The Policy of Truth

Normally Mikah was the sort of boy who prided himself on his unflinching honesty, but with the cold hard edge of a gun barrel pressed against the thin skin of his temple, he opted instead for discretion.

"I would be delighted to help you," he said, stretching his mouth into a toothy grin.

"Thought so," grunted the girl, but the gun didn't waver.

"Perhaps we can put the... weapon away, and discuss your needs?"

"Gun's not goin' anywhere," said the girl, although she did take a step back so it was no longer directly touching his flesh.  She held it the way other girls might hold a cell phone- like an extension of her body over which she had perfect control.  Mikah briefly considered trying to wrestle it away from her, looked again at the carved muscle of her shoulder, and decided against it.

"So, Miss...?"

"Ms, thank you very much," she snapped.  "This ain't the fifties."

"Of course not, Ms.  Ms...?" he tried again.

"Ms. is fine.  You ain't got any more need for my name than I have for yours.  All you need is to believe that I will pistol-whip the shit out of you if you try to take my gun."

"I wouldn't-" he protested, but she snorted.

"You're a shit liar.  Saw you considerin' it not thirty seconds back."

"Yes, well, you'll notice I didn't do more than consider," he said, dryly.  "Physical altercations don't tend to end in my favor."

"Now that I believe.  Stand up."


Ruby Slippers Galore

I've already shared the roots of my love affair with oxblood footwear.  Today I shall share the story of my most recent acquisition:
Feel free to chuckle whilst imagining the awkward angle I held my phone at to get this shot.

First of all, I didn't have any plans to go shopping today.  My plans were to take Neeps to visit my Katie, and then come home.  But as I was driving back across the bridge the thought occurred to me that a) I do need new work shoes and b) the afternoon is the best time to go shopping for new shoes and c) I'd already gone through the trouble and effort of packing Neeps into his car seat and d) there was a good shoe store between me and home.

And so I took an early exit, found miraculously close parking, and swaggered in as best I could whilst awkwardly lugging a car-seat-full-of-robust-infant.  This less-than-impressive arrival was greeted with a polite smile from the salesman, along with the ubiquitous, "May I help you with anything today?"

"Yep!" I announced.  "I'm here for new work shoes so my boss can stop cringing!"

This led into a discussion about what I normally wear, shoe-wise;

"Doc Martens and hiking shoes," I said, sticking out a foot so he could see my Merrells.  "Oh, those are great shoes," he said, to which I replied,  "I know: this is my second pair.  I think the last they use for this model happens to correspond with my foot."

what I do for a living;

"I'm an office manager for a brokerage company," I explained.  He smiled and said, "Yes, I can see why your boss might be appreciative of a... change in footwear."  I gave him a cheeky grin in return, "Yeah: I'm damn good at my job, so he's always given me leeway, but I thought it would make him happy if I upped my professional style a bit."

and my personal preferences;

"I won't do heels," I said flatly. (sorry)  This did not appear to concern him: "Okay, we actually have a lot of options for that- maybe some ballet flats, or-" I interrupted with, "And they need to stay on my feet while I bike to work," at which point he just sort of laughed.  I joined in and added,  "I know, I know: I'm a challenge."

He had me sit so he could measure my foot.

"You have very strong feet," he remarked, and I preened a bit at that, because of all my (many) vanities, I am The Most Vain about my feet and ankles.  Hells yeah, rock climbing and hiking FTW.

"Okay, I have a few ideas," he began thoughtfully, but I cut in with, "I happen to love oxblood, if that helps," and you'd have thought I'd told him the Holidays had come early.  His face lit up, and he said, "I think I have just the thing, then!"

He disappeared into the back, and came back perhaps 90 seconds later with two boxes.  He opened the first.

"Nice," I said, eyeing the burgundy loafer.  He helped me put them on, and I stomped about and checked myself out in the mirror.  "They're so cute and comfy.  I really like these!" I said.  And I did.  (I still do.  I may go back.)

"And they'll keep your feet protected from the rain while you bike," he pointed out.  I nodded appreciatively, and took my seat once more.

"I also thought these might do," he said, and opened the second box.

"Ooo," was my visceral-girlie response: the shoes put me in mind of tulips, and I could see how perfect they'd be with both pants and skirts.  Clever man.

I tried them on, and immediately realized that these felt even better on my feet: no slippage.  I said as much, and he nodded.

"I'm not surprised to hear you say that; this brand is known for fitting high arches like yours.  Plus you strike me as an artistic person, and the cut on those shoes really lets you play with fun socks."

I grinned at him.  "Good call: I love fun socks."  I sat back down and asked,  "How much will these run me?"

He told me, and I nodded.  Not cheap, but totally reasonable for what I was getting.  "Let's do this."

And that is how, thanks to incredible customer service from someone who really knows his business, I was in and out of a shoe store with a brand new pair of ruby slippers, in less than thirty minutes.  Damned if I don't love professionals.

(and oxblood)


A Mother to Emulate

I'm not totally sure how old I was when I first met my friend Lisa.  I want to say 23 or 24, and I'm leaning towards 24.  Either way, it's been at least a decade since we first became friends while working at Borders.  She'd been with the company longer- had come over from another store, actually, and was a handful of years older than me.  Old enough that I classified her as "adult", but certainly younger than I am now (ironic, that, as I've only just recently started to feel like I might actually be an adult, myself).  She was upbeat and fun and pretty- and she was happily married, with two little kids.

But here's the thing- she also did other stuff.  Yes, she was a wife, and yes, she was a mother, and yes, she had a part-time job at a bookstore.  But!  She also had interests, and she pursued those interests, and quite frankly it was sort of this radical thing for me to be witnessing, because at that point in my life the only females in my peer(-or-near-peer)-group that I'd seen married and with kids were... married with kids.  That's what they did: that was the whole of their focus in life, and the full extent of their identity.

And that terrified me.

So to meet Lisa, for whom I coined the mental category "Cool Mom", was eye-opening, and gave me hope for the future.  She was a good mother and her own, interesting person, and I filed her under "Mothers to Emulate"*.

We stayed in touch through our respective relocations over the years (in fact Nathan and I stopped in to see her on our road-trip back to the PNW, and she fed us breakfast!), and over that time I've had the pleasure of watching (from an admitted remove) the progression of her children into young adults who look like they're set to match or exceed their mother in awesomeness.  Which is pretty much the definition of Doing Parenting Right.

Lisa happened to be in town today, and made it a point to come by and meet Neeps (and also Isis).  We sat and chatted for over two hours, about our kids and their development, yes, but also about our other interests and pursuits.  It was wonderful, and I couldn't help but feel a warm glow of gratitude towards the woman who helped show me that motherhood could be just one more awesome thing about my awesome self.

*(my own mother is, of course, at the top of this list- but I also know I bring a certain bias to my feelings towards her near-perfection.  And on a more serious note, I didn't really become cognizant of her parenting "style" per se, until I was nearly an adult, myself- so I don't have accurate data regarding how she dealt with little-littles when she was in her twenties and thirties.)


On the Hazards of Going Out in Public With a Baby

Turns out I still don't really care about strangers' kids.

Wait, no, that came out wrong.

Turns out I'm still not particularly interested in strangers' kids.  Which is a bit ironic, because now that I've got one of my own, strangers sure are interested in talking to me about their kids.  And because I have this knee-jerk reaction to engage with warmth and enthusiasm, I often end up hearing a lot more than I actually care about.  ::sigh::  Stupid, stupid social skills.

I shouldn't be surprised, really, since a) my mother has told me for years that having kids didn't change her interest in not-her-kids and b) it's pretty much exactly what happened when we got a pit bull (anyone who says dogs aren't like kids is full of it, and also probably has never had a dog).  Still, I was taken off guard when not one, not two, not even three, but four individuals at the grocery store wanted to interact with me on a "We both have children in our lives" level.  One of them didn't even have their (grand)child with them- they just felt compelled to share a text from their daughter with me.  Not a photo- just a text.  Which... okay?  That interaction was particularly strange because I hadn't engaged with them via eye-contact or smile or anything (which is what happened with the others): they just sort of popped up in between another parent and myself.  Like, literally inserted themselves between us.

I also don't really know what to do when strangers* effuse over how adorable Neeps is.  Obviously when someone says, "Your baby is so cute!" you say, "Thank you!" (and if you're me you add, "We think so!") but I... don't really know what's appropriate when they keep talking about how beautiful he is.  Which, yes, doesn't sound like a real problem ("He's almost... too good looking.") except sometimes I feel like they're fishing for me to be equally rapturous over their baby, in a sort of compliment quid pro quo thing, which... no.  Just accept the fact that my baby is better than yours, and move on with as much grace and dignity as you can muster.

*It's totally different when friends and loved ones do it, because they are all lovely, genuine people who are also highly intelligent and discerning and attractive and awesome.


Dropping the Shopping

It's exactly two weeks until I return to work (::whimper::), so today I bit the bullet, packed up Neeps, and went on the hunt for new work clothes to fit my new work body.

Aaaaand that sucked about as much as I thought it would.  I tried to write a funny post about the experience, but every time it evolved into nothing but a bitching rant.  So.

The upside is that Neeps was his typical, delightfully charming self, and only fussed a very little (and was comforted by rocking and a detailed explanation about how many more things Mommy had to try on before we could go).  Thank all stars for my easy-temperament baby, that's all I have to say about that.

I came home with two new shirts and two new dresses (all of which provide easy-access for the Pumping Professional) so all in all, not a complete waste of time.  Just not in any way, shape, or form and enjoyable time.

I said as much on the ol' FaceSpace, and several of my girlfriends recommended StitchFix, so after a bit of hemming and hawing, I signed up.  Here's to hoping it works out, and I never again have to shop for work clothes.


Teasing Spring

I've actually done quite a bit of writing over the past couple of days, but unfortunately I can't share any of it here (yet) because it's all to do with a one-off game I'm planning for some friends.  I'm pretty excited about it, tho', so I do hope to share, eventually.

In the meantime, it is sunny and gorgeous in my neighborhood, and Neeps and I are taking plenty of lovely walks and learning all about things like how pretty crocuses are in the sunshine:

DID YOU KNOW, saffron is a spice derived from the saffron crocus?!


Seed, Sprouted

So after I uploaded yesterday's photo, I had a bit of a brain-wave about a story-seed I planted a few years back, with the working title The Breath Stealer.  The premise was that cats do, indeed, steal the breath of babies (thereby killing them), but only babies that are fated to grow up evil.  I never shared it on here, until now:

When I was very small, eyes still blue and fur still tufted into ridiculous spikes, I lost a brother to a hawk.  I don't remember much of him- I'd only known him a few weeks, after all, and then primarily as a competitor for the most free-flowing of my mother's teats.  What I remember quite clearly, however, was how my mother mourned for him.  There were six of us left in the litter, six tiny lives to love and care for, but still she cried for the one who had been taken.  Sometimes, in my most private nightmares, I hear her crying still, but it wasn't the hawk who killed her baby-

It was me.

There was a bit more, but that was the hook.  At any rate, that's been percolating in the back of my mind for, as I said, a few years, until yesterday when I posted that photo of Krumps and suddenly thought, "But what if, this time, the Cat chooses not to kill the child, but instead to attempt to rewrite it's fate?" which lead me down the rabbit hole of the Cat trying to raise a tiny sociopath to be a force for good rather than evil, and the hilarity that might ensue from that.

We'll see.


Take My Breath Away

Krumps is surprisingly protective of Neeps


What to Wear, What to Wear

I've long known that (should I actually manage to reproduce) I was destined to be a baby-wearer: back in 2013 when I first popped Eaglet into an Ergo carrier I was immediately, 100% hooked by the convenience, comfort, and cuddle-factors (it's pretty adorable to have a little one "Muh!"ing out a rhythm into your chest as you hike).  Eaglet's mother has since gotten into baby-wearing in a Massive Way: she has an array of truly beautiful woven wraps, and can do all sorts of amazing things with them (I privately think of it as "baby origami").  I was intrigued, but also sort of figured it would be too much fuss for me.

But then Neeps was born, and since he was too itty-bitty for an Ergo (without a special insert) I started using the lovely Moby wrap a friend gifted us.  At first it was, indeed, somewhat fussy and awkward and I never seemed to get it right the first time... but then the more I did it, the better I got at it, and soon it actually felt easier to me to pop him in and out of that than to "fuss" with all the buckles and cinching of the Ergo.

But he's cusping on 15lbs these days, and stretch-wraps (like the Moby) start getting not-quite-supportive-as-you-might-prefer around this weight.  Which meant it was time to up my baby-wearing game!

But damn, woven wraps are expensive.  Especially the really pretty ones I tend to lust after.  And while I'm well within my rights to spend my disposable income on whatever the hell I please, Beauty-Lusty Jenny O was having a damn hard time justifying to Pragmatic Jenny O why we should drop close to $200 on a length of cloth when we don't even actually know the basic wraps, yet.


And thus I ordered myself a learning wrap (on clearance!).  It's what's known as a gauze wrap, which means it will be cool and comfortable in the summer (important to this prone-to-overheating-woman), but it has it's drawbacks, as well (not as soft as I'd like, for starters).  It arrived yesterday, and after a run through the wash I put it to the test on today's walk by using the ultra-beginner "front wrap cross carry":
SUPER bright out today
It did pretty well, comfort- and support-wise, but I think I'm going to wash it a few more times, to try and soften it up a bit more (although Neeps thoroughly approved of it's nom-ability).  That being said, the way it's designed really does make it super-easy to learn the wraps on, so I'm looking forward to expanding my repertoire to the point where Beauty-Lusty Jenny O might actually stand a chance at wining a fiscal argument.


Refreshed and Refilled

Today I had a very nice lesson on why Solo Self Care Time is so very important to parents.

Please note that I did not say "Alone Time".  Because the sad fact is that all too often, "Alone Time" turns into "Oh shit I can finally get through scrubbing the bathroom/folding every article of clothing in the house/paying bills without someone screaming for my boobs!" time.  And in fact, that's what "Alone Time" has been devolving into a lot, lately.  Which is what made today's lesson so timely.

Last night my friend Dr. Mess texted to see if I wanted to wanted to go climbing today.  Did I!  I've been managing to get to the gym about once a week, but definitely for very limited time periods- I try not to be gone longer than an hour, since Nathan is working during that time, which means actual time on the wall is closer to like 45 minutes.  Today, however, as I was leaving Nathan with a long list of "Here's what you do for Neeps at this time and that time, and this other time," he said, "How long are you going to be gone?"

"Probably an hour and a half," I said, "Since it takes about fifteen minutes to bike there, and I'd like to climb for at least an hour." (because it was a beautiful day in the neighborhood, just perfect for biking)

"Why don't you just climb for as long as you feel like climbing?" he suggested.  "I've got this."

Readers, I didn't need telling twice.  I hopped on Zuri, pedaled my way through all the construction (mentally apologizing to the cars stuck behind me on the hill- I'm still not back in fighting form yet), and bounced into the gym with a flourish.

Climbing time, bitches.

Dr. Mess (also a parent, and also not able to get away to climb as often as he might like) showed up shortly thereafter, and we hit the wall.  I've been working on an overhung 5.9, and while I didn't make my goal of "no takes, no falls" today (I totes fell), I did figure out the proper hand-position to make that goal a reality next time.  That particular route requires a lot of brute strength, which is why I've been working it (I am weeeeaaaaaaak), and it was super gratifying to see how much progress I've made on my ability to do it and not be completely worthless for the rest of the climbing session.  In fact, immediately after that one I flashed a 5.10- on slab, which was very good for my morale, because it sort of drove home the fact that while I've lost strength and endurance, I still have technique.

All told we spent close to two hours climbing (and then messing around on the new "treadwall" in the fitness area- very strange) before I called it a pleasantly exhausted day and slowly cycled home.

It's only then that the best part came.

I walked into the living room, where Nathan was hanging out with Neeps, and damned if my boy didn't break into a giant-ass grin when he saw me, and then start giggling when I crouched down to talk to him.  It was the most rewarding damn thing you can imagine.  Like, you know how dogs (and certain cats) get super excited when you come home, and how gratifying that is?  Well it's like that, but better.  And I felt such a surge of love and affection for the gibbering little monkey, to the point where I felt like in that moment I honestly loved him even more than I had when I kissed him goodbye that morning.


Spending time doing stuff just for me isn't just good for me- it's also good for my relationship with my son, because I come back to him a refreshed and refilled individual, better able to be a positive presence in his life.  This is something I already knew was necessary in terms of my romantic relationship, but had somehow forgotten beneath the pressure of overwhelming, unending need an infant can spew at you.  But!  Thanks to said romantic partner I received a much-needed reminder, and will try to make a conscious effort to refresh and refill more often, bathrooms be damned.


First Baby

My first baby, who is now an Elder Statescat:
Snoozing is for Winners
He's going to be fifteen this year.  Crazy pants.


The End of the Beginning

I've been noodling around on a baby-wearing, art-nouveau-style tattoo design for my sister-in-law for probably close to a year now, and today I finally (finally!) nailed the pose (and got approval):
Like a Boss
I'm suuuuuuper excited to get to work on this piece: there is a lot of symbolism I want to work into the background, and chances are I'm going to have to finish it, and then produce a simplified version for the actual tattoo, but oh well when the mood strikes it strikes.

Stay tuned for more...


Untrue Things Jerk Brain Has Said to Me Recently

Things Jerk Brain has said over the past week or so:

-you don't hold your child enough
-in fact you don't pay him enough attention in general
-when you go back to work, Neeps is going to forget who you are and love his daycare providers more than you
-you don't have your shit together at all
-you're so irresponsible
-you're so dumb
-you are a complete failure
-you're worthless

Things I have said back:

-shut up
-go away
-you're not welcome here
-fuck you
-you're so full of shit
-variations on the above

Just now, as I sat down at the computer, It said, "Maybe you'll stop sucking and write something for a change." 

To which I replied, "I write stuff all the time.  In fact, right now I'm going to write about how stupid and wrong you are."

And I am.

See, the thing is, Jerk Brain took it just a little too far tonight.  It tried to tell me I'm not the best mother for Neeps.  And I looked over at my son, ready to feel that familiar sweep of despair, but the fierce, fanged love roared up out of my chest and I whispered,

"Yes I am."

Because yeah, sometimes I can totally see where Jerk Brain might have a point about a lot of my personal failings.  But not this.  It's like saying, "Humans breathe water."- it's just objectively wrong.  There's no condition in which is might be not-wrong.  It's ludicrous to the point of jarring me out of Jerk Brain's grip.  Because first of all, no one could possibly love Neeps more than I do.  But it's more than that- because love is not enough, never enough, in any given relationship.  So let's talk about some of the non-love ways in which I am/will continue to be a damn fine mother for my* son.

-I am not physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive
-I am gainfully employed, with good health insurance
-I have a damn fine lifemate/child-rearing-partner
-We have planned for fiscal emergencies, so if shit hits the fan, Neeps will be okay
-I have an amazing family (blood and otherwise) to help pick up the slack as needed
-I don't do drugs
-I read to him
-I give him lots of physical affection
-I communicate super well, and I will listen to him when he talks, no matter how "trivial"
-I am setting a good example of a (mostly) healthy lifestyle
-I will foster his independence and curiosity
-I will always be willing to play pretend with him
-I will treat him like he is an individual with his own thoughts and feelings
-I will hold him to high standards, so he will learn to do the same for himself (but not, like, cripplingly so)
-I will let him fail, even if it rips my heart out to do it.  Because he needs to learn it's not the end of the world
-I will always make sure he knows he's loved, even if I'm not here

The more bullets I put on this list, the straighter I sit, and the more positive things spring into my mind.  This is good, because those things are crowding out Jerk Brain's stupid little voice.

And now?  Now I'm going to go refill my water bottle, and settle in to some fiction writing.  Because fuck Jerk Brain.

*This is very specific to only me, and only my offspring.  Other people will have different criteria for their lives, and this is in no way meant to be What I Think You Should Be Doing, so don't let your version of Jerk Brain convince you it is.


A Nick in Time

Neeps has, in his three short months outside the womb, acquired an impressive array of nicknames.  I wouldn't be too surprised, since one of the reasons we chose the given name we did was because of the various nickname options it offered (both of us being nicknamed individuals, ourselves), except that the vast majority of said nicknames aren't actually related to his name.  Here is an alphabetical sampling*:

Boy Child (kind of a gimme)
Butter Nugget
Chowder Monkey
Cutie McBabeWhiskers (a direct derivative of one of Isis's nicknames)
The Kraken
Little Hawk (special from his Ur-Opa)
Man Cub
Water Dragon (granted this one is directly tied to him wearing his post-bath dragon-towel)

*name must have been used more than once to qualify for this prestigious list


The Wise Fox

I was going back through some of my unpublished drafts, and came across one that I started almost exactly a year ago, on 02/16/15.  I thought I would go ahead and share it today, along with some commentary.


Sometimes I wonder if my lessening desire for a child is just the natural reaction of having been denied one for so long- coming up on five fruitless years now.  Or rather, five years with nothing but fruit-fallen-too-early-from-the-vine.  But then I think back to how long I wanted Nathan- and that desire never diminished, never- not even when I knew I couldn't have him.

And it comforts me, because I realize that I can trust this lessening desire.  I am not a fox walking away from a cluster of grapes.  I'm just a woman who has changed with time, as we all do.

Nathan and I had a really good talk yesterday, about that change.


The conversation that we had (one year ago today) as we drove out to the coast for a day of spontaneous freedom, was about how long he needed me to feel like I no longer wanted children, before we took permanent steps of prevention.  At the time I'd been feeling that way for about two months, and he wanted me to feel it consistently for a year.  I though that was a reasonable request, since I had definitely, in the past, gone through cycles of wanting kids less, and of wanting them more.  We came to that agreement, and I felt an incredible lightness, a sort of freeing, as I said, "Okay, so by our birthdays next year." We spent the rest of the day driving and playing and splashing and photographing and running around with Isis, and generally enjoying our life together without a child.

Of course, as we now realize, Neeps had managed to squeeze in just before the wire.  I technically shouldn't even have been able to conceive when I did- but obviously the Universe knew what was up, and rearranged my internal rhythms accordingly.  The irony was not lost on us, three weeks later, when I found myself staring at a little plus sign that was absolutely unexpected.

But not, in the end, unwelcome.



Today was my first Valentine's Day as a parent, and I started the day out right by having a good cry over my father.  I have new insight into just how sad, angry, and scared he must have been about leaving his children as such a young age- and that insight hurts.  But!  I am here now, and my son is here now, and I will live in the Now, not in the What-Ifs.
My Here and Now
On to happier subjects!

Nathan and I of course did our traditional home-made card exchange, and (as is also traditional) I'm sharing some process here on the blog:


Two colors!

Nearing completion!
Final product!
I wasn't going to bother making one for Neeps, since he's so little he doesn't care, but then I had enough wine last night to throw pragmatism to the wind, because I care, and busted something out on the quick:
(no process, just results)


Happy Days, ya'll.


Eating, Drinking, and Merrying Our Hearts Out

It's Valentine's Day Eve!  And since we're going to be traveling tomorrow, Nathan and I decided to get some of our Celebration on today.

This morning I made us gluten-free chai pancakes, topped with real butter and drizzled with honey.  (for the epi-curious amongst the readership, I just used Trader Joe's GF pancake mix and substituted cold roibos chai when it called for water like a boss.)

That was pretty good, but Nathan really outdid himself by throwing together some frigging beef wellington (and herbed potatoes) for dinner.  Amazeballs (and I almost wept for love of flaky-flaky pastry.  Thank you, gluten-pills.)  We paired it with some of our favorite wine that we've been saving for a special occasion, because we are not fancy people who pair proper wines, but awesome people who drink what we want, when we want.
2012 Muscat Frizzante from Tualitin Estate IN THE HIZZOUSE
What with juggling babies and such, I only just now finished his card- and he's still working on mine, with the intention of finishing after I've gone to bed.  So we'll be extending the festivities somewhat by exchanging those tomorrow.  Whee!


Diapers on a Rod

I have nothing pithy to say about this image:
dryin' drawers
In fact I have nothing pithy to say, in general, tonight.  I'm working on a couple of longer blog posts, but I'm just too exhausted (physically and emotionally) to finish them up right now.  Instead I'm going to go curl up with Nathan and watch some iZombie, because why the hell not.


They See Me Rolling

Neeps slept eight consecutive hours last night.  Six and a half the night before that, and six the night before that.  It's awesome.

I, however, did not sleep anywhere near that many consecutive hours.  Not for lack of trying (by going to bed hella early); no, I just keep jerking awake.  Apparently that's common once your kid starts sleeping for longer stretches.  So I guess the question isn't, "When will he be able to sleep through the night?" but rather, "When will I be able to sleep through the night?"


As previously mentioned, I cut alcohol and sweets out of my diet this month (mostly) in an attempt to reset my body, and reset my concept of "treats" (ie something we have only once in a while, rather than every damn day, I'm glaring at you, incorrigible Costco bag of chocolate chips).  It's working pretty well so far: my body is feeling a hell of a lot better, that's for sure.  But.  But.  I definitely want me some cookies, cakes, doughnuts, brownies whatever.  Every time the craving hits badly enough to make me cranky, I just make myself some honey-sweetened roibos chai.

I've been drinking a lot of chai, people.

In other unrelated news, yesterday Neeps decided that the time had come to Roll Over.  At first I thought it might have been a fluke, an accident- but he repeated his results in front of his father, and then again today, leaving no doubt that this breakthrough was, in fact, intentional. We were all duly impressed, and look forward to his further explorations/innovations in the field of Rolling.


True Blue Morpho

I actually snapped this shot last night during Boozeday:
a different kind of drying

He was gorgeous in life, and now in death he will become lovely, lovely jewelry.

I've never really considered it before, but "remnant" is somewhat of a theme for a lot of my favorite adornment: I love bone more than almost any other media.  To me there is something so comforting, so wonderful, about using what's left of what went before, rather than being grossed out by or scared of it.  I am definitely one of those people who thinks it's totally a good idea to tan the tattooed hide of a loved one after they've died.

And, of course, I believe in organ donation.


Oh Happy Day

Today was a great day.

First of all, Neeps slept for 6 hours for the second night in a row, and I'm starting to let myself think about hoping that maybe this is what he does now.  Fingers crossed.

Anyway that apparently put him in a good mood, because he was extra smiley and engaged all day today.  We went to the grocery store(s), and I wore him in the ergo for the first time.  I really loved wearing my nephew Eaglet in the ergo, but now that I've carried Neeps in the moby so often, I'm wondering if I don't prefer wrapping him, since you get such a custom fit.  This requires more experimentation...

After we got back I took him and Isis on a walk, and then left Neeps with Nathan while I rode my bike for the first time since the first trimester!  The weather was too gorgeous not to, and I felt so free, and so happy, and so light-of-heart as I pedaled my way to (drum roll, please) the climbing gym!  I met up with JT and he and I made good on our promise to one another last week, and actually put my new gym-rope to use by lead-climbing.  And let me tell you, thank goodness for muscle memory, because it's been about nine months since I last did that, too, but the body remembers once you get going.  ::does happy dance::  I also tackled an overhung 5.9, which thoroughly kicked my ass, but in the best way possible.  It's so amazing to be able to push my body again, to the point where I'm sweaty and trembling and grinning like a maniac.

And then?  Then I got to ride my bike back home!  Aaaaahhhhh!  I can't believe how much I've missed it!  I started trying to figure out how I can work a daily ride back in (and how old Neeps has to be before I can bring him along).

Once I got home I bundled said cutie up and hustled him over to Boozeday, where he managed to be both adorable and useful:
Because what is the point of that fluffly-cloth-diapered-butt if I can't balance a plate of veggie chips on it?

I hung out with my ladies for almost three solid hours, and It Was Good.  And now the boy is in bed and I'm writing (and sore) and feeling thoroughly satisfied with life.

Next up?  A shower!



Paper Hearts

It's almost time for my second-favorite holiday!  And you know what that means:
Hand-Made valentines for all ELEVEN of the niblings!

Time sort of got away from me this year, until I looked at a calendar last night and let out a squeak because holy stars Valentine's Day is this weekend!  And I hadn't even started my cards!  So today I buckled down and churned 'em out.  They're not as fancy as they've been in years past, since I was constantly being interrupted by the fellow who is cousin to those eleven niblings of mine, but I think they'll make people plenty happy as is.

Now, of course, I need to turn my attention to Nathan's valentine.  As of this moment, I'm more or less stumped.  But surely the panic will kick in soon enough, and I'll come up with something brilliant.  I generally do.


Half-Assed Apologies to My Baby

Look, ain't a one of us a perfect parent.  Even Mother Mary lost track of her firstborn. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't own up to our imperfections, and perhaps even apologize to our children for the more egregious transgressions.  With that in mind, I figure I can make things easier on my future-self by going ahead and starting my compilation now, rather than trying to remember it all once he's old enough for therapy.  So here we go.


Dear Baby,

Sorry about all those times where you just wanted a meal but ended up feeling like a puppy trying to drink from a fire hose.  (Maybe you shouldn't have pulled away so soon.)


Dear Baby,

Sorry about that time we kept putting you in newborn sized diapers long past when we should have moved you to the next size just because we'd literally just bought a case of them in our panic about running out in the middle of the night.  (It's not our fault you're growing so damn fast.) (Or maybe it is?  Because of the whole fire-hose thing?) (And anyway it hurt us more than you, as evidenced by The Day of Nothing But Blow-Outs)


Dear Baby,

Sorry about not changing you right away when you woke up because I knew you were just going to pee after I fed you, anyway.  (But I was right about that.  Just saying.)


Dear Baby,

Sorry for reading you a book about tidying rather than some sweet children's classic.  (It's just that it's due back at the library next week and my leisure-reading time seems to be in mysteriously short supply these days I'm just saying.)


Dear Baby,

Sorry for taking photos of you even when you're obviously not in the mood for it.  (Hey, someone has to document all these adorable outfits because, as already mentioned, you're growing out of them way too fast.)


Dear Baby,

Sorry about the food I dropped on you that time.  (Those times.)  (All those many, many times.) (Look it's hard to eat neatly with a squirming baby in your lap!)


Dear Baby,

Sorry about that time I had honey on my lips when I kissed your head, and your temple got all sticky. (You should have told me it was there.  That's what a good friend does.)


Dear Baby,

Sorry about that time I licked honey off your head.


Dark Marks

Some of you (most of you?) are familiar with the tattoo on my left arm..  It looks a little something like this:
Eerily similar, in fact...
Yep, that's right- I decorated a onesie with my own tattoo.  Because narcisissm.  And also because I think it's a super-sweet design, and it gets a lot of compliments, and I had a blank onesie and a sharpie and sometimes these things just happen...

Next up?  Probably something along the lines of this doodle:
Baby Mine


Potential First Phrases

Family legend has it that I didn't have a first word- I had a first phrase.  As such, I've been wondering what Neeps's first phrase might someday be.  Given that children tend to repeat what they hear the most, I've compiled some contenders from my own repertoire:

General Phrases:

-I love you!
-My BAY-bee!
-You're so cute!
-Nom nom nom!
-Soakin' wet! 

Around the House:

-Mommy will be right with you.
-Let's go see daddy!
-Do you want your pacifighter?
-No, bad kitty!
-Damn it, dog!

In the Car:

-Almost there!
-Watch it, asshole!
-Fucking commit!

 ...maybe I should get him some earplugs for the car...


Wandering Off the Path

I was tidying up some paper files today, and came across something I typed out a year or two ago.  If I recall properly, it was in response to a writing prompt, although I cannot remember precisely how it was worded, or who gave it to me (Adam, maybe?).  I still like the little vignette very much indeed, and since I haven't been able to find it published in a previous blog post, I thought I'd polish it up a bit and share it today.  (There is a bit of a tangential tie in to this post from 2010, which is set further in the future of this Universe, but which also explains one key piece of terminology.)


My eldest daughter does not take the results well.

"This is bullshit," she rages, and I wince.  So does the clerk, although surely he is more used to people screaming obscenities than I am.  I have a sudden flashback to Kaia as a toddler, smiling up at me like a miniature sun, her teeth tiny perfect pearls against her smooth dark skin.  "Busha!" she crows, and I know I am going to catch it when her mother hears this exciting new exclamation.

"Ms. Sejoh," says the clerk, eyes carefully avoiding my own.  "Perhaps you'd like to further discuss your questions... in private?"

"No, I don't want to discuss anything 'in private'," she snaps.  "You can explain to me, to both of us, in exquisite detail, just why my father's application has been rejected!"

It isn't really 'my' application, I think to myself.  I'm not the one who submitted it, after all.

The clerk sighs in a way that is meant to be understanding, but which I understand to be simply tired.  "It's the results of his medical exams.  There are concerns that his body will not be able to handle the effects of wet-hi."

"What do you mean, concerns?"  Kaia's eyes narrow in challenge.  "Is this because of his age?  He's only ninety-two!  There are plenty of older colonists-"

Old.  Old.  I do not think of myself as 'old'.  This is not to say that I'm under any sort of illusion that I am 'young'- all the rejuves my well-intentioned daughters have 'gifted' me with cannot keep me from feeling the weight of my years in my heart, in my soul- but I am not 'old'.  Cannot be old.  The trees I recall from my youth were old.  Mountains are old.  Stars are certainly old.  Humans can never be truly old.

But they can be young, as this solemn, white-frocked clerk is young.  He must be at least thirty years junior to Kaia, which is probably part of why she's so frightened.  Yes, frightened.  My daughter has always transmuted fear to rage, ever since her mother died.

"It's not about his age, Ms. Sejoh, although just to clarify," his lips purse in disapproval, "what you see on the clips is not particularly indicative of the reality of the situation.  Certainly there are a handful of celebrities who can afford the extra procedures- procedures that never get mentioned in the clips, mind you- the extra procedures required to help an older body deal with wet-hi, but they are the exception, not the rule."

"If this is about money-"

"It's not about money, either."

"Then what is it about?"

The clerk holds up perfectly manicured hands, as if to physically halt Kaia's fury.  I feel I should warn him it will only do the opposite.  "Your father has genetic markers which indicate that he is part of a small percentage of the population for whom wet-hi, for whatever reason, does not work."

"What?  Why have I never heard about this?" Her voice is suspicious, as though she believes the clerk has made up this condition just to thwart her.  I try not to smile.

"The layman's term is 'Falfurrias Condition'," he says patiently, "and, as I said, it affects only a small- a very small- percentage of the population."

"How small?"

He sighs again.  "Literally one in a million, if that many."

"Hah!"  The laugh escapes before I can stop it; they both turn to look at me, but I pretend to be coughing.  'One in a million'!  How Sehme would laugh to hear her words applied to me in this new, strange context.  Of course, she always used to follow it with the cheeky reminder that, if it didn't work out with me, she'd just go find one of the other 1.5 million she might have a shot with.

I consider this, sobering.  One and a half million people who cannot get Off: cannot escape our dying planet.  Doesn't seem like such a small number when you put it like that.  I slide my eyes over to my daughter and see her making similar calculations.  Her full lips have compressed into a brittle line.

"This is unacceptable."

"This is reality, Ms. Sejoh." The man's voice starts hard, then gentles as he adds, "I'm sorry it had to happen to you and your family."

Reality happens to everyone, I think.  What is there to be sorry about?

"I'm getting a second opinion," she snaps, shoving to her feet.  I take a little more time about it.  I've never been one to rush.

"Please do.  I hope they prove us wrong," says the clerk, and I almost think he means it.  Almost, but not quite.

We leave the office too slowly to make a truly dramatic exit, but Kaia's glares more than make up for that, I think.  As we retrace our steps to the parking pad she mutters under her breath.  At first I think she is still cursing the clerk, but then I realize she is calling my youngest daughter, Dalili.

Lili got Off ages ago, when she was still a teenager.  In those days it was only the young and adventurous who took such gambles- this was before people realized that the greater gamble was how much longer our world could survive.  She'd paid for it by going as a mentary, creating clips of her experiences so the world could watch in fascination.  As such she had been popping in and out of wet-hi every three years for the past four decades, which meant she would be a lot older than her compatriots when they finally landed, but also a lot wealthier.  She was currently awake, and scheduled to be that way for at least two more months.

I watch her clips, of course- the nets turn three months of constant recordings into two seasons of shows, not to mention tie-in material- but I have never accustomed myself to how young she stays.  Neither, although she would never admit it, has Kaia.

Lili has always reminded me of Sehme, although the two only had eighteen months together- and nine of those months Lili was cradled beneath Sehme's heart.  But she has the same bright spark that drew me to her mother, the same bright spark that draws everyone.  She loves freedom and adventure and love in general.  It seems appropriate that she should remain young, not just cosyoung but truly young, while the rest of us age.  It's not that different from my amber-trapped memories of Sehme.

Kaia is... I wonder, sometimes, if she might have been more like me in temperament, if not for her mother's early death.  But then I remember how the shape of her scowl is exactly that of my own mother's, and I think perhaps we must be who we must be, regardless of the circumstances.  Kaia is very serious, and very controlled: strong and competent, and not one to suffer nonsense.  When Kaia decides a thing will get done, it Gets Done.

She is not used to being successfully thwarted.  The term "genetic marker" might have brought most people to a screeching halt, faced with a variable that was set before I was even born- but not my eldest.

"I'm not going to just leave him!" Kaia exclaims, and my wandering mind is brought back to the present.

It is highly doubtful that Lili suggested- or even implied- that Kaia 'just leave me'.  This makes no difference to what Kaia has heard, however, and she begins to rail against her 'irresponsible, feckless child' of a sister.  Poor Lili.  It is hard to bear the weight of others' regrets.

We cannot exit the building until we have suited up, and of course we cannot suit up so long as Kaia is still so enthusiastically ranting.  I sidle over to one of the windows and stare up and out at the sky.  The skins on the window make it a dull orange-brown, of course- but even if the skins weren't there, it wouldn't be the clean blue I remember from childhood.  Kaia and Lili never knew skies like that.  The thought makes me wistful.  But then I remember that the new worlds have blue skies, and I am happy.

Eventually Kaia comes and finds me, scolds me for not already suiting up, and bustles me out to where our pod is waiting.  I think we are going home, but as the moments pass I realize Kaia has keyed in entirely unfamiliar coordinates.

The pod moves in and out of the flow as efficiently as if Kaia herself had been guiding its movements.  She is on the nect again, but since she is suited up I cannot decipher who she is speaking to.  I turn my attention instead to the gracefully curving lines of our pod: it's top of the line, the interior smelling of warm leather, orange-oiled wood, and the vanilla of Kaia's perfume.  I'm glad we bought it- it's much more comfortable than our previous pod- but there are days when I sorely miss the wild, manual-driving days of my youth, nothing but two tons of metal and sheer nerve between you and destruction.

I am drawn abruptly from my memories when we arrive at a hospital- not my hospital, that I am so familiar with, but a hospital.  I assume Kaia has decided there's no time like the present for second opinions.

"Wait here, father," she says, climbing out the door onto the cold blue-gray of the pad.  Her plum skirt hikes up, but she jerks it viciously back into place.  "I'm going to see what I can arrange."  Kaia always does her best 'arranging' face-to-face.  Her presence can be... intense.

I do wait.  In my defense, I do wait an entire three minutes.  And then I key in some coordinates of my own.

When I was a boy and wanted to escape, I would go to a green place and hide, free from my father's walls, my mother's expectations, free to breathe in air that had been to places I would never see.

These days, of course, I do not have such a luxury.  No one does.  But the city's biodens are close enough for my purposes.  I program the pod to fly home, knowing it will give me a little longer on my own, and I enter the dome.

Being rich was never a goal for either Sehme or myself- it was one of those things that just sort of happened while we were busy working hard.  Most of the time I don't think about it, but times like this, times when I can enjoy the privileges of a biome Pillar Level membership, I am grateful.  Kaia calls it 'an unnecessary expense', but I, as is my right as patriarch, insist it is quite necessary.

Anyway it's my money.

I make my way, slowly, from one bioden to the next.  I could hop on a slidewalk, of course, but I find more satisfaction using my own legs, at my own pace.  I am so rarely allowed to do things for myself these days.  And what's the point of all these rejuves if I'm not going to keep using the limbs they claim to be preserving?

The biodens remind me of the women I have loved.  Do love.  Sehme, of course, because she loved all growing things.  Kaia, because she, too, will always find a way to adapt and survive, as so many of these little plants have.  And Lili, because, like my youngest daughter, this small part of the world remains young and fresh while the rest of us age... and die.

The world is dying.  It is sick, so sick- just as Sehme was.  Sick, and dying- but beautiful nonetheless.

I pass through woodland and scrub, taiga and tundra.  I come at last to desert, and it is here that I wander off the path and into the shimmering dunes.

There are certain privileges to being old and very wealthy.  If they catch me, they will shoo me out in the kindest way possible.  But they rarely catch me, because who in their right mind goes wandering around a desert biome?

I do.  And I do it for a specific purpose.

Once the pathways are out of sight, I settle down into the trough of a dune and run my fingers through the hot, silken sand, digging down to the cooler layers beneath.  The desert has many secrets, and it just so happens that we share this one.

"Hello, Sehme," I say.  She is in these sands, her ashes mixed to the point of disappearing, but she is here nonetheless.  The curator would be horrified if he knew what I'd done- as would Kaia- but I like to think that Lili would understand.  Sehme needed to be part of the world, not bottled up and kept on a shelf.

I must have dozed, because the next thing I know, one of the young caretakers is gently shaking my shoulder, and the light has taken on a certain slant that tells you it's later in the day.

"Mr. Sejoh," he says shyly, "Your daughter is here, and I think you do not want to be officially discovered off the paths."


Thoughts in Passing

I had my first moment of, "Oh gods it's going by too fast!" today.

I was browsing the internet for photo references on one of my current projects, and I came across an image that made my heart squeeze- it was a picture of a woman with a sleeping newborn on her chest.  And I was suddenly overcome by the memory of Neeps's newborn weight on me, the perfect floppy surrender of his slumbering limbs- and I missed it.  He's all of three months old, and already I miss a stage in his life: nowadays whenever I try to get him to sleep on my chest, he's all sturdy thrashing about, taking up almost the entirety of my torso while he's at it.  He's solid, now, in a way he just wasn't, in the beginning. He is an infant, not a newborn.

Stars preserve me.
In totally unrelated news, Nathan has rolled his eyes several times when I announced that Neeps had violet eyes- but today I made him come in and actually look, and he was forced to agree with me that yes, our son appeared to have straight-up purple eyes in that moment (as opposed to this morning, when they appeared blue-green).  Which made me think about what a funny little bit it would be in a book, to have a boy have purple eyes when that's the sort of thing that magical girls are expected to have.

(And Liz Taylor, obviously.)

And then I said he has wizard eyes, because we gave him a wizard name.  This may or may not have caused additional eye-rolling.


Morning Enlightenment

February is the month I've designated, "Get Your Crap Back In Order Month".  Which means 28 days of no sugar, no alcohol, yes going to bed/getting up on time, yes morning yoga, and yes daily walks*.

Here we are on day two, and I'm already doing Super Great! (celebrate the little milestones, people)  Neeps is more or less already in the habit of watching me do yoga, staring intently as I move through some very strange positions and chatter away to him about what I'm doing and why.

This morning I said,

"You don't need to do this yet, but someday you probably will.  I hope you start at a younger age than I did, so that you stay supple and never have to feel the body that aches I do.  I want only the best for you," I continued, and then was struck by a realization so profound that it took my breath away- but not before I verbalized it; "I wish I could protect you from everything, but I can't.  The only thing I can do is give you the tools to protect yourself."
I think I just made my mother proud.

*(Yes, I'm aware this month has 29 days in it- Valentine's Day shall henceforth be known as My Big Fat I Do What I Want Day.)


A Tale of Two Opas

Growing up, I didn't have two grandmothers and two grandfathers:  I had Grandma (aka "Fwamma" once my brother came along) and Papa; and Oma and Opa (German for grandmother and grandfather).  Oma and Opa are my mother's parents, and I had always gone around assuming that, when the time came, she and my father would become Oma and Opa to my own children.

But my father died.

For the first two months of my son's life, he did a lot of what I called "staring at ghosts".  It's something all newborns do- a steady (or wandering) gaze into the middle distance, at apparently nothing.  Cats do a similar thing, following "nothing" intently about the room (and occasionally freaking out and running away from it), and as I'd always claimed they were watching ghosts, it only made sense that my son must be doing the same.  Any time he seemed particularly fixated on a "ghost", I told myself it was my father, come to entertain his grandson while I did yet another load of laundry.  Thus did I start talking to Neeps about "Ghost Opa".  He doesn't seem to come around as much now- probably figures I have a better grip on this whole "parenting" thing after almost three full months of it.  Or maybe Neeps's ability to see ghosts fades as his ability to see his physical surroundings intensifies.


My mom and my stepdad made a whirlwind visit last week, and as they were on their way I texted her: "Does Stepdad prefer 'Papa Stepdad' or 'Opa Stepdad?'  Because we've been calling him 'Papa Stepdad' but there's still time to change that!"

"He's Opa for [your brother's kids].  I made a command decision at Christmas."

I'll admit- for a split-second, I felt... a little disappointed.  A little sad.  A little... betrayed.  Not by my mom (or stepdad) but just... by life?  I guess?  But I swallowed it all down and replied, "Okay!"  After all, I rationalized, my dad is "Ghost Opa"- no reason stepdad can't be "Opa Stepdad".

But then they got here, and I realized- fuck my selfish emo-girl feelings.  Stepdad is the one and only Opa Neeps will ever get to meet, and he is a good and loving man who doesn't deserve to be made out as some sort of consolation prize just because deep down I'm still a selfish brat.  That's why, when I handed Neeps over, I didn't say, "It's Opa Stepdad!" I said, "It's Opa!" full stop.  Because it's not about the dreams I had as a child.  It's about my child's reality.

I want my son to know his blood-grandfather; I want him to have that connection.  But not at the cost of any of the living connections he has.  And all I can do is hope that I can be a big enough person to find the balance between the two.