Jun. 5th, 2011 12:51 am
tehuti: (Default)
Wednesday, June 1, 2011 is going to be one of those days that gets remembered by a lot of people for a long time. I've seen two tornados in my life. The first time, I was very young. I'm not entirely sure how old I was, but definitely under five. My father's family lived in Abilene, Kansas, and when I was young, we used to go visit them every summer. I have a few memories of the old farmhouse that Grandma and Grandpa lived in. It was white, and I used to like chasing insects around the house with my flyswatter of doom. They lived near some railroad tracks, and I absolutely loved watching the trains go by. It could take hours, no exaggeration.

One night, all the adults were nervous about something. I was blissfully ignorant, and complained mightily when they sent me to bed early. At some point in the middle of the might, I my sleepy brain heard a train going by. So I popped out of bed and ran to the window.

The tornado wasn't very big, but it had a very distinct cone shape. It was oddly bright, lit from below by the street lights of the town. Because of the lights, I could see the dust cloud it kicked up. At the time, I didn't know what it was, except that it wasn't a train. The window was rattling like a train was going by, which really confused me. The thing, whatever it was, was over a mile away (in retrospect, my toddler brain couldn't conceive of distance that way), but there were no buildings between it and me, except for an electric relay station, near the tracks. The cloud was moving, but not towards us. It actually looked like it was following the train tracks, heightening my confusion. Trains didn't make clouds like that, but it definitely sounded like one.

I sat in the window, transfixed for what felt like forever, but was probably only a minute or three. My father must have heard me stirring (with the preternatural hearing all parents seem to suddenly develop when they spawn), because he came in and shooed me away from the window. The last thing I saw was the tornado as it hit the electrical station. There was a massive shower of sparks, and a split second later, everything in the house and outside went dark. Since I couldn't see anymore, I complied with my dad and went back to bed.

That memory is in the neighborhood of 36 years old. It is one of my earliest memories, and one of the only ones I have of the time we spent in Kansas. I can see it in my mind's eye like it was yesterday.

If I was smart, I'd have written this blog yesterday, so that the last paragraph would have made a great bridge to the second tornado I've ever seen.

Most of you reading this live in Western Mass., or care about me and my family enough that you've probably seen all the pictures of this thing that you care to. I don't have any new to share, as it didn't occur to me to take pictures or video of the tornado as it passed through. Mostly, I was shocked that there was a tornado actually on the ground in my city, and my brain took a vacation.

I can tell you what I saw, starting at the beginning. I first turned it on the Weather Channel in mid afternoon, because I knew that we were due for potential thunderstorms. Aimee and Connor were out doing errands. Mich and Ian were at work. At some point, all four of them were going to be coming home, so I wanted to know what was going on, and warn them what to expect. We were also expecting two of Ian's relatives to arrive at some point, driving up from Baltimore, but they were coming in later than the storms, or so we thought.

The Weather Channel told me there was a tornado warning for all of Western Mass. So I dutifully emailed everyone to warn them, and switched over the New England Cable News. If you weren't watching them on Wednesday afternoon, those guys were really on the ball. They've got some fancy weather doodads over there. Several different Doppler Radar feeds, some cool software that tracks wind direction and speed, and another little trick that can predict conditions likely to produce a funnel cloud. When I turned it on, there was a line of cells on the radar, stretching from Albany, NY up into the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It wasn't a solid line, but these storms weren't screwing around. Every single storm cell had rotation in it. The one farthest north produced a tornado in Jefferson, NH. Another big storm went through Keene, but they got lucky, just thunderstorms.

The cells in Massachusetts looked the most dangerous, and not just because they were in our area. They were big, lots of lightning, and multiple tight balls of rotation. The weathermen were a little too excited to be pointing all this stuff out. In their defense, in their place, I'd probably be really excited too. You don't become a TV weatherman in New England and expect to cover stuff like this. Blizzards and nor'easters, definitely. The occasional hurricane, sure. But tornados? Let alone an outbreak of them? So I will forgive them their excitement, tempered as it was by their full knowledge of what all this data meant.

One of the cells went right through Northampton, into Amherst. I called Michy to warn her to stay at work. She was due to leave right around when the storm passed through. They got huge pieces of hail there, and one of the photos I saw, of the storm passing through UMass, was unreal. Sheets of rain that nearly blotted out the street lights, high wind and hail.

I call Aimee, to tell her to get home as quickly as possible. She had stopped at the Holyoke Mall to pick up some stuff for our mini-vacation this weekend. In fact, I'm sitting in a nice beach house in Dennisport on Cape Cod, which is full of fellow Arisians and their friends and family, as I write this. And yes, I do feel a little guilty that my family is away enjoying ourselves while so many people back home are living in shelters. Anyway, she told me she was planning to nurse the baby a bit before driving, a fairly common practice of hers. I urged her not to, told her why, and went back to the news. She came in about fifteen minutes later.

Not long after that, the first of the southern cells reached Westfield. Conflicting reports started coming in from NECN viewers. There was a funnel cloud on the ground near Shaker Rd. (which is the south side of Westfield, near the Agawam border). But maybe it was just a funnel cloud, but no vortex. A few minutes later, there were similarly conflicting reports that the funnel cloud, maybe a tornado, was approaching the Connecticut River. Aimee arrived home sometime in the middle of these two events, not entirely sure when. I was distracted and not paying close attention.

This is when I went out onto our porch. For those of you that have never seen it, my family's home is a three story Victorian, just barely outside the Forest Park Heights Historic District. It's 100th birthday is next year. Our front door is on Sumner, facing south toward the park. The clay tennis courts at Forest Park are directly across the street from us, and the main entrance is about 100 yards up the street. The second floor of our house has a screened in porch, on the west side of the building, facing Churchill St. It's got views west and north, along both streets.

I saw the funnel cloud immediately when I walked out the door. It looked to be over West Springfield somewhere, judging from the distance. I couldn't see it all the way to the ground or river, because the houses across the street blocked the view, and our part of the city is on a hill.

More ominously, I HEARD it as quickly as I saw it. It was a sound similar to a train. Time started to slow. I saw some things flying in the air that I originally took for birds, until I suddenly realized that nothing alive could be flying in that. I tweeted what I saw and stupidly called Aimee out to see it. At this point, my brain still hadn't made the connection between what I was seeing and what that meant it was. From my vantage point, I could see the cloud rotating, but the weather guys had been talking about those all afternoon.

Once Aimee came out, the cloud moved closer. I know now that, at this point, it had crossed over from West Springfield, near the Memorial Bridge, into downtown Springfield itself. It was moving across the city, near Union St., towards the Watershops. I didn't know it, but at this point, it was approximately one mile away. But there was no no doubt what we were looking at. We could clearly see the rotation of the cloud, debris flying everywhere. I saw a piece of roof insulation in the air that I later recognized on a video I saw of the tornado crossing the river. The noise was much louder, and it was moving faster than anything weather related had any right to move. Aimee and I stood on our porch. I said something like, "Oh my God, that's an actual tornado…", and she said something back, equally as shocked. And in that short amount of time, it moved east, out of our view behind our house. Neither one of us had the presence of mind to take a video, or a photo, or do something sensible like get the hell inside and in the basement with our son. We stood, transfixed by the power of Mother Nature. I now understand why so many people don't do anything when they see a tornado. Your mind cannot comprehend what you're looking at, and if you are unlucky, by the time you do it's too late.

I ran back inside and tweeted "CONFIRMED - TORNADO ON THE GROUND, MAIN ST SPRINGFIELD #tornado " In the midst of writing it, the weather guys announced that a tornado had been spotted on Main St. in Springfield, so I repeated what they said, and rapidly followed up with "Holy shit, I watched it from the porch!"

It quickly moved off, as these storms do, and the weather guys continuously updated where it went, tracking it through Wilbraham, Palmer and into Munson. The news folks kept updating us on the aftermath, some of which I passed on via Twitter. Michelle came home, and told us that she had to drive over branches on Hall of Fame Boulevard to get home, because the highway was backed up. What she didn't know was that the tornado went over it about fifteen minutes before she walked in. Ian followed fairly quickly after that, and then his relatives arrived. So we traded stories, and I brought everyone up to date on what had happened.

My story would end here, except for one thing. We had guests, so we took them out to dinner. I'd had it in my head to recommend Red Rose, our favorite Italian place on Main St., near Union St. That was obviously out, as the early videos and news reports made obvious. So we went to Hazard Grille in Enfield, CT. Dinner was great, the weather was still weird (but not as bad as it had been), and all was well until we tried to go home, after 9pm.

The police had closed all of the ramps into Springfield from Rt. 91. This presented us with a significant problem, since we had to go into Springfield. We tried to get around it by driving along 91 to the North End, then down Dwight St., eventually into Forest Park. Unfortunately, we ran into a street roadblock, so we had to turn up State St. past the Armory and STCC. Traffic on Walnut St. was heavy, but moving, and that presented us another way into our neighborhood, so we tried it.

Big mistake. The damage downtown was bad, but the damage we saw here was in a completely different league. We had inadvertently driven into the worst part of the tornado's path (outside of East Forest Park and Munson). One house in particular has been seen on the news a lot. It's a smallish house, with the entire front upper story missing. The furniture in the three upper rooms is still largely in place, almost as if the building had been sliced down the front. We drove right past it. We all kept looking around through the windows of the van, behaving exactly like the disaster tourists we weren't, and no doubt pissing off all of the people we passed on the street, who were either victims or trying to help the victims of the storm.

The trip home from Enfield normally takes about ten minutes. That night, it was over an hour and a half, during most of which time, Connor was letting us know he was unhappy. And also during which we saw so much damage, everywhere we drove, that all of us felt a little shell-shocked, lasting into the next day.

I love the Valley, every part of it. I often tell people that there is no better place in the world to live. We're in the middle of everything. New York is three hours away, Boston less than two, same for Providence. I can go to the beach or the mountains in two hours. I can disappear into the most remote parts of New England in three hours or less. Almost whatever you can think of to do, you can find somewhere to do it within a easy distance from Western Mass. The years I lived in other parts of the country, I largely spent them plotting and planning how to get back home to the Valley. My heart bleeds for everyone that was adversely affected by this storm, and I grieve for the damage our beautiful Valley has suffered.

Our home was spared by the tornado. Lots of people weren't as lucky. A very few didn't live through it. Thousands of trees have been destroyed. An untold number of birds and other wildlife were killed. Hundreds of buildings are gone, and an unknown number of others will be knocked down before gravity finishes what the storm started. Some of them are literally irreplaceable, and Springfield is poorer for their loss.

The Valley, my home, will never be the same. People will recover, shattered lives will be rebuilt. I have faith that everything will eventually be OK, even as some despicable people use this disaster as an opportunity to prey upon the victims. But our home as been changed forever. I am sad and angry for what we've lost, and will continue to lose, because of the tornado of June 1, 2011.
tehuti: (Running Wolf)
For those of you that aren't on my Facebook, for whatever reason, you may be unaware that I have signed up for my first half marathon. I'll be running in the Rock n' Roll Half Marathon in Providence on August 7, 2011. It was Aimee's idea, so of course she is running it as well.

For the next twelve weeks, I'm going to update my progress here, one post per week. Mostly, it's for my own memory. I want a way to track how I am feeling, in addition to how I am doing. For the nuts and bolts of the training, I'm using RunKeeper. It's an app and website, little different from the multitude out there for runners and fitness buffs. The reason I'm using this one, as opposed to any other, is simple. This one offers FourSquare badges, and I'm a sucker for those! If you are a runner or track your workouts somehow, and use RunKeeper, let me know and we'll link up there.

The second week schedule:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 2 mi
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 3 mi
Friday: CT or Rest
Saturday: 4 mi
Sunday: 20-30 min EZ run or cross-train

Like last week, none of the distances were difficult on paper, so I tried to challenge myself. And we lost track of the schedule, so we thought we had to do 2.5 miles on Tuesday. Ended up doing 2.68 miles, at a pace of 11:22 per mile. So ahead of race pace, and further than we were supposed to go.

The weather all week was fantastic for running. Warm, a bit humid (which I like), and sunny. So of course I went out and really struggled on Thursday's run, which I actually did Friday because I spent Thursday out in the Boston area at an informational interview at a museum (I should write about that...) called the Waterworks.

I went out in the heat of the day to test myself. We have no idea what kind of conditions we'll actually be running in on race day, so we're consciously trying to go out in as many different kinds of weather as possible. Friday was really hot (over 90 degrees), quite humid and almost no clouds. And to further my stupidity, I decided this would be a great day to do my first real hills. I finished, but I really struggled. On a positive note, I got some practice doing run/walk splits. But a 3.18 mile run at 12:15 pace overall isn't anything to be upset about. But damn, did this run kick my ass.

Saturday's run was pushed to Sunday, which meant I skipped two CT days. The plan allows for skipping them if you are not physically up to it, and truthfully I wasn't even if I had the time. My legs and feet are holding up well, but I had a lot of trouble with my left ankle the last three days. I really thought I was going to struggle on this week's long run.

Show's you what I know. 4.10 miles in 50:45 minutes, a pace of 12:23 per mile. So a bit ahead of race pace, farthest distance yet (since last year) and at the end, I really felt like I had at least another mile in me. Granted, we ran almost completely on flat ground, but still, I was surprised and pleased that it went so well. Running through the park is always fun, but it was particularly nice yesterday. Even though Aimee and I were smart, and waited to the end of the day, there were still lots of people in the park, enjoying family games and barbecue. Made for a hungry run! The most amusing sight was of the two Herbalife reps, wandering around from picnic area to picnic area, trying to sell people on their scheme business.

In Spanish.

Aimee and I joked with each other that we knew how to lose weight in just two months. Too bad neither of us speak Spanish!

To sum up, another good week. My left ankle is sore, legs a bit stiff, but manageable.

Week One Mileage: 7.67 miles.
Week Two Mileage: 9.98 miles.
Overall Mileage: 17.65 miles.

So far, so good!
tehuti: (Running Wolf)
For those of you that aren't on my Facebook, for whatever reason, you may be unaware that I have signed up for my first half marathon. I'll be running in the Rock n' Roll Half Marathon in Providence on August 7, 2011. It was Aimee's idea, so of course she is running it as well.

Last week was my first week of training for the half marathon. A half marathon is 13.1 miles, or slightly more than 20k. The longest distance I've ever run is 10k, which I did at the Bridge of Flowers Run last summer. Aimee and I ran it in slightly more than one hour. The training program we are using is a 12 week build up to race day.

For the next twelve weeks, I'm going to update my progress here. Mostly, it's for my own memory. I want a way to track how I am feeling, in addition to how I am doing. For the nuts and bolts of the training, I'm using RunKeeper. It's an app and website, little different from the multitude out there for runners and fitness buffs. The reason I'm using this one, as opposed to any other, is simple. This one offers FourSquare badges, and I'm a sucker for those! If you are a runner or track your workouts somehow, and use RunKeeper, let me know and we'll link up there.

The first week went quite well. Here was the schedule:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 2 mi
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 2.5 mi
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 3 mi
Sunday: 20-30 min EZ run or cross-train

None of the distances were particularly difficult, so I jumped them up a little. I did the Tuesday run on the treadmill, going for speed. 2 Miles, 19:22 minutes, 9:41 per mile. My normal pace is around 12:30 minutes, so running almost three minutes faster than that was a challenge. I was a bit sore the next day, but not so bad that I missed Thursday's run.

The weather broke that day, so I was able to get back outside. 2.56 miles, 28:20 minutes, 11:07 per mile. The training calls for you to run faster than race pace on the weekly "short runs", to build stamina. Aimee and I are planning to run the half marathon at about 12:30 per mile, so this pace qualified. Later on in the program, the weekly runs really will be shorter than the long weekend one.

Saturday I did 3.11 miles, 39:12 minutes, 12:37 per mile average. The long run is supposed to be at race pace, so your body gets used to how it feels. I have run considerably faster than that in the past, and anticipate getting back to those times on the "short runs" as the summer progresses. One of my New Year's resolutions was to break 30 minutes for a 5k, so I'll definitely be keeping that in mind as I train this summer.

Sunday was a cross training day. The idea is to do something other than run, or go on an easy run, at slower than race pace. I took it as an opportunity to get the bike out for the first time this year. 4.48 miles, 24:35 minutes, 5:29 average pace. At the three mile mark, my phone told me my pace and distance. It occurred to me that, at some of the 5k races I've been to, the winners RAN as fast as I was pedaling.

Physically, I held up pretty well. My legs are a bit sore, but that is to be expected. My feet are good so far, and my hamstrings and Achilles are a little tight. I'm concerned about how my legs will hold up, but so far so good. My lower back is also a little tweaked, but nothing I'm overly concerned about now.

Overall, good first week.
tehuti: (Default)
Seven weeks old.

It’s difficult to fathom how much life has changed in the last (almost) two months. I am all but done with graduate school (for now). I’ve started training for a half marathon (yes, I’m crazy. And apparently a masochist). I’m a father again (and there was a time within the last few years when I’d have laughed at the idea). We’ve all rearranged schedules and responsibilities to maximize time at home, both to help Aimee and spend time with Connor.

I feel like a broken record, because I know I’ve talked about this a lot. “This” being our adventures into parenthood and how life has changed. But that is pretty much the biggest thing in my life right now. Our lives, more accurately.

We’re all handling parenthood just fine. Mich, who was very nervous about breaking the baby at first, is turning out to be a fine baby wrangler. Aimee is a natural mother, going at it with the gusto she brings to everything she does. Ian doesn’t know it, but I keep catching him with a goofy grin on his face.

He doesn’t think we’re paying attention.

As for myself, I cannot complain. The semester ended in early May, so I get to spend a lot of time home caring for the baby. And that really is how I think about it. I’m lucky to be in a family where I don’t have to immediately run out and start finding a job, any job, in order to make ends meet. I can take my time, look for the right opportunity, and finish preparing for my exams. This means I can take some of the work from Aimee so she can get back to being one of the family breadwinners. It makes sense on a lot of levels, this change.

It’s more surprising how little some things have changed. We’re still going out to some of our favorite restaurants. We’re still managing to keep up with household chores. We’re still going to yoga classes, social events, even the theater, in various combination up to and including all four of us. We’ve puzzled out how to travel with an infant. Most of the family (your erstwhile narrator excluded, stupid comp exams) went to Mass MoCA today. For those of you scratching your heads, that would be the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, a wonderful place that lies hidden in the shadow of Mt. Greylock, up in North Adams. For the record, that’s a three-ish hour round trip drive. Our little trooper was out for over nine hours today and everything went without a hitch.

Well, almost. Must remember to pack the magic mommy juice with ice packs EVERY time. Or it’s not pretty.

So what all this means is that we are settling down into “normal” life (our kind of normal, anyway), and things aren’t as different as we thought they would be.

Except, of course, in all of the ways that they are.
tehuti: (Default)
Before I get into how my family spent our first Mother's Day, I'm going to talk about Connor for a bit. The Great Formula Experiment continues. He's gaining weight, and getting longer, so we're going to keep on supplementing Aimee's milk while we try to figure out how she can make more, or if we can change her diet to make it richer. Connor's innards are finally cooperating with the new diet, and exploding baby bottoms are a thing of the past.

In the last few days, Connor has started smiling. He did it with me first, late last week. I wasn't sure it was real until he did it more than once. For those unaware, babies can first smile due to gas, impending bowel movements or Democratic victories at the polls. Got to rule everything out to before you can be sure your baby is smiling at you and not for something else.

Saturday was Noho Pride. The whole family went, and four out of five of us marched. Actually, one was carried, but we'll count that anyway. I stayed at the table for TBC to keep an eye on things. Not much to report other than that. Pride is always great, we ran into a lot of friends and acquaintances that met the baby for the first time, and good times were had by all.

Sunday was Mother's Day. It was our first as a family, so we had some special plans in mind. It started off simple, with cards. Ian got the two moms matching pendants, and later this week, I'm going to take them out to select matching beads for their bracelets. Like those Pandora beads, ya know?

We started off trying to go to breakfast at our favorite place. It's called Three Cafe, a tiny little place down the street from us that uses farm-fresh, organic ingredients. Sadly, they are always busy on the weekends, and for Mother's Day, they had live jazz outside on their patio. The wait was at least an hour, so we gave up and headed north.

We headed north because our main plans for the day had us going to Montague (which is a bit north of Amherst, most of the way to Greenfield, for those of you that care). Of all places, we ended up at the Route 9 Diner in Hadley. A lot of local social groups meet there, so it's a place we all eat at quite a bit. Back in the day, when Aimee and I were still doing Rocky Horror, it was the cast's after-show eating place. Getting there is easy. As we liked to say (and the current cast still does), "It's a diner. On Route 9. In Hadley. Figure it out!"

The first stop after breakfast was the Bookmill. Their motto is perfect, "Books You Don't Need in a Place You Can't Find". It's the bestest used book store in all of western Mass., and one of the best I've ever had the pleasure to waste time in. It's an old mill building, with a nice waterfall out back, with books winding through the building on two floors. It's a really good thing it's so far from home, or we'd be there a lot, and spend far more money on lots of books we don't really need.

I didn't mean for this blog post to turn into a travelogue.

The main event of the day was at a place called Red Fire Farm. It's a local organic farm, with two properties, one in Montague and the other down our way, in Granby. Last fall, we ran a 5k race on their Granby farm called the Tomato Trot. It covers most of their farmland, and ends near the tomato greenhouses and farm stand. It was a blast, and I'm already looking forward to doing it again. Last summer, we bought a lot of produce from them at the Forest Park Farmer's Market (every Tuesday from May through October), so this year, we simply signed up for a CSA.

For Mother's Day, they were running a workshop on making planters, followed by tea. About thirty people showed up. We made a nice little planter of herbs in a hanging basket to put on the porch, with a few left over to put outside in our garden box. The day included a short ride and tour of the farm, run of the greenhouse and homemade pastries to go with the aforementioned tea. The weather stayed sunny and nice all day.

The best part? We were just hanging out, being together, having fun. In the last month, we've spent so much time together that we should be ready to kill each other, or at least getting on each other's nerves. But that's not what's happening. We've been a family unit for a long time, but with Connor's arrival, we've suddenly hit a new gear we didn't know we had. It's been a wonderful ride, and shows no signs of stopping.

Back in March, we did a talk/presentation/Q&A session about polyamory for a conference at Hampshire College. We talked about our family, how we came together, how our dynamics work, stuff like that. Some folks in the audience expressed disbelief. We made it sound too easy. The way we've been living lately reminds me of that. It does feel easy, and if I were reading someone else's blog, I wouldn't believe it, either. But it only feels that way because we laid the groundwork years ago. Being poly isn't easy. We're constantly checking in with each other, talking about our lives, our goals, our fears, all that relationship stuff. Our family didn't happen automagically, although someone just meeting us now wouldn't really know that.

I kinda wish I was writing about the formation of our family back when it was happening. Well, I did some of that, but more in the vein of "this stuff happened" rather than writing thinky-thoughts about the process. So consider this an invitation, dear readers. Ever wanted to ask me/us a question about our family? Let me know, and I'm make them the subject of a future post.
tehuti: (Default)
I'm glad he's dead.

Around 11pm last night, a friend poked me on IM to ask if I was watching the news. Since Penn and Teller's Bullshit doesn't count, I said no. She told me to turn on CNN, because the president was going to speak. At the exact same moment, I saw the first of many announcements on all of my social network feeds that Osama Bin Laden had finally been found and eliminated.

You never know when you're going to get momentous news. I was in school when we lost Challenger, watching it on the school cable television. I was a freshman in high school, in German class. Back in the mid-80s, a shuttle launch was still a big deal, and they were almost always carried live on TV. So I was in a classroom of about thirty kids, all around the same age as me, with our teacher, a German immigrant who spoke five languages and moved to the US after the war with his family, fleeing war-torn Germany for a better life.

I was in school again on Sept. 11, 2001. This time, I was in community college. I had a computer programming class that semester with an 8am start time. It was a three day a week class, lasting fifty minutes a go. Right around the end of class, a low buzzing noise began in the room. We met in one of the many computer labs at Springfield Technical Community College. People started whispering that a plane hit a building in New York. I went to Yahoo News and read a short, two paragraph report that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, but no more details were available yet. As soon as class let out, I went downstairs to the cafe on the first floor, because they had a TV. I stood there, surrounded by fellow students, in shock, and watched the tower burn. Then the second plane hit and everyone knew there was no way this was an accident.

A few years later, I was on spring break, visiting an old friend in Louisiana, when the second Gulf War began. We, along with countless others, watched the invasion live on the news. I was still married at the time, so my wife was there, as was my friend's husband. The four of us sat on the floor of her living room in Lafayette, transfixed by the spectacle of war on live television.

There are many events that I could describe like this, and many of them can be described in one word. Challenger, 9/11, Columbine. Katrina. Columbia. Others need a few more, like the Gulf Wars or the Oklahoma City bombing. These events were all of historic importance because they shook us in unexpected ways. Columbine shook our faith in schools. Columbia shook our faith in science. Katrina shook our faith in everything. 9/11 shook us to our very souls. After these things happened, life was forever altered.

On May 1, 2021, all of the talking heads on every cable and local news network will speak in solemn terms about the anniversary of Bin Laden's death. But in four years, in eight years, no one will notice. Because ultimately, killing him does not have the impact that Challenger had, or the Gulf Wars, or 9/11. Osama Bin Laden is a footnote in history, destined to be forgotten.

I am glad he's dead. I hope it gives some of his victims a sense of closure. Some have already been interviewed saying as much. Some of my friends who were directly and indirectly impacted by 9/11 have also said as much. But I'm disappointed at the level of cynicism I've seen, both on my social media networks and television. Questions about the accuracy of the report (the new meme making the rounds about Trump demanding a "death certificate" is amusing, but profoundly cynical), the timing of the event (to boost Obama's popularity), and more are deeply disturbing. Have we reached a point where we cannot trust anything our government says, even something as plain as this, something nearly all Americans would agree is a good thing? Can't we put aside thoughts of partisanship and politics for a change?

I'm glad he's dead. He deserved much worse than what he got. From the descriptions we've been given of the operation, his death was probably clean and fast. I don't care that he died a martyr in the eyes of his followers. He'd be no less one in an American prison, and no one can take hostages to demand his release. I'm grateful that our world is spared the spectacle that his trial would have been. I'm glad his body was disposed of at sea, so it cannot become a rallying place for murderers.

I'm an Egyptian pagan. My patron deity is Heru sa Aset; Horus, son of Isis, born by magic to avenge his father Osiris's murder, at the hands of his uncle, Set, who usurped his rightful throne. My god is the god of revenge. Deep in my heart where few people see, I am grinning with fierce glee that justice has been done. I'm glad he's dead. I wish we could kill him a few more times. I hope he died slowly, in great pain and fear. I hope that his elimination disrupts the organization he founded. I pray that it dies with him. But my inner historian stubbornly insists that the death of Osama Bin Laden is ultimately a meaningless one. Terrorism will go on, Al Qeada still exists, and his memory will inspire more hatred and death. Despite what some have said, the war against terrorism is not over.

But the hunt for this man is over. May he rot in hell, be denied paradise, or whatever suitable afterlife you prefer to imagine for him.

I'm glad he's dead.
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Connor is four weeks old today! Does that count as one month? People don't differentiate between one lunar and one calendar month, do they? Has anyone ever heard a parent say proudly, "My little angel is three lunars old!"

Maybe I'm overthinking this.

Whether or not he's officially one month old, that is not the momentous occasion I want to write about today.

A few days ago, we contacted Connor's pediatrician. In the first month of life, a newborn should lose some weight initially, but fairly quickly regain it and begin to increase in size and mass. Connor has grown in length (about a half-inch, give or take a smidge), but his weight hasn't recovered to his birth weight yet. So Aimee called the doctor, and we brought him in for a weigh-in. Sure enough, he was just shy of 8 pounds.

We had doubts about the accuracy of the scale when we was born. His birth weight was 9 lbs .06 oz., but the very next day he dropped to 7 lbs 6oz. The doctor said he wasn't too concerned about that, because Connor seemed healthy, and was eating well, but such a large drop is unusual. And then to only gain a half pound or so in three weeks was also odd. Whether or not the original number is accurate, the doctor recommended that we start supplementing his eating with formula. If he gains weight, then we know there's something wrong with the milk, and we can change Aimee's diet. If he doesn't, then it's something wrong with him, and we start trying to figure out what it might be. We all hope for the former rather than the latter. Changing Aimee's diet is way less difficult and scary.

So we gave Connor his first bottle. I found myself in the unusual position (for me, anyway) of doing something with a baby for the first time; I'd never bottle-fed a baby before. Aimee said the books and experts recommended that you hold a breast-fed baby upright when you give him a bottle, so the experience feels different. You don't want the child to replace breastfeeding completely with bottle feeding.

And while this is also a momentous occasion, it is not the one I wanted to write about today.

Formula is harder to digest than breast milk. This is no surprise. It's made from cow milk, after all. We were warned that he wouldn't go to the bathroom as much now that we were supplementing his feedings. The new pattern is this: first, he eats at Mommy's kitchen. If he's still hungry after a short break, we give him two ounces of formula (organic, from the co-op of course. You didn't think we'd sell out, did you?). Most of the time, I'm the designated feeder. While I give him his bottle, Aimee uses the pump, to continue to stimulate her own production and bank a supply against her returning to work in mid-May. After he drinks about half the bottle, we switch sides, just like he does with mom. Once he's done, we have a good burp, and then either fall asleep or go back to mom for the final top-off.

He got his first bottle Thursday night. He got a bunch more Friday.

Connor kept right on making wet diapers, same as usual. But no solids.

I bet, just now, you saw where this is going.

His last dirty diaper was Thursday afternoon. He went all day Friday without one. And all night Friday night, into Saturday morning. We were starting to get worried. Maybe his system couldn't take the formula? Should we call the doctor back, or just wait for his regular appointment next week? Connor, bless him, made the decision for us.

We have now reached the momentous occasion I wanted to write about.

Saturday morning began like any other day. Aimee woke me up around 7am, asking me to change him. We often don't change him at night, unless he messes his diaper. He hadn't, so she hadn't. She had just finished his morning feed, and wanted to go pump a little more. So I struggled awake, and brought him into his room to get him ready for the day.

Connor is really cute in the morning. He's a little cranky and befuddled, just like me. We're not morning people, him and I. Stripping him down is rote at this point, as is cleaning him up and changing diapers. I decided that it would be fun this morning to get some skin-to-skin tummy time with daddy. Everyone really enjoys it. Lots of contact, nice and warm, what's not to like? So instead of putting him in a onesie, I left him in his diaper, carried him back into our bedroom, and snuggled him on my chest under the covers.

A few minutes later, it happened.

Connor was chewing away on his hand, one of his favorite things to do, when I heard a strange noise. It was an odd whooshing sound, completely unlike any sound that had ever come out of my baby before. It lasted for a second or two, and then was gone. That's all it took. My midsection suddenly felt warmer. I pulled back the covers, not sure what to expect except the worst.

Those of you with squeamish tummies might want to skip the next few paragraphs.

The baby had finally pooped. Dear Gods, did he poop. Under normal circumstances, a poop wouldn't have been a big deal. Breastfed babies don't poop large amounts, nor is it very smelly. If you've never seen it, it's kinda yellowish-brown, mostly liquid, with little sand-like bits of matter in the mix. It looks nothing like poop from a baby eating solids, which is much more what you think of as poop. That stuff looks and smells like what you expect poop to smell like.

This stuff was it's own league. It was a similar color to what we'd gotten used to, but everything else was different. It was thicker, and pasty, oddly like frosting. I know, weird, but that was my first thought. "Ooh, it looks like cake frosting." It had a much stronger odor than normal, and once I threw the covers back, I knew I was dealing with something special. He had filled his diaper completely and then some. It had leaked out on both of his legs and stomach, which of course means he got it all over my stomach, too. It was truly an excrement of epic proportions. Luckily, nothing got on the sheets or blankets. Unluckily, I'm a very hairy man.

Connor continued chewing on his hand, blissfully unconcerned at the carnage he had unleashed.

I hope that this formula experiment is only temporary. As much fun as it is to bottle feed him, I'd much rather feed him his own mother's milk. These "nuclear option" bowel movements are already old, and he's only done it twice.

Let it never be said that life with a baby is uninteresting. At least I get to tell you all about it.
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Anyone that knows us is well aware of just how fast paced our life used to be. Most summers, we ran out of available weekends long before summer ended (and in some cases, before it even arrived). Our calendars were full to bursting with meetings, potlucks, social events, more meetings, concerts, family get-togethers, conventions and yet more meetings. We’ve been this busy for literally years. Sometimes it was a pain in the ass, but overall, it is the life we chose to lead. We still do a lot of stuff, but it’s not like it was, in the before time, in the long, long ago.

I knew living that way came with a price. Spontaneity was largely a thing of the past. If we didn’t schedule something, or block out time for a particular activity, it didn’t happen. This applied for everything like the things listed above to hiking, bicycling, and even yard work and household chores. We never felt like we had enough time to do all of the things we wanted to do, let alone were obligated to do.

We occasionally had to schedule time to do nothing. How sad is that?

All that changed twenty-seven days ago. Babies change your priorities in a hurry. Even if we wanted to go out as often as we used to, we can’t. Connor cannot be out that long. Aimee cannot either. It’s too much for both of them. So now that we are slowing down, something else that was missing is starting to creep back into life. Simple pleasures have made a comeback. These are the sorts of things that you don’t fully realize are missing until you suddenly do.

Mindless things like watching television together, or movies, or listening to music, because we’re not going to or coming home from some meeting every night.

Pleasant things like sitting together at the dinner table, partaking of a meal that didn’t come out of a take-out box or the freezer.

Silly things like having spirited debates over whose turn it is to take out the garbage, change the baby or walk the dog.

Simple things like walking into the pantry, hunting for a snack, and knowing that something yummy is lurking within because we actually had time to go grocery shopping.

And best of all, just laying on the sofa, watching the rain fall on a warm spring day, snuggling with the dog because you can. Got nowhere to go, nothing on the schedule, just sitting. It's a singular pleasure, like little else.

Until you do it with a newborn snoring away on your chest.

That’s a wholly different, wonderful thing.
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It's amazing how different life is now. It's equally amazing how little has changed.

We've hit the three-week mark here at Olympus. The Munchkin (the latest in a revolving series of nicknames, although I think this one might stick) has been constantly hungry the last couple of days. Aimee tells me this is normal for infants between two and three weeks, getting ready for a growth spurt. On that front, we're seeing only incremental change. He's a little bit longer, gaining weight slowly, and stays awake and alert a little but more every day, but nothing dramatic yet.

We've definitely found that new normal I talked about last time. Aimee and the boy-child spend most of their day sitting together on the sofa. Mostly, he eats and sleeps. Come to think of it, that's pretty much what Aimee does, too. More dozing than sleeping, but the concept is the same.

The rest of us have picked up the threads of our old life, with some adjustments. Michy rearranged her schedule so she can be home one day a week. Ian did the same, but he gets two days home. I'm finishing the last of my classes and papers (ten days, five GIS classes, two papers and one history class left!) and thinking a lot about what comes next for me. The next "big change" comes when Aimee has to start going back to work. She's got a trial coming up in mid May that will be the first big test. By then, the baby will still want to eat every few hours, but she could be gone for an entire work day, three days in one week.

To prepare, she's started using a breast pump. If you've never seen one, or watched it work, allow me to describe. The pump itself is a small machine about the size and shape of a homemade explosive device. It even comes in a handy little black bag to solidify the image. A bunch of wires snake out from it, which are used to control the speed of the device. A second set of tubes with large tuba-ish pieces of plastic fit over the female's udders, which lead to two small plastic bottles. The first tube provides suction, which is transferred to mom through the miniature tubas, to simulate an infant's suckling. While running, it makes a strangely soothing rhythmic sound as it extracts the magic mommy juice. And it looks absolutely ridiculous in operation. But since the other options are to use formula (which we are loathe to do), or for me to start lactating, we're going to try this first.

In other news, we're officially transitioning to cloth diapers. I'm a bit chagrined to admit that they are kinda cool. I was really down on the idea when Aimee brought it up, but I'm definitely a convert. We're going to do a lot of laundry, but with a newborn, you do a lot anyway. And we're not filling our garbage, or the landfill, with baby excrement. The newborn ones we're using now are kinda like little shorts that happen to have super absorbent fabric in them. Aimee bought twelve, in different colors and patterns. To her surprise, two of them that looked beige on the website are actually pink in person.

Not to worry though. I assured her that our son is secure in his masculinity. Which isn't saying much since he doesn't know what that is yet, but that is besides the point. And besides that, I know he'll look good in pink. Because I know I do, and he looks so much like me it's scary. He's got some of his mom's good looks, too, but there really is a striking resemblance between the Raspberry and me.

Except in all the ways he resembles Ian. Which should be endlessly amusing as he grows up.
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Connor is now seventeen days old. We're finally starting to find the new "normal".

From his perspective, it's always been "normal". His routine has been pretty much the same since he was born. Eat on demand, sleep as much as possible. Occasionally go out to places that he mostly sleeps through anyway, and that's pretty much it. He's growing (really, we measured him and he's a half inch longer), so we must be doing something right.

His parents on the other hand, are continually adapting. We haven't really had a "normal" day yet. Since we brought him home, we've had a regularly irregular days. All of us were on "maternity leave" for the first week, which was fantastic. That time to just be together was invaluable. Then we started to pick up the threads of life again. We've had a fairly constant stream of visitors, both parents and friends. Ian's mother was here over the weekend. She left Monday morning, to be replaced by Aimee's mother that afternoon.

And about the time we start to even out, the semester is going to end, disrupting things again. I'll be home more, which is good. But that also means that I'll have to finish preparations for my exams, which will be very time consuming. Plus, I plan to really make a go of the writing thing, so I'll have to make time for that as well.

Nonetheless, we're finding our groove as a family. It hasn't been seamless, but we've integrated a baby into our lives fairly well. We've greatly slowed down, which is exactly what we planned to do, but we haven't stopped going out, seeing friends, and being social, either.

I guess this post boils down to this; so far, so good. When you've got a newborn in the house, that's a pretty good way to be.
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A few weeks ago, something took place that has forever altered my life. It wasn't a surprise or anything. I'd known it was coming for quite a while, and had prepared for it.

My Livejournal account ran out.

I've been squatting my LJ name at Dreamwidth for a few years now. Last year I had planned to make the jump when my account ran out, but I forgot I had it set to auto-renew. So I turned that off and waited out another year.

It was only a coincidence that the DOS attacks on LJ took place at approximately the same time. I've read about the reasons why they happened, and I do hope that LJ continues to whether the storm. They are providing an important service in Russia, and I fully support that.

But I haven't forgotten Strikethrough, and I should have moved to DW a long time ago because of it. So even though LJ's parent company is doing the right thing for Russia, I'm going to make the switch. I do not intend to abandon LJ completely. I will cross-post from DW to LJ, which should (hopefully) go right to FB as per usual. If it doesn't, I'l figure out something. I'm going to continue reading my LJ F-list, and commenting and all that. The only thing changing is who gets my monetary support for my blog.

If you are an LJ friend that is posting only to DW these days (and you somehow see this), please let me know. If you are doing the dual-posting thing, also let me know. I'm going to rebuild as much of my F-list as I can on DW, and don't want to miss anyone.
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Two weeks ago, my family welcomed home the newest member of our family. He’s a beautiful little boy, and we’re happy beyond belief, as most of you following along at home know already. I can’t keep shaking the same thought, every single day. I look at my son, and shake my head.

I don’t know how they do it.

Monogamous parents, I mean. To be really specific, monogamous parents of newborn children.

There is so much bloody work to do! Feeding and diapers and changing and feeding and cuddling and bathing and more changing and laundry and more diapers and more comforting and yet more feeding and none of that takes “regular” life into account. Where do they fit in cooking their own food, their own laundry, their own sleep, for Gods’ sake?

Babies are hard work, everyone knows that. Even if you are blessed like we are, and have a pretty happy and very healthy child, there’s so much to do. Our little bundle of joy is quite a handful. He doesn’t like not being held, and let’s us know it if he’s put down for more than a couple of microseconds. Honestly, he’s a really good baby. Doesn’t cry unless something is wrong; generally he’s hungry, cold, dirty or some combination thereof. He eats every few hours, needs new diapers or clothes slightly less often, and frequently needs help relaxing into sleep. Nothing unusual for a two-week-old newborn, and I’m not complaining about any of it.

But I simply cannot imagine doing it with only two people, or worse, alone as a single parent! Because there are four of us, we’ve been able to trade off housework and sleep and baby duty, so none of us are wandering around looking like overwhelmed, exhausted zombie parents. Every third night or so, someone has baby duty, staying up with the infant so mommy can sleep (“mommy” here referring to the biological mom, who is the only one of us that can feed the little guy at the moment, since we’re exclusively breastfeeding and she cannot pump yet). We’re all working together to keep all of the balls in the air. We’re eating regular meals, the house isn’t a total disaster, we’re not running out of clothing, and errands are getting done. Mom is the most tired of us, but she’s got a good excuse. Giving birth is hard, and nursing is literally a drain on your body. Couple that with only being able to sleep, at most, three to four hours at a stretch, maybe twice a day, and cat naps in between, and it makes for a tired woman.

Imagine how tired she'd be if she only had one person to help? Or none?

There are a lot of advantages to being in a poly relationship. There are lots of advantages to living in a polyamorous household. We knew that having multiple adults around to care for an infant would be great, but I don’t think we had any idea just how great. Unlike the rest of my family, I can speak from direct experience. My ex-wife and I had two children, and when they were babies, we raised them without additional partners, pretty far from our biological families. It was hard to juggle everything. We did pretty well, I thought, but it was a struggle.

It is so much easier to do it this way. If someone is tired, we have backups. If something unexpectedly comes up, we have options. If someone can’t do something they said they would, someone else can step up and make it happen. Taking care of our son isn't easy, but it's certainly easier with more people to pitch in.

Real life is about to intrude. This week, one member of our household (the primary breadwinner) went back to work. Next week, another one does as well. In a month’s time, mom will have to pick up her job again (she works for herself from home, which is good, but her business cannot wait forever). Of all of us, I have the most flexibility. I’m about to finish grad school, and in this economy, it might take a while for me to find work. In the mean time, I get to play Mr. Mom. I have no doubt that taking care of our son is going to get a little more difficult for us as we are forced to go back to our regular lives. But even so, I feel sorry for all of the people in this world trying to take care of an infant with two or fewer sets of hands.

It is often said that polyamory isn’t about sex; polyamory is about love. Maybe the general public would be more interested or sympathetic to our lifestyle if we added a bit to the second part:

Polyamory is about love and family.
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There isn't much to life when you are seven days old. You can't move much, and what movement you do have is jerky and somewhat uncontrolled. For the first couple of days, your eyes don't focus well, nor do the pupils work right. Anything further away than the distance between your face and mommy's when she's feeding you is blurry. You can't do anything for yourself, except suck on your fingers, toes or whatever handy body part happens by your mouth. Luckily, none of your physical limitations matter much. Your job as a newborn baby is to do three things. You don't have to do these three things in any particular order, although they often coincide with each other:

Eat. Sleep. Poop.

The first one is the hardest. Nursing is a skill that takes patience and practice to learn. It's really easy for Mom to just let Baby go to town, but both of them will wind up unhappy pretty quickly if they aren't paying attention. For Mom, it's a huge change. She's known theoretically for months how breastfeeding works, has probably read about it in books or on the Internet, maybe even taken a class or three. But like all battle plans, they do not long outlast contact with the enemy. Mother and child quickly learn that everything the books and teachers say is helpful advice, but they have to figure out what works for them. They have to practice good technique, or Mom will be so sore so quickly that she'll want to cry every time Baby does for more milk. But aside from that, they have to work together to get it right, and it won't exactly match what any of the experts said to do. Mom also has to adjust to being a two-legging walking lunch truck, not necessarily an easy transition to make for modern, liberated women. Having a boy child puts a new spin on a man only wanting you for your body.

Baby is blissfully unaware of all of this. He just wants breakfast. And brunch. And elevensies. And lunch. And so on. He's happy to eat pretty much constantly, and will if Mom lets him. Which mommy is inclined to do, as the second thing all babies have to be good at usually immediately follows eating.

There is a lot more sleeping going on than the other two, which is a blessing as far as the parents are concerned. A newborn child teaches you about a new level of sleep deprivation, the kind that would be illegal if someone did it to a prisoner of war. Mom has to perfect the art of sleeping while sitting up, catching naps in between feedings at all hours of the day. It's only marginally better in families that bottle feed. If Mom exclusively breast feeds, the only way she is going to get any real sleep at all is if her partner stays up with Baby at night. Because inevitably, the middle of the night is Baby's favorite time to be alert, and he simply won't put up with not being held.

Baby has no clue of the havoc he's making of his parent's lives. His day is spent in a perpetual fog of fatigue. If he isn't sleeping, he might be if you look away for a second or two. Never again in life will the gentle sound of snoring be so welcome to the ears. Babies are capable of a dizzying array of cute sounds, snoring foremost to my mind. Baby hiccups are pretty darn cute, too, but if Baby is snoring, then Mom can be as well, and that is like a gift from the gods in the first few days of life.

Poop comes third on the list only because it is the most infrequent thing Baby does. But make no mistake. Pooping is serious business. Just look at Baby every time he does it. He gets a look of determination that is unmatched in his short life. Pooping requires concentration. It's literally the only thing that he does completely on his own. He obviously can't feed himself, and if you wait for a newborn to put himself to sleep you're in for a long night. But pooping, that he can handle.

It's also a lot of fun. Just watch Baby while he does it. He's clearly enjoying himself. He usually starts with a quizzical look. It is a strange thing to be doing, after all. His forehead wrinkles, as he thinks about what he's about to do. Then, without further warning, the gurgling noises begin. He strains a bit, maybe grunts, and then it's all over. But at some point during this procedure, Baby will break out in a smile. He doesn't know what a smile is yet, not like you do. But he does it anyway. Because pooping is fun!

Pooping is a lot less fun for Mom and Dad. Changing a poopy diaper is always an adventure. Baby seems to have an unerring sense for the exact moment to urinate all over Mom, himself, the new diaper, the changing table and maybe the wall if he's close enough to hit it. And there is nothing in the Universe like the black tar that comes out of Baby during the first few days. It's worse than cement. Thankfully, that phase doesn't last long, although Baby never learns that peeing on his parents is a lot less fun for them.

Childhood is essentially a long apprenticeship in being an adult. The learning process starts right away. Within the first hour after birth, many babies are already on the breast, learning how to eat. Not long after that, they fall asleep for the first time. And not long after that, they learn the joys of elimination. In the first few hours of the first day, they learn how to do three things that they are going to do for the rest of their lives. It's easy for us, as parents, to lose sight of just how important these three things are, simply because we do them every day and have been for years. The little things in life matter, especially when they are the only things you know how to do.
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Today is Connor's seventh day of life. Two ideas are warring in my brain: "Is it really only seven days?" vs. "Holy crap, it's been seven days!"

The two have fought themselves to a stalemate at the moment. And despite all appearances to the contrary, there have been non-baby related activities and news happening here at Olympus. Ian had his first day back at work on Friday, Aimee actually took a work phone call the day after Connor's birth (yes, in the hospital), and I've been doing schoolwork.

Which brings me to the real meat of this update. I was officially not accepted to the PhD program at UMass this week. A couple weeks back, I got news I was wait listed, and not enough people said "no" for me to make it to the top of the list. Baring any surprises, at the end of summer, I'll have a master's degree in hand, and in little over a month, I will attend my final class as a college student.

And I am perfectly ok with it.

I've been feeling really conflicted about continuing, even before I decided to apply. On one hand, earning a doctorate has been my long term goal since very early on in my return to college. But on the other, I really feel done. Like, DONE done. I really want to start writing things because I want to, not because I have to for a grade. Right now, I'm working heavily on my research paper for my independent study this semester, which is good, but most of my writing this semester has been to prepare for comps. It is supremely unsatisfying. I've barely had time to blog (has anyone noticed that the birthday blogs are the first real substantial posts I've made in months?), and simply cannot make time for creative fiction.

Since I first went back to school in 2001, I've been at least a part time student every year since then, with only two semesters off completely. I've been a full time student for the last four years. In that time, I've earned two degrees, and will finish a third by the end of summer.

I've accomplished a lot. It's ok to feel done. It's ok to BE done.

Shortly before Connor's birth, I attended a speed-interview workshop for prospective museum professionals. I made a lot of contacts, at least two of which have great potential for future employment. My Master's program has prepared me well for life after school. I'm eager to get to it.

Last, and most importantly, I am not going to find work right away. The economy is still recovering, and jobs for people with my skill set and training are not common. While I'm searching for an income, I can play Mr. Mom so my other partners can bring home the tofu.

All of this is predicated on me not being a student next year. So I was leaning against continuing anyway, and now UMass made it moot for me.

And I'm really ok about it. Next fall, I might apply for programs again (not just UMass this time, and maybe not them again at all). There are things I'll miss about being a student. I'm going miss being part of an academic community. I'm definitely going to miss my library access. And I'll miss the types of conversations you only have while in grad school.

But I'm ready for what's next. My whole family is. Let's see what you got in store, Universe.
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"...Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end." - Closing Time, Semisonic.

I heard this song on the radio the other day, and it is perfectly appropriate here. This post is the end of Aimee's labor and delivery, and the beginning of our new life as a family of five.

According to her wishes, as soon as Connor was out, the nurses put him right on Aimee's chest. According to her wishes, they didn't even ask if she wanted any pain killers, and waited until the pulse in his umbilical cord was imperceptible before they offered to let me cut it. They did almost all of the medical exam stuff they had to do while Connor and Aimee simply sat together, bonding in mutual exhaustion. Within the first few minutes, Connor was on the breast, learning the first essential skill in a lifetime of education. Aimee suffered a slight wound during delivery, but taking care of her didn't interrupt a thing. The nurses flowed around us, like the well-oiled machine they are.

For our part, her three partners milled about in stunned pleasure, alternating between taking pictures and stares of pleased bewilderment. And lots of hugs and tears. We started making phone calls to far-flung family and loved ones, letting them know that Connor had finally arrived. One family member in particular couldn't wait, and was on her way to us as soon as her husband got out of work. Aimee's parents arrived about fifteen minutes or so after Connor was born. They came into the room, expecting to see their daughter still hard at work. What they got was their little girl nursing her little boy, and the waterworks began to flow. The look of surprise on her face is one I will not soon forget.

Connor was 20.5 inches long at birth, 9 lbs. .06 ounces, with a head 34 inches in circumference. In every respect, he was a big boy! His feet and hands are huge, his feet in particular. He came out not fitting into newborn sized socks. Like both of his biological parents, he can't wear a hat, either. They just don't sit on his head. He had that squished cute ugliness that all newborns have, and a fairly full head of hair. He's now five days old, and the hair shows no signs of falling out, so we think he's going to keep it. It was no surprise to anyone that a boy child of mine was born with hair that was already over his ears. His eyes were (and still are) the generic blue-grey of most Caucasian babies. Both of his parents have fair eyes, so we suspect he's going to keep them in that general shade.

Time continued to pass by in a blur. There were tests, eating, nursing, visiting friends and family, sleep, and more nursing. Barbara gracefully bowed out about an hour after Connor was born, wanting to give us time to just be alone. We hugged her goodbye. If she's reading this, I hope she knows that we consider her an honorary auntie, and hope she'll accept the title. Aimee's parents left after a little while, to spend the night in a nearby hotel room. Aimee had her first real meal in almost two days. It was hospital food, which was not nearly as good as the cafeteria food, so I went out with Laurel to the local Uno's to get more for all of us. This is a good moment to praise her, as she played a very important role for us. She was our dog sitter, but more than that, she took it upon herself to straighten up and clean our home, so that when we got back, we found things much more orderly than we would have otherwise. I know she'll be reading this eventually, so I'll say for all five of us; we loves us a Laurel, we're thrilled to have her as Connor's crazy auntie, and cannot thank her enough for being part of our life.

Before we knew it, we were heading home. I'm not intentionally skipping things, but honestly, the next day and a half passed by fairly uneventfully comparatively speaking. We rested, helped Aimee regain her strength, ate more cafeteria food, bonded together, and basically hung out until the doctors and nurses pronounced Connor healthy and whole so we could take him home. We came home Monday in the early afternoon, and have been blissfully happy ever since. We know that real life will intrude soon, and force us to pick up the threads of work and school, but for now, we're simply enjoying being a family.

I didn't get to see most of the comments on my Facebook until well after everything was over. I cannot imagine what it was like on the other end of the Internet. I've heard from some of you that you were waiting with baited breath for every update, as eager to greet Connor as we were. One person said that she was refreshing her feed almost constantly, while another switched from computer to mobile devices to make sure she didn't miss an update. The unofficial award for best comment goes to Michael W., for the following: "Congratulations. You have gained a new party member: Level 1 Baby!" Truer words have never been spoken!

I want to end this story by thanking everyone that watched and participated in the live labor updates I was doing over the web. I did it for three reasons. First, I knew that lots of folks that couldn't be in the room with us would really appreciate knowing what was going on. Second, by tweeting events more or less as they happened, I was creating a record to use later. I consulted the log of them to help reconstruct and remember the timeline. Last, my family is from the Internet. This is how we roll!

Reading through all of your well-wishes, comments and congratulations on Facebook and Twitter was wonderful for all of us. In a very real way, every single one of you that took the time to say something was part of this magnificent experience. If I have left you off this list accidentally, the fault is totally mine, and I beg your forgiveness. In the interests of privacy, I've scrubbed out last names, sometimes leaving an initial for clarity. In no particular order, I want to thank:

Alex S., Bette E., Barbara M., Mary S., Jane B., Beverly M., Ellen S., Hugh C., Kelly S., Sara H., Lorelei, Alanya D., Seána, Dusti, Laurel, Jessica C., Crystal H., Eric Z., Mel G., Julie J., Meg and Matthew W., Megan M., Jill O., Matt W., Sariel, Magdelen, Sara B., Kelsi W., RJ, Karen June, Jill K, Justin W-P., Martina R., Michael W., Annie R., Adrian, Michelle S-L., Nick M., Tara R., Eliza J., Jennifer C., Chuck, Sherrell S., Megan P., Gia, Bill A., Ricky M-A., Lisa H., Adam S., Nadia, Victoria C., Angela L., Jessica W., Sarah Rose F., Rebecca M., John and Jennifer R., Dani R., Mark R., Dominic C., Amanda M., Richard A., Katy C., Larry, J.J., Brynn H., Melissa C., Sofia M., B.K., Rhiannon, Lee H., Aiden F., Elaine T., Alice R., Cassie H., Dee, Amelia S., Winterson, Martin G., Georine R., Stephanie S., Faye W., Ricky M., Dawn W., Ron R., Brian R., Alicia H., Jessi C., Donna D., Laura, Michael L., Tikva, Lynne S., Kevin C., Justin C., Esh, Halley C., Amy W., Sandy M., Mariama, Sara Jane L-Z., Taneka and Josh M., Eliza A., Roseanne M., Julia, Ann R., Karen M., Sher, Rachel W., Sunshine and Wally, Adam M., Crystal N., Kiernan, Cid and Bear, Roxy, Andrea F., Tiffany, Ross, Sarah Noel, Jason P., Sarah S., Kali, Bendy, Kay, and Sharon and David von Behren.

Some of you are family, some are friends. Some are blood relations, some married in, some sibs from another mother. Some are fellow activists and educators, some former and current co-workers, still others schoolmates, college friends or fellow grad school masochists. Many of you we see frequently, others we don't, and a very few I've never met in real life at all. Many of you have met all four of us, but quite a few haven't (and I hope someday that changes). There is no way for me to thank you all individually for being with us in virtual spirit on the day our son was born, so this will have to suffice. Never was a child born surrounded by more love as he made his way into this world; from his parents, his family and the electronic throng gathered to celebrate a new life. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being part of that amazing day, when our son Connor was born.
tehuti: (Default)
This entry is going to be long, folks. Consider yourself warned.

We finally made it into the room at 1:30pm. They put us in room 1823, one of the largest rooms on the floor, at the far end of the hall, closest to the operating room. I think they put us there for two reasons. They knew that Aimee had a sizable entourage, and that she intended to have a natural, intervention-free birth.

Whenever we talked about having a child, Aimee was always clear about two things. First, that she wanted to have her first child by age thirty. Second, she wanted to do it naturally. We came close on the first one. She turned thirty right around the time she became pregnant. The second desire was tougher. Women today just assume a lot of things about birth as a matter of course. Of course you'll give birth in a hospital. Of course you'll circumcise male babies. Of course you'll take pain medication, and pitocin, and an IV, and everything else the hospital nurses and doctors want to do to you. That's how it's done, right?

Not so for our Princess. She knew what she wanted, and dammit, she was going to have it. Her birth plan reflected that, which I share here with her permission:


I will have a doula with me for my labor. I have 3 partners who I would like to be present for the birth. They are all very important to me, and I do not want to have to choose who can and cannot be present.

While I recognize that complications can arise, my goal is to have as unmedicated and as intervention-free birth as possible.

Please do not offer me any pain medication. I know that it is available and will ask for it if I choose.

I would like to be given an opportunity to try natural labor progression methods (nipple stimulation, intercourse, walking) before being offered any interventions (ie pitocin)

I would like to eat and drink freely during labor.

I would like the option of wearing my own clothing for labor and the duration of my hospital stay.

I would rather not have an IV unless it is necessary for my health or the health of my baby.

I would like to be able to move freely during labor and make use of any available positioning tools, ie birthing balls, squatting bars.

I would like the option of laboring in a tub if possible. If the tub is not available, I will plan on showering.

I would like to keep a calm environment and would prefer if the lights remained dim.

I would like to keep fetal monitoring and cervical exams to a minimum.

Unless there is an emergency, I would like my child to remain in the room with me at all times.

I would like immediate skin to skin contact with my child. Please perform any newborn exams with my child on my chest.

Please delay cutting my child’s cord until it has stopped pulsing. I would like my partners to be offered a chance to cut the cord if they choose.

I am planning on breastfeeding. Please do not give my child any bottles, whether they contain formula or water, or pacifiers.

If there is an emergency, I would like one partner to be allowed to remain with me, and one partner to remain with the baby at all times.

I would like to avoid being catheterized unless it is absolutely necessary.

I do not want an episiotomy unless it is necessary for the health of my child.

I am having a boy and I do not want my child circumcised.

I do not wish to have a routine pitocin injection to deliver the placenta. Please only offer the pitocin if it is necessary for my health.

I will be having my placenta encapsulated and will bring a cooler to bring it home with me.


I know that some of you reading this are aware of Bay State's reputation. They have a fairly high rate of caesarian sections, about one in three. They are known to be intervention-heavy, and don't have a lot of experience with doulas, let alone alternative families. If the list above is the kind of birth that Aimee wanted, why weren't we at a more accommodating hospital, like Cooley-Dickinson in Northampton? First and foremost, we live in Springfield. Northampton is at least forty minutes on a good day by car. Bay State is about ten. And if you don't think there's a difference between two or three contraction on the way to the hospital and twelve to fifteen, try having one sometime and I bet your opinion will change. Second, if anything did go wrong, we'd already be at the best place to be. Bay State accounts for almost half of all births in Western Mass. every year, and is the only Level III NICU in our end of the state. These folks really know what they are doing, so we elected to go with their experience and expertise.

Our room was a strange hybrid of hotel and hospital. The lighting was pure institution, with bright overheads supplemented with softer site specific lights. The medical equipment was all mobile and/or concealable, so it was only around as long as we needed it. We didn't have enough chairs (there were five of us in the room, after all), so we got an extra. One of the chairs was a spring rocker, which basically is an oversized chair with a bouncy back. We had a TV (that never got used) and more outlets than we could use. And considering that we brought nearly all of our computers and electronic gadgets along, that's saying something. The bathroom was nothing special. The shower had a hot water governor on it that made using it somewhat unsatisfying. If that was our biggest complaint, we were doing ok, no?

So anyway, by the time we made it to our room, were all hungry, since breakfast was four hours before and none of us had eaten much. Excitement does that to the appetite. I had just tweeted to the world that we were safely ensconced, and could update the folks at home more quickly and easily when I got sent off to the cafeteria to hunt us up lunch. I made it back to the room around 2:30 with lunch, but all Aimee could swallow down was a few bites of a protein bar. At this point, her contractions were coming every two to three minutes, lasting for a minute or more, so to her, it felt like she was getting no break at all.

Aimee labored like a champ, and here is where Barbara really demonstrated why every pregnant woman should have a doula. She gave expert advice on positioning, encouraging Aimee to shift positions frequently to prevent fatigue. She had, of all things, a piece of shelf liner (the kinda rubbery mesh kind that keeps things from sliding around), that she used to hold up Aimee's belly. Taking the weight off of her, for even a few minutes at a time, was an invaluable relief. And I cannot underestimate how important her presence was for Ian, Michy and I. She took the lead on helping Aimee through the beginning of her active labor, which kept the rest of us physically fresh for when Aimee needed us later. She also taught Aimee a technique to use sound to stay on top of her contractions. They harmonized together, at a low frequency (kinda like a modified "ohm"), to help her stay focused. It worked amazingly well, almost to the very end, when the pain and frequency finally began to overwhelm her.

But I'm a bit ahead of myself. The next few hours were a blur for all of us. Aimee's contractions were almost non-stop at this point. Barbara and Aimee would harmonize through her contractions, and eventually we all took it up, taking turns being her physical and emotional support. Around 3:00pm, she was hit with the strongest contraction yet, and her control faltered for the first time. As it passed, she told us that she peed "a little". It's an easy mistake to make for someone in her position. What actually happened is that her membranes ruptured. When a woman's water breaks in the movies or on television, it's usually portrayed as a gush of fluid. This is rarely the reality. Aimee was much more typical. She leaked a bit, fairly consistently, for the next two hours. If you stop to think, it makes logical and biological sense. The amniotic fluid helps lubricate the way for the baby to pass through the birth canal.

Ironically, right before that contraction, we were talking about getting Aimee out of the clothes she was wearing to the hospital (the outfit she had on in the deep squat picture). She settled that question for us!

At this point, Aimee again asked for the tub. She'd asked for it earlier, but it wasn't available. Bay State does not allow water births, but they do have a jacuzzi tub for women to use. It's the same principle as the strap Barbara was using; take the weight of the belly off of the mom. And warm water doesn't hurt, either. We changed Aimee into a skirt and sports bra, and prepared to walk her to the tub room. Before we left, the nurses checked her cervix again. She was at 7cm.

Knowing that the end was in sight, we headed off to the tub on foot. Unfortunately for the rest of the unit, it was on the complete opposite side of the ward from us. Aimee had two contractions in the hallway. We must have been a sight, four people helping to support one laboring mom, two nurses trailing behind, stopping every few minutes to moan in tandem in the halls! One nurse playfully shushed us, saying Aimee would scare the other moms.

The tub was instant relief. It was a free standing tub, with high sides and a hand sprayer. It was theoretically mobile, but in practice they kept it in the same room most of the time. The water was warm and waiting for us when we got there. I know Aimee would have stayed in there and given birth if they'd let her. She really liked the tub. After one contraction, she tiredly exclaimed, "You guys are awesome." We were trying to keep a light and humorous attitude throughout Aimee's labor, for her sake and ours.

It seemed longer at the time, but we were only in the tub room for about thirty minutes. The nurses kept checking in with Aimee while she was in the water, asking her how she felt. They kept asking if she felt pressure, like she had to go to the bathroom. Aimee was so far out of it at this point that she didn't understand why they were asking. Once a mom passes 5cm, the labor process accelerates. She could go from 7cm to baby in the blink of an eye. She reported that she felt pressure, so they moved us back to our room. Mercifully, we transported Aimee back in a wheelchair.

Once back in our own room (about 3:45pm), Aimee got back in the bed, on her hands and knees, and continued to labor. They were coming in a constant wave at this point. The nurses began monitoring them more regularly; blood pressure for mom, heart rate for the baby. Both passed every check with flying colors. About ten minutes after we got back in the room, our midwife said to Aimee, "You're ready to push!" Aimee, becoming more unaware of her surroundings with every passing minute, replied, "Really? I can do that?". The nurse chuckled, "That wasn't a question, it was a statement. Your body will know what to do."

She was right. Aimee started pushing at 3:58pm. Ian supported her upper body, Mich and I stood on both sides. The nurses faded into the background. Barbara helped with ice, but from here on out, our family was pretty much running the show. With each contraction, Aimee pushed, with very little coaching or encouragement. More fluid came out, more harmonizing happened. It was getting harder and harder for her to stay on top of the pain. Her voice was starting to break, the humming replaced with exclamations like "Come on baby!", "Get this kid out!", "I can't take anymore!", and "Jesus Christ!" and other more colorful expletives. At one point, I pointed out to her that her Catholic was showing, so the next contraction was met with, "Oh Gods!".

After about a half hour, Aimee's poor legs had finally had enough. She'd spent much of her labor on her knees, either over the bed, a yoga ball, or in the tub. We coaxed her into lying down on her side. Ian continued to hold her upper body, so with every contraction, he held firm, giving her something to bear down on. Mich held her left leg in place, while I held her right leg up. Once she was laying down, she again said that we were all awesome, and got down to the serious business of birth.

We first saw his head about fifteen minutes before Connor was born. Each push brought him tantalizingly closer. The nurses kept back, letting Aimee and us do the work. Every few minutes, they'd check the baby's heartbeat, but otherwise, we could have been at home alone. Twice, they encouraged Aimee to reach down and feel his head, to prove to her that her suffering meant something.

I don't want you to leave with the impression that the nurses didn't do much. They were constantly in motion around us, but in a way that faded into the background. They changed the chucks under Aimee a few times, to keep things fairly clean. When we got close to the end, they got all of the equipment we needed ready. They were just as awesome as Aimee thought we were.

Every time Aimee pushed, I glanced at the clock, wondering if this was the minute he would emerge. Ian joked that we should have gotten a pool going. Michy held up like a champion, being strong for Aimee when she needed it most. At about 4:55, our midwife asked if we (Michy and I, since we were in position), wanted to catch him. A few minutes later, Connor was fully crowned. Time slowed down. Even though the contractions kept coming at the same pace, each one felt like an eternity, the breaks between them somehow longer. At 5:04pm, Aimee gave a prodigious push, and Connor's head popped out. Liz (the midwife) guided Michy and I to catch him. Aimee screamed in pain and relief, and with one last bit of encouragement, pushed for the final time.

Connor Paul Bouchard entered into this world, caught safely in the hands of his father and his little mother together, while his Dad-E held his mother safe and strong.


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January 2012

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