Thursday, April 30, 2009

Taxes

            When I arrived home after a long day at work Celia started to freak out with joy. She does this funny little thing where she flaps her arm up and down when she’s excited or happy. It’s so endearing, I ran over to her and swooped her up, declaring, “Sweetheart! I’m home! Where’s my little Sugar Plum! How’s my Little Pumpkin!”
            She squealed with delight and laughed and pumped her arms up and down. Michelle had been chatting with our neighbor Leanne, and they still somehow managed to continue their conversation as I danced around with the baby giving her kisses and calling her all sorts of ridiculous names.
            Finally, Michelle caved in and joined the bouncing duo with smiles and laughter. The three of us bounced and laughed, especially Celia, who was so very precious at that moment. Leanne looked at us and said, “What a great laugh! I wish mine laughed like that.”
            We smiled at her and she said, “Well, I’ve got to go.”
            “What, no bouncing?” I asked as she trailed out the door.
            “Maybe next time,” she said.
            The three of us gathered in for a big family hug and kiss. I think home-comings are one of my favorite moments in the day; a cacophony of joy. I looked in my daughter’s eyes, and she gave me the biggest grin possible and flapped her right arm again. I flapped my free arm as I held her, and we flapped together for a bit.
            “Good day at work?” Michelle asked,
            “Not bad. Very full. I felt like I was catching up the whole day.”
            “It was like a Monday on a Wednesday.”
“Exactly. So, what’s for dinner?”
            “Chicken. I bought three in a pack, because they were on sale.”
“I need to run out to the local accountant to get my taxes done, probably an hour or so.”
“Okay.”
The accountant was a great decision. I’d gone with a nice guy in the past, but I’ve always had such a rough time connecting with him, and I never felt like he did it exactly right. When I walked in the door at the local place in the Vietnamese part of town, I instantly felt a breath of fresh air. They wanted to get my taxes done as quickly as possible and to save me money, so they started filling it out as I sat there with them.
However, we soon ran into a glitch. It would appear that my last accountant didn’t do a proper job of reporting my side business, and suddenly I was speaking to another man who told me we’d have to schedule a longer meeting next week.
“But taxes are due tomorrow!” I said.
“Ah, but if you’re self-employed, you don’t have to file till June,” he said with a smile.
I looked at him, smiled, and felt like I was in good hands. It was the end of the day, so I gracefully left them so they could go home, but called again today to see what I owed, because even though I can file in June, I have to pay now, he told me. I called and he said, “Good news. You get a refund! Two thousand six hundred and eight dollars.”
I grinned on the phone. Somehow, I knew it would all be okay. Sure, I might have to shell out a thousand bucks to get everything sorted out with my side business, but if I’m getting even more than that back, who can complain?
I thanked him and called Michelle. I stood outside with the construction across the street interjecting its own cacophony, until finally I gave up and went inside again. Too much noise for one day. Although I suppose I’ll be glad to hear the noise from my little one again tonight when I get home. My little bundle of exuberance. When the day’s been good, she’s like the icing on the cake. Or better, she’s the piece of cake and all this other stuff is ice cream and toppings. Yeah, she’s one awesome little girl.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What Do You Do When Your Baby's Sick?

            The baby’s had a runny nose for almost a week now, and last night she felt hot. Michelle said, “She’s got a fever!”
I said, “It’s not a fever.” But then I remembered somewhere along the line reading that kids have a lower tolerance for fevers than adults. As in, if the kid gets above 100ºF take them to the doctor. I felt Celia’s forehead again and said, “Well, maybe it’s a fever.”
We looked at each other nervously. What do you do when your kid’s sick? We in the modern world don’t have to deal with infant deaths the way people used to hundreds of years ago, or in poor nations today. We don’t see kids die as often, but that doesn’t mean they have no risks. Who knows what could go wrong? It seems like the possibilities and dangers are endless. They’re so frail and helpless. They can’t even tell you what’s wrong.
I remember a few months ago she’d cry and grab at her ear. I didn’t even realize she was doing this until Michelle mentioned it after a week. Suddenly I wondered if she had ear issues, and all these horrible images went through my mind of my daughter going deaf at a young age. Of course, when we checked it out we found out it’s totally normal for kids to feel some pain in their ears when they’re teething.
Every time something’s happened to my baby physically I’ve felt this overwhelming sense of protective angst kick in. I want to do everything to the utmost to make sure the kid is okay. And frankly, when I look from an outside perspective, it seems like they’re such minor things. I mean really, a runny nose? A slight fever? We get those all the time! Who cares!
It’s like everything inside of me has changed now. I care. And I feel quite powerless, in all honesty. I know we’ve got doctors and medicine and information everywhere. We have fever-reducing pills, and computer-powered analyzers, but in the midst of all these resources it still seems like life is messy and organic. I just don’t know what to expect.
And so, at the end of all my mind’s ramblings, I placed my hand on my little daughter’s head and offered up a blessing and a prayer for her safety and quick recovery. It would seem that even though I’m wading in the most high-tech resources, deep in the human spirit I’ve still got a pre-technology, simple, spiritual approach to life.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Why Tradeshows and Babies Don't Mix

            I’m at a tradeshow about a five-and-a-half hour drive out of town. It’s a two day affair, four days when you take in the day before and after. Ah, I love travel; time to get out of town and reflect… time to see a different geography. Different people. Have some drinks and mix some business with pleasure. I love travel. What a fantastic chance to get away from it all.
Problem is, I took the baby.
I am thoroughly amazed at myself that I thought this made sense. Somehow I had conjured up for myself some sort of glorified romanticized picture of the family getting out of town together; staying in a deluxe hotel room, seeing new things. It all somehow made sense when I first planned it.
            I’m exhausted. Sleeping in a hotel room, whether or not it has a massive hot tub, a fireplace, and king-size bed doesn’t matter, it’s still a single bed and a single room. I tried planning for this, mind you. We lugged up a portable crib that a friend passed along to us, which we’ve never used, and so I figured, heck, we’ve got it practically like we do at home. Just throw her in and we’ll sleep fine.
But the first night Michelle didn’t want to put the baby in the crib.
            I asked her grumpily at 2:30am, “Why isn’t she in the crib!?!”
            “It smells like plastic,” she explained.
            “So what!”
            “I’m not putting her in that.”
            End of discussion.
            I tossed and turned and fumed at my frustration. Not much you can do when the lady says she won’t do it. I even went over and smelled the thing, and to be honest I still have no idea what she’s talking about. But, the lady is boss when it’s 2:30am and I’m not coherent. Except for the little matter of a baby lying next to us flailing and whimpering and groaning throughout the night. I don’t care if you’re in a king-sized bed or not, especially if you’re Michelle, you’re staying awake.
And so, by 6am, Michelle had had enough. “It’s your turn,” she said to me. I looked at the clock, and then at her tired eyes, and didn’t complain. I put on my jogging clothes, strapped Celia into the jogger, and explored the town. And frankly, I have to admit, it was a wonderful morning. Gorgeous run along the placid lake. Baby and me just thinking and hanging out. It really was nice, even though I was pooped. And then we came back and while she napped for fifteen minutes I showered and then took her out to breakfast. We had a lovely little time together.
            But by the time the tradeshow started that evening, I was a mess. Oh, sure, I turned on the energy to meet people, but I certainly wasn’t in top form. I don’t remember exactly what I thought as I went to bed last night, at the end of it all, but I’m sure it wasn’t regret. Sure, I was missing out on all the schmoozing and having drinks with clients. That’s okay, I thought. I’m tired anyway. I finally went to sleep after 11pm sometime.
But the baby still wanted to flail. At 5am Michelle said, “Okay, it’s your turn.” I looked around and saw that she’d finally broken down and put Celia in the crib. I don’t know when in the middle of all those tosses and turns she’d broken down, and I didn’t say anything, either. Don’t complain when things go your way, I always say.
Still, I was tired and grumpy. And I hate being grumpy with the baby. It’s not her fault she’s awake, I definitely don’t want to take it out on her, but I certainly was not in the mood to interact with her either. And, of course, the baby started fussing to the point that Michelle asked me to take her out of the room. I rolled my eyes and plopped the little wailer clumsily into the stroller. We took a little stroll while she screamed, and she obviously wasn’t enjoying it, probably because I wasn’t enjoying it either. That whole morning I kept asking myself, “Why did I bring this baby on a business trip? Am I insane? I will never do this again!” I wandered around the hotel property fuming and frustrated.
Finally, after my third lap of the property, I softened. I had started to pray, and it struck me that even though I was behind her, she was probably picking up on my mood, and all that negative energy probably isn’t much of a help. I paused, looked around, and went into the lobby. I pointed the stroller toward me so I could look at her face., and gently rocked the stroller singing a little lullaby that I’d made up a few months ago:
“Oh, little Celia. You’re such a precious girl.
I love you in the morning, when everything’s a whirl.
I love you in the afternoon, when everything is right.
And I love you in the evening, when it’s time to say goodnight.
Now it’s time, it’s time, it’s time for sleep.
It’s time, it’s time, it’s time for sleep.
It’s time, it time it’s time for sleep.
It’s time, it’s time, it’s time for sleep.”
She loves that song. Especially the end, so I usually repeat it a bunch of times. As I kept singing she stopped crying and glanced at me. She looked around a bit, as if seeing where she was for the first time, and then there was that beautiful moment every parent loves. You can’t plan it, and you never know when they’ll happen, but when they do, you can’t help but be touched; that moment where she looked right into my eyes and we loved each other.
That did it. She fell asleep, and I brought her back up to the room and collapsed on the bed exhausted.
Today has been a very difficult day work-wise for me, and I ask myself if I can have the sense to refrain from bringing her on business trips next time. But at the same time, it’s all a learning curve, and I realize there’s still a lot to be thankful for. I guess that’s the thing about kids; they sure are a big old interruption into our lives, and they take a ridiculous amount of energy from us, but then, when we’re forced to put in that kind of energy, it’s bound to do good things to us.
I think in general in life when we put in a lot of time and effort into something meaningful, whatever it is, whether it’s volunteering or serving or cooking or cleaning or whatever, when we do that, we end up benefitting even more than those we’re serving. We become better people. And I think that’s what’s happening with me and Celia. She’s been a toll on my body and spirit and free time, and I’ve gained weight and black rings under my eyes, but I think, overall, I’m learning to be a better man because of her. And I am thankful.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Extended Fam

            Life is short. Life is precious. We must do our best to appreciate each day to its utmost.
            I’m reminded of these things for a number of reasons. At work we’ve been talking a lot about setting up an American office, so perhaps I’ll be moving back to the homeland sooner than I’d thought. As I thought of the reasons to stay or go, I realized that I have lots of fears in both directions. I don’t want to leave my community, this beautiful city, or the lifestyle here. But I don’t want to miss out on being near my parents either.
            As I was driving home I called my dad’s cell phone. He was cooking up a feast for everyone; my mother, brothers, pregnant sister-in-law, friends, everyone. He told me the house a block away dropped a third in price before the owner decided to just take it off the market and rent it. He said he knows the guy personally and would talk to him if I’d like, see if he’s still interested in selling it. I said, do it.
            Wouldn’t that be amazing, to live a block from my parents? Then my kids would be able to walk over to their grandparents’ house every day. The thought of that alone makes me want to move back. And time is short. I do want to have my second child (God-willing) in Canada, to have full medical coverage, but maybe after that, we’ll pack up and go.
            The other thing that came up is a friend of mine found a lump. Lumps are scary things, especially as we hit our thirties and forties. And it could be nothing, but I’m seriously aware of his mortality and mine. Life can be so fragile. I’m amazed that we are overall healthy and doing so well. It seems miraculous to be alive, sometimes.
            I made a point of spending as much time as possible with the baby yesterday. When I came home, she was upstairs with Michelle on the bed, and when she saw me she started to giggle uncontrollably, she was so happy to see me. I gave her a big grin, which made her smile and laugh some more, which of course made me laugh, and that just set her off to keep laughing. I plopped onto the bed and kissed her all over her face and belly, making sounds like I was eating a delicious meal, “Yum! Yum! Crunch, crunch, crunch! Ooooh, I’m going to eat you up! Arr!” Of course, she just laughed and laughed. Michelle and I looked at each other and I felt the love in the air.
            I said, “What a happy baby!”
            Michelle said, “She was grumpy till you came home.”
            I smiled and kissed them both as much as possible. I kissed them and kissed them and told them both how wonderful they are. Those are the moments I don’t think I’ll ever forget. When everything is “just right” even though our lives are teetering on the brink of unexpectancy. We don’t know what’s around the corner, so let’s throw ourselves fully into what we’ve got today.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Day That Shall Be Remembered as "Poosday"

            Yesterday was dubbed, not Tuesday, but “Poosday.” Michelle literally spent two-and-a-half hours cleaning up different poos. First it was the cat poo, then, when that finally seemed under control, the baby exploded on the front porch. Poo went right up her backside, covering the bouncy seat she was in. Poosday.
            When I got off work, I picked up Michelle downtown and took her home, stopping by a pet store to buy different kitten foods and litters. By the time we got home, I changed quickly and ran out the door to play pick-up soccer at the local park. Guys from around the world gather to play three times a week. It was so refreshing to get out and exercise, and I played well, which felt great.
By the time I got home, the baby was already asleep. So, that was it. No baby time in the afternoon. It’s a tough one, because I desperately crave even a small portion of time to do some of the things I used to do pre-baby. But then I also want to spend as much time as possible with her, because these days are passing by so quickly and before I know it she’ll be wanting to spend time with her friends instead of with me.
The balance of life is always a tricky one. When I think about how happy it made me, to get out and enjoy that game of soccer, I know it was the right choice. I’ll spend time with Celia tonight. But I definitely want to cherish every moment, and be careful not to go too far one way or the other.
By the time I got home from soccer, Michelle was cooking and looking frazzled. She hadn’t stopped all day. I said, “Michelle, look at you! It’s the good ol’ Michelle pre-baby. You’re go-go-go.”
She looked up at me from chopping a red pepper with weary eyes and said, “Except I didn’t sleep enough last night, and I’m exhausted.”
I finished cooking the meal that night.
I find there’s an important balance between me and Michelle as well. Between all the household chores and caring for the baby, we need to balance time to get it all done as well as down-time together. It seems like we only get time together at nights these days. I miss it. Our relationship is good, and we talk openly about everything going on. It’s just that we don’t have very much time. Plain and simple, time is more precious now than ever.
We’re looking into ways to get more time. The baby is slowly starting to learn the new sleep training we’re teaching her. She’s old enough now to stay in her crib 95% of the night, so we’re going to move it further from our bedroom. If the baby gets her sleep, then Michelle and I will feel rested, and also not need to go to bed as early. Everything will brighten with more energy.
Our bedroom is in the upstairs of the house. The house is an old rickety place,  over 100 years old, and the upstairs used to be an attic, you can tell. It’s one long, slender room with slanted ceilings on both sides. Not cramped, mind you, but the kind of space we’d like to do more with somehow. So, last week we moved the office downstairs again, and left a sofa at the end by the window. We’re going to move her crib over there too. Hopefully, that will give us more time alone together on the other side. We’ll see.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cat Poo

            Why on earth did we get this cat!?
            Okay, okay, this will pass. But she sure hasn’t been making me very “happy” yet. She doesn’t like the litter box we got her, and maybe it’s the food we’re feeding her, but her poo is all runny. And of course, it’s now everywhere. On the sofa. On the carpet. On the floor. Geez, in two days, the house is a wreck. Finally the baby has begun calming down, and now we have a whole ‘nother bundle of unpredictable messiness running around.
            The thing that really makes me upset is the thought that my baby might get sick from the cat poo. I don’t know enough, but I’ve heard that the two definitely don’t mix, and it can actually be quite dangerous for the kid. Something about a toxo disease that cats can sometimes have in their poo. Adults just get a bit ill, but apparently it can seriously harm infants. So, I’ve kept Celia away from every poo spot to the best of my knowledge, but this morning I was wondering, “Is it okay for her to roll around on that section of the carpet? Sure, I didn’t see anything, but what if…”
            I did a lot of praying this morning. Insight into the cat. Protection for my little girl. Patience. Clarity.
            I did feel some clarity at the end of it, actually. Both the baby and kitten were quite delightful to watch, and I thought, okay, we’ll get through this. And I came to some action steps. I locked the kitten in the bathroom before I left for work this morning, and left a note for Michelle to purchase a more sand-like litter, a second, smaller litter box, and a small portion of different food for young kittens.
            I do think this is a remarkable cat. Besides all the pooing, she’s been delightful. She followed me around everywhere last night, and would either sit in my lap or want to play. It wanted to sleep with us, but was too frisky so we locked it out. Yes, I do like her. I just hope and pray we get through this episode without hurting our baby.
            It’s amazing to me how protective I am of Celia. I feel like a mama-bear, ultra-paranoid about whatever might cause the baby harm and ready to pounce at the first sign of danger. It’s only natural, I’m sure, to be a bit over-protective in certain areas. I want her to have a good, healthy upbringing. It would suck if some little thing ruined her life.
These kinds of thoughts are a dramatic shift for me. I remember two years ago not really worrying whether I live or die, and now here I am over-analyzing all sorts of situations so that my daughter can grow up to be a healthy, happy individual. Before, I figured I could die, heck I’d get to heaven sooner, right? Now I think, that would be terrible. I’d leave Michelle alone with Celia, and Celia without a dad! Terrible!
I guess in the end it comes down to faith. There’s only so much I can do as a human being. I can’t protect her from everything. There’s a point you get to where you just have to say, “Okay, God, I ask you to protect her.” Not that I’ll be negligent or thoughtless, but at a certain point, I’ve really got to trust that there is a God who cares and intercedes, or I’ll end up a nervous wreck.
Either that, or I’ll become one of those over-protective parents who raises kids who resent them because they feel like they never were allowed to experience life on their own terms. Nope, I won’t be that kind of parent. I’ll do my best to teach Celia all she needs to know to experience life on her own. But in order to do that, I’ve got to be thoughtful to prepare her, and I’ve got to have lots of trust that someone, besides me and Michelle, and with a lot more power than us, is watching over her as well. God only knows how much we need it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Birth: A Recap

            I was playing soccer with some friends after church when Michelle pulled up and started walking toward us with the baby in one arm, a cardboard box in the other, and a big smile on her face. I ran off the field and said, “Did you…?”
            For an answer, she held the box out to me for me to look inside to see the most silly-looking black kitten I’ve ever seen. I say “silly-looking” because she has these massive eyes that look like they’re popping out of the skull. I glanced up at Michelle skeptically, but instantly knew that she’d already fallen in love so I held my words. “Are we going to name it Felix?” I asked.
            She smiled. It’s actually a long story, and it begins before Celia was born. Her due date was September 29th, and by August we were getting worried that Michelle’s medical coverage wouldn’t happen in time. You see, I’m a dual-citizen and she’s American. When we got married, she had the clearance to live in Canada with me (obviously), but the paperwork took her months to send in. They wanted information on everywhere she’d lived and worked since 18 years old! Plus physicals, FBI and police checks, letters of reference, income statements, etc. By the time September rolled around, we were told by the medical plan that they’d cover her when they received word from Immigration that they’ve received her application. But when we called Immigration they used language like “sea of paperwork” and “just opening the mail from February”.
You can imagine we freaked out. I sent a mass email to my friends with the subject “Tragic” so they would know and pray for us. It was interesting the differences in response. Okay, it was definitely the wrong word to use in the subject line when we’re talking about child-birth. I admit. But the Americans mostly replied with things like, “Hey, what’s the big deal? I had to pay for my kids to be born. Isn’t it cheaper in Canada?” And my Canadian friends replied with outrage. “We need to alert the newspapers! Send a message to our Premier!” That’s the difference between living in the US and Canada. Medical coverage goes from being a privilege to a right.
Either way, it didn’t get us medical coverage, and we certainly couldn’t afford a hefty hospital bill. A few days later Michelle and I prayed together before going to sleep, and that night she had a crazy dream about a black cat named Felix who made all things happy and right. Felix, for those of you who aren’t aware (like I wasn’t) is Latin for “happy.”
In the morning she told me about the dream, which I thought was unusual, and I told her to call Immigration again. “You never know,” I said. “Maybe they’ve waded through some of the sea of paperwork.”
She called and reached a pleasant man named Felix who then proceeded to inform her that her application is now opened and this is the reference number to give your medical plan. Michelle sobbed on the phone with this man for half an hour. She finally said, between gasps, “Have you ever had to deal with this before? A sobbing pregnant woman who’s trying to get medical coverage?”
Felix replied politely and calmly, “Yes ma’am. I have”
Michelle almost didn’t want to hang up with him, she was so happy, and he was so pleasant. But the moment passed and she called the medical people, who then told her they’d cover her starting October 1st. “But the baby is due September 29th!” she exclaimed.
“Too bad,” the curt woman replied. “We’ll cover you the 1st.” Amazing the difference between the two. Both people are subject to the rules of the system, but one seemed to have so much more humanity and understanding. It goes to show, we really do need good people in all areas of society. People who treat others not as another cog in the system, but as humans, with compassion.
The rest of that month was a waiting and praying time for us. We kept saying to our unborn daughter, “We’re so excited to meet you, but just wait, okay?”
And she did.
October 1st was a crazy day. I had a very important work meeting early that morning. Michelle finally felt like she could relax, and started going into labor. And then the landlord came by (of course), but what we didn’t expect was he finally decided it was time to fix the plumbing in the back room for the laundry hookups. I’d been getting on his case to do that for months, knowing we’d want working laundry with a baby. But why, of all days, he had to come by on the day Michelle was going into labor, I’ll never know.
Michelle told him, “I’m going into labor Mr. Wong,” as she patted her belly.
Mr. Wong is an elderly Chinese man with halted English and who loves to talk. “Oh! Good!” he said, and then said, “I’ll only be ten minutes!” He brought in some tools and began making a racket.
We’d actually put a lot of thought into the whole labor process. We’d gone to classes, and Michelle had picked out calming music. She’d cleaned the house, and made every attempt to make it the most relaxing and comforting environment possible. We had all these anticipations of how lovely it would be when she finally did go into labor with our new arrival.
Mr. Wong took three hours. He had to shut off the water, run to the store, do some welding. Michelle was frantic. The smell of welding permeated the house. She wanted to sit on the toilet during the labor, but of course, the water was turned off and Mr. Wong had blocked the bathroom door with all sorts of clutter. She asked him, “Are you done yet?”
“Yes, two more minutes,” he said, then he turned on the water only to see the pipes spraying everywhere, so he turned the water off and ran to the store again. Michelle kept texting me while I was in my important meeting, “Get over here now!”
I was finally able to excuse myself from work and rush home, only to shake Mr. Wong’s hand as he finally said his goodbye’s. Michelle was livid with him, but I was secretly glad he’d finally gotten around to it. I gave her a big hug, then we relaxed on the front porch and held hands quietly.
Celia was born that next morning. We not only had full medical coverage, it was a natural birth and the happiest day of my life. I had no idea it would be the happiest day of my life going into it. When people would say that kind of thing before I’d just kind of wonder, “How can they actually say that? How can you truly know, of all the days you’ve lived, that one day is the happiest?” But I was sure. I held her in my arms and sang random phrases of love to her. “Welcome to our world, little one. Welcome. We’ve been waiting for you.”
And something tells me it’ll be good to have a reminder around. Something to help us recall the whole experience, feeling helpless yet hopeful, praying, waiting, wondering, and then finally to have all our needs met with such bountiful abundance. And when I saw that little black kitten with googly eyes, I thought to myself, “Sure, why not?” Felix. Happy.
Michelle picked up the little scrawny black kitten and held it up for all my soccer friends to see. “Sure,” she said knowingly. “Felix is a good name.”

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Poop Parasites

            We went to a nice Japanese restaurant for lunch yesterday. Beautiful décor. Lovely ambience. Screaming baby.
            Okay, she didn’t scream the whole time, and that was actually the real challenge. She’d be happy as a clam, then suddenly let out a wail. We’d all look at her, but she’d be back to normal and sitting there calmly. I felt awful for the other patrons. I don’t think I ever really noticed screaming kids in restaurants before, although now I seem to notice more than I used to. But I have this feeling like, “These poor people, coming out to a nice restaurant for a decent bite to eat and this is what they have to hear.” Something about being the father of the source of annoyance makes me feel utterly embarrassed.
            The craziness really started after we ate, though. My friend George offered to hold her, and she made a distinctly squishy sounding fart, so we looked and sure enough she’d blown out the side, leaking out the pants. George was shocked. “What’s that?” he asked, pointing at the greenish stain on the left side of her pants. We looked at him and said at exactly the same time, “Poo.”
Michelle took her to the washroom to change the diaper, and I ran across the street to a thrift store to look for another set of pants. Yes, of all the times to forget to bring a change, of course, it’s the time she really needs it. The nice thing about thrift stores is you can generally find practically new baby stuff for practically nothing. But while I was over there Michelle called hysterically on my cell phone, “Ephie! Come quick! I think she’s got worms!”
I dashed back across the street and into the washroom to peer into the soiled diaper. Well, whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t normal. All sorts of little black squiggles lying there inertly. “They seem pretty lifeless to me,” I said to her.
“I think they’re parasites,” Michelle said.
“Well, it’s Saturday, so she’ll have to make it till Monday before she sees the doctor.”
Michelle nodded. Not much we could do but worry. But in the end we did end up worrying. Michelle looked at photos of different kinds of parasites on the internet. She said, “Ephie, look. It’s tape-worms!”
I looked at the photo and said, “You’re crazy. It’s not tape-worms.” She kept looking and I said, “What if it’s something she ate?”
“Maybe it was the bananas,” Michelle said. We’ve just started introducing her to new kinds of foods. But they certainly did have a worm-like appearance. Our friend Will said she could’ve picked up something from the mice, because we have mice running around our house. You never know what they leave behind. Heck, the entire Bubonic Plague was spread around by mice!
I turned to Michelle and said, “Look, no matter what you find on the internet about worms won’t make any difference. We’re going to take her to a doctor Monday anyway, and get an official diagnosis. Why don’t you do something useful and look for kittens!”
She looked kind of annoyed with me at first, but then started exclaiming about the different kittens she was finding around the city. We’re going to see one today that’s described as the “runt of the litter.” Hey, who cares? As long as it’s cute and friendly and kills mice, I’ll take it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Reflections on a Saturday Jog

            It was a beautiful Spring afternoon yesterday so I took my baby out for a run. We’ve got this bright pink jogging stroller, and as I pass people they all smile as they watch the baby pass by cooing and “Blah-blah”ing. It’s interesting to me how more people acknowledge me now when I’m out in public with the baby. Maybe I seem more “safe” or something. Even young beautiful ladies, who formerly would make sure not to make eye contact for fear of inviting approach from random men, even they will smile at me and the baby. I’m safe now. I’m stuck with a kid. Can’t do anything majorly zonkers.
            So we zipped through residential streets and out to Trout Lake. By then she was fast asleep, so I kept going. I’ve gained so much weight having a baby. Seems like it’s so hard to find time to exercise or play soccer, and I feel like drinking beer more often. Ten pounds! Yes, I’m tall, so I hide it pretty well, but boy, do I ever feel it.
            It was a perfect day to take the baby out for a run. Padding along the quiet path, uphill to the residential streets where nobody seems to be around. Quiet. Peaceful. Celia would wake up occasionally when I hit a bump, but fall asleep again just as quickly. And I daydreamed. What will she be like? Will she be an athlete? Already I can tell she’ll have my body frame rather than Michelle’s, which in some ways is a pity, because I’m large-boned and Michelle definitely isn’t. We’re both tall, but for me I have two choices, either be athletic or overweight. So, I’ve chosen athletic. And I figure if Celia takes after me she’ll have to do the same. Or at least, make the same kind of choices. I kind of feel bad for her. Wish she could have taken after her mom in that way. It’s a lot of work for me, so I can just imagine what it’ll be like for a girl!
            I think of other things as well. I think of where we might be living by the time she’s a teenager. Still living in the big city, or will we move back closer to my parents? They’re getting older, and I want to be closer to them as that happens. I want to share our lives together. I want them to know their grandkids, and for the grandkids to know them.
            It’s interesting timing because at work the issue came up that they’d want to open a USA office, and they all looked at me because I’m a Dual-citizen, both Canadian and American. Plus, all my family is in the US. I don’t know, it seems like a big move, but perhaps the time is coming
sooner than I’d originally thought.
            I think about a lot of future stuff in regards to the baby. I wonder how things will be for her in this crazy genetically-modified world she’s growing up into. I wonder if she’ll have any of these new allergies that have popped up, most likely because of all the modifications we’ve made over the last few decades into what we eat, drink, and breathe. I want her to have a good life, and I have all these lurking fears that she won’t have the same kind of innocence that I experienced. I want to make the world a better place for her, but of course that’s impossible. I can only do so much. I can make her home a better place, and ensure she’s in a good community, but you just can’t control the world out there. All the evil people and corporations working to hurt people.
I feel very protective of this child. I want her to be prepared to face all of this, but to be sheltered enough to keep that smile on her face the rest of her life. I want her to be wise to the world, but innocent. And when I think of how much we need to educate our children now compared to thirty years ago, it’s overwhelming. The information age. We must protect them not just from physical people, but polluting thoughts and images on the internet, polluting food and drugs, polluting environments where people talk negatively and hurt one another. I hear neighbors screaming at their kids and think, “How can you do that? Those are just kids. Let them grow up to be healthy.” And then I see these kids as they’re now four and five-year-olds, and realize that they’ll blend in pretty well with the rest of the kids their age, but I know, and they know, that they are scarred. They are different. They’ve been yelled at. And out of nowhere they will lash out, I am sure, with all the anger that’s been bottled up inside. Maybe it will take them a lifetime to be healed. Maybe they’ll never be healed. And these people live next door. What a world we live in! I just pray that I can teach Celia to be able to protect herself from these people while at the same time accepting them and loving them. What a challenge!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bedtime Disaster

            Last night I was reading her a bedtime story and she suddenly jabbed her little finger up my right nostril. Totally random arm flail. Made my nose bleed all over the place. I just looked at her in shock for a minute, then started to laugh. Score one for the baby. I had to give up putting her to bed and let Michelle take over so I could staunch the bleeding.
            Bedtime is a hit-or-miss affair for us. Sure, I’ve read some books on it, but so has Michelle, and our books say different things. My books say to let the kid cry it out and they’ll be happier in the morning. Her books say crying is terrible, never let them cry, kids in Third-World countries don’t cry nearly as much as ours and they’re a lot less miserable, always snuggle with them and breastfeed them so they’re “happier.” Balderdash. I can’t believe it. I mean, seriously, do those kids who’ve cried themselves to sleep really end up miserable adults?
            Something tells me we’re not getting the full picture here. But what I can tell you is that bedtimes can occasionally become the most tiring part of the day. When it’s my duty, I do her little routine, put on her pj’s, read her some stories, sing a song, then put her in a crib and jam in the earplugs because the wailing will begin. I sing her a little more, then, frankly, recently I’ve just been leaving the room. She usually falls asleep pretty quickly these days, although when I first started doing this it could take hours of coming back into the room and telling her she’s really okay. Michelle’s system seems better on the outside, but I think deep down it’s polluting our child. She basically lies in bed with her and breastfeeds till the baby konks out. Simple. Effective. Deadly.
            Why is it deadly? Because the baby now associates sleep with eating. Not an association I’d recommend for adults. I do remember falling asleep in a plate-full of spaghetti when I was younger, but in general, I think of eating as something quite separate from sleep.
            So, last night, after she’d finally zonked out, Michelle showed me a DVD a friend had loaned her on sleep therapy. We popped it in and I had to smirk at terms like “sleep nutrition” that, to me, seem like imposing one theory on another, but then I was overall quite happy Michelle watched it with me because somehow seeing it on a screen from authoritative people made it sink in. Yes, I smile even now as I write this, because it argued for my side of the spectrum. Yes! One more argument to let the kid learn to sleep on their own.
            Michelle said she’ll give it a shot, and I said my silent thanks to God. Now, who knows if this is going to make the difference, but at least we’ll both put her to sleep the same way, which is probably a good thing. You know, consistency.
            But I can’t help feeling this sense of imprisonment as I think of it. No, no, not the fact that my baby sleeps behind bars in her crib. More, the sense that I’m going to be stuck with a “routine” of putting my kid(s) to sleep for years to come. No more random nights out. Children turn the biggest party-animal into a homebody overnight. Sure, sure, I still like to party, but now I’m pretty much stuck with inviting people over. What’s the point of going out after 7pm if I know the baby will melt-down and we won’t enjoy ourselves?
Well, we did do it last week. Took her to friends for dinner and making music. And we were loud. Drums, guitars, singing. But before that, it took me half an hour, right when the main course was being served, to get her to sleep in her car seat in somebody’s bedroom. That was the issue. I had the appies, wine, salad, but by the time I ate into that scrumptious piece of chicken it was less than hot. Yeah, yeah, I can complain a little, but overall I think she’s becoming more manageable. Who knows, maybe I’ll get out more as she gets older? I don’t know. Anyway, the point is, I definitely feel restricted. This bundle of joy is a bundle of responsibility. Makes a man grow up pretty darn quick.
            Just like the baby.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Dentist and Decomposable Diapers

            I left work a bit early to meet my wife at the dentist today. Need one of those protective doodads so I quit grinding my teeth together at night. Probably due to all the stress and lack of sleep. Turns out my wife needs thousands of dollars in metal replacements. I looked at her and said, “We can’t afford this!” and she said, “I know.” Not like we really know what to do, because we’re both exhausted and it’s not the kind of thing you can really avoid. She said, “I’m going to teach Celia to floss every day so she doesn’t deal with this.” I nodded and thought, isn’t it funny how we try to make everything better for the next generation when it didn’t work out well for ourselves, but then the next generation doesn’t realize how good they’ve got it, because it’s always just been so good for them, so they end up a bit spoiled, really. Are we already starting to live vicariously through our child? I’ve met people who do that. It’s quite sad really. Like they have no life of their own without their kids. No, we wouldn’t do that, I just want the best for her. Nothing wrong with that.
            When we left the dentist the baby was a bit fussy, so I held her as we walked to the car. She’s getting big, but I can still carry her long distances if I switch arms occasionally. I figure she’s got to be around twenty-two pounds because that’s the size four diaper, and we just upgraded this week. The great diaper conspiracy. You know, they actually give you less diapers as you move up to the next size. You think you’re getting the same amount, because the package is the same size, but no, really, there are less diapers in each package. And we somewhere along the line got convinced to buy those decomposable ones to be more “nature-friendly” so those diapers are starting to add up. I keep promising myself that when I have a spare moment I’ll call a diaper service and get us hooked up with cloth. Ha-ha! A free moment! It makes me laugh just writing that down.
All the way to the car the baby made this delightful “Blah, blah, blah” sound that made both of us smile and turn to each other and say, “Blah, blah, blah.” I think she likes it when we mimic her. Blah, blah, blah, baby. Blah, blah.
            But when we strapped her into the car seat, it was like something snapped inside of her, and good ol’ Squealia came to the surface. It wasn’t just squeals, it was peals. And traffic was slower than ever, and I felt in my bones the need for a nap as she just kept screaming and screaming, with no end in sight.
            I have this ear thing, where it actually starts to hurt in my right ear if things are too loud, and I’ve had ringing in my ears from this baby before, so I plugged my ears with my fingers and inched forward in the traffic using my knees to steer. I looked over at Michelle, and she looked back. Both of us had our fingers in our ears.
Suddenly we burst into laughter. Not a scene we’d ever imagined on our honeymoon, that’s for sure. We laughed and laughed as she cried and cried.
            I kept chuckling to myself for awhile. I think it’d be way too easy to get upset about things. Especially the way it just keeps coming. The late nights. The screams. The poop. I actually gave up grumpiness for Lent, and that was one of the best things I ever did, because it really wasn’t helping anyone. I don’t know how Michelle does it. She’ll be exhausted and give the baby this big smile and smother her with attention. It’s inspiring. Because really, what’s the use of getting grumpy? Better to just laugh at life and pray it doesn’t stay this way too long. I can’t believe families who have tons of kids. Even the thought of two is scary to me right now. Let’s just take this one squeal at a time!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Squealia

            It struck me today that I’ve been a father now for six months, and I had one of those “Holy Crap!” moments, as in, “Holy Crap! I’m in this for the rest of my life!” But then, I relaxed and thought, “Okay, she’ll only poop her pants a couple more years at most.”
            I don’t know what people fuss about who have older kids, but then again, I don’t have one yet. It just seems like these young ones are a serious wear on the system. Three feedings a night, or more, and random big poops. It’s like the word “poop” wasn’t in our household dictionary until these last six months. Now, every day we talk about “poop.” What color was her poop today? Did she have a big poop? My God, you should have seen her poop this morning!
            Well, I’m most certainly glad I did not see that poop, but I most certainly am quite curious as to what the big deal is, so of course, I have to ask my lovely wife, who I’d never imagined that day I married her that we’d have these sorts of conversations, and she goes into more detail than necessary about the consistency, color, smell, and overall experience.
            Needless to say, I feel I’ve digressed.
            When I was in my twenties I figured that by now I’d be doing some great things, making a difference in the world, helping people, taking on the Establishment or something even bigger. Here I am in a nine-to-five job talking with my wife about poop.
            But I do have to say she sure is a charmer. A smiler. I’ve seen lots of kids now (interesting how I never noticed there were so many around until recently), and mine is definitely the cutest. Well, okay, I’m biased, but she sure does smile a lot, and it just melts a father’s heart, it does. Makes me go all high-pitched and say things like, “Love Bug” and “Cutie Pie” and “Little Buttercup”. Gosh, there’s a good list. All the nicknames to date I’ve given her.
            • Love Bug
            • Cutie Patootie
            • Little Buttercup
            • Sweetie Pie
            • Pumpkin
            • Little Potato
            • Sweet Pea
            • Little Squirt
            • Baby Cakes
            • Squealia

            She got that last one because she got on this squeal kick the last few weeks. Her real name’s Celia, and one day we were at a restaurant with our friend Larry and she had this high-pitched nerve-wracking squeal that no parent can really ignore, and apparently for no real reason, so Larry said she should be called “Squealia”. It’s already starting to peter off, thank God, but I do wonder about these different stages she goes through. This one was particularly tough on the ears. No apparent reason, she’d just do this awful wail. Totally happy and everything, and a man thinks, “Good God Almighty, Make it stop!”
            It’s lasted about three weeks so far, and I’ve tried to tell her I don’t like it. You wouldn’t believe how much I’ve used earplugs over these last six months. Especially when I put her to sleep. Oh, the wails!
            Isn’t it funny how we fall in love with our kids the most when they’re asleep. We say things like, “Aw, what an angel,” but really, they’re not able to defend themselves to put the record straight. I dare you to say that when they’re squealing and pooping and grabbing the poop before it’s been properly cleaned and wiping it all over their clothes. “Aw, what an angel.” Nope, I’ll bet you can’t do it. But when they’re asleep it’s like we forget all of that and just see this calm, unwrinkled little soul and think they’re at peace. Beautiful. Calm. Pleasant. Mature.
            As if.