A guide for my daughter, on her “emboozeling”.

I’ve now been a mother for 21 years. My daughter requested to try a fair number of drinks for her birthday, and so we had something of a “tasting menu” after dinner, which we dubbed her “emboozeling”, with a variety of cocktails and sips and smells of a variety of other things. She had maybe the equivalent of a drink and a half over the course of the evening (tasting at least 8 different drinks), and then came home and made herself a rum and coke float.

She has been plied with much advice over the past few days. I’m putting it here so that it is in one place.

1. Understand the size of an actual serving of alcohol, and be aware that drinks vary wildly in their alcohol content.  Or as my aunt says, “Stick with beer or wine or straight spirits unless you can watch the bartender.” My cousin amends, “Or make the drink yourself.” Object lesson: a “California Libre” (rum, coke, and lemon slice) has half a serving of alcohol the way my husband makes it. A Manhattan has two and a half servings. And some cocktails have as many as five shots in them. That’s one “drink” that is actually five servings of booze at once.

There are two main categories of things people do with hard liquor… some are “sipping” drinks that you keep in hand for a while so that people don’t keep offering you booze faster than you want to drink it. And others have a ton of alcohol so that you get as smashed as possible as quickly as possible. You cannot tell which is which just by tasting them.

The shorthand is that a shot (1-1.5 oz) of hard liquor is a serving.  But hard liquor can vary from 35% to 75% alcohol (not counting everclear types), so this is a rough guide. Know what you’re drinking. 5 oz of wine is considered one serving, but wine also can vary from 6% to 16% alcohol, give or take. We’ve seen firsthand what happens when someone used to 7% wine suddenly starts drinking 13%…. And 12 oz is one serving of beer, which varies from about 2% to about 5% alcohol (with some outliers).

Glasses are deceptive in their sizes… if you really want to know how much alcohol you’re getting, measure it. Don’t eyeball the highball.

2. Know your limits. In order to avoid most of the problems that can come along with alcohol consumption, it is wise to limit consumption to no more than 3 servings of alcohol in one sitting, or 7 servings in one week. Binge drinking kills brain cells, and most of the worst things that can happen to people related to alcohol happen when they have a lot of booze at once. Your liver and brain are precious to you. Be kind to them.

(And for future reference, pregnant women should drink no more than 1 serving in a given day, preferably no more than 1/2, and no more than 3 to 3 1/2 servings per week. There’s lot of research showing this to be a safe maximum level of consumption for pregnancy, with no increase [and possibly some decrease] in negative effects short and long term for the baby vs. abstaining. Negative fetal effects are caused by heavier drinking, more than 1 serving per day, more than 7 servings per week, and any binge drinking. Even one binge drinking episode can have negative effects, and those effects can be devastating and lifelong. We don’t know where the cutoff is between 3-7 drinks per week, erring on the side of caution is keeping it under 1/2 measured serving per day. The curve is “J” shaped, and steep.)

Moreover, if you find yourself “needing a drink” or reaching for alcohol after stressful events on a frequent basis, be aware. Never treat drinking as “mandatory” or “assumed” or “expected”. It should be a choice you make, each and every time, and done mindful of the consequences. Do not slide down the slippery slope. It’s okay to be the designated driver, and it’s okay to choose friends who do not lubricate every social event with alcohol. Drinking is not bad or wrong in and of itself, but there are risks, and a potential for abuse, and it’s much, much simpler in the long run to have personal rules that limit the possibility of it becoming a problem.

3. Alcohol metabolizes at approximately one drink per hour. Not one cocktail, not one large solo cup full of beer, but one SERVING of alcohol per hour. Men may metabolize a little faster, women a little slower, and body weight matters– smaller people metabolize slower than bigger people when it comes to booze, most of the time. The best rule of thumb is do not drink and drive, ever. With a great deal of experience with both my personal limits for drinking and driving, I have learned that I can, in fact, have a small amount of alcohol at dinner and then drive safely a few hours later. But it’s less than a full drink for me to be comfortable doing that, and I can feel the minute I should stop, and I’ve been driving now for 26 years. If you have a measured drink and must then drive somewhere, make it be at least two hours after you finished the drink. Or call me for a ride. Or call a taxi. ESPECIALLY if you are at a party, do not count on “I only had one cup”. I have had the experience where I thought I had one glass of wine and a boy kept surreptitiously pouring more into my cup when I wasn’t looking. Not to get into my pants, but just because he thought it would be funny. Taxis are way cheaper and less dangerous than DUI. Much less hassle.

Even small amounts of alcohol can dull reaction times, way under the legal limit. There are people in this world who are capable of driving competently at .08. But even if you’re under .08, you can still be impaired enough to do damage, and the cops can arrest you for DUI if you’re intoxicated at all and driving badly.

If you are at a party and your designated driver is drinking, call me. Call a taxi. I don’t care which.

4. You can make really delicious fancy drinks without alcohol. Mixers can be very tasty. Tonight we had ginger ale, peach sorbet, grenadine, rose water and mint. It was every bit as good as the version that also had zinfandel in it. Virgin margaritas can taste way better than the boozy ones if made from scratch (and restaurant margaritas can be the worst for giant drinks that get you smashed quickly.)

5. Regardless of the politics of rape… the fact of the matter is that the vast majority of rapes are committed with the use of intoxicants (not only “mickies” like roofies or GHB, but just flat out getting someone so drunk they can’t resist or consent) and by people the rape victim knows. Keeping your hand over your drink (to avoid the sneaky top off or drop in) and keeping an eye on your drink from bottle to mouth is prudent. If something happens and someone rapes you while you are drunk or drugged, it will absolutely NOT be your fault. But there are ways of minimizing the risk of that happening in the first place.

When I went to college we were warned against leaving drinks unattended (males and females alike), not because of the risk of rape or roofies, but because at that point there were assholes running around who thought it was hilarious to drop PCP into people’s beverages and then watch them freak out. Especially at campus parties and special events, where eating brownies was just about guaranteed to get you high (pot), and taking random cups of beverage could be a long trip off a short pier.  If you choose to experiment with drugs, do it knowing exactly what you’re doing and what you’re taking and what the consequences might be, legal, medical and psychological. Don’t do it blind. This kind of stupidity does, happily, tend to be confined to bars and college parties in my experience, the more random people at the party, the more vigilance you should have, in general.

And if you see someone doctoring drinks or encouraging someone who is already too drunk to drink more… call them on it. Loudly. Make a scene if you have to. Call the police if necessary. Any group of people worth hanging out with will back you up.  That shit isn’t cool. Pushing alcohol past the body’s natural limits is dangerous. And drugging people without their knowledge is bullshit.

6. There is no sorority, fraternity, group, social club, or date worth risking alcohol poisoning to stay involved with. None. Any group or person that does not take “I’d rather not” or “I’ve had enough” as a completely valid reason not to imbibe intoxicants is not worth being around. See #2 and #3.  (Also: if you are going to violate the “no more than 3 drinks” rule, it better damn well be spread out over as many hours as you’re having drinks. You only have one liver.) You can do a drinking game with non-booze or diluted booze.

7. You’re legal now. You can buy all the booze you want. Do not, ever, under any circumstances, buy it for minors. They’ll ask. You can blame me if you want… “My mother would never forgive me if I bought you booze and something bad happened.” Secret: I might, eventually forgive you. But it would take a very long time. Don’t do it. That kind of popularity is not worth having.

8. Drink as much water as you do alcohol. On days when you have more than 1 drink, consider taking extra b-vitamins and an aspirin to help your body have fewer side effects. If you ever DO drink more than you normally would or should, consider R-lipoic acid (or the more easily available alpha lipoic acid) to help protect your liver and brain from the toxic effects of alcohol.

9. Caffeine cannot make someone sober. Nor can exercise. It takes time to metabolize alcohol, period. If someone you are with is having a hard time (vomiting, passing out) do not treat it lightly. Watch them. Call for help if needed (and err on the side of calling for help vs. waiting it out if they are having trouble staying conscious). It’s okay to be the person who says, “Enough.”

10. Alcohol is not just alcohol. Many alcoholic beverages also contain high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors and flavors, sulfites and other preservatives. Mixers can be particularly bad in this department. Distilled beverages derived from wheat are unlikely to contain gluten, per se, but may be irritating to the system for other reasons. If you notice negative effects after a particular beverage, it may not be the alcohol causing the problem, but something else. Wine headaches are usually sulfite allergies. Beer can contain gluten, though it often is tolerated okay, because of how the fermenting process works. There are wines that do not contain detectable sulfites, beers made from sorghum which were not made from gluten-containing grains. “Malt beverages”, often referred to as “wine coolers” are often made from gluten-containing grains. You can mix your own coolers (Lemonade and red wine is delicious) or highballs (little bit of rum, lot of limeade) with things you handle better. Get to know what you tolerate. Keep in mind that some beers and wines are clarified with a variety of substances that precipitate out things that make them cloudy. Some of those “finings” are possible allergens. If you notice yourself reacting to a beer or wine, it may be a brand-specific issue, not “all of that variety”. Cheaper liquors are notorious for the artificial colors, flavors, and HFCS. They often don’t list ingredients. It will take time and experimenting to find the ones you handle best.  Clear, good quality alcohol (gin, vodka) diluted in fruit juice is probably your safest bet, potato vodka and sake are probably the least allergenic things out there.

11. If you don’t drink beer very often, it’s way easier to afford getting the good stuff. That’s true for most alcohol. Booze can be expensive, the temptation is to go cheap. I tend to prefer to drink less, but better quality stuff when I do.

12. Alcohol can be medicating. Like all medications, it has potential side effects. It is a depressant by nature, both in that it depresses the central nervous system, and that it can worsen depression. The worst time to drink is when you are depressed. It is a muscle relaxant. This can be useful, in moderation, occasionally. It tends to reduce anxiety and inhibitions, and in small quantities this can be useful in some circumstances. It can also reduce your control, coordination and general competence level, which is not usually worth it in high pressure situations. It can relieve pain, temporarily, short term. But it tends to “put off” difficult things, rather than fixing them. It is not an easy way out, no matter how simple it seems. There are times when a stiff drink (stiff=probably containing several servings) may well be an expedient short term “solution” for emotional pain. That’s *a* stiff drink. If you find yourself needing that drink on a regular basis to deal with an ongoing situation…consider finding other ways of dealing with the situation, or the “cure” may become the problem.

Alcohol can be fun. It can be delicious. It can be relaxing. It is not without risk, and being aware of those risks and intelligent about your choices will reduce the chances of having an alcohol-related disaster.

Personally I’ve gotten throwing-up drunk three times in my life. It is not fun and it is not worth it. 2 drinks are more fun than 5, and more than 5 is a trip to the porcelain throne. There are people who will brag about having a much higher tolerance for that. Don’t be those people. There are much better skills to develop and higher aspirations to have.

You don’t have to be obnoxious or superior about not wanting to get drunk, easy enough to say, “I’m a lightweight” and act a bit sillier than you feel, while sipping your highball (heavy on the orange juice, light on the vodka) slowly. My personal interest is in you preserving your brain cells. And the rest of you.

Happy birthday. I love you!

A response to a friend on the subject of “not all men”.

If I say, “White people enslaved Black people, murdered Native Americans, and interred Japanese in concentration camps” it is very obvious inherently that I’m not referring to “All white people”. It doesn’t mean it’s not a true statement. It also doesn’t mean it’s INTENDED to be a blanket statement that refers to all white people. And the least helpful possible response to “White people did this” is “Well, not me, man.”

The most helpful possible response is, “Wow, those were shitty things to do. Why don’t we do whatever we can to make sure they don’t happen again.”

And yet… when women say, “Men rape.” Or “Men beat women” or “Men are in a position of power in this culture that puts them at an inherent advantage.” Or “Men made my life miserable through much of my childhood”… one of the first responses they get is an indignant, “Not me! Not all men do those things!”

Which is a complete distraction.

It is true that men rape. It is true that men beat women. It is true that men have an inherent power advantage due to our culture’s biases.

That does not mean, OF FUCKING COURSE it does not mean that “all men” rape. Or that “all men” beat women. Or that “all men” abuse their privilege.

Except… when you use (or try to use)  your inherent advantage to derail the conversation from “How do we stop men from raping, how do we stop men from beating women, how do we redress the inherent imbalance in our culture”…. you BECOME “All men”. It doesn’t make you a rapist, it just makes you part of the problem.

Do women rape? Yes. Do women beat men? Yes. Do men suffer because those things are invisible in a culture which assumes that because of men’s “inherent advantage” that those things cannot happen to them, that it is not physically possible for them to be victims? Yes.

The fact of the matter is that EVERYONE suffers from the bias in our culture. And the battle I am fighting, that most of the feminists I know are fighting, is one that not only lets our daughters fly and follow their passions and talents without false limits of gender bias… but one that lets our sons choose their paths as well, free of the biases that limit them too. I’m fighting for my daughter to have equal pay in the profession of her choice… and for my son to have equal access to parental leave if he ever chooses to have kids.

When we start saying, “We need to tell men not to rape” and someone says, “But not all men rape…” They’re derailing the conversation. And that conversation NEEDS to go farther. It needs to get from the basic, “We need to tell men not to rape” and get all the way to “We need to teach all our children about true and enthusiastic consent because otherwise we’re setting traps for our sons and destroying our daughters at the same time.”

When we start saying, “Men catcalling women on the street makes me feel unsafe and angry” and men pop up and say, “But we never catcall on the street” or worse, “We don’t mean anything by it, what’s your problem?”

They’re derailing the conversation. If you don’t catcall women on the street, fine. You’re not the one who makes me feel unsafe. I’m not going to pat you on the back for not being a douchebag, especially if you start being a douchebag by derailing the conversation before it can get to where it needs to go. You want kudos for not being a dick, get all the way from neutral into positive ally territory, and say, “I’m not sure I understand why that is so upsetting, but it is clearly very upsetting. So if I see someone doing that. I’m not going to be silent about it when I know how upset it could be making someone. Or even better, acknowledge that having random people invade your space uninvited because they’re acting like you’re their personal sex toy when they’re bigger and stronger than you is annoying at the least and terrifying at the worst.

That conversation needs to get from “Don’t catcall women on the street” to “Tearing other people down in order to impress the people you are with is a bad idea which makes you less of a human being and which hurts everyone involved far more than you think. Treat people with respect, no matter who you think they might be or what you might want from them.” It needs to get to the point of “Hey, women don’t LIKE being thrust onto a sexual pedestal when they’re out and about and minding their own business, because sometimes it’s just harmless and sometimes it could be a prelude to rape and we don’t KNOW until we’re safe that we are safe.”

(Hint: Not one man who ever catcalled me ever got the time of day. The ones who did? Treated me like a human being.) And if people are jumping into the conversation with “Not all men”, THE CONVERSATION CANNOT GET WHERE IT NEEDS TO GO.

If you have heard. If you understand. If you have listened…. that is what we’ve asked. If your response to that is, “But I don’t….” You haven’t understood. You haven’t listened enough.

I can say, “Men do these things” and be correct, without that meaning that I think “all men” do these things. I don’t have to spell that out. I’m not wrong for saying it.

And if at this point, you’ve already reached that conclusion… you can give yourself a gold star and move on. Not my job to pat you on the back, not my job to reassure you that you’re not “tarnished” with the “stain” of all men. You either already know you aren’t, or you need to figure it out, or you are, in fact, part of the problem. I respect you enough to believe that you can, in fact, figure out where you are at in this equation and figure out where you need to go, or at the very least what questions you need to ask.

We *all* find ourselves at one point or another sharing a broad Venn diagram with others who do shitty things. The question is, are you in the overlapping circles? Or just happen to have a few shades in common without being in the problem area?

I happen to share “white” and “feminist” with some crappy ass people who treat women of color badly in feminist discourse. They do shitty things that I do not condone. I know where I fall in that Venn diagram, and the last thing I need to do is ask some Black lesbian to tell straight white me that I’m doing a “good job” at being an ally. I’d much rather take my time to actually BE an ally, and not derail her conversation from the fact, that yes, some White Feminists do some shitty clueless and downright offensive things that they need to stop doing (Hint: Don’t hold retreats at slave plantations when women of color are asking you not to.)

Anyway. I’m not mad at you, but you asked for a mediator and clarification. It took me a half hour to write this. I’m giving you that time be because you’re a friend, and trying, I’m willing to give the clarification. I’m also going to paste it out to my blog because I don’t want to spend the time again, which I could spend sleeping, or fighting the patriarchy instead of educating people who are already supposed to be on the same side.

Note: these arguments have been spoken by many others before me. I honestly don’t think I”m saying much that is new here, hopefully I’m saying it in a way that makes sense, since clearly the deluge of other sources hasn’t yet sunk in enough that I don’t still have people on my list saying, “But not all men!” or “I don’t!” as the response to “Men did….”

There are only a handful of men in my life who have mistreated me. I have some amazing men in my life, I chose to marry one of them. Don’t tell me you don’t mistreat people… tell me how you’re going to work to make sure that no one is mistreated where you have any power in the situation at all.

 

addendum for the blog: if you know of a cartoon, article, tumblr or blog post that addresses this issue well (or made one of these points first) please do link in the comments. I’m sick right now and don’t have the energy to track down the links to the amazing works that have helped shape my thinking on this.

I can’t believe we’re getting on the roller coaster again

So it’s been a while since we did a round of testing with Shiny. And the school is pushing for it, because they think she has vision and hearing deficits (duh) and want to qualify her for services on that basis. So I agreed to an audiology exam…. which was pretty useless, so they set us up for another one, which was marginally less useless, and now the audiologist is pushing hard to put Shiny under to do a sedated ABR to get better data.

I said no. What I really should have said is, “Over my dead body will you put this child under general just so you can get a slightly more accurate sense of how mild her hearing loss really is because you aren’t creative enough to get results with her awake. Fuck no, do not ask me again.”

And we went to the eye doctor and the sign language specialist wants Shiny seen at the Casey Eye Institute… which I agreed to right up until I learned it was part of OHSU. The staff was nice and pleasant and listened to me while I sobbed on the phone when they called (even seeing the caller ID was triggering) and talked about what they’d do in order to make it better… and then blithely mentioned the visit would last three hours. THREE HOURS. Three hours. Like they’re going to get anything at all useful after the first 20 minutes.

And it’s OHSU. They made noises about how they were separate from Doernbecher’s children’s hospital, which is where the worst stuff happened, but they are still solidly OHSU. I just don’t think I can. Like, I do not think I can physically make myself get into a car and go up there and walk in the building that I think shares a wall with the children’s hospital and not be losing my shit everywhere all the time. How can this possibly end well, no matter how good they are? And no one has told me how they could possibly improve things over what we’ve already done? Are they magically going to make her keep her glasses on? Wave a magic wand and give her better than 20/200 vision?

She is severely farsighted with astigmatism and she has had strabismus in the past but her eyes don’t seem to wander now. Honestly I think the right answer would be laser surgery but they won’t do it because of her age. And I think they’re wrong. I think if we wait until her vision is “stable” her brain will never adjust and a huge learning window will be lost.

If she’d wear glasses, it would be one thing, but the doc refuses to prescribe glasses that fully correct her vision, because of the distortion level, and I think that absent full correction she’s never going to want to bother.

Websites say, “Do whatever it takes to keep the glasses on”. We tried. It failed. Seriously we could put her in a straitjacket and she would just bang her head on the table until the glasses broke, she hates wearing them that much. I want to grab the doctors by the ear and drag them home and say, “You make it happen. I can’t.”

 

7 years ago…

….we started house shopping for the last time.

When I was born, we lived one place for 6 months, I’m told, then another place for about 4 years, then another place for about 5 years, then we were in an apartment for a month, a rental for a year and then we were at the longest home of my childhood, from 1982 through 1990… at which point my parents moved and I went off to college shortly after and between those moves and the vagaries of dorms and roommates and temporary accommodations and having a baby and becoming a single mother I ended up moving 17 times in 4 years. (I don’t even know if I can remember all of them, I counted once and remember the number–I counted a move as “dragged most or all of my shit from one place to another and slept there for more than 5 nights.” It’s the shit dragging that gets you down.)

That brings us to 1995, the year I got my first “on my own” place, just me and Kailea. She was 2 1/2. We lived in that place until she started first grade, at age 6, so 3 1/2 years.  It was  rathole of a townhouse (literal rats, worst part of town, had to call the cops a lot, got my car stolen, blah blah let me tell you the story about the people having sex on the front lawn some time…)

Then she got into an alternative program and we moved immediately to a townhouse about two short blocks from her school. That was Tyler, and we lived at Tyler until I married, in 2003. So pretty all but the last couple months of K’s elementary school years. 5 years there. We bought our first house.

4 years later we learned we would have to move again. The initiating factor ended up being a non-issue, but by that time the pressures to move were immense from other angles, and in 2007, we moved into The Uncommons. Seven years ago. Most of Shiny’s life. She’s nine. How is she nine? Hard to realize that my mother in law, who was the biggest factor in moving, has been gone for more than 5 years… and was only in this, the last place she ever lived, for about 20 months. Miles has always lived here. Miles will probably live here until he graduates high school, and for one of my children, the permanency I never had (and didn’t really, to be honest, miss–many of our moves I was very glad for) will be real. I fought tooth and nail (and succeeded) in keeping K with the same group of kids but had to move to do it. Miles… his home will be his constancy, and we may be more flexible with where he goes to school.

In another year, I will have officially lived here as long as I’ve ever lived in one place. It is not a flawless house, but it is ours, and I doubt we will ever move again.

R-lipoic acid–FTW

Oh my god. I may be saying that for a while.

So those who’ve been following our journey since Shiny was one know how significantly she has been impacted by supplements. And how badly she can be affected when a brand isn’t up to par.

Our R-lipoic acid must have changed suppliers at some point. I switched her from 300 mg of Vitacost’s brand to Geronova’s liquid K-rala… and she had about 5 drops, or 50 mg, in water, and a bit more in her milk. I was going for 100 mg because the liquid stuff tends to be super bioavailable (and expensive!)

And spent the morning…. chattering. And at dinner attempted and succeeded at a new word/phrase.

I’ve dropped EVERY vitacost “house brand” vitamin we have. Every single one, for every family member. Could be why I’ve been getting sicker? Eff you, Vitacost.

The difference was clear in hours. Hours. HOURS.

Jesus.

Hip Dysplasia and babywearing?

This is mostly a “catch all” post pulling together things I’ve written other places. So it’s not perfectly organized, but keeps me from having to sift through years of Facebook posts to find these things.  Most of these are from late summer/early fall 2012.

A while ago I posted this (just so that we’re clear that I am REALLY not a fan of the Baby Bjorn original style carrier):

Look, hate the Bjorn because it’s not comfortable for heavier babies. Hate it because it’s an awkward thing. Hate it because it turns people away from babywearing as “too uncomfortable” at a time when babywearing becomes supremely useful. But terrifying parents that they’ve damaged their children’s spines by using a bjorn for a few hours a day for a couple of months? SHOW ME THE GODDAMNED RESEARCH. Bjorns are not the same as swaddling or cradleboards, which CAN cause hip problems.

Yes, there are better, cheaper, whatever carriers out there. But let’s not make parents feel like shit about something that’s probably better for their kid than hanging out in a carseat all day (and we’ve got research on why that’s not a good idea…)

This was posted:

https://www.facebook.com/AP.Attachment.Parenting/photos/a.263258900405413.64028.246366758761294/408839049180730/?type=1

Along with a link to Boba’s blog and a rant about front facing out being awful.

I responded:

I’d really like to see the research specific to the Baby Bjorn that says that that kind of carrier causes hip dysplasia. Swaddling the hips tightly, sure, but the Bjorn is not the same position as a tight swaddle, and swaddling tends to be done 24/7 whereas babywearing (especially facing out) is very time limited in comparison. 

I don’t like the Bjorn for a lot of reasons, but I think it is hyperbole to tell parents they are harming their child by using it, and I’m tired of us not supporting parents in doing what it takes to nurture their babies in a way that works for them. 

It is very easy to get snobby and elitist about “good” carriers vs. bad carriers, but I really just love seeing people wear their babies however is comfortable for them and their baby. If the Bjorn is working for someone, great, I just hope they don’t stop babywearing entirely when their baby gets too big for the Bjorn. 

As for front facing out… People need to get a grip. Overstimulated babies show clear signs of overstimulation. They yawn. They hiccup. They rub their eyes. They cry. They go to sleep. If your baby is not doing those things, your baby is probably not overstimulated, and front facing out isn’t hurting him. One of the arguments FOR babywearing is that babies get more stimulation being up at parent-level. So again, making parents feel bad because it’s not a position you like? Really not cool. 

I’ve been babywearing for more than 19 years, and doing babywearing education for 18 years, and I have seen some wacky and dangerous carriers. The Bjorn is merely short-lived and potentially uncomfortable. 

The spine-and-hip development argument started with an opinion by a chiropractor, and what has followed from that is essentially a circle-jerk of people referencing each other, NOT research, not anything scientifically defensible. What we do know is that babies in arms tend to cry less and be happier than babies who are not worn. We know that we get more done without making our babies scream while we do it when we wear our babies. We know that babies airways need to be protected. We know that we should stay alert and aware of our babies while they are being worn. We do not know if the few hours a week most Bjorn users use the carrier are actually harmful, but the odds are low that they are.

If there was good, solid research showing the bjorn was harmful to spinal development, there would be a huge fuss from doctors and we’d be scrambling to differentiate the bjorn from other carriers in the eyes of the public. There is not. So until there is, give families a break, and be glad that that baby on the left is grinning…. and what the dad is doing looks like fun too. The baby on the left is attached to mama, and that’s the important thing, no?

 

 

So then….
I contacted the International Hip Dysplasia Institute to ask them about what research they had to support their claim that Bjorn-style carriers cause hip dysplasia, since their graphic was being used all over the Internet to support that claim. Here is their response:

From the IHDI Medical Advisory Board -

Thank you for contacting us and expressing your concern.

The International Hip Dysplasia Institute does not endorse or advice for or against any type of infant carrier. As you have noted, there are many benefits from baby wearing that must be weighed against any potential for harm to the hips. You are correct that there is no evidence for or against baby carriers as a cause of hip dysplasia. It is regrettable if our statments are being used inappropriately as “evidence” as you have indicated. However, there is ample evidence that hip dysplasia is influenced by environmental factors including swaddling. More than 90% of hip dysplasia is discovered in adolescents and young adults as early onset arthritis. Those individuals did not have neonatal hip instability that is the widely recognized form of early dysplasia. This suggests that the hips in the arthritic variety do not develop properly at some point in time although they were not detectable during infancy. Breeds of dogs that are susceptible to hip dysplasia have normal hips at birth and do not develop the arthritic form of hip dysplasia when they are prevented from walking until six weeks of age. In human studies, hip dysplasia is more common in Northern climates and in those born during winter months. Thus, there are potential influences for hip dysplasia besides swaddling. Our advice is to maintain the hips in a natural position for the first few months of life while the joint is forming, ligaments are often loose, and muscle contractures are still present.

We hope that this response is helpful to you. Should you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to ask, we will help in any way that we are able to.

Regards,

Susan Pappas
Assistant to Charles T. Price, MD, FAAP
Director International Hip Dysplasia Institute

So there you go. I’d buy swaddling as something that exacerbates hip dysplasia, but swaddling and bjorns are entirely different, stress-wise.

Another post…

So it’s driving me crazy how the babywearing community seems to have turned into piranhas about this carrier or that carry being “unsafe” or “bad” simply because they don’t fit some perfect ideal of what babywearing should look like in that person’s mind. Y’all know how much I love babywearing, but carriers are TOOLS.

Babywearing is something that may approach religion for some, but for most is simply a convenience. If I’m just hauling the baby from the car to the couch, I may stuff my kid in the top of a mei tai, standing in it, hanging half out of it with one hand holding him in. Is is perfect babywearing? No. Would it be safe if I took my hand off him or was trying to wear him for hours? No. Is it functional for the 40 steps from the car to the couch? Sure.

There are MANY carriers out there that are not perfect. For me, wraps are not perfect, especially for back carries. My teenager could tell you how many times she’s rescued the baby off my back with me with a sour expression on my face because something went horribly wrong while I was trying to get a specific back carry to work. I have mobility issues right now. While I *can* bend more than most people, I really shouldn’t because it damages me. So there are back carries that just aren’t functional for me. Does that make wraps “bad carriers” or “inherently unsafe” just because I can’t get it right? No. It just means they aren’t the right carrier for ME with this baby, at this stage in my life with this mobility level.

And don’t get me started on front facing out. After watching my friend Kimberly carry her daughter on her hip facing out(without a carrier), and watching many men carry their babies sitting facing out on their arms like their arm was a chair, I cannot abide the argument that front facing out is “unnatural” and I get stabby when people start ranting about how it overstimulates babies or will somehow warp their hips for life. How about instead we talk about how to wear babies in a way that is in touch with what they need? How about we talk about being in tune with signs of overstimulation (hiccuping, yawning, looking away in tiny babies, getting hyper in older babies, rubbing eyes, griping) and that an overstimulated baby should be turned around? How about we discuss getting babies into a well-supported position instead of scaring parents that somehow they’ve damaged their babies? Trust me, they haven’t.

I will say this. There is no one right way to wear babies. There is no one perfect carrier that works “best” for every situation or family. People need to get off their high horses and get some perspective.

Some gorgeous babywearing photos have been posted recently, and the comments are full of how those parents are doing it wrong. GET A GRIP, PEOPLE!!!! Just because you don’t like wearing your ergo on your hips and your baby throws a hissy if he can’t see over your shoulder doesn’t mean that smiling baby on his daddy’s back is somehow miserable because he’s “too low”. Talk about off-putting. You want more people to wear their babies? How about you don’t criticize every detail of how they wear their babies? Save it for the real unsafe stuff, like babies deep in pouches with their chins on their chests and blankets over their heads. Save it for the situations where real safety issues are present. Quit giving people a hard time because it’s a bjorn or it looks funny to you or wasn’t what you were taught.

 

The nice thing is that the dominant attitude among most babywearing experts that I know (and I know a lot of babywearing experts) is now “Practice, not product”, which teaches that babywearing is a skill, not a specialty item. And in that vein:

http://canadianbabywearingschool.com/?p=17

“Practice, not product”

http://canadianbabywearingschool.com/?p=749

“Why is Arie wearing a Bjorn?” How to make a bjorn more comfortable.

http://beltwaybabywearers.blogspot.com/2014/02/lets-get-real.html

Awesome, awesome post on babywearing as a practice and a skill, and getting past the “quest for perfection” that can be so defeating.

 

And an amusing postscript… Bjorn has made a website saying basically what I’ve been saying (we don’t have research to say front facing out is bad). But they recently announced a carrier that they are developing in conjunction with the IHDI, with better hip position. It is hard to imagine how better hip position would NOT create a more comfortable carrier. So yay, change.

And lest anyone jump in with “if you had hip issues you might take this more seriously…”

I have hip issues. I have hip issues galore. In me, they are not caused by being worn in a frontpack. They are caused by childbirth. And having Ehlers Danlos through three pregnancies. (I was born with uneven creases and developed severe hip pain during the birth of my second child, and have been dealing with hips that don’t like to stay properly aligned and a sacrum that goes wonky at the drop of a hat ever since. None of which has ANYTHING to do with how I was carried in infancy.)

Reasons to keep on nursing your toddler, even when they annoy the crap out of you.

Reasons to nurse a toddler
1. Toddlers are notoriously fickle about what they will eat in a given day. Three grapes, a dust bunny and a half a crayon are less worrisome when you know they’ve nursed a couple of times (or more).
2. They roll on the ground in public places during flu season. (And transfer some of those germs to your breast, which tells your boobs to boost immune factors. Boobs are amazing. Toddler milk for a child not nursing often may be more immune-factor-dense than even newborn milk.)
3. The big bad world is a scary place. The boob is a great source of comfort and can help ease anxiety and smooth transitions.
4. Kids are hilarious when they talk about nursing. “I luf dat boop! I nursh please, thanks!”
5. Breastmilk absorbs quickly. So even if they’re puking and having diarrhea, breastmilk can help keep them hydrated and out of the hospital. (See #2, insert “norovirus” for flu)
6. More than just comfort, nursing releases endorphins for both mother and child. This is especially important when a child is injured. Boob helps ease the pain and calm the child (and the mom!)
7. Speaking of injuries, toddlers fall. Mouth injuries are not uncommon. Breastfeeding applies a perfect amount of direct pressure for lip and tongue injuries, stops bleeding, eases pain and may take “Oh my god we have to run to the ER” to “Oh, hey, I think he’s going to be all right” in a matter of minutes. It is in fact very difficult to apply direct pressure to a toddler’s lip in any other way.
8. Breastmilk is incredibly soothing for sore throats and can help a child who is refusing all food and drink get to the point of being able to take things by mouth. (I have pumped fresh milk for a friend’s sick, weaned child for this purpose. 3 ounces was enough to get him eating again.)

It is easier to go from some supply (even if small) to a lot of supply for a sick child than it is to go from no supply to any supply at all. It is NOT unusual to not enjoy toddler nursing. Sometimes it makes me want to jump out of my skin. But then something happens and I remember why I keep on keeping on. Because the benefits are worth it, and when we need it, we really, really need it. So I set limits wherever I need to, but I don’t cut him off entirely.

How not to lose food in a power outage

The power goes out! What do you do?

1: DO NOT OPEN THE REFRIGERATOR OR FREEZER. Not for anything until you have some ice.

2. Why did the power go out? If it’s due to cold temps outside… not to worry! Take all your freezer food and put it outside. Get organized, put it in a cooler or tote inside, and then put it outside all at once so you are not leaving your door open and letting your precious heat out any more than necessary. It will be fine out there until the temps hit 33 degrees, at which point you will either have power or you will find another solution.  While you’re putting your food outside, get some snow, pack it tight in plastic containers, baggies, anything watertight. Put the snow in the fridge. You can now get food out of the fridge until the snow melts…at which point you need to put more snow in.

3. If the power outage is NOT due to cold weather, you have a couple hours before things become urgent. Talk to the power company. The freezer and fridge should be fine for a few hours as long as it is not super duper hot–they are well insulated, just LEAVE THEM CLOSED. If the estimate is “you’ll be repaired in an hour”, just wait it out. If the estimate is, “We don’t know, it could be days”… you need to take prompt action. If you have substantial freezer stores, buy or rent a generator if you can in the long run, but in the short run, you need ICE. Buy ice or even dry ice as soon as you possibly can. A chest freezer well packed can stay safe for up to two days without added cold stores, but can stay cold indefinitely if you keep tossing dry ice into it every day or so. A fridge is good for about 4 hours with no power and no ice if you do not open it.

It is almost always going to be cheaper to keep the food cold than to buy all new food. Even if you end up spending $100-150 on a “multi day cooler” and packing that full of your fridge goods and some ice, it will still be cheaper than replacing every single thing in there. If you have the storage space and are prone to power outages, consider getting a large “igloo” cooler.

Frozen foods can be refrozen as long as they still have some ice crystals and are below 40 degrees.

So what if your freezer does defrost and the food is “safe” but not icy?

Keep it cold, cook it as quickly as you can, and freeze the cooked food.

Also, ASK FOR HELP. If you are having issues keeping your food cold and can’t drive to get supplies, if the roads are passable for a skilled driver, ask your friends if there is someone who can help you save your food.

Here’s what the g’ummint says about it:

http://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/poweroutage.html

 

 

Please don’t be sad that your children are growing up

I see this all the time, parents expressing sorrow that their children have hit another milestone, have left another stage behind.

I understand being wistful, I still don’t grasp how that newborn I held is suddenly this active little boy. But regret?

No. Not even for the last baby.

I also see parents so eager for the next stage that they push the envelope… rushing ahead. Not even for the first baby.

I’ve not been wildly successful at a lot of things in my life, but one that I’m doing quite well is enjoying Miles’ stages while he is in them. He leaps forward in bounds, now crawling, now talking, now conversing, now jumping and spinning and throwing tantrums and I know that Why is just around the corner…. And as he leaves each stage behind, I do not mourn.

I had a baby who stayed a baby. Shiny was a newborn for months. She was an infant in arms for over a year. A scootching and then crawling baby for many years.

And I will never tell a child, “Don’t grow up”. I will never tell a child, “Stay the way you are”. I’ve seen that. It’s not what you think.

I don’t push Miles forward, but I don’t hold him back. I love the stage he’s at now… and will be grateful when he leaves it behind, as he’s left every other stage behind. Because that’s what children do. What they are supposed to do.

And when they don’t, if you get that wish that they’d just stay this way…. something has gone terribly wrong. Please don’t wish for that.

Duct Tape Baby Carrier

So, back in 2006, in preparation for the first International Babywearing Conference, I made this:

Jenfront2006

Yes, this is a duct tape mei tai. And that’s wee Shiny at 16 months old.

Kristi

I designed it to be reversible. Kristi Hayes-Devlin of Wrapsody demonstrated it as a back carrier, with the reverse side showing.

 

sleepyshinyduct

Once I buffered Shiny’s skin with a scarf, she fell asleep. It was pretty comfy, all things considered.

 

gabiback

 

Gabi, who founded Beco, was inspired. With a pillowcase and a couple long strips of duct tape, she made a podaegi. Someone added a pair of sling rings to turn it into an onbuhimo at some point.

 

gabiside

 

It was epic. And pretty legendary. I always thought about making another duct tape carrier but never quite had sufficient motivation. A full duct tape mei tai takes about $20 of tape and 2 1/2 to 3 hours worth of work. It’s actually easier to make a carrier out of fabric. With a duct tape carrier you’re basically making the fabric, as well as the carrier.

Fast forward from August of 2006 to January of 2014. How is it possible that over 7 years have passed? And pray tell, how could *I* possibly forget ALL my baby carriers at home? Every one. My car had been cleaned out thoroughly, so no stragglers. And we were in Seattle, at a filk convention, with a rambunctious two year old who decided that running away was the new game of the moment.

I considered, briefly, hijacking a bedsheet. But I had to go to the store anyway, and thought, “You know, if after 20 years of babywearing I can’t come up with something more fun than a plain white hotel bedsheet, I’m clearly doing it wrong.”

Four rolls of duct tape and two and a half hours later, I had this:

2014ductback

flatfront

That, my dears, is a fixed-strap half mei tai, custom sized for Miles and for me. I knew I wouldn’t use it on the front, so no need to waste tape and time and effort making the top straps adjustable. I didn’t want a whole lot of bulk around his middle, and knew where the stresses and supports needed to be, so I shaped it. Made the waist band long enough to do tibetan style, knowing that every step I could take to pull the tape straps out of my armpits would add half an hour to the time I could wear this. Plus, tibetan style, I would not have to knot the duct tape straps–I just went back and forth a couple times between the two straps and the friction held everything VERY securely in place.

2014milesonback

2014ductfront

He looks a lot like his sister.

I used it all weekend, for up to a half hour or so at a time. It worked best when I wrapped a scarf (bought one with the duct tape, just in case) around his bum and my waist, drawing his weight in lower down. But even without, was quite serviceable. Not as good as a padded toddler carrier, but certainly as comfy or more comfy than the vast majority of other carriers.

20 1/2 years of babywearing.

Yep, I still got it.

 

Now, for some technical details, rules I follow, because while I am not RECOMMENDING that others try this, I know some people probably will and it would be wise for people to observe some safety guidelines.

1. No adhesive is to come in contact with baby, and should not come in contact with the wearer once the carrier is finished.

2. ALL places on the carrier must have at least 4 layers of tape, and any non-strap area must have tape running in multiple directions. I make a “sheet” of duct tape fabric by lining the tape up in one direction, then applying tape to the glue side at a different angle. I used no scissors in the making of the most recent one, but the tidiest result will happen if you make a big sheet of rough-edged double-layer “fabric” out of duct tape and then trim the edges.

3. Attention to strap safety is a must. The straps on this are four layers thick… and they are reinforced where they join the body. In fact, I applied the straps when there were two layers of duct tape to the body, and then went over the top with more layers of tape, creating one large “piece” shaped and strapped.

4. Finish edges with half-strips of tape. This will prevent tearing and keep the glue off everyone’s skin.

5. If you are planning on wearing baby on the front, DO make longer top straps and go the mei-tai route. If you are not going to use it as a front carrier, you can do fixed straps. I did this with help from my husband, tying the carrier around my waist while he held our son in place, then measuring the length of the top straps on our bodies. If you want a more SSC style carrier you’re going to need to get some side release buckles, and at that point you might as well sew the darned thing out of fabric, it will be more comfy.

6. Rulers are not needed. I used a piece of folded-over tape to measure from the front of one of his armpits, around his back, to the front of his other armpit, and then added some width for tape. I measured from the back of his neck to the front of his crotch, and from knee to knee across his bum. That set the width of top and bottom and the length of the carrier (essentially tied apron style, though that’s not how I put it on.) The bottom straps I just made “plenty long”.  The hourglass middle is a little wider than the width of his back and positioned near his hips. His legs are well enough supported. If I”d been less tired I might have shaped the body and made it a little wider in the middle.

7. The core of this is relatively inexpensive silver standard duct tape. Decorative print duct tape is much spendier, so save it for the outer later. All layers are structural, but having a core of 2 layers of silver and then making it completely covered with decorative tape to the point where no silver shows guarantees sufficient tape throughout.

Duct tape is very strong lengthwise, but is designed to tear. This is why multidirectional tape is a must in all places and finished edges are a must. Most fabrics are designed this way!

This required no sewing, no hardware, no scissors, no rulers. It is custom and fitted to us, but not “share-able” the way a full four-strap mei tai would be.

Combining duct tape and fabric is possible, but you need to pay attention to stresses and reinforcement.

Every time you wear a carrier, no matter what it is made from, you MUST check it for wear. A $20 duct tape carrier WILL wear out with use, duct tape is not designed to withstand constant flexing and friction, so you do need to check it every single time, especially at stress points.

I am more comfortable using a duct tape carrier on an older baby or toddler. For an infant I’d rather use a bedsheet. This is a good “In a pinch” carrier, but duct tape is not designed for babies to mouth. On a mei tai, you can “dress” the mei tai with a long sleeved shirt to protect baby from the tape, if you must.

These are really best for short term use, and in situations where you want to get people talking about babywearing. I took my first duct tape carrier to the SCA…

Feel-better Chai Pudding

An experiment worth repeating….

In a jar:
1/4 cup chia seed
1/8 cup coconut sugar
1/8 cup cocoa powder
1/8 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon “power tea” (Power Tea is a mixture of organic spices including: Ceylon Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger, Turmeric, Black Pepper and Cayenne Pepper., very chai-ish, LOTS of anti-inflammatory action.)
1 tablespoon elderberry syrup
1 cup almond milk or coconut water or raw milk or coconut milk or whatever.  I used a blend of almond milk and coconut water.

I actually tripled this recipe though had to short the milk a tiny bit to fit in a quart jar.
Stir well and let sit in the fridge for a couple hours.

It makes a spicy chocolate pudding that unlike refined-sugar-based desserts, actually leaves one feeling better. I’ve been fighting off the flu for a couple days, and I feel almost 100% after a bowl of this.

The cocoa, spices and elderberry all have good evidence for being medicinal. Also very tasty.

Ridesource

So we’ve been using Ridesource (special needs public transport) since December. While it does save me driving, it has been a MASSIVE hassle. Top on the list is child safety seats. Technically Shiny is allowed to ride with just a belt. In practice, the belts are too big. A low back booster makes it fit, but is not ideal because you’re not supposed to use a low-back booster with a lap belt. Her carseat weighs 20 pounds and is not a great fit on the bus because the seats are too small and it has too much movement with a lap-only belt and there’s no actual tether point for the top tether.

So today Shiny gets off the bus and the driver says, “By the way, the lap only belts don’t fit her well enough to keep her from moving around” (she’s made 3 trips this way and they’re only just now telling me this?) but I just put her in the kid seat in the back, and it fit perfectly and she stayed put.

WHAT KID SEAT IN THE BACK?

The one that one of the back seats breaks down into, that’s what. Which apparently NO ONE but THIS driver knew. 

So YAY, they have a built-in kid seat on the bus that works perfectly for her!

And GOOD LORD WHY DID THEY NOT USE THIS A MONTH AGO?

And I quote, “Every one of the buses has one.”

No, really, do NOT fucking touch my children without permission

Several people have said, “Oh, but touching his clothed foot wouldn’t likely spread flu”. Or “You shouldn’t have swatted that man’s hand away.” Or “You could have been more polite about it.”

One person even suggested that not letting people touch my children in public might create problems for my children in being touched as adults.

You know what? I was raised to know that my body was my own, and that if someone I didn’t know tried to touch me without permission, I was absolutely within my rights to yell, “No!” and leave.

That I didn’t have to be polite about it.

It was a good lesson to learn. Would have been even better if it had included that if people I did know tried to touch me without permission, I was STILL within my rights to yell, “No” and leave, but regardless, it served me very well with strangers.

I can name at least three times in my life where that lesson got me out of a situation that could easily have turned into severe molestation or rape, ONLY having been touched once in a way I didn’t like.

On one occasion, a man reached out and grabbed me–my crotch–when I was nine, and I pulled away and yelled no and then ran. He sounded so surprised I wouldn’t just let him. Makes me wonder how many girls did.

Another occasion, a friend’s makeout buddy reached out WHILE MAKING OUT WITH HER and grabbed my breast while I was trying to sleep. I yelled, “No!” and threw my clothes on and left.

On a third occasion a boy ran his hand up my leg because I had the audacity to wear nylons, and I told him to stop and when he got snippy I got the teacher. Who was an ass but that’s another story. I made it stop.

My child learns about loving, healthy touch and boundaries by being touched in appropriate ways by people who love him and by having his boundaries respected.

So yes, when people violate my son’s personal space and mine (the guy’s hands were inches from my chest, he had to put his hand between me and the cart to grab Miles’ foot, and he was not holding it gently, I had to use some pressure to push his hand away) I will respond reflexively by telling them “No” and pushing them away, and then leaving.

I will NEVER apologize for that reflex.

And that, my friends, is why you should not touch strangers’ children without permission.

Because doing so, you’re violating boundaries.

That, and because you really do not want to trigger a defensive reaction in someone who may be a survivor.

It doesn’t even have to be about the germs. Bodily autonomy is plenty reason enough.

He’s lucky I didn’t slug him.

Don’t touch my children in the grocery store

It’s happened several times now, the latest was this afternoon. I was in Trader Joe’s, and a man came up and started commenting about the fact that Miles was in his jammies. I said, as I often do, “Wouldn’t it be great to be two and be able to get away with wearing footie jammies everywhere?”

He laughed, and then reached out and grabbed one of Miles’ feet. My hand came down and batted his hand away, and I snapped, “Do not touch my child.”

He looked shocked, and said, huffily, “Lots of people like me being around their children.”

“I don’t mind people talking to my children,” I said. “I don’t allow strangers to touch them in the grocery store.”

He then said to Miles, “When you’re 18 you’ll be on your own.”

It was only after I walked away from him that I realized that this exact same man has approached us before and tried to put his hands on Miles and I blocked him then, too. It’s the fourth or fifth time something like that has happened in Trader Joe’s. Close spaces? Friendly atmosphere? Beats me. The others have been middle aged women.

Now, this guy was scruffy. Looked kind of like a bum. But I had ZERO problem with him talking to us… it was when he reached out to grab my kid’s foot that I went from friendly and chatty to snarling mama bear. I’ve snapped the same way at well dressed middle aged women.

Here’s the deal…

People may just be social. However, recent research shows that our behavior can, in some ways be governed by the pathogens we carry. People may be more likely to be spontaneously social when they are contagious but not yet symptomatic with influenza.

http://www.academia.edu/533848/Change_in_Human_Social_Behavior_in_Response_to_a_Common_Vaccine

There are a number of pathogens that can profoundly change the behavior of the host organism. Toxoplasmosis may have few obvious symptoms in adults…but can actually change behavior and personality in subtle and dangerous ways.

And of course there are those zombie ants, who get infected with a fungus that induces them to climb to exactly the right microclimate, latch on, and die, thus allowing the fungus to propagate.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/9953571/There-are-zombies-among-us.html

So when a nice older man or woman approaches my child and reaches out to touch them (why is it always the feet?) they may be a perfectly nice “auntie” being friendly and sociable…

Or they may be a zombie aunt.

Obligatory End of Year Post

I’m finishing the year must as I started it at the moment—nursing Miles and spending time with family.

2013 was a huge, huge year. It started with surgical recovery and the addition of a family member, in the middle it was hard and everything was in transition constantly, and in the end, we had to fix our house a lot and struggled to get to a new normal which is not yet settled.

Forevermore, I will associate the new year with my son. He turns two on Thursday, which is crazytalk, but tomorrow we will fill our living room with two year olds (four of them should do the trick) and they will eat cupcakes and it will be low key and fine.

 

I’ve been struggling with depression. The battle to get respite and to get health care coverage has been demoralizing at best. One of my coping mechanisms, which only parents of violent children will understand, is to know that I have a choice, that if it gets too bad she can live somewhere else. I could think about that choice because foster care through DDS is a very different creature from foster care through CPS, the training is different, it is voluntary, etc. etc. But the same issue that prevents us from getting respite paid for also prevents her from entering that system, so really the ONLY option that would get her out of the house if she really injures someone is basically calling CPS, and that’s not an option for a kid like Shiny. Putting her in therapeutic foster care is one thing, but tossing a medically complex kiddo into “the system” is not happening on my watch.

Feeling trapped is one of my worst, worst triggers for depression. “Acute situational depression” is still situational and acute even when the situation is chronic. The cure is to fix the situation, I just feel like we’ve been slogging against it for so long.

My parents are paying for a couple days of respite this week, one day next week. We’ll get through it. When I can’t use my usual coping methods, we default to “things change, it will be different later.”

That and video games. I treated myself to the second chapter of Starcraft, which actually passes the bechdel test, but has kind of an annoying “heroine”. The game play is fun though, even if the story is (by necessity of the game design) aggravating. When you design a game where you have three factions and you play all three factions, kind of everyone has to suck at some level, and you have to sort of hate everyone. So I am playing the zerg mother and bash smash swarm it’s a decent outlet.

I don’t do new years resolutions. Coincidentally I will be starting my elimination process next week whereby I figure out which foods I tolerate and which I don’t. It is not a “diet” per se for weight loss, but an attempt to figure out if I can feel better by changing my diet. We shall see.

Miles

Miles is 20 1/2 months old. He is about 28 pounds, maybe a little more. He is talking in sentences, but sometimes his sentences are kind of wacky. He can imitate almost anything he hears… unless he already decided he knew how to say it before he really figured out how to say it properly, in which case we get things like “Gapes!”  and “Boop!”

The other day a friend came over with her son, who we’ll call Joseph, as she doesn’t generally identify him online by his real name. Joseph is about 5 months older than Miles. That makes him 2 years and a couple months. Joseph is not quite as verbose as Miles is around strangers, but has the word “Mine!” down pat.

Miles was fascinated. He said, “Joseph!” clear as  a bell a moment after the boy came into the room. They played, fought over a toy, shrieked at each other briefly and then settled down to play. His mother said, “Joe…” and Miles picked up on this. They were here for five minutes. Ever since it is “Joseph. Joe. Joseph. MY Joseph. Mine.” Those who know the child in question will be able to substitute his real name into this dialogue, and his nickname….

He’s also wild about his cousin, “Lala!” He sometimes says Laura, but usually it’s “Lala!” and his pitch and decibel level rise in excitement when she’s around, usually to the level of sonic torture within moments. Lala is the one who teaches him things like “Flying with Cars” (stand on table, take flying leap onto Cozy Coupe toy car’s roof, go skidding across the living room), “Perching on cars” (climb onto roof of car, be lord of all you survey) and “Gate scaling 101.”

Laura commented today that when he is four he will be bigger than she is. What she doesn’t realize is that when he’s four, he’s going to be bigger than she is when she’s six. She’s about 30 pounds. He’s 28. He’s been catching up steadily since birth. I’m guessing age 5 or 6 is when he’ll catch up to Shiny. For all that, he remains RIDICULOUSLY average. I think his weight is like 65th percentile, but we won’t know for sure until the next time he gets sick, because I put my mama foot down and will not set foot in the doctor’s office with them unless there’s a damn good reason, and having the doctor weigh and measure an obviously thriving child is not sufficient to risk setting foot in the office. We haven’t been in months… he hasn’t been sick in months. Coincidence? I think not. Screw you, well baby checks. We’re not vaccinating until he’s at least two, so there’s no point.

He’s my first kid to NOT fall percentiles in the second year of life. Kailea went from Sumo Baby to average during that time, Shiny went ages not gaining and then we went on a cruise and started her on CoQ10 and she put on 5 pounds in about 2 months. Kailea spent a year putting on a pound and then put on 3 pounds in 3 weeks right before her 2 year growth spurt. Miles just keeps ticking merrily upwards, his proportions changing very little, he just keeps getting closer, you know?

The baby isn’t all gone from him yet… what remains is the child who roots desperately in his sleep when the nipple falls away, and then who turns his head away and purses his lip when he’s sated. When he’s awake he’s all kid, but he clings to that last bit of baby in his sleep.

I find myself cherishing where he’s at, and cherishing the progress he makes, and regretting his passing through stages not in the slightest. When people say, “Stop growing, baby!” I shudder. I’ve been there, done that, and it’s not all that. Grow baby. Grow at your own pace, do your thing, you’re doing just fine.

A snapshot or two, verbally

“Go ahside? My Ah-side? Go car? Go car Shiny?” (Commenting on the process of picking up his sister from the bus.)

He no longer runs for the street when the front door is open. Until hubby turned it over, he ran for the kiddy pool instead, to splash in the 2 inches of water and muddy leaves and sticks he’s put in there like its his job. And for a few precious weeks, for the cluster of blackberry bushes, where he separated the berries into “Yayboowies” and “Yumboories” and “Yucky boories”. He chases our tenants’ cat and runs from their (giant) dog… (Atari the dog is a big black goofball. He’s half black lab and half newfoundland. He is a seriously HUGE black goofball. He can knock Miles over with his tongue, and often does.)

“Gimme dat” and “Leh GO!” and since our young friend’s visit, “Mine!” are becoming frequent refrains. He tried pulling that crap with Laura, who was all, “Dude, I’m an expert” and promptly stopped when she shriek retaliated and sat on him briefly. That said, he’s rapidly breaking her of the idea that she gets to set up elaborate play structures in this playroom and expect them to remain…. get this…. *rofl* untouched. She has her house, and her only child queen bee status, and she can do that THERE. Here, if you walk away from your six small creatures each in separate cups, you’ve got to expect that Miles is going to haul off two of the cups with creatures in, and that Shiny will pull the creatures out of the rest and then stack the cups, and then mug Miles for the cups he’s got and stack those cups too.

It is noisier but easier, marginally, with her here, though I find her talking to be endless. It’s been a long time since I had someone asking me that many questions.

Miles does ask questions but he’s not sure why yet. He loves saying and signing “What?” but doesn’t get that when I say “What?” to him that it’s a request to repeat what he previously said. If he’s getting in trouble and I start to catch him he’ll preempt me by saying, “Wha arn you dooning?” or the variant, “Where arn you go-ning?”

The inflection is priceless, as he apes me quite well. Including things he shouldn’t, like, “Dammee!” which is always said in as appropriate a situation as you can get for a 20 month old… such as, I drop my mouse, and he says, “Dammee! Dopped eet. I get it.” Since he then hops off my lap and hands me the mouse, I can’t complain.

He’s exploring cause and effect, and consequences. I handed him a bunch of grapes on Tuesday as we drove home from the produce co-op… and he ate many, but then started hollering, “Oh no, Gapes!” as we drove to Kailea’s house. A mile away from our destination, he started crying.

When I opened the door, I discovered many, many grapes lying on the floor of the car. I picked them up, handed them to him, and we were off with Kailea to go home…. as I drove we heard a small. thud…thud thud… and then, “Oh no, Gapes!” We glanced at each other, and tried to keep a straight face as we heard again…thud..thud thud…. “Oh no, Gapes!” And again with the crying…. by that point we were laughing out loud. 13 grapes he threw overboard, every time yelling, “Oh no, Gapes!”

He is SUCH an easy going kid. I mean, he has opinions and will get mad, but he genuinely enjoys having other kids around and seems to instinctively know how to insert himself into their play in a way I certainly never figured out. It’s like he’s surfing the top of the bell curve.

Oh dear god, I think I’m raising an extrovert.

Objectively hard

My sister used those words to describe Shiny the other day. “She is objectively, genuinely hard, for anyone.”

Today the kids had respite together at The Arc. I was told years ago that “ARC” stands for Association of Retarded Citizens. Now they’re just The Arc. First Saturday of the month, they offer respite. 6 hours for $10 for the first child, $5 for siblings. We just learned about this a few weeks ago.

We showed up, spent half an hour filling out forms (which the caregivers did not read) and the kids ran gleefully into the play room. Well, first Shiny disappeared completely off both our radars (I thought he had her, he assumed that since I had my head down filling out forms and sent Miles his way that I had her.)  So there was that panic, she turned out to be in a side room, and all was well. The kids were delighted to be there and to have the run of a huge space.

We left them there and came home and I did some dishes without anyone shitting on the floor and ate some food without sharing it with anyone and I took a nap.

Went school shopping (which makes me furious… free and appropriate public education means a list of $40-50 worth of stuff PLUS a request for $25 cash for supplies. I’m going to gently suggest to her teacher that next summer she should give me a list for the whole classroom, I will find the best possible price on the stuff and we’ll get it wholesale and divide the cost among parents. Because buying two reams of copy paper is just stupid.

Got back to pick up the kids… Miles came wandering up, checked me out and then wandered right back off again. The first words out of the caregiver’s mouth were “Does she have Pica? She ate crayons.”

“I put it on the paperwork,” I said.

“I didn’t look at that,” she admitted.

Sigh.

I find Shiny. She has a scrape on her face. “She threw herself on the ground,” the person watching her said. “Does she have pica? She ate crayons. We’re going to need to have 1:1 staffing with her next time.”

I have no doubt Shiny threw herself on the ground. And at this point, I don’t let her have more than one crayon at a time and we stop if she starts to break or eat them. As far as paper goes, I don’t really care if she eats it–as long as she’s not eating lightbulbs and pottery fragments we’re okay. (She’s done both.)

She is genuinely hard. I just hope this doesn’t mean they have to bill us at the higher rate for after school care, because while we can do the whole month at $9 per hour every day after school… not so much at $18 per hour.

But I don’t feel like quite such a jerk for having such a hard time this summer.

One. More. Day. Monday is no school, Tuesday they start.

 

Trudge trudge trudge

In the morning I go to drop both kids off with a woman far more competent than I at this whole parenting nonsense–she handles Miles and Shiny and her four and five year old and sometimes a couple neighbor kids and she’s SIX MONTHS PREGNANT. At six months pregnant I was lucky if I could get up and down the stairs.

Then physical therapy. Then back to get the kids and back home to talk to the DDS worker. I vacillate between wanting the house to be cleaner and wondering if I shouldn’t have had the person who cleans for me in on Monday, so he could see the full force of what it gets like.

I inhaled a tiny bit of sausage tonight. It is irritating and annoying but not blocking my oxygen, so hopefully it will not kill me before tomorrow afternoon. I have too much shit to do.

The two most likely suspects for taking Shiny after school are full… and her school program goes from 7:30 am to 2:20 in the afternoon. That’s door to door. It is the shortest school day she has had during the regular year since kindergarten, and I’m going to have to fight them to get her a little earlier so she can have breakfast at school. So after school care is important. The city is the cheap option. Then there’s the daycare down the street, run by one of our co-op members, not terribly more expensive per month, but the co-op mama is gluten free and aware and holds babies and doesn’t hold slavishly to schedules for their own sake and would probably be a better fit, not that it matters, she’s full. Shiny is first on her wait list and 7th on the wait list for the city.

If respite comes through, there’s other options, but I am not holding my breath. I feel like a schmuck for wanting her out of the house from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm, but that extra 3 hours in the afternoon (4 on Wednesdays) feels like the difference between surviving and maybe, possibly starting to get my health back. When it’s just me and Miles, we range through the house, go places in the car, do things, take naps, get shit done. When it’s me and Shiny and Miles it is hard to get out of my chair, I can’t leave them alone together for long and I *certainly* can’t take them with me. I can’ t just be upstairs napping with Miles while Shiny is downstairs, she’ll push a table over to the entertainment center, climb up and dismantle my network (which is currently located about 7 feet off the ground). I can’t tell you how many routers I’ve already gone through. It is crazy. If she were a typical 8 year old, she would actually be a force for order rather than chaos, she’d be able to make her own lunch, she wouldn’t be smearing shit on the walls, she’d be helping with her baby brother rather than clobbering him. I don’t often think about that, but today I must because today I need to make the case for services based on her disability, and that means pointing out EVERYTHING that is different because of her disability.

Horrible head space, but it’s for a good cause.

This sausage is annoying the crap out of me–I’m not thrilled that my next step is to go upstairs and lie down and put a c-pap on, I think it will just drive it farther down.

Another for the “I don’t know what to think” files…

I was sitting here, Miles was playing next to me.  All of a sudden I heard a thump, and a rustle and a cry.

“Oh my god, Miles just fell out the window,” I said to my husband.  He ran outside.

I looked out the window to find my son standing in the ivy about 5 feet below my window, hollering. I could see a spot of blood in his mouth, and put my hands down to him. He reached up, took my hands, and walked up the side of the house until I could bring him inside. There was a red mark on his side. Another on his elbow. He wouldn’t let me look in his mouth.

I latched him on. And gasped. Because the niggling little discomfort I’ve always had when he nursed was gone.

He apparently popped the last of his tongue tie.

He’s acting 100% fine now.

I’m sitting here with the crazy eyes and the nervous laughter.  I just don’t even.

In the desert

So when Shiny was born, we did not go to Holland, but instead were dropped in the desert.  We eventually found a well, and managed to put together a dusty little life with just enough water to get by most of the time. There were drier times, and the occasional deluge, and for a little while, we had steady, frequent rain and things started to bloom.

Then, abruptly, there was a sandstorm. I woke up one morning to find that my well was gone, the garden covered with sand, my shelter blown away and the sun beating down. There were some jars of stored water, but not enough. And some of the jars I thought I’d set aside had cracks in the bottom, when I moved a jar i found the one behind it dry as a bone. I’d known there would be dry times, but I wasn’t prepared for how thoroughly the water had disappeared, how quickly.

I knew there was water across the valley, if I could just get there I’d be allowed to stay for a while, and we would be okay. But I had to get there.  Across parched earth, with a few jars to sustain me. And so I set out. “One foot in front of the other,” I thought. “I just have to keep moving, eventually I’ll get to the other side. Then I looked at a map, and realized it was farther than I thought to the other side of the valley. There was supposed to be an oasis on the way, but when I got there, most of the water was gone, I ended up thirstier digging for the water than I’d been just walking across the desert.

Weeks passed. Occasionally I came across a water seller, and paid for a cup here, a sip there. Just enough to not die. I asked someone for help, and she said, “Oh, hey, just over that little dune there, there’s this oasis! You can stay there for a couple of weeks, it’s wonderful, they have a pond and a cabana boy. You’ll have to go a little bit out of your way, but it will be fine. I took the map she offered me and was about to step that way when someone else said, “No, there’s another oasis even closer, and you won’t have to go so far out of your way!”

Grateful, delighted, and looking forward to a good long drink and a nap in the shade of a palm tree, I stepped over the hill, and saw a palm tree and what looked like a deep well…. I pulled up a bucket and began to drink. At first the water was clear and cold and refreshing. Then without warning my mouth was full of sand, and I looked up and saw the palm tree was made of plastic and the green oasis I was promised was just more sand. Someone leaning against the palm tree said, “Oh, just scoop some of the sand out, there will be more water… I did, there was enough for a few more swallows, even enough to put a little bit of water in a jar, but those swallows were bitter and sandy and I cried… no two week oasis, just another water stop, and the edge of the valley looked farther than ever.

I called out for help, and a woman came rushing forward, put her arm around me and said, “Over that hill, we have more water. And you can stay, and we will make sure you have water for as long as you need it.”

“I can’t walk much father,” I said. “I need water now if I’m going to stay in this desert. I’ve been thinking about leaving. I don’t want to, but I might have to.”

“Just over the hill,” she said. “Right there.” She pointed, and I could see the shimmer of water and tall trees.

“Okay,” I said, and kept walking. I could still see the water, the trees, but they didn’t seem to get closer. My arms felt like lead, my throat parched. I called out to find out if the water was there, and a man answered, “Oh, it’s two hills over, but they may not have enough for you. We might have to send you to another hill, and then it’s only if the people there say you can go.”

At this point I was almost to the edge of the valley… but the community which had been if not green, at least capable of sustaining us through the winter, had a sign up, saying, “Water shortage.” I asked the man, “But isn’t there something you can do?”

“There’s a guy over the next hill,” he said. “He might be able to help you.”

I trudge onward. Friends stop by and offer me a drink, just enough to keep me alive. The guy over the next hill is almost to the hill after that. There was a sign stuck to a cactus about how over the mountains there is a rainforest, how if you say the right words and talk to the right people and then wait for a while, they might build a pipeline and irrigate my home for good.

And if I’d known about those things before the drought, I’d never have had to march across the desert.

I will believe in the water when I see it, not before.

If one more person offers me a “water” bucket full of sand, I’m moving to a rainforest. Someone else can tend my cactus.