21 Months: That’s new…

hikingThe toddler adventures have begun. In the last week, Harry is embarking on new and exciting escapades. He can have all of the emotions at once; everyone else is just along for the ride.

Close Call Last weekend, Harry and I went hiking at a state park near our house. The trails are very nice and there’s a lake. He likes to throw rocks in the lake. We were at a nice spot lakeside when he threw a rock with such gusto he did a full summersault and face-planted in the lake. He sunk like a stone! Luckily, the water was only about a foot deep. I was able to jump in right away and pluck him out. But, he was more upset than I’ve ever seen him. Poor kid was soaked, covered in sandy dirt, and freezing. We had to walk about a mile to get back to the car and change clothes. Thankfully, he was totally fine, but he cried the whole way to the car. Poor baby. I can still picture his little body doing a full air summersault right into the lake! It defied the laws of physics!

Boom Boom We’re planting the seeds of potty training. So far, Harry prefers to use his mini-toilet as a reading chair, but we’re making progress. He’s starting to connect the toilet with boom boom. I honestly don’t know how I feel about potty training. This is all going way too fast.

New Words Harry said “wow” the other morning. That was adorable. Some of his other words are flower, cheese, and wombat – all of the most important things in life.

Mama! Mama! The last few weeks, I have been woken up not by crying, but by shouts of “Mama! Mama!” in Harry’s cute little voice. He hollers loudly and in regular intervals until I come get him from his crib. I holler back to him that I’m coming, but that only disrupts the “Mama! Mama!” chant for a few seconds. This kid has no patience. He’ll take one extra breath before he’s back with the shouts. Best way to wake up ever. Much better than crying!

Little Reader Sometime in the last two weeks, Harry went from liking to flip pages in his books to wanting me to read the books to him. Before, he didn’t care what I said. He held the book and he rushed through the pages quickly. Now, he is handing me the books and he wants me to read them to him. He loves books! He can’t be in the car without a book and he reads during his dinner. We read together before bed. Right now, it’s Charlie the Caterpillar over and over and over.

Copycat Harry has started copying everything we do. It’s adorable. He puts on chapstick and deodorant, he shaves his face and combs his hair. He dances like me and sings like me. He’s a bundle of energy at all times.

Likes

  • Cottage cheese
  • All cheese
  • Any kind of fruit (especially oranges and berries)
  • Rocks
  • Kisses
  • Charlie the Caterpillar
  • Dogs and cats
  • Picking tomatoes

Dislikes

  • Naps/sleeping
  • Diaper changes
  • Brushing his teeth

What else is new? Ben and I are both undertaking “lifestyle changes” to be healthier, smaller people. We’re both exercising more and eating better, each of us taking our own path to that shared goal of being healthier parents. It’s such a challenge to change ingrained habits, especially when food is one of the few ways we can celebrate as sleep-deprived adults with busy jobs and a toddler. We’ve been struggling to find ways to relax and kick back that aren’t detrimental to our health. To be honest, “Let’s watch a movie and eat a salad” on a Friday night does not fill me with the same joy as when my husband asks “Do you want to get pizza tonight?” But, perhaps that transition will happen over time. Much of my changes right now are being driven by moral and ethical issues (I can explain more later), so that’s helping my motivation a bit more than just losing weight or being “healthier.” It also helps to have Harry. He’s great motivation for doing everything I can to have the longest life possible. I want to be with this little boy as much as possible for as long as possible. He’s everything.

Step Two: Embrace the ‘P’ Words (including ‘pee’)

• Pregnant. Since all of this started, I’ve exclusively told people Ben and I are expecting. The P-word isn’t easy for me to say.

At home, I’ll make jokes, referring to myself in the third person. For example, “I hope you know what happens when you leave a pregnant lady unattended with a giant bowl of pudding!” Or, “Yes, I ate all the string cheese. The entire bag. Give the pregnant lady a break!” (Can you tell my appetite is back?)

But, outside of making dorky jokes, “pregnant” is not a word I can say out loud in public and in reference to myself. I don’t understand my hang-up about the word. Perhaps it conjures up graphic images of giant, waddling women with swollen ankles and spider veins. Or, maybe there’s a deep, subconscious bias. I don’t much care. I’m just trying to ease my way into it.

Until then, I’m telling everyone Ben’s pregnant. Yep, he went and got himself knocked up. (So much easier to say!)

• Pee. For most of the first trimester, I was making an extra bathroom run every night. No biggie. Now, I’m up to two or three extra bathroom trips a night, and at least one water run. If I’m not in the bathroom, I’m in the kitchen, guzzling water like an elephant. I’m so thirsty and I need to pee all the time.

Even on our morning walk, I’ve had to duck into the shrubs (in my residential neighborhood!) to make an emergency pee stop! It’s horribly embarrassing, but I feel powerless to behave any differently. Don’t arrest me! Ben is pregnant and I need to pee!

• More Pee. By now (16 weeks), our baby is producing his own urine. At first, I thought this might be why I was peeing so much. I’m peeing for two! However, on further research, the truth is more horrifying. The baby is peeing into the amniotic sack. For the next six months, he’ll be swimming in a warm pool of his own pee, and there’s not a damn thing to be done about it. This knowledge is impacting my ability to function in the world. I know he’ll be adorable and wonderful…but he’ll also be covered in pee. AAGGGHHHHH!!!!

Step One, Make a Baby

Since October, Ben and I have been trying for a baby. Month after month went by and nothing happened, and I fell into an odd calm. I wasn’t going to get pregnant, everything was going to be fine, and, after our designated year of trying, life would resume as normal.

I was totally okay with that.

Between the death of my grandfather and our big move, in early May, I found out I was pregnant. Panic was immediate. The timing was terrible. How can I start a new job knocked up? Won’t they fire me? How could I go through a day without nearly barfing on myself? Agh!

This little alien had a hard time being still for his photo.

Because it was so early and I’m an old lady (the doctor calls it “advanced maternal age”), I focused on moving and getting into my new job. There were no guarantees. Then, we saw the doctor and it became very real. We saw a flipping, flopping, turtle-faced alien in my stomach and all the panic came back. What the heck did we do!

I’ve never even held a baby. I don’t know anything about them. The only diapers I’ve changed were on Cabbage Patch Kids and I suspect those were far more sanitary than the real thing. How are we going to afford it? Who will watch it while we work? We can’t possibly do this!

Then I took a breath and just spent my days trying not to barf. I lost 20 pounds (no worries, though, I have plenty to spare) and settled into a no-food diet. Everything made me want to barf. Smells, words, food commercials…instant barf mode. Luckily, I didn’t actually barf. Not once. I just had a high-grade, persistent nausea around the clock. I feel so lucky?

I also spent a lot of time protecting my boobs. Every movement was orchestrated to avoid contact with the boobs, which had grown exponentially and felt like they were wired in new and painful ways. I never realized how much contact my boobs had with the world in an average day! If anyone approached me, I’d instinctively guard them. Showers were a particular challenge since any direct spray sent me into agony. The dogs and Ben were on high alert: Nobody Messes With The Girls.

Between the nausea and the boob pain, I was definitely concerned. How could anything be worth it? (I didn’t even mention the constipation!)

But, here we are at week 15. I can eat again and my boobs are fairly normal (the weight loss is helping shrink them back to a manageable size). I’m exercising a lot and trying to eat as healthy as possible, though I still don’t have much appetite. I can get food down only if I’m really hungry. I have more energy, though I cry about everything and I constantly feel bloated in the tummy area. I don’t believe I’m showing yet, but it could happen any day now. According to my google machine, the baby is the size of an apple.

Panic mode is setting in again now as I start to consider everything we need to get done before baby  arrives in January. We have to choose a name, stock a nursery, learn how to change a damn diaper and keep the little tater tot alive. I may barf. For real this time.

Sauerkraut Saturday (aka What’s That Smell?)

Our 'Kraut Master

Our ‘Kraut Master

A few weeks ago, I spent a foggy Saturday morning at a local farm learning how to make sauerkraut. The class was taught by a white-haired, bearded gentleman from the local extension service. Apparently, it’s an annual event that draws a standing room only crowd (trust me, I was standing).

Using an ancient, wooden ‘kraut cutter, our ‘kraut master made quick work of five huge heads of green cabbage, shredding it while managing to maintain a conversation with the crowd. No fingers were lost, though he noted he now wore a metal mesh glove when shredding. He lost a bit of finger previously. He was exceptionally fast. The resulting cabbage was mixed with salt and stuffed tightly into a glass jar, which was then topped with a sealed plastic bag full of brine (a fancy word for saltwater).

My two jars the day they were made. So pretty!

My two jars the day they were made. So pretty!

The whole thing was extraordinarily fast and very unscientific. When asked how we would know the ‘kraut was ready, he muttered a vague answer about it looking transparent, but not transparent. Then he quickly added that any pink or purple ‘kraut should be trashed without sampling. That’s the bad stuff, apparently.

After the lecture portion of the class, we were released to make our own ‘kraut, using tubs of pre-shredded cabbage. We had to bring our own jars, but everything else was provided. It was very cold and I wondered if blood would ever return to my fingers, but I salted and stuffed my cabbage into two half-gallon iced tea jars and tried to make small talk with my classmates. There were no takers. Apparently, sauerkraut class is very serious. No one laughed at my jokes.

Thankfully, I had my cabbage to cry into. More brine, anyone?

My jars of wannabe sauerkraut have been in my laundry room ever since. They are hidden in paper bags to keep out the light and, initially, there were pie pans underneath the jars to catch ‘kraut water runoff. They warned us of mold and fruitflies, but so far I’ve had problems with neither. The runoff water got pretty funky in the pie pans, but the jars themselves have been surprisingly clean.

I’m not sure if my ‘kraut is “transparent but not transparent,” but it’s definitely changing. It was green before, then white, and now it’s a kind of beige. There were a few smelly days, when Ben lovingly suggested we move it out to the garage, but it’s odorless now. (Or it’s just been around long enough I no longer notice the stink.)

I’ve never actually eaten sauerkraut before, so I’m not even sure if it’s delicious. I just made it because sauerkraut class sounded like a damn fine way to spend a Saturday. Plus, think of all the good bacteria I’m growing!

Are we really talking about babies?

Could a human baby really be more perfect than this? Dougal is a mama's boy.

Could a human baby really be more perfect than this? Dougal is a mama’s boy.

When does a share become an overshare? I tend to share a lot of stuff that doesn’t mean all that much, though some blush at the thought of mentioning their dog’s overactive anal glands or their own lactose intolerance. For me, however, what’s a little gas between friends?

I’ve always believed it’s the most transparent people who reveal the least about themselves. We distract everyone with seemingly intimate details of our bathroom habits and gastrointestinal malaise, while hiding the very real, truly personal details of our private lives.

But maybe that’s not healthy.

The truth is, so much has changed in my personal life. I got married and we’re now considering a baby. These are the truths that are hard to talk about; they reveal a vulnerability that goes far deeper than what I had for breakfast.

I’m  terrified of even thinking about a baby. I’m 35 now and getting closer to 36 with each breath. My college friends all have kids in high school. Heck, my nephew is in high school  (my younger brother’s son!). It feels way too late to throw my uterus in the ring. I never wanted kids and I’m not exactly the baby type.

When my youngest nephew was a baby, my oldest nephew changed his diapers for me. I played dumb and dodged diaper duty for an entire day. I don’t hold babies or coo over them. I think young kids are great until they start getting BO and creeping me out. What if I’m a terrible mother? I’m very maternal with my dogs, but I still occasionally call Dougal an asshole for barking too much. (Thankfully, Dougal doesn’t understand English, but I have to assume a child might.)

I know the type of mother I want to be. I want to me Mrs. Fety, who lived down the street from me and waited with her kids at the bus stop every day. She made them Ritz crackers with cream cheese and always had super-crazy hippie hair. She was a great mom. She had a nurturing, earth-mother vibe. I imagined she popped out her kids in her living room, maybe in an inflatable tub of water, with no anesthesia besides the soothing aromas of lavender and eucalyptus oils. None of that may be true. But, that’s what I picture when I think of the kind of mother I’d like to be. A calm, meditative, homemade granola mom who never swears.

The perfectionist in me knows I can never be that, so maybe it’s better not to try. The worst thing to be is a bad mother. I’d rather be anything than that. So, I’m scared to try and fail. That’s a hard thing to admit.

The one advantage of being older is knowing my limitations and having a healthy perspective on what I can realistically accomplish. But, maybe that awareness only hinders growth, progress, and adventure. I was certainly terrified to get married. We’re almost two months in now and I’ve never been happier. I picked a great guy, the best, and can’t imagine why I was so scared to marry him. I love it now that I’m in it, though three months ago I was giving myself an ulcer.

Maybe motherhood will be the same?

Of course, there’s the real possibility we won’t be able to have kids. I have a chronic medical condition that puts me in the “high risk” category. Combine that with my age and our odds aren’t great. But, what if? Ben wants to try for a year and, if we aren’t able to get pregnant, we’ll get more dogs. Don’t you love him? The last thing either of us needs  is pressure…and I’ve been hankering for more dogs.

From an “oversharing” perspective, pregnancy would certainly give me gory details for my friends and this blog. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to talk about hemorrhoids, spider veins, and morning sickness, all of which might be perfect distractions from how terrified I am to consider this new chapter.

Damn vegan cheese

There are hardcore vegans out there who will tell you converting to an all-plant lifestyle is an easy transition. Once you make the decision in your heart, they say, nothing can stand in your way.

I’d claim bullshit here, but it’s an animal product. Instead, I’m claiming vegan cheese.

So not good.

So not good.

Vegan cheese has the consistency of stick deodorant. It doesn’t melt and it tastes like it came out of Doogie’s overactive anal glands. (No, I haven’t tasted THAT, but the smell is thick enough to be easily confused with taste in my primitive brain.) It’s honestly the vilest, most disgusting thing ever put forward as food. It’s all ways of awful.

I wanted to love vegan cheese. I wanted to go into this transition full of the smugness that makes vegans so darn annoying. I wanted to feel the euphoria that comes from perfectly aligning my moral values with actions. And then I tasted vegan cheese. (To add insult to gastrointestinal injury, the cheese I tried was called Follow Your Heart.)

Cue the tantrum.

Who can look at this face and still want to eat cheese? Me, apparently. Damn, I suck.

Who can look at this face and still want to eat cheese? Me, apparently. Damn, I suck.

The worst part is now I feel like a horrible failure. What about all the poor cows who are mistreated and hooked up to horrible milking machines? Aren’t those beautiful, big-eyed cows more important than cheese? Shouldn’t love and compassion for all living things erase the deep hunger in my heart (and parts beyond) for cheese? The vegan blogs all said so. They said I would be so buoyed by good feelings that I wouldn’t miss the animal products. What does it say about me if I can’t give up this tiny little thing for the good of the many lovely cows?

So, I’m at a standstill, stuck between the moon and New York City…no, wait, that’s wrong. Stuck between the impulsive cheese-lover I am and the fervent cow-lover I desperately want to be. Have I failed or  has the vegan cheese? Is there no remedy for a wannabe vegan whose need for cheese is twisted into her DNA? (Scientists are working to identify the cheese gene, I’m sure of it. I just hope those bastards aren’t testing on animals.)

For now, I’m avoiding eye contact with all cows, hoping they don’t see the hypocrisy and moral corruption in my eyes…or smell the cheese on my breath. Still fighting the good fight. I’ll be in touch.

I carry his heart in my heart

Barley profile

As most of you know, Barley passed away Sunday (June 2). I say that I’m heartbroken only because there are no words to describe the depth of sadness and overwhelming loss I feel. The truth is, I don’t know how to live without him. He was my anchor, my best friend, the love of my life. I felt an attachment to him I’ve never felt for another creature, human or otherwise. We had a deep bond that cannot be described. I love him more than I can express.

A pic from his birthday last year.

A pic from his birthday last year.

I used to tell him that my heart was connected to his heart by an invisible chain that only he and I could feel. As I said it, I would touch my heart and his, and he always looked at me like he understood and knew it to be true. He was a very wise fella.

I write this today not to go into the details of how he passed or how hard these past days have been (you’d only need to look at my face to know that), but because today is his 13th birthday. He didn’t make it in life, but he’s here in spirit. I sense him all around me and I know he’d hate for any of us to be sad on such an important day.

Barley was always up for adventure.

Barley was always up for adventure.

So, in honor of Barley’s 13th birthday, I’m declaring it Barley Day, a day to honor my best friend. I’ll do that by not shedding a tear for him (there’s plenty of time for that in the days, months, and years to come) but by remembering the things I loved most about him. He always kept me guessing and never played by the rules, and I loved him more for it.

I include here a poem that expresses how I feel about Barley. It gives me comfort and I hope it helps you, too. I know so many of you loved him very deeply.

I also include his favorite song. We danced together to it many times over his lifetime. He would bark and spin, and tug at my pant legs until I picked him up in my arms and danced him around as I sang. This song always makes me think of him and how much I love him. Wouldn’t it be nice if our best friends never left us?

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

by ee cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

I’m not dead, I’m getting married

In the words of King Lear, “I have ta’en too little care of this.” That’s my hoity-toity way of saying I’ve been an asshole about keeping up this blog. Things have been stressful, but that’s when blogs get juicy, don’t they? No one wants to hear about the non-busy times. So, I officially apologize. Here’s what you’ve missed.

I'm officially engaged! This is my hand at the beach in Bandon.

I’m officially engaged! This is my hand at the beach in Bandon.

• I got engaged. Ben and I went to the coast for my birthday. He stopped to pee on a rock and I put my back to him to serve as watch (it was a nice Sunday and the beach was busy). He was taking a long time, so I asked if he was done yet. He said yes, so I turned around and he was down on one knee with a ring. I was absolutely shocked.  The urine-based ruse was not terribly romantic, but it was perfect for me. It’s just the sort of thing that lends character to a story. I thought it was adorable. Obviously, I said yes, then proceeded to double over and threaten to puke. There was romance all over that proposal.

• I love my ring. Through all the pre-engagement talk, I insisted I only wanted a plain gold band. Give me something practical that won’t hurt too much to lose. Thankfully, Ben didn’t listen to me. I had a moment that could only be described as “when Sheldon gave Amy the tiara on ‘Big Bang Theory.’” Observe.

 

I freaked out about getting a real ring. It’s a very traditional solitaire and I absolutely love it. In fact, I even love worrying about it. It’s the only girlie thing I own and it’s my absolute favorite. I spend far too much time staring at it…and putting lotion on my hands. I look like a princess in this!

• I have to plan a wedding. I allowed a week or so to loll in engagement haze before considering that now I have to plan a wedding. (Insert dramatic music here.) We want to get married in September, but, as of right now, I have zero plans. No location. No guest list. No dress. No date. All I have are love handles, a farmer tan, and a growing sense of anxiety. I want to have a wedding, I just don’t know where to start. It doesn’t help that I’m incredibly cheap and, when I consider spending money on a wedding, I want to hightail it to the courthouse. For $100, I can get married in my sweatpants by the county clerk? Where do I sign! However, I know 10 years from now, when my farmer tan is droopier and my love handles are jigglier, I’ll regret not wearing a dress and doing the whole thing. So, let the planning begin.

Barley's riding in style these days.

Barley’s riding in style these days.

• Barley got a stroller. As you all know, Barley’s cancer is terminal and we’re just trying to keep him comfortable as long as we can. We decided not to put him through painful surgeries or treatments, since the success rates for both are not good. So, we’re managing his symptoms. Part of that is getting him a new ride. He gets tired easily and, with three other healthy dogs to walk, it was hard for him to be out with the family. So, now he can walk a mile or so, and ride the rest of our morning walks. It’s a perfect situation. Plus, I’m getting a heck of a good  workout pushing his 20-pound butt up the mega-hills by my house. Watch out, Pippa! I’ve got your butt number!

• I’m off dairy. Again. There was an incident last weekend. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but let’s just say that from now on, I will not be hiking without toilet paper. That damn dairy got me again! I wish there was a 12-step program for dairy addicts. Lact-Anon. We could all go around in a circle telling our rock bottom stories. “Hi, my name is Amanda and I had to wipe my butt with a sweaty hiking sock.” So embarrassing. But maybe this time my lesson is learned. No more dairy. At least until after the wedding.

So, there are the biggies. Sorry again for my two-month absence. Work is ridiculously draining and, with Barley getting sicker, I haven’t had the emotional energy to do more than maintain my semi-pleasant demeanor. We’ve all been treading water down here, waiting for summer and good hiking weather. You’ll be seeing hiking pics from me soon enough. Bring on the sun! (But not too much!)

Moving, working, and the singular joy of a yard

Dougal was all smiles on the drive down to the new house.

Dougal was all smiles on the drive down to the new house.

So, the whole moving thing happened. My purge gene kicked in, but I still carted way too much stuff close to 400 miles. The new city is…well…small. It’s also been strangely warm and there hasn’t been rain since I got here. It’s very unsettling. I might be drying out.

Throughout the process, there were a few mishaps. On our first day in town, I injured Barley by trying to remove what I thought was a piece of glass or plastic stuck in his paw. It turned out to be a tumor with an impressive blood supply. This has been a tough few months on the old man. You might recall that I rolled his head up in the window a month or so ago. I suspect he might be trying to call Doggie Protective Services on me. I need parenting classes.

On day two here, I was slicing carrots when my thumb attempted suicide. The knife cut through the top of my thumb and down through the nail. The good news is that my thumb can now talk. Unforuntaly, all it tells me is that carrots are dangerous and ice cream is a much safer choice. It’s probably right.

Dougal waits at the back door for his yard time.

Dougal waits at the back door for his yard time.

Day three was my first day at my new job. It was a very long day. On my way home, I bought a bunch of lotto scratch-it tickets and chanted “big money, no wammies” while I wept and scratched them in my car. I didn’t win, so I guess I’ll go back to work on Monday. I didn’t really do that, but my first day was pretty awful. My cheeks hurt from fake-smiling and my lunch boiled over in the microwave. I got lost trying to find IT and my email account never got hooked up. I had to sit through a gloom and doom budget meeting, which didn’t exactly inspire confidence in my future, and I had to go to the bathroom alone.

The happiest one here right now is Dougal, who has his first-ever yard. He’s visited yards before, but has never had his own. He’s obsessed with it, frankly. Whenever he’s missing, I can find him at the back door, waiting for his yard visit. He slowly sniffs every inch of it, occasionally taking a nibble or two of grass or the odd stick. He’s in yard heaven. I’m just hoping I can give him cleanup duties. Do you think he could manage a shovel on his own?

Tranquility (with a side of earplugs) at Snow Lake

Snow Lake

Yesterday, I went on one of the most beautiful hikes of my entire life. There were sweeping mountain vistas, old growth forests, wildflowers and interesting moss, and a sparkling blue lake at the end. Unfortunately, this was also one of the most beautiful hikes in a lot of people’s lives.

The trail was so crowded with loudmouths! There was the leather woman with the too-short shorts who declared over and over that Zumba changed her life 10 years ago. There was the milquetoasts who went on and on about the SUV they just traded in for a slightly smaller SUV. There was the church group that loudly discussed congregationalism (I have no idea what that means, but it was necessary for them to speak loudly enough for god to hear). There was the woman who was so invested in her story about her father’s wedding to her stepmother and the emotional pain it caused, that she didn’t realize her friend had stopped on the trail and was calling her name.

As beautiful as the hike was, I had a few rage moments. After all, who comes to the wilderness to talk the entire way? That’s why coffee jesus invented Starbucks. I won’t even get started on the guy who insisted on making his own birdcalls at the lake. So annoying, especially for the actual birds, I’m sure.

My irritation aside, the hike was totally worth it. We hiked to Snow Lake, which is off Snoqualmie Pass. It was a perfect day with temps inching towards 80 and light breezes. The sky was a bit hazy from the wildfires nearby, but it was still beautiful. I will definitely go back, hopefully on a day that’s a bit less crowded with jabbermouths. I’ll try to get some pictures up on Facebook this week.

If nothing else, I can rejoice in the fact that, after four hours in the sun yesterday, my farmer tan moved up a solid inch and a half. The new territory is admittedly a bit sunburned, but I’m sure it will turn into a slightly less red version, which I refer to as a tan. Woohoo!