ALEXIS HALL'S FOR REAL
WON A RITA AWARD
AND THEN SARINA BOWEN AND ELLE KENNEDY'S HIM
WON ANOTHER ONE
AND I MAY NEVER TURN MY CAPS LOCK OFF
RWA approved the creation of the Rainbow Chapter in 2009. 2009.
It took them that long
to openly acknowledge that queer romance is romance. And now, in 2016, TWO male/male romances, one of them written by a queer author and published by a queer publisher for a queer audience
and one of them in a contemporary romance category
, are winners of the organization's highest award.
The contemporary romance thing is key because queer romance is often assumed to be erotic, or treated as though it's erotic just because it has queer content. So winning both within and outside of the erotic romance category is a big deal. And the Ritas are voted on by RWA members, most of whom are straight women who have probably never read anything remotely like the glorious queer kinkiness of For Real
Hall's editor, sarahf
, gave a particular shout-out to #ownvoices authors, "queer and trans, black and brown". (Was that the first time anyone's ever said "trans" onstage at RWA? It might well have been.) And Sarah is a cancer survivor and a good friend of mine and so passionate about her work, and has put an incredible amount of effort and energy into making her small queer romance press succeed, and this is their first Rita, so yeah, I was sobbing.
Robyn Carr, who won this year's lifetime achievement award, gave an amazing inspiring speech about keeping your head down and doing the work. And last night I picked up my writing notebook for the first time in nearly two months and read a bit in The Plot Whisperer
, and one particular bit in the section on story structure inspired me to fix the giant gaping hole in my novel outline. (I know what the characters' problems are and I know what the eventual solution is. So what makes that solution so incredibly difficult for the characters to accept and invest themselves in? What psychological cliff do they have to step over? OH HELLO EMOTIONAL CLIMAX scribble scribble scribble
) What with that and Readercon and seeing a book that looks a little like my book win an actual goddamn Rita motherfucking Award, I am pretty fired up.
Here is some advice on road trips with babies!Driving
* A friend recommended putting the baby in overnight diapers to prevent rashes from lots of sitting and keep the baby from complaining between stops. We ended up not doing this because Kit doesn't really complain about wet/dirty diapers; we just stopped every two hours to give them a break from the car seat (which is very important to do) and changed them then. That said, they did start to get a bit of diaper rash redness by the end of the trip, so if you don't use super-absorbent diapers, I recommend applying diaper rash ointment proactively/preventively.
* If possible, stop at restaurants rather than highway rest stops. It's so much easier and nicer to change the baby in a restaurant bathroom than in a noisy, crowded rest stop bathroom where a dozen high-velocity hand dryers make a horrible noise that makes the baby scream, and restaurant food is better and tastier than rest stop fast food. Second-best option for a quick change: stop at a Babies R Us or similar baby supply store, which is guaranteed to have a well-appointed changing room.
* Expect each stop to somehow take at least 30 minutes even if all you're doing is changing the baby and giving them a little wriggle time. (Pack a picnic blanket you can lay out on a table or a bench or that little strip of sorry grass next to the parking lot.)
* Bring a few extra layers of clothing for the baby so you don't feel any urge to drape a blanket over the car seat even if you're cranking up the air conditioning in the car.
* If your kid isn't yet weaned, you may want a policy of only feeding liquids in the car so you don't have any concerns about choking hazards. Obviously you should NEVER EVER breastfeed in the car. Apparently this is a thing people do? Don't do it. Bottle-feed in motion, or breastfeed at a rest stop.
* Pack your regular diaper bag with everything you'd need for a day trip and have it handy for rest stops. If someone's sitting in the back seat with the baby (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED) they can also dip into it for toys, pacifiers, etc. en route. You won't need many toys with a young baby; they'll mostly want to look around and sleep. (And you'll mostly want them to sleep.)
* Have a prepared playlist of music that's soothing for the baby but not soporific for the driver. Ella Fitzgerald singing heartbreak songs was perfect for putting Kit to sleep while I stayed alert.
* If no one's in the back seat, consider getting a car seat mirror so you can occasionally glance back and make sure all's well. But they can be major distractions, so use with caution.
* Don't be afraid of side roads and alternate routes, even if they slow you down a bit. It's more soothing for the baby if you drive steadily at 40 MPH than if you sit in stop-and-go traffic on the interstate.
* We got these cling-on window shades
and they worked perfectly: easy to put on when it was sunny and take down in the evening, effective at shading the baby. They're great for rental cars and safe in accidents (unlike shades with metal edges).
* Consider a car seat protector
to keep the area under and around the car seat clean. It's especially useful if your kid is at the Cheerios-scattering age, or if you're worried about damage to car upholstery. Waterproof car seat liners
are vital for kids prone to spit-up, diaper leakage, or toilet training accidents. Get two so if the one in the car seat is soiled mid-trip, you can swap it out.Overnight stays
* If you're staying in a hotel and storing breast milk or pre-made formula in the room's mini-fridge, bring a fridge thermometer to make sure the fridge is at an adequately cold temperature. Remember to pack a little travel bottle of dish detergent and a bottle brush for washing bottles.
* Graco Pack 'n' Play travel cribs are the awesome. They're easy to set up and take down, and they work as playpens and/or changing stations during the day as well as cribs at night. Kit's regular crib at home is a mini crib, so we bring their mattress and sheets along. If that's not an option for you, get a thin mini-crib mattress (takes up barely any space) and some mini-crib sheets and mattress pads that you launder a few times to give them that familiar smell; your baby will sleep much better surrounded by the scents of home.
* Get a travel humidifier for use in hotel rooms, which always have extremely dry air.
* Expect to have two duffel bags worth of stuff for the baby even just for a weekend. Diapers take up a lot of space, especially cloth (disposables have the advantage of not coming home with you). So does bedding, and you'll want extra in case of spit-up. Kit's very drooly right now because of teething and we went through two bibs and four to six burp cloths a day. Bring a laundry bag to make it easy to tell what's clean and what's not.
* Traveling with cloth diapers is a challenge. We used a Planet Wise hanging wet/dry bag
for Kit's cloth diapers and it was fantastic--there was no smell leakage at all, even after days on the road, so we could just throw it in the trunk of the car with the suitcases. A smaller wet/dry bag with five diapers went in the diaper bag and was equally useful.
* Don't forget to bring a stroller or carrier for toting the baby around outside the car. A car seat frame may seem tempting, but your kid's already spending a lot of time in the car seat, and it's better for them if you can change it up a bit.
* Pack a first aid kit that includes gas drops, your antihistamine of choice, Tylenol, saline spray/drops and a snot-sucker, and a thermometer. If your kid gets a cold or has an allergic reaction mid-trip, you'll want all your vital supplies on hand. Calamine lotion is great if you're anticipating bug bites.
That's all I can think of off the top of my head, but I am happy to answer questions about anything I missed!
We went to Readercon and we are home.( Things that went wrong (a partial list) )
And yet despite all this, we had a genuinely very good time. J's mother came to the con and was immensely helpful with Kit. J and I both did several panels that went well, and I got to have the baby on my lap for part of the "Writing While Parenting" panel. My "Story Hospital" experiment was largely successful, though there are definitely ways it could be improved. X remembered how much they like socializing (sometimes) (with the right people). I got to tell Tim Powers how much Last Call
means to me. We got to see old friends and meet internet friends, most especially the luminous mrissa
; it wasn't a year for making new friends, but that's fine, there will be other years for that. We finally introduced Kit to roddenberrypie
, who absolutely lit up. Lots and lots of people cooed over the baby, who smiled at everyone despite teething pain and crowds and loudness--I was especially charmed by ninocipri
's gasps and exclamations over Kit's cuteness ("How DARE that baby!"). Our usual little room party was a little subdued because we were so tired, but we still got to introduce some of our friends to one another and hear some tasty industry gossip. The drive back was very smooth. And on the way home, we went to the Mystic Diner again and Kit discovered that a plastic packet of oyster crackers makes an excellent rattle. I immediately sent photos to my New England–born mother. :)
Notes for future years:
* The drive can be done with two stops. One of them should be the Mystic Diner. It has a changing table and a kids' menu and food all of us can eat, everyone there is really nice, service is quick, there are lots of families with kids, and it's right off I-95. Not sure where the other stop should be, but it definitely should NOT be the Fairfield highway rest stop. Look for another diner somewhere around Stamford, maybe.
* The "take I-95 until the end of time" route works pretty well other than the twisty bit through Providence getting kind of hairy. Might be worth trying out I-84 and I-90 as alternatives.
* Pack two big ice packs for post-drive use when we get to the con. Leave the other two in the freezer for when we get home.
* Do a better job of packing the things we might need for the baby where we can get to them at rest stops.
* We never use the carrier or the car seat cover. We use the stroller and the bouncy seat a lot.
* The natural foods store in Quincy is A M A Z I N G and we should stock up on things from there for room snacks etc.
* X and I both really like driving the Prius.
* Sleep more. Eat more. Have more fun!
- thinking about:
body.digestion, body.sleep, events.cons, events.cons.readercon, experiences.disaster, experiences.driving, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina
I was weeping on J and X tonight about how hard it is having my empathy cranked to maximum so I can try to understand what the baby wants/needs and do the right thing. J pointed out that the consequences of guessing wrong are really pretty minor. Oh no, I fed the baby even though they weren't all that hungry! I put them down when they wanted to be held! So what?
Then he said, "But you have a hard time around people who aren't in control."
X and I both whipped our heads up.
People who aren't in control. People who are volatile. Worrying about doing the wrong thing and not making their distress go away. Staying attuned to the tiniest shift in their behavior and leaping into action. Telling myself stories about what they're thinking. Oh yes, I know exactly how that one goes.
Kit's had a cold for the past few days and I've been a total wreck. When they get sick, my anxiety goes through the roof. I think this is part of why. They need something I can't provide, and in an abusive situation, that's doom forever. And I begin to see the illness as the abuser that I desperately need to appease or it will take the person I love away from me. It doesn't matter that all Kit has is a very minor cold and they're in zero danger. It doesn't matter that there is absolutely nothing I can do to speed the healing along. The fear is bigger than reason. It's big enough to swallow the sun. My world has been very dark recently. I can't stop hovering over the crib, can't make myself sleep, can barely eat--the moment I stop being vigilant is the moment something bad will happen, I just know it. And I berate myself for my deficiency, my anxiety, my lack of cheerful calm (my lack of a protective mask, my failure to protect Kit from my feelings), my failure to make everything perfect, while hardly realizing whose voices I hear those words in.
Not the baby's voice, though. The baby can't say those things and doesn't think those things. The baby is maybe thinking something like "I don't like the way my body feels" or maybe just "Blaaaarh". The baby doesn't blame me; they don't even have the concept of cause and effect yet. And what baby hasn't been cried on by a parent at one time or another? "If running out of cope makes you a bad parent," X told me tonight, "there are no good parents."
So I figured I'd post this for other parents who have also been in abusive relationships and might find this dynamic familiar. Because as soon as I realized that was what I was doing, I realized I could stop doing it. The baby can't hurt me. They're a baby. I have all the power in the relationship. I have to behave responsibly, but for moral reasons, not because I'm scared. If I try to do the right thing and sometimes get it wrong, the baby won't rage at me, or punch the wall, or spit cruel words, or shut me out. They won't take my wrongness as a sign of my deficiency or think I don't love them anymore. They'll just do their best to communicate that they still have unmet needs, and when I figure out the right thing to do, they'll go right back to smiling at me and trying to grab my glasses.
I have been holding the baby and whispering "I've got you, you're safe" a lot. Maybe I needed to tell myself too.
There's a closet in Kit's room that we use for storing winter coats and things. They've never seen it open. Today X was holding them and opened the closet.
They spent the next several minutes looking around the room like "What the fuck ELSE is a door? Are there magic portals just fucking everywhere? Have you been keeping this from me this entire time?"
They looked at the ceiling. "Is THAT a door?"
X, helpfully: "Well, actually that part there slides open so you can get to the attic--"
R: "STOP TRAUMATIZING THE BABY."
J comes in. We explain what happened. Kit is still looking around, astonished and suspicious.
J: "Aw, they're looking at the ceiling wondering if there's a door there too. Actually, there is the entrance to the attic--"
R and X: "STOP TRAUMATIZING THE BABY."
Many things about fairy tales, Narnia, and the TARDIS suddenly become clear.
My Readercon schedule fills me with GLEEEEEEE.
Friday July 08
2:00 PM BH Welcome to Readercon. Jonathan Crowe, Rose Fox, Emily Wagner. New to Readercon? Not new, but curious about what might be different this year? Our program chair and other Readercon regulars will give you some peeks behind the scenes and suggestions about all the cool not-to-miss stuff. We're nice. Come hang out.
Saturday July 09
2:00 PM C The Return of Writing While Parenting. Rose Fox, Nicole Kornher-Stace (leader), Ken Liu, Kate Maruyama, Kit Reed. This panel will discuss the difficulties of parenting while writing (as opposed to working a job while writing, which is for the most part a very different challenge) and how the panelists have managed to reconcile their parenting duties with their writing needs and responsibilities. Panelists may include parents of small children and older children, writers who parent full-time, parents who write full-time, and children and spouses of writers.
As the child of writers and as a writer and parent, I have lots and lots and lots of opinions and feelings about this. And I'm delighted that Kit and Kate will be providing the parent/child dynamic in real time!
3:00 PM BH Story Hospital. Jeanne Cavelos, Michael Cisco, John Crowley, Rose Fox (leader), Lila Garrott, Maria Dahvana Headley, Elaine Isaak, Keffy Kehrli, Robert Killheffer, Kate Nepveu, Terence Taylor. Story Hospital pairs up writers with editors and reviewers for 10-minute discussions of what's broken in their WIPs and how to start fixing it. Think of it like a pitch session where the editor's already on your side, or speed dating where you actually want the other person to tell you what you're doing wrong. Writers: come prepared to quickly and succinctly explain what you're working on and the problems you're facing. Our handpicked team of editors, reviewers, writing teachers, and enthusiastic readers will bring thinking caps and kind hearts. Leave your manuscripts and red pens at home--this is a 10-minute spoken conversation only--but bring cards with your contact info in case you both want to continue the conversation later. The discussions will be facilitated (and stopwatch will be wielded) by longtime editor and critic Rose Fox. Sign up in advance at the information desk. We have room for 30 writers and their brilliant ideas.
LOOK AT THAT STORY HOSPITAL DREAM TEAM. I am SO EXCITED for this. I hope I can matchmake a bit based on genre, but even if I just go strictly by sign-up order, I think any writer will benefit from a conversation with any of those brilliant people.
I think this is exactly the right amount of workload for my first Readercon with baby in tow. One hour on Friday, two consecutive hours Saturday, all done. With two other parents and a grandparent to keep an eye on Kit, I should be able to manage that. :)
Will you be at Readercon? If you are, find me and say hi!
I first posted this on Twitter, where lots of people have shared very kind replies. I'm posting it here too, in part so I can find that thread when I need a boost but in part because I am having a pretty hard time and will take all the support I can get right now.
I have been hiding for a while. Posting less here, and locking a lot of posts. Locking my "public" Twitter account. Staying quiet about a lot of things that I might once have been loud about. Hiding feels safest right now. But it also means I feel invisible, unseen, even by those who I would like to see me.
It's the nature of editing that my work mostly goes unnoticed. It's the nature of being non-binary, being biethnic, that no one who looks at me knows what they're seeing. It's the nature of being new parents that we are all too tired to perform our usual small acts of noticing and gratitude to one another. But all of this making perfect sense doesn't make it easier to feel myself vanishing.
One person who replied on Twitter said that parenting is very isolating. I keep thinking none of this is related to becoming a parent, because that's been so easy in so many ways. But then I think about how much more I hide myself in order to keep my child safe, and the connection becomes clearer.
I've been very visible and loud my whole life, and on the whole I've liked it and benefited from it. (Loudness is a different kind of survival tactic.) Now I get one taste of it every year at Readercon, and the rest of the time... I'm invisible.
If I've done a thing that touched you, that made me real to you, please tell me. It would help a lot right now. Thank you.
The Brexit news is wretched and I can't pay too much attention to it or I fall into this sort of stupor of grief. Fortunately we had a lot to distract us today: our first-ever car trip as a family, the minimum-three-hour drive to visit J's mother upstate.
Prior to this, the longest drive I'd ever done was the two hours between Boston and New Haven for last year's Readercon travel Rube Goldberg machine
. And my arms have been very cranky, as noted elsewhere, and my knees have been a little cranky, as I think I haven't even bothered noting because there's so much other stuff going on; highway driving is fine for my knees but stop-and-go is awful, and anytime we drive out of NYC there's going to be stop-and-go unless we leave in the middle of the night, which we can't do because baby. And X has their learner's permit but their driving test isn't until next week, so they can't spell me as the driver when we're renting a car. So we were all concerned about how that was going to go. I had a tiny little additional anx over never having rented a Zipcar before, but at least I'd seen other people do it and basically understood the process.
Kit does great in cab rides but has never been in a car for more than an hour. They've also never slept overnight anywhere other than our house (not counting the hospital where they were born). So we had no idea what or how much to pack, and had no idea how often we'd need to stop, and had no idea whether Kit would abruptly run out of "happy to be in the car" before we reached our destination. Plus I was nervous about the responsibility of being the driver with the baby in the car.
Given all of that, it's a wonder we only all snapped and griped at each other a few times over the course of getting ready and getting on the road. And then it went totally fine
. We planned the fuck out of it, and 98% of the plan worked, and the 2% that didn't (Kit's folding crib not fitting in the rental car trunk; me packing all the burp cloths in a duffel that we put in the trunk) were things we had a backup plan for (I remembered that you can see a Babies R Us sign from I-87 in the Bronx--I've gone by it a million times in Chinatown buses--so we stopped there and bought a super compact folding crib/playpen that juuuuust fit in the back with the rest of our stuff) or coped with well on the fly (X noticed the lack of burp cloths and grabbed a few more before we left the house). My knee was kind of murderous after the two hours of stop-and-go traffic that got us to the Bronx, but traffic was much lighter the rest of the way and it recovered quickly. X was a superb navigator and deejay in the front seat while J entertained the baby in the back seat. Kit slept, ate, complacently tolerated being changed in the Babies R Us bathroom, slept, ate, complacently tolerated being briefly extricated from the car seat at a rest area where I stopped to eat a sandwich and have J jab the pressure points in my shoulders, and then cheerfully babbled and watched the sun-dapple through the trees for the last 45 minutes of the drive while J sang them silly songs and cracked us all up. We started the trip grumpy and anxious, but I think we all ended it feeling much more relaxed and content.
After nearly five hours of travel, we arrived at Glory's house, where she was standing out front waiting for us so as not to miss a single minute of her grandchild. We set up Kit's folding chair right in the driveway and plunked them in it, and they looked around wide-eyed at their ecstatic grandmother and all the glorious trees and then gave us a huge beaming smile. I have never felt so good about my life choices as I did in that moment. All the stress, all the fretting, all the physical discomfort was 100% worth it to see my baby smile like that.
While I iced my arms and knee (which all felt pretty good, but why take chances), J and X unloaded the car and Glory doted on the baby. J brought all the heavy bags in and then swung right into cooking dinner while X took point on feeding Kit, which was a bit of a challenge as we were sitting on the porch and they kept getting distracted by all the trees. So many trees! All moving constantly with wonderful breezes that smell so delicious! Kit happily sat on Glory's lap, happily let X take them inside and finish feeding them away from the distractions, happily had their diaper changed and put on pajamas, and happily lay down in their new crib (on their familiar mattress, with familiar music playing and a fan for white noise--we wanted to take as few chances with sleep as possible). More than an hour after their usual bedtime, they were still wide awake. But we all said goodnight and turned the lights down and left them to settle, and after a few minutes of babbling quietly--to themself? to the house spirits? who knows? it's not a thing they usually do--they conked right out. That was four and a half hours ago and they haven't woken yet.
Friends, I don't know what we did in a past life to deserve this baby. I think we were a trio of saints.
I'm already trying to figure out how often we can come up here. A five-hour drive is no picnic, even once X can split it with me; we all took today off to make it happen. I can't imagine doing the trip on a two-day weekend. Even a three-day weekend is pushing it. But Kit is so happy
here. My little elfling. :) At the very least we should take more walks in Prospect Park. Trees! Trees are the best.
I'm so glad we have this trip as a trial run before going to Readercon in two weeks. By the end of the weekend we'll have a much better idea of what we need to bring with us and what's overkill. We'll know what to pack where we can reach it during the trip and what can go in the trunk. (I'm still embarrassed about the burp cloths.) We'll know the car; we've already reserved the same one for the Readercon trip. (I'm not sure I'd rent it a third time, but it's good enough that familiarity trumps wanting a car where the gas pedal is not set so much further forward than the brake pedal that it's literally impossible for me to find a comfortable seat position.) We'll know which of our travel gear works and is useful, instead of just having to hope. (Static cling car window shades: amazing. The thing that goes under the car seat and protects the upholstery: probably not necessary until Kit's old enough to be dropping Cheerios everywhere.) We'll know how often we need to stop and take breaks. We'll know that my "quiet and mellow" playlist is something the baby can sleep through--though frankly I wouldn't be surprised if Kit slept through Darude's "Sandstorm", Hamilton
, or Beethoven's Fifth--but not so mellow that it puts me to sleep while I'm driving. We'll know that our baby is an amazing travel baby
. And we'll know that we're a pretty amazing travel family: we may be a little irritable as we're getting on the road, but we can recover from that and go on to have a decent trip and a good time at our destination. Plus there should be a lot less irritability on the next trip, now that we have any idea what we're doing.
I didn't mean to type so much; I should go do my OT exercises, ice my arms a bit more, and get some sleep. I'm just so glad that at least in our tiny little corner of the world, everything went okay today. I needed that.
- thinking about:
behavior.planning, body.arms, experiences.driving, experiences.travel, mind.feelings, mind.feelings.joy, people.family, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, places.us.ny.mosswood
I went to see a new occupational therapist today. She instructed me to look at everything I use my arms for and figure out how to do it more ergonomically. If I'm not sure how to make improvements, I can have someone take photos of me and she'll help me troubleshoot.
* Using my laptop. I just bought a very clever folding standing desk that hooks over a door
, which means I can use it in my bedroom where there's a/c but no room for a desk or table, and will set it up with my laptop and ergonomic keyboard; hopefully that will help. Nothing to be done about using the laptop when I'm out and about, unless I want to spend another $300 on a ZestDesk
. (There are much cheaper folding standing desks, such as the $25 Oristand
, but they're hard to tote around.) I'm also going to try OS X's built-in voice recognition; it doesn't work for InCopy, but it's good for social media. I am, in fact, dictating this sentence right now. The selection commands don't seem to work very well within this Chrome window, but I'm impressed by the speed of it and how well it understands my commands when I'm speaking at a normal rate.
* Using my phone. Holding it is hard and swiping on it is hard. I don't know what to do about this. Just use it less, I guess. I should definitely use the voice recognition more, since it's surprisingly good.
* Folding laundry. Ergonomically it's okay, I think; I stand at a table that's a good height. It's just a strain.
* Reading books. I downloaded Moon+ Reader, an Android e-book app with pretty decent auto-scroll functions; it can do continuous scroll on epubs, and for PDFs it'll do this wacky thing where it starts unrolling the next page at the top of the screen while you're reading the bottom half of the current one. If I can prop up my tablet and auto-scroll a book, that gives me something to do while putting ice on my arms, and is generally easier on me than holding a physical book. I've been using auto-scroll in Chrome to read books on Gutenberg and it works really well.
* Driving. The OT recommended changing hand positions frequently, doing upper back stretches (bringing my shoulder blades together) while driving, and taking breaks to rest and shake out my arms and shoulders. I also plan to bring our giant ice packs in an insulated bag. They won't be frozen solid by the time we stop for a break, but any cold is better than nothing.
* Picking up the baby. The OT suggested scooping from the side (one arm supporting the baby's head, the other supporting the bum), which uses my upper arms, rather than lifting under the armpits, which uses my forearms.
* Pushing a stroller. Hard to change the ergonomics of that, but we just bought a lovely shiny 10-pound Maclaren Volo that will be much easier to push and lift than our splendidly feature-rich but heavy Graco Modes; the Volo even has a carrying strap to use when it's folded up. We also got an Ergobaby 360 carrier that's better ergonomically for both us and the baby than the Baby Bjorn. X would rather push a stroller than use the carrier, especially in the summer, so they'll bring the baby to daycare in the Volo, and I'll pick them up with the 360 and either push the Volo home empty or fold it and carry it with the strap.
What the hell else do I even do with my hands these days? X and J have been taking over a lot of my chores so I can rest and recover. And I already know not to stir a pot or chop vegetables or carry grocery bags by hand. I suppose this is enough to change, anyway. Just another way that I'm shaking up my life. Might as well do it all at once. (I am very glum today, but that always happens on my first day of physical therapy or equivalent; it brings up a lot of miserable feelings about how long I've been in pain and how hard it is to believe that I'll ever really get better. I'll be okay once I've had a chance to get some rest.)
Someone just wrote to me asking for advice on getting started building a dapper wardrobe, and of course I have LOTS of advice. I figured I'd share it here too.
Style inspiration: I love looking at portraits of the original dapper dandy, Beau Brummel, and his fellow Regency-era men. A quick Google search for "Regency men's clothing" will give you a ton. If you like more flamboyant styles, researching the fops and fribbles who predated him is also a lot of fun. In the modern era, try looking up drag kings, who have fabulous style and do interesting things with the basics of menswear. Or flip through the catalogs/websites of high-end butchwear companies even though you can't afford anything they make.
Buying clothes: EBAY EBAY EBAY. I'm a boy's size 16/18 in shirts, and it turns out there are a lot of teen boys who wear very nice shirts once and outgrow them, and then their parents put them (the shirts, not the boys) up on Ebay for pennies. The best thing is that many of them are posted with measurements as well as size numbers. Buy a few different brands and see what fits. You can also go to a big department store and try on things from the boys section. Men's trousers are more difficult to find unless you're skinny all the way down; I have a small waist and a big butt, and I do pretty well with Old Navy men's jeans as long as they're a tapered fit. Don't shy away from fitted clothing. Baggy pants won't hide your shape--they'll just make you look shlumpy, and you won't feel good about yourself, which hampers the self-confident attitude that's the true hallmark of the dandy.
In one word, I teach you the secret of success in dapperness: ACCESSORIZE.
The most obvious accessory is the tie. If you have a short torso, regular men's ties will be much too long for you, so get pre-tied clip-on or zip-up ties for kids (very easy to find on Ebay in a wide range of colors and sizes) or wear bow ties. You can also try bolo or string ties if that's your style. I like wearing a vertical pin on my shirt placket to give the suggestion of a tie without the formality of one.
My favorite way to dress up a button-up shirt is with a vest; it can be hard to find one that fits if your chest is big, but a little subtle tailoring can turn a blocky square vest into something smooth and glorious that also hides your waistline a bit. Sweater vests stretch to accommodate your shape and are great for autumn. In the winter, wear suit jackets. In the summer, wear a white cotton undershirt (I like Hanes men's small) to soak up sweat and keep your thin cotton shirt from wrinkling or going transparent. Use shirt stays--they're like suspenders that attach your shirt to the top of your socks and keep it tucked in and smooth. A neatly folded pocket square or a pair of suspenders can also do wonders, though I find that I have to wear a binder (gc2b is an excellent brand) if I want suspenders to lie properly on my chest.
And hats! Hats are great! My preferred hat shop is Goorin Bros. even though they inexplicably started dividing their collection into "men's" and "women's"; ignore those artificial distinctions and get yourself a fedora (we can reclaim them from the whiny bros) or a flat cap. If you have long hair, either tuck it up into a hat or wear your hair in whatever long style is associated with men of your race/culture (single ponytail, single long braid, tidy dreads, loose and all one length--there are a surprising number of options even if you don't think of there being long hair styles for men), with or without a hat.
Get shoes from Tomboy Toes, or from Payless, which has some decent men's shoes in very small sizes for very cheap. My first pair of shiny captoes in size 5.5 came from Payless and cost something like $20. I still have them and love them, even though the soles have cracked.
Pay attention to detail. If you're wearing a jacket, shoot your cuffs. Shine your shoes. Wear silk socks and boxer briefs, even if no one but you will know. Iron your handkerchief. Wear earrings that match your cuff links. Wear men's shirts rather than masculine-styled women's shirts so that the buttons are on the correct side, and never ever wear a men's shirt with a women's jacket or vice versa. The little touches that pull an outfit together are really what give the impression of dandyness.
I am getting really tired of people asking "Boy or girl?" and "Is this your first?" and "How are you sleeping?" and have also been caught without suitable alternatives when meeting other people's babies. So here, have two lists of useful, appropriate, non-intrusive things to say when someone (EDIT: by which I meant someone you don't know well--apologies for not making that clear!) tells you they have a baby, introduces you to the baby, or shows you pictures of the baby. If you feel totally lost when confronted with babies, memorize these lists and you will come off like the world's #1 baby fan.
1) Statements. Statements are great! They make no assumptions at all--they don't even assume that the parent is the biological parent, or is happy to be a parent (that day or at all)--and don't require the parent to give you information that might turn out to be way more personal than you (or they) want. Statements can also be made directly to the baby, which further reduces the risk of asking accidentally inappropriate questions or hearing discomfiting anecdotes from parents given to TMI.
- "Congratulations/mazel tov/that's wonderful!"
- "What a cutie!"
- "Oh gosh, so adorable!"
- "That's a great outfit!"
- "Look at all that hair/that bald little head!"
- "Look at those smishable cheeks!"
- "What long fingers/toes!"
- "ELBOW DIMPLES OMG" (Seriously, you are permitted and encouraged to be loudly impressed by any visible part of the baby, because literally every part of a baby is, by definition, cute.)
- "Aw, you're getting sleepy."
- "Aw, you're a little shy. That's okay, kiddo, you're not required to make friends."
- "Wow, what a smile!"
- "You're making noises with your mouth! That's so cool!"
- "You just cooed/farted/grabbed that toy! Yes you did!" (This sort of babble sounds like nonsense but it really is part of how babies learn to identify objects and actions.)
- "Who's the cutest baby in the immediate vicinity? It's you!" (Asking and answering rhetorical questions teaches babies the patterns of conversation. I'm not making this up.)
- "What a strong grip! Ha ha, guess you want to take my finger home with you!" (You washed your hands before touching the baby, right? Good.)
In essence, you are agreeing that the baby is a baby, and approving of the baby's baby-like qualities. You really can't go wrong with this.
2) Minimally invasive questions. Any question is going to put the parent on the spot a bit, but these at least avoid the possibility of answers involving infertility, miscarriage, life-threatening labor complications, and the like.
- "What's the baby's name?"
- "When was the baby born/how old is the baby?" (Do not follow this up with a comment on the baby being big or small for their age, or on expected milestones.)
- "What's the latest exciting thing the baby learned to do?"
- "Can I do anything for you?"
- "I'd love to give you a present for the baby--is there anything you especially want or need?"
- "I've/we've got a baby on the way--any advice or recommendations?"
- "May I come over and babysit sometime?"
Topics to avoid, unless you are a close personal friend of the parent and they have indicated that such topics are fair game (because obviously these aren't things that one may never
talk about, but they need to be handled with some care and context matters a lot):
- The baby's health (including eating, sleeping, and digestion), size, personality, intelligence, or well-being.
- The parents' health, weight/size (yes, people make comments about the bodies of people who've given birth, it's terrible and disgusting), age, mood, parenting skills, or well-being.
- Labor and delivery. Even if you've given birth yourself and are well equipped to offer support and sympathy over a hard labor, hesitate before asking someone to recall what may have been a traumatic experience.
- The process of procreation, including plans for any frozen eggs, sperm, or embryos.
- The process of adoption, guardianship, or fostering, or anything regarding the baby's birth family.
- Existing or future siblings.
- The baby's assigned gender or genital anatomy.
- The baby's race, citizenship, or ethnic heritage.
- The baby's intelligence or achievements.
- Comparing the baby with their age cohort or with any other individual child in any way.
- Plans for the baby's education.
- Plans for the baby's religious upbringing/education or lack thereof.
- Plans for childcare.
- The baby's future profession or accomplishments.
Folks with kids, feel free to let me know what you think I should add to any of these lists!
The Con or Bust auction is going on right now, and you can bid on a tea-and-advice date with me!http://con-or-bust.org/2016/05/tea-and-advice-with-rose-fox/
There are only two bids up there right now, and the top four bids win, so bid early and often. :) And if we're not going to be in the same geographical location anytime soon, we can have a Skype-and-advice date instead.
Con or Bust is a fantastic organization that gives people of color financial support and free memberships to attend SF/F conventions. They've helped hundreds of fans and do amazing work. I'm thrilled to be supporting them by donating my time, and I hope you will support them too by bidding (there are lots of other delicious things up for auction, including jewelry and signed first editions), donating to a future auction, and/or spreading the word. Fan-run fan-supporting organizations like Con or Bust are part of what make the SF/F community so great--please help them keep doing their amazing work!
asked me whether I knew of or had written a post on using Slack
for households. I don't know of one, so I decided to write one.
For those not familiar with Slack, it's a chat room app, as distinct from a one-on-one chat app. It runs basically like IRC, if you're old enough to remember IRC. :) The fundamentals are:
* multiple users
* timestamped chat in text and emoji
* topic-based conversations in individual chat rooms called channels
* personal conversations by direct message (DM), one-on-one or in groups
* importing and integration of images, documents, links, etc.
* searchable archives
* hierarchy of owners, admins, and users, plus a programmable autoresponder called Slackbot
* can be used on the web, in a desktop app, or in a phone app, with various types of notifications
* reasonably full-featured for free, accessible pricing for additional features
Slack is pitched as a platform for business collaboration
. I've never used it that way. But I'm currently part of five different active Slacks and one that's gone dormant. The active ones are the Subtle House household Slack, two social Slacks, and two project Slacks. The inactive one was an attempt to be a combined project and social Slack and it never really got off the ground for reasons I'll get into below.( Longread )
And most importantly: Your Slack will work if everyone enjoys using it and finds it valuable.
Now that we're starting Kit on solid foods, I'm trying to figure out when to give them food, and how to include them in mealtimes. I don't think they've ever really seen us eat! J and X leave work at 6 and have ~45-minute commutes, so usually J cooks while X and I put the baby to bed, and then the adults have dinner around 8 after Kit's asleep. And mornings are such a rush; I'm not awake then, but I think J and X usually grab a quick breakfast during Kit's morning nap. So I think for now, solid food will have to happen on the baby's schedule, and I guess once they're old enough to stay up until 9, they can have dinner with us at 8. (I was always a night owl and perfectly comfortable eating on an adult schedule, so the whole "kids have early dinner" thing totally baffles me.)
Parent-type friends, what do/did your young kids' mealtime schedules look like? How did you manage this transition?
Many months ago, before there was a Kit in the world, I went over to kissane
's place to hang out with them. I think kissane
and I were having a work date or something. meetar
came home and was v. tired and shagged out after a long day. He went to their music player and put on some amazing soothing music I'd never heard before. It was the most relaxing. "What is this?" I asked in wonder. He told me it was Brian Eno's "Thursday Afternoon"
I fell in love with it. I played it for X, who fell in love with it. And one night when we had a fussy baby, X played it for them. Now, every night at bedtime, we play "Thursday Afternoon" and rock Kit until they get sleepy, and then we put them in the crib to sleep. And every night I think how glad I am that meetar
happened to be in need of some soothing music that day.
Today I downloaded "Thursday Afternoon" to the tablet we have over the crib for a baby monitor, so it could sing Kit to sleep. Just now they woke up yelling--poor baby, trying to get used to dreaming, which really is such a weird thing--and I put my hand on their belly and put the music back on. They settled right back to sleep. Out like a light.
The only snag is that we have to wait for the track to finish, or sneak in and turn it off*, before we can use the sound-activated baby monitor. But that is a very small price to pay for an aural sleep-cue that is 60 minutes long, can be turned off at any point without a strong sense of interruption, doesn't become boring or annoying no matter how long or how often you listen to it, and doesn't require a parent to sing the same three-minute song over and over to the point of hoarseness. New parents and parents-to-be: I recommend it very very highly.* At some point I'm sure we will set up some sort of networked speakers, or root the tablet so we can remote-control it. Right now, tiptoeing in works fine (and lets us stare at the baby a little bit too).
X and J and I all have separate bedrooms and keep different schedules. This has led to us being the most well-rested parents of a newborn in the history of ever (other than those who have 24/7 nannies, I suppose). J naturally wakes up around 7 a.m. and I naturally go to bed around 3 a.m., so we shifted our schedules two hours each and met in the middle, doing a shift change at 5; our bodies didn't entirely love it, but we at least got decent rest for six or seven hours a night/day. Once X stopped having to get up in the middle of the night to pump breastmilk, they got to sleep their natural hours, which was really important for C-section recovery.
Four and a half months later, Kit is now consistently sleeping through the night. There's been a bit of four-month sleep regression
waking (or maybe a growth spurt? They've also been super hungry and eating huge meals) over the last couple of nights, but mostly they can self-soothe back to sleep when they wake up. (This is a skill they taught themself; we can claim no credit at all for sleep training.) We've nudged their bedtime from 7 to 8 so they have a better chance of sleeping until 6. And X is pretty well recovered from the surgery. So as of tonight, I go to bed when I want to and J gets up when he wants to, and in between, X sleeps with the monitor on. Specifically, I tiptoe into their room and turn it on when I go to bed, and J tiptoes in and turns it off when he gets up, so that X isn't woken by baby-fussing when someone else is already awake to handle it. X is a very sound sleeper and falls back asleep easily once woken, so this should work pretty well.
I really appreciate that X immediately said "Yes, I'm totally happy to take my turn being at risk for sleep disruption" as soon as I suggested the change. Yay for good partnership and load-sharing. 💞
The only downside for me is that I won't get to see sleepy J in the mornings. But since he's not getting up at 5 anymore, I'll get to see much more awake J for longer in the evenings, which will be stellar.
I don't even know what to do with all this freedom! I'll be able to have noon lunch dates again! I could go to bed at 2 and get up at 10! I could get most of my work done during daylight hours! I only just finalized a schedule last week, and tonight I spent a couple of hours revising it and putting it into Gcal. But I'm really happy with where it is now, and especially with the lovely long stretch between 01:30 and 12:00 that contains getting ready for bed, eight hours of sleep, and two hours of time to myself (as distinct from work time) that I can enjoy before and/or after sleep, as I choose
. And never going to bed later than 4. *happy dance*
It'll probably be a little while before my body clock (such as it is) gets used to this, but oh, I can't wait
to be used to it.
Copied from a letter I just wrote to a friend:
I have been thinking a lot about writing, and getting into some good conversations about it, and doing some good reading about it. It's making me realize just how little I know about the craft and process of creating a book. I know it abstractly, in broad strokes, but not the nitty-gritty. And some of what I think I know is wrong, which is actually great, because the stuff I'm unlearning is stuff that was holding me back. I'm doing a lot of poking at outlining right now, for example, and unlearning all my notions about how one goes about making an outline--it's not the same thing as a synopsis at all! It's a crafted piece of writing, the way the book itself is a crafted piece of writing, but using a totally different skill set. And there are lots of different possible ways to craft an outline. You can write it start to finish, or you can develop a set of hypotheses and test them (a notion that made me really get the idea of doing preliminary character sketches first, because in order to do plot-chemistry with your characters you have to understand their characteristics and how they interact and what makes them explode), or you can develop your outline as you're writing the book and let them argue with each other, or any number of things. I could even make a flowchart outline with images for the scenes instead of words! I didn't know any of this, really, and the idea of outlining is now much more interesting and appealing than it used to be. It feels like a useful tool instead of building a cage that my story is trapped inside of.
So in retrospect it feels sort of silly to say "I started actively trying to learn things and lo! I have learned things" but the best thing I've done for myself as a writer is to approach it as a student instead of a hobbyist--to think about it every day, and seek out new knowledge and relate it to what I already know, and scrawl angry notes arguing with books on writing (the one I'm reading now asserts that no one will care about your characters until they do something interesting, and that is SO BACKWARDS and made me SO MAD that I nearly crossed it out in the book itself, but I settled for complaining in all caps in my little writing notebook). And it doesn't feel like a delaying tactic, partly because I'm constantly trying to apply what I'm learning to the projects I'm working on, and partly because this skill-building and analytical thinking is so clearly necessary as a precursor to writing. Like learning good form before lifting heavy weights.
Speaking of which, writing in that little notebook is hard on my arm, and I did a fair amount of it tonight after going to a really splendid panel on transgressive fiction (Ellen Kushner, C.S. Pacat, Sarah Rees Brennan, Damon Suede, Marie Rutkowski, and Eloisa James--stunning lineup, wonderful conversation). C.S. Pacat said some useful things about developing and maintaining tension as a matter of writing craft and I wanted to make sure to write them down before I forgot them, and then I just kept going because it was a long subway ride back to Brooklyn. But then I got home and did a lot of editing and now I really need to stop typing and go to bed.
Last night I dreamed that it was some sort of trans pride day and I was carrying a big rainbow flag around. A cis woman mistook me for a cis guy and made some snarky look-how-hip-I-am comment about cis people horning in on trans stuff. I unbuttoned my dress shirt like Clark Kent to show my binder and was all WHO'S TRANS ENOUGH NOW. And then I hung my rainbow flag on a lamppost and strolled off.
Most satisfying dream I've had in ages. :D
I had a total meltdown tonight over needing to be the perfect parent so that the baby will love me and believe I love them--so that I can make up for my lack of biological link to them. Kit has a cold (the first time they've ever been ill) and has been so snuffly and feverish and sad. If Kit is sad and I don't fix it, what the hell kind of parent am I? And that triggers the doubts and fears about being no kind of parent at all.
This wasn't helped by someone asking me about my Mother's Day plans with my mom and assuming they didn't include the baby, because that person doesn't really think of Kit as my child or as my mother's grandchild. I've lost count of how many times people have erased my various identities--seeing me and J as a het couple, getting my pronouns wrong all the time, assuming X mattered less to me than J because of gender and distance, to name just a few--but oof, this erasure hurts the most, because on some level I believe it. (And also because the whole idea of being a parent is new, I think. I'm still not really used to it at all, so if someone says or implies I'm not one, I don't have that rock-solid identity certainty to brace myself against.)
I vented on Twitter, as I do, and oh_also
sent me to First Time Second Time
, a blog by two queer parents who each gave birth to one of their kids. They write a lot about being non-gestational parents and it's really good. Their non-bio mom manifesto
is exactly what I needed to read tonight, and the last two paragraphs in particular:
Even though I really hate the “Different but Equal” refrain, I’d be hard-pressed to say that my relationship with Leigh wasn’t different than Gail’s, at least during early infancy. So even though I get annoyed by such statements, I also sort of agree. But if I truly believe I do have a different and equal relationship to Leigh, even though she didn’t grow inside me, even though I didn’t nurse and nourish her as a baby, and even though she does not look a bit like me, there must be something else that I offered her. What is it? What is the “something extra” that I gave to her, that she wouldn’t have gotten in a family with only Gail as her parent?
This has been eating at me for years. Sure, I can see my influence in her mannerisms, the clarity with which she expresses herself, her bull-in-a-china-shop quality, her overt enthusiasm, and her love of connecting with all kinds of people. But none of that seems quite like the answer. The other night, though, I realized Gail had finally figured it out. What I offered to her, that only I could offer her, was my choice. I chose to parent her, and chose to love her deeply, despite a multitude of pressures that said either that I shouldn’t love her, or that I was unnecessary. Some of those pressures said explicitly that I’d damage her by my mere presence (those coming from, say, the religious right). Some of those pressures were more subtle, like the ones that said it wasn’t important for me to take leave to spend time with my new infant, or the ones that said if I pushed too hard to feed her or spend too much time with her, I’d take away from her all-important “primary” bond to Gail, resulting in some sort of vague but longstanding psychological damage. It is precisely the central challenge of being a non-bio-mom, the need to choose to parent your child, that makes the bond special. To spin something precious out of what looks and feels like nothing at the outset — no pregnancy, no genetic link, no nursing link, no overt need on the part of your child — is truly a gift to your whole family, and it is a gift that only you can give them.
I will clutch this to my heart forever. For-ev-er.
I will quibble only to say that each of us made a choice--each of us and all of us made many, many choices over a period of several years--to be Kit's parent. J chose to father the child and X chose to carry the child, and their biological contributions don't make their subsequent choices to be devoted, attentive parents any less important or essential. But my lack
of biological contribution doesn't make my choice any less real or meaningful.
I write this from the rocking chair in Kit's room, where I plan to sit all night. Their fever's broken--it never got above 101.2, so we were never super worried, but any kind of fever is no fun--and the congestion is easing, but they're still snuffly. My anxieties are soothed by listening to them breathing, and if they wake up fussy I want to be right here for them. They slept on my lap for a while, and when I stood up to put them in the crib, they woke a little and turned their head and pressed their face against me in the purest gesture of trust and comfort-seeking I've ever seen. They chose me too. I choose to believe them.
It's coming up on a year and a half since Valour Advances the Man
started kicking around in my head. I still want to write it. I haven't put any new words on the page since last fall. And yes, we had a baby, all of that, but there's other stuff in the way too.
I've been poking at this in various places, and today I did the thing where I ask Twitter to solve my problems
mostly so that I can see what I dislike about people's suggested solutions, which in turn helps me define the actual
problem.( Definitions )
=====( Analysis )
Realistically, it seems very unlikely that anyone is going to hire me to write a novel that I haven't already written. First novels are nearly always written on spec, and I say "nearly always" rather than "always" only because I'm sure there must be exceptions somewhere, not because I personally know of any. (Also, honestly, if I were an editor, I wouldn't hire someone with my résumé to write a novel sight unseen.) But I feel much better having come up with what feels like a plausible scenario for success. I'm going to set it aside for a bit and go get some work done, and let the back of my brain work on figuring out how to mimic or approximate those conditions.
A month and a half ago, I stumbled across this link
on changing habits, specifically with respect to nail-biting. I figured I'd give it a try, since I've been a lifelong nail-biter and absolutely nothing has gotten me to stop for more than a week or two at a time. I didn't bite my nails at all the week that Kit was born, so I knew it wasn't a stress response; it was something I could be distracted from, or too busy to do. Habit reversal training seemed like a good match for that.
I identified my nail-biting trigger: rough skin, corners, bits that stick out or catch or feel not-neat. I dug back in my brain for the self-observation techniques I learned from Headspace
and practiced observing myself as I noticed the roughness and felt the urge to gnaw it smooth. I redirected the urge into filing or moisturizing, or just sat there with it and experienced the feeling without judgment. I treated it the way I treat Kit trying to punch themself in the eye: "I see that you want to do that. I'm not going to let you do that. I will hold your hands as gently as I can while not letting you use them that way."
Within a month I'd entirely stopped biting my nails. Entirely. I wasn't even using my thumbnails as sacrifice nails. The urge itself is gone. Now I can put my fingers in my mouth or fidget with my nails and not want to bite them.
Two weeks ago I got a manicure, with beautiful iridescent beetle-wing-green nail polish. A week ago I got another one because I use my hands all the time and no nail polish is going to last for long--but I didn't gnaw any of it off. As I type this entry, my nails click on the keys. This is a very annoying feeling, so I'm going to get another manicure either tomorrow or Friday and get them filed a little shorter this time. I can see a near future in which I become one of those people with a fancy nail polish collection, though I will always prefer having someone else do my nails to doing them myself. emilytheslayer
has promised to put nail wraps on me at Readercon, and I might try making my own nail wraps with nail polish
or origami paper
, as it seems easier than painting directly onto my nails (which I am spectacularly bad at).
I'm very lucky that my nails grow very fast and are thick and strong and healthy. If my nail beds weren't so short, you'd never know that I used to bite them. I hope that if I leave them just a little longer than I actually want them, over time the nail beds will regrow--though it's hard to know whether that can even happen after 30 years of biting.
Meanwhile, on the front of forming a new habit rather than breaking an old one, I've flossed my teeth every single night for almost 28 weeks, with the exception of the night X was in labor. That one I did by keeping a tally in dry erase marker on the bathroom wall--dry erase markers write very well on shiny white tile--and telling myself that if I missed a night I'd have to erase my entire progress and start over. My goal was absolute compliance. (I feel entirely justified in giving myself a pass on the single exception; it was an exceptional night.) This is a pretty hard-line approach, but I'd previously tried simply tracking my progress as a positive incentive and it wasn't quite effective enough; it had worked for getting me into a twice-a-day brushing habit, but flossing eluded me. Obviously, the longer my streak went, the less I wanted to break it, and the combination of increased practice and increased incentive was very powerful. After meeting my initial goal of 26 weeks I stopped keeping the tally, but the habit appears to have stayed. It's now just a thing I do.
It feels really good to be the sort of person who works on self-improvement at age 37, and is successful. I'm glad I didn't give up on myself. And I'm really looking forward to bragging at my dental check-up on Friday. :)
April 8th was my 10th wedding anniversary with J. (We picked 4/8/06 as our wedding date for lots of reasons, and having 4/8/16 as our 10th anniversary wasn't a major one, but it was in the back of my mind as a perk.) We went out for steak frites and took a walk through lower Manhattan. We made each other laugh a lot. We came home and snuggled and made out. It was a very nice celebration, made possible by X's kind gift of all-evening baby care.
One of the reasons we picked that date is that it was also our falling-in-love anniversary. We've been all swoony for each other for 14 years. Gosh.
I wonder whether I should replace my "me and Josh" userpic with something that's been taken in the past 12 years. We both look a little different now. :) But we still look at each other just the same way.
He is my most favorite husband and I am so happy to have him in my life.
: I got the letter B.
Something I hate: Banana flavoring. Bullshit. Bigotry.
Something I love: Badinage. Backgammon. Botanic gardens.
Somewhere I've been: Brooklyn. :) Bermuda. Boston.
Somewhere I'd like to go: Back to Bermuda, maybe--that was a family trip when I was a kid and I liked it but don't remember much.
Someone I know: ben_rosenbaum
A film I like: Beetlejuice
, and I'm sure I'd like Blade Runner
if I ever got the chance to sit down and watch it all the way through. I've seen the beginning and the end and probably most of the middle at various times. (Really glad for that movies-I've-seen spreadsheet that can be sorted by title. 😅)
Anyone want to continue the meme? Just ask and I'll give you a letter. I gave multiple answers for some of these because I felt like it, but you're not required to.
It has been a long time since a Kit update! Mostly because this has been the week of no sleep, for baby-unrelated reasons having to do with stress and illness and other sucky things. But! here is what's going on with our absurdly long baby.
Kit started daycare on Monday, at age 11 weeks exactly. It's gone pretty well.( Baaaaaaby stuff )
It's strange having the house empty when I wake up. I've been feeling very lonely this week. I'm used to having X and the baby at home, and instead X is at work and the baby's at daycare and I'm all by myself. I have been getting a fair amount of work and housework done, especially tidying things in Kit's room, but it's hard. This has been compounded by all the stress and illness; having panic attacks is even less fun when there are no partners around to hug you and there's no baby around to cuddle. But we'll adjust.
There's a Twitter meme going around of "for every person who likes/faves this tweet, I will post one thing that makes me happy". I got 61 likes and added the 62nd myself. :) My list:
1) Dozing on the rocking chair with the baby asleep on me.
2) The first post-travel snuggle with Sam after she's forgiven me for abandoning her.
3) Sitting at the kitchen table drinking hot chocolate at 1 a.m. when the dishwasher and washing machine are humming in the quiet house.
4) When I come into the nursery and Kit carefully sizes me up, checks the inner roster of favorite people, and then gives me a huge smile.
5) Walking in the Botanic Gardens and Prospect Park today, watching spring reclaim the frozen earth from winter.
6) Reading a wonderful book with a powerful, satisfying ending.
7) My regular Skype dates with beloved friends who live far away.
8) Animated conversations with J and X where our ideas and desires are all in perfect harmony.
9) Learning new things, especially new skills and techniques.
10) When something works the way it's supposed to, the very first time I try it.
11) Homemade food I can just enjoy without having to wonder whether it's safe for me to eat.
12) Having the perfect outfit in my closet for whatever my gender is today.
13) Helping teenagers feel good about themselves.
14) Being called on my shit by my honest, loving friends.
15) Feeling good today because I was awesome with self-care yesterday.
16) Rereading an old favorite book and finding that it's still terrific. Take that, Suck Fairy!
17) Making a tight deadline.
18) Living in NYC.
19) Feeling that good post-exercise muscle burn.
20) Walking into an event where lots of people are happy to see me.
21) The fierceness of marginalized people reclaiming the center.
22) The unbearable cuteness of baby-size versions of adult clothes.
23) Having just enough alcohol to get a nice gentle buzz.
24) Having just enough caffeine to be really productive.
25) Catching our usually argumentative cats hanging out together or even snuggling.
26) Family cuddles with the baby.
27) Driving on my own and knowing that I could go anywhere.
28) Steph Curry Vines.
29) Being a parent.
30) The way the top of Kit's head sometimes smells like whiskey.
You know I could easily have made all 30 of these about the baby. I feel I have been very restrained.
31) Pictures of turtles.
32) Being a generally healthy, financially independent adult in charge of my own life.
33) My very different but equally wonderful date nights with X and J.
34) Freshly baked or toasted bread with butter and jam.
35) The kindness and support of other parents and kid-carers as we figure out this parenting thing. You're all wonderful.
36) Eating ice cream outside while it's snowing. I haven't gotten to do this in 2015/2016--maybe on Friday, if the promised snow happens.
37) The number 37. I just like it. I like 17 too, and powers of 2.
Conveniently, I'm 37. And not old.
38) Imagining Kit at different ages.
39) When I wake up and open the curtain and light floods in.
40) Potato chips.
41) Hot showers.
42) The diligence and persistence of people trying to make fandom and conventions safer and more welcoming and more accessible.
43) The times when my brain tries to have anxiety dreams and I make them have happy endings.
"Oh, I left all my luggage on the train? My traveling companion was on the train and must have brought it to our hotel."
44) Beaches in winter.
45) My sturdy little basil plant that started out as stems supertailz
brought me from the grocery store months and months ago.
46) Tax refunds.
47) Our awesome little ungentrified corner of Crown Heights.
48) Friends who are diligent about protecting our baby from their germs. <3
49) Medium-rare steak frites at Les Halles.
50) Our awesome landlords, who are also our awesome downstairs neighbors.
51) All our silly nicknames for Kit.
52) The way I look in my gorgeous Frye boots.
53) Balancing our checkbook every month and feeling all the numbers click into place.
's goal-driven persistence.
57) The vast improvement to our kitchen vibe just from moving one baker's rack. Can't wait to complete our rearrangement!
58) Watching our friends build the lives they want.
59) The scent of petrichor after a summer thunderstorm.
60) Mole de pavo.
61) My cat's tiny squeaky meow. vine.co/v/iWuOWtelEI3
62) Spending a whole day thinking about things that make me happy! Thank you all for the faves. 💕
(I had NO IDEA I could put emoji in LJ/DW posts. THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.)
- thinking about:
behavior.kindness, behavior.parenting, experiences.driving, experiences.joy, experiences.kindness, experiences.reading, food, mind.dreamtime, people.cats, people.friends, people.groups.fandom, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, places.home, places.us.ny.new york, places.us.ny.new york.brooklyn, stuff.clothes, stuff.money
Kit is two months old today.
They're starting daycare in two weeks, when X goes back to work, so I wrote up an unnecessarily long letter for the daycare staff. I really like it as a snapshot (or 2.3 snapshots, since it's about 2300 words) of who we all are right now.
=====( Seriously, unnecessarily long )
Of course none of this says anything about how the three of us will cope with Kit being in daycare, but I think it'll be fine once we all adjust a bit. It's only three blocks from home and they have a very generous drop-in policy. And this is a great encouragement to develop a more solid daily routine for Kit, which I think will be good for everyone. And we get to order super cute clothing and bottle name labels with tiny foxes on them
Also, let's be honest, I am REALLY looking forward to having the house to myself for a few hours every day. It will be weird for Kit's room to not have Kit in it, but I'll keep the door closed and take taurine and/or call the daycare if I get fretful.
It's been a really good two months and I feel like we're ready for what comes next. We've been talking a lot about plans to rearrange the main room of the house, have more friends over, do more things out in the world (Kit really loves going out, which helps). After the wild upheaval of pregnancy and new baby, we've found our footing, not in the sense of thinking we have it all figured out--because of course things will keep changing as Kit grows, and who knows what other changes will happen in the rest of our lives--but in the sense of having a stable stance. I have been watching a lot of videos of virtuoso basketball player Steph Curry
, and it's easy to get caught up in watching his arms, or watching the ball go right where he puts it. But I watch his feet, because that's where the shot begins. With your feet under you, you can handle whatever comes at you. We're getting there. It's good.
Tuesday evening I went out to see Laura Miller interview Peter Straub (which was delightful) and when I got home the baby was bigger. It's so surreal when this happens. It's not just illusion, either. Kit has a favorite onesie (well, it's our favorite; the baby doesn't care) that only has snaps on one leg, and suddenly getting the other leg on is a lot more difficult than it used to be. I think we've got another couple of weeks left in these three-month clothes and then it's on to six-month ones.( Babbystuffs )
Every time a longtime friend visits and meets the baby, I say "Look at me! Look at all this!" with some bewilderment, and we agree that back when we met we had no idea this was where we'd end up. Tuesday was my 15th self-wedding anniversary and I had a similar conversation with myself.
I still vividly remember writing down those wedding vows in my dream journal, back in my slightly shabby room in the mint-green Jersey City house. It was two months before my nervous breakdown but I was definitely already feeling the strain. My lease was coming up in March, I was moving to California in June, in between I had grand and rather daunting plans to tour Europe with my mother and then take a train across the country for alt.polycon, my relationships were coming apart at the seams, my physical health was precarious, being prescribed the wrong dose of Zoloft had completely fucked me up mentally, and I had a job but no career and savings but no goals (other than the move, which ended up entirely consuming those savings faster than I could have thought possible). I knew a lot of things in my life were broken and I had no idea how to fix them.
Making vows to be good to myself--as good to myself as I was to my partners--was an essential first step on the road to making things better, the road to where I am now. I'm in a beautiful house with a wonderful family, my mental and physical health are the best they've been in my adult life, my relationships are rock-solid, my job and career are deeply satisfying, and we're almost done paying off our debt. I've had a lot of good fortune, no question, but there's also no question that I got here because I insisted on loving and valuing myself and continually reshaping my life into one that made me healthier and happier.
In mid-2000, as my mind and my life were slowly falling apart, I wrote this little ditty:
I am here and all is well
And all the world can go to hell
As far as I'm concerned
There's one thing that I've learned
Standing on your own two feet
You beat a path along the street
Sometimes you walk alone
I'm okay on my own
There are people in my life
Though I may never have a wife
But I think that's okay
I'm living day by day
Moderation is the thing
Though I may never be a king
But that's all right with me
It's better to be free
If I never have a throne
I will always have a home
I carry it inside
A place where I can hide
Someday I would like a cat
Perhaps a house and all of that
But that's a ways away
I'm living day by day
No matter if I walk on glass
Or concrete or green growing glass
Don't mind if I'm alone
'Cause I'm on my way home....
I've been singing it a lot lately, with a smile. Here I am, living in someday. It's even better than I dared to imagine. It's true that the particulars aren't quite what I might have predicted, a decade and a half ago. But I have a cat, and a house, and all of that. And even though it's nothing like what I expected, it's exactly what I wanted.
- thinking about:
behavior.accomplishments, behavior.love, body.health, events.anniversaries, experiences.history, mind.wiring, people.kit, people.my wife, places.home, words.songs, words.songs.day by day
On Wednesday night, X watched Kit while J and I had a date. Tonight J watched Kit while X and I had a date. I'll do the same for them next Wednesday. This is yet another reason to be grateful to be in a three-parent household.
We all seem to be "hooray, a few hours off from babycare" parents rather than "miss the baby even if just for a few hours" parents. I'm relieved that there's no mismatch there; it would be very awkward if one of us was trying to talk about work or movies or whatever while the other one pined and tried to log into the babycam from their phone. We all love Kit and love spending time with Kit and also are very glad to get breaks.
J and I went to Dassara Ramen for our date, a favorite of ours. They had their wonderful lamb ramen on the menu, so of course I got that, and we split an order of shishito peppers that made us miss Japan. We mostly talked about J's work and workplace stuff, and my theories about how there should be way more film and television adaptations of romance novels. The night was drizzly and cool, and we walked up Smith to Fulton and then over to Nevins to get the subway home. I got dairy-free ice cream at the vegan juice bar around the corner--there are two kinds of Brooklyn vegan juice bars, the hipster kind and the Rastafarian kind, and this one is the Rasta kind, so the ice cream came in a plastic half-pint deli container but only cost $4--and then we snuggled and smooched for a good long while. It was really really nice.
X and I trekked into Manhattan to go to Senza Gluten, since all the Brooklyn GF restaurants we might want to go to are actually less convenient to get to. X had their first postpartum beer, a bitter-sharp IPA that made me make the sucked-a-lemon face. We joked a lot with the server, who was so nice that X left them a thank-you note. I had lamb again, come to think of it, in a ragù over cavatelli. We walked up to Union Square in the bitter cold. In the station, we tipped some human-statue buskers who repaid us with some very talented dancing; we just missed our train while watching them, but that was fine because we were enjoying being together. Down on the platform we kept having tender sincere moments interrupted by blaring announcements, but that's what we get for having tender sincere moments on a subway platform. It was really really nice.
When I was growing up in a family of four, it often split into factions: two against two, or three against one. I don't ever want my family to be that way. But I love that we can divide and reunite, in all our various configurations, because all of our twosomes deserve time together.
When you have a baby (or are about to have a baby and are reading up on babies), you start to see the word "colic" everywhere. It's rarely defined but always made out as something dreadful, or at least extremely unpleasant--and worse, it's portrayed as incurable and inescapable. Some babies are just "colicky" and nothing can be done about it.
This turns out to be not at all true. As far as I can tell from doing a whole lot of reading on the topic, there seem to be two kinds of colic: indigestion, and emotional meltdowns. Kit's had both, and we were able to identify them pretty quickly and treat them pretty straightforwardly. Kit is a very easy-going and good-natured kid, so that may be a factor, but hopefully this info will still be useful for other parents whose babies are not quite so chill.
1) Indigestion. "Our baby screams a lot and arches in pain when fed breast milk or standard formula," we said. "Well, some babies are colicky after feeding," our pediatrician said. Aha!
, we thought. "Colicky" means "is upset about digestion pain".
And indeed, when we stopped feeding Kit breast milk and regular formula and started using a super-digestible formula (from Honest Co.
, and we recommend it very highly--Kit spits it up even less than the supposedly ultra-gentle Similac Alimentum, and it's half the price), and made sure not to feed Kit more than their tiny stomach could hold, the colic went away. Kit still fusses a bit about 10 minutes after eating, and then farts a couple of times and settles right down. If we give a teaspoon or two of Colic-Ease
every day, there's no fussing at all.
The pediatrician pointed out that since Kit wasn't vomiting up the meals, we could keep feeding breast milk (and the immunity benefits thereof) as long as we had a high tolerance for the screaming, until Kit got to be about three months old and the stomach developed enough to be able to digest the milk more easily. He did this in a very neutral way, which I appreciated--matter-of-fact, not pushing us one direction or the other. X and I stared at him with identical expressions of horror. It's not the screaming itself, but the idea of causing our child preventable pain, several times a day, for months. We considered dosing Kit with antacids, but our pediatrician shares our hesitation to put a very young baby on daily medication when there are non-medical options to pursue. So we switched to formula with some wistfulness but no regrets. That said, even if you're very dedicated to exclusively breastfeeding, there are ways of treating indigestion-type colic, and anyone (especially anyone not your doctor) who tells you that it's full-stop untreatable is probably wrong--any given attack of indigestion colic may just have to run its course, but a lot of those attacks can be prevented. Kit's always been an expert belcher and farter, so gas build-up isn't an issue, but if it were we could use simethicone drops and the Windi
. Some babies have allergies to things the breastfeeding parent is eating, and a change in diet can help. There are lots of things to try.
2) Emotional meltdowns. T. Berry Brazelton defines this type of colic very clearly in his Touchpoints: Birth to Three
, which is an excellent book that I think all new parents should keep on hand. Brazelton identifies it as coming from overstimulation during the day, which is why it reliably occurs in the evening. Since it doesn't have a physical cause, physical treatments (feeding, changing, gas drops, etc.) don't work, and soothing techniques like swaddling and pacifiers are of limited use. other_alice
pointed me to a site about "the PURPLE crying period"
, which looks like much the same thing.
Brazelton advises making sure there are no physical problems to address and then leaving the baby alone in the crib to scream out their feelings, self-soothe, decompress, and sleep without further stimulation; in his experience, this can reduce the average duration of a colic attack by half. The "PURPLE crying period" site mentions a study
in which babies cried less if their parents carried them around more often, as part of everyday life, rather than only picking them up when they were crying. So as with many things, the appropriate approach depends on you and your baby and your parenting style.
On Tuesday night, Kit had an emotional meltdown colic attack. It was pretty awful. But I realized that it reminded me of panic attacks, and then I knew what to do, because I have had many panic attacks and gotten pretty good at dealing with them. I held Kit gently and warmly, turned the lights down (installing dimmable LED bulbs and a dimmer switch in the baby's room is one of the best decisions I've ever made), rocked slowly in the rocking chair, and murmured quiet soothing things in a voice full of sympathy. I didn't try to offer a pacifier or stop Kit from screaming or thrashing, though I did loosely confine Kit's arms to keep either of us from getting punched in the face (and because Kit seems to find that sort of swaddling-by-hand very soothing, despite not liking actual swaddles). After a few minutes, the screaming and thrashing stopped and the baby fell asleep. Maybe ten minutes later, the cycle repeated once. And... that was that. All better. Pretty much the same thing happened when X was watching Kit Wednesday night while J and I were on our date night, and X did similar things and they were similarly effective. The key was that we both understood what it was like to feel overwhelmed and need to flail and yell, so we could stay calm and supportive while Kit vented. And we both know that while panic attacks feel
like they're going to last forever, they do eventually end, and then everything is okay for at least a little while; so we could hold on to that knowledge instead of falling into our own panic and ending up trapped with the baby in a feedback loop of distress.
Apparently some colic attacks can last for hours. We're very lucky not to have seen that yet. At that point I probably would put the baby in the crib just to give myself a break from being up close with the screaming for all that time. But I'm hoping that gentle soothing and sincere sympathy will be enough to help Kit escape the multi-hour misery cycle.
Obviously this is all our personal experience; I'm not prescribing anything. Do what's best for you and your child. Just remember, this too shall pass--possibly with some gas. :)
Inspired by yhlee
's post here
, ten things that make me happy:
* Cuddling the baby. Which I am doing right now. (After every feeding we need to prop Kit up for better digestion, and the easiest way to do that is in one's lap, so I have developed a way of arranging pillow and legs and baby and table and laptop such that I can type while Kit snoozes.) Having the baby in my lap makes the world infinitely better. I don't even know why. I mean, yes, oxytocin, but that's not all there is to it. It's just warm and cozy and wonderful.
* How well the three of us work together as parents. I'm especially glad that we've been making time for family snuggles, even when we're all so tired that we can barely stay awake to enjoy them. This week we start having date nights again, which is such an amazing thought I don't even know what to do with it.
* The warm welcome back I got from my colleagues and reviewers when I returned to work. It's so nice to be appreciated.
* Cooking, and homemade food. This weekend J and I made pot roast and roast beef, and X and I baked bread in the bread machine (such magic!). Fresh bread with homemade pot roast gravy, oh YES.
* Thoughtful family members who give us wonderfully appropriate baby gifts.
* Delightful friends. Today we introduced Kit to vschanoes
and her son and godchildren, and spent a lovely few hours hanging out at their house. I can't wait for the babies to get old enough to properly enjoy spending time together.
* Getting the dermatologist's approval to take baths, now that my lipoma removal incision has fully healed up. I CAN TAKE A BATH. I just need to find the time. Maybe this weekend.
* I got to read books for fun while I was on leave! That was great! I'd missed just reading for fun. I mostly reread old favorites, with one new-to-me book for variety.
* I bought sleeping caps from headcovers.com and now my head isn't cold at night.
* The heartstopping adorableness
of Kit yawning, and the little squeaking noise at the end of the yawn. Someday I will get video of this but of course it's hard to anticipate. It's just devastating
If you decide to make your own post of ten things that make you happy, leave me a link. :)
- thinking about:
behavior.parenting, body.health, body.skin, experiences.reading, experiences.surgery, experiences.work, food, food.baking, food.baking.bread, food.cooking, food.cooking.beef, people.family, people.friends, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, stuff.clothes
linked to this news story titled "Ted Cruz Challenges Donald Trump to a Duel"
and suggested it should lead to a Hamilton
earworm, so this is all her fault.
(TTTO "Ten Duel Commandments"
Number one! The challenge: demand he go on Fox
If he agrees, no need for further talks
Number two! If he won't, grab a mic, take the stage
Imply he wouldn't dare to stand and face your rage
Number three! Have your PR people meet on Skype
Figure out if one-on-one debates are worth the hype
This is commonplace, 'specially with right-wingers
Most disputes end with a friendly dinner
Number four! If they don't reach a peace, that's all right
Time to book a slot on a talk show tonight
You tell the host some jokes, you treat him with civility
He joins you in dismissing your opponent's viability
Five! Debate before the caucus is convened
Pick a big arena where you'll make a scene
Number six! Leave a note for your electoral committee
Dress up pretty, practice sounding confident and witty
Seven! Tug your tie. Ready for the moment
Of adrenaline when you finally face your opponent
Number eight! Your last chance to negotiate
Call the other guy, say you want to set the record straight
Are we on, Don?
Can we agree that the conclusion is foregone?
The Iowans deserve to hear your words, Don.
With that woman in charge—the ditzy blonde? I'm gone.
Hang on, you're dissing blonde women? That's not even sexist so much as gratuitous.
Okay, so we're doing this.
Number nine! Look him in the eye, make your points by rote
Wait for citizens to cast their votes
One two three four
Five six seven eight nine
Ten o'clock news REPORT--
Back in May 2014, I was having a very hard time around baby things, and certain no one would ever see me as a "real" parent. I wrote about it a little bit here
. To counter this feeling, X and I went shopping for baby clothes. We got some pretty random stuff in random sizes--whatever looked cute. We got some frilly things and some butch things. We got a little stuffed dragon to guard the hoard. (We named him Beauregard.) We tucked the clothes away under X's desk.
Today I put one of those outfits on Kit, and X took photos of us together. (If you follow subtlekid
, you can see them at http://pic.twitter.com/EECFpN0qcV
. One of them also became the userpic on this entry.) They are pretty terrific photos, even if the outfit is still a wee bit big for the baby. :) But I've waited nearly two years for this and didn't want to wait any longer.Dear past me: I feel entirely like a real parent, and no one gets to tell me I'm not one. It'll all be okay. I promise.
I can't wait until Kit is old enough to play with Beauregard, and learn how he kept our dreams safe until they came true.
Ninety minutes of today was spent on an unpleasant phone call, but the rest of it was pretty terrific.
* I got a whole six and a half hours of sleep! Such luxury!
* When I got up, X had been dealing with a very hands-on baby for several hours and desperately needed a break, so I took baby duty for a while. The baby was super awake and alert! I don't get to see that at night. I opened the curtains and Kit got to wave at some sunbeams and practice hand-mouth coordination. It was really nice.
* X had a headache yesterday that persisted into today, and I asked them to check in with the OB about it. The nurse asked them to get their blood pressure checked at the pharmacy nearby, which they did and it was fine, and they had no other worrisome symptoms, so the doctor said to just take Tylenol and keep drinking lots of water. Such a nice change from being told to go to the ER "just in case".
* I had a very enjoyable therping session (via phone) where I mostly ended up talking about favorite books from my childhood and the ways in which they were formative.
* J made steak and French fries for dinner. When it was ready, the baby had just finished eating and fallen asleep, so we brought the cradle out to the dining room and had a proper homemade family dinner, all four of us (though Kit slept through it). It was so, so wonderful.
* After the unpleasant phone call, X and J gave me lots of hugs and talked about cheering things.
* I got to Skype with miriamreads
for the first time since the baby was born. There was much squeeing. It was excellent.
* Tonight I've fed the baby twice with almost no spitting up. Right now I'm in the rocking chair in the baby's room; Kit's snoring and Sam is snuggled very snugly against my left side.
What was lovely about your day today?
Last night and this morning, X and I independently noticed that Kit has leveled up in eating: gulping less, eating more slowly, taking longer pauses between bursts of sucking, pausing for several minutes after an ounce or so. I'm gobsmacked. We didn't teach the baby anything! The baby just figured it out! I didn't know they could do
Today was a BIG ADVENTURE. The newborn hearing screening they did at the hospital was inconclusive, so we took Kit into Manhattan to have it redone. X also needed to go by their office and drop off paperwork, and then had an OB checkup--all within the same neighborhood--so we took the opportunity to show Kit off to X's coworkers and the OB. Our baby is an awesome New York baby
, wow. Slept on the subway, even when it was noisy (we're looking into getting baby-size noise-canceling headphones
); drank cold formula happily, with nary a dribble; was wide-eyed and calm as X's colleagues crowded around the stroller (I've never seen so many young men clamoring to hang out with a baby!); cheerfully tolerated a diaper change in a public restroom; blithely ignored the below-freezing temperatures and the noise of Broadway; and passed the hearing screening, too. I was expecting overwhelmed overstimulated crankiness when we got home, but nope, Kit just alternated between eating and sleeping for a few hours and then woke up burbly and fine.
No one slept last night and we are all tired-anxious-cranky. I actually fell asleep sitting up, which I never
do. But our baby is great and that is a great thing.
Our demon troll baby turned two weeks old on Monday. How time flies!
Kit has been having some issues with reflux. Our wonderful pediatrician recommended a super-gentle extra-hydrolyzed formula and it's working pretty well so far: still some spitting up, but much less arched-back screaming. We're also under instructions not to feed the baby too much or too frequently. This is awkward because the baby wants to eat basically all the time. I am rapidly becoming an expert in pacifier deployment. Fortunately pacifier + rocking cradle or cuddling = soothed baby at least 50% of the time, and I will totally take those odds right now.
Yesterday flailing little Kit was OUTRAGED that I DARED to offer a pacifier, spat it out repeatedly, then sucked three times on my pinky finger and fell completely asleep. This sort of thing is where we get the nickname "demon troll baby", which we use with all affection. The three of us don't have many personality traits in common, but a delight in trollery is one of them, and we were pretty much resigned to being trolled by our baby from day one.
Today I learned the difference between the reflux yell and the tension release yell:
R: *tries pacifier, pinky finger, holding, rocking, tummy rub, diaper change, everything*
R: Do you need me to just be present and witness your cry of outrage?
K: WAA*falls asleep, sleeps deeply for an hour and a half*
Kit's weight gain has been good and diapers are being dirtied at the expected pace, so at least we don't have to worry that the reflux is getting in the way of nutrition or hydration. I asked whether we should do weigh-ins at home if the reflux continues, and Dr. A said "Not every day or you'll flip out every time the baby happens to lose an ounce!". I am deeply glad we have a doctor who understands new parent anxiety and is sympathetic and helpful without being patronizing.
(I noticed that the doctor and his staff all seem to use "he" for all the babies, as what amounts to a gender-neutral pronoun--it's clearly used in the sense of "with the diaper on I can't tell the gender and it's not relevant anyway". I don't think I've encountered that before.)
J went back to work yesterday. X is barely even taking ibuprofen for what remains of the C-section pain, and is able to bend down well enough to load the dishwasher and feed the cats. I read a collection of three stories by Tanya Huff, set in her Quarters universe
, and started rereading Five Children and It
--the first fiction I've read since Kit was born. We're all getting a pretty surprising amount of sleep given that we're new parents; yay for taking shifts. Slowly life returns to normal.
Return of the granddaughter of the next generation of the five questions meme! From ivy
:1. Is being a parent roughly like you thought it was going to be?
I had no idea what to expect of this stage of parenthood, but some part of me was stubbornly certain that it was going to be just like our life only with a baby in it, no matter how many people told me that babies change everything. And as it turns out, our life is just like our life only with a baby in it. We haven't suddenly become different people. We haven't lost our other interests or our needs or our quirks and foibles. We're still us, caring for a baby in our own inimitable fashion.
I'm still shaky on identifying as "a parent" but that's gradually coming along.2. What is the best thing you've read lately? What made it so good?T. Berry Brazelton's Touchpoints: Birth to Three
(revised edition) is an extremely soothing and reassuring book about early child development. I read each chapter as we approach the stage it discusses, so that I don't overwhelm myself with info that I can't use yet. The chapter on babies two to three weeks old says things like "it takes work and time to bond (form attachment) with the baby, so don't worry if it doesn't happen right away" and "this is what an overstimulated baby looks like; if you see this then it's time to leave them alone for 10 to 15 minutes to recover". It's the antidote to scaremongering Dr. Google. Reading it is like breathing a giant sigh of relief.3. What artist or spokesperson would you give a wider audience, if you could?
The most obscure brilliant artist I know is photographer Zoée Nuage
, whose images of gender ambiguity and transition changed my life. I'd love to see those photos reach more people who are just starting to have thoughts about their own genders. Somewhat to my surprise, Zoée has moved on from photography and is now making needle-felted jewelry
that's tiny and beautiful.
Less obscure but also brilliant is Thích Nhất Hạnh
. I recommend his writings on mindfulness in daily life to anyone who's ever been stymied by the (false) notion that meditation and mindfulness require a rigorous practice of setting time aside for sitting still in a quiet room. I genuinely feel like the world would be a much better place if everyone attempted some sort of mindfulness practice--we don't all have to be Zen masters, but paying a little more attention and moving a little more slowly goes a long, long way.4. What are your thoughts about education for kids? Do you have a preferred method of schooling?
I'm firmly in the "whatever's best for that particular child" camp. Some kids need a lot of socializing and others need time alone. Some need to be self-directed and others need structure and coaching. Some learn by listening and some by doing. What matters is that they get lots of options and opportunities to find what works for them, the support and attention they need from compassionate instructors, consistent rules and discipline without punishment, and a safe, encouraging space in which to learn.5. If your whole household could be instantly and collectively fluent in another language, which one would you pick? Why that one?
I wouldn't dream of picking unilaterally--that's a decision we should all make together. And if "collectively" means the baby learns it too, that's a different decision from the three adults picking a language in which to discuss things that we don't want Kit to know about. :)
My personal suggestion would be Japanese, since becoming fluent in it the hard way is really super hard, and it's genuinely useful for us (J's stepfather is Japanese and we love traveling in Japan).
If you want five questions from me, leave a comment, and I will do my best to think of something to ask beyond "Can you come over and watch the baby?". :)
Today: a day without crying or panic attacks! Therefore a good day!
I did feel one anxiety wave hitting me late this evening, but it was clearly caused by hunger and I was already in the process of making food, so I finished cooking (without injuring myself!) and ate a great deal of food and asked X to bring me taurine, and 20 minutes later I was fine. I feel this somehow balances out my panic of... yesterday? the day before? It all blurs a bit.
Today is the first day without any "firsts" to note in the baby book. Kit continues to be Kit, and doing all the expected baby things. We're still learning how to deal with the eager gulping feedings that lead to spit-ups and discomfort. Dr. Brazelton recommends letting the baby recline at 30 degrees for 20 minutes after eating and before burping, so that the burp doesn't bring milk up with it; I'll try that at the next feeding.
I'm the on-call babyminder for the next four hours. I should probably spend them sleeping in my bed with the baby monitor on, rather than sleeping in the baby's room, but I can't quite bring myself to take that step yet. It requires trusting the monitor app, which is sound-activated, and it's never let us down but I'm nervous anyway. On Monday J will go to his office and get all the packages that have been piling up there, including a tablet stand that will let us set up the tablet right over the crib to give video as well as more sensitive audio than it currently gets from a few feet away. That should help. If it doesn't, I'll switch from the sound-activated monitor to Skype or something.
Today was a milestone day for the baby in several ways:
1) The umbilical stump fell off. X and J each independently said, "You're not going to keep that and put it in the baby book, are you?" I may have been somewhat obsessively updating the baby book. (I did not keep it, or even take a picture of it.) Kit's navel looks fine and healthy. Yay for our lovely healthy baby.
2) Kit managed to spit up through the nose as I was in the middle of changing a diaper. This was quite alarming for several reasons. First, I thought the sudden sneezing and drippiness was the first sign of a cold, and freaked out at the thought of our 10-day-old baby being ill and having trouble breathing. Second, babies generally breathe through the nose; Kit was very agitated at not being able to do this, and began screaming. Fortunately I had stocked our medicine cabinet with a Nosefrida nasal aspirator, and I kept a handle on myself long enough to direct X to grab it for me so I could suck out the milk-snot. J called the pediatrician, who said to clear out the nose with a couple of drops of saline solution and more aspiration, so we did that--I'd also stocked the medicine cabinet with saline and told X exactly where it was--and once it became clear that the nose wasn't runny and it was just a onetime thing, I handed the baby to someone and went off to sob.
I am very embarrassed that I reacted that way. I'm generally calm in a crisis. I keep reminding myself that I did all the right things and that I was able to identify the tools to use and tell people where to find them and make use of them. I didn't let the panic get in the way of responding quickly and correctly. And I know it's normal for new parents to be easily agitated about anything that might be the slightest bit wrong with the baby, especially when we're underfed/underslept. But still, I panicked, and I don't like that I panicked.
3) Kit drank four ounces of milk in one go. Turns out this is way too much for a ten-day-old baby. To my surprise, it all stayed down, but I spent about an hour doing tummy rubs and bicycle legs and diaper changes while Kit flailed around and strained and looked very uncomfortable. Poor wee thing. I finally induced sleep with a lightly swaddling sleep sack--it's warm enough in here that Kit was just wearing a shirt and a diaper, but apparently the baby has already formed the impression that that is daytime clothing and nighttime requires pajamas--and a bit of pacifier-sucking. (Apparently bedtime pacifier use significantly reduces SIDS risk
, including for low-risk babies. I'd been avoiding it because weaning babies off of a pacifier can be very difficult, but I shall avoid it no more. Kit has literally zero identifiable risk factors for SIDS, which is a very reassuring thing to know, but why take chances?)
Lesson learned: if Kit chugs three ounces and claims to want more, give a pacifier instead and wait for digestion to happen. Everyone will be happier.
Yay, finally a dream that's not about the baby or pregnancy or labor!
I dreamed it was nighttime and I was roaming the streets of SoHo. I ended up hanging out with a Chasidic guy who was sleeping rough. We wandered past art galleries and talked about art. Suddenly he realized he was about to miss his chance to charge his phone at a truck that provided mobile phone charging services for homeless people. (Is this a thing? I want it to be a thing.) As we ran off to find the truck before they left, he was explaining to me why it was okay to charge his phone there even though it was Shabbat--I think it was because the phone was so important for his survival.
So far so good. Kit's out of the precautionary NICU and done with the precautionary antibiotics (there was no actual infection, yay); they're eating and sleeping and making messes and having loud opinions like a champ. X's bandage was taken off today (a day late, and the OB had a look in his eye that suggested yesterday's PA was going to receive a serious talking-to for not doing it yesterday), and the C-section incision looks great. With sufficient pain medication, they were able to walk down the hall to the shower and even stand while showering. The one-flight walkup at our place is going to be a challenge, but then they can just stay home for a couple of weeks while they recover.
J and I are trading nights at home, so we alternate being well-rested. Tomorrow everyone will be home and everything will be great.
Updates continue to be mostly on Twitter. Sorry, non-Twitter folks.
I really want separate pronouns for "gender unknown" and "this person explicitly identifies as nonbinary". Using "they" for Kit is the least bad option but I don't want to imply that we're putting a nonbinary identity on them, especially in the context of using the same pronoun for me and X. We're just keeping their gender private until they figure out what it is and decide to be public about it.
I need to update my tags and userpic keywords. Tomorrow, maybe.
X's water broke and they went into labor at 5:15 a.m. Eleven hours later, we're at the hospital, epidural's in, they're napping and waiting for the pitocin to work its magic. Everything's going swimmingly. :D Updates are happening on Twitter for the most part but I will try to update here too when I can. Assume no news is good news.
21:49: So far so good. :)
00:28: 6 cm dilated, 80% effaced, baby's head at position 0. Epidurals are amazing and the nurse anesthetist is going to get the world's biggest fruit basket.
01:12: X is, miraculously, asleep. J and I are also going to nap while the fabulous doula beetiger
08:21: Habemus babby! Born by C-section. Baby is in the NICU as a standard precaution; X is being stitched up and should be out shortly. We are all extremely tired.
As mentioned here
, I recently read Thích Nhất Hạnh's The Miracle of Mindfulness
(which had a very gratifying focus on mindfulness in daily life; for a taste of that, see this shorter piece by Nhất Hạnh
). One of the things he suggests is taking a mindfulness sabbath every week--you do your ordinary daily things, but you do them at about a third your usual speed, with full attention to the thing you're doing in the moment that you're doing it. I like that idea so much better than a day of rest in the traditional Jewish mode, and have been thinking about implementing it in some way.
I tried it yesterday (beginning with lighting candles on Friday at sunset, which was very pleasant in the winter dark) and only sort of managed it. At one point on Saturday night I realized it was dark out and that meant Shabbat was over and I didn't have to be mindful anymore. Then I thought that was a sort of silly way to look at it, and did my best to be very present with whatever I did next (washing my hands, I think). If it were easy, I wouldn't have to make a practice of it.
One place where it was very effective was doing work on Friday evening. I was proofing my pages for the week, which I usually get very distracted from and take ages to do because of the distractions. But I focused on it not in a furrowed-brow kind of way but in a presence and mindfulness kind of way, and it went very quickly and painlessly. Unfortunately I have not yet managed to apply that to the work that I'm currently procrastinating on by writing this, because in order to be present with the work, I have to actually start doing the work, and I don' wanna. But once I actually start it, I will hopefully stay focused despite being incredibly tired, and it will go quickly and then I can sleep.
Today I was taking my meditation walk in the park, and caught myself getting distracted, and thought, "Be here now." And then I thought, "I am
here now," in the sense of, why do I need to instruct myself to be here now? I don't need to actively try to be here now; I'm already here now. I just need to stop being anywhere else (in the mind-wandering sense), and then being here now is the thing that's left. That little moment of enlightenment lasted maybe twenty seconds, but it was a really good twenty seconds. I am here now. No effort needed.
I dreamed that J and I went to a gay bathhouse and hung out in a hot tub with a bunch of writers we know. Some actors who had recently played Doctor Who showed up, including Matt Smith and David Tennant. ( It didn't go the way you might expect )
Yes, I'm bummed that it didn't turn into a sex dream involving David Tennant. (Couldn't care less about Matt Smith, personally.)
The other day I mentioned taking walks while listening to Headspace meditations, and the friend I was talking with was puzzled because those are intended for sitting meditation. There is certainly much to be said for sitting meditation, and Headspace has taught me how to appreciate and enjoy it, but walking meditation just feels perfectly designed for me. Sitting meditation feels like using weight machines instead of free weights; it builds capability and endurance, but only in very specific ways that aren't necessarily broadly applicable. Walking mindfully feels like much better practice for moving mindfully through the rest of my life. And I'm always happiest while walking, through a park or through my city.
How to adapt one to the other: Whenever the guiding narration says to rest my focus on the rhythm of the breath, I rest my focus on the rhythm of walking instead. That's it! The rest of the practice is entirely the same.
I've been doing Headspace Pro recently, which is unthemed and includes long periods of silence. Nearly every afternoon, ideally after eating lunch and before the sun gets too low, I go to the little park down the street and walk for 20 minutes or so, very lightly guided by the minimal narration, experiencing the park and the change of seasons and the people and animals that pass by. It's just lovely. I dropped the practice in the summer, because I don't need a reason to get out and walk--I do plenty of it without even trying--and my schedule is often so packed that it's hard to find even 15 or 20 minutes for myself. I expect I'll drop it again next summer for much the same reasons. But I'm so glad to have it for the fall and winter and spring, and I hope to bring FutureKid along with me on many future walks (without headphones in, obvs).
Today I started reading Thích Nhất Hạnh's The Miracle of Mindfulness
. I was looking for his book on walking meditation and couldn't find it, but this was sitting right there (we actually owned two copies). It feels like something I would have nodded along with in the past, but not really viscerally understood. Now that I have an actual meditation practice to link it to, I think I'll get more out of it. In the meantime, it's just enjoyable to read. And it feels so validating to read things like this that both echo my experience and provide gentle direction:
When you are walking along a path leading into a village, you can practice mindfulness. Walking along a dirt path, surrounded by patches of green grass, if you practice mindfulness you will experience that path, the path leading into the village. You practice by keeping this one thought alive: "I'm walking along the path leading into the village." Whether it's sunny or rainy, whether the path is dry or wet, you keep that one thought, but not just repeating it like a machine, over and over again. Machine thinking is the opposite of mindfulness. If we're really engaged in mindfulness while walking along the path to the village, then we will consider the act of each step we take as an infinite wonder, and a joy will open our hearts like a flower, enabling us to enter the world of reality.
I like to walk alone on country paths, rice plants and wild grasses on both sides, putting each foot down on the earth in mindfulness, knowing that I walk on the wondrous earth. In such moments, existence is a miraculous and mysterious reality. People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.