Project: Live Through March
Status: Success!

I am writing this on March 31st, and due to a horror of March dropping more things on my head last-minute I am not going to post it until tomorrow. It doesn't count as bragging if nobody's seen it yet, right? Right. (I will update this paragraph if anything awful happens on Tuesday.) (Nothing awful happened on Tuesday. Tuesday was nice and relaxed.)

Anyway. March! My goal for the month was Live Through March, I have lived through March, all is well. Now I can continue with various organize and declutter goals that got delayed by March Happening, and hang out with friends, and sit down and properly compose this song that's been pounding on my brain trying to get out, or maybe skip it in favor of the other one that just jumped me and is more cheerful and representative of my actual existence, and clean off my desk, and actually write up this insight I had about Why We Are All So Busy These Days that I have been meaning to share, although obviously not all at once and in fact not as fast as I had been planning because dealing with chicken mites has been occupying really irritatingly large chunks of my time lately. We are not all so busy because of chicken mites, chicken mites are irrelevant to most people's busyness levels, that is not the insight.

March did eat the Spring Egg Hunt I was planning to do again this year, which is a darned shame. But between the mites and the busyness (and the earliness of Easter this year) there was no time for planning and prep, so instead we will be going off to a community egg hunt in Los Altos this weekend. I expect it'll be a bit of a madhouse. Maybe we can do one here later in the spring, or for Morgan's birthday. With any luck the mites will be gone eventually, yes? Some day?

Soon we have out-of-town visitors and the great lawyer document signing day and my birthday and cherry blossom festivals and concerts in the plaza and all manner of excitement. And right now I have Lived Through March. Go me.

Morgan's Babies
Morgan likes to tell stories about her and her babies. After the initial flourishing, in which she had fourteen babies and a special purple car with enough carseats for all of them, she has settled down into a consistent two.

Their names are Mashed Potato and Green Bean. Morgan is a grown-up, and specifies this in every story. Mashed Potato is anywhere between 3 and 5 1/2 years old, and Green Bean is 1 to 2 1/2. (The difference between the ages is not consistent.) Morgan informs me that "They're not boys, they're just babies!" but consistently uses masculine pronouns for both of them.

She likes to use them to work out things that have just happened to her, where she represents me and Mashed Potato represents her. So when she got a pain in her foot and needed to be carried for the rest of the dog walk, the Morgan's Babies stories that day and the next were about how Mashed Potato stepped on something sharp, so Morgan took his shoe off and cleaned off his foot, and then carried him, and I carried Green Bean, because Green Bean is too little to walk the whole way.

This morning they all went to a gym class, but first Morgan made octopus cupcakes for Mashed Potato's birthday ("It not his birthday yet, but I have to be prepared!") and cut out a red felt heart and put it up in his room with sticky-tack.

I am fascinated to see how this develops.

Once again, that's FOGcon 5, this weekend!
Do you know what you're doing this weekend? Why not try FOGcon! March 6-8, 2015 -- that's this Friday through Sunday -- in Walnut Creek.

Pre-registration has now closed, but full weekend memberships and day passes are available at the door. For adults, prices vary by day (Friday $35, Saturday $40, Sunday $30). For youth between 11 and 17, day passes are $10 per day, and kids 10 and under get in free with a parent.

Bring the kids on Saturday to check out the new family programming track, featuring Program Your Parents (learn about simple robotics and programming concepts while ordering your parents around), All-Ages Story Time, and Let's Build a Starship.

If you're curious but not sure about all those strange new people, there's a special Meet & Greet event on Friday afternoon to help you make connections. Or you could volunteer -- everyone at the convention comes through registration at some point, and the consuite is a wonderful place to hang out and chat with new friends. Just e-mail and let us know how you'd like to help!

FOGcon 5 -- Walnut Creek -- March 6-8, 2015
FOGcon 5 is coming right up! Pre-registration closes this Friday, so if you'd like child care or you know you want to attend the whole weekend, here's your chance.

Full weekend and day passes are available at the door, but child care is not. Banquet tickets are also available at the convention, but only until we run out of them, so if you'd like to dress up fancy, dress up strange, or dress up exactly like you usually do and attend the fabulous Unaward Banquet (delicious food, great company, and minimal speechifying) on Saturday night, I'd recommend purchasing those in advance.

Come to FOGcon! Meet fascinating people such as our Guests of Honor Catherynne Valente and Kim Stanley Robinson! Check out our exciting programming, with panels ranging from Alternate Universes to Fake Authentic Folklore Improv to The SF/F of Suburbia and a new track of experimental kids programming on Saturday afternoon. Hang out in our amazingly well-stocked consuite, chatting and snacking into the night!

If you are thinking "Yes! This sounds amazing! How do I sign up?!" head to Registration and fill out the little checkboxes. If you are thinking "I already did that! How can I get more involved?" e-mail and let us know how you'd like to help! Staffing the registration desk is a fantastic way to meet people, hosting the consuite is great for night owls, and helping out in general will earn you our eternal gratitude and a nifty sticker to put on your badge.

Morgan is Two and a Half
Morgan is two and a half today.

She knows all the words you could reasonably or unreasonably expect her to know (energetic, noticed, unfortunately, chupacabra, quidditch), and makes up her own when she needs more. She likes to invent little songs, usually to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", about whatever she's doing at the moment. ("Splashing, splashing, little soap. Splashing, hum hum, in our tub....")

She is really into imaginative play. She loves her little kit of doctor's tools, and tries to get any grownup (or dog) that wanders into range to be her patient. She also spends a lot of time putting out imaginary fires by going down slides, locking people and things in jail, and flying rocketships. She tells a lot of stories about her and her babies, driving her purple sports car (with orange stripes, and car seats for all fourteen babies) to the grocery store or the pool or her condo in Hawaii.

She counts one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, fourteen, TWENTY! She knows either the name or a sound for I think all the letters in the alphabet, both for most, and will read them off trucks and signs and so forth. She hasn't quite figured out how to put the letters together into words yet, but she's good at guessing from the first letter and a bit of context. She also has a terrifyingly good memory, so as long as she's had a book read to her a few times she can then 'read' it to the dog, using the pictures and possibly parts of the text as memory aids, usually not perfectly but better than I could if the text were covered.

She recently decided she didn't want to go to gym class any more, which is a surprise because I thought she was enjoying it. I guess we'd gone through the whole curriculum, so she might just not have been getting a lot of new skills out of it any more. We'll try again when she's three and the independent classes start up. I'm not really sure how preschool is going. It seems like every time they have a holiday or she has a cold, she doesn't want to go back, but then she gradually gets to like it again until the next holiday. She comes home with lots of scribbles for me, and occasionally for her other parents, and tells me she cried. The teachers tell me about lots of things that they've done with her, and that she's not crying all that much. Sometimes she reports things that other kids did that day, and now she's listing three of them as friends (I suspect, based on my observations at drop-off time, that these are basically the art-table posse), although she doesn't seem to be what you'd call playing with any of the other kids much, either by her report or the teachers'. She does play with other kids at the playground now and then, but she's at a stage of social skills where she's good at coming up with ideas, or copying someone else's, but not so much at incorporating other people's ideas into her play in a fluid negotiated manner. She's also gotten nervous about approaching kids she doesn't know, but with a little encouragement from either me or them she does well once she's talking to them.

She is just now tall enough to ride all the rides at Happy Hollow. She thought very hard about trying the roller coaster, but decided it was a bit much for now. She really likes the swings, though, and has determined to try the Frog Hopper next time we're there (it was not running on our last visit).

I need to put some thought into ways she and the dog can play that they both like, because she would very much like to play with him but neither of them likes the other's favorite games at all.

And that is Morgan at two and a half: a cheerful, energetic, very focused little sprite, who loves books, music, and dressing up.

FOGcon 5, coming in March!
FOGcon 5 is coming up soon! My favorite SF Bay Area science fiction and fantasy convention returns with honored guests Kim Stanley Robinson and Catherynne M. Valente. Memberships are available online (prices go up tomorrow!) or at the door.

We have readings! We have discussions! We have a fabulous consuite! We have child care, a commitment to accessibility, and a wonderful writing workshop.

Have you ever wanted to be on a panel? Have you ever wanted to moderate a panel? Have you ever thought, "Boy, I wish they'd asked me which panels I wanted to attend before they put this schedule together"? Now is your chance! Come tell the FOGcon programming team what you want to see and what you want to participate in.

If you are a high school or college student, enter the student writing contest by January 15th for a chance to win a free membership.

FOGcon 5. Walnut Creek. March 6-8, 2015. Join us! It'll be fun!

We watched Maleficent the other night. Angelina Jolie was fantastic. The costume, set, and creature design was lovely. The script, and therefore the movie, was a disappointment.

cranky spoilers hereCollapse )

The Mysterious Ms. Kim
Morgan has started going to preschool two afternoons a week. She was very excited beforehand, but is having some trouble with the actual transition. Last week was a little rough, but she was looking forward to seeing "Ms. Kim" there today. I remembered her saying something last Wednesday about Ms. Kim putting up Thanksgiving decorations.

"Is Ms. Kim a teacher?" I asked.
"No," she said.
"Is she somebody's mom?"
"No!" Morgan laughed.
"Well, who is she?"
"She's my friend."

When we arrived today, we were greeted by one of the older girls charging out to inform us that Ms. Kim isn't coming today, followed closely by a teacher explaining in a long-suffering tone that she does not need to tell everyone Ms. Kim isn't coming, they will see that Ms. Kim isn't there as soon as they walk in, sheesh.

Darn, I was hoping to meet her.

24-month Morgan Update
Miss Morgan had her birthday, and then her birthday party, and these were both wonderful things. For the party we had a whole pile of small children over for a pirate treasure hunt with monster cupcakes (cup-krakens) courtesy andres_s_p_b. Morgan had a blast. We've been opening one present a night since her actual birthday; the family presents lasted until the party so now we are working on the friend presents. Morgan adores making cards for people, so thank-you notes are proceeding very quickly upon the heels of the actual present-opening. Hurrah instilling useful habits.

Speaking of cards, her art skills are coming along. She's gotten much better at aiming stickers and crayon scribbles for unoccupied parts of the paper, and recently learned how to use glue sticks. Scissors are still a bit beyond her fine motor skills, but she likes to try them out.

She's coming out of a few weeks of frequently pretending to be a baby, and seems to have made some kind of cognitive leap in the meantime. I can't quite put my finger on it, but her language seems to be both more coherent and more inventive lately -- she'll stick to the same topic for longer, and she's making up imagined incidents in a way that is clearly creative rather than confused. She's also sorting out her sense of time. She's very interested in what day of the week things happen on. She'll talk about things that happened "this morning", "yesterday", "last night", "last week", or "last year", although there's no particular correlation between when the thing happened and the time word she uses. If you express interest, she can go on providing novel details about some past event for a surprisingly long time. She observes a great deal about the world, and she can tell you all about it or process it into generalizations and predictions very quickly. If you ask her about something she doesn't know, she will probably tell you that it is either "a kind of a fish" or "a kind of a bird".

She likes to sing, and to recite bits of her books. She's starting to recognize a few letters, though none particularly reliably yet. Counting usually goes "One, two, three, five."

Her default pronoun is still "she" but she is starting to figure out gender and has gotten a lot more likely to call men or boys "he". Nested categories confuse her a bit, so she knows that Papa is a man but appears to be under the impression that he is therefore not a human.

Cathy's been delighted with the appearance of incorrectly standardized past tenses ("torned", "clean upped", etc.). Her little linguist heart thinks those are just the cutest thing ever.

A week or two ago Morgan asked for underwear with her pajamas, and she's been doing pretty well staying dry at night. I think she's had two nights with small accidents, plus another night or two where she wore a diaper because the parent putting her to bed was on autopilot and she didn't object, but it seems like a pretty good ratio so far.

She's gotten much tidier when using spoons and forks, and likes to use a table knife to cut soft fruit or spread butter on bread. She would very much like to use sharp knives too, but seems fairly contented with the idea that this is a "grownup thing". She gets frustrated when we insist on helping with anything that is not categorically a "grownup thing", but she doesn't have the physical skills to do quite all the parts of getting dressed and getting breakfast and so forth that she would like to, at least not reliably, so mornings have been kind of rough lately. Also, she has started telling me not to do things like put my tablet where she can't reach it on grounds that "it could break", which is very clever linguistic judo as that is a phrase she has been hearing an awful lot lately as we remove her from drawers she is using to climb up onto the bed, the bathroom counters, the top of her dresser, Mount Everest, and/or the moon. It doesn't work for her to convince me not to do things any better than it works for me to convince her not to do things, but I expect we will both continue repeating it for quite some time.

Emotional Regulation and Awareness
One more requested topic, delivered via non-comment means: "interesting things to teach a child that did not naturally occur to you (that you had to think about or get from other people or literature)"

This is a fantastic question and I apologize for taking so long to get around to answering it. The big thing, the major important thing I am trying to teach Morgan that does not come naturally to me, is emotional awareness and regulation. I knew that little kids have tantrums, and that bigger kids eventually grow out of that sort of thing, but it turns out that this is not entirely a matter of time. Emotional regulation is a learned process (with some developmental inputs) and there are lots of things I can do to help Morgan get through a tantrum, help reduce the frequency and intensity of tantrums, and teach her other ways to deal with the feelings that lead to tantrums. And every single one of them is bizarrely non-intuitive.

The primary thing I'm doing now is giving her vocabulary words about feelings. We've gotten books specifically about feelings from the library, with photos and illustrations of faces expressing different emotions, or illustrated situations in which she's supposed to guess what the character is feeling (I think my favorite is How Does Baby Feel? by Karen Katz -- it has several different positive emotions, which is a little unusual in this type of book). I try to point out bits in other books where characters are illustrated with clear emotions. And when she's experiencing a strong emotion, I try to label it for her, or to provide several possible emotional explanations if I'm not sure what it is she's actually feeling. This is, sometimes, magic:
T: No, you have three stickers already. You may not have any more stickers until after dinner.
M: ::wails::
T: Are you sad because you can't have any more stickers? You can say "I'm sad."
M: I'M SAAAAAAAD. ::abruptly stops crying, as though a switch has been thrown::
We also talk a bit about the emotions other people are feeling, like if a kid on the playground starts crying we will talk a bit about what he might be feeling and why, or we'll talk about how the dog is feeling when we're walking him.

The other backwards-seeming tantrum stopper is to agree with her about how cool it would be if she could do or have whatever it is that she is upset that she can't do or have. She's not developmentally to the point where this is as magic as I've read it can be, but she's verbal enough that it does work now, slowly. To some extent this reduces tantrums for the same reason that learning a bit of baby sign reduces crying (ATTN ALL NEW PARENTS: LEARN SOME BABY SIGN) -- much of what causes the upset is the feeling that she hasn't communicated her desire clearly, that I don't understand what it is she wants. So if I clearly indicate that I do understand the desire, and that I don't think wanting the thing is a problem, then she feels better about the situation even if she still can't have the thing. (Also I tend to talk about when she can have the thing -- after dinner, maybe next week, when you're a grown-up, whatever the appropriate time frame is.)

There is a fine balance between, one the one hand, ignoring Morgan's emotions, and on the other hand making them too big a deal. Neither of those is great. The ideal is kind of what we aim for when she falls down: notice, give her a moment to have her own reaction, then make a neutral informational sort of comment ("You fell down." "You look upset.") and stand ready to provide help or comfort if she needs it. Morgan specifically does not want as much physical comfort through emotional upsets as a lot of kids seem to, which is a little weird for me, so I am trying to practice being more verbally supportive rather than scooping her up for a hug, because if she's actually tantruming hugs really do not help.

Actually, speaking of informational comments, that's another cool new non-intuitive kid-herding technique I've been trying out lately. But that may be another post -- it is time to get ready for swim class!

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