Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Porch Pool and an Unconvincing Argument

            So hot.
            I know other parts of the world get hotter, but for the west coast we’re just not used to it. Temperatures almost at 100ºF with absurd humidity and no A/C.
            It was so hot, in fact, that the baby couldn’t sleep. We had good friends over from out of town, and after we put Celia down to bed we sat on the front porch (couldn’t stay inside) sipping our Cabernet Sauvignon and taking scrumptious nibbles of filet mignon, when the baby started to cry. Usually we wait a few minutes before going up, but Michelle had a feeling that our attempts at circulation wouldn’t be effective.
            The upstairs used to be an attic, so there’s no insulation, one window, and lots of trapped air. We set up two fans on high speed, one in the window and one pointed directly at the crib, but when Michelle went up there, sure enough Celia was drenched in sweat. Poor kid.
            So, Michelle brought Celia down to the front porch so she could cool down. She rubbed her eyes and squinted at us having our elegant dinner. The day before Michelle had bought a tiny inflatable pool, and it still had a couple inches of water in it, so she put the baby in the pool and sat down next to her to finish her meal.
            Celia slowly became human again as she sat in the water, and splashed a little to get it on her body. We laughed then continued our conversation. The couple had been asking us about parenting, because they were thinking of having kids themselves. We were telling them all the great things about kids, and they held hands and looked at each other lovingly.
            Then, right at one of those moments where we all felt the beauty of parenting, Celia propped herself up the door and, standing in her pool, let out a large poo right into the water! Of course, every single one of us happened to be watching, and my friends let out a large guffaw. Michelle scooped the baby up to get her out of the water before it touched her cute little feet.
            Celia looked around in surprise as she stood on the front mat and we all laughed. Then, she pooped again, right on the mat. Squishy stuff, too.
            I turned to my friends and said, “Of course, there’s always the poo to deal with.”
            Michelle and I scurried around cleaning the mat, the baby and the pool. By the time we were able to get back to our friends, I’m not sure what they had discussed, but I think they had a better picture of parenthood. Nothing like a visual example to give a clear idea of what you’re really getting into, right?
            Tomorrow we head out to see my family in Montana. I’m thrilled for many reasons; not only do I crave the break, I’m excited because this will probably be more significant for Celia than the last time we visited. Last time she was so young, I’m skeptical that she’d remember anything. I’m so excited for her to start remembering things. As for the sweaty nights and pooping in the pool, I suppose I’ll just have to tell her the stories when she gets older.
            Good thing I’m writing this down. A little time capsule on paper. Some people take videos. Some take pictures. I like to write. Whatever way we do it, I definitely want to savor every moment, even the poopy ones, because before I know it she’ll be fully grown and this will all be a faint memory. And hey, the crazy moments are in some ways even better to remember than the happy ones. They may suck in the moment, but they’re certainly interesting!
            Just remember that the next time there’s a crazy moment.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Obligatory Pickle

            I’m so excited to take my vacations at the end of the week, I can hardly contain myself.  I haven’t had real down-time since Christmas, and I’m really looking forward to it. Sure, the baby will probably keep me running the whole time, but I look forward to actually reading a book, taking a nap, sipping a nice, cold margarita in the middle of the day, sitting down to a good family meal with my parents.
            Speaking of meals, the baby is just going at it with the food. We already figured out a few weeks ago that she has a serious preference to meat, but now we see she loves her fruit, too. In fact, she loves it so much, she figured out how to open the Tupperware container filled with cherries while we were hanging out at the beach and managed to get her sandy hands all over them before popping a few into her mouth. By the time we managed the situation, and showed her how to take a nice bite out of the cherries, she’d already swallowed at least one pit (don’t worry, Michelle called me this morning to tell me that the pit had come through her poo… yes, another poo phone call!).
            Celia’s eating habits have definitely shifted to the messier side of things. No matter what it is I feed her, she will now spit it out into her little fingers to take a look at it before popping it back into her mouth again. Of course, now that the food is all over her hands, she’ll then proceed to rub said hands all over her high chair, clothing, hair, face, and even the cat, if it’s foolhardy enough to come near during meal times.
            I have to say, I’m impressed with her ability to deftly grab the food and put it back into her mouth the way she does. Even our Mexican house-mate wasn’t able to manage that the other day! I made these humongous pork grilled-cheese sandwiches which we proceeded to eat out on the porch on a sunny day, and when I offered him a pickle he politely refused.
            “Do you eat pickles in Mexico?” I asked.
            “No,” he said.
            “Have you ever had a pickle?” I asked, giving him a look as if to say, “You’d better try it at least once in your life!”
            “No,” he said, then said, “Okay, give me a pickle.”
            “Now here’s how to eat one properly,” I explained as I forked it out of the jar and put it on his plate, “You want both the flavors of the pickle and the sandwich to be in your mouth at the same time, so take a bite of the pickle, then, without swallowing, take a bite of the sandwich.”
            He took the obligatory bite of pickle, then shakily picked up the massive sandwich. As he opened his mouth to take that huge bite, lo and behold, the pickle fell out!
            We laughed, and laughed. Michelle had no idea what was so funny, but didn’t bother to ask. I guess laughter is pretty commonplace around our house. And let’s face it, our baby does her fair share of food droppage every couple of hours, what’s a little bit of pickle on the porch in the grand scheme of things?
            Yes, our little munchkin is really munching. I sometimes have wondered if we’re feeding her too much. I’m not sure you can really do that with babies, but I suppose we’ll just kind of go with the feel of things. But one thing’s for sure. After her fourth large poo full of dark cherries, Michelle and I can both definitely agree – no matter what else we aren’t sure about in regards to feeding her, we both had the same thought on the phone this morning: less cherries!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Placating the Baby Without Touching

            Wow. A whole week has passed and I haven’t written a thing. Work has had me running. Meetings and proposals. Driving to help with installations, and across the border to meet with legal and accounting folks. Go, go, go. It’s hard to take a moment and write in the middle of it all. Not to mention helping my buddy by taking photographs for a fundraising event, DJ’ing for a friend’s birthday, helping paint the church, compiling the year’s expenses for my corporate tax return, plus the usual hanging out with friends, exercise, soccer, and Bible study every Monday.
            No down time whatsoever.
            Gosh, when I write it all down, it seems like my life must be hectic! But it doesn’t feel too bad. I still seem to have lots of time with my little munchkin.
            She’s so clingy right now, it’s quite amazing. Let’s see, she’s almost ten months old now. The books all warned us that at nine months she’d have more trouble leaving her mother’s side. I guess that’s what we’re experiencing. She’ll play totally happily on her own, as long as one of us is in the room. Leave the room, and she’ll either start to cry or frantically dart across the room on all fours to be wherever we are.
            She also likes to cuddle more these days. She’s generally a pretty squirmy person, so it’s quite a change to be able to hold her calmly for long stretches of time. Usually any holding sessions were a full squirm-a-thon, with Celia taking first place for the most squirms of any child on the block. Now, she might squirm a bit, but when she flips the switch into “Needy Mode” she just holds on.
            The most difficult moment I had with the baby this week happened after I took her on a long run in the hot sun. She was happy for the whole jog, and does this thing where she grabs the bar in front and lifts herself as high as the straps will allow so that she can see everything happening. Whenever she sees a dog she gives a little squeal of happiness. I think if she could talk she’d be saying, “Daddy! Look! A dog! Just like the ones you read to me every night.” I read her this book called Doggies or something like that, with all sorts of barking and howling. Whenever I pull out the book, she just goes nuts. In fact, when I was playing soccer a couple days ago, and Michelle and Celia were on a blanket next to the field, a big old dog came right up to Celia and gave her a humongous slobbery kiss, and she just absolutely loved it. Maybe we need to think of getting a dog…
            Anyway, back to the story, by the end of the run I was completely drenched with sweat. I lugged the pink stroller up the stairs and got myself a nice, tall glass of water, unstrapped her and let her roam around. But no sooner had she gotten onto the floor that she wanted me to pick her up. She crawled over to my sweaty legs and leveraged herself up them. Standing, she looked up at me as if to say, “Pick me up, Daddy!”
            “Not now sweetie,” I said, “I’m all sweaty.”
            I moved away so she’d go back to the floor, and dashed back to the kitchen to get another glass of water. By the time I’d come back, she was starting to get frantic, and in her attempt to get near me she wonked her head on the floor and started crying.
            “Daddy! Pick me up! I need comforting!” she seemed to wail. The tears kept coming, and the wails began to escalate.
            “You’re okay sweetie,” I said, without touching her. It was the hardest thing ever, trying to comfort her without touching her. Every last inch of my body was covered in sweat, and I didn’t want her to get all slimy or stinky.
            I tried dancing for her. I tried distracting her with toys. Finally, what worked in the end was singing. “It’s alright, my Sweet Delight. You’re okay, my Dear Bay-bay. Calm yourself down, my Little Clown.”
            By the third verse, she kept her bottom lip puckered out, but stopped wailing. Success!
            When I think about it, I’d have to say that she’s graduated to having less tangible needs than before. A couple months ago it seemed like all she really needed was food, diaper changes, sleep, and love. That’s it. Do those things right, and she’d be happy. But now she’s starting to become more complex. More of a psychologically faceted individual. She has needs beyond a clean diaper, and if we don’t attend to them, well, she’s going to wail.
            Add to that the fact that she now makes it her goal to tear apart the house by the end of each day, and Michelle and I definitely have our hands full. No time to even wash dishes with her around, because she’ll want more attention than that. Nope, the house can become a disaster within the first twenty minutes of the day, and it seems almost impossible to do anything about it till she’s asleep. It’s a good thing we’re such boring people with no outside activities, or we’d never be able to keep the place clean! ;)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sex and Doing the Dishes

            I finally figured out how to turn my wife on, that is, since we’ve had the baby.
            Do the dishes.
            I’m serious. Washing the dishes is what turned her crank. In fact, she was even up to doing it twice. Twice in one day! Hallelujah! Sunday is a great day indeed.
            Sex life is definitely one of the major things that changes with a baby. When both people are exhausted at the end of a long day, it’s not the first thing on the mind, that’s for sure. And then, when we do finally make time for it, we have to be as quiet as possible so as not to wake the baby.
            That’s right, you read that right. The only time we seem to be able to fit it in is when Celia is sleeping in her crib right next to the bed. When Celia is awake she wants us with her. Most of the time, she wants us interacting with her at some level. Oh, she might last fifteen minutes bouncing in her jolly jumper, but only if we’re watching. She’ll crawl around and look at books on her own, but she’ll start screaming as soon as we leave the room for more than a couple of minutes. We just can’t seem to leave her alone these days, except in the early morning when she just wakes up.
            All of the regular time-slots we used to have at our beckon are demolished. Early morning, we’d wake the baby. Mid-day, the baby would fuss if we left her alone. Late at night when we usually go to bed, we’re pooped—fast asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow. There’s only one solution; go to be early, but not so early that she’s sleeping lightly. No, we have to wait till she’s fully zonked out. And then, we sneak into the room quietly. Creep over to the bed on tiptoes. And do our best to make as little noise as possible.
            I feel almost clandestine. An intruder in my own bed. 
            Not that I’m complaining. Like all things, this too will pass. I’m sure it won’t be long before we have our bedroom back to ourselves. I think, as it usually goes with babies, we have to just chalk this up to part of the experience. It’s most certainly not the end of the world, and it definitely makes us cherish those wonderful little moments we do get, when they come around.
            Like today.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Uncertain Projections

            Focused. Writing a business plan. Not much time to write.
            Michelle and I took a long walk yesterday evening, down by the coastline. Let the baby sleep in her stroller and enjoyed the gorgeous sunset. Discussed the business options ahead. Michelle asked, “What is your heart telling you?”
            “Good question,” I answered. After humming and hawing, I said, “I think I need to throw my all into this thing, at least in the short-term. And we’ll see. I need to meet with these legal and accounting guys next week to get a better sense of what I could really stand to gain from it. And I need to write a proper business plan so we can make projections.”
            She nodded quietly. In some ways, it didn’t matter what I said to her. She would support me. But in other ways, I know she was visualizing what this would mean. Long days away from the family. Travelling and distance. Stress and exhaustion. I’m sure she was taking it all in quietly as we took that stroll.
            It’s a funny thing. None of us really knows how long our lives in their current form will last. Our kids grow up. We lose our jobs. We have to move. Our environment changes. And yet, when we’re put in a place of having to make that kind of decision ourselves, it suddenly becomes a difficult discernment process. And it very much makes us cherish what we’ve got.
            I turned to her, with the sun glinting off her eyes and the ocean reflecting the sunset, and I kissed her. I may not know about our future, but I do know that I’ll always have her, and that’s the most important thing of all.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Heart-Pulling Decisions

            I’m torn. Yesterday work kept me late, and traffic was the pits, so when I finally got home an hour-and-a-half later than usual, I only had enough energy to be with my daughter for ten minutes before slogging off for a nap.
            And it sucks.
            I just don’t know if I’m up to working long days, and spending a lot of time in the car. All that time away from my Little Potato and my Red Hot Mama. I just don’t know if I can do it.
            I’m also feeling some conservative impulses in regards to my personal investment into this new opportunity. I’ve got to do some of my own research, on my own initiative, before buying into something. I’d like to gain long-term from all my efforts, but at the same time, I don’t know if I’m ready to put in the kind of risk that may be asked of me. Which means at the end of the day, even though I’m pioneering something new, I would do it as an employee. I’d receive good financial returns in the short-run, but have nothing long-term gained for my efforts.
            I don’t know if I like that. I just don’t know. I have a lot to sort through in the next weeks which will have a big ramification on our future. I need to be aware of all the options, all the issues, and all the costs, so that I can make a proper assessment. I need legal help. And I need to get on it right away.
            I think it’d be at least a little bit easier for me to spend time away from the family if I had some sort of stake in the company. Otherwise, if I’m just an employee, why bother? These are such precious years I get to spend with my daughter. They will pass and never happen again. Do I really want to diminish my involvement in that in any way? Not without a lot of thought. It has to be significant to pull me away.
            My little sweetheart is already changing in her personality. She loves smiling and laughing, but it usually requires more input from us than it used to. She’s almost walking, I can sense it. Every day she gets a little bolder. A little more mature. A little more aware. She’s pulling books off her shelf now, and when it’s a book she’s interested in, she’ll sit with it and do her best to flip through the pages. She loves the photo album I made her, and has already ripped out a few pages. She’s growing up so quickly. I can’t let this slip by. It’s more important than all the money, all the status, all the power in the world.
            And it’s pulling at my heart as I sit and ponder what kind of decision to make.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Business Travel

            Spent all of yesterday travelling around Washington, four different meetings and long conversations in the car with the president of the company. It was a good trip in many ways; enlightening as well as directive. I think we’ll be moving forward fairly quickly, and yet I may be able to stay in my current home for awhile. The new changes that we’re looking at will involve a lot of time, energy, travel, and excitement.
            It also means I’ll be spending a lot more time away from my wife and daughter.
            I came home and discussed some of this with Michelle. I said, “If we decide to go forward on this, we’ll have a higher income and a new car or mini-van, but it also means I’ll be away from the family a lot more.”
            “How much?” Michelle asked with a furrowed brow.
            “I said I didn’t want to be a road warrior and spend half my month away, but we agreed that about a week for every month would be sufficient.”
            She paused, then said, “I’ll support you in whatever you decide.”
            I nodded. It’s a difficult decision because I cherish every moment with Michelle and Celia, and I don’t want to take time away from them. And although it’s more pay, with the possibility for a much larger pay, I am struck by the insignificance of money when it comes to the important matters of family. Yes, we need more money than most of my friends right now, because of all the debt we’re swimming in, but I don’t think we really need that much money.
            Michelle was very clear with me later on in the evening. She said, “Ephie, you know I’d be happy living in a small town near your parents with next to nothing. We don’t need money to be happy.”
            “I know,” I said. “Me too.”
            It’s not just about the money, I realized as we talked it out. It’s about the experience. At this point, I’ve done a lot to help grow the company, but the question remains, in this upcoming year what will I do to grow the company even more? So my product line grew 60%, how can we grow it that much again? If we want to even come close, we’ll have to take a lot of initiative and do a lot of strategic actions.
            It will be out of my comfort zone, which means the potential for a lot of personal growth, and it will be the kind of experience that could potentially be foundational for my skill-set in running business, relating to others, and initiating change in this crazy world. Yes, the additional money will be nice to have, as will the new car and other perks, but I feel like this will be the kind of challenge that I need to make this whole experience worthwhile.
            Deep down I know that I’m going to pursue it, and already I feel a loss as well. The loss of spending less time with the family. How precious my daughter is! How wonderful it has been to spend so much time with her! I will miss that dearly.
            Perhaps a little distance will make our time together that much more sweet. I don’t know. Anyway, I’m going to pursue this change, at least for a few months to see if I’m happy or miserable.
            When I was single, I’d have made this decision in an instant. Now, it’s one of the most heart-wrenching things I’m going to choose to do. I just pray that things are so successful that it only takes a year or two of pushing hard before I can let up again.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Secret Brotherhood of Fathers

            I threw my back out this morning trying to pick up Celia. It was one of those hazy-morning foggy brain moments where she was starting to fuss about being in her little chair and I leaned over to pull her out, when Sproink! The mid-back felt a massive debilitating spasm.
            When this happened to me about twelve years ago playing frisbee, I ignored it and ended up hurting my back so badly I didn’t think I’d ever recover. It took me years before I was running around again. Since then, I’ve been very careful when something feels pulled. I ice it and stretch it and see a chiropractor immediately. I’m going to see a muscle doctor later today.
            When I showed up at work holding my back my co-worker who has two pre-teen kids said, “Ah! Don’t tell me. Let me guess.”
            I shook my head and started to say something, but he interrupted me and said, “You’ve reached the back-sprain age.”
            “What do you mean?” I asked.
            “Well, the first few months you get into the habit of picking them up by leaning over, and then you keep at it until it’s humanly impossible. Six months, maybe… How old is yours?”
            “Nine months.”
            “Oh!” he said, “You did well.”
            I shook my head. I guess I’m passing through the gauntlet, so to speak. These are the dues that every dad must pay. The “sleepless night” dues have been paid in full, and she’s now doing much better at sleeping through the night (although I know the war is not over, only the current battle). The “staying-home-instead-of-partying” dues have definitely been paid. Now there’s the “throwing your back out because she slowly grew to the point where she’s a heavy little bugger and I didn’t plan on it because it crept up on me” dues. All a part of the initiation for the Secret Brotherhood of Fathers.
            Yes, I’ve found members everywhere. We don’t so much have a secret handshake so much as a secret look we give each other. A look of knowing, that seems to say, “Yes, you know what I’m going through. You know and you feel my pain.” In some ways, I think these members of the Brotherhood know more about my life than my closest friends. Of course my closest friends know about the struggles I have at work, and even the details of which nights I got less sleep compared to others. Even so, they listen and nod, but they do not “know.”
            You can instantly tell if someone is a member of the Brotherhood when your baby’s poop escapes their diaper. Anyone who responds with shock, confusion, repulsion, or feeling sick is definitely not in the Brotherhood. True members will have none of these responses. Usually they will respond with amusement, although sometimes they respond with a simple nod of understanding.
            Members of the Secret Brotherhood of Fathers have a high tolerance for squeals. This is particularly helpful when you aren’t sure if someone is a member or not. For example, a wise-looking man in his late sixties who’s seen a lot of the world may give the appearance of being a member. In these kinds of moments, screaming in public is quite a propos. When your son/daughter begins to scream, watch for this man’s response. It may be slight, but you can usually tell if they’re bothered by screaming, whether it’s through sly comments, glances at the other people around, or a slight shudder.
            Those who are members of the Brotherhood will generally ignore the screams almost entirely. They have run the gauntlet. They have passed the challenges and entered the Brotherhood. For them, even forty years removed, a wail will have no effect on their seasoned ears and nerves. They are Fathers, and they know about screams beyond the surface, deep, deep down in their souls.
            They have been exposed to raw screaming at 3am that lasts for hours at a time, and they know. When the screaming occurs merely in a public place with somebody else’s son or daughter, one of these seasoned veterans will barely blink. There’s no equivalent to this kind of experience. The only way to truly understand is to run the gauntlet yourself. All of the pain, cricks in the back, earplugs, smells, and wails are the entry initiation. But once a member, you will always be a member of the Brotherhood.
            I’ve noticed that in the more wealthy parts of town the membership is dwindling. I think I can understand why. Those who are gifted with many comforts will find it more challenging to consider joining.
            But for those of us who’ve joined, whether willingly or not, we know we’ll never need a secret handshake to recognize one another. Oh no, nothing like that is necessary. One simple look and we instantly will recognize that we’ve found another kindred soul who was foolhardy enough to brave the gauntlet and initiation dues to become a member of the Secret Brotherhood of Fathers.
            Another man who’s life would never be the same again.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

You Can't Baby Proof A Toilet

            This girl gets into everything! If there’s an obstacle course, she’ll make sure to climb through until she gets stuck. If we leave out a piece of furniture, she’ll make every effort to climb around, over, under, and through. I took her with me shopping for new soccer shorts. I got into the change room and cleared the carpet of all the small plastic pins before setting her down by the cardboard box in the corner. I figured, “Heck, even Celia won’t do much damage to a cardboard box!” I turned and put on the new shorts. When I looked back she’d actually yanked the phone socket out of the wall!
            I said, “Ack! Celia!” and grabbed her hand. The outlet had been installed with one screw into sheetrock, which is why she pulled it out so easily, but I shook my head in shock that after all my apparent “baby-proofing” she’d far surpassed my wildest imaginations.
            As I write this she’s banging some hard toy against the mirror in the front hall. Hold on a sec, I’ve got to go get her.
            Okay, I’m back. So, there I was peeing, and she’s just got to be in the middle of everything, and I didn’t close the door properly so, next thing you know, little baby has joined me in the bathroom.
            “Hi Celia,” I said. “This is the potty. One day you’ll be using this.” I turned my head to look for her. “Celia? Where are you?”
            Suddenly, with certain dread, I looked down between my legs only to see Celia dashing through them and climbing up onto the toilet bowl as I was peeing! “Ahh! Celia!” I did my best to stop the flow and called out, “Michelle! Come quick! Wash Celia’s hands before they go in her mouth!”
            Michelle came rushing in and yanked Celia away, lifted her up to the bathroom sink, and washed Celia’s hands with a vengeance.
            Now as I write Celia has very nearly escaped the house and plummeted down the front steps! I’ve got to go! All for now!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Interrupted Thoughts

            Does your baby hardly suck or suck hard? Ours is starting to suck hard, according to Michelle. Her entire breast is emptied in ten minutes nowadays, which is a huge difference from the twenty minutes it used to take. I think I’m drinking more too. Even as I write I’ve got a beer in front of me on the coffee table.
            And in an instant everything is shaken up. I’ve paused in my writing because Celia came over and grabbed at the beer on the coffee table, which I was barely able to remove from her grasp just in the nick of time, but of course the movement made a small spill on the coffee table. Celia instantly proceeded to grab my laptop, which I had to pull out of her hands and place on the couch. When I looked back at her she’d already run her hand through the beer spill on the table and was putting it in her mouth!
            “Ack! Celia! What are you doing!?”
            Michelle came to the rescue and pulled Celia away. It’s time for a little B & B, I think. Although I hope she naps quickly because I really want to go to the beach, and there’s not much daylight left.
            If we move to the States I’m really going to miss the beach. Not that we go a lot, but even having the option to go is quite a nice feeling. I’ll be heading down on Tuesday for a whole bunch of different meetings, to see if this is really the direction the business will be taking. It’s scary to me. Change is always hard, I know. But there’s lots of risk in taking on a business, and I would really miss this city, especially our community. They’ve been such a blessing to us, more than we ever could have asked for. People have blessed us with an abundance of baby stuff, not to mention cooked for us during the first few weeks of the baby, which was the hardest.
            And of course, our closest friends. Friends are the hardest thing to leave, because I know from experience that I don’t keep up with my distant friends very much. I love them and care about them, but the ones who are local are my focus. And there’s something right about that. It’s such a hard decision, thinking of leaving this town.
            But I think of how all these fears and leaving things behind is holding me back, and that’s not right either. I’ve got to decide based on what’s right. And every time things get shaken up in our lives, we are more open to new possibilities, new growth, new discoveries.
            Sheesh-Kabeesh! Celia interrupted me again! Can’t finish any thoughts with her around. 

Friday, July 10, 2009

Good Rest and a New Nephew

            My brother just had a baby boy, with red curly hair! Ah, babies are so exciting. When he called me this morning, it brought a little tear to my eye.
            It is touching stuff. A new life in this world. A new soul. How do you explain that? It’s miraculous. Profound. Science doesn’t really do justice to explaining how this little boy is going to turn out in his character and personality. Is he going to be rambunctious or peaceful? Athletic or lazy? It’s magical. Mystical. Miraculous.
            As far as personalities go, Celia is a little charmer. Everyone who meets her just loves her to bits. I’m sure lots of people have that experience with their kids, but I do think she’s rather friendly, which makes people interact with her a lot.
            She’s doing marvelously at sleeping through the night these days. She’ll wake up once or twice and cry for a bit, then go right back to sleep. Michelle was concerned this week about Celia, “She’s eating way more than she used to. I think something’s wrong.”
            I didn’t say anything, but I thought, “Duh.” She’s not eating at night anymore, so of course she’s going to eat more during the day.
            What a world of difference it makes to our overall energy. I feel zing when I step out of the house in the mornings, not the dragging-the-feet energy from last month. I’m so thankful she sleeps now, and I can see that Michelle’s happier too. It’s amazing to think that she didn’t want to do this sleep training thing. It is so worth it, and such a small sacrifice. All it requires is for her to allow the baby to cry. That’s it. Not a big deal, if you ask me. And Celia seems happier for it too, probably mostly because her Mommy and Daddy are happier.
            So, I have more impetus to do things in the evening now. Yesterday we went out to a birthday barbecue in the park. When Celia started to fuss after 7:30pm I put her in the stroller with a blanket draped over it, and she conked out in minutes, and slept for a good hour-and-a-half before we went home and put her properly to bed. How easy is that? We have a life again, and I love it.
            And I’m sleeping with my wife again, which I dearly missed last week. It was so worth it, to put the pressure on her in that way. Sometimes we all need a little kick in the pants to step up to the plate. A loving, gentle, but prominent kick.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

When the Water Broke

            Date night.
            Finally.
            We had a lovely time, and the baby was completely charming for our dear friend who babysat. It was so important to connect with Michelle in that way. Yes, we do connect daily, and we do get out and have fun, but I took her to a swanky French restaurant where we sipped Viognet and slurped fresh mussels, then we actually went to a movie in the theatres. There’s nothing that can quite compare to that.
            Our baby is getting mature enough that Michelle is starting to talk about having another one. Part of me thinks, “Holy smokes! Already!?” but then I think, “Michelle’s approaching forty, and we can’t dilly dally.” So, maybe after her twenty-year reunion in August we’ll pull out the goalie.
            Speaking of new babies, my brother’s wife had her water break yesterday. I figured we’d have a niece or nephew by now, but apparently she hasn’t gone into active labor yet. I was all confused about this, because my only experience is from my own daughter’s birth, but it would seem that the water breaking can mean a wide variety of things in the stage of childbirth. Michelle’s water broke when we were in the lobby of the hospital. She was hogging the single bathroom and we all marveled that a women’s birthing hospital would only have a single bathroom for all those women in the waiting room.
            While she was on the toilet pushing and straining, I was holding her hands and saying nice things like, “You’re doing great, honey,” when all of a sudden, SPLOOSH! A torrent of liquid gushed out, splashed out of the toilet and all over me.
            I looked down in shock at the only clothing I’d brought to the hospital and started to laugh. I laughed and laughed and laughed, then said, “Well, it wasn’t what I expected, that’s for sure!”
            Anyway, Michelle gave birth within about four or five hours of her water breaking. It looks like they’ll have to induce labor for my sister-in-law, because it’s taking its sweet old time. But soon I’ll be an uncle as well as a father, and I’m certainly glad that Celia will have a close relative in age. I’ve been hoping it’s a girl because my brother is rambunctious and I figured it would be good for them to have a female as the first, to keep things more calm, but I have a feeling, a very strong one, that it’ll be a boy. Something about the way the baby is sitting in my sister-in-law’s belly. Females spread out in the belly, and males seem to jut forward more.
            Well, we’ll see. Speculation can only bring so much, but reality brings the real deal. We’ll all know without a doubt soon. And no matter what the sex of the baby is, I’m certain my brother will find it just as challenging (and important) as I did to take his wife out on a date night.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Grounded

            Work has gotten busy, and my personal time is packed, so it’s actually quite hard for me to focus on writing right now. Although I have to admit that it’s easier to write this kind of thing than to write a novel. I was writing a science-fiction novel before I had the baby, and I found that after Celia was born I just couldn’t get myself to focus enough to keep writing it. Writing something like that requires a lot of attention, and I was finding my mind wandering to the baby, and feeling utterly too tired to come up with exciting new content in my short moments in-between life’s hectic pace.
            That’s where this idea came in. It’s a pleasure to write about fatherhood, and it’s also a lot easier for me, because it’s happening right here and now. However, a couple of days ago I had a great idea for a novel; something I’m really excited about. It involves a ninth century monk accidentally uncovering a conspiracy of grand proportions. I think it has a lot of potential.
            The problem is, in order to even begin I need to do some history reading, and geographical reading, maybe even a visit to Italy, where I think it would probably take place. That’s a lot of work, and although I’m starting to feel more rested these days, I can’t imagine how long it would take for me to pursue that.
            This really is the sacrifice of having a child. Not that I’m complaining, or that I don’t think it’s worth it, but it has forced me to temporarily lower my ambitions to a certain degree. It’s probably a good thing, when I think about it. My baby is crawling around on the ground, maybe that’s where I need to be too – grounded with her.
            We have this great new game where I grab a stuffed animal with my mouth, growl, and shake my head. She comes over and takes it out of my mouth, which I release with some sort of exclamation like, “Ba-Gaw!” She giggles, then usually holds it out for me to take from her again. I crawl over and grab it again with my mouth with a snarl, and she laughs and watches me shake it around before taking it out of my mouth again, to everyone’s great delight.
            But sometimes I can shift the game to where I’m not nibbling the toy, but her, and she loves that too. She’ll crawl away from me, then turn around and look with anticipation. When we make eye contact, I roar, “Raaah!” and crawl after her, nibbling on her toes. She laughs hysterically and crawls away again, turning to look at me after a few feet. At which point, I roar and we repeat the process either until we hit a corner or she gets tired of it.
            It’s simple, and wonderful. And in those moments I’m definitely not thinking about the next book I want to write. I’m on the ground, and I’m roaring and laughing and delighting in my daughter.
            Practical? Yes.
            Profound? Somewhat.
            Preposterous? Definitely
            Yes, I am surely grounded these days.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Deluxe Backpacks and Weekends

            An absolutely fantastic weekend. That’s what we had. It was so perfect, in fact, that when Monday rolled around with some rain and a sense of normalcy, Michelle felt somewhat depressed. In some ways, I totally understand. When it’s so darn good for a few days, normal life seems a bit, how shall I put this… mundane. Crying. Dirty diapers. Laundry, laundry, laundry. Crying. Feeding. Sleeping. Feeding. Crying.
            It was a full weekend. We did all we’d planned and more; hiking the Chief, the massive rock where I’d proposed to Michelle, but this time with Celia (exhausting but rewarding), swimming in the ocean (Celia didn’t quite make it in, although she did love putting sand in her mouth!), a neighborhood party, a free concert in the park for the jazz festival, good food, good music, good friends.
            The hike was difficult with a baby. I didn’t expect the baby dynamic to make such a difference, but what normally takes a bit over an hour took us over two hours, and included two long feedings, plus all the countless conversations with every single person who was delighted that a baby was on the hiking trail. Every time we saw someone new I’d be sweating and breathing deeply and have to catch my breath just enough to respond when they’d say things like, “Oh! There’s two of you!” or “Aw, how sweet! Jim, look at the baby!” or “Oh, now she is riding in style!”
            She most certainly was, I’ll tell you. It’s quite the deluxe little backpack we were passed down from a family at church who’d outgrown it. You can set it on the ground and it stands upright on its own so you can place her in it before putting it on your back. And it has this fantastic canopy that hangs over without obstructing her vision, but blocking sun and potential rain. I think the little canopy is what put people over the edge. It made Celia look like royalty or something, totally pampered by her servants.
            And in some ways she really was. Yes, she did only communicate through her normal chirps and crimps, but if she’d had full vocal control I’m sure she’d have said something like, “Excuse me, Dear Sir, but would you mind pulling over around the bend for a little nip?” And pull over we did, because when she got hungry and started wailing, there’s nothing that seems to cut into the beautiful serene outdoors like baby squealing.
            I love getting outdoors with the baby. It’s like a crazy juxtaposition, seeing a fresh, new, unmarred person out there in the rough. I especially liked seeing her naked at the beach. Of course, she started putting sand in her mouth, but besides that, we had a grand old time. I did try to get her to swim unsuccessfully. We found this adorable second-hand baby swim-suit that has flotation cushions built-in, and I slowly walked into the ocean, talking to her calmly the whole way.
            “Look, Celia! These are called waves! This is the ocean!”
            She seemed quite happy about it all, but I had a feeling she wouldn’t make it when I got up to my thighs and shuddered at the cold. If it’s chilly for me, who just came back from a hike on a hot day, perhaps it’s overly ambitious to think a nine-month old will take to it. Regardless, I was determined to give her the opportunity, so we waded in a little more, just to that moment when her pure little toes touched water.
            She looked at me curiously. So far so good. But then a wave came in and splooshed water up to her thighs, and instantly the curiosity changed to shock. “What are you doing, Daddy?!” she yelled at me. Yes, I know it came out as, “Aaah! Daa! Daaaa!” but I’m getting to be a good interpreter.
            So, she stayed on the beach towel for the rest of our beach time, which suited me just fine. Michelle and I took turns swimming, and we hung out looking at the ocean together, and had one of those moments where everything was just right. You know those moments, right? It’s where the whole world, and our lives, in every way, somehow, seemed perfect. Despite all the issues at work, and troubles in the world, sitting with my family on the beach on that gorgeous, hot summer day, and the love we all felt for one another, that’s the sort of priceless memory that not even a photograph can capture.
            I reached out and held Michelle’s hand. She smiled at me wordlessly and after a few moments I said, “It couldn’t be more perfect. I love you.”
            Yes, I really do.

Friday, July 3, 2009

How To Spoil Date Night With Your Spouse

How to Spoil Date Night With Your Spouse
1. Skip last week’s date night because the babysitter is sick.
2. Now that you’re both over-eagerly looking forward to a night out this week, neglect to remind the babysitter/friend up until the day of the planned night out.
3. On the morning of the planned date, leave the phone call to remind the babysitter to your tired and haggard wife.
4. Leave work and wonder deep down whether your wife actually called the friend, then call the friend yourself and discover that they’ve made other plans.
5. When you arrive home, fume at your wife for awhile, to make sure she feels guilty for not calling.
6. Now that your wife is both tired and guilty, take some initiative and make a few calls around for friends who might be able to step in.
7. Now that you’re sure no one can help, put the baby to sleep and have dinner together, allowing your wife to do both the cooking and putting the baby to sleep.
8. Notice how the food wasn’t cooked as well as it could have been.
9. After dinner, when the baby starts crying, don’t comfort her until she’s gotten to a high-pitched wail and there’s no helping her calm down.
10. Receive the solicitor at the door while your wife is upstairs dealing with the crying. Make sure you’re out of earshot so you don’t hear her cries for help.
11. Welcome your baby daughter as she comes down and joins you for the next hour-and-a-half.
12. When the baby is finally asleep again, hang out with your wife and come up with no good ideas for how to redeem the evening.
13. In the end have a long discussion about money where she feels judged and guilty again.
14. Go to bed in a different room from your wife and daughter.

            Okay, it wasn’t as ridiculously terrible as I’ve made it sound, because we did have some good conversation too, but I feel bad today how much I wasn’t appreciative of Michelle last night. It’s like I got thrown off, I went from being happy and so excited about the evening on my drive home to being completely ornery. I’ve got to make it up somehow. Tomorrow, I’d like to go for a hike and then take the baby swimming. Yes, it’s no night out together, but it’ll be good.
            As of yesterday I’m convinced that we need to get out together, alone, more often. Even once a week. In order to do that, we’d have to hire a babysitter, rather than calling on unreliable friends all the time. At this point I’m starting to think that it’s a worthwhile cost. We need that kind of one-on-one time, and a more romantic setting than the baby-friendly restaurants we’ve tended to frequent the last year. No more spoiled date nights!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Children Constriction and Unlived Dreams

            Well, Happy Canada Day, indeed! It was so nice to have a day off yesterday. Felt like a mid-week weekend. I kept thinking to myself that we were going to go to church tomorrow, then kept remembering that it was only Wednesday. How fantastic, from a sleep perspective, that I was able to get a little nap in the middle of the afternoon. I feel like a new man today.
            I’m still sleeping in the guest room. I hate that bed. I appreciate the lack of midnight wakings, but I don’t know how much more I can take on the lumpiest, softest, shortest bed in the house. In fact, last night I migrated to the floor, to have something more firm for my poor achy back.
            Michelle’s doing her darndest to train the babe, and it sounds like she’s been taking steps, but still not 100%. I want her to sleep through the night without feedings. Twelve hours without food. She can do it, I know it. After she’s used to that, when she cries and needs us, we can simply be there for her and comfort her. And then, slowly, she’ll realize that we’re not really doing anything that she can’t do for herself. Take the food out of the equation, and she’ll be soothing herself in no time.
            So here I am back at work, and I feel a distinct lack of energy. I wish I was into it more. I know we patched up the issues from last week, but I still sit here and wonder what I’m doing, besides of course providing for the family. I was listening to Korsakov’s musical expression of 1,001 Arabian Nights, and felt this overwhelming desire to write a new spin-off of the tales. I know countless people have done that with individual stories, like Aladdin, Sinbad, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, but has anyone really done a good job of retelling the stories as a whole from a Western perspective? I’m not sure, but I would love to do it. I’d love to have the time to do it. I’d take out some of the cultural stuff that rubs us Westerners the wrong way (like marrying many wives, or chopping your neighbor in two) while trying to keep some of the original spirit of the thing.
            I sit here and think to myself, “Why not? What’s keeping me?”
            But I know the answer. Family life. Debt. Responsibility.
            Not that I can’t do it down the road, but for now, I need to bring in a consistent income for the family. If anything, I’d have to write it in my spare time, the same way I’m writing this. And to write a novel in spare time would be a challenge indeed. I’d have a much greater chance for success if I had minimum one to two hour blocks.
            And so, it remains a dream. How many un-lived dreams will I have? With nearly all of my free time swallowed up with family life, I’ve had to put on a huge dosage of patience to my dreams. Not that I want them to die, I’m still a hopeless romantic at heart, but reality comes and chomps me in the butt, makes me realize I’ve got to make some sacrifices for a meaningful, deeper life.
            Michelle was asking me yesterday about what changes I’ve gone through in my character since marrying her. It’s an interesting question, and she asked it thinking of a friend of ours who is much more restrained around his wife. But for me, it’s more about the difference between the fun that single and free living offers compared to family life. While single, I went out all the time, stayed up late, played lots of sports, had hobbies, and flirted with any woman I found attractive. There’s something invigorating about this lifestyle. But throughout it all, I keenly felt the deep longing for a long-term relationship with a depth of love and with the possibility for children.
            Why do we crave to have children? I sometimes wonder that, especially when I haven’t been getting my rest, or when Celia is being fussy. I remember distinctly feeling at a few key times throughout my life this overwhelming sense that raising kids is one of the most significant, meaningful, and blessed endeavors one can undertake. Now, I also see it as a huge privilege.
            I am so honored to be the father of little Celia. For the first time, I met somebody who knew who I was because I am “the Father of Celia.” I was playing soccer, and I thought I might have recognized this woman, but wasn’t sure. After we’d played for half an hour or so, she said, “Are you Celia’s dad?”
            I laughed. Who’d have thought this would happen so soon? The father becoming outshone by his offspring. I suppose it’s a natural thing to happen. One of the oddities that comes with the territory. And for all the sacrifice that it’s been, I do believe, in this moment, that having a daughter has been a tremendous blessing on my life. I may not be living out all of my dreams, but I am most certainly, undeniably living out the most important ones.