Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bring it on

Baltimore, oh Baltimore.  You serenaded me into the city, and then back out again, with the sounds of police helicopters.  Your street art should make Providence weep.

Today I'm worried about sequestration.  It is clear to me that it would be worse to lose a HeadStart slot than to be delayed weekly in the airport, but everything in my life is such a delicate balance right now, I really don't want to be delayed weekly at the airport.

Just days after reading about guerrilla queer playdates on the Lesbian Family site, we were invited to a guerrilla queer playdate.  Maybe we all read the same social media?  In any case, the invite was much appreciated, although I'm not quite sure what one brings to such an event.  My best guess: organically grown local heirloom apples harvested by workers paid a living wage, and a bag of [redacted].  The stakes are high. I had a "friend" who brought a bucket of Popeye's chicken to a queer potluck of the Dykes to Watch Out For persuasion.  Mistakes were made.  Shunning occurred.  My worst similar experience was showing up to meet my new college advisor, a noted lesbian feminist scholar who once suggested banning men from our campus after sundown, wearing a short (short!) vintage dress, heels (chunky), and carrying a matching purse.  I looked into her eyes and saw The Revolution die.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Bonnets I Have Known

If you read my previous post, you might think that LB only wears overalls and Mao suits, but I do have a weakness for baby hats and bonnets.  Now LB is reluctant to wear even weather appropriate headgear, but I still have my pictures.  For your enjoyment

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Gender Trouble: Toddler Cheerleaders

Yes, this is in fact an item of clothing that we own.  And yes, this cheerleading outfit includes matching pants that say Oregon State on the butt.  LB owns a total of three of these OSU cheerleading outfits.

There's a reason that this piece of clothing is shown on a hanger rather than on LB.  I would never post a picture of our girl wearing this for all the world to see.  I did put her in it once (with long pants) and take pictures for grammy, but that is as far as I'll go.  I had a scheme around Halloween that we could dress LB up as an anarchist cheerleader from Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video, or we could find two other kids and dress them all up as zombie cheerleaders, but I was all clever ideas and no action.

B and I are both Title IX babies, but I grew up in the earlier years, when the default in my little New England town was that little boys play football and little girls are cheerleaders (in high school girls could play field hockey, which was higher in the class hierarchy than cheering).  B is a very good athlete and played soccer and basketball, and probably lots of other sports, from a young age.  Why you would think that the daughter of your sporty daughter needs multiple cheer outfits, rather than a jersey or tracksuit, I'm not quite sure.

I am sure that my daughter will not be wearing anything like this, and certainly not any kind of pants with writing on the butt, until she is old enough to rebel and spend her own money on crap we hate.  And if that makes me not only a bitter lesbian feminist, but an authoritarian bitter lesbian feminist, well then, let me join Andrea Dworkin in a consensual embrace as we raise our fists against the patriarchy.

[Updated to add that I let LB pick her own clothes this morning and she chose and OSU "Beaver Fever" t-shirt.  Gayby in a beaver fever t-shirt = time to slink of my high horse.]

Annals of Extreme Commuting: Atlanta Edition

I live in Providence, RI and I work in Baltimore, MD.  Half the people I meet in Southwest terminals seem to have similar stories.  To me, the significant number of people commuting to work by plane is emblematic of larger structural problems in the US economy, specifically the tight and inflexible job opportunities for highly skilled workers.

This week I also went to Atlanta and got to visit two of my least favorite airports ATL (perfecting the art of architectural brutality) and BOS (inefficiently and idiocy combined with the terrifying descent into the airport, during which I'm always sure that we are going into the drink).  The good part was getting to visit with friends, a good conference, nice hotel with biscuits on the breakfast bar, and some soul vegetarian.  The bad parts were 4:30am wakeups and planes, trains, subways, buses, and taxis.  In the not good, but not really bad category-Atlanta is a city of well-put-together women, which always makes my disheveled self uncomfortable.  Boston, with its ugly accents and LL Bean boots feels like home.

I got my messages one night after dinner, and heard B calmly reporting that everything was under control on the homefront, while an insistent little voice piped in "I puked, I puked."  And, indeed she had.  It's hard being the home parent and hard being the away parent.  The home parent works all day and then comes home to full domestic duties and nighttime wakeups.  The fact that B and I are so good at sharing parenting and switching off can make it harder when one of us is away.  I've not always handled being the home parent gracefully, but I think we've both learned to treat the home parent gently, even when one (meaning me) calls late a night to put a screaming child on the phone.

For the away parent there are all the indignities of travel, long hours, stress about whatever work commitments led to the travel.  It's also just lonely sitting in airport terminals and hotel rooms, while ladies at home are having dinner and doing the bedtime routine. As the away parent, I try to set B up for success by cooking some extra food and putting out clothes for LB, although sometimes good intentions are lost in the time crunch. When B is the away parent, she always does a big grocery stock-up trick for me.

We don't really do anything special to prepare LB for our (but currently really my) absences.  She has such a limited understanding of time, I think we would only confuse her.  She usually does well for the first day or so, and then become increasingly out of sorts.  When I picked her up yesterday, she was pretty clingy and generally didn't want me to leave her site.  The upside was that I got extra cuddles.

[After writing this post, I came across these traveling parent tips on the blog Liza Was Here.  Good tips!]

Only one more trip this month, and a cozy, snowy weekend between now and then.

While mama's away...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Gay Parents and Health Care Professionals

Recently the Huffington Post published this essay titled "The Question You Should Never Ask a Lesbian Mom." Of course it was about the infamous "who is the real mom" question. That question sucks, so does going to one of LB's appointments with B and having a nurse/PA/doctor only interact with one of us, while completely ignoring the other adult in the room. In the essay the author describes her son's surgery, and the multiple ways that health care providers denied her son's family structure.  I would feel better about the world if I never read the internet comments on news stories, but I can't help but look.  The comments on this essay were largely of the "Why don't you just relax and get over it, it's not like someone beat you with a crowbar because you're a lesbian."  And yes, I would rather have someone ask me "Are you her real mom?" than have someone beat me with a crowbar, but that imagined choice seems to miss the point.

I feel the petty insults of the world.  B and I spent time and money formalizing our relationship as mothers to our daughter, and it smarts to have someone waltz into an exam room and assume that I am my daughter's grandma or a random +1 who just happens to attend medical appointments with a child and her mother.  Those mistakes are small and easily corrected, but they point to the potential for higher stakes problems.  At a well-child appointment or a developmental appointment we can clarify or complain, but what about the night when we run through the emergency room doors?  What about the intake clerk who doesn't see our family as real?  For me, like many other gay parents, that fear turns to anger when I encounter life's slights and misunderstandings.

In my taxonomy of acceptance, the most accepting health care workers are those with long experience working in urban hospitals.  They save their ire for the high, addicted, hopeless, and, of course, teen moms, while stable, well-spoken lesbian moms are just another variation of normal.  The worst are med students, residents, and social work students.  I realize we all need to learn, but sitting with my daughter in the NICU or waiting for the results of her developmental evaluation are really not good times for me to be someone else's teachable moment.  It seems like there should be an orientation session, or at least a pamphlet called: "Shit you shouldn't say to racial/ethnic/religious/sexual minorities,"  but maybe that's the section when people duck out for a coffee. 

My very practical solution to this problem would be a little slip of paper: a little voluntary form, preferably in florescent color, that would say "Patient" and "Who else is attending this appointment" and "relationship to patient" that we could choose to fill out and would then be attached to some prominent place on LB's file.  If I had a dollar for every time I've though "Why did I just spend 15 minutes filling out paperwork, if you aren't even going to fucking look at it!" I would definitely have enough money to buy B a six-pack of her latest fav microbrew.  But I realize that people sometimes don't have time to look through a whole file as they walk in to see a patient, or the records may be unclear, or they may be dealing with parents who are closeted or partially closeted, or they may not want to come off as too nosy, or they may not want to assume that a sister/aunt/case worker is a lesbian lover.  Hospitals and doctor's offices need to come up with a simple way to let families define themselves and share what they feel comfortable sharing.  It would make life easier for gay parents [and as pointed out by a friend, gay parents can also be single parents, foster parents, kinship caregivers, etc.] and our kids, and it would make life less awkward for health care providers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Language Explosion

How I hated that phrase, and then, at some point in the last few months it happened.  At LB's developmental appointment in late September (22m), she had fewer than twenty words that she spoke without prompting.  Now she must know hundreds.  She asks for her books by name, and her toys, and her DVDs.  She knows the names of all the foods she eats regularly and all the people in her life.  Last night, I was reading to LB and I had to pull apart some sticky pages.  LB grabbed the page and said "Rip! Book rip.  Harry rip." She managed to tattle on two of her school friends using words. She told us that our dog is cute. Amazing!

Back when it seemed like LB would never walk, I worried.  I worried that she wouldn't walk, or talk, or put stupid pegs in a pegboard, and I also worried that her childhood would enfold like a scene from Dicken's Hard Times or Walden Two, as every moment of our living became an opportunity for training.  I do want LB to learn, but I also want her to relax, to be silly, to do her own thing, to eat candies and watch Elmo, to have a life of little joys.  The worst of our developmental doctors pushed something very different, a life of pegboard practice and gross motor exercises divided into half-hour and hour increments.  At our last developmental appointment, the evaluator may have actually clucked her tongue at me, as she explained that LB's stair climbing performance was "weird" and would require close monitoring in the future.  At the time, LB was able to walk up and down stairs with some effort and a spotter.  The stairs at the clinic were a moveable unit that looked like a piece of playground equipment, and LB responded accordingly.  She climbed, but she also crawled and slid, and generally acted like a playful Bug.  For the evaluator, there was no place on the sheet for a child's organic understanding of an unfamiliar structure.

I'm sure my frustrations with boxes to be checked on sheets will come back in full force once LB is in school, but for now I feel like we are in a good place.  As LB learns more and can do more, it's easier for me to feel confident that she can and does learn organically.  It's also easier to casually play little games that will build skills, but are still fun for her.  It's easier now that we can read books and LB understands them and interacts with them.

Monday, February 11, 2013


Sucks to be an extreme commuter during an epic blizzard.  I got stuck in Baltimore after flying in on Wednesday morning, and after my reschedule flight was cancelled, I hitched a ride with some people I met at the southwest ticket counter. We drove from BWI to Providence on Saturday night, hitting Connecticut a few hours after the highway reopened.  The area around Bridgeport was definitely scary.  On 95 there was only one rough, poorly plowed, tiny lane northbound.  There were cars and trucks off the road everywhere, although it looked like all the people had already been picked up.  I was definitely very happy to walk through the front door at 2:30am on Sunday morning.

LB is generally anti-snow, but she found that she does like sliding down snowbanks, so that's a step in the right direction.

Before the plow

Snow fox

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I Cry in Airports

Because parents lose their beautiful loved child and it's terribly unfair.  Because, for some unfathomable reason, they play Cat Stevens's  "Peace Train" over the airport PA system.  Because I spend historic moments huddled with strangers watching CNN.  Because I can cry in an airport and no one will ever ask me why.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Chill Baby!

Wishing she was watching Elmo at 26 months

Chilaxin at 18 months

I've always been the afternoon pick-up parent.  When LB first started daycare, I would bring her home and nurse her and cuddle her.  That routine worked for a while.  Then LB got more mobile and more independent.  She would struggle and fuss when I tried to cuddle her, and I would get incredibly frustrated.  What kind of baby doesn't want to cuddle her mama after a long day apart?  Eventually I realized, that much as I do, LB needs some chill out time when she gets home.  So this is what we do now.  LB used to chill in her pack n' play, but now she hangs out on the couch.  Although she is a big girl, she still likes her afternoon bottle and I'm okay with that for now.

The Spider's Web on NPR

Does anyone else remember this show?  I listened to it from the late 1970s through the 1980s.  It came on at 7:00pm and featured a half hour reading from a children's book.  Books included The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (on of my absolute favorites), Charlotte's Web, Julie of the Wolves, and Tuck Everlasting.  Growing up, my family didn't have a TV until I was fourteen, so The Spider's Web was important entertainment for me.  I rarely missed an episode, even if it meant having to stand in a certain spot in the living room so the signal was clear.

Back in the day, I had books on record, and now there are tons of books available as audio files.  These options don't provide the same pleasure of simultaneity as radio or tv.  As a sometimes lonely kid, I loved listening to the radio and knowing other people were out there doing the exact same thing.  I still love radio and tv because they seem warmer and more connected than music played from my own collection or videos watched on Netflix.

I wonder if LB with have that experience?