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?

Read Months 1-17!

July 20, 2016

My kid and notes from Year 1.5

MyKidYr1and5Lend me a hand?

Just two weeks ago, we were holding out our hands to JuggerBaby, either to assist an unsteady gait, or to lead zir the way we needed zir to go. Ze would sometimes take our hands and wobble along with us. Other times, ze tucked zir hands close to zir body with an “Ngh!” clearly refusing to be led. “I can do it! (but I won’t)” you see, on zir face.

Overnight, it seems ze can walk without wavering, without hesitation, though ze has zero concept of the proper way to navigate stairs and stay upright. Ze is now even running with that peculiar pace that wee kids use. Shoulders nearly up to zir ears, entire torso swinging left and right wildly,  angled nearly 45 degrees to the ground.

JuggerLB extends a hand expectantly. Makes eye contact, and as hand clasps hand, ze sets zir feet firmly, preparing for my resistance. Sometimes I cooperate and follow. Sometimes, I play limp noodle and resist. Ze is prepared for this, and digs in zir feet like a pro tugger-of-war. The stubborn is strong in this one.

I see a future of our wills clashing and smile. It’s inevitable to have some clashing but I hope that at least some of the time, they’ll be teaching moments: teaching zir how and when to stand up for zirself and be zir own advocate when it’s time for zir to spread zir wings and fly solo.

JuggerBaby has graduated from needing to be tickled (physically) to laugh and now finds the humor in things on zir own. We play games, like “bring me all your toys”, or “destroy everything” and either because of my expression, or my exclamations, ze will burst into laughter and try to get me to do it again. Role reversal of the best kind.

Good-bye, organization

A friend said of toddlerdom: say good-bye to anything staying in its place ever again. I did the mental equivalent of plugging my ears and shutting my eyes and pretended that wasn’t coming my way.

Sure enough, nothing is safe any longer. We often hear footsteps: pat. pat. pat. pat-pat-pat PAT-PAT-PAT as ze makes a dash for our bedroom and my nightstand. My side of the room has been off limits for months but now it’s too hard to keep zir from it. If you give chase you hear a cackle peel out as ze makes the final end run, bouncing off the dresser, crawling over Seamus’s bed, scaling the boxes to Baby-Ninja-Warrior zir way to the treasure trove that is my nightstand and bookshelf.

Every day and night, ze tries to check the nightstand just in case there’s something different there to inspect, taste, and steal.

Meal Negotiations

It’s amazing how such a little package can contain so much defiance and attitude. Ze knows the rule is that we sit when we eat, even if it’s just a quick snack and sitting on the ground. Ze sits just fine at a size appropriate table and chair at daycare.

And yet.

“Sit down and have a bite.”

Squats, opens mouth.

“Sit ALL THE WAY DOWN. I refuse to be responsible for you getting stabbed in the face with the fork.”

Plops down with a scowl. Bounces back up on zir heels before the fork is fully out of zir mouth.

And heaven help you if ze really wants something and you’ve said no. You’ll get a long stare, then ze will attempt to grab it anyway. Dodge the attempt and scolding “no” riles zir further and ze lunges again. This time for the nearest Mom flesh, not zir desired object, in order to sink seven sharp vindictive teeth in.

A strangled shout of “STOP THAT YOU DO NOT BITE ME!” is met with an unwavering glare and another attempt to bite. Never turn your back on zir. Ever.

Pure pigheaded defiance, this one. 

I remind myself that this is probably normal and assuming that ze lives to adulthood and I survive to see it, this pigheadedness and refusal to be cowed will likely serve hir well in this world of ours. A lot of ifs, if you ask me, but here I am, being patient, deep breathing and rubbing bite marks out of my arms.

The things we do for our kids.

We’ve tried this dozens of times but JuggerBaby has always held out against our bargaining. At the beginning, we would stand firm and insist that ze needed to eat as directed but we learned that a more flexible approach combined with some firmness and some humor made mealtimes a lot more bearable.

Ze remains a fan of dropping food overboard but now that ze is starting to understand simple cause and effect, I’m enforcing a new rule: if food is tossed, you’re done. Whether ze has had a full meal, or two and a half bites of zir snack, ze gets booted from the high chair the moment food is tossed on the ground.

After several repetitions, ze has gotten much better about it but that doesn’t mean meals are consumed with grace and alacrity.

We had burger night and ze was 100% focused on the juice boxes on the table. It was my treat, I usually drink water, but PiC wisely set one out for zir. The trick was in getting zir to eat food instead of sucking down the whole juice.

By the way, when I make burgers, I make baby sized burger patties especially for zir. It’s a thing I’m proud of. Next we need baby sized buns.

I dictated that ze had to eat TWO BITES before getting to sip the juice. I held out two fingers, and counted out loud, very firmly. At first, ze was defiant and insistent, shaking zir head NO at me very firmly and pointing at the juice. I replied, nope, two bites or no juice and went back to my meal. Ze called for the juice box again, and I repeated: 2 bites. Ready for one? Ze glared, then relented and nibbled on the burger bun. I praised the bite, “that’s one! One more.”

Ze chewed, mulling it over, then silently accepted when I offered another bite. Then decided to go for the gusto and launched zirself at the burger and snatched a dino-sized bite. We were on!

Ze willingly ate 2 bites per sip of juice for a while until I suggested a 3:1 bite to juice ratio, at which tyranny ze balked and decided ze would rather not eat or drink than to accept such unreasonable terms.

FINE. After I went back to the 2 bites rule, ze even relaxed enough to enjoy the burger normally, and stopped demanding the juice. I guess you can train a toddler!

It’s still hit or miss, honestly, but it’s a start!

Vegetables have been the least popular food group now that JuggerBaby has to chew all zir own food. I hate well-cooked vegetables but crisp vegetables are harder when a baby only has the tearing teeth and not the grinding teeth. We compromised with slightly more limp specimens than I like and we’re seeing more veggies go in the mouth without making a surprise reappearance.

When they’re sauced, ze will even clamor for more, so that’s motivation for me to stop being lazy with only steaming vegetables and learning to make a sauce.

We’ve decided not to care about zir very odd habit of dropping food into zir water cup, like a crow trying to raise the water level, or dipping zir food into water like Kobayashi with his hot dogs. If you want to eat waterlogged food, that’s fine with me.

We’ve also decided not to care about zir imitating Seamus at mealtimes. It’s faintly ridiculous but ze is still determined to eat and drink like big brother, cramming zir face into zir food bowl without using zir hands. It’s hard to decide if ze thinks ze is a puppy or that Seamus is human because ze does not act like he’s like any other dog.

Independence

Chatting with a neighbor while JuggerBaby struggled to pick snacks out of zir snack box, our neighbor offered to help zir out and quickly solved the puzzle. I didn’t mind, I just commented that normally I stand back and observe until JuggerBaby has exhausted all zir ingenuity and asks for help. And even then I might just point out a possible solution and encourage zir to keep trying.

Ze is still quite young but I want zir to develop a firm confidence in hir ability to eventually crack even the toughest nuts, occasionally with help, and learn that early frustration and failure aren’t good reasons to give up.

With food and books, ze is willing to batter the problem into submission but we see zir give up quickly with concepts like shapes and colors. Pondering how to fit one shape into another shaped hole, often ze will bypass the problem by opening the top of the container or hand it to one of us with an imperious “ah!” This may pass but it won’t if we don’t give hir the freedom and push to keep trying. It’s not that I worry ze will be seventeen and still unsure of the difference between a sphere and a hexagon. I worry that at seventeen ze will hit the base of a mountain, metaphorical or otherwise, and give up before ever taking the first handhold.

I’ve no idea how early children develop and firm up their willingness to face down frustration but I hope this all adds up.

:: Do all kids imitate animals when they’re young? Were you an independent kid? Did that carry over to adulthood? 

Read Months 1-16!

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