Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanks and Slobbery Kisses

            Yesterday we had a huge Thanksgiving feast in Montana with my parents and some friends. It was so great to be with my parents for Thanksgiving. I think of it as the most pristine of the holidays – the least touched by Corporate America.
            Yes, the largest shopping day of the year is the day after (and in fact, Michelle is out taking advantage of the ginormous sales as I write this). But there’s no sense of cultural obligation to buy stuff on that day. It’s just a day to be with family and to be thankful. What a wonderful holiday.
            Being with my parents reminds me of how important it is for us to move down here as soon as possible. It’s a gravitational pull that having children does to me. Even now, my Mom said, “You go out and have lunch with Michelle. I’ll take care of Celia.”
            What a fantastic blessing.
            Not everyone has parents. And not everyone has parents they’d leave their kids with. What a blessing that we have this. But we need to take action in order to receive this blessing. Like any gift, the only real requirement is that you need to receive it. But so often in our lives we blindly turn down many blessings and gifts right in front of our noses. Probably we’re too busy, too fearful, too stuck in our ruts to wake up and take the time to accept all these wonderful gifts.
            I think Thanksgiving is a great time to take a step back and start giving thanks. Once we start down this path, it’s like our whole eyesight changes. We realize there’s more to smile about than grumble about. We start to notice and appreciate the people around us. However much I dislike aspects of my work environment, I realize all the things I’m so thankful for about it.
            And the things I’ve already been thankful for, like my beautiful little girl, seem all the more precious. I am amazed and thankful for her precious and precocious personality. For the curiosity that gets her into trouble. For her exploratory energy that does, admittedly, make things like road trips more difficult (she cried the last hour of the twelve-hour trip, desperately wanting to just get out of that car seat), but also gives both her and me a fresh new look at this huge world around us.
            I can take her anywhere and she’ll happily point and say, “Whazzit!” (i.e. what is it?)
            I’ve been enjoying explaining everything to her. And as I do, it continually reminds me of how magnificently detailed this world is. I’ve noticed the color of flowers, the art I’d normally have passed by, and of course, every single dog, whether the tiniest drawing in the corner of some magazine or the real deal. She just loves dogs. Squeals happily every time she sees one, and has to lean in to give a kiss.
            There are three dogs at my parents’ place, two of which love slobbering their licks all over Celia’s face. Celia has occasionally returned the kiss at the same time, which seems totally disgusting at one level, seeing a dog’s tongue inside my daughter’s mouth, but on the other hand, it totally makes me smile. If Celia doesn’t like it, she could easily pull away. But she loves it. It’s so in-your-face slobbery, right in line with her personality. I think she would totally love living closer to creation, even on a farm. A place where we can show her the stars every night and leave her with my parents to actually go out on a date!
            Yep, I don’t think it’ll be too long before we move to Montana and get ourselves a dog.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Privileged Parent

            I believe there’s a fundamental and critical thing that every father and mother has which will dictate the way they parent. It’s called “perspective”. Parenting is a lot of work and wears down the system, and each parent individually has to choose: is this constant wear-and-tear going to be seen as a privilege or an inconvenience? Is it a blessing to be with this child who wears me down? or is it intruding into the other things I’d like in my life (like sleep! or other activities). I have come to believe that this issue is so key as to make every other parenting issue of lesser importance.
            It affects the overarching parenting job as well as individual experiences. When something negative happens, as it always will, and the parents are inconvenienced, as happens constantly, the response they give inevitably will come out their perspective.
            My daughter likes to touch the things she’s not allowed to touch. This morning, by the time my shower was done my daughter was itching to get out of the imprisoning straps that tied her to her little swing. When I let her out she immediately ran off and grabbed the garbage can. With a towel around my waist, I rushed out of the bathroom and gently told her not to touch it as I pulled her away. She then went straight for the dangling Christmas lights in the other room.
            At this point, a parent could scold their child, reprimand, raise their voice, or become stern. I mean, I was still dripping, and hadn’t even shaved yet. That’s the “inconvenience” side. I could also have thought to myself, “Ah, well, she’ll figure it out on her own. I’ve got to shave and get going here.” This “hands off” approach doesn’t draw boundaries and teach the child what’s right and wrong. Obviously, when she’s doing inappropriate things I’ve got to take action. But what kind?
            In this case I looked at her and thought, “Okay, she obviously is trying to get my attention, because she knows these two things are off limits.” She doesn’t yet have the language or understanding to get my full attention through positive means. And if I look at her as a privilege, I’m going to want to enjoy this moment, where she’s trying to get my attention. Here’s a golden opportunity to bond with my daughter!
            So, I picked her up, held her tight, and sang a little made-up love ditty. She calmed down and rested her head on my shoulder happily. She’s a very energetic and wiry child, so it’s wonderful when she wants to snuggle like this.
            Sure enough, the little bonding interlude lasted only a minute or so, before she’d had her fill and was ready to get down and play by herself again. I set her down gently and let her run around as I got back to shaving.
            When I feel that I am privileged to have the opportunity to parent my daughter, I look forward to these moments, whenever they come. No matter how inconvenient they may seem.
            And of course, when I’m ready for these kinds of moments they’re absolutely priceless. This week she learned how to point to body parts.
            “Celia, where are your ears?” Michelle asked.
            Celia pointed to her ears.
            “Where’s your nose?”
            Celia touched her nose. “Your eyes?” She paused, then touched my eyes. I laughed and gave her a kiss.
            In fact, she was able to identify every major body part. Just like that. I don’t know when it happened, but for me it was sudden and shocking. I hadn’t seen a single thing before, and now she knows where everything is! And I am amazed. I am amazed and privileged to be able to see this development in my child. I know that all kids will grow in these ways, but for me to be the guy who watches it slowly creep up day by day, that’s a tremendous delight.
            And for that, I feel like I am the most privileged man in the whole world.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Boob Besotted

            Michelle must be exhausted, because she actually decided yesterday to try to sleep train Celia again. I say “again” because we already sleep-trained her once successfully, but then she un-learned everything when she got sick a few months ago and Michelle calmed her at night by breastfeeding.
            Lo and behold, it’s now a few months down the road, and Celia has kept up this little routine, pinning Michelle down to scheduled nursing episodes a few times a night. It’s interesting to me, as a dad, how subtly and sneakily this all happened, because I remember the last time Michelle finally snapped and decided to sleep-train Celia. She had been utterly exhausted and had gotten to that point where it didn’t matter how much Celia cried, Michelle was going to sleep.
            Well, it’s been at least three months now where we don’t have to hear much crying. As soon as there’s a little peep, out comes the breast and the baby is placated. But now that Michelle’s pregnant you can see the toll this is taking on her by looking in her eyes. I know she can’t take it much longer.
            Last night we’d just finished watching a movie downstairs with a friend when Celia started crying. Michelle said, “You calm her down. If it’s me she’ll just want the boob.”
            It’s funny that she now calls it “the boob,” because early on with Celia I used to tell my friends about Michelle “breastfeeding” and she said, “I’d like you to use the term ‘nursing’ because it draws less attention to my boobs.”
            “Okay,” I said. But over time her sensitivity (or sensibility?) crumbled, to the point where she just pops it out at Celia’s demand. I’m sure people in public places have seen them. It’s like she’s gotten to the point of weariness where it doesn’t matter anymore.
            Anyway, back to the story. I went up to check on Celia and change her diaper. She was happy to see me at first, but soon realized that there was no “boob” forthcoming, and started to freak out. She wailed and wailed, no matter what I did. I tried our older tactic of saying, “Goodnight,” and walking downstairs, but ten minutes later she was freaking out even more.
            “Go take your shower,” I told Michelle. “I’ll deal with it.”
            Michelle left and I went upstairs again. I tried rocking her. Singing to her. Nothing. She was hyperventilating at this point, so I brought her to my bed, turned on the light, and started reading a story to her.
            Finally, she started to calm down. She’s a sucker for a good book. But even so, she’d occasionally have to catch her breath for the next few minutes. The sobs had been so deep, even though she wanted to be calmed she had some leftover sobs that kept revving from all that built-up momentum.
            By the time Michelle finished her shower, I just handed Celia over and said, “Back to the boob.” Michelle nodded. We’ll give it another shot later, I suppose. For now, there is a comfort in knowing that she has a magic weapon that can placate our daughter in a matter of minutes.
            It’s so easy. So tempting. But of course, at the 3am feeding I’m sure Michelle will be thinking once again, “We’ve got to get this kid off the boob.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wazzat!

            My daughter got more curious overnight.
            When she cried for me to pick her up at 6:20am, I groaned out of bed, took her downstairs, turned on the aquarium light to feed the fish, and lay down on the carpet to do my stretches. She immediately crawled to my feet and started twiddling my toes.
            I smiled and craned my head to look at her, “Are you grabbing my toes?”
            She grinned and patted her arms happily. I’m not sure what made my toes more interesting than every other day, but when I went back to my stretching she tried to suck on them. I laughed and picked her up.
            Later, when I was making breakfast, she didn’t want to be at my knee-height. She wanted to see everything I was doing, so I picked her up and explained everything as I did it. “These are the coffee beans. Watch me grind them. See how I’m boiling water here? That’s for my coffee. Caw-fee. Can you say that?”
            She watched quietly and contentedly the entire morning. And after she ate breakfast, when we sat down to read a couple of books before I had to go off to work, she constantly pointed at the things on the page and said, “Wazzat!”
            I know she’s trying to say, “What is that?” so I always explain, “That’s a flower. That’s a star.” She pulls her hand back, then points at another object and calls out, “Wazzat!” Every time a dog comes on a page, she leans forward and brings the book up to her mouth so she can kiss it.
            She loves dogs. Every time she sees one she flips out happily. I think it’s partially because we don’t have one ourselves, so they’re always a special event. That was probably the biggest life-saver for Michelle yesterday. Our cat has fleas and a couple of injuries so Michelle had to take it to the vet. We gave away our cat carrier a couple years ago, so she packed Felix into a cardboard box, strapped Celia into the car seat, and drove down to the vet’s office.
            Thankfully, all the dogs in the waiting area kept Celia occupied for the hour or so they had to camp out there. And the owners were apparently all thrilled that somebody was so excited to meet their little doggies. That’s what Michelle told me, and I totally can just imagine it now. Celia really brings out the grins in people.
            I think I’d have to say that’s one of my favorite things about parenting her, at this point – all the smiles it bubbles out of me. And every time she grows a bit more, like today’s curiosity, it makes me sit back in awe at the miracle of being human.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rocket Ship

            I invented this new game with Celia using the kitchen timer. It’s located at my eye level, so she doesn’t see it unless an adult is holding her and standing right at the entrance of the kitchen. It’s a small white rectangle with digital display and an inviting, big red button.
            The game began one Saturday morning when Celia just had to push that button, and after a few attempts, succeeded. But the timer was set to thirty minutes or some other uninteresting number, so I changed it to ten seconds and said, “Celia! Let’s play Rocket Ship. Push the button again.”
            Celia obediently pushed the button, at which point I began a loud count-down as the numbers descended, using my fingers for the last five to show her visibly our progress. “Five… four… three… two… one…”
            “BLAST OFF!” I roared and swooped through the house, to the front door, then to the back door, then back to the timer, where Celia eagerly reached out to push the big red button again.
            As of yesterday I think it’s safe to say Rocket Ship is officially her favorite game to play with me. What thrills me the most is that I had no idea this game existed a week ago. In fact, I remember thinking to myself, “I wonder what kind of games Celia will want to play in a week?” In some ways, this is the greatest pleasure about having kids; the great mystery of what will develop next. Not that we aren’t expecting her to learn to talk, walk, climb, run, sing, or pick her nose. It’s just that, when she actually does start to do these things, we are utterly amazed.
            That’s the privilege of having kids. As they grow, unfolding like flowers into this world, we have a similar unfolding in our own lives. I’d rather watch my daughter than TV any day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pickles and a Big Sister

            Michelle is eating pickles again. Last time she was pregnant she went through a faze where we literally witnessed the influx of a dozen different brands of pickles. I had no idea the variety and complexity of pickle potential until Michelle was pregnant.
            It’s still a bit unreal to me, the idea of having a second child when our first is still such a little potato. I have a feeling she’s going to be a great big sister. We read her this book every night about a kid whose mom is pregnant, and at the end gives birth. I think Celia understands, and if we keep at it, she’ll be excited for the second child, rather than resentful (which I’ve heard can happen if you don’t lead up to it well).
            She tries to be a help with whatever we’re doing. It’s so adorable, and although it most certainly is the opposite of helpful, we just love watching her get involved. We were folding up some laundry and putting hers away in her drawer. Celia came over and Michelle said, “Celia, why don’t you go put these away in your drawer?”
            Celia obediently took the folded pants and walked over to her dresser drawer, which was already open, and put the pants in it. Then, she pulled them out, along with every single other article of clothing in the drawer.
            I looked at the mound of clothing sitting next to Celia and laughed. “Celia! You’re such a big help! Look at how well you put clothes away!” She smiled up at me and started putting the clothing back in.
            She likes putting stuff in and out of containers. This morning I asked her to help me put my lunch in the lunch box. Every item I handed her, she eagerly placed it inside the lunch box. “Thank you!” I patted her on the head. “You’re such a big help!”
            Yes, I think she’ll make a great older sister. I just hope I’m as ready for it as she is!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Learning to Spin

            My daughter has learned to spin.
            I guess she probably got the idea when I went shopping at a big box store with a couple of buddies, and I had to look for something so I told them to watch Celia. When I got back, she was sitting on an office chair spinning round and round with a humongous grin on her face. My friends were laughing and kept switching directions, to my daughter’s great delight.
            She started spinning on her own in the kitchen when Michelle and I were eating dinner. She twirled around twice, then looked up at me and Michelle with an impish grin on her face, as if to say, “Ah ha! So this is what I can do!”
            Michelle and I both smiled back at her. “You’re spinning! That’s called spinning!”
            Michelle stood and twirled around a couple of times, until I said, “Michelle. Don’t forget you’re pregnant.”
            “Oh yeah,” she said with a queasy look on her face. But Celia was already duly impressed. She smiled at us and started to spin around and around until she fell down. Then she stood up with a huge grin and did it again. And again.
            She’s growing so fast now, it’s making me want to read all those parenting books Michelle brought home. It seems to me that no matter what kind of parent you are, there are timeless truths that all parents should obey. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re energetic or laid back, emotional or stoic, all parents would benefit from parenting in ways that uphold the dignity of the child while at the same time drawing appropriate boundaries.
            As Celia gets older, I’m finding a tiny bit of freedom open up for myself. She’s getting to be comfortable playing on her own now, and this gives me time to actually do a thing or two. But I can already see the temptation; with time freed up more and more as the kids get older, we start to go back to all those things we put on hold for them. And then that moment will arise where my daughter will want my attention but I’ll be way too busy with my own things again. I hope I will be able to give full attention and love while at the same time pursuing a bit of my own thing. I say “a bit” because I truly do wonder if I’ll ever have time the way I used to, ever again. A part of me thinks it may never happen.
            For now, she’s got a long way to go. She’s just learning to spin, and at this point, probably the best thing I can do is get off of my chair and spin around with her. She’s only going to be this age once, so I’d better appreciate every last moment of it. In some ways, maybe my life needs a little bit of a spin. Shake things up a bit. Couldn’t hurt.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Frow

            Michelle has “pregnant brain” again.
            She’s using the word “thing” to describe a wide variety of objects, actions, and events. And she’s started walking around with a furrowed brow.
            “Why the furrowed brow?” I asked her.
            She looked at me with tired eyes.
            “Come sit in my lap.” I put my laptop aside.
            Michelle sat down and I gently rubbed her forehead. “There you go.”
            “Do I still have a furrowed frow?” Michelle looked up at me sweetly.
            “A what?” I laughed. Then, I laughed some more. Michelle started laughing too, and it was infectious, one of those laughs that gets passed back and forth until somebody cries. I’m usually the first to cry with extreme laughter fits. It runs in the family.
            I looked at the rings under Michelle’s eyes and felt a tremendous amount of love for her. Just when it was starting to get easier with our first child, we decided to have another. Michelle is more tired than ever, and I still feel a bit of shock that we will probably have two kids in diapers at the same time. Perhaps we jumped in too soon? Or maybe the timing is perfect?
            Anyway, it is what it is, so we’d better get used to the idea and take what life’s given us with grins on our faces. My wife may be turning into a frow-lady, but at least we can still have a sense of humor.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Successful Fine Dining

            We actually went to a nice restaurant yesterday, and it wasn’t a disaster!
            It’s the nicest restaurant we’ve been to with Celia, not counting my brothers’ place in Montana. We just haven’t had the desire to eat in finer dining venues, because she tends to start breaking down well before the food arrives. When the food takes over half an hour to arrive, Celia can’t handle the lull, so she’ll squeak and squeal until we let her run around. She’ll run up to every patron in the place until someone gives her attention.
            We eventually need to contain her so we end up holding her wiggly little body as she does her best to make her great escape. By the time the food comes, our best attempt at eating usually involves wolfing down the food quickly so that our squirmy, sometimes-wailing daughter can be passed back and forth from me to Michelle more easily.
            Up till now, we’ve tried limiting ourselves to Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Middle-Eastern places. The kinds of restaurants where the lights are bright, the food is cheap but delicious, and the people are loud. In those kinds of places, a wiry child seems to fit in better. Plus the food gets served rather quickly.
            But I’ve noticed that ever since she hit one year old, every week she seems more mature. She’s got at least a dozen-word vocabulary now, and is able to sit quietly if something is interesting in front of her. So, when my friend recommended going to a nice restaurant, and Michelle asked me, “Is it child friendly?” I said, “Let’s give it a shot, either way.”
            Yes, there were pieces of food all over the table and our clothing. Yes, we ate more quickly than pre-child. And yes, our child did get passed around while we ate.
            But no, there was no screaming, running, or general anguish.
            Yes! Who says it gets harder? Parenting gets easier as they get older!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Late-Night Techo-Gypsy

            I called my friend after work yesterday. “Woo-hoo! One day weekend tomorrow!”
            He was confused at first, then realized it was a holiday. He said, “Hey, come out with me tonight. My friend’s performing.”
            “I don’t know…” I thought about my 6am wake-up times with Celia.
            “It’s the kind of thing where you don’t think you want to go, but then when you do, you’re so glad you did.”
            “Let me think about it.”
            When I got home Michelle said, “Go! I’ll take care of Celia in the morning.”
            So I went. First time out late in over a year.
            It was a trendy club, and both bands played a modern kind of techno-gypsy music. I was shocked to find such things in the middle of a city, but then again, it’s a pretty multi-cultural place. We danced till 1am to the gypsy version of Prince’s “Kiss” and a whole whack of songs in some unidentifiable language (although not to everyone, I observed, as people would shout out, “Oh! I love this song!”). I marveled at how much the night scene has changed since the last time I was out. Then I marveled at how much I’ve changed since the last time I was out.
            We left while people had formed links with their arms and were kicking their legs out gypsy-style. Although I wanted to stay I thought that maybe, just maybe, I should listen to my body telling me how tired I was.
            The next morning at 6:30am Celia woke up and Michelle had barely slept. Or at least, that’s what she said. So I took Celia for the next couple of hours. When I brought her up for a nap, I conked out and slept till noon.
            I woke up groggily and thought, “This is why I don’t go out late anymore! I lose half my day!” I think my friend was right, that it was well worth it. So much fun! But my body is telling me, “Don’t do that very often!”
            This is why people think parents are fuddy-duddies! 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cleaning Strategies

            When I arrived home, Celia was as happy as ever to see me. Big grins, running around showing me her largest stuffed animals. The house was an utter wreck, and Michelle started cleaning.
            I shook my head. She’s undoubtedly exhausted from the pregnancy, not to mention chasing Celia around all day, and then she cleans when I get home. It’s like she doesn’t stop! I said to her, “You’re amazing, you know that?”
            She smiled and said, “Jonica told me I should wait to clean until you get home. That way you’d be more impressed. Looks like it works!”
            I laughed and gave her a huge kiss.
            We may be tired, and the house resembling more of a detonation zone than living quarters, but we’re certainly tasting the fullness of life.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Plastic Mass-Marketed Sound-Polluters

            I remember before we had Celia I said to Michelle, “I don’t want any toys in the house that are plastic. I don’t want any toys that make those terrible little kid sounds on lousy little speakers. And I don’t want anything that speaks of corporate America.” Those were my three limits, and I was planning on sticking with them.
            Of course, even before Celia was born we were given a plastic Disney toy, which, of course, Celia now loves playing with. And all three limits I swore to never allow have taken over our lives in an overwhelming way.
            Today was no exception. We went to a friend’s house for lunch, and his mother pulled out some toys for Celia to play with. Of course, her favorite was a little plastic car with Care Bears plastered all over them, and a delightful little button that, when pushed, sings a cheesy little song that has an utterly unimaginable way of seeping into your subconscious and resurfacing throughout the day.
            Celia liked it so much that they gave it to her, and it’s parked in my living room next to the stereo speaker even as I write.
            Well, I can’t say I’m unthankful. But I certainly recognize how much my “theories” about parenting have changed now that I’m in the middle of it all. When things are down and dirty, I’m actually thankful for annoying little toys that will keep her happily occupied. Who’d’ve thought?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Unscheduled Quiche

            I made unplanned quiche this morning. Made me late for work and everything. It all started with that wimpy shower.
            I’ve been thinking for two months now that I need to do something about this lousy shower. When the people downstairs use the water, our water pressure dwindles to a trickle. I try timing my morning showers to coincide with the people downstairs, but who knows exactly when that will be?
            This morning the water slowly dribbled out casually as Celia played with a toy strapped into her jogging stroller. I looked at the shower head quietly, then grabbed it and held it over my hair for a good solid ten seconds just to wet it enough to shampoo.
            I’ve been to Third-World countries where there’s no running water. Some of homes I’ve visited had only cold water, or showers that sputter in and out. A couple of times I’ve even been electrocuted trying to turn off the shower (they actually have an electric switch to control the hot water, even though you turn it on and off while your body is still wet. Duh! Whoever came up with such things!)
            Generally, I try to take showers in less than three minutes because of my squirming daughter. That way she doesn’t get too restless sitting there. Today she started wailing after a few minutes, as expected, so I used Strategy #1; give her a new toy to play with. This worked three times, until I ran out of toys.
            Then, I pulled out Strategy #2; I sang to her. Unfortunately, she was already getting herself wound up, so it only worked for about fifteen seconds before I had to employ Strategy #3; a sure-fire winner. I reached outside of the shower and opened the drawer where I keep her toothbrush.
            “Ta-Da!” I declared. “Your toothbrush!”
            Celia smiled as I handed it to her and I went back to my cleaning attempt.
            Over the last two months, whenever the shower hasn’t quite functioned I’ve said to myself, “I have hot running water. That’s better than most of the world.” But this morning, after listening to Celia finally lose it for the last time, I looked at the pathetic drips and shouted, “I live in a First-World country!”
            I shut off the water, put on my bathrobe, and took Celia into the kitchen. “Let’s eat something nice!” I figured maybe a decent breakfast would calm her down.
            Celia looked at me and squirmed. I put her down and she began racing around the kitchen grunting off some agitation.
            “What would you like to eat? Would you like an egg?”
            Celia looked up at me happily. I grabbed the eggs out of the fridge, put them on the kitchen counter, and turned my back on her as I grabbed a pan. Next thing I heard was a series of “Splats!” I turned my head to see that Celia had grown an inch and grabbed the whole container of eggs. She was holding the container happily as all but two eggs plunked onto the floor.
            “Ahh!” I grabbed the egg carton out of her hand to save the last two, and pulled her away from the eggs all over the floor. “Celia, you broke the eggs!” My mind raced. Do I throw them away? What can you do with a lot of eggs? This morning was going from bad to worse, and I could start to feel the grumbles building inside of me.
            Quiche!
            “Okay Celia, we’ll make quiche.” I scooped up the eggs and tried keeping my curious daughter out of the mess. Why make a fuss when she has no idea what she’s really doing? I’m amazed that she grew so much overnight, but I’m just thankful I learned this lesson with eggs, and not a sharp knife!
            The quiche, although I mostly made it with one hand while I held Celia in the other, turned out delicious. Yes, I arrived at work twenty minutes late and without shaving, but I survived. And most important, I never did reprimand or yell at my daughter. I think there are always going to be build-up times where we start to lose it, and then when our kids push some boundary we’ll get tempted to take it out on them. I pray that I may always have the strength to treat her with love and respect, no matter the quality of the shower or timing of the quiche.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Flu Shots and Sleepless Nights

            We got her a flu shot yesterday afternoon. The swine flu has been going around, and we already know a handful of people who have it. Since this is a serious ailment, with major risks, and with Michelle being pregnant, we decided the two of them should get their shots.
            Add to that the fact that we just went through Daylight Savings Time, and Celia was exhausted by 6pm. She cried and ran into the bathroom, holding onto the edge of the bathtub and bouncing up and down.
            “Do you want to take a bath?” we asked.
            She looked up at me, then pointed at the faucet with her hand bent at the wrist and declared, “Bah!”
            “Bath!” I said to her, nodding. I put her little plastic tub inside the bathtub and turned on the faucet. Then, I looked at Michelle and said, “Looks like she’s going to bed without dinner tonight.”
            Michelle frowned. If Celia isn’t well fed, we know she’ll wake up hungry. This whole “gaining an hour” thing turned around on us, in the end. Who’d have thought kids were so darn scheduled?
            So, Celia went to bed early, without dinner, and I started grilling some steaks for my pregnant wife, because she “felt a craving for more iron.” I’d barely pulled the steaks off the barbecue when I heard the baby crying upstairs.
            “Michelle,” I called, “Baby’s crying.”
            Michelle went upstairs and subsequently brought down a frantic daughter. Celia was sweating, hot, and wailing uncontrollably. She’s more mature these days, so we both looked at each other worriedly.
            “Get the thermometer,” Michelle said.
            I raced around the bathroom opening drawers, then ran upstairs and finally found it. I brought it down and put it under her armpit, but by then she’d cooled down. Still, she wailed and wailed. I tried singing to her. Michelle gave her some Tylenol. She’d calm for a moment, then pick up again.
            I looked sadly at the steak sitting on the kitchen counter, which had been cooked to perfection and was now getting cold. I went into the kitchen and cut a juicy piece off. Delicious.
            I cut another piece, walked back into the living room and fed Michelle. She smiled at me as she chewed it. We ended up eating most of our steak that way, until the Tylenol set in and Celia calmed down.
            We sat at the table and managed to eat and feed her some good food. That was a relief. But even so, she woke up a couple of hours later, and we spent time on the internet making sure she was okay. Michelle said her arm felt like someone had majorly bruised it, so I understand how my daughter was in pain. It all made sense objectively.
            Still, whether it makes sense or not, when your baby is in tremendous pain, you’re not 100% sure why, and you don’t really know what to do with it, a man starts to grow some worry lines.
            I realized just how much I love my daughter last night. I would do everything within my power to make sure she’s okay. I feel a tremendous sadness for parents who lose their children. When we invest so much of our hearts, time and energy into one single person, we grow attached in an incomparable way.
            In some ways, I can’t even remember life with Michelle and without Celia. All those months together were simply a precursor to what we have now. All those times alone were just getting us ready for this. The great adventure of parenthood.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Highland Cows, Pumpkins, and a Finger up the Nose

            My daughter is officially older than twelve months today (thirteen, to be precise). I wonder when I’ll stop thinking of her age in months… At this point it absolutely amazes me the difference a single month can make in the kid’s development.
            A month ago, she was more wobbly on her feet. She only knew a few words (she knows at least a dozen now). She still had major breakdowns in restaurants. She was afraid of cows.
            Well, I’m not sure whether or not she was afraid of cows last month, but I do know that the last time she saw cows, it was a total fright-fest. Yesterday when we took her to see a couple of highland cows she grinned and squawked happily, and ended up feeding them grass, to her great delight and her dad’s photo trigger-finger.
            This month, she has learned how to suck all the cream cheese off of her toast without eating a single grain in the bread. She has learned how to say “pumpkin” of all things (I think it’s her first two syllable word that has a non-repeating sound). She has begun wearing hair ties of different sorts to keep the hair out of her face (and subsequently appears much older). And most comedic, she has discovered the sensation of shoving her finger up her nose and fishing around up there. Was it an accident that she stuck her finger in her mouth afterward? Or perhaps I wasn’t witnessing the first time…
             My baby isn’t a baby anymore. According to the rooms we take the kids to during the church service, she is officially a toddler now. It’s shocking how quickly they mature. It’s also delightful.
            I feel so much pleasure seeing her learn a new thing. And I realize how much I enjoy showing her new things as well. “Look, Celia!” I’ll point. “There’s a big crow!” She always obediently looks where I point, and often gets excited. There’s just no substitute for that. I’m seeing the whole world with fresh, new eyes. As she gets older, I feel younger.
            And more silly. And more happy.