Thursday, April 17, 2014

August to April in one Act.

Well. Turns out having a kid makes the days go slowly (sometimes painfully so), yet here we are, almost a year into being parents! I could list all my excuses for why I haven't updated the blog in almost 8 months, but let's dive right into the update instead.

The above picture is me a year and a day ago. I can't express how glad I am to not be pregnant anymore! It was a cool experience, one I will possibly repeat, but right now the memory of constant heartburn and the act of putting on shoes classifying as an aerobic activity is still too fresh. Not to mention giving birth...

But I digress. The last 8 months we have been up to a lot. Rio has more than doubled in weight and grown 7 inches.. At his 9 month check-up he was 22lbs and 29 inches long. That was a month and a half ago, so I'm sure he's packed on at least another pound and possibly another inch since then. He's been eating solids for over 4 months and so far the only thing he has actively shown dislike for is raw spinach. He's got 5 teeth and I'm pretty sure a sixth is on its way as evidenced by a constant runny nose and gnawing on anything he can get in his mouth (including my nipple, which has made breastfeeding a bit challenging lately). He is a super fast crawler and pulls himself up on everything, so I imagine walking is not far off. His latest tricks are throwing and sharing. I like the sharing better, but he prefers the throwing. I guess gravity is a pretty sweet thing to discover. He has also learned to get off the couch by himself and has started showing an interest in the stairs. Though he hasn't said his first word yet, he has a lot of syllables in his repertoire and he can say them all really loudly! He is also getting really good at taking things like folded laundry out of the basket or books off of the bookshelves.

Here is a recent picture of Rio in all his glory. What this picture doesn't show is the curly mullet he's growing. I call it Vermont chic.

For the most part he is hilarious, charming and a very good natured baby. There are, of course, moments when I question our decision to have a child, most often at 3am when Rio is screaming directly in my face and I have tried everything I can think of to calm him down, to no avail. However, those moments are becoming few and far between. Recently he's even been sleeping 10-11 hours without waking up, which is amazing. Until I experienced the profound sleep deprivation a newborn  brings, I never fully realized how much I value my sleep!

Let's see. What has happened since August....

Just under a month after Maggie died, we drove to Maine to pick up our new dog. After a facebook vote, we named him Skillet. He was about 9 months old when we got him, back in September. He is almost the exact opposite of Maggie, personality wise, and living with a just out of puppy-hood dog took a little getting used to for all of us. But he has been a great addition to the family and unlike his predecessor, he loves to snuggle. He certainly hasn't replaced Maggie in our hearts, but his presence has made her loss easier to bear. 

Skillet! Aka: Skittles, Skilly, Skilbo Waggins, Skilly too Chilly, etc.

On a sad note, Hank went out one night in late September and never came back. Though I'd like to imagine he's just on an extended vision quest, we found some orange tufts of fur in the middle of our road in October, so I imagine he played chicken with the wrong car. I still miss him every day.

RIP little buddy.

Mark had a strong finish to both the taco and farm seasons. We (I use that word loosely) showed Montpelier what a good taco really tastes like and starting May 3rd, we're gonna do it all over again. The plan this year is that Jon will help Mark two Saturdays a month and Rio and I will be there the other ones. The hope is that Rio will be super awesome and chill and content to either ride around on my back or hang out in a Pack n' Play behind the stand. If he's not on board with the plan, our friend Emily has volunteered to come to the market and hang out with him during the lunch rush.

Let the games begin!

Harvest Hill had such a good crew last year, that Mark decided to end his managing position on a high note. This year he will be a farmhand at Riverside Farm 3 days a week. I think it will be a good change, especially after the intensity of last summer. Being the father of a newborn, managing a farm 36 hours a week and then running a taco stand every weekend definitely took it's toll!

I went back to work at Buffalo Mountain Co-op in early September, leaving Rio with his amazing babysitter Karen 3 days a week. In October, I began working for Taproot Magazine. Taproot is an ad-free, quarterly publication celebrating food, farm, family and craft through photography, writing and the arts,both fine and domestic. It is a great publication and it has been fun doing something new after 3 years at the co-op. Though I'm still in customer service, it is less direct and I get to do lots of other things as well. If you haven't yet, I suggest you check it out. In late October I decided to step down from the collective at the co-op and focus on Taproot instead. Though it was a hard decision, ultimately it was the right one. Though I didn't realize it until I left, the co-op was a very consuming job. Now all I do at the co-op is work the register from nine to noon every Monday, which is the perfect amount of time.

In other news, we are seriously thinking of moving back West. Of course, the question remains, where? We've narrowed it down to Oregon, Washington, Montana or Northern California, but that is still a big area...One of the main reasons we bought a place in Vermont is because we didn't know where else to go. Having a kid, however, has made us realize how important being closer to family is to us. I don't want Rio to grow up only seeing his grandparents 1 or 2 times a year and since they are all on that side of the country, it only makes sense that we should be too. Plus, let's be honest, Vermont is great, but the west is the best! We are currently taking suggestions on the best place to live, so if you have an opinion, leave a comment. April 19th will be our 4 year anniversary of living in Vermont and though it feels sad to think about leaving, it feels even more sad to not leave, so there you go.

Instead of making this a crazy long post, I think I'll post some pictures to highlight the last 8(!) months. Once I'm over that hurdle, perhaps I'll update the blog more frequently?

Rio's first trip to Buck Lake as Summer turned to Fall.

Buddah Baby and the Squash
Our friend Adam and his girlfriend Lily came for a visit. We took them on a hike to Cheever Falls

King of the winter squash.

In early November, after the farm season ended, we took a trip to Rhode Island.

Our car broke down, so we had to spend an extra night in RI. This is what happened.

Our friend Angela lives in a cool warehouse in Providence. This was on the wall and I think it's a good reminder.

Rio's first hike up Barr Hill on a lovely fall day. What handsome gentlemen!

Skillet is really good at cleaning Rio's hands.

Katie came to visit over Thanksgiving and my birthday.

Muppet baby!

Gotta start those booksellers young.

In the Tonon-Neyenhuis and now Neyenkoff tradition, we went x-mas tree hunting. It's the first tree Mark and I have put up since getting together way back in 2005.

Clearly this is going to be awesome.

I'm not sure he enjoyed any of his presents as much as the wrapping paper....

Showing off his x-mas schwag.

In another Tonon-Neyenhuis turned Neyenkoff tradition, we made homemade raviolis and invited over these friends to share them.

In January, our friends Emma and Josh had a baby girl, Scarlette.

My parents came to visit in January. Rio is showing Peggy how to jam out on the piano.

See? How can we keep Rio so far from these two?

Obligatory baby in the bath shot.

In February, Mark's parents flew us out to Colorado for a visit. Rio loved hanging out with Deb and Joel and I think the feeling was quite mutual! Rio got to meet a large portion of his Wykoff relatives, as well as his Aunt Samantha.

Mark and Rio in Lyons, Colorado.

On February 28th Luna turned 1, which means Rio's b-day is right around the corner...

Oh yeah. Winter. Vermont was particularly snowy and cold this year. Enough said.

The young gentleman shredding on the guitar.

Though I'm sure I've left out many tales, that is at least a short summary of our adventures these last 8 months. What the future will hold is anyone's guess. What I'd really like now involves sunshine, green grass and flowers. Luckily, even in the far reaches of northern Vermont, it looks like Spring is on its way!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hello and Goodbye.

Two major life events have happened since my last post. The first is the birth of our fantastic son, Rio. The second is the death of our sweet dog, Maggie Mae.

Our little family on my due date of May 27th

Rio was born at 12:21 am on Sunday, June 2nd. He was 9lbs 10 oz and 21 inches long. After spending all of Friday prepping for our Farmer's Market taco stand, I went into active labor at 3:30am on Saturday. Needless to say, we didn't make it to market that week! The labor and birth process was amazing. Dilation was much easier than I expected and pushing was much, much harder! One of our midwives came over at 3:30 that morning and the other two arrived around 11:30am.  We spent the day mostly in silence as the dark of night turned into dawn, proceeded through the heat of the day and then fell again into darkness.  Our only music was the sounds of nature, the peeping of frogs, the singing of birds and the rushing of the wind.

Saturday, June 1st. Laboring in the yard.

Laboring in the birthing tub while Maggie monitors my progress.

Me, Mark and Rio Maxfield Neyenkoff!
  Rio came into the world in the middle of a raging thunder and lightening storm! Maggie stayed by me through the entire labor process, leaving the room only as I started pushing.Mark kept whispering 'Thunder Baby' into my ear between pushes. The midwives were amazing and it was so nice to be able to give birth at home, in our living room. It was a little crazy feeling, when the midwives, after cleaning up the baby and me and our space and monitoring our progress with breastfeeding, wished us a goodnight and quietly left at 3:30am with the promise to return later that day.  "Wait," I wanted to shout, "You know we have no clue what we're doing, right?" But it turned out that we did have a clue. Babies don't need much besides food, diaper changes, lots of love and even more sleep.

Rio's first visitors! Amy, Jon and Luna. We may or may not be arranging a marriage...
 One perk of giving birth, besides having a new family member? I have cleavage for the first time in my life! Who knew all you had to do was have a baby?  Oh yeah, and be a food source.

Mae, Mark and Rio taking a mid-day nap.

Proud Papa

The transition into parenthood was not without its rocky moments. Breastfeeding was difficult and it took a good 5 or 6 weeks before I would stop cringing every time Rio cried out for sustenance. He was tongue tied, which means his frenulum (the little muscle that connects your tongue to the bottom of your mouth) was too short for him to get a good latch. After 3 days of pain and countless calls to various doctors and clinics who didn't snip frenulums or wouldn't because I wasn't a patient (our pediatrician, who does cut them, was working at a clinic in Nicaragua for the first month of Rio's life) our midwife Bonne came with her apprentice Jen at 9:30 at night and snipped it. The process took about 2 seconds and Rio was more upset about being held still than anything else. Though it didn't provide the immediate relief I was hoping for, as the days went by and Rio got used to his newly freed tongue he started latching correctly, giving my poor nipples a chance to heal.  The frustration was only compounded by the total exhaustion of giving birth coupled with major sleep deprivation, not to mention all those hormones!  When I think back to those first weeks, I'm a little amazed that all of us survived and made it out the other side intact...

After setting off from Montana in our future minivan a few days before Rio was born, my parents arrived on June 6th. It was so nice having them around. They were both great sources of moral support and my Dad kept the house sparkling clean. They also fed us well on the days we didn't have friends bringing over a meal.  Their presence allowed Mark to go back to the farm after a week off with pay (Thanks Bill!) and to the Farmer's Market the following Saturday to sling some tacos.

Rio was so taken with Katie!

Mark trying to interest Maggie in the baby. She wasn't too impressed.

Papa's arms are good for napping.

Mom, Rio and Me

Milk drunk

Getting ready for his first car ride!

This photo makes me feel real sad that I live so far from my parents.

This one too.

After my parents left, we celebrated Mark's first Father's Day and the next day one of my best college friends, Nora, came to stay for a week.  She's going to medical school in Cuba, so we haven't seen much of each other the last few years.  It was so nice to spend time with her and to have her share in the first weeks of Rio's life.

Rio and Nora, admiring each other.

A little al Fresco dining

Me and Nora

Nora left and two days later Mark's dad and step-mom, Joel and Deb, came for 10 days.  They spent their visit doing lots of baby holding and giving me the much needed and appreciated gift of napping! On Rio's 1 month birthday we went to the Fairbanks Museum and then to Circus Smirkus. I don't know how much of the actual circus Rio took in, but he really like the flashing lights on the tent ceiling. We also took a trip to the Bread and Puppet Museum and ate pizza at Parker Pie.

Grandad Joel and Rio

Fairbanks Museum

Fairbanks Museum

Bread and Puppet Museum

After Deb and Joel left, we had 10 days on our own before flying to Montana so I could be a bridesmaid in my best childhood friend's wedding. Though we were a little worried about flying with a 6 week old across the country, he was a total champ and either slept or nursed the entire time. It had been ages since we were in Montana in the summertime and it was so nice to be back in the West! We introduced Rio to lots of new friends, went to the river, spent an afternoon at Lake Como and generally had a great time.  Our good friends Nic and Sarah came over from Bozeman for a few nights and my cousin Alison and here 2 kids and new husband came to visit from Dillon.  Ivy and Josh's wedding was beautiful and lots of fun. My Grandma Lois was also staying with my folks and it was so nice spending time with her and for her to meet her 7th great-grandchild.  Mark flew back to Vermont on July 23rd and Rio and I stayed for another week before flying back with my Mom.

Nap time!

Rio looking very fashionable with Ivy, the bride to be.

On the way to the river. Rio wasn't convinced that we were going to have fun.

Porky Pigging in the Bitterrot River

Aaahh, the glorious west.

Riverside lounging.

Someone found his thumb!

Yay for friends and babies!

Julia, Me, Ivy and Bri.

4 Generations! Great-Grandma Lois, Grandpa Warren, Mama Marisa and Little Rio
Me, Mark, Rio Nic and Sarah
My Mom stayed with us for a week and it was so nice having her here. Rio, it turns out, is a morning person and I, unfortunately, am not.  Luckily, my mom is, so while she was here she would come get Rio after his morning feeding, leaving me to grab a few more precious hours of sleep and getting in some serious Noni-Rio bonding time. He is overall an amazing baby, crying only when he needs something and spending lots of time being awake and alert with a smile on his face. He's started vocalizing more and he loves the mobile above his changing area. He is incredibly strong and spends hours each day doing Pilates like moves that would exhaust me after 10 minutes. He has fit into our lives even better than we had hoped when contemplating the insanity of our Summer of Mark working full time on the farm as well as running a taco stand each Saturday. Not to mention the trip to Montana! He is a champ.

Maggie ride!

Lounging in the yard

Father-Son bonding

This pretty much sums up life these days.

She left on August 7th, leaving us the space to really settle into being a family.  On August 11th Mark and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary with a nice dinner out. On August 19th, Maggie died.

 The month or so before Rio was born, Maggie had started having trouble breathing coupled with a wheezing cough.  After going to a couple vets and getting various pills and powders, she still wasn't improving much so we took her to a more holistic vet in Waterbury.  The 2nd vet we went to had done a chest x-ray and told us that Maggie either had bronchitis, a heart issue or lung cancer. Last Wednesday, August 14th, we took her to the vet in Waterbury and after feeling Maggie's abdomen and finding some tumor like lumps, she confirmed that Maggie did have lung cancer. She also told us that the lungs are often the last place cancer goes in dogs, meaning that she probably had cancer elsewhere that had then metastasized.  Since Maggie had just turned 13, we made the decision not to try and fight the cancer and instead try to make her as comfortable as possible for the time she had left, which was a few weeks to a few months, according to the vet.

She seemed to be improving some on her new medications and on Sunday we took a nice family walk, Hank the cat included, down the road to the cemetery. It was hard watching our once spry dog, who just this past Winter was going on 12 mile cross-country skies with Mark, plodding along, trying to catch her breath. That night was a really hard one for all of us, with Maggie struggling to breathe and spending most of the night across the road, hacking and gagging.  The next morning, after showing no interest in either food or following Hank around, Mark was finally able to get her to take her pills and they headed off to the farm. Mark said that she spent most of the day walking around by the barn and greenhouses and wouldn't lay down.  At the end of the day, Mark had to lift her into the car and she died on the drive home.  We buried her in the front yard, between two maple trees.  I am so glad that Mark was with her in her final moments and that she didn't have to die alone.

On our family walk, the day before she died.

It's funny, when we got Maggie we were 24 and 25 and wanted to get an older dog so that we would be free to travel or live abroad in 5 or 6 years.  Now we don't have a dog, but we do have an infant and a mortgage.  So much for freedom!  However, if we had gotten a younger dog, it wouldn't have been Maggie Mae and I can't imagine the last 6 years without her. She lived with us in Oregon, Texas, Montana and Vermont and drove around the country with us twice. She sprinted on beaches on both coasts, herded ducks and chickens and was Mark's constant companion. Life without her is going to be hard, but I am so grateful for the time we had together.  This morning found me sobbing as I picked up stray pieces of dog food by the water bowl and moments later breaking into a smile as Rio giggled at me from his tabletop bouncy chair. I feel blessed to have this new life to love and watch grow, while simultaneously feeling the deep sorrow of loss that death brings.

Thank you Maggie Mae, for being such a quirky, loveable girl.We will always miss and love you.

And thank you Rio, for being the best baby Mark and I could have hoped to bring into our lives.