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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Texas and Prejudice

I don't understand what it is about Texas.

We have some of the nicest, kindest people I've ever run across here.

As long as you're white, straight, and Christian.

And not physically/mentally challenged, overweight, or a smoker.

I live near the liberal center. You'd think this is the welcoming Heart of Texas where distinctions like skin color just don't matter.

Oh, Hell no!

Let's ignore all the racial prejudice that's going on for the moment, as much as that makes my heart hurt.

That's all alive and well. So keep it in mind. It's just a back-burner

I wound up violating one of my cardinal rules and getting into a vicious political argument with a co-worker the other day.

His basic stance comes from his echo chamber that all Republicans must be vindictive Ayn Rand Objectivists who don't give a shit about what happens to anyone else.

(Gently potty-training a toddler, or not, gives me a different perspective on that "give a shit" idiom than I would have had the last time I thought about Ayn Rand. Since we're really talking about the only sort of control over what they offer the world...and I'll stop there with the analogy).

The basic topic of discussion was the fact that, overall, Congress has an incredibly low disapproval rating.

But individual Congress-critters have an incredible re-election rate.

This amounts to a basic fact of life in national American politics: I think that Congress sucks. But my Congress-critter fights hard enough for what I want so that I'll vote for his re-election next time.

If nothing else, that Congress-critter knows how the game is played.

Every example that comes to mind is going to upset someone. And this is all totally beside the point.

Th Texas legislature is pushing x (I think there are 9) bills to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation.

These aren't the slam-dunk laws that have already been deemed Unconstitutional, like the idiotic ones against "sodomy."

These are basic laws about things that challenge your fundamental identity.

These are things like "which bathroom do I go into?"

That's tough enough for me at some restaurants. Especially after a couple of beers. When you have to pick between a picture of a baseball mitt and a bat, that's tough enough when you were brought up to make the connection. And pick up on the innuendo.

 If that just doesn't make any sense to you, on any level, Texas is trying to outlaw your bathroom rights. If you happened to be born with a mitt, but have a deep-seated belief that you should have had a bat, the Texas legislature is trying to decree...something.

That you're wrong.

I don't have any idea what sort of penalties are involved, mostly because it's late and I'm tired.

If you happened to be born with a mitt, and are comfortable with your mitt, congratulations on being part of the majority!

Please, come join me in standing up for the rights of those people who weren't as lucky as we were.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Letter to Parents of Transgender Kids

Hey, friends.

Well, here we are in 2017 and I'm having a difficult time believing that anyone thinks that somehow we cis-majority need actual legal protection against your trans kid, but it's happening. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. And I was prompted to write you this letter because I can only imagine that the ambiance around here is getting a little overwhelming.

For whatever reason, any time transgender issues arise in the public eye, this blog post makes the rounds. I first read it a couple of years ago, and every time I've seen it since, it's left a more and more sour taste in my stomach. Today, I'm literally physically ill and I can't shake it. So I had to reach out to you and let you know... I see you. I see your family. I see how you love your child and know your child and want your child to be healthy. I appreciate you. I'm glad you are your child's parent. God knew what he was doing, giving your child to you and not to someone else. I am sure it's been very very difficult. I'm sure it will continue to be so. You might not feel it all of the time, but you're doing this right by your child. Thank you.

To address the blog post specifically, there are two things I want to point out. Well, backing up, she links to a video about Ryland Whittington, but I'm not sure she even watched it because one viewing shows that her experience was nothing like Ryland's, and nothing like your experience with your child.

Okay, so first, she says something to the extent of "her parents decided to go out and buy her a bunch of boy's clothes and let her cut her hair." Actually, they took her to the doctor because they were concerned. I've learned, as I know you have, that doctors have very specific criteria in pinpointing transgenderism: insistent, consistent, persistent declarations by a person that they are, in fact, a different gender than what their body would seem to indicate.

I have never had to look at doctor in the eye and be told "You can either have a happy son or a dead daughter," but you might have.

Might I, just for a moment, apologize for and kind of offer a partial excuse for those of us who might currently be tempted or in the past have been tempted to dismiss transgenderism as not an actual "thing"? Our access to information is unfettered. There is so much to process and so much with which to deal, very often, I think we just shut down. We don't feel like we have excess emotional energy to process anything beyond what is necessary to live our lives. So rather than do the difficult self-work of coming to an understanding of things that might not come as second nature to us, we put up a wall. I'm not saying that's okay, but I think that's why a lot of us want to shut down. "Racism isn't a thing." "No one is transgender; they're just fooling themselves." It takes a lot of work to really look at something for the first time, to try to empathize... and I think a lot of us are just exhausted. I don't think most people are hateful, or trying to be hateful. I'm sorry that you've been hurt by our carelessness and unwillingness to truly listen to your story.

Back to the doctor... I hope your child doesn't struggle with depression or suicidal thoughts. Although it's true that 40% of transgender people have reported attempting to kill themselves, acceptance by family and community reduce that risk by 80%. So what you're doing, no matter how anyone else sees it, might just be keeping your kid alive. If nothing else, I'd think that's one thing every one of us who is a parent can understand.

An actual sign that my actual friend's actual transgender son made months ago and had taped to the ceiling above his bed...
To remind himself daily to live, to stay around, and that his presence on this earth is important.

Another way I think the author of that blog misrepresents the parents' role in transitioning is that she makes it sound like the parents couldn't be more eager to cross-dress their little one. From everything I've heard, the parents are usually pretty sluggish in coming to the awareness of the reality of their child's situation. In fact, you might feel guilty that you held out as long as you did. Please don't. As parents, in every facet of our kids' lives, we do the best we can... and when we know better, we do better.

The second issue I take with the blogger's story is that, no, she would not currently be labeled as transgender. No one is labeled transgender because as a girl they "pop the heads off of doves" (sorry, but that's what she said) or as a boy because he likes sparkly shoes (my boy likes sparkly shoes, but also insists that he's a boy, like his daddy). Again, it's "consistent, persistent, insistent." There's a difference between a 2-year-old boy wanting sequins on a shirt and in one trying to cut off his penis, and even if other people can't be bothered by this distinction, it seems huge to me.

Lest you think I'm engaging in histrionics, we know a family in which the above-mentioned scenario happened. It wasn't just a boy identifying with more feminine traits, or saying, "I want to be a girl." He insisted from a very young age that he WAS a girl. This was probably two decades ago, and I'm guessing that most therapy models at that time were to the tune of, "No, you're not. Stop it." I'm so glad that your child was born into this world, where people understand more and our science is advanced enough that we can see differences in the hormone levels and brain compositions of transgender people. From what I know, this boy did not have what most of us would consider a "successful" childhood. I weep for him and his adoptive family. I wish it could have gone differently.

Friends, I also want to apologize on behalf of "the church" at large. Over time, many church bodies have come to realize that we can't call ourselves Christians if we marginalize people, and have begun to open their arms and hearts to the LGBT community. But, for the most part, we've often been on the wrong side of history in this regard. I have several friends whose Christian acquaintances, upon learning that the parent is going to support their transgender child, have told them (or their child), "You're a *whatever you were assigned at birth*. God doesn't make mistakes."

Your child and his or her expression of his- or herself isn't a mistake.  It's not typical, numbers-wise, but it's not like some cosmic mix-up led to this. It's not like your parenting made this happen, or some trauma influenced your child. Your child is exactly who they are supposed to be, and, unfortunately, that means they are going to have more than the average number of challenges in their life.

It is for this reason, as a fellow parent and as someone who believes in a God about whom it is written, "a bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not extinguish," that I am reaching out with my love and support.

I'm not sure why others are so intimidated and opposed to the way your child is, the way they want to live their life. We recognize the factual existence of intersex people (formerly known as "hermaphrodites"). How do we know what gender they are "supposed" to be unless they tell us? Parents used to pick for their babies, with disastrous results. If we can acknowledge that people with ambiguous genitalia inherently know their gender, it's not too far a leap to be able to grasp that sex organs and gender actually develop at a different time, and in different places. So, yeah, most of us "match up." Your kid doesn't. I don't see why that makes him a threat, though. I am so sorry they are treated as such by some.

Being a parent is hard enough without extra worries heaped up on it. Statistically, transgender people are more likely to be victims of physical assault than the general population, especially those who are male-to-female. But I don't have to tell you that. You are well aware, and your fears for your child go so far beyond the typical parental fears. Any time they move, will they be accepted or victimized? What if they are just minding their own business and encounter the wrong kind of people? Will they be the target of hate? And you want your child to be happy, to be healthy, to be fulfilled... but you also wish it could be so without the potential for damage. So please know that if I'm ever out and see your child being bullied or disparaged, I will step in. I will do whatever I can to help them navigate away from danger. I will use my voice and influence to support your child's right to be safe every bit as much as I will fight for my own children's safety. And I can't do anything about trolls, but I will cry a little bit and say a prayer when someone calls your MTF child "ugly" online and suggests that you stop playing into their psychoses. I wish I could make them all go away. I don't understand why people have to tear down other people. I'm saddened and aggrieved by it.

Most of us have been the recipients of unsolicited advice, parenting or otherwise, and we hate it. Kid has allergies? Husband has cancer? Unhappy with your job? Baby won't sleep at night? "All you have to do..." Fill in the blank. Essential oils, positive attitude, be consistent, look up, stay away from gluten. Etc. People extrapolate from their own experiences, assuming that their "what works" applies evenly across the population. I will tell you: Once on a road trip, I stopped in at a Hardee's in West Memphis, and I was the only white person in the restaurant. I felt extremely awkward. But I'm not about to write an essay about what it's like to be a minority. That's disrespectful and condescending, and I wish everyone on earth would commit to avoiding "all you have to do"s with every fiber of their being. May you tune a deaf heart to the words pouring in at you, demanding that you deal with your child in a way that someone who has no idea what your life is like is telling you. 

You love your child more than anyone else does. You know your child better than anyone else does. That they trust you, that they open up to you about who they believe themselves to be, and that they know they can count on you to advocate for them, to do the research, to pay people money to help them (because I know a lot of what you're doing is probably not covered by insurance)... You're doing what any parent would do for their own kid, and it is my sincere hope that soon, more and more people will realize this, and stop being scared of something they don't understand so that they can actually do the work of trying to understand. There is so much common ground here. You are not the enemy, and neither is your child. If anyone feels adversarial, then they are the enemy, and the enemy is them.

One other thing: I know that probably the last thing you planned was to become a social justice activist. Thank you for rising to that occasion, though. I'm sure if your child could live her life just under the radar, that's how you'd all prefer it. But it seems like this is not the time for that, doesn't it? By being visible and being relatable, you're "normalizing" your family's situation. Some would bemoan this. I don't. Things hidden in the dark have a devastating power. Some kids think they are alone. Some families are ashamed. So many fear rejection by those who love them and by the society in which they are to live. Your fight to protect your children's rights is changing the world for so many other people. In as much as I can, I will stand beside you. I admire you. I support you. I am here for you.

I guess that's it. I wish I could wave a wand and make it easier. I wish you didn't have to have your child diagnosed with a mental disorder to have treatment covered by insurance. I wish more people would do more research before having an opinion at all, much less a vocal one. And I pray that when you and your child venture out into the world that you are met with grace rather than condemnation, acceptance rather than rejection, support rather than antagonism, and love rather than the myriad of misunderstandings and misinformation that can lead to what feels so much like hate.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Internet of Things (not *that* one)

I'm going to share with you some excerpts from long-ago blog posts. The place: Spokane, Washington. More specifically, D's dad's friends' basement, where we'd been staying for a couple of months while looking for gainful employment after a very stressful separation from Girls and Boys Town of Nevada.

September 22, 2002:
"It's 51 degrees outside and I'm wearing shorts and sandals! Why? Because everything I own that is even remotely warm is behind boxes and boxes and taped securely so as not to get dusty. I don't even know where my socks are (or underwear, which, fortunately, I don't really need more of at this point) or the shoes I'd wear with long pants or skirts, if I had any of them... Thursday I'm going to storage to take out every stinking one of the wardrobe boxes. I hate to clutter up our room, but it's going to be cold soon and I'm not planning to risk exposure just to save a few square feet. But, mark my words, three weeks from now I'll be complaining about how cramped our room is because of all the boxes."

D and me in the gondola over the Spokane River. Even early September, I'm wearing one of Ken's shirts because I'm SICK of the week's worth of tops I'd packed, as we ended up staying for three months.

October 11, 2002:
"Woo hoo! Motherlode of britches today. :) Amy's shipment of slacks (for which I grossly underpaid her to ship) arrived today. Nine pair of pants including jeans (blue, black, light blue, white, rainbow-colored... okay, maybe not), slacks, a dress, a sweater and shorts that won't see the light of day until next year are now lying across my bed, just so I can look at them. I need never wear the same pair of pants again! (Assuming I die toward the beginning of the week after next.) Anyhoo... thanks, Amy!"

Pretty cool story, right, bro?

Well, here's something you need to know about Amy: At the time, she lived in NYC, and we had never met. We had become acquainted online, more specifically in a Yahoo group dedicated to Rockapella. We had been chatting for more than two years, and when she read in my "online journal" (the word "blog" wasn't very widely used yet) that I needed some warmer duds, and since she had just lost weight and "ingrown" stuff that was just my size... She offered what she had! It was awesome!

Okay, so let's fast-forward to the present day, or just a little before; let's say to some time the week before last, maybe? Amy doesn't live in NYC, anymore, but is still over there on that coast. We have still not met in person. I was going to say, "I don't even know if that group still exists," but, dang it... If you click here and you used to be an active part of that group, you'll see a lot of familiar screen names!

Anyhoo, as fortune would have it, Amy has once again lost enough weight not to be able to fit into her (smaller than that time) pants! And guess what? SHE SENT THEM TO ME AGAIN! That's right, MORE PANTS. I did pay fair shipping this time, so that's better. But, goodness, it was a crapload of slacks, jeggings, two dresses (the colorful one is my fave!), a couple of athletic pants, some crops, etc. So. Excite.

See, you might not have noticed this, but I don't have an outside-of-the-house job. I haven't had an excuse to buy nice pants in years, and so even though my grey slacks had all three fasteners that had broken (yes, beyond repair), I had just permanently secured the waistband with a safety pin, because... why should I waste money on slacks when I can wear fleece shorts 24/7, really? Same with my black slacks, on which the hem had come out (YES, BEYOND my desire to REPAIR), but they were kind of short to begin with, so I just left the unfinished bottom the way that it was? (Oh, and have I mentioned that Amy is even taller than I am, and so the pants are all tall, and so they actually, you know, cover my ankles if they're supposed to?!) I have other pants with stories I could share, but it just makes me look bad and you can rest assured that those pants have gone to a much better (or worse) place now.

So, first, thanks again, Amy! You're still awesome, and yay pants!

If someone ever tries to tell you that "internet-only" relationships don't qualify as real relationships, then you can testify by singing them this little diddy...

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Verbal Explosion

Mal was slow to the talking game. I wasn't worried, though, because D was, too, and by the time that kid hit 4 years old, my poor old brain tapped out several hours before bedtime from the onslaught of constant words.

And, sure enough, now that Mal's caught on to some language basics, every day he seems to have a few more words in his arsenal.

He went from not really putting two word sentences together to just talking. He will often just use two or three words, but sometimes will just go off with a full sentence or two.

One thing that's cute is that he often past-tenses the wrong word, if he's using an phrasal verb: "Mommy! You came backed!" "Mal jump upped!"

At least he's saying "jump" now. For a while, he pronounced it "gump." And if he says he wants to "jump (or gump) rocks," it means he wants to throw rocks out at top of the grotto. Just FYI, if you're ever over here and it comes up.

Oh, I just asked James about stuff Mal says, and he mentioned that today, Mal was counting through things on Starfall and doing pretty well, so I need to mark for posterity's sake that for several weeks/a month or two, he's been counting fairly consistently like this: "One, two, eight, seben." I guess he's getting it right now, so that's kind of a bummer because it was pretty cute the other way. Ironically, he can count down from 5... but it always ends with "blast off!"

The best part about Mal's newfound ability to express himself is that we get to peek into his brain. For instance, here's an exchange from when we passed a fire hydrant the other day.

MAL: Siren truck?
ME: Yes, that's for a fire truck. It hooks up a hose to spray water on the fire.
MAL: Fire *hungry!*
ME: Yes, the fire *is* hungry, but it eats wood and houses and other stuff. The water actually puts the fire out.

He does seem very concerned about the hunger of others frequently. I'll tell him it's time to start getting dinner ready because Daddy will be home soon. "Daddy hungry!" I'll tell him that we want to save one yogurt for D. "D hungry!" The dog will drink water out of the watering can outside. "Doggy hungry!" We're working on the difference between hunger and thirst.

Last week, Mal and James both had doctor's appointments. James' was for his Achilles' Tendonitis and Mal's was just a well-check/meet the new doctor thing. As we were getting ready, I explained what we were doing.

MAL: Daddy nervous?
ME: I don't think so.
MAL: Mal nervous.
ME: I'm sorry you're nervous! I'm not. The doctor will just look into your eyes and your nose and your mouth and make sure you're getting big and strong.
MAL: Mommy nervous?
ME: Nope!
MAL: Mal not nervous.

(Note: he actually says "nerbus.")

The other night, as he was getting ready for bed, he asked, "Monsters coming?" I said, "No! There are no monsters in this house." "Mal safe?" "Yes, Mal's safe." "Mommy here." "Right. Mommy's here, and no monsters." So he hugged me and said, "All better."

He still breastfeeds *a lot* and I'm really trying to discourage it as much as possible by distracting him during the day (it's hopeless at night, because he gets upset and wakes himself up crying and trying to get to it himself). He gets so desperate that sometimes he'll parlay a typical toddler spill into a demand for "deedees." If he falls down or trips or hits his hand on something or is even mildly upset by the dog stealing his food or something, he'll cry, "Mommy, deedees. Feel better."

That child.

In addition to this, if he hurts himself, he'll say, "Dr. Anna's office?" This is the doctor on Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. Honestly, I tried to find a female Indian pediatrician around here because that's what he expects, but there wasn't one close enough. (We ended up with a great doctor, anyway, it seems.)

He has a sense of humor, too. He'll play along and even take over when we ask questions that are definitely wrong. He'll ask, "Mal girl?" or "Mal puppy?" and laugh, and usually end by asking the appropriate question. Then on to "Mommy boy?" etc.

Usually, when I say things like, "Sorry, Mal can never eat again. No more food!" he'll just laugh and say, "Yes, food!" But tonight, I was moving his computer out of the way so we could pull his bed out. He said he wanted to watch ChuChu TV, and I said, "Nope. No more ChuChu TV ever." He wailed, "Yes, more ChuChu TV!" I guess I shouldn't be silly when he's really exhausted.

One thing that we don't do is  tell Mal, "Say thank you." Or "Say please." That kind of thing. If someone does something nice for Mal and he doesn't express gratitude, I do it. Well, it's funny because started saying, "No, thanks." And, "Thanks so much." I thought he must have gotten that from television, too, but now that I'm listening for it, I say it often enough. Today, after Mal had taken a swig off of my soda, he burped and followed it up with, "Excuse me!"

Sometimes, though, I can't understand what he's saying (although, necessarily, I do better than most in terms of translating his toddlerese). The other day, he said something like, "Fefferknees?" and he smiled really big.

ME: What?
MAL: Fefferknees!
ME: (thinking) Strawberries?
MAL: No! (grinning bigger) Fefferknees!
ME: I don't know what that is.
MAL: Fefferknees!
ME: Fefferknees?
MAL: (ecstatic) YES!
ME: I still don't know what that is! Can you show Mommy?

Actually, that probably happens 2 or 3 times a day. And sometimes he can show me. Other times, we just have to wing it.

Misunderstandings happen pretty often. He's pronouncing things phonetically, the way he hears them, and not always as they are spelled. I think he is saying "Pancakes, Nana Pappy's house." And tell him next time we go, he can have pancakes... then realize, because of what he's watching on TV, that he's saying "Pink eggs, Nana Pappy's house." And that actually makes more sense.

He calls an umbrella "ungabunga." This goes along with his early speech development, where anything that had a difficult tongue movement was pronounced "blub." "Quarter" was "blubblub." Incidentally, he can say "quarter" properly now, though he cannot with any consistency, identify a quarter.

There's more I'll probably think of as soon as I lie down, but I want to go do that right now. My body feels like we fell back instead of sprung forward!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

ISPs and Privacy

Last October, the FCC set up new privacy rules for our internet service providers.

They were supposed to do things like:

  • Let us know if our accounts got hacked
  • Make it tougher for them to sell our private data without our permission
  • Since, after all, web sites are allowed to do that. It's not fair to have a double standard!
They were scheduled to take effect on Mar 2.

At the last minute, the new FCC placed those new rules on hold.

The legalese isn't that difficult to decipher:

Basically, it's claiming that all the gargantuan ISPs (who, of course, are thoroughly devoted to placing your interests first, since they probably have a monopoly on your internet access) are really worried that these new rules will be tough for the little guys to implement in time.

Since it was released one day before the new rules took effect, they must have been working night and day so they could flip the switches and make the internet safer for everyone, right?

This couldn't possibly be a thing where the big guys are already selling details about whichever sites you visit, and stopping would cost them money.


Surely they wouldn't do that.

The official FCC report basically says that we can trust them.

Never mind that one of their major arguments is that this sets up two different standards. It places a higher burden on ISPs than the one that's placed on individual web sites like Facebook or Google.

By itself, that's a great big smoking gun with their bloody fingerprints all over it.

If you decide to spend an evening researching that weird lump that's shown up on your sister's breast, your ISP knows all about it. Odds are, so does anyone who hacks them. Whichever search engine you used knows, and facebook has weird creepy ways to figure it out. But you have options in those cases.

And now they can just sell that information to your insurance company. Right now, that's supposed to be something you opt into.

We all know we can trust them, right? Since they have our best interests at heart?

After all, I have nothing to hide. What are you worried about?

*Please* go research the Onion Router at The last time I checked, it makes your internet experience a little slower, and it wasn't simple enough to recommend for general use. But now... is a cute little interactive infographic that sums it up pretty well.

I haven't done as much research into it as I should. I know that it isn't a real privacy tool, even though most of the people who have ever even heard about it seem to think it's just for hackers. But it's a lot better than what most of us have now.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Our Day, in Pictures

What happened today? Nothing big. Just this stuff...

Found this in our bedroom floor and assumed Mal had unrolled the coins; he's kind of obsessed with them, and with putting money in his "pingy bank." But, no. Look at the moisture and the telltale teeth marks. Yeah. The dog did it.

Later, before we went to the library for story time, we needed to take Shelby on a quick walk. Mal was insistent that we take the car. I tried to explain that we couldn't walk Shelby using the car, and offered to push him in his bike (which is usually his preferred means of transportation), but he wouldn't sit on it. I asked him to come with us on a quick walk, and although he initially declined, he started following me, crying and yelling dramatically, "No, Mommy! Come back!" 

All the way down the street. 

Then, when we got around the corner, he started saying, "Go back to the house!" I assured him we WERE going back; there's a kind of triangle block we can walk, and we were on our way back home, with the added bonus of walking past a home under construction. They're digging for the septic tank now, so there are two diggers in the yard, and it's a boon for any little kid obsessed with construction vehicles.

But I guess he decided he was heading back the "right" way (even though, by that point, we were closer to the house going the way we were going than the way he decided to return). I stopped to check a message James had sent me, and looked up to see this:

Finally, he decided to join me. I carried him a lot of the way (he weighs almost 40 pounds, plus I had the leash for a 70 pound dog!), and when we got home, he wanted to take the car instead of the bike, as we usually do. Okay, whatever.

I took the "long" way (we live about 3 blocks from the library), circling past the park. "Hello, Lake!" he said happily. He was so excited to be in the car, that even though we quickly arrived at our destination, he elected to sit in his carseat for a few moments, savoring some Veggie Sticks.

We were stopped in the parking lot. That's why he isn't buckled in, see.

He was kind of restless at story time, but got through a few board books. On the way in, when the librarian told us it was time, I asked Mal if he could show me where the room was. He did lead me in there. And he colored part of a picture, but mostly, he told me to color it.

In the end, we were sitting back out in the main library, looking at pictures in a book, when Mal saw a grackle out on the sidewalk. He happily walked over to the door to see it, but that spooked it and it hopped away. Before I could even stand up, Mal was outside and running after the grackle... into the parking lot... with no heed of his surroundings.

Of course, the desk staff all drew in their collective breaths. I mean, it *was* potentially dangerous. Sigh.

After collecting Mal and calmly (really; it's my stress strategy) reminding him that he couldn't just run out into traffic -- he responded by singing the line from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood: "Stop and listen to stay safe!" -- I took Mal to lunch at Subway. We ate a bit of our meal out on the patio overlooking the lake, then Mal wanted to sit inside. I finished my half long before Mal did, and he said, "Mommy all done? Mommy not hungry no more." 

We went out to the car, but Mal rushed from his seat to the driver's seat (I typically buckle him in from my seat; it's easier with such a small car), so I let him "drive" for a few minutes. He was complaining that the steering wheel wasn't "working," which it was definitely turning; I think he meant he wasn't able to actually drive the car. He was going into a sadness spiral when I suggested we leave and he could "drive" more at home.

He rigidly rejected my putting him in the back, saying, "Mommy, deedees!" (He wanted to nurse.) I let him, and said we really needed to get home. Every city and construction worker in Jonestown apparently has lunch at Subway, and I was getting self-conscious breastfeeding there. He was upset. UP. SET. 

First, I had the bright idea to order him a steering wheel he can play with in the back seat. We looked on Amazon and he helped me pick one out. We got one that wasn't my favorite, but it was his favorite.

Then I tried to help him calm down by stroking his head and playing with his hair.

It didn't work, but, dang, his hair is getting long, isn't it?

We had one more nursing session, then I just made him cry and we headed home. When we got to the house, he wanted to nurse some more. I thought he might just take a nap.

Lots of togetherness here, but no nap.

However, Mal did seem to feel a little better once we got settled in. It was then that I noticed the next thing our dog decided to mouth:


I made my second Amazon order of the day, a new pair of sunglasses for Mal. Then we took his leftover lunch, my soda, and some fruit snacks out onto the back patio and hung out for a while.

These plants are all brothers. The transplanted ones are thriving; we need to get more potting mix this weekend!

Shelby does this thing when we're eating. First, she's very aggressively interested in our food, so we have to say, "Shelby, back off!" A LOT, especially when we first sit down or when Mal's walking around with a snack. She also steals food the second we're not actively paying attention. So we're getting more vigilant about that.

But she does this adorable thing where she will step back from the table, but it's like she wants us to know she's serious about needing, I mean REALLY NEEDING some of our dang food. She will wait for us to make eye contact with her, and she'll start "talking." After she talks for a few moments, she'll start barking, and it's not her "THERE IS SOMEONE OUTSIDE" bark. It's much deeper and more conversational. And it CRACKS Mal up. He will imitate her "chat" and try to get her going again once she has wound down.

After we got back in, I found another victim of the dog's chewing. Kind of. I mean, she does mouth these things, but these are rice support pads James' mom made him. If Shelby wanted to destroy these, she easily could. I think chewing is how she experiences things. And she's really into wood: sticks, rolling pin, wine bow... I need to look that up and see if it's a mineral deficiency. Anyway, this was after I'd stuck the bags in the dryer for a few moments. They were SOAKED when I found them in the floor.

We got bubble bath in the mail today, having been out for almost two weeks. So Mal did get a bath, and I redressed him in hopes of going to the Dr. Suess birthday evening at the library. Earlier today, though, the librarian told me that she would save a craft project for Mal if we didn't make it back. 

At about 3, Mal wanted to watch ChuChuTV, which is not my favorite, but I needed a mental health break, so I let him. While he watched that, then kept clicking on suggested videos until he ended up on some Portuguese video of a Baby Alive eating "french fries" (bread) from a McDonald's home fry-maker. I kept monitoring it because the sounds were... suspicious? But it was all just cute kid stuff. Weird. But whatever.

While he was doing that, I got to make these surprisingly fluffy (to me) peanut butter protein muffins. And I ordered pizza. Then I got a text from James that he was coming home early. Yay! He was also going to try to go by the garden center to get more potting mix if his foot wasn't bothering him too much, but... soon, I got a Waze notification that he was on his way home. Fortunately, we have a podiatrist appointment tomorrow, for his second opinion before *gulp* surgery. I'm ready for him not to have to make decisions based on pain. It'll be a trick staying off of his feet for three weeks, though, having a toddler around.

Anyway, at about 6 PM, I told Mal that if he wanted to see the waterfall (which he wanted to do yesterday, but I'd accidentally worn my house shoes on our walk, and the waterfall trail has several areas where you have to walk through water, but those shoes have zero traction), we needed to leave soon because the trail closes at sunset.

He wanted to nurse before we headed out, though, and... he fell asleep. So James and I made plans to start catching up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (we fell behind when I had the month-long Netflix free trial), and I stepped outside for a quick peak at this gorgeous "good night."

So there you have it. Just a normal, ordinary day in the life of a semi-rural family. Oh, the teenager slept all day but I just let the cat out of there and... we have signs of life! So we're all doing fine; thanks for asking.

An Unflattering Admission

Yesterday, my little guy wanted to video chat with someone. One set of grandparents was moving, and the other set had a special visitor (new great grandbaby!). We called Aunt Sister. She was in the car, but opened the call and left the phone sitting in its mount so Mal could see his cousins and chat for a bit.

Sarah was taking the three teenagers to their Wednesday night activities, and it was a little chaotic. There was apparently a crane fly in their car, and TJ, sitting behind Hannah, was messing with her, making her freak out that she was under attack by the insect. The kids were giving Sarah a hard time about her poor driving skills, and saying that 17-year-old permitted driver Hannah is a better driver than their mom.

After a few minutes, I started getting... what? Irritated? I thought, "They're obviously busy; this is an unnecessary call. I'm going to hang up."

But why was is chafing me?

I thought a bit and realized: I was jealous. 

This sneaks up on me every once in a while, and I hate it. But it's true: When I see parents, and especially my contemporaries who have kids I've watched grow up alongside mine, having fun with their teen kids, sometimes, just sometimes, it stings. And I wish it didn't.

I've written about D's anxiety before, and how I don't think my child is "broken" or needs "fixing." It's true that I never had a mental picture of life in the future, in terms of a wedding or children or career... But, to be perfectly transparent, I also never foresaw a time when we would not be close.

Okay, we're close in the sense that I'm literally the only person to whom D talks. But anxiety has made my child a ghost, only appearing when necessary. We don't "hang out." D is very easily distracted by stressors, so when Mal is awake, it's pretty much a non-starter. James and I have gotten used to talking (and listening) over him; D can't do it. D has explained that this is one reason for the nocturnalism. If there is too much noise or light or stimuli, there is no focus. 

So we're learning to accommodate these things, and usually, and especially with a toddler, most of the time, I can just deal without becoming morose. But then...

One of the ways my family of origin shows affection is teasing. And we laugh. A lot.

But it's been more than three years since I've been able to joke around with D. The book "The Highly Sensitive Child" helped me understand this better, but it's been a learning curve. Things I could have said half a decade ago now bring tears, and I am always thrown off by what is upsetting that I just did not anticipate.

It's very difficult to maintain a real relationship that doesn't include some jocularity. It's easy, in my self-focus, to be personally offended by the cringing away from hugs or touches. And although I wouldn't want my kid to be anything "different," I suppose that, also in my selfishness, I would love for our relationship to be more... friendly? Warm? Open?

In fact, the other day, D made a Wod-Fam-Choc-Sod, a vestige from our "Adventures in Odyssey" days. It was legit; looked like something that would be served at a commercial establishment. So I asked if I could take a picture of it (in D's presence, as opposed to the cake-things I've photographed and posted before). "Are you going to post it online?" "I might. Unless you'd rather that I didn't." "I do. I don't know why, but..."

So. It could be a lot worse. There could be rebellion, acting out, disrespect, or self-harm. I can't be angry with D, because it's not intentional. But I'm sad enough at times to be mad, so I guess I turn that into a sour-grapey "well, great for you and your freaking happy family." Which is not how I feel, for real. I don't wish anxiety or paranoia or any of those things on anyone else. I do realize that I have a precious soul to help try to protect until it can go out into the world on its own... And thank goodness we're still years away from that because... we're YEARS away from that.

Again, one might wonder why I'm even writing about this. First, because it helps me. I need it to be out there. If I am ever less than charming with you, maybe it'll help you understand why. Second, because it might help someone else? Give someone a little encouragement that they're not alone? Help some parent to realize that even a mouthy kid... well, at least they're talking to you? I'm grateful that my kid trusts me. I might mourn circumstance, but I rejoice that the children I have are mine.