It's my late night at the office. I videocalled home to say goodnight to the baby. They were tired, so after a while they waved bye-bye. I said "Okay, Kit, bye-bye! I love you!" and signed love you.
And they signed love back.
Kit: [earnestly signing love at the camera]
My baby told me they love me. I'll just be here in a little melted puddle forever.
We are in the woods. Every summer J's mom comes to the U.S. and stays at her house upstate, and we always spend at least one weekend here with her.Last year
it was our first driving trip as a family and we stressed a lot trying to plan it. This year we had three ready-made shared checklist documents for packing (for the car), packing (for the stay), and prepping the house. I said I wanted to leave by 7:30; at 7:20 we were pulling away from the curb. Flawless.
Bonus: we didn't have to bring a portable crib or changing table because we'd already brought them on previous trips.
Last year we drove through beautiful summer sunshine, but the trip took five hours because of wretched traffic. This year we left after dinner, so even though we drove through torrential rain (I very nearly pulled off the highway at a few points) and then amazing thick fog (through which we were guided by a ghost car
) it only took abut three hours. I like night driving and I like cutting two hours off our travel time but whew, I-87 is pretty terrible in nighttime rain, with no streetlights and very faded lane markers and water sheeting across the road.
Last year Kit was a perfect travel bean. This year they were also a perfect travel bean. During our mid-drive break for sandwiches and stretching, we took them into a gas station convenience store that they examined with the same serious yet optimistic expression they brought to the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. Then J got them a bag of Goldfish crackers and they were so excited that they hugged it all the way out to the car. Everything is magical when you're a baby.
Last year we got here in the afternoon and Kit was astonished by the trees. TREES. SO MANY. SO TALL. This year we got here at night and a very sleepy Kit was astonished by Glory's collection of teddy bears and other stuffed animals. When they went to bed we had to stop them from pulling every bear within reach into the crib with them (in addition to Toronto and Hug Face, the bears we brought with us).
(One of Glory's bears has similar fur to Toronto's but is a bit bigger and has a snazzy black beret. "Toronto's uncle!" X said. "That must mean Toronto is French-Canadian," I said. The beret bear is now Uncle Georges and I suspect he'll be coming back to the city with us to meet Toronto's recently acquired identical twin [always have a spare of your child's favorite toy/blanket, always always always], whom I tried to name Ottawa but J and X call Toron-two. We are very silly with our bears.)
(Toronto actually has nothing to do with Canada; I call it that because of T.O. for "transitional object". I will never get tired of this joke. Hug Face is because Kit hugs it with their face. It has a fraternal twin named Face Hugs for the same reason. We are very
silly with our bears.)
Last year I wrote, "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." This year I say: yes, that.
Tomorrow the rain is supposed to ease off in the morning. I hope Kit gets to go out and romp a bit in the grass and be astonished by the trees all over again.
I'm having one of those "parenting is so hard, when does it stop being hard, oh right, never" days.
I was watching Kit play on their own and glumly thinking that happy Kit is independent and only wants parents when they're sad. Then they toddled over and handed me a stuffed fox, just because. So I know that what I'm feeling is just a feeling and has very little to do with reality. But it's still a big feeling.
Relatedly, having a tantruming toddler scream directly into your ear for several minutes is really quite challenging.
"Kit is so chill," I thought, once upon a time. "Maybe they won't really get toddler tantrums." I was so wrong. Soooo wrong. Tantrums aren't about personality. They're about cognitive and emotional overload. A scream into the void.
(My right ear is the void, apparently.)
(But was I going to stop cuddling my screaming child? Of course not. My ear can cope.)
And now I feel like the worst parent in the world because I couldn't really help my kid, even when they were bottomlessly miserable. There is no cure for the tantrum because it's an existential crisis. You just hold on and say "I'm here" like it means anything. And eventually they stop crying long enough for you to get some calories into them, which almost always helps. It turns out that kids are always basically one minute away from a massive hunger crash, and that rather exacerbates the existential angst.
You could not pay me enough to be a child again. No way. It's genuinely a wonder that kids are ever happy at all. Their bodies do weird things, the world is baffling, everything is too big, they have no control, safety is elusive and fleeting. It's like a fucking horror movie, 24/7. And yet my child comes over and smiles at me and puts their head on my knee for sheer love.
I guess maybe they wanted to say "I'm here" like it means anything.
I guess maybe it does.
We are HOME. I have rarely in my life been so tired, and I have spent much of my life being tired. This is non-Euclidean tired that collapses in upon itself. I'm sort of impressed by it.
As usual, Sam was thrilled to see me, Sophie was thrilled to see X, and Alex pretended to have entirely forgotten our names until we ordered pizza and he decided he wanted some. Tili took very good care of them. She also pointed out that our inexplicably huge basil plants grew enormous flower spikes during the three days we were gone. The leaves are yellowing a bit; might be time for more fertilizer.
I cannot overstate how tremendously lucky we are to have such a good travel-bean. They were really clearly Done With Everything around 2 p.m. yesterday, and very polite about our inexplicable failure to take them home right then. They didn't nap much on the train today, though they did sleep on me for about half an hour—it's such a pleasure to be slept on by a baby, and we were all jockeying a bit to be the one that Kit napped on; I only won because J needed to get up to get something and I snagged the sleepy baby and the blanket—but they were generally cheerful and amenable to distraction nonetheless, and as soon as we got home they chugged a bottle and sacked out. They even signed "train" while we were waiting for the train, and they made friends with another toddler who was riding in our car, trading many high-fives and handshakes. They really liked the train trips; we should do more train travel with them.
Next year, more and better planning. Definitely. But on the whole it was a very good con.
A couple of months ago when Kit was being evaluated for eating difficulties, the speech/eating specialist suggested getting an occupational therapy evaluation because Kit was holding their wrist at a slightly odd angle. The OT eval happened today and Kit did great! We're not surprised, but it's always nice to hear an expert say "Your kid is totally fine".
Kit was in a very good mood and followed directions really well, including stacking rings on a peg, sticking pegs into a peg board, drawing with crayons and a marker, putting blocks away in a bag (Kit's really into tidying up and putting things where they go right now), putting shapes into a shape puzzle, and turning pages in a book. They couldn't quite pull the cap off the marker, but they tried very hard. The only thing they didn't want to do was stack two small cube blocks; they preferred to pick the blocks up and bang them together.
The OT was impressed that Kit can self-feed with a spoon, which is apparently unusual for 18 months. Kit's been doing it for ages! What an excellent child.
This is all separate from the physical therapy that Kit's continuing to get for gross motor skills, but they're doing very well on that front too.
Now I just need to get our service coordinator to make the speech/eating services happen. Kit's doing better with finger foods but still finds non-mush solids pretty challenging.
No 18-month Kit update yet because they've got a fierce UTI and the antibiotics have only just started kicking in, and I've been sick all week with a weird stomach bug or something, and assorted other things have been going on. But there will be one as soon as they're better. They're holding up like a champ, but they are also still a wee baby and being sick is rough. I'll be so glad when their fever is gone and their tolerance for things going even slightly not their way comes back.
Recently I've found myself thinking in religious terms a lot more than I used to. Not sure what to do with that. It's odd to feel my own sincerity when I describe Kit as "a blessing" or think "God willing, I'll be well enough to do laundry tomorrow". It feels very natural and reasonable, and I wouldn't look askance if I hadn't been agnostic/panentheist my whole life. Also, given my OCD and anxiety, I am generally suspicious of things appearing in my head that feel reasonable but have no rational basis.
I wonder, too, how much of this is about my Jewish identity mattering a lot more, politically, than it used to. If I'm going to be endangered by the fact of being Jewish, then I'm going to double the fuck down on my Jewishness.
But I don't feel a stronger inclination toward ritual or ceremony (or not much of one... though I have gotten more interested in celebrating holidays and learning about Jewish traditions, hm). I'm just more conscious of a... sense of a benevolent deistic presence in the fabric of the world. I mean, I've always had that sense, that's what panentheism is, but I feel it more strongly now, and I'm more inclined to invoke it.
Well, if it's a fun new kind of mental illness, it doesn't seem to be a harmful one at present. Mostly it's about joy and gratitude. I think sometimes I just feel so humbled and glad for all the things in my life that are due to chance as much or more as my efforts, and there's no real personification of chance to direct my gratitude to.
So all right, little beneficial brain worm, I'll keep you around for now. Just don't get too big, okay? I've only got so much brain.
This evening I managed to eat some soup AND some bread, AND I drank ginger ale. This is an improvement! It has been a pretty w/retched week. Now I'm kind of energized and of course it's nearly 1 a.m. Maybe I'll burn it off by sorting some laundry. Amazing how fast it piles up when I'm sick.
Dear fellow caregivers for toddlers: I would love advice on two distinct things.
1) What makes a good potty? The number of variations is overwhelming. We want something pretty simple, I think: looks like a toilet, no branded characters, doesn't play music, sits on the floor, is basically a bucket with a seat. In the more distant future we'll need one that folds up or goes over the toilet seat or something, for when we're on the road, but right now this is just for Kit to examine and contemplate and get used to the idea of.
2) Like most 18-month-olds, Kit is full of energy. Unlike most 18-month-olds, Kit can barely walk unassisted and can't run or jump. They've only just started climbing around on the most low-level playground equipment and are very uncertain; they can get up five steps to the top of the baby slide but haven't yet sorted out how to slide down it. When they can't burn off all that energy, they get very agitated and fussy. How do we help them get something like vigorous exercise on the weekends? So far my only idea is to take their walker wagon to the park so they can toddle along at a fairly fast clip for longer distances than our apartment allows—there's a good smoothly paved straightaway there—but that's a pain because the sidewalk between here and there is very uneven and narrow, so I'd have to figure out some way to carry the (heavy, bulky, non-folding) wagon while pushing Kit in the stroller, and that may surpass my own physical limitations. Maybe a lightweight folding medical-style walker? Is that a ridiculous expense for a kid who probably won't need it anymore by the end of the summer? And what do we do when it's not park weather? The nearest real play space for kids is the Brooklyn Children's Museum and it's kind of a haul from here—two buses, and you have to fold the stroller on the bus. They can only crawl around our apartment for so long.
EDIT: We did have a great dance party to the B-52s on Sunday—their pure sincerity is a perfect match for toddler sincerity, plus a good beat—so I should remember that's an option for indoor days. Friends on Twitter and elsewhere also suggested walking while holding Kit's hands/arms; playing follow-the-leader movement games ("Stretch WAAAAAY up high! Now bend WAAAAAY down low!") or doing movement to songs; setting up a tumbling mat and big foam blocks to climb on if we can get some that fit Kit's room (need to measure the open floor space); getting a cheap flimsy lightweight doll stroller
to use as a walker in the park.
I'd really appreciate any suggestions on either or both fronts!
A word we used a lot for Kit in the early days was amiable. And they still are, in many ways; they're particularly good at dealing with being redirected away from something they want. But in the last month or so they've started voicing some very strong opinions, one of which is wanting to do some things for themself. In particular, they will shun food that one of us tries to put in their mouth but then happily pick up/spoon up and eat that same food on their own. Eating is great. Being fed is apparently for little tiny babies and not for great big toddlers like Kit.
I was not expecting the next iteration of "I do it myself" to happen at bedtime. Until a couple of weeks ago, if I said "Are you ready to go into the crib?" they'd complain, and then I'd give them a few more minutes of cuddling before putting them down to fall asleep. This past week or two, they've been calm at the thought of going into the crib, so I'd put them down while they were more awake, and they would take a few minutes to wriggle around and then conk out. Tonight they were so tired they almost fell asleep while I was changing their diaper, but once we'd read two stories and turned out the light, they stretched and squirmed and wriggled in the way that usually means "put me down so I can crawl around and play". I said I wouldn't let them crawl around but I could put them in the crib to play with their bears until they fell asleep (which I expected would take a while, maybe as much as half an hour). I put them in sitting up... and they gently lay down and grabbed the bears in their usual sleep position. So I put the blanket over them, said goodnight, and left. There was not a single peep from their room and after five minutes I shrugged and started the sleep timer.
Frankly, I would have liked a few more minutes of cuddling! Greater independence has meant a decrease in enjoyable cuddle time (as opposed to soothing cuddles when Kit's angry or upset), and I miss it, though from what I can tell Kit is still on the huggy end of the typical toddler range. But I am mightily impressed by their earnest eagerness to go to bed on their own. We'll see whether it becomes a trend.
Previously on "Kit plays pretend", we have seen Kit pretend to do things that Kit does for real. They will eat air from an empty bowl, and wash their hands at a toy faucet. I've also seen them get sort of vaguely conversational with a bear, maybe? That's about it.
But TODAY. Today X and I took Kit to a toy store, and my mom gave them a doll and a toy bottle. And Kit FED THE DOLL. Repeatedly and at length. That is an entirely different sort of imaginative play and we were really floored to see them do it.( Cut for those who don't care for baby anecdotes )
What a great day.
I took Kit to
Specifically to the splendid shiny new Books Are Magic, which has an amazing children's section complete with big bean bags and a squishy couch to sit on. I recommend it highly.
Kit was very serious and focused on the subway, the way they are in new situations. grahamsleight
was with us and kept trying to get their attention, but they were too focused on absorbing all information from the surroundings. But when they saw the books, they lit up with delight. They've been to libraries, and of course at home they're surrounded by bookshelves. They understand
They zoomed over to the shelf of board books and picked out some familiar ones before looking at the rest. After a little while of watching them pick books up and drop them and bang them on other books, Graham said "Kit, look!" and rotated the revolving rack of Little Golden Books.
So then they pulled down some books and rotated the rack and that was fun. They were very puzzled by the Little Golden Books being so thin and would grab several at a time, thinking they were one book.
Eventually they went back to the board books. They liked grabbing multiple copies of a single title and waving them all around. They turned pages in a book they'd never seen before, got to a (fairly crude) drawing of a kid in a bath, and signed "bath". I nearly fainted. The other day I saw them turn to a book page that shows people dancing and start doing their adorable chair-boogie dance, but it was a familiar book. This was completely new. MY BABY UNDERSTANDS SEMIOTICS. WHAT.
(I later had some deeper thoughts about how if Kit can look at a picture that looks nothing like
bathtime at our house and still understand it as "bath", that makes it all the more imperative to show them books about kids and families of all kinds so that they internalize broad concepts of "happy kid" and "family", and that ended with me buying two board books about kids with same-sex parents and emailing Rebecca Sugar via Cartoon Network Books to ask whether she could make a Steven Universe
board book that shows Steven and his amazing loving cobbled-together family.)kissane
joined us, and Graham read books to the kids (who were impossibly good together) while Erin and I kvelled. Kit spotted a little chair and pushed it all over the place. They repeatedly tried to go behind the counter. (I told them "You don't work here yet.") We eventually decamped to 61 Local, where Kit tried to drink some of my orange juice and had a remarkably contained meltdown when the noise got to be too much. Juna was tremendously sweet with them and I really hope they get to have another playdate in a quieter place. As soon as I took them outside they calmed down, and they stayed very chill on the bus and home. What a good Brooklyn baby.
Every time I wear them in the front carrier, people express amazement, because they are enormous and I am small. But it was so nice to be able to just go up and down stairs instead of wrestling with the stroller and have them "on my lap" when I sat down instead of needing to take the backpack on and off (which is really tricky in transit), and my arms are very grateful to my hips and knees for taking the load. As soon as they can walk up and down stairs with help, the subway will be much more manageable with the stroller: it folds up small and slings over my shoulder, and that frees me to hold their hand on the steps. But carrying both stroller and baby is just impossible for me, I don't want to rely on strangers to not drop my baby down a flight of stairs, and most stations don't have elevators. So in the meantime, I'm building up leg and core strength. Maybe I should start working out again.
Sunday: I SLEPT. It was glorious. I spent time with X and Kit while J was gaming, and Pablo came over and we all hung out for a while, and then J and I put Kit in the stroller and walked Pablo home (it's so cool that we can do that). We kind of wanted to cook, but the good market had closed by the time I got there—I wish they didn't close so early on Sundays—so we ended up ordering in Chinese food. Kit had a nightmare or something and woke up crying at 1 a.m. but X got them back to sleep quickly enough. I got totally caught up in researching interactions between Europeans and First Nations in early-19th-century Canada but eventually made myself buckle down and get work done. These 10 a.m. Monday deadlines that my new boss is so keen on are hard to get used to. But I got to bed before 6, so that's something.
Monday: I SLEPT AGAIN. Two days in a row of good sleep meant I woke up super perky. I was awake at 1:30, up by 2, and showered and dressed and fed by 2:45. I did some work and made some calls and was generally useful. Kit went right down for their post-daycare nap with minimal fuss, and I Skyped with Miriam for a bit, with the baby joining us after they woke up. They were teething hard, so I had to cut the call short and go ply them with books and Tylenol and milk and food and cuddles and crayons. Poor thing. We ordered in again because Mondays are no-cooking days. J took out the trash and recycling because my arms were pre-ouched and I didn't want to push them into being fully ouched, and then X and J went to bed and I found myself with no obligations other than needing to do some laundry, which mostly does itself. So I put my arm braces on and sat down with my protagonist journey outlines for Valour Advances
and reconciled them and made a timeline... and realized I forgot to put the romance in my romance novel. *sob* ( Writing blather )
And now the second load of laundry is done and I get to go to bed at only 3:30 a.m.! So early! Maybe I'll sleep well for the third night in a row! I sure hope so, because tomorrow's workload is looking pretty intense and it'd be nice to have both time and brains for it.
- thinking about:
behavior.foolishness, behavior.housework, behavior.parenting, behavior.planning, behavior.planning.agley, body.arms, experiences.socializing, experiences.work, people.kit, words.books.valour advances, words.writing
A thing I just wrote elsenet in response to someone who's ambivalent about parenthood and wanted to know how other people went from "no kids" to "yes kids":
I have a kid and I still don't know whether I would have, abstractly, in the absence of all other input, wanted kids. But no one lives abstractly, in the absence of all other input.
In my case, my partner X (who didn't live with me and J at the time) was very firm about having a kid and the only question for me and J was how involved to get. I felt very awkward around babies and was uncomfortable around kids in the abstract, though, like you, I had started to realize how much I enjoyed the company of my friends' and relatives' individual kids and was sort of rethinking that whole "not fond of kids" idea. I had absolute body horror around the idea of being pregnant, so I was never going to produce a child of my own. J and I certainly liked being double-income-no-kids and traveling internationally and doing a lot of evening and weekend social events, and we could have decided we liked it so much that we wanted to keep doing it while X single-parented. But when X crashed on our couch for a couple of months, we all liked living together and being a family so much that we decided to keep doing it, baby and all.
And now the three of us are all parents to an amazing 15-month-old and just yesterday a friend said that in every photo of me cuddling the baby, I have a huge smile that says "I GET TO CUDDLE A BABY". I could not have predicted this in one million billion years. I thought I was going to be uncomfortable and distant around the baby until they were able to speak coherent English. But nope, turns out that I am totally besotted by this baby. When they're sad and they crawl into my lap and bury their face in my shoulder and cry and fall asleep, that communicates love in ways that don't need words, and I'm genuinely honored to be so trusted by someone so small and vulnerable. There's something absolutely pure about our relationship right now, because they're too young to have emotional baggage. They just drench us in love (and drool). And I really get babies now, in a way that I didn't at all before, and am much more comfortable around other people's kids, though I'm still not going to leap to volunteer to babysit a baby. (Teenagers are different. Teenagers are amazing. Send all your teenagers to meeeeee.)
So if you're concerned that being ambivalent about parenthood means you will be ambivalent about your particular kid if you choose to have one, I am living proof that you can be uncertain right up to the moment of birth and even after—I spent most of Kit's first two weeks frantic because I hadn't bonded with the baby yet—and then fall madly in love and be ready to fight anyone who tries to get between you and your child.
I'm eager to get back to international travel and am entirely capable of discussing things that aren't bottles and diapers. I remember very clearly what it's like to not be a kid person, and I never inflict baby photos or anecdotes on people who'd really rather talk about anything else. But I'm 110% a my kid person, in ways that absolutely astonish me.
Parenthood should, in an ideal world, be a deliberate decision, but it's okay if you make that decision without feeling super-eagerly committed to it. You can say "Okay, I think having kids will be better than not having kids, probably, so let's do it and hope for the best" and that's a deliberate decision. A lot of people make the decision that way. There's nothing wrong with you for feeling like that about it.
I do workshops for struggling writers, and at the last one, someone asked, "How do I know whether to commit to being a writer?" I said that the question is not "Do I become a writer?" but "How am I a writer?". So perhaps a good question for you is, how would you be a parent? How would parenthood fit into your life, what would it mean to you, what would it give you and demand from you? What you imagine as you try to envision your possible parenthood life will help you see how it might work out for you, or not. When we were talking about having a child, I kept thinking of one-on-one bonding time with a small kid—making cookies, walking in the park and pointing out cool leaves and birds, explaining how plumbing works—and those visions filled me with joy. That hoped-for connection was my compass and was at the heart of why I said yes to being a parent. And I was right; bonding with my child, one on one, is the best part of parenthood for me. You know yourself and what you want from relationships—and parenthood is absolutely a relationship, first and foremost—so harness that knowledge to your imagination and see where it goes.
That cold virus has gone through our house like wildfire. Kit was slightly warm for a day and then fine, but it knocked the rest of us out for a week or two each. Apparently this is just going to be our new normal, according to other parents of daycare-age kids. It hit me first and hardest; I managed to keep my bout of it from turning into a sinus infection, but only barely, and my voice was impressively low for a while. J got over it fairly quickly, and X is mostly past the worst but still pretty soggy.
The February-like weather has helped nothing. We've had to keep the heat on pretty high, and that dries the air out, and that plus mouth-breathing because of stuffy noses has been just dreadful. We're cranking all our humidifiers and drinking gallons of water. I even got a bout of February-like depression, which totally missed me (and I did not miss) in actual February. But this weekend looks to be the start of a warmer, wetter stretch, so hopefully that will make everything better. I am putting considerable effort into planning a Brooklyn Botanic Gardens trip in mid-April with saraeileen
and maybe vschanoes
and their babies, because all I want right now is to be sprawled on the grass under the cherry trees and if I can't have it right at this moment then I will make very sure I get it as soon as possible. Spriiiiiiing, I neeeeeeed it.
I went up to Hunter today to do live-action Story Hospital with a group of teens I hadn't met before. It was amazing and great and emotionally exhausting. I came home so wiped out that after dinner I took a 90-minute nap on the couch—from 10:30 to midnight, not exactly prime napping time—because I was genuinely too tired to get up and go to bed. That is absurd. Of course then the nap wired me up, so I took the trash out and started laundry and did the dishes and took a shower and now it's 4 a.m. and I ought to go to bed for real. I hope writing this entry will help wind me down.
My day job workload is going to be decreasing after next week (YAY), and I plan to put all those hours toward sleep. That will help.
Kit's body continues to think it's older than it is. In addition to being the height and weight of a two-year-old, they've got the teeth of a two-year-old. All eight incisors and three of the four first molars are in, and their lower canines just cut through, which apparently hurts a whole lot. Poor sad bean. :( But ideally this accelerated teething schedule will mean they get all their teeth in quickly and then they can just enjoy having them.
I got new glasses and they keep feeling like they don't sit on my face quite right, even though I've had them adjusted several times at different shops. Maybe I just need to get used to them. They've got plastic frames and I think the last time I wore glasses with plastic frames was close to 20 years ago. I do really like the way they look. The neighborhood eyeglass shop where I got them completely messed up my beloved prescription sunglasses, so sometime this weekend or next week I need to go shake them down for not only a refund of the lenses (which make my eyes physically hurt, and made me dizzy when I switched back to my regular glasses) but the cost of replacing the frames, which they managed to warp while trying to fit the lenses in. So much for patronizing my little local business.
When I was sick I missed my regular manicure appointment and went a full 2.5 weeks without a manicure, but I didn't bite or break my nails; I was very proud. This week I had them done up in H&M's Wildwood polish
, which is my perfect green, and have been wearing green clothes that match them exactly and feeling excessively stylish. Alas, the polish has already been discontinued, so I will cherish this bottle of it and try to find the right balance between not using it all up right away and not letting it sit so long that it becomes unusable.
I think I have wound down, finally. Time to refill the humidifier and get a great deal of sleep.
- thinking about:
behavior.housework, behavior.teaching, body.hands, body.illness, body.sleep, experiences.annoyances, experiences.seasons, experiences.seasons.spring, experiences.seasons.winter, experiences.weather, experiences.weather.cold, experiences.work, people.kit, stuff.clothes.accessories
- feeling:sleepy, finally
Five things make a post.
1) First, the ending. Long Hidden goes out of print on May 9th.
*sob* The last copies are being sold at a steep discount, with proceeds partially benefiting We Need Diverse Books. You can get discounted copies of Hidden Youth
while you're there. Go help Bart and Kay clean out their warehouse while they're still allowed to sell the books! All details at that link.
2) Now, the beginnings. J has a new job! He got laid off at the end of last year and the last few months have been challenging. We are all very super excited that his nonstop hustle has landed him an excellent gig doing work he enjoys at a company he likes for good money.
3) X got a bonus and a raise! They inch ever closer to being paid what they deserve.
4) I joined a Slack for queer writers (if you want to join, let me know! All I need is your email address and i can add you) and it's been amaaaaazing for my productivity. People do 20-minute productivity sprints and then share snippets of their work and praise/critique one another in very supportive ways. Sometimes I use the sprints for day job work and sometimes for writing. I've outlined both my novels and passed the 10k mark on Valour Advances the Man
(though a good chunk of that is in scenes that probably won't make it into the book but shhhhh), which is my current focus project. I haven't forgotten the Persuasion
retelling but it's on the back burner right now. They'll inevitably swap at some point. I'm just so pleased to be writing! And it feels so good!
5) I reworked my Story Hospital Patreon tiers
and got more people into Story Hospital Slack, hooray! Now to figure out how to keep conversations going in there. For some reason they just don't catch fire. I will probably be better at that once I'm over this rotten stinking head cold.
6) Bonus sixth thing: the DST changeover happened and I didn't hate it nearly as much as I usually do, probably because I slept 11 hours that night to try to shake the cold. (Didn't work, alas.) Kit's body clock is on the same schedule, of course, so now they're going to sleep at 9 and waking up at 7 and it's WONDERFUL. They have dinner with us! J gets to sleep in instead of waking up at 5! Not sure what we'll do in the fall when the clocks go back but for now we're just enjoying this.
- thinking about:
body.illness, body.sleep, experiences.dst, experiences.endings, people.groups.qwc, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, projects.story hospital, words.books, words.books.valour advances, words.editing, words.editing.venues.long hidden, words.writing
Porting two baby-related threads over from Twitter.Kid things I had no idea about, but that totally make sense now: a short list.
1) When you teach a toddler some sign language, they will babble with their hands. Eye contact, big hopeful smile, incomprehensible hand motion. "Does this gesture mean anything? What about this?"
2) They will also come up with their own meanings for signs. We're pretty sure Kit signs "milk" to mean "I want".
3) Kids wrestling with object permanence and separation anxiety will apply it to EVERYTHING, like the end of a story. When we close a book, Kit looks worried until we show them that the story is still there when we open it up again.
4) The eye-contact look that will soon be "I'm doing a naughty thing" starts out as "I'm doing a thing that makes me happy"—maybe more specifically as "Will you come be happy with me as I do this thing that makes me happy?". It's so hopeful. And I can clearly see the seeds of "You AREN'T going to be happy that I'm doing this thing that makes me happy" in it.
5) So many things we think of as obvious delimiters are invisible to children. Social, not physical. Like "draw on paper, not table". To a kid with a marker, every surface is a surface that can have marker on it. I was in awe the other day watching Kit very carefully draw a line across the paper, over the clipboard, and onto the table. One line, no hesitation. It wasn't a transgressive thing. It was just where they were making their art. No differentiation between media whatsoever.
They also don't readily perceive verbal delimiters. Sound, word, and phrase are all one concept to them. When J says "turn the page" or I say "clap your hands" Kit understands those as whole concepts, like spoken pictograms. If I said "clap your feet" they'd be puzzled because "clap" as a verb doesn't exist for them yet.
I remember oaknfell
saying that teaching a kid to read is one long process of apologizing for the English language. Pretty sure teaching Kit to talk is going to involve a round of that too.
I get the phonics thing now—the struggle to explain to children that "clap your hands" has spaces in it, that "clap" itself is "c l a p". If you only hear language, those divisions are in no way intuitive.An appallingly adorable baby anecdote
We have a blanket that has a hood. The hood has ears and a little bear face. It is very cute. Today X and I were curious about Kit's object permanence and had that blanket over them in the stroller, so we hid one of their hands in the hood.
"Kit, where's your hand? Where's your hand?" They didn't care. Too many other things to look at out in the world. So I tapped their right hand, which was on top of the blanket. "There's your right hand. Where's your other hand?"
They looked at the hood over their hand and immediately decided it was a NEW BEAR FRIEND.
They reached out with their right forefinger and booped its nose—I am not making this up, this really happened—and then they brought it to their face and face-hugged it. They were so happy. "The bear ate my hand and now I have a BEAR FRIEND HAND and everything is GREAT."
They did not appear concerned about their missing hand at all. Who cares when there is a fuzzy bear face to press your face against?
X and I could hardly walk for laughing. Kit happily hugged the bear friend all the way home.
I must get this child some hand puppets. It will be epic.
Kit's developing some separation anxiety (yes, only now, at nearly 14 months!) and started crying tonight when we began the bedtime routine because bedtime means saying goodnight and everyone going away. We still did what we always do: big family hug, two parents say night-night and leave, and the third reads stories and provides cuddles and puts the baby in the crib. They clung to all of us during goodnight hugs, glumly (and sleepily) submitted to storytime, and finally fell asleep after only a little more fussing. Then we all sat around feeling heartbroken because it is so hard to see the baby so sad.
Tonight's bedtime story was No Matter What, by sheer coincidence; I spotted it while Kit was demolishing their bookshelf (a favorite activity) and realized we hadn't read it in ages. I'm never sure how much Kit understands of the actual words we say, but I think the meaning was clear, especially with the way I kept kissing and hugging them as I read. And I think it helped.
They've started getting upset when books end, too. We always have to open the book again to reassure them that the story is still there and they can reread it whenever they want. Sometimes they flip through it to find a favorite page before reluctantly accepting that the book is done. When we let them turn pages, they turn them really fast, without waiting for us to finish reading any text; one long look at the images on the page and then it's on to the next. It's so very like the way I blaze through books and then feel disappointed when they're done that it makes me laugh every time.
Kit endured their first ear infection this week, poor thing, and has been taking amoxicillin for it. As soon as they started on the antibiotics, their fever went away entirely and their vigor and appetite returned. (Their first full day of betterness ended with them not being able to fall asleep until 11 p.m. because all the energy they'd lacked while ill came roaring back with a vengeance. Fortunately that was a one-time thing and they're back on their usual sleep schedule.) I'm so glad for our access to good medical care, and also extremely glad to have a baby who sucks obediently on medication syringes, even when they hate the taste of the medicine, and doesn't appear to have allergies to anything. We were all very relieved that they went back to daycare today, because five days in a row of sick (and then recovering) baby at home was very challenging for all of us, especially as we were dealing with another family crisis at the same time. As always, I have no idea how single and stay-at-home parents do it. No idea whatsoever.
We're all quite convinced that Kit has psychic powers that only activate when they're asleep. Whenever X goes to bed—which doesn't happen at the same time every night—Kit sleep-fusses just enough to set off the monitor. Just now I returned to writing this entry after a while of doing other things, and Kit promptly made a few tiny noises. So I'm thinking at them as hard as I can: See, silly baby, I told you that we think of you even when you're not right in front of us. Rest now. No one is too far away, and we'll always be there when you need us.
Today I joined the general strike. Instead of working, I wrote a post on how to make art in scary and difficult times
, and then I met with the teens I mentor and talked about writing and reading and why we read SF/F and how to overcome writer's block and stop procrastinating. It was exactly the way I wanted to spend the day. I boycotted the inauguration so hard that I mostly managed not to even think about it.
When I was getting dressed I wore all black, which I basically never do. I hadn't planned to, but I opened my dresser drawer and went "Oh, yes, I think the black turtleneck is what I want to wear today, and the black trousers too". I dithered over jewelry and ended up with my origami peace dove necklace. I came out of my room to greet peripateticmeg
, who was here to babysit Kit (they've had a nasty head cold since Tuesday, poor thing), and she was also wearing all black. X said several people at their office were too.
It's been a really spectacularly terrible week in a lot of ways. The baby being sick means all of us have had our sleep and work schedules disrupted, the power to our house went out for five hours on Tuesday (some sort of wiring issue, apparently), I had some shitty family stuff to deal with, a company made J a job offer but is now delaying on finalizing it, our bank messed up our rent payment (no doom, fortunately, as we have a great landlord and a spotless payment history), Alex-the-cat has been an aggressive asshat to the other cats, Sam and Sophie have been hairballing everywhere, friends are also dealing with unhappy and stressful things, and of course the inauguration. But we are holding on and even finding ways to feel good:
* We've had lots of good family dinners, even when we were all almost too tired to talk.
* J and I shared some good hugs today and went for a nice walk in the drizzle. We've both been so busy and tired that we barely see each other. It was wonderful to get a companionable hour together.
* X and I have been having lovely nightly half-hour hangouts on the couch before they go to bed. We talk about the day and make plans and send each other into bouts of exhausted hysterical laughter. I just remembered that we used to do this when they first moved to NYC; I guess we naturally gravitate toward that time of night as together-time.
* Kit is coughing less, and when their fever spikes occasionally it never gets higher than 102 (which is also much less worrying now that they're over a year old) and responds very well to Tylenol.
* grammar_girl livetweeted an episode of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood
and it genuinely made me cry.
* I had a quick but delightful dinner with teaberryblue
* Long Hidden
and her husband came to visit me at work and we had a good conversation about crowdfunding for anthologies. (Support her fundraiser for Problem Daughters
, a marginalized feminist SF/F anthology!)
* I made plans to see my mother and brother on Sunday to celebrate my mother's birthday.
* Just now Kit woke up and seamlessly transitioned from lying down to sitting up while I was watching on the monitor. It's been clear for a while that they can do that, but I hadn't seen it. They're super perky right now because their fever is down. They're lying in the crib squeaking contentedly and playing with the teddy bear, who was recently named Face Hugs. (Kit believes teddy bears are for faceplanting onto.)
* I've been catching up on laundry. I always feel better when the hampers are empty.
* I've been really on top of my work schedule since coming back from vacation, even with everything else going on. Hanging out on #yuletide has been wonderful for my productivity because people do "word wars" or "productivity wars" that are basically Pomodoro timer installments except in 20 on/10 off instead of 25 on/5 off. I also reworked my Persuaded
outline from scratch and even wrote a little bit of the opening. The character voices are much clearer this time around, though the story hasn't quite found its own voice yet. It'll get there.
And now the baby is finally asleep, so I'm going to do some knitting for the first time in ages
. I still hold out hope for finishing this sweater before Kit outgrows it, though I think I'd better hurry. They keep getting taller!
- thinking about:
experiences.annoyances, experiences.beauty, experiences.teaching, experiences.work, ideas.politics, people.cats, people.josh, people.kit, people.xtina, places.home, projects.crafts.knitting, stuff.clothes, stuff.money, words.books.persuaded, words.writing
- feeling:holding on
Poor Kit had night terrors last night, or something like it—sudden screaming, out of nowhere, red-faced, inconsolable. X and I were quite shaken by it. Eventually Kit came out of it and then played with their hairbrush for a bit and went back to sleep. Babies. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
For the last few weeks they've been coughing in their sleep sometimes. It's not a productive cough, they haven't had a fever at any point, and it only happens at night, so we figure it's from accidentally inhaling their copious teething-drool (that molar is taking its sweet time coming in). The first couple of nights they'd wake up but now they sleep right through it, which is a little disconcerting. How quickly children adapt. It seems like a strength at first but I see it as a vulnerability too; they can adapt to things that aren't okay and shouldn't be normal, and adaptation can take a toll. Nothing I can do about the coughing, but it's a reminder to be mindful about the other ways I shape Kit's experiences and teach them what "normal" is.
I'm going to try to post more slice-of-life things here that aren't baby anecdotes. X and I sat down together tonight and wrote things by hand! The timing didn't work out for us to do it by candlelight, as the Hanukkah candles had already burned down, but I still felt very old-fashioned using my lovely antique lap desk. The angled surface made writing much easier on my arm, even using a skinny pen. I wrote the last of my notes and cards for holiday_wishes
, and X wrote thank-you notes to people who'd given Kit birthday presents.
One of the people on holiday_wishes wanted cross-stitch supplies for teaching Ukrainian embroidery. I have a TON of evenweave fabric, some of which I've had 20 years or more. I also have a lot of unfinished and unstarted cross-stitch kits, and if my arms ever heal and strengthen to the point where I can do embroidery again—which I'm kind of skeptical about, though it's a good goal to have—I'd start with the kits rather than designing my own. And I'm pretty sure I'll never have the arms for doing knotwork with silk floss again; that was hard even before I developed the tendinitis. So I took all the silk I bought back when I thought I could make money making jewelry (what was I thinking
) (well, okay, my head wasn't very clear at the time), and all the fabric, and put it in a box that I will ship off this week. An immigrant will get to preserve her culture and heritage, and there's more room in my crafting dresser for
all the yarn I keep buying and not knitting with. Everyone wins!
I just left this comment for a friend who made her first LJ post in a year and a half, about needing a refuge from Twitter:It's good to see you here again.
A lot of us are looking for the same thing, and looking for it here (or on Dreamwidth). Twitter seems to have hit a toxicity tipping point, and the recent political news has sharpened our ideas of where we put our effort. Even for those of us who still have the wherewithal to shrug off trolls, we've got more important things to do with our energy and attention than fritter it away on shrug after shrug after shrug.
I locked my Twitter account for unrelated reasons and I'm really glad I did. The one time I unlocked it recently, within 24 hours I needed to flee back to privacy.
Back in the day when LJ was booming, I would compulsively refresh and refresh and refresh until it was late at night and for a little while no one was posting and I could free myself from it and sleep. Before that I did the same with Usenet, and before that with IRC. Twitter doesn't feel very different to me, except that, like IRC, it refreshes itself. But I suspect my usage patterns are unusual and most people get more of a dopamine firehose from Twitter than they ever did from other sources. Having been drinking from dopamine firehoses for a long time, I can tell you with some authority that they are really, really bad for you. And Twitter is unique in what you so beautifully call its "kaleidoscope of contexts"—where one rapidly scrolling IRC channel still only contained maybe two or three conversations, Twitter has dozens all happening at once. It's utterly wretchedly exhausting.
I hope we see a return to longer-form thought, threaded conversations, more order, less chaos. LJ or DW or Wordpress or Medium, doesn't much matter to me, but something better than the noise machine.
There's been lots of talk about LJ's servers moving to Russia
. I will continue crossposting from DW, as I have been. If I were still giving money to LJ I would stop, but I've had a permanent account since forever, so there's not much I can do there. I suppose I'm actually a net drain on their resources. I don't have the sense that they make money off my data. I don't think I'm putting myself in danger or making anyone else more vulnerable by continuing to use LJ. So I'll continue to use it for now, and see what happens. If you're aware of reasons I should discontinue crossposting or delete my data from LJ altogether, please do share.
I was looking for a book tonight and realized a friend had borrowed it. So I checked my "borrowed books" list and ended up emailing a whole bunch of folks to say "You borrowed books from us ages ago, can we have them back?". Many of them have moved house and gone through other upheavals and I will be pleasantly surprised if they even still have the books or remembered that they got them from us, but it'd be nice if it happens.
I immediately got an email back from one person saying (very nicely) "Didn't I already give those back?" so apparently I have not been so diligent about updating that spreadsheet. I'm pretty sure most of the books I emailed about weren't stealth-returned, though. Pretty
sure. We'll see. At any rate, it's an excuse to get in touch with some folks I haven't been in touch with for a while, maybe make some lunch dates with the local ones, and that's no bad thing.
Vosges finally started making a dark chocolate version of their bacon bar and tonight the stars were right for me to have
half of it (oops). I'm impressed with the crunchiness of the bacon bits. The smoky flavor is very strong, which somehow I wasn't expecting; it's the first thing you smell when you open the package and the last note of the aftertaste. It's good.
Of course, having had that much chocolate, I now shouldn't have hot chocolate before bed. I'm tired enough that it probably wouldn't wind me up too far, but better not to take chances. It's so annoying to have to make these calculations. But it could have been one of those nights when I can't have any chocolate at all, so I will count blessings etc. and maybe make some mulled cider for a hot bedtime drink instead. Or ginger honey drink; my mother brought me ginger cookies from England and they are the sort of thick hard cookies that are intended to be dipped into tea or equivalent, and if I can't dip them into hot chocolate (which would be awesome) then ginger honey drink is the next best option.
Or I could just go to bed. But I want to write up Kit's 12-month post (!) (!!!) so I'll be up for a little while yet.
- thinking about:
behavior.parenting, body.arms, food, food.candy, livejournal, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, people.groups, people.groups.dreamwidth, people.groups.twitter, people.kit, projects.crafts, stuff, stuff.books, stuff.gifts, words.letters
Hilarious 3 a.m. baby anecdote time!
Kit's been really into clapping their hands lately. When they're sad they clap to cheer themself up. It is amazing. They've learned that when they clap the adults all clap back, and they get DRUNK WITH POWER and lead call-and-response clapping for quite a long time. Sometimes if you say "clap" they clap but that's not consistent yet.
Tonight they woke up just as I was going to bed. X is back on overnight duty (which is why I can go to bed at 3, which feels like absolute luxury) and got up to cuddle the baby back to sleep. I finished my nighttime ablutions and went into Kit's room for a quick snuggle. I had been reading a parenting book that was interesting and useful but also contained anecdotes about kids younger than Kit who can do things Kit can't do yet, and some part of my brain always freaks out about those comparisons. The best cure is to spend time with the actual baby and marvel at what a wonderful tiny person they are. I had been hoping they would wake up precisely so I could do this, even just for a moment.
Kit was sleepy but happy, and indeed, seeing them was an instant balm on my poor anxious brain. I kissed their forehead, tucked the fuzzy go-to-sleep blanket around them, and told X that I had finished all my chores and was going to bed. X held up their hand and we high-fived.
Kit looked interested. "That's a high-five. It's like clapping but with someone else's hand," I said. They had their right hand out of the blanket, so I gently tapped my palm against theirs. "See? Like that. High-five."
X high-fived them, and I high-fived them, and then they pulled their left hand out of the blanket. I held my hand up near their left hand. "High-five?"
They tried and missed.
It was the tiniest, funniest little limp-wristed attempt at a high-five that I have ever seen. X and I laughed so hard we couldn't breathe. Kit laughed along with us because people who are laughing are also funny, at least if you're a baby.
When we all recovered, I gave Kit a few more gentle high-fives, and then we all clapped for a bit because it's fun. Then I said goodnights and left the world's best and most hilarious baby to fall back asleep on X's lap, puzzled but pleased. And now I can go to bed suffused with joy at my child's accomplishments and eagerness to learn new things... even if it takes a few tries.
You are one year old today. It has been a very eventful year with lots of ups and downs for our family. Through it all, you have warmed my heart (and my lap) and made all the hard things feel bearable and all the good things feel even better. Your smile lights up my life. Your hard work and perseverance in the face of frustration inspire me. Your unstinting love and trust make me melt.
No offense to other kids, but every time I meet another child I think how lucky we are to have you. Of all possible children, I can't imagine one better suited to our family. You are goofy and ridiculous, opinionated when it matters, amiable when it doesn't, generous with demonstrations of affection, serious about self-improvement, vocal about your needs and easily satisfied, fascinated by the world. When people ask whether we're planning to have another child, we tell them honestly that it would be unfair to our second child to have to put up with having such a purely wonderful older sibling. Besides, we only ever wanted one baby. I'm so glad that baby turned out to be you, my best Kit. So glad.
I don't at all want you to feel pressure to live up to some ideal of perfection. You are perfect just as you are. You're perfect when you're clumsy and you're perfect when you're cranky and you're perfect when you lick the couch pillows with your mouth still half full of milk. (You will also be perfect when you're old enough to do your own laundry. The couch pillow covers are washed on cold and hung up to dry.) Don't ever think that I love or appreciate you "despite" some part of you. I love every single bit of you.
Sometimes I joke that you're my littlest roommate. Before you were born I occasionally worried that when you got older we'd have trouble living together; in the past it's sometimes been hard for me to share space with other people. But I love living with you, and I think we'll have a pretty easy time of it even when you're bigger and more actively making use of the house. You're already really good at showing us when you're hungry or tired or desperate to go outside, and I'm sure you'll only get better at understanding what you need and asking for it, whether that's time to yourself or quiet together time or shared activities. And an advantage of three parents is that there's almost certainly always going to be someone who wants to hang out with you if you're in a hanging-out mood.
I worry about you sometimes, but it's because I'm the worrying sort. By any objective measure you are a sturdy, healthy child. You rarely get sick and get over it quickly. When you fall down you complain for a bit (quite reasonably) and then get up again like nothing happened. You are so generous with your smiles that we never have to wonder whether you're happy. And you even snore just a little when you're asleep so I can hear it on the monitor and don't have to turn the camera on to make sure you're breathing. Every anxious parent should have such a reassuring baby.
The next year is going to bring us some exciting things. You'll learn more about moving your body the way you want to. You'll get better at crawling and then leave it behind in favor of walking. You'll learn to use some words and signs to communicate; I can't wait to hear you say our names. Maybe this will be the year you start to sometimes want one particular parent and not just whichever one is handy. The next time your birthday comes around, you'll probably want to eat the cake and not just stick your fingers in the frosting. And I bet you'll make friends with all the street cats in the neighborhood.
To quote a very kind and wonderful man, Mr. Fred Rogers, whose work I hope to introduce you to someday soon: "You are growing so well inside and out. I'm proud of how you are growing, and I hope you are too."
Endless love, my little bean. Thank you for being such excellent company for the past twelve months. I can't wait to see who you become this year, and beyond.
Kit happenings today:
1) Our crib mattress board has three height options. It's been on the middle one since Kit was born; we got a thick mattress and a crib bumper that meant the top setting was never quite workable. Today they were sitting in the crib and pulled up to standing without any help, and I realized that the crib rail came up to only slightly higher than their waist. I promptly took them out of the crib and lowered the mattress to the lowest setting for safety. As soon as I put them back in, they figured out how to pull up to standing again, which is good—I really didn't want to respond to their accomplishment by making it harder for them to accomplish things. They generally seem quite happy with the change. Such an amiable child.
2) X pointed out that Kit really likes our laptops and phones because they see us using them so much, and suggested that we do more non-digital things with the baby. So this evening Kit and I cuddled up on the couch and read books together. We probably spent most of an hour like that, me reading an advance copy of Daniel José Older's Battle Hill Bolero (very good), Kit playing with and drooling on That's Not My Owl (they adore that whole series of books). Occasionally I'd take pictures or answer a text, and while my hands were occupied Kit would steal my book. They liked turning it upside down and tugging at the cover and opening it to the middle and attempting to eat it. I encouraged all these things except the last one. It was one of the best hours of my life.
This morning I got to bed late because the baby had woken up and all I wanted to do was spend time with them, and then I barely got any work done because the baby was home from daycare (J's parents were here in the morning and early afternoon) and all I wanted to do was spend more time with them. Right now they're fast asleep and I'm resisting the urge to go into their room and scoop them up; it's great that they're sleeping so well lately but it means we don't get our mid-night cuddle time and I miss it. I just can't get enough of this happy cuddly squeaky squealy serious hard-working baby.
Aw, they just woke up babbling happily and I could totally justify going in to cuddle them. But I don't want to go in because we're trying to encourage them to go back to sleep on their own when they wake up. Nnnngh. I knew parenting would take willpower but was not aware it would take this particular kind of willpower!
EDIT: They started to get fussy so I indulged in some cuddling. Such a good snuggly baby.
Today Kit had their first real playdate! ( It went great! )
Yesterday was one of those days where you have to say "Everyone is fine" before talking about how the day went. ( But don't worry, everyone is fine )
I am trying really hard not to think about the election. Really really hard. I have plenty of other things to think about. But it intrudes constantly.
I have phonebanked and texted and done everything I can to get the vote out for Clinton. I will do a little more tomorrow and Tuesday. I have researched all the down-ballot candidates (including the one who's on the judicial ballot by mistake
). I have a plan to vote
. I just need to remember to wear white
I will be so glad when it's Wednesday and we can at least stop waiting for the results, whatever those results are.
The Brooks Brothers shopping trip consisted of me walking into Brooks Brothers, saying "I don't belong here", and bursting into tears. The way Brooks Brothers does masculinity is really not the way I do it, for all sorts of reasons. Also, I couldn't bear the idea of letting their tailors anywhere near my body. On the way to the store I'd gotten really tense trying to figure out how to project the "right" sort of masculinity and when I realized that was impossible the tension kind of went boom. So we walked out again, and J will find some way to sell the gift card, and then we'll spend the money at Bindle & Keep or on getting good tailoring for the shirts I already have. In the meantime, I went to Express and got some really nice curve-hugging turtleneck sweaters in gorgeous colors. And then I ordered more sweaters from the Express website and a couple other things from H&M (they were on sale!) so now I have a fall femme wardrobe and am very pleased about that.
Ever since I decided not to go on T, I've been feeling very femme. I don't think it's coincidence.
I'd hoped to use the DST change to get myself back on an earlier sleep schedule, but X was totally wiped today because of being up with the coughing teething baby all night last night after the whole ER happy fun times, and I'd gotten plenty of sleep, so I said I'd take the overnight shift. Staying up until 5 is much harder when 5 feels like 6. But J has just woken up, so I'm going to hand off the monitor and go fall asleep a whole lot.
- thinking about:
behavior.activism, behavior.parenting, body.body clock, body.sleep, experiences.disaster, experiences.dst, experiences.hospitals, ideas.politics, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.gender, people.kit, people.xtina, stuff.clothes
Kit's getting over a cold, poor bean. They've held up very well through it but have endured a lot of snuffling and coughing. Last night they technically slept ten hours straight, but there was pretty frequent sleep-coughing and sleep-fussing. (I don't know what other people mean when they refer to babies as "fussing". We use it as an all-purpose term for any brief vocal complaint, the baby equivalent of "Ugh" or "This is bullshit!".)
Tonight I put them to bed as I usually do, and about five hours later they woke up and complained for a while. I waited to see whether they'd fall back asleep on their own, but instead they started coughing, which went on for a bit, so I went in and scooped them up and cuddled them under the fuzzy blanket that's one of our signals for "time to sleep". They tried to gnaw on my knuckle, so I gave them a pacifier; we've been mostly avoiding those while they're sick, because they have trouble breathing through their nose and the extra saliva makes them cough more, but sometimes they just need it to fall asleep. Once they'd settled back to drowsiness, I put them back in the crib and asked them to try falling asleep on their own.
This whole self-soothing thing is still relatively new. When they have trouble settling, I stroke their back and the back of their head (they insist on sleeping face down, stuffy nose be damned) to help ease the transition. Tonight they shifted around a bit and grumbled, so I stroked their back for a bit and then stepped quietly away—avoiding the creaky floorboard next to the crib is an art we are all gradually mastering—and waited to see whether they'd relax.
They reached a hand back and stroked their own head. Several times. Very gently. And then they tucked their hand under their face and fell asleep.
Hi. It's been a while.
J's job rather unexpectedly ended at the beginning of October, and he's been pounding the pavement looking for a new one (and getting lots of interviews because he's awesome). I was sick for a week with a horrid intestinal thing and then had to put my annual best books lists together, which is always quite an undertaking. X has been in work crunch as well, and has been bringing their new boss up to speed. The baby has been absolutely lovely but also, well, a baby—and teething a lot, poor thing, which is no fun for anyone. The cats all needed their annual checkups and so did we, because last October was when we did the whirlwind round of all our doctors to get it out of the way before the baby arrived. I've barely been finding time to breathe, let alone chronicle all the busyness. But October is nearly over, and we're in the calm before the winter storm of holidays and birthdays and anniversaries.
The Story Hospital patron drive was a smashing success. I'm at 54 patrons, and it's not even the end of October yet! So I am definitely going to do NaNoWriMo posts and am very excited about it. I love this project so much. It just brings me pure joy.
I'm having one of those precious evenings where everyone is asleep and the washing machine is chugging away and there's nothing I need to do except keep an ear out for the baby. I could even go to bed early for a change, except that X has been fighting off the 24-hour cold virus I had on Thursday—it quite literally hit at 4:30 p.m. Thursday and was gone by 4:30 p.m. Friday—and really needs a full night's sleep. So I'll stay up until J gets up, just like old times.
A couple of weeks ago I spent a weekend in Boston with emilytheslayer
. It was my first time away from the baby. And I slept
. Oh, how I slept. I entirely ignored the deadline looming over me. I hung out with my hosts, we went shopping at Goodwill for fall femmewear (a previously unnoticed deficit in my wardrobe), I did some knitting, I phonebanked a bit, and I slept. The second night there, I ran out of things to do around 1 a.m., so I decided to start getting ready for bed. I was in bed with the lights out by 2:30. And then I slept until nearly noon. It was magnificent.
Of course then I came home and stayed up until 10 a.m. meeting my deadline. (I am very pleased with my selections
.) And since then there have been a few up-until-6 nights. But I think it's gradually getting better. It was so good to be reassured that I can
still go to bed that early. Apparently I'm much less anxious about needing to be awake in case something baby something something when I'm a few hundred miles away from the baby. And the baby was perfectly fine while I was away (though my spouses were extremely happy to have me come back and resume my share of babycare duties). So on those nights when I feel the anxious urge to stay awake, I remind myself that if I were in Boston everything would be fine, and therefore I can sleep.
I joked today that six months from now I'll be writing a clickbait article called "How Sleep-Training My Baby Cured My Sleep Disorder". It's kind of true, though. Every time I say things like "Your bed is a nice place to sleep" and "It feels good to rest" and "The clock says it's sleep time now" I feel like I'm talking to myself. I've also been feeling a lot of regressive urges to have someone tuck me in or cuddle me to sleep. Maybe it's time to finally replace my dear departed teddy bear, which the cats kneaded into threadlessness. I try not to entirely indulge my parenthood-induced regressions—and incidentally I am so glad
my therapist warned me to prepare for those, because otherwise I'd be totally baffled by what seem like random bouts of feeling like a little kid—but when they don't require anything from anyone else or do me any harm, why not?
On the more adult front, I have killed an unexpected amount of time contemplating tomorrow's long-awaited shopping trip to Brooks Brothers. I'd been meaning to get a suit, and have a $900 gift card that will very nearly suffice for that purpose. (Brooks Brothers suits: not cheap.) But I hardly ever have a reason to wear a suit, and for $900 I could get a sport coat, a waistcoat, a pair of very nice trousers, and two or three shirts, all tailored to fit me, all of which I would wear frequently. I already have a sport coat, a waistcoat, trousers, and shirts, but they're nearly all secondhand and the fit is far from perfect, so upgrading is not a bad idea. I'm also undecided as to whether to present as my indefinable self or as a trans guy. Probably won't wear a binder, but probably will bring one with me, though the very wise ifthenelsa
pointed out that a shirt or jacket that fits me at my bustiest will also fit me if I'm binding, whereas the reverse is not true. And I should bring my elevator shoes, because if I get a suit I will want the trousers tailored for the 3" lift. So many factors to factor in!
The thought of hauling around my elevator shoes (which are somewhat heavy) is enough to put me off of getting a suit, actually. I guess that tells me where my priorities are. And when I was wandering around the Brooks Brothers site, I liked the look of the sport coats and trousers much more than the low-end suits. (I also started coveting a $300 skirt, but I can get skirts anywhere.) Okay then, waistcoats and shirts and sport coat, and maybe trousers if I find some I really like. No binder, no lifts.
The baby woke up just now and needed to be cuddled back to sleep, and that is beautifully simple. I nearly fell asleep myself as they snored on my lap. The need to teach Kit good sleep habits (and to spare my neck the ache from sleeping in the rocking chair) won out over the urge to stay like that until dawn, but it was a close call.
I was going to knit for a bit, as a thing to do to stay awake, but I'm too sleepy now and it would be all dropped stitches. And it's 4:30, so J will be up soon. I will do my bedtime things, and by the time they're done he'll be awake and I can actually go to bed. And then I will sleep a whole lot.
- thinking about:
behavior.parenting, body.illness, body.sleep, experiences.work, ideas.gender, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.anxiety, mind.wiring.gender, people.kit, projects.story hospital, stuff.clothes
I wrote this last year
, on October 2:All the fans and air conditioners and open windows that noisily let us survive the summer are quiet now. The dryer and dishwasher have finished their tasks and fallen silent. The laundry is folded and stowed. The people and cats are asleep, except for me. There is such contentment in this moment of stillness.
My brain promises me that if I do enough, and if I do it well enough, I will reach a moment of the house being perfect, at which point I can finally relax. My own work on coming to terms with my brain has helped me to expand my definition of perfection. There are little untidinesses around me, to be sure, and I'll tidy a few of them before bed; but those untidinesses also make a house a home. I don't want to live in a museum exhibit. I want to live in a place where the stray bits of cat fur and scratched-up furniture remind me of our adorable cats, and J's shirt draped over a chair and X's water bottle abandoned on the corner of the table remind me of my marvelous spouses. Soon there will be toys underfoot, and parts of bottles scattered over the kitchen counter, and tiny mismatched socks in inexplicable places, to remind me of my beloved child. And I will sit in this battered but extremely comfortable chair, and put my mug down on the fluff-attracting but gorgeously vibrant red tablecloth, in my beautiful lived-in home, and it will be perfect.
Tonight I turned off the ceiling vent fan for what is probably the last time this year, and such a beautiful hush fell. I tidied just enough to make the morning easier for J and X, and did a load of laundry mostly out of habit. Now all the machines are silent, and I'm sitting at the table in the comfy broken-in chair, and there are candles casting shimmery golden light on the red tablecloth, and everyone is asleep. There was even a tiny unmatched sock in tonight's laundry.
I was right: it's perfect.
- thinking about:
behavior.domesticity, behavior.parenting, experiences.housework, experiences.seasons, experiences.seasons.autumn, mind.feelings, mind.feelings.calm, mind.feelings.contentment, mind.feelings.joy, mind.feelings.relaxation, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.ocd, people.kit, places.home
I have been tweeting only a bit, and posting here not at all. I have some draft posts saved as text files, which is very unusual for me, but I've been too wiped out to finish any thoughts that are longer than a paragraph or two. So here, have some random catch-up blather.
The baby's great--eight months old now and much more interactive, so I'm enjoying time with them a lot more. Story Hospital is going really well and I'm really enjoying doing it. (Ask me questions!
) My arms are doing super duper great and I have officially graduated from occupational therapy; I can stir pots and write by hand and carry shopping bags and fold laundry and all sorts of exciting things like that. I have been hoping to try knitting again but haven't managed to find the time. The weather is finally cooling down, which means we can cook in our kitchen and eat in our dining room and stand to touch one another for more than two seconds at a time. This is doing wonders for our feelings of family togetherness.
J and I have started shared therapy for some longstanding issues around physical intimacy that we just were not managing to tackle successfully on our own, and it's going fantastically well, but it's also bringing up a lot of feelings I have about my body that I had been mostly ignoring. One outgrowth of this is that I'm hoping to make an appointment for a consultation with Zil Goldstein at Mt. Sinai Hospital's new Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery
to discuss low-dose testosterone supplementation. I also bought some shiny new men's shoes, including a pair with lifts in them, which I've been wanting for years. They are fancy shoes for fancy occasions, same as my femme high heels, so don't expect me to be 5'7" all the time--my knees would never forgive me--but I'm really glad to have them for when I want them.
I am, as always, struggling with workload and time management. I keep staying up until 5 a.m., or even later (today I went to bed at the appalling hour of seven ack emma), even though I don't need to anymore; months on that schedule got it into my head that 5 a.m. is when I stop being responsible for the baby and am allowed to go to bed, and even though I'm now permitted to turn X's monitor on after either Kit's mid-night feeding or 2 a.m. (whichever comes first), I still find myself staying awake way past that. I am so tired, all the time. I want to go to bed earlier. I want to sleep more. I don't know what to do about this. I keep rejiggering my schedule and setting up alarms and nothing works.
And here it is 3 a.m. and I haven't done any work yet tonight. And I need to take the trash out. I will go do that first, and hope that moving around helps me wake up enough to do at least some editing and then go get a lot of sleep.
- thinking about:
behavior.planning, body.arms, body.body clock, body.body image, body.sex, body.sleep, experiences.work, mind.wiring, mind.wiring.gender, people.family, people.josh, people.kit, projects.story hospital, stuff.clothes
Year meme thing from sfred
. Year: 2003.
Age then: I turned 25 in June 2003.
Age now: 38.
Relationships then: I was partnered with Josh and Jen and Joe, and pursuing X like my life depended on it (I sort of felt like it did). "Just the N of Us" was starting to coalesce, and in particular I was building a wonderful friendship with Kathleen. I had become very close with Liz and David. I could not possibly count or name all the people I was on smooching terms with. The N in "Just the N of Us" was really not a joke; I think it was 7 <= N <= 13 with considerable variation over the course of two years. And there were many non-JTNOU people in my life as well, both platonic and not. I was a social butterfly and loved it.
Relationships now: Happily married to Josh and X; happily parenting Kit. The last time I smooched someone who wasn't Josh or X was... uh... years ago? It's been a while, certainly. The baby has made it hard to do evening social things like the KGB readings, so these days I'm focusing on maintaining and building on existing connections. I Skype regularly with Kathleen, Miriam, and Graham; hang out in Slack with the Subtlefriends; and get as much in-person time with Tea and Veronica as I can. My interest in relationship categorization has gone from "not much" to "zero", so that's really all I can say about that.
Where I lived then: San Francisco. In May I moved out of Kiri and Doug's grubby Sunset District walk-up and spent a month in a lovely little room-to-let with all my stuff in storage; I'd begun rental-hunting with Josh and Jen and Mik based on my lease ending in June, but my roommates broke the lease and moved out a month early, and I couldn't afford to pay a full month's rent on my own. In June the four of us moved into a much nicer* four-bedroom house in Glen Park. I had a downstairs bedroom with one small window and an enormous built-in closet. Other than the boring beige carpeting, it was basically my ideal room. The upstairs had two big open social rooms where we put mattresses on the floor and lined the walls with bookshelves. It was pretty great.* This was before it became infested with rats and J's bedroom ceiling developed horrible mold and the cat brought in fleas from the garden and we discovered that our landlord was a useless asshat. And even with all those things it was arguably nicer than the walk-up.
Where I live now: Brooklyn. Josh and X and Kit and I have a four-bedroom apartment that's genuinely lovely without any asterisks or caveats. My room here has a slightly larger window and a much smaller closet, but hardwood floors count for a lot, and the window looks out onto trees. We sprawl on the pull-out couch instead of the floor and the walls are still lined with bookshelves (some of the same ones, even). The kitchen is VASTLY superior, the landlords are splendid, and there are no infestations at all. I hope we stay here a good long time.
Was I happy then: Often. In a post from June 2003, I wrote (rather defensively), "I'm happier than I can remember being, I'm doing a fucking fantastic job of completing my recovery from devastating emotional trauma, I've met the only real lifetime goal I've ever consistently had--a wonderful house full of happy friends--a full decade before I expected to have a chance at trying for it, I treat myself well and require the same from those I associate with, I never indulge my bad habits to the point of damaging myself or others, and I'm completely and fully satisfied with the life I live except for not being in New York and not being near australian_joe
. I am happy and satisfied, and those who choose to rely on me for support of any kind have no complaints." I was surrounded by lovely people who liked me, and was starting to really recover from grief and disordered eating. I quit school after a year of studying architecture, which I was a little sad about, but I got my job at LegalMatch, which I really liked even though it stressed me out a lot (and eventually wrecked my arms, but that didn't happen until 2004). I was full of hopes and dreams. By the end of the year the dreams were starting to get a little worn around the edges ("I don't think I'm cut out for living with anyone full-time," I wrote in December. "Not unless it's a mansion and each of us gets a wing") but on the whole it was a pretty good year.
Am I happy now: Often, and in a way that feels much more sustainable and anchored in reality.
If you'd like me to pick a year for you to post about, leave a comment.
- thinking about:
experiences.history, experiences.work, livejournal.memes, mind.feelings.joy, people, people.friends, people.jen, people.joe, people.josh, people.kit, people.mik, people.xtina, places.us.ca.san francisco, places.us.ny.new york.brooklyn
The funeral went as well as a funeral can. J's family is splendid, even in the midst of sorrow. pablod
was tremendously kind and drove us there and back. X handled babycare while I supported J. It was hard, but not intolerable, and I'm very glad we went. And metaphortunate
was totally right: a baby is one of the best things you can bring to a funeral. Kit was a little overwhelmed at times but mostly their smiley sociable self and quite happy to be smooched and dandled by cousins they'd never met, and their big grins really lightened people's hearts. Also they gave us an excuse to leave when we got wiped out. (And we put them in pajamas before driving home and managed our first-ever car seat–to-crib transfer with a minimum of fuss, because they are the very best baby.)
To get very petty for a moment: someday I would like a vacation where nothing bad happens. I'm 0 for the past 3. But having spent the first week of my vacation on unexpected grief and funeral travel planning, I am at least going to spend the second week of it on being on vacation
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.
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
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.
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 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. :)