Monday, December 8, 2014

A is for...

Baby Bee is obsessed with the alphabet right now. Well, certain letters of the alphabet that is. He loves to find the letter “B” on book titles or packages, and searches diligently for the letter “P” on buses and billboards. He points out the “W”s in whatever media I’m reading and jumps in to the alphabet song when we get to “O.” Hearing him attempt to say “alphabet” is pretty cute too.

Our family recently received a personal helping of Alphabet Soup. Baby Bee has formally received a diagnosis: ASD, or Autism Spectrum Disorder. We’d been operating under the informal SPD label (Sensory Processing Disorder) and figured there was more to the story. The letters themselves came as no surprise: ASD level 2, with some unofficial words about “highly gifted” and “cognitive abilities of a four year old in some areas” thrown in. 

In our family, A is now for Autism.

We were in disbelief at first. Did we really, finally get someone to tell us what was going on with Baby Bee? The trend, in working with families in the early years of life, is to say, “Come back later. In several years. Let’s wait and see how things turn out. He might catch up. It’s too hard to sort out right now.” So we were amazed that someone said, “Hey, your kid really does fit the profile. Here’s some letters for him!”

Then the disbelief turned to joy--help is on the way! We qualify for therapies specifically designed for kids with ASD, like ABA (applied behavioral analysis) therapy. Can’t wait to get started!

Now we are in a funny place. We are fighting the insurance company for the help that’s supposed to be here already and wondering if we will ever get a good night’s sleep—or a nap during the day for that matter.  Plus 3 to 6 months of sitting on service waiting lists seems like a long time when your kid isn't even two. We are exhausted after all this advocating and realizing that we will probably have to continue to advocate for everything in the future. We weren't scared to get a diagnosis, but deep down, a little piece of me thought having a definitive name to describe our lives, meant things would somehow get easier in their own right.

I think this is the part of the post where I am expected to tie things up. Loop us back around from A to Z, and say something clever about Baby Bee being so exceptionally smart and how lucky we are as parents. Or about how we wouldn't change a thing about him even if we could. Instead, I’ll let you share in our present discomfort, and you can know that this is where we truly are right now. Grateful, tired, grieving, hopeful...did I mention tired?


As far as the homestead, my energies have focused more on Baby Bee while Mr. Bee’s been doing most of the animal work. My role is primarily limited to getting a teenager goat’s head unstuck from the same gate *every single day.* No small task, I assure you. We’ll post more about those happenings soon, I hope. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Making Use, Making Do, Making things Right

You may remember I started this journey with thick rubber gloves, tongs and a package of Trader Joe's frozen chicken breast. 

Well, we're not in Kansas any more Toto. 

This spring we raised our own meat chickens. Fast growing things that required careful monitoring to ensure proper health. The garage flooded during some area wide flooding we had, and we panicked to get the little babes dry and to higher ground. We raised 30+ birds for ourselves and a few friends, marveled at how fast they grew and butchered then by 8 weeks. 

Last month, Mr. Bee butchered our first goat. (Not to worry, it wasn't Lula Mae or anyone you know. Well not too well anyhow. :/)

Desi was one of Lula Mae's babies from our first kidding. She was always destined as meat or selling but we gave her a name and treated her like the others, nevertheless. 

We also put one of the beautiful Pekins down. She suffered what my childhood best friend (turned Vet) surmises was a stroke common in older birds of this variety. 

With the meat birds it's almost easy. "Meat" is even in their name! I've still never done the actual slaughter but it's easy to get detached. You see them and think "wow this will feed us for many months. I wonder if those runts will catch up in size." (In the process if the objectification of meat, it's easy to understand the objectification of women.)

With the goats, it's a little harder. You feel weird taking the life of an animal who trusts you, who you watched enter the world, who is cognizant of its status as prey in the natural world. You tell yourself that it's okay because she's not a pet, she never was a pet, even though that's not entirely true. 

Then there is your pet. Someone you love deeply and powerfully. And it's so hard that you have the neighbors come over and take her life as part of a ceremony where you cry and they sing and you're pain feels so deep you'll never recover from it. Even though you will, and you do. 

We didn't intend to lose this duck so we had to make do and navigate the best way to honor her. E It seemed best to pluck the soft down from her body and let her flesh stay whole. We composted her body and look forward to letting her continue to nourish our lives in another season. I took the down, and combined it with other down I'd saved to fill Baby Bee's special blanket I finished for his 1 year birthday gift. 

I have to make sense of if all. If I'm going to eat meat, I have to come to terms with the fact that life is life whether I give it a name, call it my own or never distinguish it from its peers. It's all the same. It's my relationship to the animal in each of those scenarios is different. 

These experiences have compelled us to examine our practices: is it better to take one life that provides for several? Or take more lives from animals that feel less "evolved"? And how do we get the most put of each life? What do we currently consider waste and how can we put it to use? Can we buy meat at this time from, say, a grocery store,-or do we need to "know" the animals before we consume them? 

 We've come a long ways on this journey but we are no where bear arrived. I'm curious to see where we end up in our thinking. 

Preserving the Harvest

Mr. Bee and I are focused on expanding our food storage right now. We've consulted with neighbors, read books (like Indeoendence Day) and even found a second food dehydrator from someone down the road. 

There is something uniquely satisfying about taking something that should only last a moment, or a day, or a week and preserving it for a later time. 

Although my memory is less than spectacular on its own,  the moment I have something to hang a memory on it becomes nearly photographic. It becomes preserved almost indefinitely. 

Did you hear that Radio Lab episode last week? Yeah me too. And although I can't tell you what it was even about, if you replay any segment of it, I will suddenly be able to recall every detail. I will know exactly where I was during that portion of the show. I'll be transported back instantly. Even if it was four years ago. I'll remember word for word what Jad will say next, the color of my shirt if I looked down, the way Mr. Bee's face looked as he processed the information and all the colors of the cars around me if I was driving. It's like reliving the scene. (And thus, I find it very disorienting to ever listen to the same thing twice!)

As we can our shiro plum and basil jam to top winter toast, make applesauce for the spring, or blanch our greens to toss in soup on a soup cooking on the fire on an upcoming snowy day, I hope we are persevering the memories alongside. I hope we remember the joy of watching our first chard stems poke up through the ground in our newly built hoop house--long before anyone else had even purchased their seeds--as we open a jar of pickled rainbow stems.  I hope we remember laughing and picking Asian pears with Baby Bee on my back as we munch on dried pear rings and think how lucky we are to call them a "snack". I hope when we pop the cap off our apple cider at thanksgiving, we remember how our frost attempt exploded all over the laundry room leaving sticky residue and a yeasty smell to linger for days. 

I hope we remember to harvest and preserve the good days and that the memories are just as fresh, even after the seasons change.

Making the Abundance Last

I feel it in me again. That quiet persistent voice nudging me along. It's sunny now but it won't be forever. Or for long.

Winter is coming. 

Yes, eat those cherry tomatoes straight off the vine. Yes, pour some cream over those fresh blueberries and taste their freshness. Over indulge in watermelon for dinner tonight. And again at breakfast tomorrow. 

Then save a little. Take what you need for now and maybe some extra, but rember to save some of the abundance for later.

You'll need it. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Yes We Can

A year ago my water broke with a trickle around 4am. I wasn't having any contractions so I figured it would be a while before I had a baby in my arms. At 9am I completed the art project I had been working on and insisted Mr. Bee hang it in our bedroom above the birth pool (which I refused to let him fill since I was "probably dayyyyssss away" from having a baby). 

Then we went berry picking for 3 hours in 90+ degree weather. 

I was convinced we needed strawberries for jam.  

Well, the berries went bad in the heat on my kitchen counter because labor started later in the evening and Baby Bee was born early the next morning. 

He came out screaming and didn't stop (or sleep!) for several hours and soon impressed us with strong preferences and will. Little did we know this was a sneak peak into our next year. :)

Parenting Baby Bee is one of the hardest things I've ever done. It challenges me daily and has changed me immensely. I used to roll my eyes at terms like "special needs" because they sounded so euphemistic and cheesy but I get it now. It's special not strange. Different not bad.  And sometimes it just is. 

I'm humbled by the care of our of our community and thankful to know the vulnerability of having to rely on others after very much being a do it myself-er all my life. 

And each night before I go to bed I look at my art project and take a deep breath reminding myself that we CAN do hard things. And indeed we already have.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Labor: Unassisted and In A Barn

You thought that title was about referring to me, huh? Nope! Lula Mae had her babies yesterday!!

(Actually, this happened several months ago, but I was nearing my own birth and never managed to publish the post.)

Watching my strong, stubborn goat transformed by the power of labor was beautiful. We took comfort in the facts that animal birth is, for all intents and purposes, a natural, organic process and that Lula Mae was an "experienced" mama. Sure, we read (all the books ever written) on goat labor and birth, had our birth kit nearby and kept the number of a local vet handy, but mostly we hoped she'd do it all herself. Which she did.

Even though she had all the mechanics of birth covered, she begged for us to stick around. As early labor turned into active labor she panted with her head pressed against my shoulder, leaning into the comfort of our touch and presence. We've heard some kinds of goats can actually delay their births by up to two weeks, and I am confident Lula Mae waited till she had both of us home on holiday.

Lula Mae waiting for the next contraction

I've been nearby but never attended a birth before--human or otherwise. I was in awe. Lula knew just what to do, putting her front legs up high on the hay feeder as she pushed, pacing on her breaks, moaning through the pain and occasionally biting the thick wood of the barn to cope.

Soon, her effort paid off and we saw the first signs of life poking into this world--only instead of a tiny nose, we saw a tiny tail. Her baby was breach! After two hours went by with only a tail birthed, we knew the kid was in danger and that assistance would be required.

A tail--not a nose--was our first sign of life
Just as I pulled on my long plastic glove, Lula Mae gave a deep grunt and pushed out the baby's hips.

Relieved, I returned to my role of goat doula as Mr. Bee assumed the role of stand-by midwife. Another few pushes and the baby plopped on the group, a slimy beautiful mess. Lula immediately began to bite away at the sac and lick it's face--all the while still pushing.

A tail poked out and we knew another baby was on its way! This one slid out more easily but didn't stir once it hit the ground. When kids are born breach, they don't have the same pressure on the way out of the birth canal, and it is easy for them to come out having mucous in their lungs. Mr. Bee picked up the second kid and swung it by its ankles. I watched as mucous spewed out and the tiny body began to cough and breath.

A family was born.

Lula Mae licked her babies continually and made the most wonderful cooing noises at them. They struggled to suckle but eventually got the hang of things. Within 5 minutes the wobbly legged babies were wandering around. One of them even went outside!

Desi and December, 1 hour old
Each year, a different letter is used in the goat breeding world for record keeping, and it is common to name the babies using that letter as the first letter to their names. This year the letter is "D".

We felt so privileged to witness Lula's birth experience and to greet her little ones moments after they arrived. We were so caught up in the moment that we forgot we had our own birthing class to attend!! We showed up covered in afterbirth and hay, but our instructors said it was the best and most unusual reason for being late she'd ever heard.


I thought when we found a place, began forcing roots into the ground, determined to settle ourselves, that we had arrived.

I thought we'd found ourselves in a new relationship to one another, in a new community, in new hobbies and fresh starts.

I thought my life was full of beauty and joy and richness that I never could have imagined.

I thought we'd come home.

Now, as I curl my arm around my feisty bundle of life and pull him closer to my chest, the past looks different. Everything I thought before was true, but I can barely remember the days before Baby Bee, similar to how I can barely remember life before getting married. It's like our souls have all always been intertwined.

Baby Bee's arrival feels like coming home. Instead of coming home for the first time, it's like returning home after a long absence. It is warm and familiar. Soothing and still exciting. Very different from the place you just were, but precisely the place you know you need to be.

**Thank you for your patience with my 8 month silence. We're back now. Just as we should be.**