Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Baby Small Talk

Yeah, I'm double posting this morning because I don't understand how to wait and dole out content in reasonable intervals.

Due to Sila's one year check up and a sudden and awful case of mastitis for me, I found myself at the doctor's office a couple of times these past few weeks and I quickly found myself having the same few conversations with the people I talked to. Baby small talk is not that different from commenting about the weather; every baby is similar enough that you have a common understanding of what words will come up in the conversation and every baby is different enough that you will feel like you are talking about Florida weather to someone who's only ever known Midwestern weather.

1. The Teeth Conversation

Silas smiles a lot. I'm happy about this; he's a regular Smiley Jr. The downside to his smile is that he reveals a mouthful of teeth. Which starts the exchange, almost every time:

"Oh, what a lot of teeth! How old is he?" said with a curious expression.

"He's about a year old now."

"Oh, my baby is almost one and has only has two teeth!" said with a slight frown, as if they were hoping for more teeth by now.

Don't you worry! I've got the statistics memorized. Most babies don't start teething until about 6 months, but can easily wait until eight, ten or twelve months to come up with that first tooth. All normal. Some babies will get one or two teeth at a time, others will cut a mouthful in a month. Still normal.

I try to suggest that perhaps it will be easier on them since when Silas started teething, I couldn't get him to hold a teething toy. Instead, he preferred to chew on my shoulder; nature's most ergonomic teether for a small baby, I suppose! I hope I don't come across as patronizing, because I know Silas has his "trouble" areas (like sleeping through the night!).

I talk about how Silas started teething at four months and how, though he has gotten his teeth quickly, each individual tooth has been working its way down consistently but slowly, if that makes sense. For example, his upper premolars started cutting through at the beginning of August. A month later, they still hadn't completely broken through the gum. He drools a lot.

As far as I know, teething is not a sign of intelligence or development beyond the fact that he can leave more bite marks when he chews on something. But teeth are a safe topic; most everyone has them.

2. The Walking/Crawling Conversation

This one takes several forms. When Silas was around eight months, I was flying up north to see my family with him. I had Silas tied up neatly in my baby carrier as I moved through the airport. As I walked, I fell in step with a husband and wife heading in the same direction. The husband was holding a baby.

The baby girl had cute, curly blond wisps of hair and a bright smile that lit up when she saw Silas. Her parents looked over at me and the dad started a conversation about how they also had a baby carrier but their daughter hated being in it and preferred to be carried. I nodded sagely, thinking of the time my friends and I went on a hike and Silas ended up being carried in our arms more than in the carrier.

Any conversation about babies always has an exchange of ages, done in weeks for the first 12 weeks or so, months for the first 24 months or so and then, finally, years once they hit 2-3. Their daughter was nine months.

"So does he walk yet?" asked the dad. I shook my head. Silas had just really gotten into crawling at this point. Before my headshake was over, the proud dad continued, "she's been walking for about two weeks now."

I smiled. I could see how excited he was. I told him and his wife I could see their daughter had walking legs and said that they must be having a great time chasing her around.

Babies walk at an amazing range of times. Some start as soon as seven or eight months, mostly girls (from what I've known. No scientific reason here). Others wait until past their first birthday, content to know they will be walking for a lot longer in their life than not walking. Again, all normal.

Sure, I did sort of hope that Silas would start walking as soon as possible, but I was in no rush. Silas started walking about a week after his first birthday. This has lead to me being on the other side of the conversation.

At the doctor's office waiting room, Silas was toddling around in his sandals, to the delight of an older woman. She watched him move across the room and asked me how old he was, and let me know that her daughter's baby girl didn't walk yet.

She looked at Silas again and confided to me, "I know that if my daughter would just put shoes on her baby, she'd walk!"

I'll admit, I was taken aback by this. Anyone who knows me knows that Silas has been barefoot nearly all of his life. It was just passing conversation, but I found myself wanting to explain that shoes aren't really necessary for a baby who is still learning how to manipulate all of the tiny muscles in her feet.

Finally, I said, "Well, maybe. I usually let him go barefoot in the house. But every baby is different." And she nodded, and I understood that it was a case where she believed what she believed and that was that.

So there you have it. Talking about babies is hilarious.

It's the time of year guys!

That's right. NaNoWriMo starts on Friday, and this year I am ready to get back into writing down the worst 50,000 words that pop into my head. Last year, I tried and got about a thousand words, but the truth is that I didn't really have any ideas - or any free time.

I'm ok with this. I understand that a newborn is going to require all of my free time, and I don't mind at all that for one year, the world was spared of my subpar prose because I was taking care of a teeny-tiny newborn Silas. (And boy, was he making the cutest faces to make up for it!) And considering I'm still hoping to have some more kids, it's safe to say there are other awful novels that I won't be writing in some of these coming years.

Why do I do NaNo?

Well, for one thing, the friend that introduced it to me is pretty awesome, and she had done it and won for several years. With my competitive spirit, there was no way I could not do it. And it was fun writing down all of my thoughts. Writing grounds me and allows me to imagine other people and their lives.

I'm not good at it; far too many of my protagonists are white, female, heterosexual women who share most of my values. So my goal this year is to deal with diversity. Diversity comes in a lot of forms. For me, first off, I write mostly about women because there are scads of male protagonists. That was the closest to diversity I got. But within that, I rarely HAD strong male characters. That's stupid. I'm looking for balance, for realism.

That's why this year, I'm writing from three perspectives I don't have a lot of experience with. One of my two main characters is going to be a guy, a 14 year old high school freshman who is dealing with the fact that his dad has cancer and might not be there to see him graduate. I can't think of a single male main character I have dealt with, fanfiction not counting since those weren't my characters.

The other main character will be a girl, a 14 year old high school freshman who is dealing with her sexuality. She's pretty sure she's into girls, but doesn't quite know how to react to this. I've never written about this before. Oddly enough, my previous fanfiction writing has included gay men, but never a lesbian. That's silly; obviously both exist. Finally, I intend for this girl to be African American. I'm terrified to try. What right do I have, you know? For all of these perspectives, I'm afraid I will portray characters in a racist light, overly stereotypically, and worst of all, as defined only by what makes them unique compared to me.

So, chances are that in about a month, I will have written 50,000 words about subjects I know very little about. My hope is to use this experience to learn more. I don't think I'll ever write a novel that people will want to read. I'll never be an author. My writing might always be mainly for myself, but as long as I'm trying to be better at it, I'll be happy.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Time-Wasting Powers, Activate!

Let me tell you about a webcomic I read daily. You could read it daily too! It's called Dumbing of Age.

I had started by writing down a list of reasons to recommend this, but it got pretty long, and your time is better spent checking out the archives rather than read what I have to say.

Dumbing of Age, written by David Willis, is the somewhat autobiographical story of a young Fundamentalist Christian named Joyce going to college away from home after being homeschooled her whole life. If I'm losing you with that, wait around just a moment! Willis writes a huge and diverse cast, and if one character doesn't agree with you, you're certain to find another who does.

Maybe it's Mike, a jerk who doesn't sugarcoat anything. Joyce pays him to chaperone her first date at college, with hilarious results.

Maybe it's Dina, the incredibly shy and passive dinosaur lover. (I feel compelled to note, after Cracked.com profiled those dinosaur erotica books that Dina does not lust for dinosaurs, but is an aspiring paleontologist.)

Maybe it's Ethan, a Jewish -- Actually, it probably is Dina. People really love Dina.

Anyhow, the story follows a cast of at least thirty people through both hilarious and serious situations. If you appreciate that one day a hairstyle can be the punchline to a joke and the next day it can be used to discuss the racial implications of straightening one's hair, then you'll probably enjoy this strip.

 There are, also, occasional hard-hitting amounts of FEELS. (I guess that's how people describe emotional scenes now?)

I have been reading David Willis's webcomics for years now. While other webcomics come and go on my radar, he is consistently hilarious and amazing and I feel confident saying that it's worth checking out.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Just a Typical Morning

The other day I'm getting dressed and musing over what outfit to wear. My husband says I should wear a shirt I hadn't worn in awhile.

He starts describing it. "You know, that shirt that has the little shoulderpads?"

I'm pretty sure he's referring to a t-shirt I have that has a cute little double sleeve detail.

"If we're thinking about the same shirt," I tell him, scowling a little, "I wore it last weekend when Silas and I visited you while you were playing 40k."

He tells me that he can't remember when I wear everything and besides, he was probably paying more attention to playing with Silas during the visit.

But it is a nice shirt, this shirt I'm thinking about. It's a soft jersey material, so it's comfortable, but it still looks cuter than a basic t-shirt.

As I rummage around in my drawer to find it, Smiley continues describing the shirt. "Well, it's black and white," he says, as I nod to myself, now positive I know what shirt he's thinking about, "And yellow and blue."

Hold your horses, husband.

You've just veered into 'I have no clue what shirt I own fits this description' territory.

I pull out the shirt I think he's talking about.

"Yeah, that's the one," he confirms.

"This shirt is entirely black and white," I confirm.

I guess I should mention that my husband is yellow/blue colorblind. Sometimes I forget about that, because it only seems to be for lighter shades of blue and yellow.

He points to one section of the shirt and says "That looks like what yellow looks like and," as he points to another spot, "That looks like what blue looks like."

Both of the sections he has pointed to are gray and I tell him as much. He says he still likes the shirt and I should still wear it and I agree.

It's moments like those that remind me how even the most straightforward things can be seen in different ways based on who's looking.

The good news is, at least when I go gray, I won't have to dye my hair!