Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Household Business

Chickens are not the only things that we have added to our household lately. We bought a new car! Well, it is used, actually, but new to us. Both of the cars we've been driving for the past several years are small-ish and will not fit three car seats across the back seat, so we definitely had an upcoming deadline to come up with another option. I'd kind of always assumed that three children meant it was time for a minivan and I LOATHED this idea. (Not enough to feel done with babies after two children, mind you, although the thought did cross my mind.) Rob started doing research, though, and ended up deciding that one of those 7-seat SUV-type things might be a good option, especially since Toyota makes a hybrid Highlander. I feared that I was letting my vanity influence this a bit, but really, if the Highlander fits our needs and our budget and our priorities and I hate the idea of driving a minivan that much, why not? Nobody makes a hybrid minivan yet anyway, so there you go.

Rob looked around for a used one for a couple of months and now we are now the lucky owners of a pearly white 2008 Highlander. It is FANCY, I tell you. It is by far the fanciest car we have ever owned; the one we ended up finding at the mileage/price we were looking for has GPS (yay!) and a back-up camera and a DVD player for the kids and heated seats and, gosh, everything. I feel really grateful about it, and it definitely takes the sting out of adjusting to driving a big vehicle. I much prefer small cars, given my druthers, especially considering that our garage is behind our house and one must navigate a narrow driveway between a fence and our house to get there. I am happy to report that I still have a 100% success rate of getting in and out of the garage, even after driving the new car for over a week. I am not naturally skilled at parking.

So now Rob is driving the Prius (our garage looks like a Toyota hybrid commercial) and we passed on our red Vibe to its new family. That was such a great car-- still is, really. We bought it right after we got married and I drove it back and forth from Dallas to Austin every week while I commuted during grad school. If it weren't for the three-car-seat issue, we totally would have kept it for a while yet and continued to use it to bring our Christmas tree home every year.

So a new car, and now also a freezer full of meat! We've been quasi-vegetarians for a number of years now; we would eat meat at other people's houses and at restaurants if we felt like it but I only cooked meat at home a half dozen times per year. This was mainly environmentally motivated, although the ethics of factory farming also played a role. While Rob was in residency and fellowship we couldn't afford to regularly buy meat that we felt ethically comfortable eating so we just didn't. In looking up produce CSAs for this coming growing season (want to find one for yourself? go here!), I stumbled upon this local farm that raises grass-fed cattle and pastured pigs. "Hmmm, interesting," I thought. Their prices range from $3.50/lb if you buy vast quantities of meat to just over $5/lb for 30 pounds, which sounded pretty darn reasonable to me, especially given what kind of meat we are talking about. Then I found out one of my friends has purchased from them and was really happy. And THEN I started craving more meat, which is something that has happened to me with both other pregnancies in my 2nd and 3rd trimesters. So I found a screaming good deal on a chest freezer on Craigslist (oh, Craigslist, what did people do before you?) and now there are 15 pounds of pork and 15 pounds of beef in our garage.  We had pork chops last night for dinner and I guess we are meat-eaters again!

I will admit that I am still ethically conflicted about eating meat. I mean, the animals at our Utah farm live about as ideal animal lives as is possible, but still they have to die for us to have steak and bacon when we could all very easily eat something else. I want to read this book but I'm kind of afraid it will convince me that I should commit to vegetarianism. On the other hand, I am a total city girl and am very squeamish about death and suffering and have only ever lived with dogs and other pets, so I am pretty sure I have a romanticized/anthropomorphized view of animals. I do wonder if raising our chickens will change my perspective on all this and give me more balance and realism. Or if it will make it impossible to eat chicken ever again.

I've been organizing baby clothes right and left (the girl clothes have indeed left the garage and are finding new homes, for the curious) as well as all the other baby paraphernalia. I've made a ridiculous amount of money selling my too-girly-for-a-boy cloth diapers. I tell you-- cloth diapers are so fabulous. First off, you don't have to buy disposable diapers (obviously) and they are cuter and nicer and softer, then you can use them on a second child, and then when you are done, you can sell them for 50%-75% of what you originally paid for them. Crazy. I think I have enough gender-neutral diapers to make it without buying too many more, maybe just a few. (I always tried to keep 2/3 of my diaper purchases gender-neutral.)

So it has been an eventful couple of weeks at our house, right? A baby boy, chickens, a new car, trying to re-learn how to cook meat... It has felt very full and busy, and I have been full of organizational, getting-crap-done vigor. The second trimester-- I eat a second breakfast every morning at 10am and I GET CRAP DONE. I know I have bemoaned how awful pregnancy is, and I largely stand by all that, but maybe, just maybe, this middle bit isn't all that bad.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Four New Babies

There are four new babies at our house, but rather than going all hardcore-attachment-parenting-Dr.-Sears on them as is our usual approach, they are living in our garage:



They have such fluffy round butts

Aren't their butts so adorably fluffy and round?

Cheep cheep

So yes, after pondering backyard chickens for quite some time (I first mentioned wanting them here on the old blog in 2009) we have finally taken the plunge into chicken ownership. Yesterday we got four little chicks who are now living under a heat lamp in a cage (intended for a rabbit or a ferret) in a cozy corner of our garage. They will live there for 4-6 weeks until they lose their soft fuzzy fluff and grow in their adult feathers, then they will move outside to a coop (which Rob will spend the next 4-6 weeks building). They will reach sexual maturity and start laying eggs by about Thanksgiving or Christmas or so. Eggs from our very own chickens!


We picked breeds that have good egg production and are well-suited to cold weather; we got one each of four different breeds:

  • a Buff Orpington, the pale golden chick, who is named Henny Penny and will look like this when she grows up. She seems the most low-key and amiable of the four.
  • a Barred Plymouth Rock, the mostly black chick, who is named Drumstick and will look like this as an adult. She has the most spunk and initiative of the bunch.
  • a Speckled Sussex, the dark brown chick, who is named Mrs. Benedict and will look like this when she grows up.
  • an Ameraucana, the light brown chick, who is named Ella and will look like one of these when she grows up. The different colored Ameraucanas were all mixed up at the farm supply store so we don't know for sure but I'm guessing she'll be one of the brownish reddish ones. She will lay blue eggs!
Grace has gone out to check on the chicks at least a dozen times in the 24 hours we've had them, and we've both been pooped on already. Violet actually did a decent job of touching and holding them gently, although of course intense supervision is necessary with her. Rob saw an opportunity to tinker with technology so he made a webcam for us to see what the chickens are doing without going out to the garage (the garage door opener scares them anyway). I can't guarantee that the webcam will work permanently but it's been doing pretty good so far, so go visit if you want to see our little chicks running around their new home.

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's a Boy!

Yes! It's true! Our parenting world is about to be expanded and changed. I had my big halfway-point ultrasound today and against all our expectations and theories, we are having a boy.

It's a boy!

We did have a little inkling about this. At my last midwife appointment two weeks ago, she couldn't find the heartbeat with the doppler thingie. (Cue several minutes of intensifying anxiety. I tried to be calm because I know this happens a lot but it had never happened to me.) She gave up after a while and took me into their little ultrasound room to check things out. Fortunately, the baby was alive and wiggling around just as a baby should be and the midwife went on to check the heartbeat and so forth. It is always so awkward in those situations to refer to the baby ("she or he", "her or him") so I jokingly said to the midwife that we were pretty sure it was going to be a third girl. She said, "I don't know about that!" and after looking for a while, declared that she thought it looked more boy than girl to her. I will say that this made me anticipate my big ultrasound quite a bit more than I thought I was going to, which really doesn't make any sense, does it?

Little arm

My midwifery practice sends their patients to a big maternal-fetal medicine practice at the hospital where I'll deliver for this main mid-point ultrasound. We trucked in both girls with us this afternoon and had a miserable beginning to our appointment as they were an HOUR behind schedule. Ugh, Violet totally lost it. We did eventually make it back to the ultrasound room and got a lovely long look at our new little one. They did all the measurements of the brain and heart and abdominal organs and spine and counted hands and feet and everything, and I am really grateful that he looks healthy and normal and just as he should. He had his little hands up by his face a lot, which was super adorable, but also made it hard to get good pictures. I think these ultrasound pictures are more the stereotypical blurry gray blobby things than Grace's or Violet's, but oh well...  Humorously, the picture that is the most clear and obvious is the one identifying him as a boy. Too bad my sense of propriety keeps me from posting pictures of my baby's junk on the internet, right?

Little foot

So a boy! We are thrilled. We would have been so happy either way and the idea of raising three little sisters is delightful, but it is very exciting to contemplate an entirely new kind of child. We have a boy name that we've been thinking about for years now, but I think we'll let it settle for a few weeks to see if it feels right before we firmly decide. Now we can continue our track record of not circumcising our babies and have it be a more meaningful decision! And finally, a child who can be good at math! HAHAHAHAHAHA-- just kidding. It will be so interesting to me to see how our perspective on gender and parenting and toys and all that shifts with the addition of a boy. My girls wear dresses and a healthy dose of pink and love flowers and pretty things, but on the other hand, we have yet to show the girls a Disney princess movie and our books and toys are mostly gender neutral (with some exceptions-- Grace's bike is pink because I was lucky to even find one that was free of branding, the baby dolls are all obviously meant to be girls, and so forth). It will be interesting to learn to navigate a new side of gender issues.

And clothes! I saw this article making the rounds on Facebook recently and it did make me wish that gender-neutral clothes were still the norm for babies (the pictures from that article are so interesting too). We really can't have our new baby wear most of what we have in our hand-me-down boxes, though; we are not that up for a radical deconstruction of gendered clothing expectations. I think I will be smarter about what kinds/brands of clothes we buy this time. I feel like I have a better idea of what works at different ages for me and my preferences, with the cloth diapers, etc. But now what to do about all the girl clothes in plastic bins in our garage? We will obviously always keep around the clothes between Grace and Violet, but I am just itching to clean out and get rid of the things Violet has outgrown. On the other hand, what if we do adopt and end up with a girl? Will I feel stupid for having to re-buy girl clothes? But is it a good use of our space and the clothes themselves to have them sitting there unused for years "just in case"? I am doing a good job of over-thinking this.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Happy, Busy, Sad

I am so grateful for how I am feeling these days. SERIOUSLY. 2011 had a bit of a rough beginning for me, what with a few months of first trimester misery (unexpected misery, no less) and then a round of illnesses. I am 19 weeks pregnant now and feeling so, so much better that it's hard to even describe. I feel like the past few months were this dismal fog when I was just barely functioning, and now I feel SO ALIVE. It is so wonderful to feel quasi-normal and to enjoy food and to face a new day without dread about how bad I feel. It is also so wonderful to catch up on all the details of life that have fallen by the wayside in the meantime, all the projects and paperwork and details of family life that got pushed to the side because I just couldn't handle it. We organized and de-cluttered the garage! I took Grace to a belated 5-year check-up! I made Rob take the Texas registration stickers off the cars with a hair dryer and a razor blade! I dusted!

I think part of my new-found motivation to deal with ALL the things is hormonally-induced crazed nesting. Isn't it a little early for that? And does this whole phenomenon seem weird to anyone else? I would never argue against the reality of the nesting instinct but it seems very strange to me that some cocktail of hormones can make me want-- no, NEED to organize the closets and replace yucky old outlets with bright shiny new outlets and file all the papers. It makes more sense to me that something biochemical could make someone, say, intensely bond with a new baby or want to have sex; those things seem more basically biological to me. But brain chemicals that produce an intense need to repaint a room? Weird.

Among other details that have recently been taken care of, Grace is all registered for kindergarten now. We ended up registering her at our neighborhood school. We still haven't heard back if she got one of the coveted ELP spots (we won't until May) but I think even if she does, we will stick here close to home. This is partly because I totally bailed on all the open houses and information sessions for the ELP magnet schools (I. just. couldn't.) and thus I have no basis on which to make a decision. And it is partly because I think walking her to school and having her there for half-day kindergarten will be better for her and me. And it is partly because I think Grace will do absolutely fine in a mainstream classroom, especially for kindergarten, given her personality and sociability and whatnot. Anyway, I gathered up her paperwork and vaccination records and birth certificate and copies of utility bills (our neighborhood school is considered very desirable so they are apparently pretty serious about establishing where exactly you live) and took them over to the little school. Now we shall see if she ends up in a morning or afternoon kindergarten. At first, I was going to request a morning one because that seems much more normal and I am pretty sure that if she is an afternoon one, we will just putter about every morning and not get dressed and never get anything accomplished in the mornings. But then I remembered that I would have a NEWBORN BABY this fall and I thought maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing. It's not like you get anything done with a newborn baby anyway, and slow mornings with nowhere to be until noon following rough nights don't sound that terrible. Plagued with indecision, I ended up at "Eh, whatever," and have decided to let God pick. I say this half-jokingly because I am pretty sure that's not how God normally works and that he is not a crystal ball to which you can abdicate decision-making responsibility, but on the other hand, I do believe in a God who is loving and caring and personally involved in our lives.

I haven't talked much about adoption plans recently, and that is largely because we haven't really decided anything. Our background checks are still out being checked so we haven't had to tell the adoption agency exactly what we want to do yet.  Once those come back, we will be approved prospective adoptive parents and would normally then be put on the active list and our profile shown to prospective birthmothers and so forth. We are leaning away from doing that right now. It turns out that what we were contemplating has an official name-- it's called "artificial twinning", siblings who are not biologically related who are less than nine months apart in age. And it turns out that it is generally frowned on, for a lot of good reasons. I found this article especially compelling, although obviously bits of it do not apply to our situation. Supposedly it is harder than having biological twins because the two babies are not ever at the same developmental stage; the difference between a 3-month-old and an 8-month-old is HUGE, as I have definitely experienced, and it would be really hard to meet both of those babies' needs at the same time. Our parenting style definitely comes into play here; I really want to be able to, you know, hold my baby a lot and wear my baby in a sling while chasing around the older ones and be able to do the non-stop nursing that most newborns need/want. If the situation had been different and we were pushed into an artificial twinning situation (i.e. I'd become unexpectedly pregnant after being matched with a birthmother or right after a new baby was placed with us or something) then I think we would have embraced it and dealt with the challenges and I'm sure been glad that we'd gone down that road. Choosing to do this in a more deliberate way gives us pause, though. And since we are looking at adopting a mostly healthy newborn, these babies are going to get adopted by someone; the wait time at our agency for African-American babies is 3-6 months, not 1 week. Don't get me wrong-- I think there is a significant need for families open to adopting a child of color (exhibit A: our agency's wait time for white babies is 9-12 months) but what I am saying is that the need for parents is not so dire that us choosing not to adopt this year means a baby will go without a family.

So what does this all mean? I am pretty sure that we are not going to go on the active list when our approval comes in.  This makes me sad sad sad. Will we update our paperwork in a year or two and come back to this? I honestly don't know. We'd always pictured ourselves with three kids, and four sounds like a LOT. Also, a family of 2 white biological kids + 1 black adopted kid seems not too unbalanced, while changing the ratio to 3 to 1 seems different to me. Right now I feel less sure that we'll adopt than I have EVER, like since we got married, and this too makes me sad sad sad. On the other hand, I think Rob and I have realized how much we do desire to adopt through this experience, so maybe we'll reevaluate in 2012 or 2013? No doors are certainly closed (except the door to more biological children, which we are going to CLOSE) so we will see. In the meantime, I will comfort myself from feeling sad about not adopting this year with the very great happiness of getting ready for a different kind of new baby. And also, getting some chickens.