Saturday, January 30, 2010

Elbows and Learning Quickly

            Yesterday I left work early with a queasy stomach and exhaustion from a very full week. When I arrived home Celia was taking a nap so I went straight upstairs to sleep.
            After an hour Celia scrambled upstairs and jumped on me.
            “Hello Sweetie!”
            Celia had a big grin on her face. “Daddy!”
            “I’m home!”
            We wrestled on the bed, then I carried her downstairs. I felt refreshed. Celia proceeded to show me some of what she’s been learning, starting first with the number book. While I was gone she somehow learned to say every number from one to ten! I shake my head in wonder – how quickly they learn!
            She sat in my lap and I asked, “Where’s Celia’s eyes?”
            Celia pointed at her eyes.
            “Yes!” I grinned at Michelle. “Where’s your nose?”
            Celia pointed at her nose.
            “Yes!” We then went through the cheeks, chin, lips, mouth, teeth, ears, forehead, eyebrows, hair, fingers, nostrils, and Daddy’s beard. Then, I stumped her. “Where’s your elbow?”
            She looked at me quizzically, then pointed at her nose.
            “That’s your nose, silly!” I pointed at my elbow. “This is an elbow. Elbow.”
            Celia touched her elbow and said, “Elbow.”
            I raised my eyebrows. Wow. She’s figuring things out quickly now.
            Elbow became her favorite word for the day. She must have said it three dozen times, and repeated it constantly as we put her to bed.
            But I get ahead of myself. After the body-part session, I still felt the need to settle my stomach, and I suddenly had an inspiration. I’d just brought back a bottle of Bombay gin at the Duty Free store, and I said to Michelle, “Gin and tonic time!”
            I mixed and poured myself a delicious gin and tonic. The ice cubes were clinging to their tray, and one of them dropped on the ground as I was shaking it. Celia reached down and picked it up. Of course, it instantly went into her mouth.
            I had one of those delicious moments, sitting in the kitchen sipping a splendid swill and watching my daughter figure out ice. She clenched it tightly until her hand turned red, then put it in her mouth, and then back to the other hand.
            “That’s called an ice cube,” I said to her.
            She was happy. We were all happy. I love watching my daughter at this stage where she’s learning so quickly. I love being here to see her little brain figuring all these things out. It’s good to be back home.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Travel

            I’m writing from a hotel room right now. It’s my second of three days away on a business trip. The business front has been very exciting – we’ll be negotiating an agreement tomorrow morning, of which I’m very hopeful. It would seem that the fruits of my labor are finally starting to come through.
            I haven’t had time to think about Michelle or Celia very much, but after we got back to the hotel I called them and Michelle said, “Celia is wondering where you are. Here, talk to her. Tell her where you are.”
            She handed the phone over and Celia said, “Daddy.”
            My heart melted. My little sweetheart. “Hi Sweetie Pie. I love you. Are you at the doctor’s office?”
            “Daddy. Dee-do-baa.”
            “Yes, sweetie. I love you too. I’m on a business trip. I’ll be back tomorrow night. Have you had a good day?”
            “Daddy.”
            I felt my heart ache and Michelle got back on the phone. It’s amazing what a little time away will do to remind me how much I love her. Now I’m glad it’s a short trip. I seriously love travel – seeing new places and getting away – but I don’t know if I really want to do it more than I have to.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Bedroom for Celia

            Our Mexican house-mate finally moved back to Mexico on Friday. Yesterday we spent most of the day cleaning out the room and moving all of Celia’s stuff in. Now, for the first time, Celia has her own bedroom.
            Mark this day on your calendars, it’s the first day in the history of my fatherhood that Michelle and I had our own bedroom to ourselves. And boy, is it nice!
            There are a lot of perks to this. Celia absolutely loves her new room. We still have to get her a carpet to play on, and put up some wall art that she’ll appreciate, but she’s already thrilled to be able to go in there and find all her toys and a bunch of books all ready for her.
            And for us, what a great thing. Last night we didn’t have to creep upstairs, or get into our p.j.’s in the dark. Nope, we were all loud and laughing, just like the old days.
            Funny, how already it’s the “old days” even though Celia’s only fifteen months old. A lot of time feels like it’s passed in these months. Fatherhood is an inescapable reality that, once you’ve stepped on that train, you start barreling to unseen destinations faster and faster. And we’re about to do it all over again. Last night, while Michelle and I were chatting on our bed, I said, “Well, let’s enjoy it for six months, because that’s all we’ve got till the next one comes.”
            “No, it’s five,” Michelle said.
            “Five? No, it’s six. Count them.”
            Michelle counted out the months on her fingers, “February, March, April, May, June. That’s five.”
            My eyes widened and my mouth dropped, “I’ve lost a month!”
            I can’t believe how time flies with these kids. You can’t just sit back and take it easy, you’ve got to make every effort to enjoy every moment. I think what my pastor told me really is true: “Once you have little kids, you live life on the run.”
            Well, it may be only five months, but I’ll take it. I’ll take whatever I can get.

Friday, January 22, 2010

My Life at Three

            Michelle told me that two different people said to her today that, “Celia is sure impatient.”
            I told Michelle, “What do you expect? She’s her father’s daughter. She’s also way more energetic, smiley, and smart than other kids.”
            Michelle nodded, “True.”
            Celia takes after me in many ways. She’s definitely a high-energy kid. Not that all kids aren’t full of energy, but when I watch her around other kids, I definitely see an edge to her. She could easily run back and forth through the house for an hour. She’s constantly full of clamor and commotion.
            A good family friend was telling me, when we were still only pregnant (which feels like a decade ago), that she had the pleasure of babysitting me when I was three and she was pregnant with her first (my friend Tim). She’d thought to herself, “This is great. I’ll get to see what it’s like to have a three-year-old.”
            After two hours she was completely exhausted. I’d been bouncing off the walls and running her ragged. A loud, high energy monster, wreaking havoc on the play area.
            As she told me the story, she smiled, “And then, one day when Tim was three years old I had a flashback and remembered that time I’d babysat you, and realized, ‘Oh, that’s just Ephie.’ Tim was so much calmer!”
            It was good to hear those kinds of stories before we had Celia. It mentally prepared me for the bundle of energy that my daughter is. But it’s funny, because when I was talking to my dad over Christmas, it was like he’d had a completely different experience.
            He said to me, “When you were kids, you didn’t cry nearly as much as Celia.”
            I looked at him with raised eyebrows. How could he say that? Was it really true? He also said many other things, about how much easier we were than Celia, or how we’d never get into trouble – once he spanked us, we never touched things again.
            I had to know if there was any truth to his stories, so I went to our close family friends, who’d lived with us until I was twelve. “Now be frank,” I said to them, explaining what my dad had told me, “What was it really like?”
            They chuckled and shook their heads in disbelief, “It was nothing like that. You boys were a handful. Always getting into things. It’s your dad who isn’t remembering.”
            I thought so. The way he’d been going on, I was beginning to wonder if we’d even pooped our pants! I guess time heals the memories, and only the best ones remain. That makes a lot of sense. Already, I’m finding myself glamorizing the early days with Celia, and remembering all the fond moments. It’s only when I dig a little deeper that I remember the fear and insecurity of how to deal with the unknown.
            We may remember only the good things, but one thing is for sure, I think I’ll always remember just how special this little girl of mine is.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Smallest Morsels

            I took her out for a long run today. It was pleasant when I left, so I didn’t think about the fact that she would be completely chilled to the bone by the time we got back. However, in-between we stopped at Trout Lake to swing and look at the ducks. She had so much fun swinging, giggling and laughing that everyone who walked past had to stop and marvel.
            One woman said to me, “You’re the luckiest man alive! Look at her!”
            I nodded my head. “Yep.”
            I sure do feel blessed to have my little girl in my life. I completely understand that woman’s sentiment, and I definitely felt like a proud father, even though all I was doing was enjoying her enjoyment. But I also like to stay away from the word “luck” as much as possible.
            In fact, we’ve got this little kid’s book with a squishy ladybug on the front that makes a little squeak when you push it. The book used to be called “Lucky Ladybug” but I changed it. Everywhere in the book, the cover, every single page in fact, I crossed out the word “lucky” and wrote in “happy.” I just don’t like the idea that luck has anything to do with it.
            If I’ve got to choose a word to describe the unmerited goodness in our lives, I like the word “blessed” more. It feels like it gives at least a little bit of credit to “someone” (God in my case). Not that God always has to do with things, heck, not even top theologians can agree on what level God is involved in our lives, but what I like about using the word “blessed” is it builds in us a sense of thankfulness.
            Sure, life isn’t going the way we’d planned, but we can still be thankful. I can tell a mile away when someone is thankful or not. The thankful people are full of smiles, peace, happiness, joy. The others are usually negative. Usually finding all sorts of reasons not to take pleasure in the small things.
            My approach is, we may as well take pleasure in the smallest morsels, because frankly, when you start to total them all up, they make up all of life. And if we’re not taking pleasure in this life, then what’s the point?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Welcome to Greece

            We were sitting around chatting with a couple of friends on Friday night when one of them said, “People have the most sex in Greece. More than any other country in the world.”
            I turned to Michelle. “We should go to Greece.”
            “What are you trying to say?” Michelle frowned. Then, she cringed. Admittedly, she’s tired, pregnant, emotional and low energy these days. It goes to figure things would peter out a bit.
            Later I told her, “Are you feeling Greek today?”
            She smiled. Maybe it’ll be our little code.
            I told her today, “After we move Celia downstairs to her own room, I’m going to put a map of Greece at our bedroom door and a sign that says, ‘Welcome to Greece.’”
            “Won’t that be too obvious?” she asked.
            “So what!” I grinned. May as well have some fun at making things work. It’s hard to keep up a good relationship while having kids. I feel the drain, and the lack of time to really pursue what I want for myself, let alone for two of us together. We had our first date night since the Christmas holidays on Thursday. It was an hour excursion to the local Ethiopian place. Not too big a deal, but at the same time, it reminded me how important that is. I enjoyed it, even though I was absolutely exhausted. I can’t even begin to imagine how Michelle must feel.
            I know a guy who’s going through a divorce right now. They have two kids. It rips at my heart, seeing that. Marriage can be really tough sometimes, but when you add kids to the picture, it just tears at your defenses.
            I do have to admit that yesterday I got quite annoyed with Michelle. I didn’t like her tone with me one bit. And she wasn’t pleased with me, either. But she’s always quick to apologize, and we got through it pretty harmlessly. Still, in that moment I had a feeling where I could relate to the relationships that crumble in the midst of having kids. Sometimes, it can take its toll on both parents.
            I’m now getting to the point where I think I’m just slightly over-committed – I have more responsibility at work; more travel time away from the family; more hobbies I’ve picked up again, like writing and starting up a men’s group. Things are going well, but I think I’ve got to keep the focus on how important my marriage is.
            That’s why I want to put up the banner. It’ll remind me every time I go upstairs to the bedroom. Keep my priorities straight. Welcome to Greece.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jolly Jumper Explosion

            Back to poop again.
            Not that I always want to write about poop, but it seems like some of the craziest things with kids involve it. This time, it started while I was out for an after-work run. Michelle had put Celia in the jolly jumper, and Celia was really going at it, bouncing up and down vigorously, when Michelle suddenly had the ultra parental intuition that Celia had made a mess.
            Sure enough, poop was already everywhere.
            When I got home, there was Celia running around with only a diaper on.
            “What happened?” I asked.
            “Poop explosion when she was in the jolly jumper,” Michelle replied casually as she stirred a pot of macaroni.
            “Oh.”
            I went into the kitchen for a glass of water and suddenly Michelle burst out, “Celia! Where’s your diaper?!”
            Celia was running around completely naked. She’s been learning to dress and undress herself. She’s actually quite adamant about figuring it out on her own, although I haven’t yet seen her fully put on a shirt properly. She does almost get it, but starts freaking out when an arm is stuck in the neck hole or some such awkward arrangement.
            Celia gave us a huge grin, then ran back to the front room where some cartoon was playing on the computer. It was such a funny thing to see, in the middle of winter, that I followed her and called out, “Michelle! Where’s the camera?”
            The photographer in me went nuts, taking photos from every angle as she danced and ran around the house in the nude with a humongous grin on her face. She really loves being naked, this little girl. She’ll take every opportunity to do it, as far as I can tell. After her evening baths she usually tries to remain unclothed as long as possible, and protests loudly when I finally pin her squirming body down to strap the diaper on.
            The photo shoot was all fun and games until, of course, I was reminded of why she normally wears diapers. I was craning my neck for the perfect photo when I realized that she was crouching down, rubbing her hands in a big puddle of pee.
            “Aah! Celia!” I scooped her up and took her straight to the shower. Ah, yes. This is why they wear diapers in the first place! How could I have forgotten?
            I wonder if there’s a learning lesson here. I mean, it seems pretty obvious that we should make her wear diapers. Duh. She’s only fifteen months. But it was certainly a wonderful moment watching her dance around happily, completely freed from the bondage of clothing and diapers. I don’t know. I suppose I’d probably let her do it again if it made me smile enough. If the fun-o-meter ranks high enough, I’m willing to take the risk.
            It does strike me, though, as I continue to write about poop and pee, just how much bodily functions are integral to parenting. Seems like you just can’t get around ‘em. More like, you’ve got to go right through them, puddles, squishes and all.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Babbling in Complete Sentences

            I left work early yesterday because my stomach was on fire. Turns out I wasn’t alone – Michelle had it too, and I’m guessing so did our daughter. Was it something we ate, or some passing sickness? I don’t know, and I still feel sensitive today. Being sick is one thing, but dealing with it is the challenge.
            When I’m sick, I can mentally steel myself to deal with it. Sure, I may feel awful, but at least I know what feels bad, and I can do something about it. When Michelle is sick, I can’t necessarily do very much, but I can drop my plans and pamper her (which I did yesterday). But when the little potato gets sick, it’s hard to know what to do because we never really know exactly what’s wrong.
            I assumed that she probably feels the same as us (she had just as much gas!), but how can I really know? And even if I do know it’s a stomach issue, I don’t feel comfortable giving her Pepto Bismol with all their crazy warnings for youngsters. This would all be so much easier if I actually knew what was wrong!
            I’m definitely looking forward to when she gets proper language. She’s been babbling for months, but still has a tiny vocabulary. On the positive side, she’s now using complete sentences, which makes a father smile. Every once in a while I know she’s saying a real word in there, but usually it’s just a long, strung-out sentence of gobbledy-gook.
            “Erk-der bur-bee boo bee ack-a-ma da-da boo see,” she’ll say inquisitively.
            “Yes, that’s the Christmas tree,” I’ll reply. “We’re going to take it down on the sixth of January because that’s the Twelfth Day of Christmas.”
            “Oh!” she’ll say loudly.
            I love it when she says, “Oh.” It’s like she’s showing me she understood everything I just said, and perhaps that I was actually understanding her and answering her questions. It just makes me want to nibble on her plump cheeks and kiss her all over.
            But the babble doesn’t really help when we’re trying to troubleshoot her issues. I’m a guy – I’m all about solving the technical difficulties. But there’s no manual that comes with a toddler that tells you what the babble translations are. Instead, on nights like last night where she woke up eighteen times (okay, maybe twice, but it felt like a lot) and interrupted our night’s rest, we simply have to throw our hands up and tolerate it.
            As I said, I can’t wait till she’s talking. But I’m torn. I have a friend who said to appreciate when they’re young, because it only happens once and you’ll miss it. I can see that. This babble stuff is so endearing complete strangers come up to her with big grins on their faces and talk to her so they can hear her response. Yes, I don’t want to rush it. But man, I’d really like to know what’s really going on for her.
            Ah, yes. Welcome to parenting. Most of the time we’re just shooting in the dark. Occasionally we feel like we hit the mark, but frankly, it seems to me that we won’t really know till the kids are much older, and by then we’ll all have forgotten anyway.
            When I was a four-year-old I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “When I’m a parent, I’m going to do things this way…” But what “this” is, I can’t really seem to remember. Oh well, I suppose it probably wasn’t all that important anyway. Whatever it was I got riled up about at four, today I love my own parents dearly, and they love me. At the end of the day, that’s what matters the most.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Growing Up and Throwing Up

            We were planning on leaving first thing in the morning on the twelve-hour road trip back home. I emphasized with Michelle and our accompanying friend that 9am would be the latest departure time. But at 3am our baby started puking, and didn’t really stop till sometime after 4:30am.
            I was frightened for her. She’d be lying on her back, then start making a gurgling, choking sound. I was freaked out not only because it sounded like she could choke, but because she’d fallen off the bed and hit her head before going to sleep, and a parent asks themselves, is she in shock for some sort of more serious trauma inside?
            The first time she puked, we cleaned her up, held her tight, and let her sleep in our bed, to comfort her. The second and third time, everything was a stinky mess, and I seriously questioned whether we’d be able to leave at all.
            We did finally roll out of town after 12:30pm the next day. It was the latest I’ve ever left on a long road trip. We pulled up to our home after midnight, and didn’t sleep till 1am. The next day was Sunday, and since I was up with Celia anyway, I took her to church while Michelle finally got some rest.
            The woman in the pew behind me said, “Well, she’s throwing up, isn’t she?”
            I was shocked. How did she know? Granted, she’s a mother of three kids herself, but was it so obvious?
            “How did you know?” I asked.
            “Know what? That she’s growing up?”
            “Oh! Growing up! I thought you said throwing up. Because she’s been doing that too.”
            “I see,” she said. “No, I was just commenting on how big she’s getting.”
            “Yep,” I replied. “And I suppose either way, I’m still a bit in shock, whether she’s growing up or throwing up.”
            She smiled and I gave Celia a hug. It’s good to be home, even though it was a long and tiring trip. I just hope my baby’s okay, and that I can keep myself awake today!