Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Broken Planet

            A friend of mine found himself stuck in Japan with his wife and two little kids, far too close to the nuclear radiation, and with far too little resources to remove themselves from the situation. A whole bunch of us pooled in our money and time, and even got the story aired on the news, till finally, with much happiness, we welcomed them off the airplane to Montana.
            My friend breathed a sigh as he stood in front of the news cameras and said, “This is the first time in two weeks that I feel safe.”
            I gave him a hug and thought back to the last couple of weeks. Every day I would wake up thinking of all the people affected by the disasters over there, including my friend, and I would feel shaken up. What if it were me in his situation? Or what if something like that happened here in my backyard?
            I have to admit that I’ve been feeling pretty negative about the situation in our world recently. I keep hearing about different kinds of devastations and injustices, and wonder at what kind of place I’m bringing my kids into. Will they have a decent life for themselves? Will they even be safe? It wears me down thinking of the vast amount of things I want to shelter them from. It makes me thankful that our lives seem “safe” and happy for the moment.
            My children’s unappealing antics seem much more playful and endearing when I look at my life from this perspective. Every day since the Japanese earthquake and devastation I’ve found myself looking at both my kids and appreciating them deeply.
            Little Joshua, not so little anymore, but still my Little Boy Blue, is just learning to stand, and loves to crawl over to wherever Celia is so that he can scramble all over her and “wrestle”. Typical younger brother, he seems to be able to take an awful lot of bruising before he cries.
            And my sweetheart Celia, two-and-a-half and already preparing for her next birthday party. I was explaining the Japanese situation, and how my friend’s kids were born in Japan, when I asked Celia, “Do you know where you were born?”
            I’ve told her many times that she was born in Vancouver, Canada. I was curious what she’d say. We’ve been in Montana for half a year now, so maybe she’s starting to think she was born here. But my guess was that she’d say either Vancouver or Canada. Her response surprised me.
            “I was born on the moon!” Celia bounced up and down happily.
            “Really!” I gawked at her. Where do kids come up with these things?
            “Well, my little Moon Child, that explains all sorts of things!” I smiled and picked her up.
            Maybe that’s just the sort of perspective I need to have in all of this. A child’s optimism. Who knows what will happen in this world. The next earthquake or man-made disaster could happen right in my own backyard. But don’t worry. We’re from outer space. We’ll be okay.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Nuclear Meltdowns

            Across the ocean on an island not too far away, Japan is having a nuclear crisis. Not only are the Japanese people in upheaval over the tsunami devastation and radiation dangers, radiation has already made its way across the ocean to Alaska. Canada and continental USA are next.
            Of course, the American media is saying it’s nothing to worry about, but really now, how much we can trust them? We certainly haven’t been able to trust them in a wide range of subjects, and a tiny bit of digging will show many other news sources (mostly from other countries) that are saying significantly different things.
            So, iodine is sold out around town, around the country even, and I have to admit that we’re partly to blame.
            I don’t think I’d have taken the risks so seriously if not for having kids. The thought of anything going wrong with my kids is enough to spur me on to a great many precautions in life. I’ve had daydreams where I’ve lost one of them for one reason or another, and just the thought of it shakes my soul. Already, they are so deeply a part of me, I couldn’t imagine life without them.
            Meanwhile, our daughter has been having nuclear meltdowns of another sort. Ever since losing an hour for daylight savings, she’s been on edge – as if that hour was absolutely critical to her well-being. She’s been more prone to hit her brother, more fussy about her food, and more quick to cry. However, she did surprise me last night for a completely different reason.
            Michelle and I have been slowly explaining to her what’s been happening in Japan, a little at a time. Sometimes I think she understands, and other times she’s got her mind on other things. I don’t want to scare her with something she can’t do anything about, so I haven’t said too much all at once. But I also want her to know that the world can get pretty ugly sometimes, so she’s not shocked by it from an outside source.
            What surprised me was last night at the dinner table, out of the blue she said, “Let’s pray for the children in Japan.”
            I instantly started to cry, and said, “Okay, you start.”
            Celia remained quiet, so Michelle piped in, “You can start by saying, ‘Dear God’.”
            “Dear God…” Celia said quietly.
            “I pray for the children in Japan,” Michelle said slowly.
            “I pray for the children in Japan,” Celia repeated.
            “Keep them safe,” Michelle said.
            “Keep them safe,” Celia repeated.
            Michelle paused, then said, “Amen.”
            “Amen,” Celia said, then happily went back to her food.
            I sat quietly and wondered, “Are the prayers of children more powerful than adults? Does God listen to kids more?” If so, I hope that prayer made a difference. Those kids in Japan are going to need all the help they can get.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


            Sunday morning we woke up with great expectation – Joshua was finally going to be dedicated and blessed in the church service. Every culture seems to have in their roots some form of welcoming a child into this world. I’m sorry for those who’ve lost that.
            In our tradition, we welcome them into the community with blessings and a covenant, much like in marriage. There was a ceremony in the church service where first me and Michelle promised to care for Joshua and raise him well, then our wider family made the promise, and finally, the whole church community. Afterward, people shared blessings, and the elders prayed over him.
            It was a touching ceremony, and most people were crying, including me. It gave me a profound sense of appreciating what a gift this little child is – and also what a wonderful and great responsibility.
            At one point, the analogy was given: If God somehow caused a new baby to mystically appear in front of us, with all sorts of lights and music, and said, “Take care of this child. He’s special.” You can believe we’d all do our best to do just that. This baby came to us through his parents, but it’s the same thing.
            I looked at my son, squirming in my arms, and thought, “You know, he’s right.” This little boy is utterly special – a huge gift, a big blessing, and an honored guest. I feel so privileged to be his parent today.
            I hope that feeling lasts.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Nine-Month Pain-In-The-Back

            Joshua turned nine months old yesterday. As if to mark this grand occasion, I got a massive spasm in the mid-back that immediately incapacitated me and sent me hobbling off to the chiropractor.
            As I sat in the waiting room, I had an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu. When Celia had turned nine months, I’d done the exact same thing. She had crossed that invisible line overnight, suddenly becoming too heavy to lift in the same way. My body had protested by cramping up in the mid-back and forcing me to bend my knees when lifting her for months afterward. I’d told myself that if I were to be so blessed as to have a second child, I wouldn’t let it happen again.
            I sat in the waiting room and laughed. How foolish of me, to think that learning lessons the hard way and using common sense would be enough to prevent me from repeating the injury. It’s all a part of the initiation rites into the Secret Society of Fatherhood. It’s got to happen with every kid.
            I’m starting to think the nine-month mark is pretty significant. Joshua seems to be truly opening up these last couple of weeks. He’s crawling, exploring, eating by himself, and I swear he just said, “Da-Da.” It’s like he’s a flower that’s been growing and growing, and is just now starting to bloom.
            But unlike a flower, the kid is starting to weigh a ton. And where a flower likes to be planted in one location, the little guy always wants to be picked up and carried everywhere we go. In fact, with all this teething he’s been going through, he’s particularly needy. As soon as he sees me or Michelle he instantly crawls over to our legs, paws his way vertically till he’s awkwardly teetering on wobbly feet gripping our pant legs ferociously, and then he whines uncontrollably until he’s finally lifted.
            Carry him we must.
            Carry him we do.
            And carry ourselves off to the chiropractor.
            The inevitable cycle of life for a new parent. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Back to the Guest Room

            A night-and-a-half ago sometime between 3 and 4am I groggily gathered up my pillows and staggered downstairs to the guest room. I’d had enough.
            Joshua has been teething again. This time it’s four teeth, all on top. The real kicker is two of them popped through, then somehow had the nerve to wiggle back inside the gums again. I didn’t know new teeth could do that.
            His gums are puffy and awful looking, and it must feel terrible because he barely seems to be able to sleep. We’ve kept him drugged up on one form of medication or another for the last week, but I wonder if they’re even working. The kid is miserable.
            It doesn’t feel like that long ago that he had colic, and was even more miserable, but when I look at the calendar and realize he’s turning nine months tomorrow, it’s actually been four months since then. We’ve had four months of grace. Boy, did it fly by quickly.
            Someone told me recently that if an adult were to go through the pain of teething, we wouldn’t be able to bear it because it’s so horrible. I wouldn’t know. Probably the only thing that gives me encouragement is he won’t remember any of this. I even told him as much as we were sitting at the table. He had a wild look in his eyes and an edgy whine that felt like it could take off uncontrollably if not consoled into submission.
            “Don’t worry Joshua,” I patted his back and spoke soothingly, “You won’t remember any of this.”
            I turned to Celia across the table, “Celia, do you remember when your new teeth were coming in?”
            “Yes, Daddy,” Celia rolled her playdough into little balls.
            I laughed. “Well, Joshua, your sister is unique. You won’t remember this.”
            God, I hope he doesn’t. In fact, I kind of hope that I forget too. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Decision

            Joshua crawled across the floor to see what his sister was doing while I sat on the sofa and watched them play. His technique is relatively new and somewhat awkward – the right leg is often quite straight, and used as a pivot to bring the left leg under to spring him forward again.
            It seemed like he was on the cusp of crawling for over a month, and now that he’s picked it up, every day he adds around ½ mph to his crawl-speed. It already seems like he can fly across the room about as fast as anyone.
            We’re suddenly reminded about baby-proofing. All the plants, wires, precipices, and cat food are now dangerously positioned and in need of new coordinates.
            Thankfully, having an older sibling does make it easier. When I’m absolutely pooped and sitting on the sofa, Joshua has someone playing at his level who seems awfully interesting, and who will do a pretty decent job of keeping him out of trouble – that is, when she’s not hitting him, pushing him, or taking things from his hands. Overall, the two kids play quite well together, and it gives a parent a chance to catch his breath.
            As I breathed deeply and watched Joshua crawl on top of his sister I thought, “Having kids was a big decision.”
            In an instant I suddenly thought of the massive lifestyle I’d given up when I had kids – the late nights out, the raucous parties, the hobbies, travel, and extra stuff I could spend money on. And then it hit me – I’m going to be a dad for the rest of my life (God willing). It’s not just a big decision. This is the decision.
            Having kids changes your whole life. Forever. That’s it. It’ll never go back. So, you’d better get used to it. Welcome it. Or you’ll be fighting it for a really long time.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bold Reality (a poem)

Wild passionate thoughts
            carelessly winging through
                        my life
knock over a few dreams
            and my daughter
                        on their way
wreaking contaminated questionings
            and visions of the
birthing a desperate desire
            to somehow, one day,

Where exactly is uncertain, and
            even less certain
                        is how
but arrive I must,
            so I delicately embark
                        but quickly
go nowhere, and somewhere,
            just definitely not

How will I know when I
            get there – this fabled
                        legendary place
except to somehow feel certain
            of all – content and
                        at peace
and perhaps more stuff, less
            diapers, more security
                        and friends
which is odd because although
            clearly passing and
these somehow pop into the
            mind’s schemes
                        and dreams
as if they do belong there.

Too precious to squander, but
            too unknowable to grasp,
                        I allow the
uncertainty to delay action,
            raise doubts,
convince me to at least
            be present to
                        the present,
where I can hug my daughter
            change some diapers,
                        and kiss
this bold reality on the lips.