Tuesday, June 27, 2006

For Trista

Recently, Trista blogged about her fantasy of an extended group of friends, living together in their own homes on shared land, working together to create an engaged, supportive, fun, and healthy community. She was at the time unaware of the cohousing movement, and doubly unaware that Cait, Natalie, and I live in a cohousing community.

We spent most of yesterday in the common house (the shared portion of our building, which contains a community kitchen, living room, dining room, playroom, laundry facilities, and other spaces jointly owned and used). Our experiences over the course of the day paint a pretty good picture of cohousing life (good and otherwise), so I thought I'd share a few moments.

  • Our extended stay in the common house was due to the fact that it was our turn to cook for the Monday night dinner. This meal series is optional, but if you choose to participate, you prepare dinner one Monday and then get to eat the rest of the Mondays when others cook. Each rotation lasts about two months. It's great - dinner already ready when you show up seven out of eight weeks - and offers much more variety and healthful food than we would probably prepare on our own.
  • I'd chosen a menu that involved a ridiculous amount of chopping (especially when one cook has a sub-par arm) so we ended up being there MUCH longer than I expected. In the time that we were there, countless neighbors and friends wandered through to pick up mail, do laundry, check the community calendar, watch the World Cup on the satellite TV in the living room, or just see who was around to say hi. This allowed us to take chopping breaks as needed and also to give Natalie a break from lying on the floor watching us chop, as many of our friends were eager to spend some time Naterpillar-cuddling.
  • One of our neighbors, who envisions herself as the keeper-of-all-rules, scolded us for having Natalie in the kitchen. "Children aren't allowed in the kitchen!" What were we supposed to do with a two-month old? Put her in the playroom to entertain herself?!
  • When the mail carrier arrived with the day's mail, she stopped in the kitchen to wash her hands and admire Natalie. She then asked, "Are you the one who had the baby at home?" Yes, even the mail carrier knew. Gossip travels fast and far on the cohousing grapevine.
  • Since it's summer, and the Monday night meal group is a little smaller than usual, we're experimenting with smaller cook teams, which means that everybody pitches in to help clean up (usually this is the responsibility of the cook team). After dinner, people began clearing tables, running the crazy institutional dishwasher, sweeping, and wiping tables. The kids enthusiastically joined in--especially the two- to four-year-old set. They wiped and rewiped tables that had already been cleaned just so they could have some way to contribute. Several of them had to be dragged away from the fun when it was time for bed.

We're delighted to be raising Natalie here. There are moments that make us want to tear our hair out, but it's worth it. In many ways, we have that proverbial village that it takes to raise a child, and for that we are grateful.

We close with a cohousing cooking tip from Cait. When trying to close and lock the front door while balancing a hot pan of brownies, consider setting the brownies down briefly. Especially if the brownie pan is made of glass, which may be strong enough not to break when it slips out of your hands, but is definitely heavy enough to bump the shoerack by the door and knock, say, a sneaker heel-first into the pan. Just hypothetically. And you should probably not serve said sneaker brownies at the community dinner. Instead, give them as a gift to the neighbor who harrassed you for having the baby in the kitchen.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Special speedy edition for Bri

Interview questions in a hurry...

1. What book do you remember most vividly from your childhood and why?
2. Living in a gorgeous, minimalist, stylish abode as you do, where do you keep things like deodorant and lotion and nail clippers? Or for that matter, the TV? I know you guys watch TV. Where the heck is the TV? (Pictures welcome.)
3. Do you hand quilt or machine quilt? Is it difficult to do handwork with fibro?
4. What trait of Wes's drives you batty? What do you do that makes him crazy?
5. You are granted 3 wishes. What do you choose? (Standard wish rules apply - no wishing for more wishes, etc.)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Finally (#1)

Late to the party, but making an appearance nonetheless... it's my turn for the 5 questions/interview meme. Below are my 5 questions from Liza (along with my answers). If you want to play, I'll give you your own questions.

Leave me a comment saying “interview me.” The first five commenters will be the participants.
I will respond by asking you five questions.
You will update your blog/site with the answers to the questions.
You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

1) What drew you to librarianship? Do you still feel that way?
In my previous life as a meeting planner, I was at a truly boring and awful staff meeting when I had an epiphany (honestly, it was a flash of blinding intuition). I realized I wanted to be a school librarian and inspire kids to love books and reading. Sharing wonderful books with students is defintely one of my favorite parts of the job, though I don't have as much time to keep up with new books as I should -- and I'll have even less when I am a working mom. Bri does an amazing job of staying on top of children's lit. I aspire to be as knowledgeable as she is. Being a school librarian is also a great way to indulge my technogeek side.

2) What has been the most unexpected thing about motherhood for you?
The emotional rollercoaster, although it feels dumb to admit it. I guess in *theory* I knew what a mindfuck motherhood could be but there's nothing like living it. I'm constantly traversing a vast emotional terrain from sheer joy to crushing self-doubt. A lot of self-doubt, actually. Parenting in today's society, especially with the glut of information available to us, provides an endless opportunity to question our actions and decisions, and I do, all the time. I can agonize over ANYTHING, and quite frankly often feel that any decision might be the "wrong" choice, making me a terrible mother. And breastfeeding is a particularly crazy-making subset of this phenomenon, even though I have a huge baby who's clearly thriving: Do I have too much milk? Not enough? Am I eating something that's making her upset? Will I be able to keep nursing after I go back to work? Did she nurse long enough today? Too long? Thankfully, these moments are mixed in with instances of utter happiness, particularly when I get a glorious gummy grin or a sleepy head nestled into my shoulder, but the gamut of feelings is intense!

3) Natalie is 25. What do you hope her life is like?
I hope that she is happy and believes in herself and that she has a life that she finds rewarding. I want her to be a compassionate and generous person who cares about the world she lives in and how she affects it. I also hope that she has a close and comfortable relationship with me, but I worry that I don't know how to help that happen. My mom and I care deeply about each other but oh, do we fight. So I don't have a good role model for the kind of mother-daughter relationship I'd like (Moxie describes the end result but not the path it took to get there). It's something I need to do more learning and thinking about, but for the moment I just concentrate on loving her.

4) What are you most proud of Cait for doing? (I told you guys that Trista asked the best questions.)
Cait has worked long and hard to overcome an eating disorder and major self-esteem challenges from her childhood, only to be hit hard with Lyme Disease. It's cruelly ironic that now that she is taking better care of her body it is failing her in a way it never did when she abused it. Despite this, she perseveres and lives a really full, wonderful life where others might have given up and retreated to the couch. And even when exhausted from working while parenting a newborn, she's an inspiration to me as a mom to Natalie - I learn every day from her how to be a better mother.

5) What are you most proud of yourself for doing?
It may be a cliche, but every time I try to think of an answer to this question, I keep coming back to the fact that I gave birth naturally, at home. This DOES NOT mean that I think other ways of bringing a baby into your family -- c-sections or pain medication or adoption or hospital births -- are anything to be less proud of*; they're just not what I did. Choosing a home birth was not easy for me. I spent a couple of months of my therapy sessions working through my fears and apprehensions. And even after I had reassured myself that home birth did not present any greater risks for us than hospital birth, and that our backup plans were the best possible, I worried that I didn't have the emotional or physical stamina to make it through the birth. In the end, my labor was hard and there were many points during it that I wanted to give up but I kept going because I knew what we'd chosen was important to us.

I've started, and abandoned, many other physical and mental challenges in my life (most notably martial arts, where I stopped training about three-quarters of the way to a black belt), so making it all the way through something so incredibly difficult on all planes -- physical, mental, emotional -- is all the more important because it helps me overcome the label "quitter" that I have carried around for so many years.

I hope that as the months and years go by, my pride in being a good mother to Natalie far outstrips the pride I have in her birth, because in the end it is far more important to me that I raise her well and that she knows she is loved and treasured.

*Hell, I think anyone who gets a baby any way should be proud - I think of everything all of my blogfriends have gone through to become parents and EVERYONE has a tough journey one way or another and we should all be proud of ourselves. And those who are still struggling to create a family should be proud of themselves for hanging in there. Every path is different, but each one is challenging and we should all acknowledge our unique achievements.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Put Another Dime in the Jukebox, Baby

Liza, if you wanted me to finish the interview, you really should not have linked to an awesome 80's music quiz! Oh, what fun (and torture) I have had for the last 10 minutes!!

Knock Me Over (oh, wait, I already did that)

Turns out the arm is actually broken. This information is not particularly useful, since it's the kind of break you can't do anything about, but the doc wants me to get a CT scan to make sure it's healing properly. In the meantime, just keep doing what I was doing - resting it. Ha! With a 13 1/2 pound baby. Oh well. Anyway, it really is doing much better.

Monday, June 12, 2006


  • My arm is MUCH better and probably not broken even slightly. Even though it seems likely that I will be told that nothing serious is wrong, I am heeding your advice and seeing a doctor tomorrow. This is because...
  • It's ridiculously difficult to take care of a baby using only one arm. Even using about 1 3/4 arms it's tough. Luckily it happened early in the weekend so Cait had 100% baby duty (ok, 95% - after she attached Natalie to the Source of All Yummy Milk, I fed her) until today, and after two and ahalf days of recovery, I have enough use of my arm that we can do it. Barely. So we're spending a lot of time playing on the floor and it's delightful since...
  • Natalie is truly fine - none the worse for the wear scare - sweet and smiley and a lot of fun. She's learning and growing. It's fun to watch her discover that she has these things attached to her body and she can hit stuff (frequently her own head!) and grab toys and hair with them. Which is good, because...
  • I may soon need to enlist her help in clobbering people at the SSA and/or the HR department in my school system. I did *not* get her a Social Security card or any other documentation on trip two to the SSA last week. They insist that they cannot give me anything until her application is processed, and that it is wrong of my employer to demand the SSN (there, I have to say, I agree with them). My employer insists that I should be able to get a letter from SSA. I just want to scream. UPDATE to the update: HR finally agreed to give us an extension of 30 days. Hallelujah!
  • Speaking of counting days and shouts of praise, Cait only has 4 more days of school left. Natalie will have two full time moms for the summer in just 4 days!
  • Finally, a few gratuitous Nat pics (in the tradition of Liza* & Trista). We didn't let our calamity get in the way of the Pride Celebration:

Ready to step out Proudly Asleep

Proud Girl

*Oh, and a special update for Liza - I *am* working on my answers to the five questions! Really! I just got derailed by bureacracy and klutziness. But soon, soon!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Adventures in Babywearing: What NOT to Do

(as dictated to Cait)

At almost two months postpartum, I am finally really feeling like myself again, with energy levels I haven't had in almost a year. So this past week, Natalie and I have embarked on a series of journeys, exploring our full range of baby carriers (and we have many). I had visions of blogging about it, too, comparing and contrasting different slings and carriers and even the stroller. And then we had today's adventure.

(I think it all happened because we dressed her in this outfit.

Is that not literally asking for "trouble"?)

Cait had the day off and we decided to go for a picnic and a hike at Great Falls, where we once had our first almost-date. We packed bread, cheese, and chocolate, and had a lovely picnic -- Natalie's first on real grass, though the night before we had a pseudo-picnic on Astroturf. We made sure to explain the distinction. But I digress. At any rate, after the picnic, we decided to walk down to the falls overlook. Mind you, this was not our real hike, just a photo op down a short, wide well-maintained path. I was carrying Natalie in the Ergo*. When we were about 150 yards into the woods, I began to tell her how much her moms love the woods. The words were not fully off my lips when I felt myself stumble. In what was the longest second of my life, I fell forward, knowing I was falling with Natalie on my chest, and there was nothing I could do about it.

I hit the ground hard, and I knew it hurt, but I couldn't think of anything else except Natalie. Cait rushed to help us, and everything gets a little blurry at that point. Cait was trying to talk, but I just kept saying "Is she OK? Is she OK?" as Cait worked to free a screaming Natalie from the Ergo. While comforting her, Cait looked her over and spent a long time examining her head, which terrified me even further. Once it was obvious that she had no cuts or broken bones, I found a rock and sat down to nurse her and help calm her down. Cait finished looking her over while she nursed, concluded that she had a small bump on her head, but since she wasn't even flinching as Cait touched it, that she was probably OK.

I was another story, crying hysterically at what had happened, what I had done to our baby, and what could have happened. I was also scraped and battered all up and down the right side of my body, though I wasn't paying a hell of a lot of attention to this. Trying to save what we could of our day, we continued a few hundred yards to the falls overlook, but all I did was look at the falls and cry, so we decided to leave.

As we drove out of the park, we debated whether we should call the pediatrician or go directly to the emergency care clinic. I began to realize that my elbow really hurt, and while there was a Puritanical, masochistic voice in my head saying I deserved it, the practical part of me realized that if I had done something to my arm, it was going to make life with an infant really difficult, and I should get it treated sooner rather than later. So we went to the clinic, where our favorite doctor/friend prounounced Natalie (who wiggled and grinned and cooed on the examining table) fit as a fiddle, but sent me for an X-ray. The X-ray revealed nothing, but the radiologist and the tech think there must be something wrong with my arm from the way it looks, my limited mobility, and the amount of pain I'm in. We may yet end up in the Emergency Room or I may hold out until Monday and see an orthopedist.

It could've been so much worse. We are so grateful that Natalie emerged with just a small bump, and I am trying really hard not to beat myself into smithereens over this. It's been almost 9 hours since it happened, and I still feel terror in every cell of my body.

Great Falls, my ass. Hideous Falls is more like it.

*The Ergo, by the way, is a lovely carrier, and not to be blamed in any way for what happened.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


In a STELLAR example of "mommy brain", I went to the SSA to get Natalie a Social Security card...

...without her birth certificate.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Funniest Thing About My Kid

...when she's TRULY outraged, she farts in indignation.

A la Dave Barry, I think "Farts of Outrage" would be a GREAT name for a rock band.

Daily Totals

11 The number of hours I worked today, making today the longest I've ever been away from Natalie. Part-time is over until the end of the school year. Sigh.

8 The number of days left in the school year.

5,000 (give or take) The number of kisses I gave Natalie upon reunification. Poor kid.

1 The number of times she rolled over (!) while I was gone. Yep. Jen put her down on her stomach and she immediately flipped over to her back. We're sure she has no clue what she did or how, and aren't anticipating a repeat anytime soon, but yikes.

2 The number of times I've hopefully put her on her tummy this evening.

0 The number of times she's actually done the trick since.

3 The number of ounces Jen thought Natalie had gained in the last week.

9 The number of ounces she actually DID gain.

45 The number of minutes of spitting up that followed Jen's panicked encouragement to eat more.

1 Number of massive poopsplosions. (she saved THAT for after I got home)

2 Number of moms required to deal with said poopsplosion.

5 Number of large cloth wipes used in process.

2 Number of baths the kid has had today.

1 Number of birth certificates (with correct name) picked up today!

At least 3 Number of hours Jen expects to spend at SSA tomorrow trying to get her a Social Security card. Wish her luck!

Saturday, June 03, 2006


At six weeks (seven now, since it took us so long to get this post up), Natalie is taking up some new patterns.

1) She started sleeping through the night. We try not to talk about it too much for fear of evoking the wrath of the gods or other sleep deprived parents. We don't know how long it will last, but we're enjoying the 5-8 hour stretch while it's here. (Other new parents, please don't kill us.)

2) She has stopped pooping. Originally, she was a multiple times a day kind of girl. Then every other day. Now it's unpredictable. Last week she went 7 days. We live in terror of the poopsplosions to come.

3) If you want to see any of her other patterns, take a look at her Trixie Tracker site. Yes, I know we're geeks, but it's fun. My dad says it gives new meaning to the "permanent record" the nuns were always threatening him with.

Natalie has also had a number of visitors in the last weeks. Most importantly, William, the baby of my very good friends from college. He was due the day after Natalie, but decided he wanted out 5 weeks early. He's got pretty cool parents, so I can see why. Natalie and Will had a good time getting to know each other, though they primarily took turns doing the awake shift. We're looking forward to getting them together over the summer, and many many more times in the future.

Natalie is named for Jen's great grandmother. After Jay, Erica, and Will left, Jen's mom pointed out that the elder Natalie was married to... William. Fascinating. Hopefully this means they'll at least be good friends.

My dad also finally got to meet Natalie. She quickly won both his heart and the heart of my stepmom. We also learned that my tendency to lie on the floor with the baby while ignoring all else is, in fact, genetic.

Basically, Natalie's future's so bright....

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Screams of Outrage/Whoops of Joy


In honor of Blogging for LGBT Families Day, Natalie wants you to know that babies with two moms scream and fuss and want their moms to pay attention to them instead of the computer just like babies with straight parents. We'll post more later....

Nat's not the only one screaming in outrage these days. We continue to be frustrated in our quest to be a legally recognized family, but we are moving forward. Since we last wrote, my employer has grudgingly put our daughter on my insurance but insists that they must have a birth certificate and SSN within 60 days of her birth (or, if that proves impossible, as it will, I must furnish proof that the birth cert and SSN are in process. Acquiring such will be a Herculean task in and of itself). Regarding the birth certificate, our lawyer advised us that, of course, we were in the right, and told us how to proceed. We have yet to hear from Vital Records, but since they were so quick to tell us when there was a problem, no news may actually be good news, and we may someday get a birth certificate showing Natalie's correct last name, our family name. Of course, it won't show Cait's name at all until we are able to complete the second parent adoption, which can't be done until October, because DC requires a six month waiting period. As mentioned before, they also require a home study, and Cait has now completed and sent in the first mountain of paperwork. Two more social worker visits and (hopefully smaller) mountains of paperwork left to go. Oh, and of course, more large checks to both the social worker and the lawyer. So hopefully by sometime in October, we'll have some of the legal symbols and protections that a straight family in this country would have had from the get go.

While all that is really important-- and the lack of the legal protections for Cait's parental status at present is terrifying --we actually don't spend that much time thinking about it. Because, after all, we have our wonderful, beautiful, funny, determined, squirmy Naterpillar to keep us busy. And it's true what they say, love makes a family.

Capitolly Queer Family

Natalie refuses even to look at the Capitol until all families have equal rights.

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