Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bubbles and Laughter

        Still tired.
        We specifically made no plans today, so we could recover. When I got home from work Celia was hyper and running around as usual. Almost as if we hadn’t had an exhausting weekend trip at all!
        After chasing and tickling her, I put in a Curious George cartoon and sat with her in my lap as we watched it. I was finally able to relax, and felt tremendous satisfaction at being able to sit with her so calmly.
        Curious George saw some bubbles. He poked one. Then, he ate one and it popped in his mouth. Celia giggled.
        I was shocked, and delighted. I grinned – I’ve never heard her laugh, or really interact, with anything on the screen yet. I love the fact that, overnight, she’s got her own sense of humor. I thought other things were funny, but Celia loved the bubble scene. I’ll have to remember that one for later.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lesson #246: Don’t Travel With Your Kid

        Travel with Celia is exhausting.
        I can feel in my bones that it’s going to take me days to recover.
        Now that I’m back I recognize that I do want to take her out and show her the world – that’s my favorite part about travel. But trying to sleep in a new place, that’s the trouble.
        We took the ferry over to Victoria Saturday morning to go to a wedding. Every time we stepped foot in a new place, Celia was riveted.
        “Look, Celia! Seagulls!” I pointed at hundreds of seagulls off starboard.
        “Caw! Caw!” Celia declared happily.
        “Look, Celia! A balcony!” I pointed at the balcony of the hotel room, fifteen floors above the city and harbor.
        “Waow!” Celia clambered onto the balcony and held onto the bars, looking down over the city for a solid ten minutes (that’s a long time for her to be focused on just one thing).
        “Look, Celia! Flowers!” I picked a field flower from the grounds where the wedding was taking place. She lifted them up to her nose and gave a huge sniff, while at the same time rubbing pollen all over her upper lip. I smiled and crawled around on the moist grass in my wedding clothes showing her how to blow a thick blade of grass so it squeaks, and all the different types of flowers lurking below first glance.
         I also enjoyed watching her learn new words so quickly. At the reception she was running around with her hand clenched around something moist and sticky.
        I held her shoulders and looked at the mess. “Celia, what’s in your hand?”
        She looked up at me and said, “Pickle!”
        I just laughed. I’ve never heard that word come out of her lips before, and to suddenly hear it used properly – well, it was shocking.
        We took her to the museum and showed her the wooly mammoth, stuffed owls (she’d call out “Owl!” every time she saw one), and sea creatures, until she started lying on the floor and I knew she was too tired to continue.
        So much of the trip was fun, it almost made the trip a completely enjoyable experience. If not for wanting a good night’s rest, I’d give the trip a perfect “10”. As it is, I’m still tired as I write this, and wondering how many days it will take me to recover.
        The first time she woke up, we let her out of the crib and she pointed at the large upright fan we’d put next to her for white-noise and started babbling, “Ba-ba-do-tzi dow-ree for-ze dzor-za for-tze!”
         I know what she was really saying by the tone in her voice. She was saying, “What the heck is that big thing, anyway!?”
        “That’s a fan, Sweetie,” I told her calmly.
        She ran around the room looking at all the unusual furniture, and cried when we tried to put her back down.
        In the end, we watched dancing puppets for an hour at 2am, then finally gave up, after repeated attempts, and gave her allergy medicine that gets her drowsy. Not my idea of a nice weekend away.
        We did, however, have a great time at the wedding, and I’m glad we went out. And, the nice thing is now I have ammunition for Michelle when she asks to come along on my business trips. Now, I can tell her “No way,” and she’ll nod her head with me. Nobody likes being this tired. We have two-and-a-half months till baby #2 is born. I want as much rest as I can get before. If it’s anything like Celia, we’ll need every nap we can get!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mystery Wails

            Celia woke up screaming last night.
            Michelle went down first, as usual, but when the screaming didn’t stop, I came down. “It’s a nightmare,” I said, rubbing my eyes.
            “No, it’s physical. Look.” Michelle pointed at Celia’s posture. As I watched, I thought she may be right. But still, I tried singing first. Her wails drowned out the song, and I eventually gave up. I held her and Michelle stood up to warm up some milk.
            The milk didn’t sooth her either. “I’ll bet it’s either her stomach or her teeth,” Michelle looked at me. “Did she eat sand at the park today?”
            “No.” We’d had a great time at the beach, sorting through rocks and watching birds, but she’d been surprisingly good about not eating sand.
            “How about bath water? Did she drink any of that?”
            “Not really.” She had drunk a little, I could tell from the coughing she’d had, but not enough to give her a sick stomach.
            We sat and watched our wailing daughter for a moment. Then I said, “Celia, what hurts?”
            She looked at me with tears streaming down her face.
            “Is it your belly? Or is it your teeth?”
            Celia’s cheeks were bright red and she continued to cry.
            “Does your belly hurt? Or is it your teeth that hurt?”
            Celia pointed at her teeth.
            Success! Instantly, Michelle and I felt a sigh of relief pass through us. Simply knowing what the problem was made a tremendous difference.
            “How much Tylenol did you give her?” I asked Michelle.
            “One milliliter.”
            “I’ll give her a bit more.” I stood up and grabbed the bottle. Before I’d even returned Celia was already calming herself down. I looked at her in surprise. I wonder if the simple fact that Michelle and I were calmer was helpful.
            As I gave her the medicine, I thought to myself, “This is a great moment.” The first time she’s been able to show us what’s wrong. Up till now, for the last year and a half, it’s been a crap shoot. She starts crying, and we play the guessing game as to what’s really wrong. Now, just like that, the mystery is over. She can communicate. And already I feel so relieved, I’m amazed.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Didi

            When it came time for her nightly bath-time ritual, I put her little tub into the big one and turned on the water. “Bath time! Let’s get undressed.”
            Celia obediently stood next to me, clutching her blanket. “Let’s put your blanket over here.” I gently pried the blanket from her fingers.
            “Didi!” Celia screamed.
            Yes, her blanket has a name. The funny thing is, it’s the name for two different blankets. One is large enough to cover her, and bright green. The other is a small little pink square. Both have the exact same texture, a soft fleecy material overall, with smooth sections.
            I can’t remember when she started calling them “Didi.” It’s been at least a couple months. She also says “Didi” when she wants to watch Dora the Explorer. I think it’s because the theme song says, “D-d-d-d-d-Dora! D-d-d-d-d-Dora!”
            She loves those blankets. When she goes to sleep she always asks for them, and snuggles her face into them before lying down. She also walks around the house with them at times. That was the case Monday. She went all the way through the day and into bath-time holding her big, green blanket.
            “Didi!” Celia screamed again.
            “Okay, okay, here it is.” I handed the blanket back to her. But at this point, something inside had snapped. Celia began wailing, now clutching her Didi protectively to her face. Michelle came in and tried to placate her, to no avail.
            For the first time, Celia skipped a bath because she couldn’t part with her blanket.
            In the end, we just let her go straight to bed without most of her usual rituals – the bath, the books and prayer. She continued to get herself worked up to the point where Michelle and I looked at each other with shrugged shoulders and said, “Just put her to bed.”
            Once she was put into her crib she finally calmed down. I have a feeling there was more going on there than a blanket. But maybe not. Hopefully, I’ve learned my lesson, and I’ll be able to do it more slyly. Like yesterday. She walked into bath-time holding her little pink Didi, and I said, “Let’s take off your clothes.” Only this time, I didn’t touch her blanket. When I started pulling off her shirt, she instinctively let go. And before I fully removed the shirt from blocking her eyes, I snatched the Didi and tossed it out of sight.
            When the shirt came off, she looked around, but before she could say the words, “Didi,” I said, “Look. Your bath is ready. Let’s get in!”
            The distraction worked. She obediently allowed herself to be put into the tub, and we had a good night after all. Whew. Who knew blankets could be so complex?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sticks and Stones

            Celia loves sticks. As soon as she steps outside, she starts scrounging around for whatever’s available, whether it’s a tiny twig or a whole branch. When she finds one, she’ll raise it up and say, “Sti-.” She’s pretty good at first syllables now.
            We were waiting for Michelle, and since it was nice out I decided we could play on the sidewalk in front of our house. Celia walked up and down the sidewalk carrying different sticks she came across, and exploring the rocks in people’s front yards. She actually seems to notice sticks and stones more than toys these days.
            I wonder if it’s a just a faze. The “stick” stage of infancy. On the weekend we decided to take a nice long drive out into creation. We went off the beaten path onto a bumpy dirt road with potholes and sharp rocks. After twenty minutes of navigating around the rugged corners, we stopped the car in awe. There below us was Harrison Lake, in all it’s glory. It was beautiful. We had to stop and appreciate it more fully.
            “Look Celia! The lake!” I unbuckled Celia and pointed at the lake as I lifted her. When I set her feet on the ground, the first thing she did was crouch down and sort through all the rocks that were there. I smiled and shook my head. Sticks and stones.
            Later we actually went down to the lake, and there was a play gym and all sorts of other kids. Nope, she wanted to play with all the sticks. “Okay,” I thought, “Let’s work with this.” I began to make a sculpture with all the beach-worn sticks. Celia seemed to enjoy that.
            By this time I was resigned. I can go with it. Sticks. Why not?
            The next day we went to a park. Of course, she was running around with a stick and poking it in the sand, watching what kinds of marks she could make. “Celia, let’s go over there,” I said. She held her foot-long stick tightly and ran across the playground toward the path.
            On the path was a woman with two kids, one in the stroller and one lagging behind. “Come on, sweetie,” she was calling to her daughter, about the same size as Celia. Her daughter slowly made her way to catch up, and at the very moment we made it to the path, she and Celia stood face to face. They were almost exactly the same height. And they had nearly identical sticks.
            I smiled. “Look, you both have sticks.” The girl looked up at me with wide eyes and brought her stick in close to her body, shielding it with her other arm. She didn’t say a word, but I know what she was thinking. “This is my stick. I found it first.”
            I laughed, and turned to the girl’s mother, “They both have their obligatory stick.”
            She nodded her head in agreement.
            I guess the stick stage of infancy, although not written about in the psychological development books, has turned out to be a definite reality. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

Forget

            They’re home!
            When I picked them up at the airport it was way after Celia’s bedtime, and she was in a daze. She’d grown two-weeks’ worth, I could tell from her long hair. I grinned, but she didn’t seem overly excited to see me.
            I picked her up awkwardly. Something felt tremendously different than the way I remembered it. Holding her used to feel a whole lot more “natural”. I looked at the little girl in my arms, the one who seemed different than the one I knew a month ago, and I thought, “That’s right. I’m a father.”
            It was like two weeks had made us all forget it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Missing Out

            I miss my wife and daughter.
            It’s been nice to get some things done, but I want to spend time with them again. I want to roll around wrestling with Celia, and get her to giggle when I kiss her belly. I hope she remembers me.
            Last night I said to my housemate, “I don’t want my daughter to forget me. She’s been away a long time for such a little kid.”
            “She won’t forget you, Ephie,” she said. But then she went on to say, “When I was her age my dad went on a trip for a month and when he came back I didn’t remember him at all.”
            Is that supposed to encourage me? I’m starting to miss her even more now. 

Friday, March 12, 2010

Center of the Universe

            I’ve noticed that  having all of this free time has done a lot to boost my energy. I’m able to exercise every day, read, eat, see friends, do some outside work, clean the house, make music, write, and go to bed at a decent hour without worrying about midnight wails.
            It reminds me of when I was single.
            Last Thursday I went straight from parenting and husbanding to being on my own, and although it seems odd to say it, there are aspects to last week that feel great.
            Autonomy. That’s the word I’m looking for. For a new father to suddenly have time to himself is truly a luxury.
            Not that I’m complaining about being a father and a husband. I’m not. I absolutely love it. But my life is not my own anymore. When my wife and daughter arrive next week, I’m going to be so happy that they’ve come back and I’ll do my best to spend as much time as possible with them.
            But this is a warning to those who don’t have wife or kids yet, and who’re thinking about it: it changes everything. You’ve got to stop putting yourself first when you get married, because there are now two to think about. But there’s still a bit of give, especially if you’re both mature people who allow space for one another to pursue life outside the relationship.
            And then, when the first child arrives, they become the center of the universe. And frankly, I’m not sure when that ever changes. I’ll let you know in a few years if I ever come up for air.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tremendous Trails

            It’s now been more than four days since Michelle and Celia left, and not only have I gotten a fantastic amount of stuff done around the house, I’ve had time to think, read and even go for a huge hike. Saturday was so gorgeous, I just had to get out, and I chose the most difficult hike I could find, knowing full well that I may not get another chance in a long time. Michelle loves hiking, but as soon as I involve her we’re slowed down not only by our little daughter, but the little bun in the oven, popping out of her belly.
            The last hour of the hike was pure snow and crazy verticals that caused me to slip and get some new scrapes and scratches. When I grunted my way up the last incline through rugged trees and made it to the top I reeled in shock at just how gorgeous and dynamic the rugged peaks of British Columbia are. I stood there in awe, fumbling for my camera to catch some sort of inadequate reflection of the experience.
            I was unbelievably thankful to be there, yet wished Michelle could be with me. Oddly enough, my cell phone, which had been out of service the entire hike, suddenly blipped to life at the top, probably picking up some random signal from the city. I eagerly dialed Michelle in Montana, but couldn’t get through. I sat back and grinned into the sun. I’d have to be happy atop the alpines alone.
            My legs are sore today, reminding me of the phenomenal experience and the possibilities for more in the next two weeks. And yet, I miss them already. Video chat is a great invention, and I smiled when Celia kissed the computer screen yesterday, but it pales in comparison to a real kiss. I want to hold my ladies again.
            It’s interesting to me that all of this is relatively new for me – both the wife and the kid – and yet I’ve grown to appreciate and expect them to be integral to my life to the point where even a few days away feels like a big meaty chunk has been ripped out of my heart. A piece of me has been taken away. That kid, who didn’t exist a couple of years ago, is now more important to me than I’d ever imagined. And I love it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Big Finale

            The Olympics ended with a burst of excitement. The Canadian hockey team won the gold medal in overtime, and the entire city erupted into jubilation. My buddy and I had been watching the game on the Drive, and we poured onto the street shouting and cheering along with thousands of others.
            We instinctively ran into a dollar store and purchased some Canadian flags, spoons and pots, then ran around banging them and cheering with the flags draped around us like capes.
            “Let’s go downtown!” my friend said.
            We hopped in the car and stopped at my house to drop off a few things. Michelle saw our energy and said, “I want to go too!”
            “Okay.”
            Our impulsive trip slowed down as we dressed Celia in all red, packed her a snack and a change of clothes, and prepared her stroller. By the time we left the house there were five of us (our housemate also joined us), and we drove to the sky-train honking and waving flags, being cheered on by everyone around.
            Celia was covered in Canadian stickers, as was Michelle. We crowded into the train and emerged into the cacophonic streets downtown, amazed at the sheer wave of red and the constant cheering. I smiled and high-fived a guy walking past. When we heard music we danced and banged on our pots. The further we walked, the crazier it felt.
            At one point a guy with a professional video camera started filming me and my friend. I got a text message last night from someone I haven’t talked to in a long time who wrote, “Bro! You were briefly on TV banging pots & pans! lol!”
            But then, when we arrived at the main drag where everyone had been headed there were police everywhere, and the street was so mobbed we could barely move. Michelle pulled Celia out of the stroller and strapped her onto her pregnant belly.
            I shook my head and craned over to Michelle, “Let’s not go into the crowd.” I pointed at a nearby door, “Let’s get out at Sears.”
            She nodded and started walking forward. A police officer leaned over and advised her to turn around. Michelle pointed at the open door, “I’m going to Sears.”
            “Good luck,” he said with a shake of the head.
            Sure enough, that last few steps took us a couple of minutes. I tried to protect her from the jostling as best I could. One woman was pushed into Michelle and Celia’s eyes took on a look of fear that I’ve only seen once before – it was the same look she had the first time a highland cow came right up to her, with all its long brown hair and big horns.
            Thankfully, once Michelle got inside and away from it all, our daughter calmed considerably. We went home after that. We’d had our fill, for sure. I suppose I’d have stayed longer if I hadn’t brought Celia, but I don’t regret bringing her.
            Michelle told Celia that night, “You’re going to remember this, aren’t you?”
            “Really?” I said.
            “Well, yes.” Michelle looked at me. “This was a very memorable day.”
            I shrugged my shoulders. I’ll be curious to see what sorts of things she remembers and what she doesn’t. But I will certainly remember. And one of the things I’ll remember is my daughter’s cute face, covered in Canadian stickers, as she stared with awe at the wild variety of sights and sounds.
            Celia and Michelle are leaving town soon for a couple of weeks. I’ll miss them both terribly; Michelle, of course, but mostly Celia, in all honesty. I will miss watching her grow and experience new things in these two weeks. So much development happens in no time at all, I’m sad to be missing out on those moments. I’m sad that we’ll be apart for so long.
            But even though I know I’ll miss them terribly, I have to admit that on my way to work today I was smiling and dreaming of all the things I can do in the next two weeks. All the outdoor activities, music, writing, reading, and friends to hang out with.
            When you have a child, two weeks becomes a long time.
            I’ll take what I can get.