Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Lesbian Behaving Badly (in a non-sexy way)

So much Lesbians Behaving Badly news.  I believe the term LBB was adopted by LGBT lawyers to describe cases where lesbian moms attempt to use a often homophobic legal system to deny a partner (and mom) custody rights. I've previously complained about this issue here.  This weekend, the NYT had a long investigative article about Lisa Miller's abduction of her own daughter in an attempt to deny the child's other mother, Janet Jenkins, access to the child.  Legally, this case was positive for gay families, with even a Virginia court eventually ruling that Vermont courts jurisdiction to rule in favor of custody rights for Jenkins, however, because of the abduction Jenkins lost everything.

In the Bates v. Bates case out of Georgia, another ruling in a lesbian custody dispute made the future of second parent adoption in that state look very shaky (thanks Nicole Bates).  This editorial in the GA Voice explains why these cases have the potential to hurt all gay parents.  Sigh.

In happier LBB news, in this case from New Mexico, a lesbian mom whose partner sought to deny her custody will be allowed to try and prove that she is legally the child's mother through the doctrine of "holding out" as a parent-similar to the concept of Common Law marriage, by acting publicly as the child's mother, she has legally become the child's mother.  However, this case only allows her to move forward with her claim, so she still has a long road ahead.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Little Nursery

I love the rowhouse that we rent here in Baltimore.  It was built in 1915, and the owner did a really nice rehab that retained some of the historic elements, while making it more functional for how we live now.  LB has a nursery made up of two little rooms, the back room was added on sometime after the house was built and still has what would have originally been the exterior window.

My aunt gave me my great-grandmother's rocking chair, which means so much to me and is surprisingly comfortable

Ikea crib, repainted dresser, and the world's most dangerous sharks

The little rocker was built by my great-grandfather and we call it the baby electric chair

Love the built in shelves

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Seen and Heard

From a gaggle of little girls playing on the sidewalk: "Okay, you're the mom, but you don't know that we're all zombies."

On the t-shirt of an older woman walking down the street, "I break hearts and wallets."

I'm trying to keep myself laughing so I don't get hung up on the insults of life, both mundane (why are Baltimore cab drivers so shitty, and none of them even seem to live here) and profound (simultaneously watching a documentary about the Olympics and gentrification in the East End of London, while looking a photos of a century of redevelopment/gentrification/urban renewal in Baltimore).

Don't let the world get you down little Ladybug

Monday, July 23, 2012

More Preemie Reviews: Little Man: A Documentary Film

Badger was away this weekend trying to find us a new home, so I hung out with a baby, ate a chicken box, and watched the six part BBC documentary Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State.  Let it be noted that I did not do all of these thing simultaneously, and I may be a sick fuck.

I also watched the documentary Little Man.  The film was made by a lesbian mom with a son by surrogacy, who was a micro preemie.  This film was incredibly painful to watch.  I've been watching a fair number of documentaries recently because we got a Roku, so I can watch any streaming Netflix content on our TV.  After watching those films, I've decided I don't really like the first person documentary.  As a genre, it's just too raw and emotional.  I know that some people really like that unmediated quality, but I prefer documentaries that are more measured and analytical.  Little man was very close to death multiple times in the film.  Those episodes are presented quite graphically (they filmed while he was in the NICU), and that was hard to watch, but harder was the relationship between his two moms.  I searched to see if they are still together, and was very surprised to see that they are.  In the film, their relationship was in the land somewhere between non-existant and totally dysfunctional.  Their conflict was centered around the fact that one of the moms had wanted to terminate the pregnancy when they found out that the baby was likely to have serious health issues, and the other mom insisted that they would continue the pregnancy.  After the baby was born, the filmmaking mom continued to want a high level of interventions, while the other mom did not.  Seeing the two of them react to each other from a place of anger, distance, and perceived superiority was just so upsetting.  I don't know how B and I would have survived without each other, and I don't know how we would have a relationship now if we had failed each other in such a fundamental way during LB's early life.  Overall, the film left me queasy and unsettled.  I think some of the ideas embedded in the film about neo-natal ethics, family, and relationships is probably quite interesting, but I was too close to some of the subject matter to be able to consider those bigger ideas.

I definitely would not recommend this film for recent preemie parents.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Home is Wherever I'm with You"

The heat broke.

And a baby watched the rain with glee.  The adults are busy trying to organize ourselves for the big move.  Baltimore has been a decent city to us for the past five years.  I love the way this city looks.  I love the rowhouse with its endless variations on a theme, and Baltimore has particularly good rowhouses.  Sometimes I'll see a block that is a mix of natural brick, painted primary colors, painted pastels, and even some formstone, and it the right light it is amazingly lovely.  Our neighbors are good quirky people, and I don't think it would be possible to be pretentious and live here, at least not in this part of the city.

And then there's the part that sucks.  Like many people here, we live close to home.  That is we shop and socialize within blocks of our house.  Our little piece of the city is functional, although I seemed to remember being shocked by the disfunctionality of basic city services when we moved here from Chicago.  "The City that Works," Baltimore is not.  Currently there is a massive water main break downtown, which is just one little piece of a crumbling infrastructure.  And there are the vacants, in some parts of the city blocks and blocks of them.  I've seen a lot of crumbling city landscapes, but Baltimore is such a small city to house so much destruction.

With those crumbling landscapes come suffering people.  I remember being on the bus on the morning after the Obama election, and everyone was joyous.  Three different men stood to offer me a seat.  The mood was buoyant, and I was just as happy as everyone else.  I looked around at the usual crowd of decent, happy people with broken bodies that told the stories of their hard lives, and I knew that Baltimore wasn't something that Obama, or any man, could fix.  I learned the party line that cities break because people make choices, therefore people can make other choices an unbreak them.  But when I look at Baltimore I just don't know how that will happen.  It is possible to fix this place, but there isn't enough will or enough money.

In order to function as a person of privilege in the city, you have to harden yourself.  You have to create distance so that young looking prostitute, that lady who is high out of her mind, that dude with no legs who doesn't look like he's doing so well, is not your problem.  I once read a blog post by a woman living in rural Virginia, who described sitting in a coffee shop in Manhattan and watching as all the other patrons studiously ignored a young child begging for money.  She used the incident to contrast the christlike generosity of (Christian) rural folk, with the hard (secular) amorality of city folk.  I guess if you see one begging child a year, you are highly motivated to help that child.  If everything outside your door is a gristly seething mass of cursing, addiction, and weeping sores, you learn to turn away.  That's why I saw two (white) junkies (mom and daughter, I think) fighting on the street and laughed.  Then I realized I had become that person who sees two living human beings and laughs because they're junkies fighting on the street.  I know so many good, interesting people here, people who want this city to live, but the city fights us at every turn.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"I am affronted!"

So says Tabitha Twitchit at the end of The Tale of Tom Kitten.  That line always cracks us up.  I loved Beatrix Potter books as a kid and still love them, but now I also realize how strange they are in the context of the early 21st century.  They are full of pinafores, coal scuttles, nurseries, and small animals being baked into pies (some while still alive).  How did I make sense of that as a child?  Pooh is even more confounding.  I read part of Winnie-the-Pooh aloud to LB in the NICU and B was convinced that either 1) I was high as a kite, or 2) I was reading it wrong.  Something about the shifting narrative voice made it completely nonsensical as a read aloud, and the entire series seems to have a strangely modernist style that I never noticed before.

Apparently, as a child, one of my most favorite books was the The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings (1931).  As an adult, I realize that this book is a heartwarming ode to the value of conformity, which seems distinctly at odds with most of the other lessons of my childhood, and the person I've become.  My mother despises this book to this day, but she read it to me again and again.  I guess I need to remember that when LB wants me to read her crap books about princesses and fairies.

I loved playing records on my parents' hifi when I was little and I've been trying to build LB a little music mix based on my favorites.  We've been listening to some '70s soul and light rock, and I added "Deportee," "City of New Orleans,""Do-Re-Mi,""If I Were a Carpenter," and "Oh Happy Day."  I think it's a good mix, but the child will dance to anything.

The little rabbit who realized just in a nick of time that only homos, communists, and other asocials want red wings

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Even more books about preemies

I've previously reviewed books about preemies here and here.

If you have been looking for books about preemies, you have probably come across the following books: The Preemie Primer: A Complete Guide for Parents of Premature Babies-From Birth through the Toddler Years and Beyond by Jennifer Gunter, MD and Preemies: The Essential Guide for Parents of Premature Babies by Linden, Paroli and Doron.  B. bought both of these books after LB was born.  According to B., both were disappointing because they lacked medical detail, and she would have preferred having a medical textbook about premature infants (this is, after all, the woman who was mistaken for a NICU worker for an embarrassingly long period of time by a group of med students).

I only wanted medical information on a need to know basis, but since I was so forgetful, it was nice to have a reference at home.  I think if I had to choose one of these books, I would choose The Preemie Primer because I found it better organized for my needs.  The Preemie Primer is divided by bodily systems (heart, lungs, eyes, etc.), while Preemies!  is divided by time period (first day, first week, hospital, home).  Since I was usually looking for information specific to LB's particular medical conditions, it was easier to find the specific information I was looking for in The Preemie Primer.  While these books can be useful as you try and formulate questions you want to ask the doctors and nurses in the NICU, I found it better to get my information directly from the NICU.  I suspect that the information in these book quickly becomes out of date, and the explanations lack the nuance you get from a conversation from someone working in the field.  LB's NICU was a teaching hospital, and our conversations with her doctors often when something like "Some studies have show A and some studies have shown B.  At this point we really don't have definitive evidence.  My preference is to do X for the following reasons, but some of my colleagues choseY for the following reasons, it's really a matter of preference."  Good doctors who you trust are worth a million books.  Seeing doctors and nurses at work in the NICU made me realize the mix of science and art that goes into caring for babies. Preemies can be so complicated and their symptoms often don't have clearcut causes, and no book can really explain that complexity, so the purpose of the books are to provide some basic information and some sense of control.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

ENT the Second

A few days ago we went back to the ENT, where we spent an hour waiting for a three minute exam.  Results: better, the infection in one ear has cleared and there is only a little fluid, and the other ear is completely clear.  She continues to say and understand new words.  LB will also be graduating from physical therapy at the end of the month.  She did very well at NICU follow-up, her language development is the only thing they are keeping an eye on.  And she also had an uneventful 18m appointment, so all good news for a girl.

She may not talk, but she sure can text

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"So long, it's been good to know you"

It's the 100th anniversary of the birth of Woody Guthrie (July 14, 1912-October 3, 1967).  Hearing all those Guthrie clips has made me consider LB's musical education.  I have a very deep hatred of the children's music genre, so when I think of music for children, I think of the traditional/political folk mix I grew up with.  It seems like there should be some "Music for the children of lefties" anthology, but the internets tell me it will not be that simple to create my perfect music mix.  Is it weird for the child of two underemployed white collar workers to know all the lyrics to "Union Maid" ("Oh you can't scare me, I'm sticking to the union")?Damn, that's catchy.

...and then the song became all the more appropriate.  Last Friday we were looking forward to an RE appointment for B. as we begin to plan for (hopefully) baby number two.  Then on Tuesday, B. got a call offering her a job she had interviewed for last November.  So now we are moving to New England.  I'm so happy to be moving closer to family, friends, the ocean, and delicious food, but of course there are various complications that will make the next few month ridiculous.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Watching Girls at 40

Every time I think the name of this TV show (seen on HBO), I hear the Beastie Boys song of the same name in my head, which tells you something about where I'm from generationally.  I've said aloud while watching it both "I can't watch this" and "I don't know why I watch this," but not because I think it's a bad show. For the first half of the season, my main takeaway was "When I lived this in the '90s it didn't feel as humiliating as it looks now on the small screen."  The second half of the season features some resolution, personal awareness, and a modicum of what passes for redemption these days.

A couple friends I've talked to about the show have said something along the lines of "I lived it and I don't really need to see it again."  I've definitely had the same feeling, but there's something about Lena Dunham that keeps me watching.  The way she uses her body in Girls is really interesting.  Seeing a woman be so deliberately sexually explicit, while also being deliberately un-sensual is something you don't see on television.  It's something I feel like I should have seen in many years of indie film watching, but Dunham isn't making a statement about how "all women's bodies are beautiful."  Instead, she seems to be implicating the viewer in the awkwardness of the show, after all we are the assholes who are watching.  If there's a message in this show, it seems to be something like "being a person is humiliating, being a woman is humiliating, and being a person who wants to lead an interesting life is humiliating, so enjoy it."

I thought that this New Yorker review of Game of Thrones had compared the gratuitous, soft focus nudity of G of T (or as we call it, Crown of Thorns), with the aggressive realism of Girls, but apparently I remembered wrong.  In any case, I think some writer has made that comparison in print.  In Girls, Dunham uses her very ordinary body (not thin, not toned, not perfect) to heighten the awkwardness of the sex scenes and, I think, to provoke viewers to be hyper-aware of their objectification.  It's not fun viewing, but it's fascinating.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Another Book about Preemies

A month ago, I reviewed the books Extreme Prematurity and Fragile Beginnings here.  I recently read Half Baked: The Story of My Nerves, My Newborn, and How We Both Learned to Breathe by Alexa Stevenson, which is, among other things, a memoir about parenting a preemie.  I enjoyed this book, and if you like well-written medical memoirs, or you have smart, cynical friend who just had a preemie (and would not want you to buy her a novelty teddy bear hugging a heart at the hospital gift shop), you should check out this book.  If you just had a preemie, you might want to put this one aside and come back to it in a few months or a year.

I'm still not sure how I feel about the style of blogs to books.  I read blogs and enjoy the way bloggers write, but I often find that when I read a book I expect something different.  The breezy blog style doesn't always hold up and I often wish for more substantive chapters.  While I felt this way about parts of Half Baked, overall I felt that she managed the blog to book transition very gracefully. Alexa is still blogging here.

There were some experiences that she describes in the book the book that I recognized from my own experience with LB, particularly the brief period of post-baby euphoria, and an overall more relaxed approach to parenting post-preemie.

This book is the first I have read for pleasure as an e-book (on a computer, not on an e-reader) and the experience sucked.  I kept getting timed out, having to log back in, and waiting for the book to buffer. All that added to the fact that it is pretty much impossible to go back to a specific passage (in an e-book or a book on an e-reader), left me very annoyed.  I really hope the tech geniuses out there can fix some of the e-book design flaws before physical books disappear from the earth.  And don't even get me started on the Kindle, which clearly has its uses, but could only be considered a device of technical wizardry if we all went back in time and it was 1985.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dog Days

It's hot and that is pretty much all we have to say these days.  It's hot and some people have power and some people (still) don't.  Apparently a bunch of nursing homes and assisted living facilities are among the places without power, which seems wrong and scary.  Those without are making do with extension cords and kindly neighbors, sleeping in the basement, and weekends at the beach.  I walked into work this week, in my little used building, and bumped into a Pack n Play.  Someone had had the smart idea to take advantage of the heavily air conditioned little lounge in my building, and was doing some work while her baby napped-a very good idea.
Those were the days.

I do wish we were at the beach, but we are trying to make the best of life.  Today involves the bounty of the farmer's market, baseball on tv, and some fine beverages provided by Badger.  We've being trying to get LB out of the house while it's still reasonably cool, but today she really was not enjoying her forced march around the block.  At times like this it might be nice to have, if not a beach house, then a place in the suburbs and car and easy access to a variety of air conditioned venues where a baby could run around and we could buy stuff.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hello Baltimore, Welcome to the Apocalypse

(Luckily this one, at least for us, was apocalypse lite). Friday night severe thunderstorms moved in around 11:00pm.  With temperatures over 100 yesterday, and the same expected into next week, we finally installed our bedroom AC.  Last year it got drenched and stopped working, and last night it got drenched again.  We had driving rain, loud thunder, lightening strikes, lost power, scared dogs, yelling neighbors, and a hot baby.  We woke up early this morning to no power and realized we didn't have much of a plan for keeping a baby and two dogs cool on a 103 degree day with no power.  During Irene, parts of the neighborhood lost power for a full week, so I was very nervous.  But thankfully, after buying 50lbs of ice, the power came back on.

As usual, the shared struggle brought all the neighbors out on the street.  Lots of gossip and half naked babies running around.  Main topics of conversation: the storm and the bold raccoon who has made himself at home in the neighborhood.

So now we're just battling the boredom of intense summer heat.  Today we went to a nearby college campus while it was still early and reasonably cool.  It was a toddler paradise.  A fish pond, sprinklers, and steps to climb.  Hopefully we can catch some Olympic trials during the hottest part of the day, and then back to park when it cools down a little.