Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Head-Hitting and Pee on the Stairs

            Yesterday Michelle tried potty-training the baby, and it actually worked! She placed Celia, with naked bum, onto one of those little plastic potty-trainers, and Celia peed into it, then cried for some reason. Michelle was ecstatic. I still can’t believe it myself. How did she learn to do that? How did she know? Was it random?
            But somehow, in the current chaos of the house, Celia ended up downstairs on a cozy chair and Michelle was bringing the pee-filled potty-trainer down when she saw Celia fall off the chair onto her head. Boom!
            She literally watched the baby mid-fall as it happened, as if in slow motion. In her shock, she dropped the plastic potty-trainer replete with pee and rushed over to the rattled baby.
            In no time she was on the phone with me sobbing, “Celia hit her head! She fell and hit her head!”
            “Did she go unconscious?” I asked.
            “No.”
            “Did she cry right away?”
            “Yes.”
            “Do you see the bump?”
            “Yes!”
            “She’ll be okay. Don’t worry. It won’t be the last time she hits her head.”
            Michelle sputtered a bit. I asked her the details of what happened. How high was the fall? How did it happen? Then I asked the important question, “And the pee? Did it really go everywhere?”
            It seems like Celia’s had a rough few days, when I tally up all the bumps, bruises, burns, and electrocutions. It’s like she’s at an age where she’s exploring her own personal limits. And although it’s hard to watch her get all beat up, I know that if she can learn some of this now, while she’s young, and while the injuries are mostly harmless, she’ll not have to experience more tragic injuries later.
            I think we’re going to try to parent her in this way on all fronts. We all learn best through failure, and rather than try to protect our children from experiencing the pain of failure, my philosophy is that we should allow them to experience failure and pain as young as possible, while we’re still nearby to offer counsel and support. Better for them to flop with us around than when they’re teenagers and out in the big world with only their peers. I want them to be mature before they’re teenagers, and to do that I will have to do my best to not protect them from their mistakes. Of course, I will offer counsel, advice, and support, but I will allow them to make their own decisions. I know it goes against our nature as parents, because we don’t want our kids to experience harm, but in the big picture, it’s a rough world out there, and I want my kids to be prepared for it.
            Of course, when the week’s already been this rough, part of me thinks, “Let’s do our best to protect her from herself for awhile!” She’s got such an adventurous spirit, it’s hard to control. But she is mostly respectful of the boundaries I’ve been setting. No touching the guitar. No pulling books off the shelves. I’ve been using “Tay-tay” a lot these days. Funny thing is, I realized after we agreed on this made-up word that Michelle was really thinking of “Tut-tut,” which is the British way of saying “No” politely, but her pregnant brain couldn’t exactly think of it, and it ended up being a completely different word. I don’t care, as long as it’s not the word “No” and it’s something she’ll remember, I’m happy saying it. We do say “No” a lot as well, but only when it’s really serious.
            On another note, I slept downstairs last night. No snuggling, but I’m well rested. I’m going to do this until Michelle gets Celia sleep-trained. Michelle has taken the hint, and she says she’s going to stop nursing in the middle of the night. She agrees that the baby is old enough to sleep through the night without a meal. The only reason she nurses throughout the night is we’ve trained her to do it. It’s our fault, not hers. She’s only doing what we’ve shown her to do all this time; if she wants to be comforted, here’s an easy way to do it. Suckle at the boob.
            But not for much longer. Get used to it, Celia, because you’re growing up.

Monday, June 29, 2009

More Sleep Troubles

            I woke up grumpy indeed. That baby has digressed on the sleep front to the point where I am convinced that I will be sleeping downstairs until Michelle properly trains her. I know that things happen that make her sleep more poorly some nights, and I can accept that. She had a fever, she was teething, it was quite cold a few nights ago. But then Michelle just lets her keep on with this bad habit of comforting the baby by breastfeeding in the middle of the night, and it wakes all three of us up.
            Ridiculous. I’ll have no more of it. I’m telling Michelle today that I’m not sleeping in the bedroom until she has the discipline to train that kid properly. I woke up exhausted, and that doesn’t help anybody. Nobody benefits from a grumpy man.
            I’ll do my best today to be chipper and energetic. Maybe I’ll drink more coffee. However I can manage, I’ll strive to make it through today well, but I know now what’ll happen if this keeps up. By the end of the week I’ll be bagged, miserable, pooped, and want a ten hour sleep, plus some naps, just to feel normal again. I know I can make it through today through sheer mental power, but tomorrow is another story. I am resolved to do this. I’m sick of being unrested, and Michelle certainly looks tired as well. Michelle needs to be more assertive and disciplined with this baby at night. I’ve had enough.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Cheapest Vet

            I took the cat in to get spayed this morning. Sobering stuff… I look at the kitty now, and she’s all hunched over and wobbly. I’m sure she’ll be totally fine, but Michelle almost cried when she saw her at first; she’s so pained and weak now. But this is important stuff. Not that I’d mind having kittens around, but I definitely don’t like cats in heat. Ew. What a pain.
            The whole process of finding the right vet was a bit of a fiasco. I was getting on Michelle to set up an appointment, so she finally called last Thursday. She sent me an email which said:
            Saturday morning.  10:20
            $55.11 for initial appointment
            $23.75 x 3 for vaccines
            $145. plus tax for spay plus an extra  $32.00 if already in heat
I did the math. That would be over three-hundred bucks after taxes!!! I was upset.
            I replied with an email, “I won’t pay that much. I will not pay more than $50 for her to get spayed. If we can’t find cheaper, we will let her get pregnant.”
            So, Michelle did some digging and called around to find a cheaper vet. Finally, she emailed me back: the appointment was made for Sunday morning at an East Indian place down the street, a twenty-four hour place with kind of an off-handish manner. How much? Fifty for the spay, and less than thirty for the shots.
            “Perfect!” I said. I didn’t think for one moment what could possibly make the price that much cheaper. Hey, they’re from a different culture. I’m sure they have their ways.
            So, I took Felix in this morning. When I went in to pick her up, there were three staff in the front, two of which were dealing with other people, so I approached the woman who didn’t appear busy. A nice-looking young Indian woman. “I’m here to pick up my cat. She just got spayed. Last name is Risho.”
            “Please have a seat,” she said. I sat down in one of the many seats and waited. Another man arrived and asked about picking up his dog. She said to him, “Just a moment sir.”
            And then, she proceeded to finish her lunch.
            I’m not kidding. I sat and thought to myself, “Maybe this is what India feels like?”
            Finally, after she’d finished her samosa, she stood, wiped her mouth and said to me, “What was your last name?”
            “Risho.”
            She went into the back and after a few more minutes came out again. “That’ll be $81.90 please.”
            I smiled and nodded. Exactly what I had wanted to pay. She then turned to the other man, “That’ll be $141.20.”
            “Fantastic,” the man said.
            I turned to him and said, “What did you get?”
            “My dog got her teeth kicked in, so I had them cleaned. I was expecting to pay at least twice that amount.”
            I nodded and we both waited. A woman came out of the back with a dog that appeared happy and well. She handed the leash to the man standing next to me.
            “That’s not my dog,” he said.
            I looked at him, then at the woman, and said, “I hope they cleaned the right dog’s teeth!”
            He looked at me, smiled and said, “Yeah.” I think at that moment we both did some mental calculations; the money saved versus the accuracy of the job. He called out to the retreating woman’s back, “My dog is small and white!”
            But it didn’t end there. They finally did bring out the right cat and dog, and then they started handing my kitten to the man. I shook my head and chuckled to myself.
            “I own a dog,” the man said.
            “Here,” I held out my hands and took a visibly shaky kitty. I put her in her carrier and looked around. I’d paid, and everyone was looking down at things as if we’d finished. I guess that was all. I was almost out the door, but when I glanced at the paper the woman had handed me I noticed something strange. I went back to the front counter. “Excuse me,” I said to her, “but it looks like she didn’t get her rabies vaccination. Isn’t that required by law?”
            “Oh, she’ll get it when you come back in a month,” she replied.
            I looked at her quizzically and wondered to myself, “And when were you going to tell me that?”
            I turned to leave again, and then looked back at her, “So, I need to make sure to take her back in a month?”
            “Yes,” she said unimpressed, then started filling out a piece of paper. Out of curiosity, I peered down at what she was writing. It was a record for me to take home. I smiled and thought to myself, “I’m saving $220. This is the $220. I must not have paid for customer service.”
            My darling kitty does appear to have stitches in the right location, so I think they probably gave her the proper treatment. Although a part of me does wonder, “What if they removed only one ovary?”
            This experience makes me think of my friend Omar from Bangladesh when we were back in college. He had a tooth ache, and told me he’d get the tooth removed over the Christmas holidays in Bangladesh because it was so much cheaper than in the US. “But Omar,” I said, “You probably don’t have to remove it at all. You could probably get it capped or something.”
            Of course, Omar would have none of it, “That would cost way more money than in Bangladesh,” he told me. When I saw him that January he proudly smiled and showed me the gap in his teeth. “Twenty-five dollars!” he exclaimed.
            I shook my head at him, “Oh Omar.”
            Different cultures. Different priorities. Well, regardless of what exactly transpired at that glimpse of India down the street, I’ve got my kitty back now, and she needs me, so I think I’ll wrap up this writing session and give her a little attention.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Burned Tongue, Electric Shock, Falling Backwards Down Stairs

            Today my baby burned her tongue, got electrically shocked, and nearly fell down the stairs backwards. Not to mention ate wildflowers, talked to baby ducks, and sat on a cliff over the ocean.
            Yep, it was a big day.
            I made sure to get enough sleep, and went to bed around nine o’clock. Crazy, you say? No way! When Celia started peeping this morning at 6am I was mostly rested, for the first time in weeks. Of course, an early bedtime means I had to give up sex. Yes, It finally has come to that.
            It was a hard choice in some ways, because this week we just haven’t had much room for it, and finally around 9pm Michelle was giving me the “love signals.” But by then I was pooped.
            Passing up sex is really a first for me, if I think about it. Giving up sex for sleep. I love sex. I LA-LA-LOVE it. But sleep seemed more seductive to me at that moment. It was calling me gently, softly, sweetly, “Get your re-est. You’ll be happy.” I couldn’t fight that Siren charmer, and as soon as my head hit the pillow I was conked out almost immediately.
            So, back to the baby.
            In the morning, I thought to myself, “What, am I a bad father or something?” I couldn’t believe it. The first thing that happened was the stairs incident. The stairway going up to the bedroom has four steps before a door that opens outward, and then the rest of the staircase. Celia is doing marvelously at climbing up the stairs, but still has issues with going down. I’ve been trying to train her by showing her, “First kneel, then one leg down. Good baby! Then kneel, and one leg down. Good baby!” But on her own it’s still a shaky and scary endeavor.
            Well, in the past Michelle has distinctly asked me to make sure I shut the door leading to the upstairs bedroom so she doesn’t hear the baby in the mornings. This morning, as I’ve done every other morning, when I ran up to grab the baby’s clothing I shut the door behind me. But no sooner had I opened her dresser drawers when I heard a pounding on the door.
            Instantly, my heart was filled with dread. The baby had followed me up, and was standing on the fourth step banging on the door.
            A door that opens only outwards.
            How on earth was I going to figure out this one?!
            I rushed down the stairs and cracked the door a bit, saying all sorts of gibberish, like, “Celia, crawl down sweetie. Lower yourself down. You can do it, honey.”
            I don’t know what I was thinking, I was desperate. If I opened the door more than a crack I’d knock her over backwards down four steps and onto a hardwood floor. She stood and banged all the more. I couldn’t see her, just her pajama-clad legs peeping under the crack in the door. “Give me your hand sweetie.” I called out and reached around the crack trying to find her. The cat somehow knew this was the place to be, and was the first to find my grasping hand.
            “Felix! Get out of the way!” I shooed the cat down the steps and grasped again.
            Celia kept banging on the door and starting saying, “Da-Da-Dad!”
            At this moment I had all sorts of scary thoughts. Thoughts of her falling over backwards and cracking her head open. Thoughts of how tragic such a seemingly little thing like closing the door could be. Thoughts of how bad of a father I would turn out to be if she got hurt.
            I took a deep breath and prayed one of those brilliant one-liners, “God, Please.”
            I reached out again and contacted with baby fingers. “Celia! I’ve got you… give me your arm, sweetie.”
            I pulled her hand over to me and grasped more of her arm. I instantly felt relief. At this point, I knew we’d be okay. At the worst, if I couldn’t manage to grab her body she’d have a sore arm but survive. I knew I would never let her get out of my grasp. I knew it with utter confidence.
            I pulled a little more and got a grasp under her armpit. “Bullseye!” I opened the door and lifted her up to me in one motion. She cried, but quieted quickly in my arms. “Sweetie! You scared me, my darling! You scared me!”
            I stood and held her to me, and rocked her gently for a minute, mostly for my sake, I think. It all happened so quickly, and in the end was such a minor thing, but in that moment I felt how tragic it could have become. A very big lesson learned, as I’m sure I will continue to learn lessons with her every time she learns something new.
            Moving on to the burning of the tongue. I warmed up her leftovers on the stove-top, and tested a bite to make sure it was the right temperature. Perfect! But when I sat her in her highchair and offered her that first bite, she opened her mouth innocently and took the whole thing in, then recoiled with huge bulgy eyes and sputtered, followed by huge screams. “Aaaaaaaaah!”
            I freaked and pulled the food off of her tongue. I looked for burning but saw none. Thinking the worst, I grabbed a napkin and got it wet, then put it in her mouth. She was crying and shrieking loudly. I pulled her out of the highchair and sang to her. “You’re gonna be okay. The food is mighty tast-ay. Don’t you worry bay-bay.”
            Out of curiosity, I put a spoonful in my mouth again. It was nice and warm. Not anything to burn, but then again, it was way above room temperature. Maybe she hasn’t developed enough tongue movement to properly deal with hot food. I don’t know. Anyway, I blew on every bite after that, to make sure. I think it’s only mildly burned, but still, another lesson learned. What seems like a good temperature to me is too hot for the baby.
            After the first two episodes, we did end up having a great day. I took her out to the flower gardens, duck pond, the cliffs by the ocean, and a bit of forested area. By 10am I started to think Michelle might be missing us and started driving back. Sure enough, my phone rang, “Can you come home soon? My milk is bursting.”
            “I’ll be fifteen minutes,” I said.
            “Hurry. It’s starting to hurt!”
            Boy, I don’t think I can really relate to bursting milk feeling, but Michelle was obviously in a lot of pain when I showed up. “Worse than childbirth,” she told me.
            I looked at her in shock. In all honesty, I think she’s forgotten how bad the childbirth was. When I hear her tell others about the experience, and how it was so wonderful, I think to myself, “Woman, I was there too. You were in a LOT of pain.” But anyway, I digress.
            The electric shock.
            The painters finally came to finish the bathroom. I guess the landlord paid them too little to work on weekdays. So, the house was in a bit of disarray, with our stuff scattered everywhere. Finally, we needed to get out, so we took a long walk and ran some errands. When we got home, I realized I’d forgotten to buy kitty litter, so I ran out again. Michelle worked in the kitchen cleaning up some of the mess the painters had left behind. And the baby? She made her way over to my computer power cord somehow (I’d thought it was out of reach), and after chewing on the line for awhile, put the end of it in her mouth.
            Zappo! Of course, she started crying. Michelle came rushing in and immediately saw what had happened. And then, (this part makes me laugh even now) she wanted to know just exactly what the baby had gone through, so she put the power cable into her mouth as well.
            Zappo!
            “Actually,” she told me later, “It felt kind of good.”
            I laughed. Obviously, the baby was fine, so I wasn’t worried. I haven’t tried it myself, but I figure it would have the same kind of sensation as licking a battery. A little shock that would alarm any baby for her first electrocution.
            We finally put an exhausted baby to bed, and she made hardly a peep as we laid her in her crib. I think it was a big day for all of us. Time for some brandy and a movie, I think. A little quiet family time, and who knows, maybe tonight we’ll make up for last night with a little whoopee.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Passing on Parking Tickets

            It’s been a long week.
            Exhausting long days, full days, that don’t seem to end. We were supposed to go out to the movies Wednesday, but not only was our baby just recovering from her fever, our friend who’d offered to babysit was feeling barfy and had to pull out. Not that I’m upset, we did get to go out to a rock concert Sunday night. It’s a rarity these days to go out just the two of us. I do miss it tremendously. That, and the energy to go out. Because even if we were to make the time and set up a babysitter, we’d still have to have the energy to stay out late and enjoy ourselves.
            We’re different people than last year.
            Not that I’m complaining. There’s plenty to be thankful for. Work has become a much nicer environment. We had a big staff meeting early this morning, and it was far from negative. Actually, by the end of this week it was a very good work week. Just tiring.
            The only negative today was when I went to a sales meeting to be a part of a spiffy presentation and couldn’t find quick parking so I parked in the parking lot of the supermarket across the street. When I got back to my car, there was a big fat ticket underneath my wiper blade that said, “Restricted Lot. Parked and Left Property.”
            I knew it was a restricted lot, and I fully intended on buying something at the supermarket after the meeting (if someone complained, that is). I couldn’t believe it, so I went to the market and bought a few groceries, then called the ticket lady on my way back to work. The ticket was for $45 if paid immediately, $75 if paid next week.
            The woman said, “There are clearly marked signs in that parking lot. For customer parking only.”
            “Yes,” I replied, “But I was running an errand across the street, then came back to make my purchases.”
            “You left the lot, sir. You’re not allowed to do that.”
            “Are you serious? I didn’t gather that from the signs!”
            “They say for customers of that particular shopping center only.”
            “Yes, which I was. I didn’t know I couldn’t leave.”
            She paused. Then she said, “Okay, how about we charge you fifteen dollars?”
            “Okay,” I said. “Here’s my credit card.”
            Sometimes you just get to that point where you don’t want to argue anymore, and for fifteen dollars, it’s not worth it. Still, I actually smiled after I hung up with her, because I thought of my cultural heritage, how my dad always used to shop around town to find the best deal, and then he’d oftentimes talk down the price of whatever he was buying. The haggling culture is still alive and well in my life. Over the last year I’ve talked down a brand new camera, a brand new suit and shoes, mechanic work, car rentals, fees, and now a ticket. I tell you, it doesn’t hurt to try.
            And just as my dad has passed that down to me, I imagine that I’ll be passing along a little haggle-bug to my daughter. We’ll see. Only time will tell.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Beginning of Playing

            My baby waved to me for the first time on Father’s Day. I realized that I never wrote about it because of the whirlwind that this week has been. All those little things that seem so significant, and yet they swoosh past and we forget how significant they felt at that moment.
            She’s started doing what I can only describe as “playing with me.” This morning I was on the carpet doing my push-ups and she squealed happily and crawled over to me. She tried climbing onto my back, then my legs, then crawled underneath me and grabbed at my face every time I lowered myself. Eventually, I laughed and gave up. I kissed her all over and told her how marvelous she is.
            Yesterday I did a game of chase. I said, “I’m going to eat your feet!” and grabbed her little toes. She actually responded, first time ever, by squealing and crawling away from me, then turning back and looking to see where I was. I moved forward and grabbed her foot again, and she squealed and crawled away again happily. What a delightful little kid. She makes me feel young again.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The First Fever

            102.9ºF.
            When she was sputtering at 10pm, she sounded different. Not her usual wail or whimper, but more of a panicked and pained cry. I approached her crib and realized she was sitting up. I reached out to her and felt the heat emanating from her body well before I touched her. “Michelle! She has a fever!”
            We spent the next hour calming her down, giving her Tylenol and breast milk, singing to her. I said to Michelle, “It’s her first fever.”
            I think that was a helpful thing to say, actually, because it put everything into perspective. When it’s your first baby, and you feel helpless to really do anything so late at night, it helps to realize that it’s the first of many incidents, and probably quite a minor one at that.
            Even so, Michelle pulled out two of our different medically-oriented baby books, and read about what to do with a fever, which of course we’d already done, but I guess she felt more at peace knowing that the books said to do what we did. She’ll be taking the baby to the doctor today, and I’m guessing the doctor will probably say she just needs to rest it off.
            Maybe I’m calm about it all because of taking the First Aid course last week. When you’ve seen the really tragic things that can happen to a child, a fever doesn’t seem so bad!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Open Communication

            Quitting your job during a recession? That’s what I came to the conclusion that I must do. How could I possibly stick it out with a boss who is so disrespectful and made me so angry? I went for a long run with the baby after work and fumed and thought of my options. There’s always work out there. Unfortunately, finding the perfect job takes a lot of thoughtfulness and time, which I don’t have right now.
            Thankfully, I had a group of friends over for a Bible study last night, and they heard me describe the beating I took yesterday, and they prayed for the situation. I was kind of irked when they prayed for my boss; why does he deserve prayer? But then, I realized how clouded my vision was with anger. Sure, we could pray for him too. Why not?
            I felt rested this morning, which is amazing because there was a thirty-minute scream session around 4am. Michelle prayed for me again right before I left for work. I felt supported. No matter what would happen, I know I am loved and my wife and family and friends are behind me all the way.
            I drove to work knowing I needed to tell my boss how I felt – angry, undervalued – and to remain respectful while doing it. I managed to take him to lunch, “My treat,” I told him. We went to a nice place and I spilled the beans of how I felt. He was surprisingly open to hearing what I had to say, and although he didn’t outright apologize, he definitely took back a lot of his rant and was quick to tell me how valuable I really am to him, and how he doesn’t want to lose me for many years. We then proceeded to strategize together about the future of the company and what my role will be in it.
            Well, I’ll tell you what, even if it’s not the best job in the world, it certainly helps to have that cleared up! I asked him that we touch base and talk for ten minutes a week, so this stuff doesn’t pile up. He agreed, and then he paid the bill and said to me, “We should have lunch once a month like this. This was great.”
            Agreed.
            Open and honest communication is always great. I’m so thankful we had that opportunity. So, I’m not going to quit, at least not right away, and I’m going to think of other options of how I might work alongside this company, rather than as an employee. It would be a lot nicer to earn money for my efforts through my own company rather than being on someone’s payroll. Not that it’s easier. I’m well aware of the fact that business owners put in the longest days of anyone. But that’s okay. The autonomy is quite appealing, and the investment to the future is also quite attractive.
            Who knows when I’ll do this, but at the very least, all this experience has got me thinking about it again.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Got to Quit...

            I’ve got to get out of this job.
            Not sure what I’ll do, but it’s killing me. I’ve got to do something I enjoy more.
            Problem is, I’ve got three mouths to feed, so I can’t just off and quit. I can’t just do something I enjoy, because it will undoubtedly pay significantly less. I feel trapped.
            I feel like I’m stuck bailing out a canoe. I was flying ahead, then hit something underwater, had to plug the hole, but in the meantime the whole boat got filled. By the time the hole was plugged, there was so much to bail, I couldn’t even consider picking up a paddle. Not for a long while.
            But here I am still bailing myself out of debt. And I got a bigger bucket (higher salary), which helps, but there’s still too much water in the boat to move on.
            Or is there? The problem is, if I am unhappy in my job, it’ll eat away at my life, and then what’s the point anyway?
            This is perhaps one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make. I’ve thought of quitting ever since I took this job a year ago. I took it based on the fact that I needed work quickly, and I had a kid on the way. Problem is, the kid’s here, and the debt’s still here, though better. And days like today make me want to quit all the more. A boss ranting against me after all that I’ve done to improve the sales of the company.
            Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to write full-time? Instead of these little intervals I carve out of my day. I would love to do something creative and meaningful. I think that’s what I’m wired for. Wish I knew how to succeed in that direction. I know some people make it, but most of us have to hold down day jobs to feed our children, and the stuff we’re more passionate about takes a back seat.
            Is that the way life’s supposed to be? It seems wrong to me. I know I’m a dreamer, and that a dose of reality is probably not a bad thing for me, but at my core I’m still a dreamer. I still believe in following your passions. In striving for significance. I want more than mediocrity.
            I know even as I write that my time at this job is limited. I need to be wise and figure out what I’m going to do next before I quit. I wish I could be like my reckless self in my younger days and just go with wherever the wind takes me. Quit and move on when I’m tired of it.
            I think jobs can become a trap for most people. Even if they hate the job, many people stick it out because of a fear of what’s “out there.” The fear pretty much controls their lives. And although I’ve never been one to succumb to fears that often, I see myself falling into this, what with a child to provide for. But life is intended to be lived, not merely survived.
            And so, I will live. I will choose life.

Friday, June 19, 2009

First Aid Training

            I took the First Aid Course, Level 1, yesterday and today. I can’t believe it took me so long to take it! It seems so unbelievably important. I want Michelle to take it as well, especially for the stuff about babies and children. We can save a child’s life if we know what to do. And I certainly feel a lot more comfortable with my baby’s overall health and safety now that I’ve done it.
            At one point they were showing us how to hold a baby in “recovery position”. We were all given mannequins, and told to hold them face-down with their face in our hand, lying across our arm. As we were all holding our “babies” I looked around at the different people in the class. Some looked awkward and held their dolls poorly. Some seemed more comfortable holding a baby, and were paying attention to the instructor.
            And then I looked at my own grip. There I was, jiggling and rocking the doll and stroking its head as if it needed to calm down and sleep. I laughed quietly to myself. I guess we know who in the class was the Dad of a baby!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Celia Saw an Angel

            Celia saw an angel this morning.
            Okay, some of you may say you don’t believe in angels, and I can respect that. But I’m kind of at that point where I don’t know what else to say. I’ll explain the scenario, and you can decide for yourself.
            I’d already spent over an hour with her and she was starting to get cranky. As Priciliano usually does, he came out when Celia started to fuss and I was busy getting my breakfast and lunch ready so he could hold her and keep her happy till we left for the day and passed her back to Michelle. I got everything ready, and since I wasn’t feeling so well, kind of light-headed and tired, and because I was going to a first-aid course rather than my normal job, I decided to have my coffee and breakfast on the couch rather than take them on the road.
            Well, as I was hanging out on the couch sipping my coffee and eating my banana and yogurt with granola, Priciliano was holding my fussy daughter. He’d walk back and forth, and jiggle her to make her calm down. Then, suddenly, out of nowhere, she looked into an open doorway and smiled, as if someone was standing there. She then got very excited, and started flapping her arm up and down and grinning ear to ear.
            I said, “Celia, what are you looking at?”
            She looked at me briefly, then back at the doorway and giggled, as if someone was standing there entertaining her. I looked, but only saw an empty doorway. “Pisho, do you see what she’s looking at?”
            I call Priciliano “Pisho” because it’s less of a mouthful, and his grandmother used to call him that, so I figure he won’t take offense.
            “Nothing,” he said. Then, after a pause where Celia was obviously being entertained by substantially more than nothing, he said, “Maybe an angel?”
            I nodded my head. I was thinking the same thing. Not that I’ve ever seen an angel myself, but I do believe in them in theory anyway. But you tell me, why would she be riveted to one precise spot as if someone were there, and so exuberantly happy to see that spot, to the point of smiling and giggling, right when she was on the verge of screaming? Something invisible to my eyes, anyway.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Not Much"?

            Left work and went home feeling sick. I think I might have gotten through it without having to skip work except I’m not getting a full night’s sleep, so my body is working over-time to try to fight it off.
            It’s hard to focus on work when the body is performing below normal. Attention spans suffer, words don’t come easily. I am so glad I was able to go home and take a huge nap. It was odd to be home during a weekday, great to see Celia, but I wish I was feeling better to give her proper attention.
            I had such a rough morning. I was exhausted and sick, and Michelle knew it, but even so when Celia started to peep at 6am she said, “It’s your turn.” I got out of bed with a scratchy brain and did my best to be present with the baby, even though all I wanted to do the whole time was go back to sleep.
            I don’t want to feel bitter toward Michelle or Celia when this happens, but I also need to protect myself. On the way to work I thought, “If this is the way it’s going to be, I’m going to bed at 9pm.” I seriously can’t imagine any other tangible solution for this kind of thing happening again. Next time I’m feeling under the weather before I go to bed, I’m going to guard my sleep. And of course, I didn’t make it at work, and the lack of sleep certainly didn’t help.
            Last night when I got home Michelle was distraught. She didn’t want me to play soccer because she hadn’t had any downtime, and wasn’t going to feel supported if I simply ran off and did my own thing. I knew it would happen when I called her on my way home, actually, because she said she hadn’t gone outside the house. I know that every day she doesn’t leave the house she’s particularly exhausted. I keep telling her, “Make sure you get out at least once a day, even if it’s just to take a walk.” But, I’m not her, and she can make her own decisions. It just sucks for me when she makes poor decisions.
            So, instead of going to play soccer, I strapped the baby to my chest and started cleaning the house. Michelle came down after ten minutes and said, “Let’s go walk to the store and do some errands.”
            “Okay,” I said.
            We walked and caught up with each other. I shared some of my recent insights and experiences, and she shared what her day was like. By the time we arrived back home she said, “Okay, you can play soccer now. I feel like we’ve connected.”
            “Are you sure?”
            “Yes.”
            I didn’t hesitate, but ran upstairs and changed, then ran out the door. It was a good game, but I felt like puking by the end of it. It’s odd how I could be running all-out like that and not realize how sick I was until I felt like vomiting. I staggered off the field before the game ended and went home, took a quick shower, and watched a movie with Michelle. But, of course, I’m still suffering today, as evidenced by the fact that I had to leave work early and sleep.
            Each day seems so utterly different these days. I feel like I want to stop time somehow, but that baby keeps growing, and the world keeps turning. My chiropractor asked me what’s new over the last six weeks since he saw me last. I kind of raised my eyebrows and said, “Well, it’s hard to say. I guess not much.”
            Can you believe I said that? What with so much that’s happened over the last month. Perhaps it’s because it’s too overwhelming to think of any one thing, and it’s an easy answer rather than having a real conversation. The real answer is, “My baby has started climbing stairs. My brain has become cloudy. My house a mess as the landlord has finally agreed to put new walls in the bathroom. We’ve gone sailing. Hiking in the snow. Made lots of music. Eaten fantastic meals. Hosted my good friend from across the country and taken him to the beach. Played games. Drank too much. Had new insights into vocation and purpose. Met the new neighbors. Pruned the bamboo in the front yard. Kissed my baby goodnight every single day. And had lunch a few different times with conversations that were significant and life-orienting.”
            What have I been up to? Not much? Ridiculous!

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Baby Nanny Meets Many Strangers

Friday, June 12, 2009
            I am so thankful it’s Friday.
            Mostly because I’m exhausted. But I don’t like how I’m always looking forward to the weekend so much these days. As if the weekdays are second-class citizens or something. Maybe it’s just because I get to take naps on weekends, get some semblance of rest.
            This morning I didn’t think I’d make it through the day. I arrived at my desk, and within thirty minutes I caught myself dozing off. Terrible! I went out and bought another coffee. Yes, caffeine is coursing through my veins, which makes my life a little more alert. But the nice thing about today is I didn’t have my usual routine sitting at a desk for very long. One of the guys in charge of the physical end of things is off fishing, so they’ve enlisted me to help, which means I was out in the sunshine sawing through lumber and shooting a high pressure staple gun to make wooden pallets. It was a big change for me, and it’s kept me awake.
            I wish I didn’t always feel like writing about sleep, but here I am talking about sleep again. I just wish I could get a bit more of it, somehow. Celia’s teething, and it adds an edge to everything. Oh, she’s still pleasant, probably more than many teething children, but you can tell she’s in pain and not happy about it. Especially when she starts to cry and you can tell she’s not tired, hungry, or wet. There’s only one thing left. Too bad, because all I know to help is give her baby Tylenol.
            Yesterday was another one of those days where I went out and jogged with the baby after work, even though what I really wanted was a nap. I think I’m more worn down than usual, because I never did feel a big burst of energy. It was a struggle from start to finish.
            I jogged past the field where I play soccer and some of the guys came over to say Hi and look at the baby. “You playing today?” one of the Mexican guys asked.
            “No, I’m taking care of the baby,” I said.
            “Oh. You’re the baby nanny?”
            I smiled and nodded, “Yes, I’m the nanny.”
            “Too bad you can’t play. We want you to play. You can’t find someone to watch her?”
            I shook my head. Then I said in Spanish, “She understands Spanish. I have a housemate from Mexico.”
            “Ah!” his eyes lit up, and he lowered himself to Celia’s level and started saying all the things Priciliano says to her in a high pitched voice. I thought with a smile, these Mexicans must have all been raised in the same way, all saying things like, “Quien es esta niña? Quien es?” in a funny falsetto voice like a cartoon character.
            Celia loved it. She gave him a big grin and spurred him on to say a whole bunch more. I marveled, because I know this guy, and we’ve chatted a few times, but I’ve never heard him say so much, especially with so much animation. That’s the privilege of having a baby. Everybody around you opens up, and you, as the parent, get to be a part of that.
            Even after I left the field, people were smiling and pouring affection on Celia. I realize now how much I take that for granted, but it’s true, it really has given me a different perspective when I walk out the door. People of all walks of life come right up and say Hi. Old people. Odd people. Business people. Children. Beautiful ladies. Homeless men. They all come up and coo with that precious little bundle directly in front of me. And I have the privilege of being a part of all that.
            I wonder if I should do something more about it. At this point, I mostly just smile at all these engaging people. A few times I’ve chatted with someone. I think it’s a bit harder when I’m tired, but I’ve always thought it was a good idea to meet more people, especially in the neighborhood. Maybe I will start to chat more. We’ll see. Right now, I’m so tired, I can’t really imagine having all the energy to meet a bunch of new people. But this is really the best time to do it, and there’s no time like the present.
            I think that’s probably why so many parents think this time just rushes past; they’re so tired most of the time, it becomes a blur. But if we can step back, look at it, write things down, or talk about them and remember them, I don’t think it’ll go by in a blur. I think it could actually slow down and become more saturated with high-quality memories and experiences. We just have to pay attention and be intentional about not just following our defaults, but breaking through the haze of tiredness and engaging with the world around us and our lovely little children as best we can. This, I believe, is probably the most important thing I can do in this time; to not let it just pass by, but to savor every moment, every precious smile, every dirty diaper as an opportunity to experience something new and precious and rich. And stinky. Definitely stinky.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Late-Night Cutie

            Michelle had about ten ladies over last night, so I grabbed Priciliano and we went off to the movies. A good guy film, action, excitement, and a few laughs. It was nice to get out. I haven’t been to the movies for almost a year now. It’s amazing how much has changed, when I look at it this way, because I used to go to the movies anytime a good-looking film was out.
            When I got home, most of the ladies were gone and we chilled out and picked at the yummy snacks. Then, my buddy Siamak stopped by, and we ended up hanging out till midnight. Finally I stood up and said, “Well my friend. I’ve got to sleep!”
            He understood and started putting his motorcycle boots on. But it was so hard for me to do that. In the past, I was never the first to leave a conversation. But my goodness, I desperately need some rest! Even as I write this it hurts knowing how utterly tired I am today with this “minor” attempt at living life the way it used to be pre-baby.
            In-between all of this, the baby woke up, and Michelle went up to check on her. She called me up a couple of minutes later, “Ephie. Come say hello to your daughter.”
            Celia was so ridiculously adorable I called Siamak up. “Siamak, come say Hi to Celia.”
            Siamak came running up the stairs and started pouring affection on Celia in Farsi. I imagine it went something like, “Oh, you beautiful little girl! My little darling! I want to eat you up!” I don’t speak Farsi, but I have a pretty good idea that he was probably saying something like that.
            And Celia just lit up like an angel. Pure precious smiles. She kept looking back and forth between me and Siamak with a twinkle in her eye. Oh, I just love her! I think I love her more and more, as she matures.
            Michelle said, “Enjoy this moment right now. Who knows how long she’ll be like this?”
            Siamak and I nodded. Siamak said, “That’s right. Before you know it she’ll be saying, ‘I’m interested in another boy. He’s in the second-grade, and good at sports…” We laughed, because he was referring to another little girl, the daughter of his good friend, who had wanted to marry Siamak up till she was around four or so, and then suddenly she dumped him for a six-year-old. According to her, the six-year-old was “Well-adjusted, good-looking, and in the second grade.”
            Celia just kept grinning, and finally I said to Michelle, “We’d better let her go to sleep.” Michelle nodded and Siamak and I went downstairs. I started telling Siamak about Celia’s growth over the last week, and how well she’s getting along with the kitten.
            In fact, the two are getting along so well, they’re like good buddies now. Celia goes and seeks out the kitten’s toys, and Felix loves hanging around Celia. At night we shut our door, so the cat can’t come upstairs to bug us while we’re sleeping. But I found recently that Felix is trying her hardest to smuggle herself upstairs when we’re putting the baby to sleep.
            The funniest moment happened last week. I was on the bed reading bedtime stories to Celia, and Felix snuck into her crib while I wasn’t looking. It was a rough night for Celia, because of her teething, and by the time I said, “Okay, it’s bedtime,” she started shrieking. I tried calming her, but she just needed to be put in the crib to calm herself down. When I went over to the crib, there was Felix trying to be invisible, all crunched down next to a blanket. I smiled and put Celia in the crib next to the cat. Celia screamed and rolled right onto the cat! I laughed out loud to watch it. What kind of kitten allows a loud, shrieking, wailing, wiggling baby to flail around on top of it? She kept up her little “I’m invisible” routine until I laughed and pulled her out from under my crying baby.
            “Oh Felix. You’re so adorable,” I said. Felix looked at me with guilty eyes. “I’ve been caught!” she seemed to say. Frankly, I’m thrilled that they’re getting along so well. You never really know how it’s going to go with animals, especially cats. I’ve heard numerous stories of people’s cats having all sorts of jealousy and terrible behavior when babies are born. I think our advantage is we got Felix when she was so young. And now Felix has been exposed to all sorts of kids. We’d wanted to keep her as an indoor cat until she was bigger, but it’s been so hot Michelle left the door open, and when I got home from work a few days ago, there was the cat outside playing with the neighbor’s kids. Oh well, it was a good idea. That day I went out and bought a collar for her. We’d better get her spade before one of the numerous male cats in the neighborhood gets her pregnant!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Sneaking Naps in the Car

            Yesterday as I pulled out of the driveway at work to go home I turned on the radio and wondered if I’d have to pull over for a nap before getting home. I’ve done that a couple of times now. The thing is, I know as soon as I step foot in that home of mine, I’m done. My time is over. It’s now my baby’s needs and my wife’s needs. Michelle is usually ready for a break from the baby, and Celia only has one or two more hours before bedtime, so most of the time it seems like there’s no break for Daddy.
            The problem is, Daddy needs a break too. Especially when work’s been rigorous or tiring. Add to that a lack of sleep, and it’d be nice to have some down time before seeing my daughter. I do feel the temptation some days to go to the park for half an hour before coming home, but I’ve never done that. The most I’ve done is take a nap.
            So, I was driving home, about halfway through the thirty-minute commute, and Michelle called me. She said, “Say hello to your daughter.”
            “Hi Celia!” I said, trying to muster energy. “How was your day?”
            “Daddy!” she sputtered.
            I felt an overwhelming rush of energy and almost changed lanes accidentally. “What did you say? Did you say Daddy?”
            “Da-da-da… Errr.” She began nibbling on the phone and pushing buttons.
            Michelle got back on the phone and I said, “She said Daddy!”
            “I know,” Michelle replied.
            Up till now I’ve been a bit tongue-in-cheek about the whole baby talking thing. I mean, she’s only eight months old, how much can she really say? But this. This felt real. Maybe it was random. Maybe they’re all random. But regardless, I’m amazed at how touched I was when I heard that.
            The whole rest of the drive home I was daydreaming about Celia and what kind of child she’ll become. When I pulled up and finally arrived at home, Michelle had the baby upstairs, almost asleep on the bed. I walked in quietly, but it was already too late. As soon as Celia saw me she pulled away from Michelle and gave me a huge grin. I climbed onto bed with them and gave them both kisses.
            As soon as I was horizontal, I felt the exhaustion kick in again. Boy, I could’ve used a nap! But unfortunately, Michelle felt the same way. She said, “Can you take her? I want a nap.”
            At this point I think a man has two options. Either option can have a wide variety of outcomes, but really it comes down to this: I could support my wife self-sacrificially, or I could think of my needs and push for them. I think this must come up a lot for new parents. All couples at some point are going to get to that point where they have to choose between serving the other partner or themselves.
            I looked Michelle in the eye and I loved her and I said, “Okay.” I picked up Celia and said, “Hello my Little Pumpkin! Did you have a good day? Let’s go for a run!”
            It’s a funny thing, exercise. The more tired I am, the longer I want to go at it. I took a humongous run with Celia, and she slept for about half of it. It was great to get out, to think and pray. And I had lots of energy afterward, of course.
Today I don’t feel fully rested, but I’m okay. I think of it as a temporary thing, this lack of sleep. It won’t last the rest of my life. And if I can get through it in good spirits and in good health, well, then that’s okay. Sure, I’d love a nap. And sometimes I think I’d better take them. As my pastor told me within the first month of being a new dad, “Once you have little children, you live life on the run.” Too true. He advised that it’s okay to take a break here and there if it’s going to put me in a better space with my family. It was because of his advice that I even started taking naps in the car in the first place.
            So yes, I will support my wife. But I will also do my best to take care of myself as well. And I know that I won’t die from it. I don’t think I’ll fall apart. If anything, I imagine it’ll only make me stronger as a person, in the long run. And that’s not so bad, is it?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sailing, Hiking, Shots and Beer

            Back to work after a full weekend. Late-night games and beer. Hiking. Picnics. Sailing. I sit here at my desk and wish I had a different job. Something more fun, or that would allow me to spend more time with my family, or outside. Something more significant and meaningful. Not that what I do is useless, but it definitely doesn’t stir me. It’s a job.
            When a few days are so full of living it makes me realize how dreary the rest of my days appear. Of course, at this point in our lives I’m captive to earning money. We’re in the hole, and I need to earn a lot just to get out. It’s an odd feeling, because I’m earning more now than I ever have before, and yet I feel the least free, the most captive to the Almighty Dollar. Maybe it’s partially because I know I’m fully responsible for feeding my two ladies. That’s probably part of it, a sense of responsibility that somehow became foundational to my outlook.
            Yesterday we were out on the ocean, a beautiful sunny day, with just enough wind to billow our sails and not enough waves for anyone to get seasick. The baby cried for over an hour; way too interested and exhausted for anything else, I guess. In the end, I placated her by wearing her on my chest with one of those baby backpack thingies and bouncing around. Every time she conked out and I tried putting her down on the bed below, she’d wake up and start crying again, so I just wore her for about half the time.
            Yes, it was inconvenient, but we did have a splendid time. I got to catch up with my friends, and I felt totally at peace out there. Something about being on the water does that to me. It just makes me relax and feel like everything’s okay. But then, when I get back to town, I start to question my life. Every time I get out on the ocean it’s like that. I don’t think I get out enough.
            Hiking was nice as well, on Saturday, but unfortunately it’s been such a cold season that we crossed some magical line and ended up in a snowy winter wonderland. After a few slips on steep snowy slopes with the baby snuggled in her little backpack, we both decided we’d be better off having our lunch in a clearing we’d passed and heading back. Still, just walking through the forest without others around was refreshing. I am getting tired of the city, I think. I really enjoyed spending time with just my wife and child. There’s something quite mystical and familiar about it. As if somehow on that mountain together we were fulfilling our purpose as a family, out there as a single unit in the wild. I definitely want to go camping this year.
            I was thrown off Friday night by my daughter screaming at 3am. She just wouldn’t stop. Whether it was a side-effect of her shots or the new teeth coming in the top, I don’t know, but it was a rough night for us, especially since we were up past 1am playing games and hanging out with some friends. I felt like I had a big hangover the next morning, and although it was partially true because I’d had a few beers, I know it was mostly  because of a poor night’s sleep.
            All of this sleep-talk is wearying, especially since Michelle spent the whole week training Celia while I slept in the guest room. And when I finally got into the room, and the baby was supposed to be in a good sleep-space, she lost it. I was chatting with a co-worker about this, and he told me some horror stories of his own from last week. He’s got two kids, a three-year-old and a one-year-old. I said, “You’re ahead of me, here. You’re supposed to tell me how it’s gotten so much better!”
            He just smiled and said, “It doesn’t seem to end. They have lots of good nights, but then the older one has a nightmare, and the whole house gets shaken up.”
            I just looked at him incredulously and silently steeled myself. No point allowing myself to feel tired now, if we’re thinking of getting pregnant again this year. I’ve got a long road ahead, and I’ve got to be positive.
            I do have to say that it’s when I’m tired that I start to question things, and wish for a different life situation. Not that I’m unthankful for what I’ve got, because I know I’ve got it good compared to most of the world. But I crave more. Something beyond this haggard and ordinary existence. I desire the supernatural. I crave for my dreams to come true. It’s elusive. It’s hard to grasp. And it is almost nearly tangible.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Never Enough Time

            Celia’s getting her shots today, in about twenty minutes. I think it’s her third set, although I’ve kind of lost track. Every time she goes in I say a prayer that she’s okay. I’ve heard the suppositions of many that there are links between autism and the mercury they keep in the shots to pack them all together. Of course, the medical community denies it, but the Brits recently took a pack of monkeys who’d never had autism and started giving them these shots, and lo and behold, some of them started getting autism.
            But what do you do? It’s not common, and we want her to be protected against the worst of the viruses out there. It’s not the shots themselves, but the way they package them all together. That could easily change, but for some reason, our system just moves so darn slowly, and those who make the most money also have the most to lose, and also have the most power in the situation. So, change moves at the speed of snails, until the common public give an outcry. That hasn’t happened yet, so she’s getting her next installment of shots. And I pray, Dear God, that she be fine.
            I had almost no time with her yesterday after work. Straight from work to the accountant, who took over an hour, then a fifteen minute delicious chicken curry dinner, and off again to shop for the big meal tonight, followed by lugging it all into the kitchen refrigerators, and then a meeting. I got home at 9:45pm and Michelle was upset. Not enough time with the baby. Not enough time around the house. So, I did dishes and threw away a particularly smelly compost batch and she was happier. Then I spent an hour chatting on the porch with a buddy of mine who’d stopped by.
So, bedtime was after 11:30pm. Yes, I’m writing about sleep again. Terrible, but it does seem to come down to this so often these days. It’s important because I’m just not at my full energy and focus, so I feel haggard and unfulfilled. The absolutely wonderful miracle of my baby does help me feel better about it all, but eventually I’ve got to figure out how to deal with this. There’s not enough time in a day for all the living I’d like to do. I guess that means I’ll have to focus only on the most important. All that other stuff I used to do which was meaningful, fun, or even necessary isn’t cutting the mustard anymore. Nope. I’m a dad, and that’s my cosmos. I pray that one day I can reclaim some of the personal territory I’ve lost, while still retaining my fatherhood. That would be nice.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Bed and Big Meals

            I slept downstairs in the office last night. It was sweet to sleep more than usual, but I still didn’t get enough. I got hooked going through the enormous amount of photos I have on the computer, selecting some for printing and deleting the unnecessary ones. I kept at it till almost 11pm, and when I looked at the clock I gasped, “Oh no!” But it was too late. It would be another night of less sleep than I need. And I did it to myself this time. I’m a fully grown adult. I know my baby will wake up at 6am, and that I need to go to sleep earlier if I want to get enough. And yet, even so, something inside of me dinks around in the late hours rather than just going to bed. It’s like some ginormous mental barrier I have to beginning to go to bed before 10pm. Even after 10pm it feels too early to start getting ready for bed. But I also really wanted to go through the photos and print some for the baby to look at, and email some of the best ones to my distant friends, to keep them updated on our lives.
            I think I’m fighting an illness. Maybe that’s why I’m so tired. I need even more sleep than usual if I’m fighting something. And I’m so busy, I don’t seem to have time for rest. I’m in charge of the big meal for the needy tomorrow that our church does every Thursday. I’ve got to plan the menu and go buy all the groceries tonight. Then I have a short meeting. Not to mention I have to stop by the accountant on the way home to sign off on the final taxes. And then of course tomorrow I’m going to be heading over the church right after work to get the team organized and cooking the meal. I think I’ll do something easy, like spaghetti and meatballs. Last time I did lasagna, which of course everyone loved, but boy, is it ever labor-intensive! No, something simpler for a weary man.
            I do have to say that the last time I took on organizing and leading the meal about two months ago, I went in utterly exhausted, even questioning why I’m still volunteering to do this, especially being so tired these days. But by the end of it I was full of energy and life, with lots of stories. At one point I turned it a competition for who could make the most beautiful looking lasagna, and I jokingly criticized a friend of mine, comparing his job with another woman’s. I made him add another layer of meat and try laying out better-looking noodles, and in the end he proudly said, “Now mine is the best here! It has a whole extra layer, and it looks great!” We all laughed and had a great time.
            I’m glad I’m writing this now, because it reminds me that I can do it. When I’m tired like this, it’s hard to remember sometimes why I’m involved in so much stuff. Volunteer cooking. Music. Soccer. And it’s nothing compared to what I used to be involved in. So much for free time!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Arm Flaps, Phlegm, Raspy Guitars, and Toothbrush Routines

            After work I went straight to my accountant and we figured out how to deal with my situation for the next hour. By the time I arrived home I was tired but full of excitement at how we’d come up with a solution that I was happy with. When I walked in the door Michelle was holding Celia on the recliner. Celia looked up at me with an enormous grin and I said, “Daddy’s home!”
            She began to flap her arm and say, “Da-da-da-da-da!” I dropped all my stuff and swooped her up into the air. She grinned at me and grabbed my nose as I said, “My beautiful daughter! My little pumpkin! My sweetie pie!” She continued to grin as I twirled her around and then lay down on the carpet with her. She crawled onto me and started grabbing my nose and lips and beard. I laughed from the bottom of my stomach and she squealed and laughed with me, and started crawling onto my belly.
            I lifted her into the air lying on my back and she made a little cooing sound, her bottom two teeth popping out of her delicious grin. “My darling!” I called to her. She smiled and grabbed at my face. I lowered her and she grabbed my nose again. I started calling out in a funny voice, “Ahh! She’s got my nose! She’s got my nose!” She squeaked and grabbed my bottom lip. “Eghrght! You’ve got me! The baby’s got me!”
            Michelle stood and smiled above me. She later told me that Celia was being fussy right before I arrived. I had no idea. I definitely have to say that this is one of the biggest highlights of my day, when I arrive home after work and see my daughter. She’s so eager to be with me, and I with her, it’s like magic when we’re together.
            The mornings are nice too, but different. This morning I woke up to the baby’s crying at 6am on the dot, and seriously thought that I’m getting sick. I coughed out phlegm into the sink and squinted as she played by herself peacefully for a few minutes, then began to squirm and sputter, her way of saying she wanted to get onto the carpet and play with toys. I pulled her out of the seat, and watched her start getting into things. I knew I had to do something to distract her and put her at peace.
            In a haze, I grabbed my guitar and in a raspy voice I began to sing to her a randomly crafted love-song. “Oh my little Celia, my little girl, I love you so. You woke up crying, is something wrong? All you need is a little song…”
            She quieted down as I rasped and coughed her little love song, and I thought to myself, “Okay, this isn’t my prime, this is probably the worst I’ve sung in a long time, and I’m practically still asleep. I need to remember this. I need to record this.” So I grabbed the computer and pressed record. I sang and cooed to her, and she played quietly the whole time, occasionally looking up, but more content than anything to just be there next to me as I sang.
            She’s exactly eight months old as of today. And I’m amazed at how developed and wonderful she is. Sure, she’s a challenge, but we’ve already got our routines and wonderful little habits that only she and I share. Like after I take a shower in the morning, I start brushing my teeth and she always lights up. I’m not sure why, she loves toothbrushing. So, months ago I noticed this and leaned in after I’d finished brushing, and she reached out and touched the toothbrush dangling out of my mouth with a big smile. It was only a few weeks before she tried bringing the toothbrush into her mouth, and not long after that I let her. So, there we were, both of us with our mouths on the toothbrush, staring at each other happily.
            And today, when we did our little toothbrush routine, there we were staring at each other’s face a mere five or six inches apart, and both of us with enormous grins on our faces. I couldn’t help but think that this has got to be one of the most ridiculous, silly and enjoyable little routines we’ve got. I mean, think about it, I would never think to do such a thing with Michelle, who’s the closest person to me. And here I am sharing my toothbrush with my baby. What a silly, preposterous, delightful little world.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Gold Foundation

            When my mom was visiting she said, “People don’t seem to remember anything before they were two years old. I think of these first years as gold. You’re laying a foundation for their future that they won’t remember, but their whole way of approaching the world will be founded on it.”
            My baby is exactly eight months old as of tomorrow, and I am just starting to understand what my mother was talking about. Every day it seems like Celia is more aware, more developed, more mature. She has more patience with being put in the car seat and those ridiculously awkward shoulder strap seat belts. She is just a little more able to express what exactly is bothering her, rather than simply wailing all the time. And she’s even saying stuff now.
In the mornings she says, “Da-da.” That’s because I have two hours with her every morning. And then by the time I’m about to go to work, or if she’s getting upset, she starts to say, “Ma-ma!” Can you believe it? She’s only eight months! It’s so adorable, and it makes me love her all the more.
When I think of all of this wonderful growth and the way she’s opening up to the world, I realize that what my mom said is true. These months are like pure gold. She will grow into this world with a self-confidence that she is a valuable, loved, significant person. I think that even if Michelle and I were to somehow die two years from now, Celia has been imprinted with a healthy world-view, and no matter what happens down the road, that will be there.
I am starting to think, more than ever, that these first years are in some ways the most critical. We’re teaching her an approach to life. Everything she’s sucking in right now is what we’re giving her. She hasn’t been exposed to yelling, swearing, fighting, television, or neglect. She’s been exposed to a wide variety of people, dogs, cats, lots of walks, toys, music, dancing, lots of stories, and a whole ton of hugs and kisses. If it keeps going this way, I think she’ll turn out pretty well.
Now, to change the subject and talk about me for a minute… Friday night we had a couple of friends over who are in their 20s, and I’ll tell you what, I felt like an old fuddy-duddy. We basically sent them home a bit after 10pm and went to bed! I can’t believe it, me the party-animal, ready for bed on a Friday night at 10pm. But there’s no denying the fact that Celia did indeed wake up at 6am Saturday morning, as usual, and I took her for a morning jog and played with her all morning, to give Michelle a break, and I was ever-so-thankful that I went to bed when I did. I actually feel rested today, believe it or not. I haven’t slept the full amount that my body craves in quite some time, but I’ve slept enough, I suppose, because here I am wide awake.
Last week one of my co-workers came over to my desk to talk to me and said, “Just look at yourself! You’re exhausted!”
I went to the washroom and looked in the mirror, noticing the dark rings under my eyes and haggard face. I think it’ll be an ongoing battle for awhile, especially if we really do succeed in having another one (which will happen soon, if we follow our original plan! My God!). But even so, I think it’s definitely one of the more worthy sacrifices. Fatherhood is one of the most significant things I’ve ever done in my life. It’s worth a few sacrifices along the way.
And let’s face it, in a time of Celia’s life where everything is like pure gold, I can’t skimp out and give her second-best. Nope, she deserves all my energy, all my attention, all my love. I never did realize I had so much room for love in my heart. I thought I’d maxed out my love when I married Michelle. I don’t think I could have imagined the capability of fully loving Michelle as well as another person. I guess I’d have thought of it as spreading it out, giving a little bit here and there. But look! My heart grew! Who’d have guessed? I have more space in it, a new chamber I never knew existed! I have enough room to fully love Michelle, and to fully love this new little Celia. It’s all there. What a miracle. What a priceless, generous, worthwhile endeavor.