a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
Entries tagged with behavior.being useful 
rosefox: Origami boxes. (helpful)
[personal profile] solarbird has put together a mobile solution for Dreamwidth that's now in beta. Go try it out!
rosefox: A mouse in a doorman's uniform holding a door open for another mouse. (welcome)
I have disabled crossposting to LiveJournal and am in the process of making all my posts there private. (That doesn't work on custom filters, but if you delete a filter, it effectively makes filtered posts private. If you do want to delete all your entries, here's a Selenium script that runs in Firefox, courtesy of [personal profile] xtina.) For the moment I'm not deleting my account, but I will no longer post or comment there. I agreed to the TOS only so that I could retrieve my content. I will not make more content for them to run ads against or judge by horrible anti-queer laws. If they delete it, then they delete it.

Welcome, new folks! If you're just moving here from LJ, some tips:

1) Claim your LJ handle so that comments that you made on LJ are attributed to your DW when they're imported. Your OpenID URL is the URL of your old journal, username.livejournal.com. I believe you'll need to be able to log into LJ to do this, so if you've deleted your account, you'll need to temporarily undelete it, and it might not work if you haven't agreed to the LJ TOS (*spit*).

2) Look for your old LJ friends in this post on [community profile] 2017revival and the comments. You can also post a personal ad to [community profile] 2017revival or read the ones posted there if you want to make new friends.

Also, if you were mad enough to delete or mothball your LJ account over anti-queer provisions, please take a moment to support Russian LGBT Network, which does very valuable work. Right now they're running an emergency hotline for people endangered by the anti-gay purges happening in Chechnya. If you can donate, please do (perhaps the amount you would have put toward your next LJ paid account renewal). If you can't, please signal-boost.
31 January 2017 04:02 - "Every little bit helps"
rosefox: This has been a consciousness-raising message from THE SISTERHOOD. Power to the oppressed. Stay strong, sister. (activism)
I made supportive postcards to mail to my local mosques today. And then I made more to send to mosques that have been attacked. And I designed more postcard fronts with awesome public-domain clip-art images. And I bought a roll of 100 postcard stamps because it turns out this is a thing I can do easily that is at least a little bit effective and feels really good.

If you know people looking for ways to speak up that don't involve phone calls or marches, and if those people have printers and funds for printable postcards and stamps, point them to http://tinyurl.com/angrypostcards for customizable templates with useful addresses already filled in.

I also finally got a PO box, so when we apply for/renew our passports tomorrow, we'll have somewhere safe to send them. Packages get stolen from our front steps a lot, and having Kickstarter rewards and online purchases sent to the office is always a bit awkward, so it'll be good for that too. But mostly I care about the passports. Just in case.

And I supported this fundraiser for a Bed-Stuy knitting shop that's in danger of closing, because direct giving matters as much as giving to organizations and sometimes goes even further. That store has been a haven for black women who need a place dedicated to peace, creation, and community. I want to help it stay alive. Please help if you can.
24 January 2017 20:28 - "Don't panic"
rosefox: A woman with words running through her head nonstop. (noisy brain)
This is a compilation of things I tweeted today about not poisoning the social media well with anxiety and panic. It's primarily aimed at Twitter users, but I expect it's probably useful for Facebook too.

As a person with an anxiety disorder, I really understand the urge to conflate being ANXIOUS with being MOTIVATED. The reason I understand that so much is that it is a lie anxiety whispers—or sometimes yells—in my ear every day. "You need me!" anxiety says. "Without me you wouldn't notice or accomplish the important things! Without me you'd be a useless lump!"

This is a LIE. L I E pants-on-fire lie.

For one thing, anxiety often paralyzes. For another, it occludes judgment. "Fight, fly, or freeze" is the choice anxiety presents to you. These are immediate, adrenaline-powered responses to immediate threats. They are USELESS in the long term. Their only purpose is to keep you alive long enough to HAVE a long term. Panic consumes all your energy in a single explosive burst and leaves you exhausted. It is very bad for your brain and your body.

Right now, what we are facing is a very large, multifaceted set of threats, short-term and long-term but not immediate. Panic will actively impede our ability to respond to those threats. It will not motivate us. It will only harm us.

If you have been feeling anxious or panicky about the news, please take a moment to make a PLAN for how to prevent and treat your anxiety. "I will go on social media and say I'm scared and everyone will reassure me/be scared with me!" is not a plan.

Read [twitter.com profile] TGStoneButch's #DailyCoping threads (that's a roundup link on a blog for those who don't read Twitter) for some really good specific pointers on dealing with different kinds of stress responses.

Right now, my primary anxiety prevention strategy is CLOSE THE TAB. Anything that makes me panic is harmful and I will move away from it. This doesn't mean cutting myself off from all sources of information—only panic-inducing ones. I get a lot of political emails. If they fearmonger, I unsub. I keep the ones that are about concrete action, like http://tinyletter.com/resist and http://tinyletter.com/re-act.

I unfollow even dear friends who only post about being angry and frightened. I love them, but I need to protect myself. And I reach out to them by email and IM instead so that we can connect in other ways.

If I am feeling anxious, I take anxiolytics. I make myself do this even when the anxiety is screaming that I need it to survive. It is very hard to treat anxiety. Sometimes I envision it as a living entity that wants to survive at any cost. I even feel bad for it. But I need my brain more than my brain parasite does. So I take my anxiolytics, and breathe and meditate, and do other #DailyCoping things.

For longer-term treatment of anxiety, I work with my therapist and my family on various strategies. In the past I've taken SSRIs.

So that's my plan. I really strongly encourage all of you to make one too. Especially if you haven't been anxiety-prone before now.

I spent yesterday in crisis mode. I spent today having the belated panic reaction that would have kept me from functioning yesterday. So I am SUPER AWARE right now of the difference between panic and responding appropriately to a crisis. We are in a crisis. We can't let our totally understandable anxiety about that prevent us from taking appropriate action.

And please, if you feel anxious or panicky, DO reach out for help. But DON'T just broadcast your panic; it's infectious. Call a friend or a hotline or your therapist. Email or IM or DM someone. Enact your plan.

Twitter has been our collective id for nearly a decade. It's very vulnerable right now. Please take care of it.

BTW, I'm really pleased to see a lot of people returning to LiveJournal/Dreamwidth. That's a great place to write about big feelings! You can filter them, and cut-tag them, and let people opt in to them, all while expressing yourself at length. Dreamwidth accounts are free and it's a wholly user-supported company with great community aspects. I recommend it highly.

Comments are off to discourage trolls. Please feel free to share this link around.
14 November 2016 14:45 - "God damn it, you've got to be kind"
rosefox: A needle drawing thread that forms the word "Love". (love)
I have a thread on [personal profile] kaberett's love meme post if you feel like leaving me a comment. Lots of other good people are there too. Spread the love around. Also check out [personal profile] swan_tower's tikkun olam open thread.

I'm offering free training over Skype for anyone who wants to learn how to effectively call their elected representatives and ask them to support bills or otherwise take useful action. If you're interested, PM me. Feel free to let others know about this offer; it's available indefinitely.

I downloaded a URL blocker for Chrome and set Twitter and Tweetdeck to redirect to an eight-hour video of birdsong. It's doing wonders for my mental health. I also ate two full meals yesterday, took the baby to visit my mother for lots of intergenerational hugs, got a haircut, and solidly slept seven and a half hours. Now I just need the last of this head cold nose-cloggery to go away and I might actually start to feel human again.
rosefox: A sci-fi landscape and the words "DISSENT IS PATRIOTIC". (patriotism-dissent)
Trump made a scary speech last night. Today Max Gladstone had some passionate thoughts on not being immobilized by that fear.

This is really, really important. It's JULY. Stop acting like Trump's already won!

I understand being scared. Take a day and feel the fear. Then let it power you into positive action.

Last night a friend asked what I thought they should be doing to prepare for helping people if Trump wins, which I guess meant "should we furnish our attic for the next Anne Frank" or something. I told them that I have the energy to either phonebank for Clinton or become a President Trump prepper, but not both. So I'm going to phonebank for Clinton.

(Is she perfect? No, obviously not. But she's not a dangerous fascist, and Trump is, so Clinton's got my vote and my activism. That seems pretty straightforward to me.)

Also, I refuse to treat fascism as the tipping point for helping those in need. Help the people who are in need now, and who will be that much worse off under a Trump presidency. The institutional equivalent of your furnished attic is your local shelter; perhaps you could give them some time or money. Or donate to the Ali Forney Center; while Trump makes grotesque claims about loving abstract theoretical LGBTQ people, the Ali Forney Center is helping real actual queer kids who've been kicked out by their families. Or fight felony disenfranchisement, which horribly skews the demographics of who can vote. Or support organizations helping Syrian refugees to counter Trump calling them all future terrorists, or tear down his wall before he can put it up by supporting organizations for just and humane border practices on the U.S.-Mexico border. He has so many odious policies and positions that there are a hundred different ways you can push back against them, so pick one that calls to you.

And phonebank for Clinton*--you can do it right now from your home, so throw a phonebanking party or make five quick calls before work every day or whatever suits you--or volunteer locally. Give money and/or time to the Democrats or MoveOn or Avaaz or your preferred organization. As Max says, don't let the fuckers think they already own tomorrow.

It
is
JULY

and we have four months to win this. That is not a lot of time, but it's enough time as long as we don't pause too long to wallow in despair.

Don't furnish your attic toward an inevitable fascist tomorrow. Fight NOW so that no one needs to hide in an attic ever again.

P.S. Lots of people have been dropped from voter rolls. Check your registration right now. Re-register if you need to. And then register your friends and neighbors and relatives. And then help them get to the polls, or make their postal votes. And bring your kids to the polls with you so they can see democracy in action and learn that when they're old enough voting will be important for them to do. We need all hands on deck, now and in the future--the future that we get to shape.

* You may need to disable ad blockers to get the Clinton phonebank page to work.

Feel free to share the link to this post as widely as you like.
rosefox: a green and white highway sign that says THIS LANE FOR ROSE (driving)
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!
21 June 2016 13:39 - "You can be a new man"
rosefox: Me in men's evening dress. (crossdressing)
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.
rosefox: A giant X and the word "IRRITANT". (annoyed)
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!
31 May 2016 17:24 - "Let's see what's in the box!"
rosefox: Origami boxes. (gift)
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!
5 February 2016 02:35 - "The screaming meemies"
rosefox: Batman is holding a baby while a woman says "Don't you have ANY idea how to hold a baby?" (baby-anxious)
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. [twitter.com profile] 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. :)
rosefox: The words "What if the sky falls again?". (what if)
I left this as a comment elsejournal, about helping kids to deal with anxiety, and figured it might be useful to a wider audience. This particular analogy helps me a great deal with understanding my own anxiety and finding healthy ways to deal with it.

There are two kinds of anxiety: the solid kind and the liquid kind. The solid kind comes from one-time things you can point to and wrestle with, like a deadline for turning in homework. That kind can generally be worked around with a little bit of attention to practicalities. "I'm worried that I won't get my homework done on time." "Okay, how can we make sure you have the time and tools you need to do your homework well and efficiently?" And some explicit practice trusting yourself and recalling your past similar successes can be useful too.

But the liquid kind comes from global, environmental, persistent things: brain chemistry, ongoing physical pain or disability, a life full of uncertainty, other people around you behaving in harmful or erratic ways. It's incredibly hard to look at those things head-on because they're so big and pervasive, so we try to bottle the anxiety up in the shape of something we understand. "I'm anxious that no one likes me" or "I'm anxious that I'll fail all my classes and be a miserable failing failure" or "I'm anxious that everyone I love will die" are bottles for liquid anxiety. And you can't address that anxiety by trying to address the bottle--saying "Of course people like you, you are very successful at many things, we will all live a good long time" will bounce off the bottle and never get through to the anxiety inside. You have to pour the anxiety out of the bottle, a little bit at a time if you can't manage more, and treat it as its own thing.

In the moment, you can say, "I'm so sorry you feel scared. It's hard to feel scared. Anytime you feel scared, I will do everything I can to help you feel safe." Or maybe, "Sometimes I feel scared too. Let's hug each other and promise to help each other through scary times." You can also practice large-scale calm, meditation, compassion, patience. But the bigger, harder, most absolutely necessary work is figuring out that persistent source of fear and fixing it as much as it can be fixed.
11 October 2015 01:21 - "A heart so fine it's certified"
rosefox: A person in a gas mask. (safety)
Today the three of us got up at what X calls "fuck o'what in the morning" and endured a seven-hour advanced child care and infant/child CPR and first aid course. We are now all certificated for the next two years. Maybe when the cert is up we'll hire someone to do a CPR training party for us and our local child-having and child-caring friends. (Thanks for the idea, [twitter.com profile] and_rayna!)

Major props to X for doing the course while six months pregnant. They needed help getting down on the floor with the CPR dummies and getting back up again after, but they did those chest compressions like a champ.

Today would have been my grandfather's 100th birthday. I think he would have been very proud of how I chose to spend it.

I took Celebrex before and after the class, and brought an instant ice pack that I slapped on my right arm the instant the class was done. Real ice followed when we got home. Thanks to these precautions, my arm is only in moderate agony. Chest compressions are hard work. I have been forbidden from doing laundry tonight; I hope I'll be able to do some tomorrow. Mostly I need socks and underwear, which are easy to load into the machine and don't require folding, so I think I should be able to manage that.

Right now, maybe another round of ice on both arms--I always forget that my left arm gets just as inflamed but is quieter about it--and then a whole lot of healing sleep.
3 August 2015 03:08 - "I'm not your only friend"
rosefox: Lots of hearts with lines connecting them and the caption "Love begets love". (polyamory)
Hey poly parents: my pal T is in a stressful situation and would like some reassurance/info from people who've been there. They're married and newly pregnant (a first, planned pregnancy, which both T and their spouse are very happy about), and worried about how this will affect their relationship with their non-resident boyfriend. The boyfriend was fine with the thought of a hypothetical pregnancy but now is likewise anxious about how an actual baby will change things. T wrote to me, "I think it's tricky for [boyfriend] because he has friends with babies who seem totally swept up in BABY and we don't have models for any poly folk doing this to point to.... I would love to hear about people in a similar situation to mine. I'm sure they must exist more often than not but I don't hear much about them. And so many poly people that I know believe babies ruin relationships/friendships. But I'm sure there must be people with non-parent partners whose relationships stay good throughout."

Any advice or reassurance for these folks?
rosefox: A cheerful fellow with a giant chaotic jumble on a leash. (busy-good)
"My arms aren't that sore, I can totally go to the gym and work with a new personal trainer," I said on Monday.

"Ow, ow ow ow," I said on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Arms blah )

Other than my perennially cranky limbs, my health's been very good. I've been moving around enough to keep my knees happy. I don't remember the last time anyone in the house had so much as a cold. My ears are being very well behaved. I have a weird ongoing thing where it sometimes feels like food is caught in my throat, but my ENT checked it out and says it's just congestion.

I finally went to a decent allergist (after years of thinking I should) and learned that I'm allergic to roaches and dust mites; we don't have roaches but we do have a lot of dust, given all the books and all the cats, so I guess that's a good reason to change my sheets weekly, have the sainted Angela over to clean the house monthly, and maybe get an air purifier for my room. I could also get allergy shots but there's no guarantee they'll help, I hate injections, and it just seems like more than I can emotionally cope with right now. Ask me again when I've slept.

Still not caught up on sleep post-RWA. Hoping to fix that this week.

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Being good partners )

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J went out of town for a week. Every day he was gone, Alex got more and more vocal and unhappy and lonely and affectionate. When he came back Alex glued himself to J and would not leave his side until J went to bed and shut the door. Then Alex plunked down sadly outside J's room, looking woefully at me every time I walked by. Apparently he has decided that he's J's cat. J wasn't consulted about this but doesn't appear to be displeased. He still gets to pick our next cat. :)

The cats are generally getting along very well. There's still occasional chasing and swatting and hissing, but you know, they're cats. Sam and Sophie generally hang out on X's bed all day, grudgingly managing to get within a foot or two of each other. Alex sleeps in my room at night, up on top of the dresser; Sam sleeps on my bed or windowsill.

We still have no idea how they'll all react to the appearance of a baby. We'll figure that out when it happens, I guess.

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Baby prep )

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And because I totally needed a new side gig while all this is going on:

Introducing Reading While Cooking! [livejournal.com profile] mrbelm and I are collaborating on this literary and culinary advice column. Submit a request with your preferences and restrictions, and we'll recommend books and recipes for you. The first post went up today and we plan to do at least one a month, maybe more.

We're very grateful to the people who have put requests in our queue, since we couldn't really do an advice column without people who want advice. If you want some tasty things to read and eat, send us a request!

It's the first time I've tried using Patreon; so far we have one backer who's pledging a whole $2 per post. :) But it's a start. If we're not profitable by the end of the year, we'll probably consider the project a glorious failed experiment--as so many books and recipes are--and move on to something else. In the meantime, we're having fun.
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