21 March 2016

Various Updates (on children, husband)

Well.
We are all still here.
How about an update?
--
Everett
Everett is an EXCEPTIONALLY delightful baby.
I have no complaints!
He was six months old on the 20th*. He eats, he nurses, he naps. He wiggles around on the floor (he's not crawling, but he does not stay put). He rolls both ways and easily. He loves his toys and his brother and his dog. He likes his stroller, but only if he's faced forward. He likes to be worn in a carrier, but only on my back. He does not like his car seat, but he tolerates it when provided with ample distractions (toys, or a brother sitting in the back seat with him).
He sounds remarkably like a baby goat. I don't recall other babies who cooed like a pigeon quite like he does. Well on an infant it's quite endearing.

*His 3mo and 6mo "birthdays" (12/20 and 3/20, respectively) both fell on the same day of the week as his ACTUAL (9/20) birthday (a Sunday). I think this must not be how it usually works out. A combination of 30 day months and then leap year? That's not how it NORMALLY works out, correct?
--
Gabriel
Gabriel has been doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu this year.
It's not my idea of a good time (rolling around on the floor trying to physically dominate your opponent), but Gabriel LOVES it.
Here are things that (in my experience) make him love activities:
-special outfit/uniform
-prizes or awards that one can collect and display
-pomp and ceremony and generally taking oneself too seriously
-personal aptitude/ability to excel
-adults who also take activity very seriously
-sanctioned violence
BJJ hits all of these marks quite nicely.
In a way, it's the perfect activity for him.
I am not especially impressed with the price (which is HIGH), but Quentin does all the ferrying about and interfacing with other Jiu-Jitsu adults, and Gabriel loves it, so. We pay the exorbitant costs.
Gabriel is in 4th grade now. He turned 10 in January.
I would consider him to be over scheduled, but he is a kid who really thrives on an abundance of activities.
He is also involved with:
Sewing class, swimming, running club, LEGO Robotics, indoor rock climbing, Physics and Chemistry Club, ceramics class, Cub Scouts
We are not doing Little League this year, thank goodness.
(Edit: I see that I've already posted almost this exact same Gabriel update. At least I'm consistent)
He has a good teacher this year. She's strict but fair, and works a lot of really interesting stuff into her curriculum.
He is quite academically minded, so it suits him.
Ten is an excellent age.
In fact, it might be my favorite age so far.
Gabriel is a delight.
Gabriel and Everett are both delights!
Excellent.
--
Quentin.
Quentin is doing fairly well. His colostomy reversal surgery is scheduled for Thursday.
This is excellent!
Many things are excellent right now!
No one wants a colostomy bag in their lives, and everyone is happy to see it go.
Quentin is quite nervous, because he hates doctors (which is how we got into this mess, in my opinion), and because anaesthesia terrifies him.
 He's convinced that he's going to die and keeps giving me Life Directives based on these assumptions.
This is not helpful, nor is it a particularly pleasant mindset for one's husband to have.
And honestly Quentin, if you were going to die, it would have been the first time around, when you were having emergency YOU ARE DYING surgery.
Well, Thursday will be here soon enough, and he can prove himself wrong by having surgery and being just fine.
I will be glad to have a husband whose organs work as designed, and he will be glad as well.
Quentin also has an ongoing workers comp case.
Two years ago an industrial ceiling pipe fell (from the ceiling) onto his head, damaging his back.
At work, and on video camera!
Despite all this, his resulting back injury was determined not be work related, and we have been in a lengthy appeals process involving lawyers and headaches.
At his most recent appeals-related examination it was determined that probably the thing that happened at work that hurt his back did in fact happen at work and hurt his back.
So there is still more paperwork and whathaveyou, but it seems that in the near future this should resolve into treatment and a settlement, which will be helpful both to my husband's health and to our finances.
Quentin turns 46 at the end of this month.
Hopefully by his birthday he will be home from the hospital and doing well.
--
I intended to post updates about work and some other things, but this has gotten long enough, I think.

15 February 2016

Disjointed thoughts about being a lady

First I'd like to talk about a conversation that we had at my house, last fall.
I've been turning it over in my mind for months.
I'm not sure if I said the right things, or if there are even right things to say.
Anyway.

A few months ago, we were watching some sports game at home. I don't remember which. Probably baseball. Maybe football.
I don't remember what game we were watching, but I remember that it was all four of us, Quentin and Gabriel and Everett and me, and I remember that Gabriel asked me, Do you think they'll ever let women play? Like not on their own teams, but with men?
I said no, no I don't think that will ever happen.
Why not?
Because the men wouldn't let it happen.
But aren't there women who are really good?
And I told Gabriel that, while there is no doubt in my mind that there are women who are just as good as some of the men who are being paid to play this sport, men don't want women to be just as good as them, and to play on the same field, and to be a part of the exact same game.
Now that I think about it some more, I'm pretty sure we were watching football. Because Quentin interjected that women aren't physically built like men, and it isn't exactly equal, and they wouldn't be just as good, and it's not just that men don't want them to play.
And he is correct, that generally speaking, men are taller, and stronger, and bigger. But all men are not more physically imposing than all women. There are women who could physically compete with men, even in football. Not every single female is "built" to play football, but some of them are, and it doesn't matter
This particular conversation then wandered into professional sports' history of racial segregation, and how the color barrier couldn't just be broken by the athletes that were just as good as the white men playing. The men who broke those color barriers had to be the best athletes. And the team's desire to win had to be stronger than the league's desire to keep these men separate.
So for a woman to play on a men's team, she couldn't just be as good as the men. She would have to be the best.
But if she was the best, I think the men would hate her for it, and they wouldn't let her play.
And Gabriel asked me why the men get to decide.
And I told him that is a thing that women are fighting to fix. And that men have to fight for it too.
I told him it's his job to stand up, and also to stand aside, and to fight for women even when he doesn't have to.

It's his job to speak out for people, and it's also his job to listen.

And then (and I think you can see why this day has stayed with me), we went on to voting. How first it was white men, and only white men, who got to decide everything.
And then they let brown men into their club (but they did it kicking and screaming and in many cases managed to subvert the spirit of the law and continue to keep those men out).
But it wasn't until much later that women finally got a say in matters.
The order of preference, in giving rights to people, gives them to those with penises (preferentially in order of lightest to darkest) first.
Then women come after.
Which is not to say that there isn't a powerful oppression of black and brown men. That there aren't situations where a white woman is better off than a brown man.
Intersectionality, you see.

So. No, Gabriel. I don't believe that men are ever going to let women onto their sports teams.
--
I work in corporate America.
Maybe you do too.
So maybe you already know that in an office, at the staff level, there are typically far more women than men. But as you work your way up the management chain, it flip flops, and at the top the men far outnumber the women.
Plenty of people who are far more intelligent than I am have written far more about this than I ever will.
The burden of child rearing and the effect of parental leave policies disproportionately affect women.
Strong men are leaders and strong women are bitches.
And sure, I do believe that in many cases women are less likely than men to lean in.
--
It is also that men, not all men (eyeroll), but lots of them, are fucking offended by the very concept of being led by a woman.
And that women can't get a job by being just as good as the men who would like that job as well.
A woman has to be better.
It is not enough to be equal.
--
I work in corporate America, and I am a mother, and I have a family.
In order to be taken seriously I have to be PERFECT.
If I want to be considered for the same opportunities and not have my infant held against me in the court of corporate politics, I have to be flawless.
I have to produce higher quality work more efficiently than the dudebro next to me who doesn't have a hard stop at 5:00 to pick up his kids because his wife will do that for him. Even if we both leave at the same time every day.

--
Can I tell you how angry it makes me, that Hillary Clinton, the most qualified presidential candidate in memory, has to tell a debate moderator (with a smile!) that she will indeed pick out the china if elected president? That she will perform her wifely and womanly duties. That she will not emasculate her poor husband by being the leader of the United States of America.
--
I have boys.
I get a lot of people telling me that boys are easier than girls.
Or, "They're more trouble now, but you'll be happy for the broken bones when you don't have teenage girls."
Maybe you have girls, and you hear this too.
Probably.
First, it's bullshit.
I have three brothers, and every single one was a difficult teenager, and they were all more difficult than either my sister or me.
They had all the emotions of a HUMAN BEING, but also they weren't supposed to be emotional because they were supposed to be MEN, not some kind of ladyboy, and also they were filled to the brim with testosterone, and they were angry, and in some cases they were flat out criminal.
They came through it okay.
But they were not easy.
And they were not easier than me. Not easier than my sister. Even though we are both female.
Boys are not easier than girls. They are not less emotional.
Girls are not quieter. They are not more gentle.
Maybe it's true sometimes, for some people, because humans are diverse as fuck, and they come with many personalities and family dynamics and ways of living.
But it is not a fact of parenting boys.
Or girls.
--
I personally believe that we hear this load of bullshit about girls being harder than boys because we are so terrified, as a society, of our teenaged girls having sex.
It would be so terrible to have a daughter who is also a sexual being that it is better and easier to have a son.
--
I have no conclusion.

12 February 2016

Yosemite, Baby Food, Devil's Advocates, Bonus Nightmare(s)

We went to Yosemite last weekend.
I had never been before!
And fourth graders get into National Parks for free!
And Gabriel didn't have school on Monday!
And it was Super Bowl weekend, so the Yosemite Lodge was improbably affordable!
Anyhow, we packed up our car and drove to Yosemite Saturday morning, and I learned that Yosemite is not even very far away (about four hours drive, comparable to driving to Tahoe for us).
It is a place that is exceptionally beautiful in photographs, and then you get there, and it is EVEN MORE beautiful in person. Literally breathtaking. As in, my breath was taken away.

That low quality iPhone photo is just...what being there LOOKED like.
Anyhow, we had a very nice time. There was snow on the ground, and I guess some stuff was closed for winter, but I really have no basis of comparison.
We went on some of the easier hikes, went on a couple of self-directed driving tours, wandered through the visitor center museum, went ice skating, partook of the valley restaurants.
Now that I've been, I need to tell you that this is one of those places that, if at all feasible, you simply MUST see at some point in your life.
THE MAJESTY OF NATURE.
--
Everett continues to be a good-natured delight.
He has also recently discovered his tongue.
The last time I talked about feeding this baby, I said I was going to wait until six months, despite what I view as his developmental readiness.
That was a lie.
While this baby is just 4.5 months old, he is developmentally ready.
I mean, look at him:
Anyhow, we tried him on some bananas and he gulped them right down. There was no tongue thrusting the food out, no gagging, no confusion about what to do next. Food in mouth, food swallowed, food well digested, baby appeased.
He squawks for us to share at every meal.
His primary nutrition source remains breastmilk, but we pretty much give him tastes of whatever we're eating. He knows what's up, and he WILL be included.
The other night Quentin (intentionally) overcooked some cauliflower into mush for the baby, and the baby was DELIGHTED.
--
You know the worst people? People who think the Devil needs an advocate. Kelly sent me this, and I could not love something more.

If you think that you should be an asshole because someone needs to represent the assholes of the world, you are terrible.
Please leave immediately.
--
Two nights ago, Quentin traded cars with me while I was at work. That evening, I went out to my parking lot, opened up my husband's car, and prepared to drive away.
When I opened the driver's side door, I was greeted by this.
WHY.
--
Everett will be 5 months old soon. For my own record he:
Sits
Rolls
Eats
Coos
Plays with toys
--
Quentin took him to his 4-month appointment, which includes shots.
The reception desk at the pediatrician called me, at work, for my consent to give him those shots.
Despite the fact that he was taken to the doctor by his consent-giving parent who has the legal right to consent to his medical care.
Quentin is trying to parent this baby under an unfortunate combination of asshole assumptions:
- racism
- dads are useless and cannot provide meaningful care to infants
- probably some part of living in a part of the country where NOT vaccinating your kid is normal parenting.
There is no way anyone would ever call Quentin to double up on medical consent if I brought the baby to the doctor.
Quentin also reports that people ask the baby questions in a high pitched baby voice.
For instance, yesterday: "Where is your mommy? Is daddy taking a day off work and having a special daddy/baby day?"
Or, last week: "Look at you, do you look like your mommy? I bet you look like mommy!"
Gabriel, who is often in attendance, does a knock 'em dead impression of The Society of Nosy Ladies.
I'm not sure how I feel about that.

10 February 2016

Updated Pumping Thoughts

My pumping situation has improved. As I had hoped, once my body got used to being milked by a machine instead of a baby, it more or less got with the program. I no longer have to actively induce sadness.

I've developed a whole little routine. About 15 minutes before I disappear to pump, I go to the bathroom, and refill my water. I take my water with me to the designated room, and after I get myself all hooked up to my equipment, I take a long drink of water and take a nice relaxing breath.
I look at videos of Everett while I start up my dairy machinery, and then after initial letdown, I read or play on my phone for the remainder of the session.

The pumping room at my work is very pleasant. It has a minifridge for milk storage, and a table, and a comfortable chair. A vision board (?) area where you can post pictures of your baby. An assortment of parenting books, and a space heater. Access is set up in such a way that no one could possibly walk in on you.

Today I went to work in a dress that I can nurse a baby in (one boob), but as it turns out I have to take completely off to pump (two boobs). Pumping breastmilk in a conference room wearing only your underwear is....well it's terrible, if you were wondering.
Terrible, and even with a space heater it is rather cold.
And it got me thinking about work pumping conditions. I work in corporate America, where we can have a designated, locking space.
What if I had Swistle's job of in-home care? Would I have to *shudder* pump at the client HOUSES?
What if I was a waitress?
What if our designated pumping area did NOT have a good locking system, and maybe all I could do is put up a Do Not Disturb sign and hope no one barged in on me??
My, it's a wonder anyone does this at all.

You know what would be great?
If your baby was cared for at your work, and instead of stopping to pump 2-3 times a day, you could stop in for a snuggle and a nurse with your baby! I would be so much more productive, and relaxed.
Hey look at that, I just invented onsite daycare.

03 February 2016

A few things I love (almost entirely infant-related)

This nursing bra. My friend Molly recommended it. Listen. It's better than any of my other bras. It's comfortable. It's well worth the $50 pricetag. I FEEL VERY PASSIONATELY ABOUT THIS BRA, AND IF YOU ARE OR PLAN TO BE A NURSING MOTHER, I THINK YOU SHOULD BUY ONE.
I have one, but it's the only bra I ever want to wear, so I need to buy another.

These 4-oz jars. Excellent baby food containment devices. Also useful for other things. I like the way they stack.

This Formula! (Baby's Only Organic, if you don't feel like clicking through). Everett is like...95% breastfed. He gets an occasional bottle, maybe one a week. I mention this not because I'm holier than thou, but because the reviews for this formula indicate that your baby may have trouble with constipation, which is not a problem for us, but I dunno, maybe it WOULD be a problem if he was on formula exclusively? I read some involved review about how it was because this formula has a whey/casein makeup that is different from breastmilk and blah, blah, blah.
Anyhow, this formula. It's $8.50 for a 12.7oz can. And I like the ingredient list better than ANY other formula I could find.
And, while I realize that water is a chemical, I prefer simpler ingredients, organic products, whole foods (the concept not the grocery store), et cetera.
Everett tolerates this well and I am not offended by the ingredient list and it is not prohibitively expensive.

These diapers (but not exclusively these diapers). Okay, these diapers (Bambo Nature) are, in my opinion, prohibitively expensive for your primary diapers ($0.46 per diaper!). HOWEVER, these are the BEST, MOST ABSORBENT, LEAST LEAKY diapers I have found, much MUCH better than other premium brands. We use cloth diapers during the day, but at night I prefer disposable, and I prefer disposables that are the least likely to leak or fill up in the night, so that we can make it all the way through without diaper changes. THESE ARE THAT DIAPER. I think if I was using plastic diapers only, I would still only have these on hand for nights, and would find something more affordable for use during the day, when you're changing your baby every couple hours anyway, and don't need some holy grail of leakproof absorbency. But if you DO. If you do, get these.

These bottles! I don't like plastic bottles mostly for aesthetic reasons. I don't like the way they get discolored with time, and how the markings fade, and the way they feel. All quite ridiculous, I realize. I like the 4oz version because it keeps Everett from getting overfed at daycare. I use the newborn flow nipples.

Diaper cover. I like this one best. I prefer hook/loop closures for smaller babies (although maybe I'll switch to snaps if Everett starts undressing himself. I like the fit. This is my favorite cover.

And finally, this book light. This is the only thing on this list that doesn't have to do with babies. I got it for Gabriel so he can read in the car without bugging me (we have a 2 hour evening drive home from his dad's every other Sunday). It's rechargeable, and you can position it so it lights up both pages, so you don't have to constantly fuss with it, and it is very bright without being annoying to the non-reading person.

27 January 2016

Gabriel's activities, sitting

Gabriel has been designing a board game for the past several nights.
Honestly, I have no interest in this game. The pieces move in confusing ways, and there are all these sheets of paper you have to reference in order to play.
But I do enjoy being the mother of a child who wants to create his own things.
I also enjoy a child who is quietly occupied in the evening hours.
"Isn't this so cool mom? I think it's going to be really fun, because I think it's a really good idea."
Yesterday was Gabriel's tenth birthday.
He had a roller skating birthday party, after school.
He had wanted a party at the indoor climbing gym, but I dropped the ball and didn't call in time and they were all booked up, so I sold him on roller skating instead.
It was a success, and I'm here to report that a gaggle of nine and ten-year-old boys are not too old to enjoy an afternoon of rollerskating.

Gabriel has started up with jiu jitsu. I am....not remotely interested in this activity. It's a thing that he and Quentin are really into. I think it's very expensive, but I'm supportive of kids activity involvement.

Gabriel also takes a weekly sewing class, and is a cub scout.

He would like to ADDITIONALLY do competitive swimming, but that would be entirely too many activities. I told him it was jiu jitsu OR swimming, not both. For now he is focusing on jiu jitsu. We may switch over to swimming in the spring.
I am relieved to be free of little league.
--
Everett is a bonafied sitter now!
I know that Gabriel came to sitting quite early, but.....I feel like that was around now? Four months?
That's early right?
Or was it not early when Gabriel did it either?
Gabriel was not an early crawler or walker, which was just fine with me. I don't think Everett will be either.
Sitting is nice though. It really expands their activity options.


25 January 2016

Daycare, breadwinners, casual racism

When I got pregnant, it was with the intention that I would go back to full time corporate office work after my maternity leave ended, and Quentin (who is self employed) would still do his work (catering/cooking classes/neighborhood butcher/other food related gigs) but LESS of it, and he would mostly be home with the baby, who we would put in daycare only part time, to cover the days that Quentin needed to cover for catering.

Well.
Following The Quentin Health Crisis of 2015, he is not working at all, not until after his second surgery at the end of March and subsequent recovery. This is the best (and only) thing for it, although there are reasons it gives him heartburn:
-As a self employed person, this time when he is not out there selling himself and building up clients and rapport makes him feel like when he starts it up again this spring, it will be like starting a business from the bottom again, with the slow build of gigs and recommendations and people who like him and want to pay him to feed their friends.
-He frets about his current lack of financial contribution to our household.
I am not especially bothered by either one of these things. The first I know to be true but there's nothing for it. He can't work right now, therefore he's not working right now. The second is just a total nonstarter. Again, he CANNOT work. There is no sense in fretting about the money he's not making while he's not working. While we were financially strapped and could have used that second line of income while I was on maternity leave, now that I'm back at work my salary more than covers our monthly expenses (covers them, plus will allow us to pay off the credit and medical debt we had to (unexpectedly) rack up this fall).
Well, whatever, that's where we are financially right now: not terrible/doing okay.

Although Quentin is not working, we decided to put Everett in daycare 2 days per week anyway, because:
- that gives Quentin a couple days a week to Get Shit Done Without A Baby
- lets Everett get used to his daycare as a younger baby who adjusts to such things more easily
The other three days per week the baby is with Quentin.
This whole set up is just a joy for everyone involved, I think.
Everett loves his daycare lady. He's happy to see her in the morning, he's happy to see me when I pick him up in the afternoon.
Everett also loves spending the day with his dad.
I (obviously) LOVE Everett, and Gabriel, and Quentin, but I enjoy them a lot more as a working lady.
Being home with the children makes me feel like a madwoman trapped in a tower.
I'm not sure if I'm supposed to admit this or not, but I like going to work every day.
I perhaps would not like it quite so well if Quentin and I both had very demanding office jobs, but because he is more at home (and more flexible in his job once he is back to it), and I don't have to add in all the home stuff to my work life, I dunno, I just really think this is the best.
And Quentin loves being home with the baby. He says there's no better person to spend your day with. They just delight each other. This thing, where I'm the primary breadwinner and he's the primary kid wrangler, is the way for us. We both get to do the thing we are best at and enjoy the most and it makes us both like it all a whole lot more.

Now, having said all that, there is this EXTRA (both extra as in very and extra as in additionally) weird piece, which should not matter, yet it does matter.
Quentin and I are not occupying our stereotyped gender roles, which creates an implicit manliness judgment of my husband from the vast unwashed.
This judgment has an extra layer of ickiness because my husband is a black man and there is a stereotype humming away in there about deadbeats who don't support their families.
And speaking of bullshit racial stereotypes, do you know that Quentin gets hassled when he is out with the baby?
That he has had his car blocked in at the grocery store while a woman photographed him and called the police?
That he carries a copy of Everett's birth certificate with him when he leaves the house, because this is a thing?
That there is a non-zero number of people in our community who think it is more likely that a black man running errands with a more lightly complected baby kidnapped said baby than that a black man has a baby lawfully under his care?
To the credit of our community's police force, they have not found reason to come to the scene of the alleged babynappings, probably because it's not illegal to be out with a baby, and no babies have been reported as napped.

Area Man Cares For Infant

I do not need to tell you that this is bullshit.
And that it makes me very angry.

It also makes me very sad.