Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "More Admirable Than Conquest"

This poem came out of the March 1, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from LJ user Paantha. It also fills the "love" square in my 2-29-16 card for the Villain Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by EdorFaus. It belongs to the Cassandra thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Note: Yona's having a baby! Offstage childbirth, male mothering, minor angst, and baby-typical chaos ensue. But it's mostly fluff. :D

"More Admirable Than Conquest"

Cassandra and Groundhog were helping
Yona fold clothes in the laundromat when
the pregnant man suddenly clutched
his enormous belly and said, "Whoo!
I think that was the big one. Would
somebody please call my spice and
the midwife, and help me get upstairs?"

"I've got you," Groundhog said at once,
slinging an arm around Yona. "I'll call
Troy and the midwife. Cassandra,
you contact Bryony, please."

They made the calls quickly, and then
Cassandra rounded up the children.
Miriel was, as usual, trying to reprogram
the equipment. Her brother Avner, who
was three years older, was coloring quietly.

"Are you still willing to babysit?"
Yona asked Cassandra.

"What? Of course I am," she said.
"I promised that I would. I can't very well
leave you in the lurch at the last minute!"

"It's happened," Yona said. "Some people
are all supportive about male pregnancy until
it's go time, and then suddenly they squick
over it and can't get away fast enough."

"Some people are jerks," Cassandra said.
"Come on, let's get everybody upstairs before
the opening credits turn into an action scene."

Yona chuckled but went along with them.

The penthouse took up the whole top floor
of the Skylark Apartment Building, mainly in
two halves, with a few smaller apartments
tucked between them that hadn't been
entirely subsumed but had been used
as servant quarters or guest rooms.

Yona and his midwife had appropriated
one of those apartments and prepared it
as a birthing chamber some time ago,
so all that Cassandra and Groundhog
had to do now was get him up to it.

As soon as they settled Yona into
the bed in the care of the midwife,
Groundhog went to the balcony
to wait for Troy to come flying in,
and Cassandra gladly retreated to
the family room in the children's wing.

"What's for lunch?" asked Avner.
"We were going to get cheese croissants,
but now we can't and I'm hungry."

"I can make us cheese sandwiches,"
Cassandra said. "You have cheese
and lunch meat somewhere, right?"

"Uh huh," Avner said, tugging her hand.

That reminded Cassandra of
the big baby care calendar stuck
on the front of the refrigerator.

All the volunteers had written out
their tasks and availability, based on
whenever the baby arrived, so that
the Carris family had help for
the first three months.

All that needed to be done
at this stage was to write in
the starting date, today, and
then call the phone tree to
start the notifications.

So Cassandra wrote the date
on the calendar. Then she
looked up the number and
set the phone tree in motion.

Next she explored the refrigerator,
where she found five kinds of cheese
and three different lunch meats, so
it was easy to make sandwiches.

There was even a special cutter
to turn Miriel's sandwich into
tiny, bite-sized pieces.

Troy arrived, landing on the balcony,
and Groundhog escorted him back
to Yona's birthing chamber.

Marsha Farley also showed up
and promptly took over the kitchen
with its tidy white cabinets and
gleaming silver fixtures.

She had volunteered for cooking
during the first week. Before long,
she had a casserole in the oven
and was kneading bread dough
upon the floured countertop.

Despite being quite old, she liked
the dippy-skippy pop music that
the little girls listened to.

Normally Cassandra couldn't
stand that stuff, but now it would
cover any noise that Yona
might be making.

After lunch, Cassandra herded
Miriel and Avner into the family room.

First she helped Avner cover
the low coffee table with paper
so that he could draw.

He was actually a talented artist,
and his crayon pictures all looked like
something drawn by a much older child.
He had shown Cassandra the one in
the bedroom he shared with his brother.

Next she went to Julia's room to find
some toys for Miriel, balancing the toddler
on her hip as they went. Julia always kept
some of Miriel's things in the children's wing,
because the nursery was clear on the other side
of the apartment next to their parents' bedroom.

They came back with a toddler tablet computer
and a bucket of blocks with electronic gears.
Miriel curled up on the couch quite happily
with her chunky computer in her lap,
poking away at the colorful screen.

Cheerful music jingled away in the kitchen,
with Mrs. Farley singing along with it,
off-key and uncaring about that.

Already the apartment smelled richly of
beef casserole and chocolate-chip cookies.

It was so achingly sweet that Cassandra
wished she could have a family like this, instead
of the crap-ass parents she had, who treated her
like trash and wrecked her health just because
they didn't like that she had superpowers.

Miriel was smart enough to understand
a little bit about electronics as a toddler,
and Avner was already drawing like
a grade schooler, and nobody said that
there was anything unnatural about them.

Cassandra sniffled, and wiped
her wet cheeks with the back of
her hand, trying not to be conspicuous.

Miriel noticed anyway. "Are you sad?"

"A little bit," Cassandra admitted.
"My family isn't as nice as yours,
so I'm feeling kind of sad and
envious about that."

"It's okay," Miriel said,
climbing into Cassandra's lap.
"I'll share mine with you."

That just made Cassandra cry harder,
but it felt good to let go of the tension.

"I'm done with my drawing,"
said Avner. "Can you help me
change the page, please?"

"Of course," said Cassandra.
She found the kleenex and
blew her nose, then went
to switch out Avner's picture
for a fresh sheet of paper.

When she turned around,
Miriel was trying to take apart
the toddler tablet.

"Uh oh!" said Cassandra,
taking it away from her.
"Let's not play that way."

"But I want to see," Miriel whined,
reaching for the toy again.

"Yeah, but I don't know much
about electricity," said Cassandra.
"Your parents would be upset if
we set the family room on fire!"

Miriel giggled. "Fire!"

"Why don't we play with
these nice gears instead?"
Cassandra said. "They're
meant to come apart and
then go back together."

She tipped over the bucket
and started sorting the pieces
by their different shapes.

Miriel soon got into the spirit of it
and began building a clock tower.

Then the older children came home.

"Hey, moppet," said Reuven, putting
Miriel on his shoulders. At fourteen, he was
definitely the big brother of the bunch, and
serious about his responsibilities. "Do you
want to help me with my Sankofa project?"

"Yes," she crowed, gears forgotten.

Portia stopped in her own room
just long enough to feed her pets,
currently a hissing cockroach and
and an aquarium with whatever
wild spider she had managed
to capture that week.

Then she came to the family room
and started doing research for
her Public Speaker badge
in Activity Scouts.

"Where's Julia?" said Cassandra.
"I thought that she was supposed
to come home with you two."

"She's in the kitchen with Mrs. Farley,"
said Reuven. "I think they're making
some kind of fruit salad now. They
already put the loaves in the oven."

Indeed, Cassandra could smell
the heavenly scent of baking bread.

Avner got tired of drawing. "I want
to watch a movie," he announced.

"Go ahead and take him to the media room,"
said Reuven. "I've got the moppet in hand."
He shifted Miriel from his shoulders down
to his lap so she could reach his computer.

So Cassandra walked Avner through
the apartment to the media room, with
its enormous viewscreen and furniture that
looked like red velvet but was easy to clean.

Avner picked out Fantasia 2010
and only needed a little help
getting the movie started.

He was more interested in
using Cassandra as his couch
than in the fancy furniture, and
she thought that this was what it
must be like to have a little brother.

By the time they finished watching
the movie, supper was ready.

There were too many people
to fit into the little breakfast nook,
so they had to use the dining room
with its big black table and the chairs
covered in white linen that always
made Cassandra worry about
spilling something on them.

"I'm having supper first," Bryony said,
hugging her children before they sat down.
"Then I'll go keep Yona company while
Troy comes out to eat, so try not to
scarf up all the food before then."

Cassandra looked at the massive pan
of beef casserole, the salad bowl brimming
with colorful fruit, the two loaves of bread,
and the securely lidded pan presumably
meant to protect chocolate-chip cookies
from curious little fingers until dessert.

"I don't think that will be a problem,"
Cassandra said faintly.

"We like to cook, don't we, Julia?"
said Mrs. Farley, looking fondly
at her younger assistant.

Julia nodded, her blonde hair
bobbing along her chin. "I like cooking.
It takes care of people I love, and it
keeps me busy so I don't worry."

The food tasted as good as it smelled,
but it was hard for Cassandra to keep her mind
on eating, what with wriggly kids all around
the table and also knowing that Yona was
off in another room producing a new one.

After supper, they all piled into
the media room, which was basically
the children's living room and had
the most games and toys in it.

Portia went right to the cabinet and
pulled out Imaginiff, a fun party game
about comparing people to objects.
She and Avner started setting up.

Cassandra was surprised to see
that Troy came along with them,
carrying his food on a tray.

"You don't want to stay with Yona?"
she said, tilting her head.

"No, I've been with him for hours,"
said Troy. "I haven't seen the rest of
my family all day, and I could use a break."

"Yona doesn't get to take a break,
though," Cassandra whispered.

"Not right now, but he will as soon as
the baby is born," said Troy. "He's been
babysitting for nine whole months!" He
grinned. "After today, it's our turn."

Cassandra sighed. "I wish ..."

"You wish what?" Troy said
after a long, silent minute.

"I wish my family was nice like this,"
said Cassandra. "Even when yours gets
overwhelming, it's better than mine."

"I'd like to give your parents
a good view over my balcony rail,"
Troy muttered. "Or maybe
a little ... sightseeing trip."

"They don't like heights," she said.

"So much the better," Troy said
with a shark-toothed grin. He might
be a blue-plate special instead of
a superhero, but Cassandra
wouldn't want to annoy him.

"Dad, can I have a baby sling?"
Reuven asked. "I know you said
I was too small when Miriel was born,
but I'm bigger now." He showed off
something on his tablet computer.
"We've been exploring child care
across cultures in Sankofa, and I
really like this African style sling."

"Hmm ... how much are you
lifting at the gym?" Troy said.

"Fifty pounds, most of the time,"
said Reuven. "More than that,
and I really need a spotter."

"How much does the sling cost?"

"It's ... uh, not cheap, or I
would have just bought it myself,"
Reuven said, looking down.

Troy scrolled through the display,
then typed in something. "All right,
come here and pick your color."

"Olive green," Reuven said at once.
He liked dark colors and earth tones.

"Done," Troy said. "Now how about
that game of Imaginiff your sister
and brother are setting up?"

Cassandra let them pull her
into the silly game too, which
was a good way of getting
to know people a bit better.

It was lighthearted and relaxing,
and almost made her feel at home.

Then Bryony came in and announced,
"Yona is done with the delivery, and
the midwife has the room tidied up.
Troy, Reuven, do you want to come
and meet the new baby now?"

Reuven whooped and dashed for
the door, catching himself after
a few paces and slowing down.
Troy followed a pace behind.

Of course that left Miriel and Avner
far too excited for a board game, so
Cassandra let them bounce around
the room for a few minutes to burn off
some of the excess energy.

Then Julia brought out Bandu,
which was a stacking-block game,
and they played that without
much expectation of getting
their towers very high, since
everyone was all wound up.

A few minutes later, Bryony
returned with Reuven, who
was all but glowing with joy.
She took Portia and Julia
back to visit with Yona.

"I'm so excited, I can't sit down,"
Reuven said, pacing around.

"It's okay," Cassandra said.
"Babies are exciting." She had
butterflies in her tummy, and
it wasn't even her baby.

Soon Bryony brought the girls back
and took the two youngest children.

"Yona put me in charge of part of
the notification list," Portia said proudly.
She sat down with her tablet and
started working on that.

When the children returned,
they were bouncier than ever.

"I have a baby brother,"
Avner announced. "He's
really small, though -- no
bigger than Daddy's boot."

"He looks like a boot," Miriel said.

"Shhh," said Avner. "You'll
make Yona sad. He worked
really hard on this baby."

"Cassandra, would you like
to come visit?" said Bryony.

"Okay," said Cassandra,
though she was a little surprised
by the invitation. She had thought
that this was a family time.

They walked through the apartment,
then the hall that linked the guest rooms.

The birthing chamber was softly lit
and a lavender candle burned
on one of the end tables.

Yona lay propped up in bed
on a mound of pillows, wearing
a sage-green dressing gown
and holding a tiny bundle.

Troy sprawled beside them,
and Bryony promptly climbed
in on the other side of the bed,
their love tender and tangible.

Groundhog was there too,
occupying an easy chair.

"Cassandra," said Yona,
"come and meet Shay."

The baby was so small that he
almost disappeared inside the blanket.

"Is he okay?" Cassandra said.

"He's fine, and I'm fine," said Yona.
"Male Pregnancy is a real superpower,
at least for me, and that has perks.
He just needed to be small enough
to fit through my boyishly slender hips."

Cassandra giggled, then
dared to reach out and touch
the baby's curled fingers.

His fist opened and closed
around her finger, damp and hot
and surprisingly strong.

Then he opened his eyes
and squeaked at her.

Cassandra gasped. "His eyes
are black! I thought that babies
all had blue eyes at first."

"Most do," said Yona. "Apparently
Shay is just precocious that way."

"Oh, like being born with teeth,"
she said, remembering something
about that from a book she'd read.

Troy reached over and pulled a box
out of the nightstand drawer. "Here,"
he said. "A little gift from Shay to
one of the family helpers."

Gently Cassandra extricated her finger
from the baby's determined grasp.

She took the package with a vague notion
that some families gave gifts on behalf
of a new baby, although she had
never gotten one herself.

"From the baby, huh?"
Groundhog teased gently.

"I'll have you know that Shay was
present on every single shopping trip,"
Yona said, patting his flattened tummy.

Inside Cassandra's box lay a charm bracelet
made of heavy silver chain, the ends fastened
together by a sleek heart-shaped lock that
read Tiffany & Co. in crisp print.

Other charms clipped to the links shifted
as she tilted the little box in her hands --
an artist's palette with jeweled paints,
a cell phone of pink metal that also had
jeweled keys, and a silver lightning bolt.

"Oh! They're people," she exclaimed,
suddenly recognizing that the palette
was for Avner, the phone for Miriel, and
the lightning bolt must mean Troy.

"One for each member of the family,"
Troy said, turning over the heart to show
its blank back. "Look inside of the lid.
There's a card for the jeweler in there
so you can get Shay's birth information
engraved on the lock if you want."

"I want," Cassandra said softly.
She touched the bracelet again,
watching it slide and shine.

It felt like belonging.

"Your turn," Troy said
to Groundhog, beckoning
the other man closer. He
pulled out another box.

Groundhog opened it to reveal
a handsome vidwatch on
a stout black krevel strap.

"Oh, my goodness, Troy!" he said.
"I'm not actually a superhero, you know."

"Neither am I, and I think that you
deserve it," Yona said firmly.

That reminded Cassandra of something
which she had read in health class.

"Childbirth is more admirable
than conquest, more amazing than
self-defense, and as courageous
as either one," she recited.

Yona looked startled, and
Groundhog chuckled to see it.

"The back of that watch is engravable too,"
Troy said to Groundhog. "You need something
that can stand up to high altitude, just in case,
and that off-the-shelf model you have now
won't survive that kind of excitement."

"Good point," Groundhog said,
and put on his new watch.

Cassandra tried to wrap
her new bracelet around
her wrist, but couldn't
fasten it with one hand.

"May I?" Troy asked.

So she handed the box
to Groundhog and let Troy
latch the bracelet for her.

The thick silver gleamed even in
the dim light, jeweled facets winking
as the charms shifted against her wrist.

"Thank you," she said. "This is beautiful."

All the way back to Groundhog's apartment,
Cassandra kept playing with the bracelet,
using her thumb to turn the chain like
a set of prayer beads, counting over
each of the charms in turn.

This, she thought, must be what
family is supposed to feel like.

* * *


Highliner (Troy Carris) -- He has fair skin, brown eyes, and short brown hair that throws a five-o-clock shadow across his face not long after lunchtime. He is married with a wife, Bryony; and a husband, Yona. He is bisexual and bisensual. Troy is the biological father of Bryony's three daughters (ages 11, 8, and 2) and Yona's two sons (ages 14 and 5). His husband Yona is pregnant again (yes, really; the boys have two biological fathers). The oldest son has just entered high school and is also pursuing zetetics; he wants to work for a police department, as the demand for zeteticists far exceeds the supply there. The youngest daughter, a toddler, is fascinated by electricity and keeps trying to explore it, so all the electrical fixtures in the penthouse have child-safety covers and Troy is trying to get all the public parts of the building kitted out too. They live in the penthouse floor of the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City, the same establishment as Groundhog.
He enjoys hiking and rock climbing as hobbies, always free-climbing because he dislikes the hassle of ropes. (He has an ongoing argument with a friend who's a climbing instructor: "It's not like I can fall if I lose my grip." "And what if you crack your head? You can't fly if you're out cold!")
Highliner works as a lineman for the Onion City electrical services, traveling around if necessary to deal with situations where his Flight is particularly useful. He tends to fly up to a trouble area, but usually uses a belt seat while working so that he doesn't push himself away from the pole. Sometimes he volunteers at SPOON when they need a flier or a zetetic consultant. He is currently studying zetetic theory in an attempt to expand his knowledge of electricity into true gizmology, or better yet, super-gizmology, but he's not quite there yet.
Origin: While repairing electrical lines during a storm, he was electrocuted by a power surge caused when lightning struck a nearby part of the system. Paramedics were able to revive him, and when he recovered, he had superpowers.
Uniform: For linework and most superhero tasks, he wears blue-collar work clothes. At home, he favors casual wear -- in warm weather, t-shirts with characters or slogans on them; in cold weather, flannels with fun patches on the pockets.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Family Man, Expert (+4) Lineman, Good (+2) Communication Fetish, Good (+2) Compassion, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Zetetics
Poor (-2) Can't Swim
Powers: Good (+2) Control Electricity, Good (+2) Flight
Motivation: To keep watch from above.

Yona Carris -- He has fair skin, golden-brown eyes, and wavy brown hair clear down to his butt. He is of Jewish heritage but not observant, a refugee whose family escaped from Israel when he was a toddler, because his older brother developed Healing powers. Because of his family's traumatic background Yona is sensitive about how badly Israel treats soups in particular and gentiles in general. He teaches part time at a school for at-risk children.
Yona has a husband and a wife, Bryony. He is homosexual and bisensual. He is the biological mother of two sons (ages 14 and 5) and is pregnant again, plus a social parent of Bryony's three daughters. He's never managed to lose all the baby fat before getting pregnant again, and doesn't care that it makes him a little squashy. (His wife and husband think it's adorable.) Unlike the common tendency for soup pregnancies to be difficult and/or delicate, Yona's superpowers make his easy and safe. He enjoys being pregnant. They don't know yet whether either of his sons will inherit his superpower (or a different one). While on paternity leave, he is the househusband, and even while working he does a lot of the cooking and other homemaking. They live in the penthouse floor of the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City, the same establishment as Groundhog.
Origin: As far as anyone knows, Yona was born with the potential for Male Pregnancy, although it did not become physically obvious until he conceived for the first time. (Surprise!) The Super-Immunity came from the Aegis vaccine base.
Uniform: While pregnant, Yona consistently wears t-shirts that advertise the fact. His favorites include "Under Construction," "Loading ... Please Wait," "I grow people! What's your superpower?" and "I'm not fat, I'm pregnant!" modified with fabric pen to read "I'm not fat, ^ AND I'm pregnant!"
Qualities: Expert (+4) Nurturer, Expert (+4) Teacher, Good (+2) Cooperative Games, Good (+2) Cuddler, Good (+2) Emotional First Aid, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Mediator,
Poor (-2) A Shonda for the Goyim, Israel!
Powers: Good (+2) Male Pregnancy, Average (0) Super-Immunity
Motivation: Raise children to become good citizens.

Bryony Carris -- She has fair skin, green eyes, and straight brown hair that hangs just past her shoulders. She is left-handed. She is heterosexual and bisensual. Carris is her family name; her two husbands Yona and Troy both took her name, as she was already established in business and is the dominant spouse anyhow. Bryony is the biological mother of three daughters (ages 11, 8, and 2), and also a social parent of Yona's two sons. They live in the penthouse floor of the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City, the same establishment as Groundhog. Bryony is a businesswoman who does consulting for SPOON to help manage some of the projects they use to make money for supporting their activities.
Qualities: Master (+6) Businesswoman, Expert (+4) Assertive, Expert (+4) Head of the Household, Good (+2) Dexterity, Good (+2) Fighting Fair, Good (+2) Orchid Breeder, Good (+2) Wealth
Poor (-2) Messy

Miriel Carris -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and curly brown hair to her shoulders. Her biological parents are Troy and Bryony Carris; she also has another social father, Yona Carris. She has an older brother, Reuven (14); an older sister, Portia (11); an older sister, Julia (8); an older brother, Avner (5); and a new baby brother, Shay. They live in the penthouse floor of the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City, the same establishment as Groundhog. Miriel sleeps in the nursery adjacent to the master bedroom in the adult wing. It is furnished primarily in pale neutrals with a few touches of color from children's decorations or toys. Miriel is fascinated by electricity and keeps trying to explore it, so all the electrical fixtures in the penthouse have child-safety covers and Troy is trying to get all the public parts of the building kitted out too.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Adorable, Expert (+4) Smart, Good (+2) Fast
Poor (-2) Electricity Is Fascinating

Avner Carris -- He has fair skin that tans easily, brown eyes, and short curly brown hair. He is the middle son of Troy and Yona Carris; he also has a social mother, Bryony. Avner is currently five years old. He has an older brother, Reuven (14); two older sisters, Portia (11) and Julia (8); a younger sister, Miriel (2); and a new baby brother, Shay. They live in the penthouse of the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City. Avner sleeps on a couch in the master bedroom in the children's wing, sharing the room with Reuven who uses the bed. It is decorated primarily in a pale lavender-gray with white furniture.
Avner is a happy, outgoing child. His favorite color is pink. He usually has friendship strings or bracelets tied around his wrists and ankles. He is especially devoted to his older brother, Reuven. Avner is so small that it's hard for him to do much yet, and sometimes he gets into trouble trying.
Qualities: Good (+2) Artist, Good (+2) Making Friends
Poor (-2) Pint-sized

Reuven Carris -- He has fair skin that sunburns easily and dark hazel eyes with brown, gray, and blue tones. His hair is dark brown, almost black, and very curly. He is the oldest son of Troy and Yona Carris; he also has a social mother, Bryony. Reuven is currently fourteen years old. He has a younger sister, Portia (11); a younger sister, Julia (8); a younger brother, Avner (5); a younger sister, Miriel (2); and a new baby brother, Shay. They live in the penthouse of the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City. Reuven sleeps on the bed in the master bedroom in the children's wing, sharing the room with Avner who uses the couch. It is decorated primarily in a pale lavender-gray with white furniture.
Reuven is a good student who enjoys reading a great deal. Devoted to his siblings, he is an enthusiastic big brother. This is a large part of what makes it practical to have the family sprawled across a large penthouse floor: Reuven can look after the middle children while their parents take care of the littlest in the nursery adjacent to the master bedroom in the adult wing. However, that and his bookish bent tend to distance him from other teen boys, who are more interested in sports and girls.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Big Brother, Good (+2) Student, Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) Serious
Poor (-2) Peer Connections

Portia Carris -- She has fair skin and hazel eyes that are mostly blue-gray with hints of brown and green. Her straight brown hair reaches nearly to her waist. She is the oldest daughter of Troy and Bryony Carris; she also has another social father, Yona. Portia currently eleven years old. She has an older brother, Reuven (14); a younger sister, Julia (8); a younger brother, Avner (5); a younger sister, Miriel (2); and a new baby brother, Shay. They live in the penthouse of the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City. Portia sleeps in Bedroom #2 in the children's wing which is decorated in lavender, pink, and green.
When Portia was younger, boys used to chase her with bugs, and it scared her a lot. So she went to therapy and eventually figured out that what really frightened her was the boys chasing her, not the bugs. She learned about insects and arachnids, and started keeping them as pets. Portia can be headstrong at times; she is a better leader than a follower.
Qualities: Good (+2) Invertebrate Pets, Good (+2) Leader, Good (+2) Photography, Good (+2) Smart
Poor (-2) Headstrong

Julia Carris -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and straight blonde hair cut to chin length. She is the middle daughter of Troy and Bryony Carris; she also has another social father, Yona. Julia is currently eight years old. She has an older brother, Reuven (14); an older sister, Portia (11); a younger brother, Avner (5); a younger sister, Miriel (2); and a new baby brother, Shay. They live in the penthouse of the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City. Julia sleeps in Bedroom #4 in the children's wing. It is decorated mostly in pink with touches of melon and lilac.
Julia customarily deals with stress by finding something useful to occupy herself. Cooking is a particular favorite, and she often helps make the family meals. She doesn't always realize when it would be a good time to stop working and do something fun instead.
Qualities: Good (+2) Cook, Good (+2) Coping Skills, Good (+2) Practical
Poor (-2) All Work and No Play Makes Julia a Dull Girl

Shay Carris -- He has fair skin that tans easily, black eyes, and wavy black hair. He was actually born with his eyes already black, instead of baby blue. Like many infants born to male mothers, his birth weight was very low but that's normal for him and not a problem. Shay is the youngest son of Troy and Yona Carris; he also has a social mother, Bryony. He has an older brother, Reuven (14); two older sisters, Portia (11) and Julia (8); an older brother, Avner (5); and an older sister, Miriel (2). They live in the penthouse of the Skylark Apartment Building in Onion City. Shay sleeps in the nursery adjacent to the master bedroom in the adult wing. It is decorated primarily in pale neutrals with a few touches of color from children's decorations or toys. He is happy and calm as long as he can watch what is going on around him, but gets fussy if left alone or put somewhere that he can't see people.
Qualities: Good (+2) Alert, Good (+2) Quiet
Poor (-2) Zero Life Experience

Marsha Farley -- She has fair skin, brown eyes, and short curly white hair. She has four children and twelve grandchildren, with her first great-grandchild on the way. Her husband passed away a couple of years ago, and she still misses him very much. So Marsha keeps busy with her neighbors instead. She has a one-bedroom apartment in the Skylark Apartment Building where Groundhog lives.
Qualities: Master (+6) Homemaker, Expert (+4) Grandmother, Good (+2) Lovingkindness, Good (+2) Needs Little Sleep, Good (+2) Puzzle Books
Poor (-2) Widow

* * *

"Childbirth is more admirable than conquest, more amazing than self-defense, and as courageous as either one."
-- Gloria Steinem

Here is the adult wing of the penthouse level of the Skylark Apartment Building. The rotunda actually contains a round bed that fills almost the whole room and holds the entire triad. The adjacent bedroom is a nursery with a reading corner and Miriel's toddler bed.

Here is the children's wing of the penthouse apartment. Between the two halves, there are a few smaller apartments that haven't been completely subsumed into the surrounding penthouses, which have been used as servants' quarters by some past tenants, and as guest rooms and other purposes for the current ones. The inner side faces into the atrium of the Skylark Apartment Building, and instead of outdoor balconies that part has the interior gallery allowing access to the rooms. Also, Skylark only has one elevator, the central one. Other spaces marked "elevator" are instead closets. There are also stairs in the center. The brick balconies do not wrap all the way around the front, although there are ironwork balconies there.

This is the living room, standing at the dining room doors, looking toward the fireplace. On the right, the room widens and holds a grand piano. The partly visible door near the piano leads to the entry gallery.

The media room also serves as the children's living room, decorated with a brighter scheme and lots of storage space. Further shelving and cabinetry holds an assortment of games and toys.

Bedroom #2 belongs to the 11-year-old girl, Portia. Bedroom #4 belongs to the 8-year-old girl, Julia.

The two boys share the master bedroom in the children's wing. Its walls are painted a pale bluish lavender. The painting over the fireplace was made by one of the boys. Two tall closets with mirrored doors flank the large window, each belonging to one boy. Shoes go on the floor, then folded clothes fill the built-in shelves and drawers, with hanging clothes above that. At the very top are several shelves used to store off-season clothes. The near end of the room, not visible in this picture, holds an assortment of shelves and cabinets for their toys and books. The 14-year-old Reuven sleeps in the big bed. The 5-year-old Avram prefers to sleep propped up and in a sleeping bag, which is why he has that couch instead. One of his drawings hangs over the fireplace. The boys felt that the walk-in closet was a waste of space. So it has been remodeled into the Blue Room, their private study space.

This is the breakfast area, looking into the kitchen. The children often prefer eating in this cozy little booth, which suits their size better than the big formal dining rooms.

The family room has a low couch to suit the children, and an even lower table for Japanese style gatherings. The table is also perfect for children's games that are usually played on the floor, as it defines a space and ensures that nobody will step on the pieces.

The dining room has double doors leading into the living room. The wallpaper is one of Yona's wins: those tiny dots are cartoony platters of food.

The kitchen is spacious, an effect enhanced by its white woodwork. The sleek design makes it easy to clean, a bonus on the children's side of the home. Windows look out over the balcony.

Childbirth is typically a natural and safe process. Male pregnancy occurs in some animal species, with transmen, and also as an entertainment trope. The superpower of Male Pregnancy often comes with perks which make it much more secure than ordinary pregnancy.

It's a good idea to organize help for a new baby before the arrival. There are many ways that family and friends can help with a newborn. Consider using a care calender online or on paper.

A phone tree is an effective way to pass messages. While people often use mass-email programs for this purpose now, it is not polite for important messages such as the birth of baby.

Adding a new family member is exciting but also a little daunting. There are ways to prepare children for a new baby in the family, tailored to young children and teens. This page for kids talks about getting a new sibling.

This sandwich cutter reduces a sandwich to bite-sized pieces convenient for toddlers.

Recipes include Casserole for a Crowd, Big Batch Homemade Bread, and Large Batch Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

This toddler computer combines a touchscreen tablet with a keyboard base. Here is a set of electronic gear blocks.

Gentle parenting uses positive discipline instead of punishment. Techniques include redirecting to acceptable behavior. Cassandra has been spending a lot of time with Yona to be able to replicate this while babysitting, because she obviously didn't learn it growing up.

Here is the Healthy Fruit Salad Recipe.

Invertebrate pets include captive-bred and wild ones.

The Public Speaker Badge for the Activity Scouts resembles the Girl Scout version.

See Reuven's baby sling in olive green.

Imaginiff is a fun party game for getting to know people better.

Bandu is a stacking-block game based on Bausack Towers.

One way of welcoming a new baby into the family is for parents to choose gifts from the baby to the older siblings and other helpers.

This is Cassandra's charm bracelet. The palette represents Avner, the pink phone is for Miriel, the lightning bolt is for Troy, the stork is for Yona, the executive chair stands for Bryony, The Brothers Karamazov represents Reuven, the ladybug is for Portia, and the cooking utensils stand for Julia.

Groundhog's vidwatch is similar to the Fenix or Bravo models. It is both durable and versatile.
Tags: community, cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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