheels, will we finally be able to sign up for all the activities and plan all the outings I’ve looked forward to all this time?

Yes and no. I am relieved to look forward to a summer that we can run out to a beach or forest whenever we like, for foraging or just to explore the natural beauty of our exquisite region. But I think for me the daily outing has gone the way of the phonics coloring page: it’s fine to pass the time and sometimes may be just the practice a child needs to clarify a specific concept, but there’s really no obligation to schedule it every day.

Instead I’ve been focusing on the value of sinking in to home life and the comfort of rhythm. I’ve been considering how to isolate what is healthy and lovely about the busy activities we chose, and find a way to include that in our home life. How can we suck the marrow out of life without giving up all of our peaceful days?

For now, we’re settling in, sinking roots, condensing. We’re gardening, painting, cleaning out, and reading up. We’re asking friends over and sticking close to home. It’s a good place to be in the soft dead of winter. Perhaps another season, it will be time again the expand, unfold, and bloom.

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Arts and crafts

A Day in the Life, Art Book

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As we’ve settled back into a rhythm here in the White House, I have been able to get intentional about how we spend our time. While we never get through everything perfectly on time, Edie has come to expect her playtime with Mama, adventure time, and “preschool” to happen in a certain order, and she even color-coded her own chart so she can predict snacks, jobs, and bedtime.

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Like I said, we don’t always stick very close and most schedule items are pretty interpretive. But it helps us make sure we get through the stuff that’s important to us at least a few times each week.

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One of the best effects of getting more predictable and planning ahead is that we are finally making time for creative activities. Especially since I’ve been thinking about what our family needs from our home, a lot of those little personal touches are on my mind, and Edie is happy to pitch in putting some color in new places.  A few days ago we tried out some wax relief painting on canvases I had been holding on to for a long time. Today, we painted with cake tempera and glitter paints on a simple stool I picked up at an estate sale while in college.  It’s been waiting for it’s glitzy makeover for a long time:

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Unfortunately I never seem to have a clean hand to snap photos until Edie is off on her next adventure, but these shots should give you an idea of what she’s been up to.

Meanwhile Rory has been adapting well to having a bit of rhythm as well.  Since I have him in the Ergo (thanks again, Uncle Patrick and Auntie Kim) for a few predicable portions of the day, and lay down with him at least part of the time Edie naps, he’s beginning to settle into a three nap day, as well as sleeping beautifully next to me all night. You know, most  nights. More importantly, he gave a really solid, hilarious giggle yesterday, which Edie and I both found intoxicating and addictive in the best way. Since then we have been speculating on what exactly could be funny to babies, because we simply must get him to replicate that laugh. Oh man.

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Last Midwife Visit

A Day in the Life

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Today marked the end of my postpartum care and baby Rory’s newborn care with our fabulous midwives at Gumnut Blossom. At our last visit we said goodbye for now to Melanie Brindle, who attended Rory’s birth, and this appointment we gave some last snuggles to Louisa Wales, who was with us when Edie was born. We also said good luck to midwifery student Hollie, since her clinical exams are coming up soon and she will become a licensed midwife at the end of her program! I am so excited for her,  and simply can’t say enough about the loving, quality care and attention we received from all the women at Gumnut Blossom Midwifery. I also can’t wait to hear how it goes as they launch the Salmonberry Clinic and found the new birth center over the course of this year.

So, the news from the appointment: I am basically completely healed and everything on my end looks great, and Rory is growing so quickly everything looks great on his side too. The one issue we discussed is a pretty simple fix: Rory is tongue tied, like Edie and Daddy were, but his is having some impact on his breastfeeding. He clicks and smacks a fair amount while nursing, and still hasn’t been able to consolidate his feeds much since he swallows quite a bit of air and fills up his belly. Fortunately that all hasn’t resulted in full on colic, but his digestion has been a bit more sensitive and I wondered if it was connected.

I have kind of regretted the way we ended up handling Edie’s tongue tie, so I was glad to get some referrals from Louisa to have his tongue released as a simple in-office procedure. If we handle it pretty soon, it’s not a big deal at all.

Edie’s tongue tie looked pretty significant but didn’t affect her nursing so I didn’t plan to take care of it until she started speaking. It definitely looked like it would impact her speech; her tongue was visibly cleft by the tension of her frenulum, making a shape like the top of a heart. It was kind of super cute, and I won’t lie, I missed it. Anyway, she started talking at ten months, which turns out to be the worst time to preform a frenectomy. She was too big and wiggly, and too small and confused to do it in office, at least according to the ENT we were referred to at Mary Bridge. So, like a dork, I let the doctor talk me into putting my ten month old under general anesthesia for a routine office procedure. I now wish I had got a second opinion, and I suspect the surgeon was just too comfortable with more invasive surgical techniques, and maybe it felt spooky to work with awake babies – or inconvenient.

All’s well that ends well, I suppose, but I wish I had weighed the risks differently, and I don’t intend to let the insurance and hospital systems handle that choice for me this time. I’m kind of surprised how aggravated it made me feel to think about that again. Yay postpartum hormones. So, that said, I was delighted to leave the midwives with a better action plan and some vetted referrals.

It was weird to say goodbye today, especially since working with Louisa was literally the first parenting decision Kevin and I ever made. But it’s not forever: I’m already looking forward to the baby reunion picnic this summer!

8 Ways NOT to put a Preschool kid to Sleep

A Day in the Life, How

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Edie was what they call an easy baby, sleeping well, gaining weight quickly, and usually cheery and alert. Rory has been just as pleasant, already sleeping long stretches at night and growing like a moose.

But babyhood doesn’t go on forever- right now I’m afraid we’re in transition to lose Edie’s nap forever. Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve worried about it and nothing is sure yet. It’s a bit disheartening, as I have always had this fantasy of all the children sleeping at once. Right now, my dreams are actually coming true, but that last round with the girl was hard won, like most of her sleep this week. While Rory crashes out all through the day and night, Edie has come into the age where being put in bed is about equivalent to being tossed in a dungeon.

It’s feeling less predictable which might work at any given time, but I have a few tricks I’ve been rotating through. The biggest trick is maintaining intentionality: setting the stage for sleep with a gradual transition, soothing routine, and having all the obvious physical needs- water, potty, snack- handled before the final lights out notice. Beyond that, we’ve tried out evening baths, gentle remedies, essential oils, massage, and guided imagery, each of which have felt positive and would probably work better if used consistently.

Here are some things that don’t work:

1. Get totally distracted by grown-up conversation and fail to move toward bed for an hour into target sleep.

2. Put kid in bed without water, potty, or Helen (or doll/stuffy of choice).

3. Get smacked by exhausted child, and reactively throw kid into dark bedroom.

4. Aggressively hurry child through bedtime routine, threatening cavities to children who miss their chance to brush teeth.

5. Travel to see exciting family members, arriving at bedtime.

6. Read bedtime story in triple time in order to quickly return to other child, now screaming.

7. Read bedtime stories you enjoy too much, especially with vivid voice acting and sound effects.

8. Successfully put child to bed, then remember vital accessories for evening chores stored in closet adjacent to child’s bedroom.

But you know, if Internet advice really worked….

Book Nook

A Day in the Life, How

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I had been meaning to deal with the book situation for a long time, and with a Christmas money and a new years resolution about the play room, we packed up Grandma’s car and headed to IKEA.

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Before: a repurposed mail sorter fit behind the playroom closet door, but failed to showcase the books or attract Edie to the titles I visually “suggested.” Meanwhile, adjacent low shelving constantly exploded books into a walkway, and the awkward, tight vertical arrangement ensured she could never put them away properly on her own. It was a disaster, and most of last year I just left it like that. But no more: it’s time for fresh starts and good intentions to blossom!

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These picture display rails make perfect bookshelves for this funny little space. I also moved the rest of the book storage to a top shelf, freeing up play space and allowing me to rotate through the book collection. This can help to emphasize a theme, limit repetition of the most annoying stories, and protect great older stories from competing directly with flashy holographic scratch-and-sniff pop-up books for attention all the time. Also, the bottom shelf will be easy access for the littlest book worm when he starts scooting around this summer.

While we were there, we picked up some other stuff to perk up the play kitchen, streamline bath time, and provide a work space for playroom projects. Our other great find was a simple, sturdy red plastic table with screw on legs for storage, which came with two benches for only fifteen dollars! We bought two sets, so we’ll have plenty for play dates or for outdoors in the spring. They have already become the best Tea Party Doctor Office I’ve ever visited; Edie’s cupcakes will trigger diabetic shock, but she also has the syringe to revive you.

Yay for simple solutions! And a big Thank You to Grandpa Bill and Nana, the great-grandparents who sponsored a post-Christmas shopping spree to get our play room all set for the New Year!

Rory and Edie, potty buddies

A Day in the Life

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We have been enjoying our diaper service, blending with paper diapers when we travel, and this week, Baby Rory started on option three: elimination communication. This worked well for Edie, who was out of diapers at eighteen months, so I was excited to try with Rory. We’re starting a few months earlier this time, and so far it’s been really encouraging.

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Rory quickly relaxes when given a chance to sit on the potty at certain times a day, like right after nursing or getting out of a sling or backpack. It’s been fun to try out potty choices and save diapers by putting waste where it belongs, in the toilet. Edie helps by getting fresh diapers, checking if baby is wet, and making the hushing sounds we will teach him to associate with relaxing on a potty. He appreciates the help keeping clean… Most of the time.

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It’s not always easier than just sticking a paper diap on, but I like the trade off. It takes more intentionality right at first, and since the convenient supplies are different from things used for conventional diapers and potty training, it takes some resourcefulness and experimentation to get started. For us, the rash prevention and the diaper savings are worth it in the long run. It ends up feeling much simpler and less wasteful.
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Edie still uses her own potty at night since our only bathroom is so far from the bedrooms, and we keep some around the house for baby potty ease… For a little while it will be quite the potty parade around here!