a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
fresh cuttings 
futurekid-yay, baby-yay
Many months ago, before there was a Kit in the world, I went over to [twitter.com profile] kissane and [twitter.com profile] meetar and [twitter.com profile] dailyjuna's place to hang out with them. I think [twitter.com profile] kissane and I were having a work date or something.

[twitter.com profile] 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 [twitter.com profile] 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).


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17 May 2016 23:13 - "You have the bridge"
sleeping, loved, happy, resting, satisfied
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.


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spark, aha!, insightful
Copied from a letter I just wrote to a friend:

I have been thinking a lot about writing, and getting into some good conversations about it, and doing some good reading about it. It's making me realize just how little I know about the craft and process of creating a book. I know it abstractly, in broad strokes, but not the nitty-gritty. And some of what I think I know is wrong, which is actually great, because the stuff I'm unlearning is stuff that was holding me back. I'm doing a lot of poking at outlining right now, for example, and unlearning all my notions about how one goes about making an outline--it's not the same thing as a synopsis at all! It's a crafted piece of writing, the way the book itself is a crafted piece of writing, but using a totally different skill set. And there are lots of different possible ways to craft an outline. You can write it start to finish, or you can develop a set of hypotheses and test them (a notion that made me really get the idea of doing preliminary character sketches first, because in order to do plot-chemistry with your characters you have to understand their characteristics and how they interact and what makes them explode), or you can develop your outline as you're writing the book and let them argue with each other, or any number of things. I could even make a flowchart outline with images for the scenes instead of words! I didn't know any of this, really, and the idea of outlining is now much more interesting and appealing than it used to be. It feels like a useful tool instead of building a cage that my story is trapped inside of.

So in retrospect it feels sort of silly to say "I started actively trying to learn things and lo! I have learned things" but the best thing I've done for myself as a writer is to approach it as a student instead of a hobbyist--to think about it every day, and seek out new knowledge and relate it to what I already know, and scrawl angry notes arguing with books on writing (the one I'm reading now asserts that no one will care about your characters until they do something interesting, and that is SO BACKWARDS and made me SO MAD that I nearly crossed it out in the book itself, but I settled for complaining in all caps in my little writing notebook). And it doesn't feel like a delaying tactic, partly because I'm constantly trying to apply what I'm learning to the projects I'm working on, and partly because this skill-building and analytical thinking is so clearly necessary as a precursor to writing. Like learning good form before lifting heavy weights.

Speaking of which, writing in that little notebook is hard on my arm, and I did a fair amount of it tonight after going to a really splendid panel on transgressive fiction (Ellen Kushner, C.S. Pacat, Sarah Rees Brennan, Damon Suede, Marie Rutkowski, and Eloisa James--stunning lineup, wonderful conversation). C.S. Pacat said some useful things about developing and maintaining tension as a matter of writing craft and I wanted to make sure to write them down before I forgot them, and then I just kept going because it was a long subway ride back to Brooklyn. But then I got home and did a lot of editing and now I really need to stop typing and go to bed.


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smug
Last night I dreamed that it was some sort of trans pride day and I was carrying a big rainbow flag around. A cis woman mistook me for a cis guy and made some snarky look-how-hip-I-am comment about cis people horning in on trans stuff. I unbuttoned my dress shirt like Clark Kent to show my binder and was all WHO'S TRANS ENOUGH NOW. And then I hung my rainbow flag on a lamppost and strolled off.

Most satisfying dream I've had in ages. :D


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5 May 2016 01:23 - "I choose you"
futurekid-yay, baby-yay
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 [twitter.com profile] 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.


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examined head, introspective
It's coming up on a year and a half since Valour Advances the Man started kicking around in my head. I still want to write it. I haven't put any new words on the page since last fall. And yes, we had a baby, all of that, but there's other stuff in the way too.

I've been poking at this in various places, and today I did the thing where I ask Twitter to solve my problems mostly so that I can see what I dislike about people's suggested solutions, which in turn helps me define the actual problem.

DefinitionsCollapse )

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AnalysisCollapse )

=====

Realistically, it seems very unlikely that anyone is going to hire me to write a novel that I haven't already written. First novels are nearly always written on spec, and I say "nearly always" rather than "always" only because I'm sure there must be exceptions somewhere, not because I personally know of any. (Also, honestly, if I were an editor, I wouldn't hire someone with my résumé to write a novel sight unseen.) But I feel much better having come up with what feels like a plausible scenario for success. I'm going to set it aside for a bit and go get some work done, and let the back of my brain work on figuring out how to mimic or approximate those conditions.


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hands
A month and a half ago, I stumbled across this link on changing habits, specifically with respect to nail-biting. I figured I'd give it a try, since I've been a lifelong nail-biter and absolutely nothing has gotten me to stop for more than a week or two at a time. I didn't bite my nails at all the week that Kit was born, so I knew it wasn't a stress response; it was something I could be distracted from, or too busy to do. Habit reversal training seemed like a good match for that.

I identified my nail-biting trigger: rough skin, corners, bits that stick out or catch or feel not-neat. I dug back in my brain for the self-observation techniques I learned from Headspace and practiced observing myself as I noticed the roughness and felt the urge to gnaw it smooth. I redirected the urge into filing or moisturizing, or just sat there with it and experienced the feeling without judgment. I treated it the way I treat Kit trying to punch themself in the eye: "I see that you want to do that. I'm not going to let you do that. I will hold your hands as gently as I can while not letting you use them that way."

Within a month I'd entirely stopped biting my nails. Entirely. I wasn't even using my thumbnails as sacrifice nails. The urge itself is gone. Now I can put my fingers in my mouth or fidget with my nails and not want to bite them.

Two weeks ago I got a manicure, with beautiful iridescent beetle-wing-green nail polish. A week ago I got another one because I use my hands all the time and no nail polish is going to last for long--but I didn't gnaw any of it off. As I type this entry, my nails click on the keys. This is a very annoying feeling, so I'm going to get another manicure either tomorrow or Friday and get them filed a little shorter this time. I can see a near future in which I become one of those people with a fancy nail polish collection, though I will always prefer having someone else do my nails to doing them myself. emilytheslayer has promised to put nail wraps on me at Readercon, and I might try making my own nail wraps with nail polish or origami paper, as it seems easier than painting directly onto my nails (which I am spectacularly bad at).

I'm very lucky that my nails grow very fast and are thick and strong and healthy. If my nail beds weren't so short, you'd never know that I used to bite them. I hope that if I leave them just a little longer than I actually want them, over time the nail beds will regrow--though it's hard to know whether that can even happen after 30 years of biting.

Meanwhile, on the front of forming a new habit rather than breaking an old one, I've flossed my teeth every single night for almost 28 weeks, with the exception of the night X was in labor. That one I did by keeping a tally in dry erase marker on the bathroom wall--dry erase markers write very well on shiny white tile--and telling myself that if I missed a night I'd have to erase my entire progress and start over. My goal was absolute compliance. (I feel entirely justified in giving myself a pass on the single exception; it was an exceptional night.) This is a pretty hard-line approach, but I'd previously tried simply tracking my progress as a positive incentive and it wasn't quite effective enough; it had worked for getting me into a twice-a-day brushing habit, but flossing eluded me. Obviously, the longer my streak went, the less I wanted to break it, and the combination of increased practice and increased incentive was very powerful. After meeting my initial goal of 26 weeks I stopped keeping the tally, but the habit appears to have stayed. It's now just a thing I do.

It feels really good to be the sort of person who works on self-improvement at age 37, and is successful. I'm glad I didn't give up on myself. And I'm really looking forward to bragging at my dental check-up on Friday. :)


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me and josh
April 8th was my 10th wedding anniversary with J. (We picked 4/8/06 as our wedding date for lots of reasons, and having 4/8/16 as our 10th anniversary wasn't a major one, but it was in the back of my mind as a perk.) We went out for steak frites and took a walk through lower Manhattan. We made each other laugh a lot. We came home and snuggled and made out. It was a very nice celebration, made possible by X's kind gift of all-evening baby care.

One of the reasons we picked that date is that it was also our falling-in-love anniversary. We've been all swoony for each other for 14 years. Gosh.

I wonder whether I should replace my "me and Josh" userpic with something that's been taken in the past 12 years. We both look a little different now. :) But we still look at each other just the same way.

He is my most favorite husband and I am so happy to have him in my life.


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19 March 2016 21:43 - "I got it from Agnes"
board games, card games, games
Letter meme from nwhyte: I got the letter B.

Something I hate: Banana flavoring. Bullshit. Bigotry.

Something I love: Badinage. Backgammon. Botanic gardens.

Somewhere I've been: Brooklyn. :) Bermuda. Boston.

Somewhere I'd like to go: Back to Bermuda, maybe--that was a family trip when I was a kid and I liked it but don't remember much.

Someone I know: [twitter.com profile] ben_rosenbaum, fraterrisus, [twitter.com profile] sbearbergman.

A film I like: Beetlejuice, Big, and I'm sure I'd like Blade Runner if I ever got the chance to sit down and watch it all the way through. I've seen the beginning and the end and probably most of the middle at various times. (Really glad for that movies-I've-seen spreadsheet that can be sorted by title. 😅)

Anyone want to continue the meme? Just ask and I'll give you a letter. I gave multiple answers for some of these because I felt like it, but you're not required to.


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17 March 2016 01:12 - "We're on an adventure!"
baby-whee, me and kit
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 stuffCollapse )

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.


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7 March 2016 01:29 - "Red-letter day"
laughing, joyous, frubbly
What a great week it"s been.Collapse )

-----

Kit going to daycare means we need some kind of fixed schedule for them, rather than the baby-led everything that we've been doing. Schedule neeperyCollapse )


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29 February 2016 00:24 - "Reaching for heaven"
sleeping, loved, happy, resting, satisfied
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."
Dream: 😞
Me: 💁

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.
54) [personal profile] xtina's silliness.
55) [personal profile] sinboy's kindness.
56) [twitter.com profile] subtlekid'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.)


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28 February 2016 01:08 - "I told my knees to please not knock"
baby-whee, me and kit
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 longCollapse )

=====

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.


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21 February 2016 01:35 - "Amaze and astonish"
baby-wtf
This has been quite a couple of days for our tiny baby!

Nonstop accomplishmentsCollapse )

Tomorrow friends are visiting and Tuesday is vaccinations, but other than that it should be a pretty quiet week, which is good. I'm not sure how much more of this we can all take--it's all great stuff, but pretty dizzying coming on all at once.


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futurekid-yay, baby-yay
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.

BabbystuffsCollapse )


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18 February 2016 00:58 - "A house and all of that"
commitment, wedding ring
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.


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futurekid-yay, baby-yay
Sleepy from a big meal, Kit reached out and patted me. "You're touching me," I said. "Your hand is on my chest." I returned the gesture. "And my hand is on your chest."

Kit went very still and quiet and thoughtful, and we sat there and looked at each other for a long time.

Then the baby fell asleep, and left me alone with my awe.


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kindness, love (expanded), polyamory
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.


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5 February 2016 02:35 - "The screaming meemies"
baby-anxious, futurekid-anxious
When you have a baby (or are about to have a baby and are reading up on babies), you start to see the word "colic" everywhere. It's rarely defined but always made out as something dreadful, or at least extremely unpleasant--and worse, it's portrayed as incurable and inescapable. Some babies are just "colicky" and nothing can be done about it.

This turns out to be not at all true. As far as I can tell from doing a whole lot of reading on the topic, there seem to be two kinds of colic: indigestion, and emotional meltdowns. Kit's had both, and we were able to identify them pretty quickly and treat them pretty straightforwardly. Kit is a very easy-going and good-natured kid, so that may be a factor, but hopefully this info will still be useful for other parents whose babies are not quite so chill.

1) Indigestion. "Our baby screams a lot and arches in pain when fed breast milk or standard formula," we said. "Well, some babies are colicky after feeding," our pediatrician said. Aha!, we thought. "Colicky" means "is upset about digestion pain". And indeed, when we stopped feeding Kit breast milk and regular formula and started using a super-digestible formula (from Honest Co., and we recommend it very highly--Kit spits it up even less than the supposedly ultra-gentle Similac Alimentum, and it's half the price), and made sure not to feed Kit more than their tiny stomach could hold, the colic went away. Kit still fusses a bit about 10 minutes after eating, and then farts a couple of times and settles right down. If we give a teaspoon or two of Colic-Ease every day, there's no fussing at all.

The pediatrician pointed out that since Kit wasn't vomiting up the meals, we could keep feeding breast milk (and the immunity benefits thereof) as long as we had a high tolerance for the screaming, until Kit got to be about three months old and the stomach developed enough to be able to digest the milk more easily. He did this in a very neutral way, which I appreciated--matter-of-fact, not pushing us one direction or the other. X and I stared at him with identical expressions of horror. It's not the screaming itself, but the idea of causing our child preventable pain, several times a day, for months. We considered dosing Kit with antacids, but our pediatrician shares our hesitation to put a very young baby on daily medication when there are non-medical options to pursue. So we switched to formula with some wistfulness but no regrets. That said, even if you're very dedicated to exclusively breastfeeding, there are ways of treating indigestion-type colic, and anyone (especially anyone not your doctor) who tells you that it's full-stop untreatable is probably wrong--any given attack of indigestion colic may just have to run its course, but a lot of those attacks can be prevented. Kit's always been an expert belcher and farter, so gas build-up isn't an issue, but if it were we could use simethicone drops and the Windi. Some babies have allergies to things the breastfeeding parent is eating, and a change in diet can help. There are lots of things to try.

2) Emotional meltdowns. T. Berry Brazelton defines this type of colic very clearly in his Touchpoints: Birth to Three, which is an excellent book that I think all new parents should keep on hand. Brazelton identifies it as coming from overstimulation during the day, which is why it reliably occurs in the evening. Since it doesn't have a physical cause, physical treatments (feeding, changing, gas drops, etc.) don't work, and soothing techniques like swaddling and pacifiers are of limited use. [twitter.com profile] other_alice pointed me to a site about "the PURPLE crying period", which looks like much the same thing.

Brazelton advises making sure there are no physical problems to address and then leaving the baby alone in the crib to scream out their feelings, self-soothe, decompress, and sleep without further stimulation; in his experience, this can reduce the average duration of a colic attack by half. The "PURPLE crying period" site mentions a study in which babies cried less if their parents carried them around more often, as part of everyday life, rather than only picking them up when they were crying. So as with many things, the appropriate approach depends on you and your baby and your parenting style.

On Tuesday night, Kit had an emotional meltdown colic attack. It was pretty awful. But I realized that it reminded me of panic attacks, and then I knew what to do, because I have had many panic attacks and gotten pretty good at dealing with them. I held Kit gently and warmly, turned the lights down (installing dimmable LED bulbs and a dimmer switch in the baby's room is one of the best decisions I've ever made), rocked slowly in the rocking chair, and murmured quiet soothing things in a voice full of sympathy. I didn't try to offer a pacifier or stop Kit from screaming or thrashing, though I did loosely confine Kit's arms to keep either of us from getting punched in the face (and because Kit seems to find that sort of swaddling-by-hand very soothing, despite not liking actual swaddles). After a few minutes, the screaming and thrashing stopped and the baby fell asleep. Maybe ten minutes later, the cycle repeated once. And... that was that. All better. Pretty much the same thing happened when X was watching Kit Wednesday night while J and I were on our date night, and X did similar things and they were similarly effective. The key was that we both understood what it was like to feel overwhelmed and need to flail and yell, so we could stay calm and supportive while Kit vented. And we both know that while panic attacks feel like they're going to last forever, they do eventually end, and then everything is okay for at least a little while; so we could hold on to that knowledge instead of falling into our own panic and ending up trapped with the baby in a feedback loop of distress.

Apparently some colic attacks can last for hours. We're very lucky not to have seen that yet. At that point I probably would put the baby in the crib just to give myself a break from being up close with the screaming for all that time. But I'm hoping that gentle soothing and sincere sympathy will be enough to help Kit escape the multi-hour misery cycle.

Obviously this is all our personal experience; I'm not prescribing anything. Do what's best for you and your child. Just remember, this too shall pass--possibly with some gas. :)


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1 February 2016 01:25 - "I am here and all is well"
laughing, joyous, frubbly
Inspired by [personal profile] yhlee's post here, ten things that make me happy:

* Cuddling the baby. Which I am doing right now. (After every feeding we need to prop Kit up for better digestion, and the easiest way to do that is in one's lap, so I have developed a way of arranging pillow and legs and baby and table and laptop such that I can type while Kit snoozes.) Having the baby in my lap makes the world infinitely better. I don't even know why. I mean, yes, oxytocin, but that's not all there is to it. It's just warm and cozy and wonderful.

* How well the three of us work together as parents. I'm especially glad that we've been making time for family snuggles, even when we're all so tired that we can barely stay awake to enjoy them. This week we start having date nights again, which is such an amazing thought I don't even know what to do with it.

* The warm welcome back I got from my colleagues and reviewers when I returned to work. It's so nice to be appreciated.

* Cooking, and homemade food. This weekend J and I made pot roast and roast beef, and X and I baked bread in the bread machine (such magic!). Fresh bread with homemade pot roast gravy, oh YES.

* Thoughtful family members who give us wonderfully appropriate baby gifts.

* Delightful friends. Today we introduced Kit to vschanoes and her son and godchildren, and spent a lovely few hours hanging out at their house. I can't wait for the babies to get old enough to properly enjoy spending time together.

* Getting the dermatologist's approval to take baths, now that my lipoma removal incision has fully healed up. I CAN TAKE A BATH. I just need to find the time. Maybe this weekend.

* I got to read books for fun while I was on leave! That was great! I'd missed just reading for fun. I mostly reread old favorites, with one new-to-me book for variety.

* I bought sleeping caps from headcovers.com and now my head isn't cold at night.

* The heartstopping adorableness of Kit yawning, and the little squeaking noise at the end of the yawn. Someday I will get video of this but of course it's hard to anticipate. It's just devastating.

If you decide to make your own post of ten things that make you happy, leave me a link. :)


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vocal, loud, singing, music
tithenai linked to this news story titled "Ted Cruz Challenges Donald Trump to a Duel" and suggested it should lead to a Hamilton earworm, so this is all her fault.

(TTTO "Ten Duel Commandments" from Hamilton)

Number one! The challenge: demand he go on Fox
If he agrees, no need for further talks
Number two! If he won't, grab a mic, take the stage
Imply he wouldn't dare to stand and face your rage
Number three! Have your PR people meet on Skype
Figure out if one-on-one debates are worth the hype
This is commonplace, 'specially with right-wingers
Most disputes end with a friendly dinner
Number four! If they don't reach a peace, that's all right
Time to book a slot on a talk show tonight
You tell the host some jokes, you treat him with civility
He joins you in dismissing your opponent's viability
Five! Debate before the caucus is convened
Pick a big arena where you'll make a scene
Number six! Leave a note for your electoral committee
Dress up pretty, practice sounding confident and witty
Seven! Tug your tie. Ready for the moment
Of adrenaline when you finally face your opponent
Number eight! Your last chance to negotiate
Call the other guy, say you want to set the record straight

[TRUMP]
Afternoon, Ted.

[CRUZ]
Are we on, Don?

[TRUMP]
Can we agree that the conclusion is foregone?

[CRUZ]
You're wrong.
The Iowans deserve to hear your words, Don.

[TRUMP]
With that woman in charge—the ditzy blonde? I'm gone.

[CRUZ]
Hang on, you're dissing blonde women? That's not even sexist so much as gratuitous.

[TRUMP]
Okay, so we're doing this.

Number nine! Look him in the eye, make your points by rote
Wait for citizens to cast their votes
Then count
One two three four
Five six seven eight nine
Ten o'clock news REPORT--


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27 January 2016 00:06 - "Stuff and things"
futurekid-yay, baby-yay
I can't remember who said something to me about baby gear being the geekiest part of parenting, but it totally is. There is some super cool shit out there for babies! These are some things we've gotten that are working very well for us. Prices are MSRP but you can often find great bargains on lightly used items. (But never buy a used car seat--you don't know whether it's been in an accident or is up to current safety standards--and think twice before buying a used stroller.)

Feeding, travel, bath, bedroom, and data trackingCollapse )


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24 January 2016 14:32 - "Someone ought to hold him to it"
patriotism-dissent, fandom-dissent, uppity
I'm participating in a queer romance conference in 2017 that's so new it doesn't yet have a website. They just wrote to me and asked for panel suggestions. Here's what I sent back:

Items I would happily be on:

* intersections of SF/fantasy/horror and romance/erotica
* deep thinky analytical academic panels about the shapes of genres, close reading of works, questioning our assumptions as readers and writers, etc.
* panels of critics talking about reviewing and criticism within our genres
* book editing for self-published authors: why you need an editor, how to find one, how to work with one
* writing authentic queer and trans characters, especially in historical romance
* the shapes of queer and trans romantic stories, including polyamorous romances, and how they differ from straight and cis and monogamous romances
* the unique challenges and joys of writing erotica with trans characters
* the unique challenges and joys of writing erotica with disabled characters
* the uphill battle of writing (and trying to get published) from a marginalized perspective
* English country dance, aka Regency dancing (I'm not qualified to teach it solo, but am an experienced dancer and would be glad to assist an instructor in demonstrating and leading dances)

I am queer, trans, non-binary, polyamorous, Jewish, and intermittently disabled; I'm happy to participate in items on these topics (as you can see from the above) and would also appreciate the opportunity to discuss matters related to my professional work. My preference is to talk with other marginalized people about our marginalizations, rather than being positioned as an educator for the privileged (e.g., "How We Translate Our Trans Stories into Historical Fiction" rather than "How to Shoehorn a Trans Character into Your Historical Novel"). I am white; please do not place me on any all-white panels. I strongly encourage you to recruit a wide variety of marginalized and minority voices for your program.

I have pledged to only participate in conventions that are fully accessible to people with disabilities (including ramps to stages, designated seating for people with disabilities and spaces for people using mobility aids, all publications available in digital formats that can be read by screen readers for the visually impaired, and microphones for all speakers in medium-size and large rooms) and that have comprehensive and widely publicized safety and anti-harassment policies, with designated point people for access and safety, and staff trained in handling complaints about safety concerns (including sexual and racial harassment and assault). I look forward to seeing that information on your website.

I have helped to develop and implement extensive safety and anti-harassment policies at Readercon (http://readercon.org/safety/) and would be glad to work with you on this if you'd like advice or assistance. I'm not qualified to consult on access, but this is a good resource: http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/public-relations/accessibility-checklist-for-sfwa-spaces/

Cheers,
Rose Fox


I figure if I start pushing on these things now, there's a much better chance of them happening. I'd hate to have to miss a nifty-sounding event because no one mentioned to them that safety policies and access are kind of important.

As a past program chair as well as an occasional program participant, I strongly encourage anyone who's recruited to be on a conference/convention program to send an email like this one (tailored to your specific case, obviously). I know how easy it is to fall into being deferential and grateful to the organization that plucked you out of the crowd and offered you a place in the spotlight, especially when you're used to being marginalized and relatively powerless. But if they're recruiting you, you have some power--the power to say no to their invitation, to refuse them access to the knowledge and experience that they want you to bring to the program--and that power is multiplied when we use it collectively, which is the purpose of those pledges. So believe in your worth and leverage, and use them.

(Incidentally, the person who'd emailed me wrote back immediately and with many assurances that they're intersectionality-aware and committed to universal access and safety. Hooray, everyone wins!)


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18 January 2016 16:16 - "And I just can't wait"
baby-whee, me and kit
Back in May 2014, I was having a very hard time around baby things, and certain no one would ever see me as a "real" parent. I wrote about it a little bit here. To counter this feeling, X and I went shopping for baby clothes. We got some pretty random stuff in random sizes--whatever looked cute. We got some frilly things and some butch things. We got a little stuffed dragon to guard the hoard. (We named him Beauregard.) We tucked the clothes away under X's desk.

Today I put one of those outfits on Kit, and X took photos of us together. (If you follow [twitter.com profile] subtlekid, you can see them at http://pic.twitter.com/EECFpN0qcV . One of them also became the userpic on this entry.) They are pretty terrific photos, even if the outfit is still a wee bit big for the baby. :) But I've waited nearly two years for this and didn't want to wait any longer.

Dear past me: I feel entirely like a real parent, and no one gets to tell me I'm not one. It'll all be okay. I promise.

I can't wait until Kit is old enough to play with Beauregard, and learn how he kept our dreams safe until they came true.


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15 January 2016 02:56 - "The good parts version"
futurekid-yay, baby-yay
Ninety minutes of today was spent on an unpleasant phone call, but the rest of it was pretty terrific.

* I got a whole six and a half hours of sleep! Such luxury!

* When I got up, X had been dealing with a very hands-on baby for several hours and desperately needed a break, so I took baby duty for a while. The baby was super awake and alert! I don't get to see that at night. I opened the curtains and Kit got to wave at some sunbeams and practice hand-mouth coordination. It was really nice.

* X had a headache yesterday that persisted into today, and I asked them to check in with the OB about it. The nurse asked them to get their blood pressure checked at the pharmacy nearby, which they did and it was fine, and they had no other worrisome symptoms, so the doctor said to just take Tylenol and keep drinking lots of water. Such a nice change from being told to go to the ER "just in case".

* I had a very enjoyable therping session (via phone) where I mostly ended up talking about favorite books from my childhood and the ways in which they were formative.

* J made steak and French fries for dinner. When it was ready, the baby had just finished eating and fallen asleep, so we brought the cradle out to the dining room and had a proper homemade family dinner, all four of us (though Kit slept through it). It was so, so wonderful.

* After the unpleasant phone call, X and J gave me lots of hugs and talked about cheering things.

* I got to Skype with [twitter.com profile] miriamreads and [twitter.com profile] roddenberrypie for the first time since the baby was born. There was much squeeing. It was excellent.

* Tonight I've fed the baby twice with almost no spitting up. Right now I'm in the rocking chair in the baby's room; Kit's snoring and Sam is snuggled very snugly against my left side.

What was lovely about your day today?


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