August 23, 2017

What’s scary for the next generation?

The post where I talk about my parenting fears, tell me about yours! My reply to Harmony’s question (What scares you the most about being a parent?) turned into a post. Of course it did! There’s so much about parenting, the inherent responsibilities, and to some degree helplessness, that I worry about.

As the good kid who took few risks, I worry about holding my JuggerBaby back by thought or attitude, but also I worry so much about zir safety in this world. It’s gotten meaner and colder in many ways since I was a kid, though I know for a fact that there are a lot of wonderful, amazing, supportive people out there too.

The best thing I feel like I can do in a situation where I have no control is to make sure ze knows that ze can talk to me about anything no matter what, and that there’s always another sensible adult who has tried silly, stupid, risky, or scary things and grown up to gain some wisdom from it to ask if ze doesn’t want to ask me.

I hope that ze will take acceptable risks and live the best of zir life, and have enough pain to build character but so much pain that it leaves indelible scars.

I hope that ze learns that there are people in the world who are terrible, awful, horrible humans and it’s ok to call evil by its name – like the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville. That there are people who will manipulate you six ways to Sunday for their own personal gain or amusement – like my sibling. That there are people so entirely selfish, and such utter blowhards, that the harm they do to you is just collateral damage in their eyes – like my mom’s siblings. But I hope there’s a way for zir to learn these things without having to be exposed to them daily like I was.

I’m scared that of all the things we try to teach JuggerBaby, the lessons won’t be heard and ze will turn out to be someone we don’t recognize or even like, like my sibling did.

I worry that I won’t be here for JuggerBaby the way ze needs, for all of zir life. I worry that if I do end up crippled in ten more years, ze won’t be able to see the example I’ve always tried to set for zir – work hard, work smart, advocate for yourself, advocate for those who can’t speak up for themselves without being harmed for doing so, leave the place at least a little better for your having been there. I believe in showing, not just telling, when it comes to real life values.

Financially, I don’t want zir to experience the same pains that I did but I have no interest in shielding zir from even most of life’s bumps – it would be far worse in my eyes to cushion zir every fall and end up with an adult who still needs zir mama to do all the accounting to make sure ze has money at the end of the month. Ze has got to make bad choices and mistakes early enough so that ze has time to learn from them and recover, my competence with money can’t be the reason ze doesn’t understand why ze should not carry a credit card balance in zir college years.

We can’t be the parents who sheltered JuggerBaby so much that ze has no idea how much grit ze has.

I have to take comfort in the fact that I got this far in life being me, which wasn’t always a good thing, and yet somehow nurtured enough loving friendships to feel supported and to know JuggerBaby is well loved even if most of my family is too toxic to allow in our lives. I’ve had to come a long way to be a good enough person that I’ve not been embarrassed to look in the mirror, and I know that JB has to take zir own journey to become a compassionate, caring, canny, strong and generous person. At least I hope that’s the goal.

And in today’s world, I hope that the worry about nuclear war doesn’t come to pass, and that humanity will stop trying to completely destroy itself whether by allowing the rise of facism and Nazis in America, or because we’ve bombed ourselves out of existence. Our kid’s generation should be better than we were, not worse.

It might also be a good idea for me to stop watching cop shows. Law & Order alone has given me more nightmares than I care to think about.

:: What do you worry about for the next generation? What did your parents worry about for you?

January 11, 2017

JuggerBaby’s clean bill of health

The cast is off! JuggerBaby seems to have healed up quite well, and aside from some minor anxiety about going to the doctor at all, isn’t the worse for wear after zir ordeal.

The day of judgment came a lot faster than we expected but I’m sure that was because each day after Day 1 of Cast Days was full of accommodations and learning how to do new and/or odd things.

Things we learned

Getting dressed was a weird amalgamation of summer clothes topped with a pom pom hat and puffer vest. Odd-looking, but it did the job. They just need to be safe and warm (or cool) as the weather might call for.

We were told that a sponge bath was perfectly fine for a toddler but they’ve never met a child as willing and able to become perfectly filthy in the course of a normal day as JuggerBaby. Besides, we’re softies – bathtime is zir favorite time, it didn’t seem like too much to ask to wrap it tightly in a towel, then wrap it with a plastic bag, then tie it off with a tight but not too tight rubber band so that ze could enjoy 15 minutes of Splash Zone every night.

We learned how to hold zir still for x-rays: gentle coaxing to imitate our hand placement, stickers to look at while positioning hands, reminding zir that it’s just a special kind of picture. It helps that ze and PiC have a habit of taking pictures together everywhere they go.

The post-cast limb smells TERRIBLE. It was awful, I nearly went overboard swabbing zir arm with alcohol swabs to remove the stench. The cast technician reminded me that the skin was still delicate before I gave zir another problem to heal from. Whew. Also the cast removal was full of bawling and screaming but it was physically painless for zir, and relatively fast.

Kaiser Pediatric is awesome about getting kids in and out of their appointments quickly and smoothly, they have an abundance of bribery stickers, and what could have been a much more painful experience was made as easy as possible. I’ve never been so happy to have an HMO.

Random people are full of sympathy for a kid with a cast on. They stop and tell you funny stories about the foul things they did when they had a cast, and commiserate with the child who fails to milk the sympathy situation.

:: Have you ever broken a limb or had a cast? What’s the worst injury you’ve had to deal with (either yourself or someone you cared for)? 

December 14, 2016

Update on JuggerBaby and our health

JuggerBaby has been transformed partly into the Unstoppable JuggerBaby with the addition of a cast. It’s a club that’s bashed about with great vigor, never mind who gets in the way. It’s made zir approximately 15% more reckless. It’d be worse but ze hasn’t discovered the extent to which ze can take advantage yet. Cross your fingers that ze doesn’t catch on before it comes off.

We just hope that amid all zir fun, ze is also healing up well.

The really annoying thing is that ze has been congested for about two months now, and so have I, and I don’t know what it’ll take to kick this dratted thing. Ze is taking Zarbee’s for the resulting cough because there’s nothing you can really safely give a kid zir age, but it’s not that effective. We still have reports from daycare that ze is coughing a lot during zir naps, and every night, it wrenches my heart to hear the hacking cough issuing from zir crib.

Since the cold set in, I’ve been doing remarkably well. I was pretty sure I’d adjusted to San Francisco type weather. Then I wasn’t. This Sunday’s temps were exactly the same as they had been for the last two weeks but this chill went straight to my bones, then from there zapped my muscles so that nothing from neck to toe didn’t ache. Literally down to my very toes and the tiny bones in there – ache ache ache ACHE.

It was a point of pride that I’d only had to bundle up to endure the ever-so-frigid days and nights that drop as low as (horror! gasp!) the 40s and 50s. I know, I know. But look, I’m from the tropics, genetically, this is unnatural for my people. I’d adjusted mostly but my fibro gets eccentric at times. All this wind-up means we had to run the heater for more than ten minutes. We had taken to running it for a little while to take the chill off since JuggerBaby can’t wear sleeves, and then leaving it off for the night, and it makes me grumpy to know that we had to run it longer just so that I could feel mostly human again. I know it’s not a big deal really in the grand scheme of things but there’s that knee-jerk frugal reaction of no! don’t waste money like that!

Meanwhile, PiC’s got a thing going on with his back, and his vision (unrelated). I’m hoping that it’s nothing serious, although I think it’s safer to say I hope it’s something that will resolve itself and go far far away soon, because we have trouble enough on our hands. Also he’s not used to being in pain for prolonged periods of time and it makes him grumpy.

Under the mental health column, I hit a glacier of Zen this month. Lots of things could irritate me but with the exception of one Friday, it hasn’t bothered me enough to even shout at the computer. That’s new. Also it’s appreciated by Seamus who is not at all convinced by my “it’s not you” reassurances. He’s a smart dog but I don’t think he quite grasps how the box I stare at all day could be getting itself in trouble.

I don’t know if the weird calm comes from having maxed out my stress receptors after November, or maybe I have gone numb from the three month long series of working more than twice my usual hours, but it’s kind of nice. Bizarre, but nice.

:: How long can you go before you have to run the heater when winter sets in? How’s everyone doing at home?

 

October 31, 2016

Picking our 529 plan for JuggerBaby

529This was one of my annual goals for 2016.

We’ve been setting aside money for JuggerBaby’s care and education since 2014 but I hadn’t committed to a specific savings vehicle outside of our savings account. I wasn’t ready to think about it in the first half of the year because the first half of the year totally sucked but I finally started getting stuff done in the fall, including picking and funding a 529 plan. (That felt GREAT.)

I finally sat down to do some more research after my first halfhearted attempt last fall.

California’s 529 plan, the ScholarShare College Savings Plan, was the logical first place to start.

They allow earnings grow income-tax deferred, and the money is also free from federal income tax when it’s used to pay for qualified higher education expenses, but all the plans do. What they don’t offer are  any tax incentives to keep the money in the state, and they hold their funds in TIAA-CREF which I don’t much like, so I went looking elsewhere.

Since any other state’s tax incentives do me no good as a California resident, I just targeted companies that I like: Fidelity and Vanguard.

Nevada’s Trust is administered by the Board of Trustees of the College Savings Plans of Nevada, and the plans themselves are held in the Vanguard 529 College Savings Plan with 3 age-based plans and 19 other choices. I don’t much care about the 19 other choices at this point, the money just needs to go into an aggressive investing mix right now, so the age based plans are what I care about.

Vanguard works with UGift which means that anyone who wants to contribute can just enter the code that I give them and quickly set up a bank transfer without any confidential information changing hands. I don’t want your bank information and you’re not getting JuggerBaby’s SSN, period. That’s non-negotiable.

Sidebar: some thought was given to whether it made sense to hold a plan in our names or in the gifter’s name, based on the concern that when assets are considered for college funding, assets in our or JuggerBaby’s names are counted as primary assets.

Our assets at this point in time wouldn’t disqualify JuggerBaby entirely from receiving grants, but in 17 years? If I’m doing my job, and I will, then our total assets would be sufficient that JB wouldn’t qualify for any need-based aid. If either one of us is gone, we’d have life insurance to supply some of the contributions. And frankly, one of the selling points for people planning to open 529 plans in their names instead of the beneficiaries is that they can change the beneficiary at any time. I’m not banking on JB’s future with assets in someone else’s name. I’m not saying a gifter would take back the money, but as long as that money isn’t in zir or our names, then it’s not really ours, is it?

That brings us back to the technicality that if you want to open a 529 plan in someone’s name, you need their SSN. And with the amount of identity theft and fraud out there, I’m not taking that risk in any way shape or form. JB’s SSN stays with us and whatever financial institution that I enter it into when I’ve vetted them, that’s it. I’m not widening that net of risk.

Ok, back to the program. Fidelity administers New Hampshire, Arizona, Delaware, and Massachussetts’ plans, and also has a good secure way for people to gift to the beneficiary.

PiC and I both have enough assets at both Fidelity and Vanguard to be a little more than your run of the mill investors and so we have some advantages at both, but what it came down to were the fees. Vanguard charges 0.19% on their age-based portfolios. Fidelity charges two sets of fees: a program management fee, plus investment management fees and other expenses in each of the mutual funds. It’s different for each of the four states and is a mess to figure out. But they start at 0.88%.

That’s pretty much no contest!

Vanguard, as ever, is my friend and so I’m moving cash to JuggerBaby’s account there to let it flourish and grow. But I’ll wait until after October to add more money to it, since it’s been a rather rough period in the markets.

Now we just have to get on with raising a kid, making sure ze wants to attend college, and is adequately prepared to make the most of it. I paid my own way through college but the days of being able to do that on your own are probably limited with all the rising costs of school and living.

I don’t want zir to get a free ride through life, far from it, but I don’t want zir to be crippled by the burden of many student loans if it can be avoided. At the same time, it’s possible that ze will have good reason not to want to attend college for one reason or another. If that’s the case, I’d need to consider how we might redirect these funds.

:: How did you pay for college? If you have kids or niblings, are you saving for their possible future education? How would you spend $50,000 in educational funds?

August 17, 2016

My kid and notes from Year 1.6

My kid at a year and a half: a force to be reckoned with!Baby games

We’re in that life stage where JuggerBaby loves being chased. So much so that even if you’re just walking behind zir, or look like you might be considering following, ze runs off with a shriek and a cackle. Then comes back to peek – are you coming? Are you coming?

*eye contact*

*shriek – giggles – laughter – runs away*

It’s actually a useful game where I don’t have to move very much, I just have to hear zir coming and go “Boo!” around a corner.

It’s a little harder on Seamus who has no idea why his sibling is fleeing ahead of him, noisily, then coming back to prod him into chasing zir “again”. He’s also very confused by the game of “I have the remote and you can’t have it.” His sighs plainly ask me, “but why would I want it?”

Negotiations

If/then statements are now an almost effective tool with an almost reasonable child. When ze is tugging on my hand to Get Ye To The Kitchen, I can persuade zir to come with me first if I suggest that FIRST we will change zir diaper, THEN ze can eat all the crackers ze can hold. Or FIRST, take a nap, and then we will read that extra compelling book.

It’s not always successful and I still have to physically wrestle zir to the ground on some particularly intractable occasions but it’s working more often than not so I’m calling that a win. Ish.

Tantrums

This child is already showing symptoms of the Terrible Twos.

In general JuggerBaby is a genial child. Out for a bit of fun, overly forward in the willingness to snatch things ze wants out of anyone’s hands, ze often shrugs and moves on to the next opportunity when told No.

When ze grabs my iPad and signals “more” (meaning “make it work!”) and I pretend that it does nothing more than make a clicky noise, ze will move on.

When ze grabs for a handful of Seamus’s tail and is roundly scolded, ze stops with a grin.

Or when thwarted yet again from zir fifth attempt to dash past me into the street, ze might fling zirself at my legs, arms octopusing around me as ze goes for the gusto. One of these days, ze is going to take a chunk out of my legs and that’s going to be bad times at the AGSL Corral.

Once in a while, though, when we say no, ze falls to the ground as though we cut zir little puppet strings, sobbing actual tears, face scrunched into a little angry red square.

It’s WEIRD. Tears stopped being a form of communication months ago. Ze has since learned to be stubborn, to brazen zir way through to a yes, to rage hir way there or to charm it out of us. But crying as a form of protest is just a bit ridiculous when ze has so many other effective tools in zir arsenal. So we tell zir to do what ze needs to do and leave zir to zir feelings until it’s cried out and miraculously all better or we start reading a favorite book and suddenly the tears are forgotten.

Speaking of emotions, ze thinks it’s really funny to bite me now, for fun, not just when ze is tired. So funny that ze broke skin and I now have a scar on my shoulder to show off because my child is a tiny many-toothed monster. Grrr.

Also like a ferocious kitten, ze has been leaping on me from behind things, grabbing an ankle to pin me, and going for a bite. Sometimes it’s a fake bite but who wants to stick around to find out which it is?? Not I, said the thrice-bitten tasty morsel.

Then, just when you’re about to pitch the child out on zir ear and toss a knapsack of provisions after zir, ze learns things like blowing kisses and hollers “mama!” And blows a dozen kisses at you. Then holds out zir hands for a hug which ze Does Not Do. *melt* Alright. You can stay for one more day. But tomorrow, you’re out!

Lean into the nonsense

At dinner, our one sit down meal together of the day, ze has a short attention span and if ze had late snacks, not much appetite. We don’t care if ze eats a full meal at dinner because that Buddha belly of zirs very plainly shows ze isn’t going to waste away for lack of half a meal. But what we do care about is zir level of civility during the meal. And that wanes dramatically when ze isn’t hungry and occupied with eating everything in sight.

We used to think that ze would do better if we treated zir like an adult: you tend to your meal and we’ll eat ours. For a while, that was true. Lack of attention was better – no one to show off for. But since ze has gotten used to company at daycare, ze wants more interaction, and was acting out more to get it.

My new strategy is simple. When bored, ze acts like a little punk: throwing food, throwing water, throwing bowls, spoons, forks. If ze is even just minimally snacking and/or playing, we all survive to fight another day. So if zir attention is wavering, it’s time to engage.

When ze is dramatically slumping over, I mimic zir. If ze is dancing, I dance. If ze is waving hands around, I offer a high five or a fistbump. It’s silly but the sillier, the better, because a laughing toddler is much better than a plotting toddler. If we’re “playing”, then even if ze isn’t eating or hungry, ze remains a tolerable dining companion and will even offer to have a few bites of our food. In solidarity.

I’ve also learned to plan to have a second dinner or a dessert after because ze eats a LOT of our food!

Comparisons

I know it’s a natural impulse to compare yourself to others but I find my tolerance for it in parents regarding their children is nearly non-existent. We joked about making sure JuggerBaby reached certain milestones by a certain age because expectations! But in reality we are NOT playing that game. Fat lot of good it’s going to do us here in the ultra competitive Bay Area?

A friend’s kid seems like a genius. He hasn’t started school yet but he’s a literate polymath. He speaks, reads and writes in at least 6 languages that I know of and will likely pick up a few more because he loves it. That’s awesome and we are happy to entertain his showing off new language skills because he’s a kid and he’s so proud of them. Meanwhile other parents are reacting to his accomplishments with weird jealousy and guilt. Like oh, HE knows this, now I have to catch up. And my friend hears this so often she actually feels guilty about how smart he is. I hate that for her.  I get why she feels that way – he’s still a kid despite all the intellect and acts like it, he shouldn’t be set apart the way the other parents are naturally doing, so she is catching herself downplaying it with the obvious: he’s awesome at this thing. He’s not awesome at other things that kids are normally into. She’s sensible and cognizant that balance is good for him, too much of the academic can leave him lacking in other necessary life experiences if he never pulls his nose out of a book, but I hate that the competitiveness of other parents means there’s this whole dialogue of “but he’s not perfect!”

If you’re a parent, that goes without saying, doesn’t it?

Why is it such a reflex to blurt out things like “my kid is so behind” and “we better go home and make them study now” over things that aren’t age appropriate? I figure the kid is oblivious right now but it’s a stinky impulse.

Wash your mouth out with … wait, no

Some things, JuggerBaby will never learn. Every bath, ze rearranges everything in the tub, plays with zir toys, and as soon as I’m distracted, grabs a handful of soap to eat.

Ze hates the taste, makes a horrible face every time, but it’s like ze has baby-amnesia and can never remember the 58 other times ze tasted that exact same bar of soap and had the exact same reaction.

Comprehension and communication

You’d think we’d be used to it by now but we’re not. I can ask JuggerBaby a yes/no question and get an actual answer now. Ze gets to choose from a small selection of breakfast foods, for example, and when I ask “do you want some yogurt?” I might get a firm headshake NO. Then ze points at the scrambled eggs. “Eggs? You would like some eggs?” “DA!”

“Do you want some toast?” “DA!”

“Do you want some strawberry bread?” “DA!”

“Do you want your water?” *headshake*

Ze hasn’t said no aloud yet but ze is quite firm when that’s the answer. Ze shakes zir head, puts zir hands up to signal “all done”, pushes things away. There is no convincing this child if ze didn’t want to be convinced. Luckily, ze is relatively open to trying most things at least once. Of course, it could all be stuffed in zir mouth to be dribbled back out slowly, so buyer beware.

AGSLY1M6

:: How much soap can a baby eat before ze foams at the mouth? Did your food preferences as a child stay your food preferences as an adult? Do you have trouble with comparing yourself or your family to others?

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