Blog wrap-up: The end

This is it, the end of a decade and the end of an era: I am officially closing the blog.

As ever, there are many potential words running around in my head, but none of them feel quite right.  I want to thank all of you who’ve come here, who’ve read posts, who’ve left messages, who’ve shared links.  Thank youI hope you will stay in touch, through Twitter or email.  I’m not leaving the internet—I’ll still be reading your posts, and maybe commenting from time to time—but I expect to be more of a lurker and less of a participant.

Comments here will stay open for another week or so, and then I’ll close them all.  (WordPress’s Akismet spam filter is pretty good, but I know better than to leave things unattended online!)

To those struggling with new parenthood: You are enough.

To those in graduate school: You are worthy.

To those with mental illness: You are not alone.

~The end.~


New books for 2020

A stack of four books. Titles are visible for the top three: "Cleopatra's Daughter" by Michelle Moran, "City of Stars" by Robert Jackson Bennett, and "Paleofantasy" by Marlene Zuk.

One aspect of my life hasn’t changed: I still get books for Christmas!  The pile above is all gifts from my awesome wife.  The large flat book on the bottom is Jeanette Nyberg‘s Draw Your Own Damn Coloring Book, which feels very right for me right now.

Blog wrap-up: The drafts that didn’t make it

As I close things up around here, I wanted to share some of the bits that have languished in my ‘Drafts’ folder through the years. I felt strongly enough about these topics to start writing about them, but not strongly enough (or perhaps coherently enough) to finish.

I am not my child’s best teacher, and that’s OK

This draft dates back to when Little Boy was two or maybe not even two yet.  It was about coming to terms with all the new songs and words and skills he was bringing home from daycare.

“Here is my son, so big and yet still so small, with a rich external life away from his parents.  Here he is, doing things I’ve never seen before, things that I didn’t teach him, things that he learned from someone else.”

Looking back now, I don’t remember exactly how I worked through those feelings, just that I did.  Little Boy is in kindergarten now and he has an amazing teacher and his own five-year-old social life and it feels completely right.  Younger Brother is learning two-year-old things both at home and at daycare, and I feel good about that, too.

Tell me about the books you grew up reading

Inspired by this Grumpy Rumblings post from, uh, 2017, I started musing about the books I loved as a kid.  Many of these had been passed down from my mother’s childhood.

The TL; DR version is that I read a lot of Enid Blyton.

“I came away with a picture of postwar England as a semi-idyllic place where children were sent to boarding school as a matter of course, then spent their holidays caravanning on the moors and getting up to all sorts of adventures.  I also came away with the strong impression that pre-decimalisation English money made absolutely no sense.”

These are your regular reminders

This was intended to be a multi-part post about things that people frequently get wrong, but it never got beyond me ranting that Millennials are not in high school anymore damnit!!

Like many Millennials, I’m rather tired of the parade of think pieces about the apparently awful features of my generation.  Probably every generation since the dawn of humankind has dealt with this kind of thing, but we’re the first to see it proliferate on the internet.  It was annoying enough back when the articles were mostly about actual Millennials, but half the clickbait these days isn’t even talking about the right people.

I have a wife now! Let me answer your questions

I ended up making a rather short “FYI my spouse is a woman now” post when my wife legally transitioned, but I’d originally had something longer in mind.  It petered out, though, perhaps because I didn’t actually have that much to say, or perhaps because I didn’t know how to say it.

Q. How are you doing with your wife’s transition?

A. Quite well, thanks.  There have been parts of this that have been rough on me, but they’re never the parts that people expect.

People always ask that question with certain expectations, and they’re always wrong.  I’m not an Amazing Wife and I don’t have a story of Love Triumphing Over Hardship.  I just have love.

And they all lived happily ever after?

I think it’s time to admit—to myself most of all—that I’m done with blogging.  Time to wrap things up properly and close the door.  To that end, I’ll be putting up a series of short posts this month covering my various life updates, in case anyone ever wonders how it all turned out.

Because really… it all turned out pretty darn good.  I have a wonderful wife and two bright, healthy children.  We bought a house this summer, with more space than we quite know what to do with.  I have an engaging job that never asks me to work on weekends.  They just gave me another raise.  I see the mountains every day.

Sometimes I’m not well.  Sometimes my wife isn’t well, and sometimes it’s all we can do to get through one more day.  Sometimes I’m embarrassed by our crumb-covered sofa and our un-unpacked boxes and our Target bookshelves and our dusty front door.  Sometimes I hide in my closet because there’s just too much noise.

Always there’s an undercurrent of worry, the kind that keeps emergency cash with the passports and plans three alternate routes to elsewhere, just in case.  I don’t read the national news much at all anymore; instead, I laugh delightedly at Serious Town Council Drama and vote for the county to increase my property taxes.  I’m a fortunate person, all in all, and I know it.

And so life goes on.

Does it really count as a blog anniversary…

… if you’ve posted very little in the past year?

(My archives show eleven posts in twelve months, and that’s more than I thought.)

Happy “Where does the time go?” day to me!

New books for 2019

It’s time for my annual “books I got for Christmas” post.  Here they are:

A stack of two books: "How to be a Victorian" by Ruth Goodman, and "The Calculating Stars" by Mary Robinette Kowal.

How To Be A Victorian is non-fiction and extremely interesting.  I’m already 160 pages in.

What are you reading?

Weaning my last baby

Younger Brother is a year old, and I’m weaning him from breast milk to cow’s milk.  I started this process at the same age with Little Boy, but went slowly, dropping one feeding at a time over many months.  This time around, we’re doing it quickly, because I’m ready to be done.

It’s not so much that I “want my body back,” the way some women describe it; it’s that I’m ready to unbind myself from the rhythm of a baby’s schedule.  When I’m done breastfeeding, I can go out on a Saturday afternoon whenever I want without having to worry about pumping.  I can have a drink with dinner without needing to consider if it’s too close to the next feeding.  I can wake up and go for a run first thing without feeling uncomfortably engorged in my sports bra.

There’s the work factor, too: because Younger Brother was nearly 11 months by the time I started my new job, I didn’t ask for any pumping accommodations.  I just pumped on my lunch hour, which was nice in some ways—it got me in the habit of taking a quiet lunch break out of the office, recharging myself for the rest of the day—but wasn’t going to keep up my full milk supply over the long term.

I’m down to breastfeeding just once a day now, first thing in the morning.  For all I’ve said above, part of me wishes we could keep doing this forever, my baby’s solid, warm body snuggled against mine, more relaxed than he is at any other time of day.  It’s already becoming clear to me, though, that my milk supply won’t hold up for that, and I don’t want breastfeeding to be something that peters out.  I want to know when the last day is and enjoy it and cherish it and be done.

That last day is coming soon, probably this week.  I’ll never breastfeed again—I’m never having any more children—and so this milestone feels particularly poignant, a part of my life that is over forever.

The little new things at my big new job

In my latest round of “I’m really slow at announcing life updates on the blog”: I got a job!  A “real” job, a corporate job, an “industry” job.  I started two weeks ago and thus far, it feels pretty great.  I’m doing stuff that I enjoy, I’m working with good people (except for that one obnoxious intern), and I’m making a real salary doing it.

Much has been written of the difference between academic and industry jobs.  For me, adapting to the big ones has been fairly easy.  Having to get to work at 8 a.m. with no chance of napping is tiring, yes, and finding work clothes involved a lot of frustrating shopping, but those are normal parts of being an adult and they did not come as a surprise.

The surprises have been more in the little things.  At the end of my first day, I tweeted about the shock of being handed a fully functional computer on a my first day.  That seemed to strike a bit of a chord among folks familiar with academia’s approach to IT.

I’m also still getting used to a different approach to physical security.  At a public university, with class-taking students coming in and out all day, the building doors were always unlocked during business hours and there were no restrictions on who could enter.  Closing and locking one’s office door on departure—even if you were just popping down the hall to the bathroom—was therefore of paramount importance.

To get to my new office, you have to badge in once to enter the building, walk past our office manager, and then badge in through a second set of doors to the main hallway.  But once you’re in there… we don’t close the interior doors, much less lock them, even at night.  It feels distinctly weird to be turning off my lights at the end of the day and then just walking out and leaving the door open!  With our laptops right there!

About those laptops: we can take them home and work remotely if necessary.  I’ve got a little electronic doohickey with a code that allows me to VPN onto the office network.  People don’t actually do that on a regular basis, though.  The two guys on my team, with whom I share an office, have left their laptops at work every night and every weekend since I’ve arrived.  I’m sure there will be deadlines when we have to get some late work in, but it’s clearly not the standard.

Not working on the weekend isn’t horribly foreign to me, even coming from academia.  What is foreign is being completely disconnected from work on the weekend.  If I leave my work laptop in the office on Friday evening, I am entirely cut off from all work updates until I arrive on Monday morning.  I am not used to this yet.  It still feels viscerally wrong to walk out of the office on Friday and become unreachable by email for the next 63 hours.

Oh, and my boss has been giving me actual training and guidance on a new-to-me programming language.  What a concept!

I’m going to count this as a parenting win

My older son did a sweet thing today.  Little Boy and I were running around the block this morning (or more accurately, taking a walk break during our run around the block) when I saw a penny on the pavement.

“Look, a penny!” I said.  “Pick it up, it’s good luck.”

Little Boy, currently a few months away from turning four, has a piggy bank made from an old Gatorade tub.  We’ve talked about how money can be saved and used to pay for things that he wants, and he seems to have an age-appropriate grasp of how that works.  I thought he might like the penny and he did pick it up, but a few steps later, he became concerned.

“I don’t want this money.  I can’t put this money in my piggy bank.”

“Why?” I asked.

“It’s not my money.  It’s somebody else’s money.”  And he set the penny down on the sidewalk for the original owner to find.

Can’t really argue with that.

Attack of the birthday parties

Apparently age four is when the birthday parties start.  Little Boy isn’t four yet, but his preschool classmates are starting to hit that milestone.  In the past few months, we’ve received seven party invitations, including two on the same weekend.  (Two in one weekend was too much for me; we attended one and politely declined the other.)  The parties we’ve attended so far follow the same basic pattern: an hour or two of play in a kid-friendly space, then pizza, then cake.

There’s a lot of good about these parties.  Little Boy loves them.  He loves seeing his friends; he loves getting to run and jump and climb in new spaces with new, exciting equipment; he loves eating pizza and cake.  He has so much fun.  Meanwhile, I’ve had the chance to connect with some of the other preschool parents.  It’s nice.

Sometimes, though, I feel like I’m on the edge of a slightly foreign subculture.  The other parents chat about their kids’ gymnastics lessons and other organized activities.  They compare notes on kindergartens—charter, private, Montessori.  (When did “not public” became the default choice for school?)  They drink LaCroix.  It all seems just a tad more aspirational, just a tiny bit up the social ladder.

I don’t know what we’re going to do for Little Boy’s birthday.  I can’t see us spending several hundred dollars on a party space (not counting food and favors), and our house won’t hold a whole class of preschoolers.  We might be able to make something work in the local park, but weather makes that unlikely.  Most likely we’ll have to do something like we did for his third birthday, a low-key gathering with just a couple of kids.  Another in a long line of should I be doing more for this? decisions as a parent.

Anyone else in the “so many birthday parties” phase?