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.

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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?

The brief conclusion to my previous post

Took Younger Brother to his post-surgery check-up yesterday.  Told the plastic surgeon about the whole dietitian appointment weirdness; he agreed that it was weird and said he’d look into it.  I heard him talking to someone about it on the way out.  Highly anticlimactic, but anticlimactic is a good thing when you’re talking about your baby’s health.  YB’s awesome zig-zag scar is healing nicely and his head’s doing great overall.  And we don’t have to go back to the disorganized clinic for another four months.

The more emotional experience of the day happened on the way home.  I stopped by a local thrift store and dropped off a big box of outgrown baby clothes.  I’m pretty nostalgic about stuff, so it hurt my heart a bit to drive away and leave that box behind.

A rant that’s too long for Twitter

Younger Brother’s next post-op follow-up appointment is next week.  Plastic surgeon, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.  He’s doing extremely well as far as I can tell, but the doctor will be able to make sure that his skull is healing and growing correctly.

I got the usual automated reminder call late in the afternoon yesterday.  I checked the robotic voice against my planner and the confirmation letter we’d received in the mail.  Appointment—got it, Tuesday—got it, 10 a.m. and 11:30—wait, what?  TWO appointments?  The plastic surgeon has his own private practice, but he sees infant patients at a kids’ clinic near the hospital.  This clinic has already proven itself to be a disaster when it comes to scheduling and communication; it took two weeks and five phone calls for them to send our original referral to the neurosurgeon, apparently because they’d lost their own electronic referral.

I called the clinic this morning.  “The reminder call said my son had two appointments scheduled for the same day?”  Turns out it wasn’t a basic clerical error: they had scheduled Younger Brother for a meeting with a dietitian.  What the heck?!

Two calls and a voicemail later, I got the nurse on the line who explained: YB’s BMI was in the fifth percentile, she said, and they watch for low weight gain in patients after surgery.  Hence the dietitian.

Dear readers, YB is eight months old.  At his initial post-op checkup, his weight was in the 60th percentile, roughly what it has been at for his entire life.  If his BMI seems low, it is because he is in the 90+th percentile for length.  He is not the chubbiest baby you have ever seen, but he is a big boy and very solid.  I appreciate the general concept of what they were trying to do here, but the most minimal of basic sanity checks would tell you that a baby holding strong at the 60th weight percentile is absolutely fine.

Not to mention—what on earth did they think a dietitian was going to do for an eight-month-old baby?!?  He gets most of his calories from breast milk.  He has a lunch and dinner of oatmeal and/or baby-food purées, as much as he’ll eat.  He hasn’t figured out finger foods yet.  What were they going to do, recommend more yogurt and avocados?

And on top of all that, when were they going to tell me about this appointment?!???  You can’t just schedule my baby for extra things and leave it up to the auto-reminder to inform me.

I have cancelled the dietitian appointment, and I will be raising some questions about this system when we see the plastic surgeon.

P.S.  After my initial WTF?!! reaction calmed down a bit, I did some Googling and discovered that BMIs are only supposed to be used for children above the age of two anyway.  Not infants.

You’re probably sharing more than you think on Facebook

If you’re thinking about Facebook privacy right now, you’re probably thinking about Cambridge Analytica, which collected information about hundreds of thousands of Facebook users and tens of millions of their Facebook friends back in 2014, then sold that info to certain political campaigns.  Shady?  Very.  But collecting that kind of data wasn’t actually against Facebook’s policies at the time.

In a much less nefarious use of online data, I’ve been using Facebook as a tool for a family genealogy project.  In addition to tracking back my direct ancestors, I am (in a private, offline format) mapping out my various great-aunts and second cousins and half-cousins once removed.  As a category, these are “people my mom sends Christmas cards to; I might have met them but I don’t really know them.”  My goal here is mostly to be able to remember who they are the next time my mom talks about them.  I’m just collecting basic family tree data: where and when they were born, when they got married and to whom, and if they have any kids.

A lot of this information is available pretty directly on Facebook in people’s public profiles and public posts.  But there’s rather a lot of information available indirectly, too.  For instance, you might have set your birthday to friends-only, but if your timeline is public or friends-of-friends, that annual blast of “Happy Birthday!” posts gives away the day and month.  Add in a few “Happy 49th Birthday!”s, and the year is just basic math.  Another example of indirect sharing: setting your profile picture to a wedding photo to honor your anniversary.

Other potential information leaks:

• The “Family and Relationships” section of your Facebook profile.  Let’s say you’re linked to your niece Jane.  You have that info set to friends-only, but Jane doesn’t, so anyone looking at Jane’s page will know that you’re her aunt.

• Friends lists in general. Very often public, and useful for mapping relationships.

• Your current/past location.  Lots more data, from basic phone book stuff to marriage details, is discoverable from non-Facebook sources once you have a place.  (Fun fact: a great many U.S. counties have publicly searchable marriage license databases.)

• The classic oversharing relative.  I got the full name of one of my cousin’s kids from a hospital picture posted by her mom.

It’s not necessarily bad to have some of your information public, as long as you know about it.  I choose to keep my maiden name publicly visible on my Facebook profile because it helps me connect with friends from college. It’s the information you don’t realize is public that could be concerning.

[Note: I’m really not interested in hearing any more smug takes about how you quit / never joined Facebook; that’s nice, now go congratulate yourself somewhere else.]

Anyone else use Facebook for family history research?

A quick pronoun announcement

Amid all the stress leading up to Younger Brother’s surgery—it went well and I am so grateful for everyone who sent supportive words—we had a good family event.  My wife changed her name and legal gender: she is now she and her and wife.  (She has been going by Mom with the kids for some time.)

I’ve added a note on my About page to help any future readers who might stumble upon my archives.  I’m still married to—and very much in love with—the same wonderful person.

T minus 6 days and counting

We’ve less than a week to go before Younger Brother’s head surgery, and people keep asking how I’m doing.  I never know how to answer questions like that.  I’m confident that my baby is going to be OK in the long run, but I’m increasingly stressed about the hows and whats of it all.

In any big event, my worry gets focused on logistics.  Getting everyone to the right place at the right time, with the right paperwork signed and the right preliminaries completed: these are the things that cause me stress.  I also like to know as much as possible in advance about what’s expected of me, lest I fail to live up to those expectations.

Right now, I’m worried about the pre-op testing.  We might have to take Younger Brother in for a blood test or something, to make sure he’s healthy enough for anesthesia.  Or maybe it’ll just be a phone screen.  I don’t know, because folks from the hospital are supposed to call about it and they haven’t yet.  I can’t just trust that what needs to get done will get done, because we’ve had multiple referrals get lost in the ether at earlier steps in this process.  I’m worried that something important will be forgotten and we’ll show up on the day of surgery and be told to reschedule.

(I’ve called the pre-op testing people.  The receptionist said I should hear back today.  We shall see.)

I’m worried about Younger Brother getting sick.  His brother has caught yet another preschool cold and we’re trying hard to keep the germs contained.  The surgeons tell me that a bit of sniffles is fine, but a phlegmy cough is a no-go with anesthesia.  We’d have to postpone the surgery.  I’m worried that my mother will drive 1000 miles to be with us, only to have the surgery rescheduled for illness.

I’m not worried about the surgery itself.  In a way, it will be a relief to know that at that point, all we have to do is wait.  I trust the doctors and the nurses and the anesthesiologist to do their best for my baby.  He’ll be asleep; he won’t know what’s going on.

I’m worried about after.  When will we get to see him?  When will he be able to eat?  Will I be able to hold him and nurse him?  Will we be able to stay with him?  Will we be expected to be with him 24/7?  That last one seems horribly selfish to ask, but… I’m worried about my own sleep.  I’m worried that the nurses will judge me if I need to leave him for a while and take a nap.  My only experience with babies and hospitals has been giving birth, where they expect the parents to provide basically all of the infant care.

I’m worried about when he comes home.  Will it be like the newborn days again?  Will we be waking every hour to tend to a poor sad baby who doesn’t understand why he hurts?  Do we have the right clothes for him, things that can go on over his healing head?  Do we need more baby hats?  I’ve been reading every craniosynostosis blog I can find, trying to get a feel what this part is like and how long it takes to return to “normal.”

I gave up practicing Christianity a long time ago, but I have been thinking about Matthew 6:34 lately.  This is the “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” verse, but I prefer the New International Version:

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

If ever I needed to stick a Bible verse in big bold letters on my wall, it would be this one.

The 4 types of responses you get when selling on Craigslist

We’re definitely not having any more babies, so as Younger Brother has outgrown his newborn stuff, I’ve been looking for ways to get rid of it.  Craigslist offers a nice win-win scenario: I get a little extra cash, while someone else gets gently used gear at a good price.  I’ve made $55 in the last month—nothing to retire on, but nothing to sneeze at either.

I learned pretty quickly to not get too invested in any particular response to my ads.  These responses tend to fall into one of four general categories:

1. The Scammers—”Is Item,,still available”

Message literally says “item”?  Delete.  Scammers copy-paste the same email to everyone.

2. The Window-Shoppers—”Are the baby clothes still available?”

Plausible grammar?  Correctly references the thing for sale?  Might be a more sophisticated scammer, or it might be a legitimate person doing some virtual window-shopping.  I don’t really understand why people use Craigslist this way, to be honest.  They haven’t yet decided whether they want the thing, but they go to the effort of sending an email anyway.

This group used to annoy me (if the ad’s still up, it’s still available!) but now I just write a five-second “yep, still available” reply and move on.  They rarely answer.

3. The Non-Readers—”What part of town are you in?” / “Location?”

Craigslist sales are in-person, cash-only transactions, so location does matter.  I completely understand why someone wouldn’t want to drive 25 minutes across town for some used baby clothes.  Which is why I use Craigslist’s handy “Show on Maps” feature.  All of my ads include street map with a pin dropped at the nearest major intersection, with the names of the cross streets written in text below the map.

Obviously, when it gets to the point of finalizing a pickup, the buyer will need my full address.  This category isn’t about that, it’s about the people who ask for my location right off the bat (or as their immediate response to a “yep, still available”).  Like the window-shoppers described above, these people haven’t actually decided if they want to buy the thing.  They also haven’t bothered to spend more than two seconds looking at the ad.

I reply to these people, but I’m a little snarky about it.  “I’m at Maple and Elm, like it says in the ad.”  Does this drive away potential buyers?  Possibly.  Were they likely to follow through on the purchase in any case?  Nope.

4. The Buyers—”I’m interested in the Graco swing.” / “Can I get both sets of swaddles for $15?”

The serious buyers—the people who are likely to show up and pay for the thing—send non-generic messages.  They indicate a definite interest.  They correctly reference the item for sale, and they’ve actually read the ad.  Maybe they offer a price, or ask for a deal buying multiple items.  (I say yes to any reasonable offer, because I’m not interested in drawn-out negotiations.)

Not all of these people will end up buying the thing; some will stop responding, while others will set a time for pickup and never show.  But all of my eventual buyers have come out of this category.

I’ve only been selling on Craigslist for a month, so I suspect there are a few types of replies that I haven’t encountered yet.  Do you have anything to add to the list?

Three years and counting

I published my first blog post three years ago today.  WordPress put a little “Happy Anniversary” badge in my notifications to celebrate.  Woo!

My kids were born almost exactly three years apart, so Younger Brother is now the age that his brother was when I first started blogging.  Little Boy goes to preschool and my spouse goes to work, so it’s just me at home with the baby most days.  I get a strong sense of déjà vu sometimes, which couples oddly with the feeling that we weren’t supposed to stay here this long, here in this lovely rented house with the bright windows and the big garage.

It’s interesting to look back on my old posts about parenting with the experience of a second-time mother.  I can think of several more things to add to the list of what not to say to new parents.  My tips for newborn sleep are still generally good advice, but I laugh a little at the confidence with which they were written.  I’ve pulled the running stroller back out; where Little Boy used to get loudly grumpy about running, Younger Brother just falls asleep.  (In related news, I’ve discovered that some newborns really do have “quiet awake” time.)  And while we’re still struggling to find the right balance of TV time for our older child, we are way more relaxed when it comes to the littler one getting the occasional glimpse a television screen.

There’s been another change to my family, one that I haven’t talked about much on the blog, that also casts some of my older posts in a new light.  More than a year ago, my spouse revealed that he wanted to be a woman, and, with my support, began the long and nonlinear process of gender transition.  I have seen how hard it is for him in the in-between times, as he deals with a deeply internalized sense that “feminine” fashion can’t be paired with “masculine” physical features.  It has reaffirmed to me the importance of making sure our boys aren’t limited to “boy” things as they grow.  My spouse’s true gender identity also makes our earlier fight against falling into traditional husband/wife roles even more striking—turns out we aren’t a traditional heterosexual couple, and yet various factors kept pushing us that way.

I don’t know what the future holds for my blog.  I’m most active on Twitter these days, enjoying its faster, more fleeting nature and greater interactivity.  I can type a tweet with one hand while nursing; a blog post, not so much.  But I’m still glad to be here—and if you’re reading this, I’m glad you’re here too.

A pile of new books: late additions

I have two late additions to this year’s “books received for Christmas” pile, courtesy of my mother-in-law, who presented them in person when we saw her last weekend.

Marie Kondo's book "The Life-Changing Magic of Cleaning Up" sitting on top of Caroline Fraser's "Prairie Fires."

Don’t worry, I asked for both of these; the Marie Kondo book is not some kind of passive-aggressive mother-in-law comment on my tidying skills.