Thursday, September 30, 2010

That's What Big Brothers Are For

A bunch of us were playing in my neighbor’s front yard. I was maybe 8 years old, and the mix of kids ranged from ones my own age all the way up to a couple of the “big" kids from down the street who might have been twelve or thirteen. We were embroiled in a “war”; the horse chestnuts had fallen from my neighbor’s tree, and they were perfect for hurling at one another. Horse chestnuts, if you’re not familiar with them, are oblong and slightly smaller than a tennis ball. They’re a shade greener, too, and decorated with small points scattered widely about their surface. Nasty looking – almost medieval – which was probably why we were drawn to them. We knew someone could get hurt, but no parents were around and we were having fun.

I ended up near the pick up truck parked under the ‘nut tree. One look in the bed told me that I’d discovered the perfect spot - it was full of horse chestnuts and the bed’s wall offered perfect protection. The rear gate was gone, so I easily pulled myself up over the rusty bumper, chestnuts flying overhead. One of the bigger kids had the same idea I did and followed me up into the truck. His name was Gerry Lee, and he was a kid from far down the street, a kid who I didn’t know very well and who never seemed to notice me. He had the reputation of a troublemaker, so I was afraid of him, but I knew enough not to show it. On most days, it kept me off his radar.

“Get out of here,” he said. He wanted the spot for himself, but something in my seven year old brain balked at the idea, at its inequity. I’d found the truck first and besides, there were more than enough horse chestnuts at our feet. Hundreds. So I pretended I didn’t hear him, picked up some ‘nuts, and turned away from him to start throwing.

He shoved me, hard. I went off the back end of the truck and somehow ended up landing on my butt. In all probability, that didn’t hurt too bad, but what did was the back of my head bouncing off the bumper. I don’t know if it really happened, but I picture every kid stopping and turning at the odd sound of skull meeting metal. My head throbbed as I got up. I cried, screamed at him, and his eyes were wide with shock, but a moment later he told me to shut up and went back to filling up his arms with ammunition.

I ran across the yard and down my long driveway. My house was set back a few hundred feet from the road, and I cried the whole way. I came through the door and my oldest brother Mike, about fifteen at the time, looked at me and asked a question that made me feel instantly better, “What happened?” Something about the way he asked the question told me that he would do something about it, and after hearing the story he did. He walked next door and tossed Gerry Lee off the back of the pick up truck. He told Gerry Lee what would happen if he ever touched me again. And then Gerry Lee ran home.

My child won’t have older brothers (or sisters) to watch out for them, but I’ll do my best to make sure they have the sense of security that I discovered that day, the sense that someone was watching out for me and would come to my aid whenever I came up against something too big for me to handle. We don't get to have that feeling as adults - at least not in the same way - but every kid should have it.

50 days until baby.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We Unwittingly Created a Buzz

I mentioned in a previous post that my wife and I are uncomfortable in social situations, but last night we realized that’s changed. No matter where we are – at work, at a family party, in line at the grocery store – friends, acquaintances, or strangers now have a perpetual topic of conversation. “When’s the baby due? Are you finding out the sex? Where are you delivering? When’s the baby due?” (Yes, I’ve had someone ask me that question twice within a minute). These questions lead into the asker’s own stories of parenthood and before we know what’s happening, we’ve had a twenty minute conversation without an uncomfortable silence. I don’t know if this means we just weren’t interesting before we proved ourselves capable of reproducing, but it’s amazing how a baby – especially an impending baby - gets people talking.

51 days until baby.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What was that?

Before today’s post, I need to clarify a reference in yesterday’s. I mentioned that Michael Chabon, in his book Manhood for Amateurs, speaks of the low standards set by our culture for fathers, but I neglected to point out that his essay laments this fact. The entire book is an honest and thought provoking collection of essays about growing up and what it means to be a husband, a father, and a man in America, and besides that, Chabon is one hell of a writer. Read it if you’re even remotely interested. You can borrow my copy. I was horrified when I realized that I misrepresented him.

Today’s post:
My wife was wincing and holding on to her belly the other night. The baby was shoving every sharp edge against her insides, and it obviously hurt. I bent down and rolled up her shirt, placing my lips near her belly button, and I asked the kid to give her a break. I felt a little nudge against my mouth, and I gave a long, low hum against her skin. The pushing stopped, at least for a few moments, and we both smiled at the thought of the baby inside, suddenly quiet, eyes darting back and forth, wondering, “What was that?”

52 days until baby.

Monday, September 27, 2010

My Wife Read This Post And Said I Need A Therapist

I have always been frustrated by my own abilities. I have a deep appreciation for the skills I admire in others and the ability to emulate those skills to a certain degree, but it’s coupled with a keen sense of my own shortcomings. Take teaching for example. I had the good fortune to have not one, but two mentors of the highest caliber. One inspired me to become a teacher, something I never before had the courage to do, and the other took me under his wing and gave me real world experience; he let me fail and showed me how to learn from it. He also let me know that I did not need to be so uptight all the time, especially with kids – but that’s something I’m still working on. I’m not the only one that these two men inspired, and every day I try to live up to the example they set as teachers. I get many wonderful compliments from parents, colleagues, and children. They tell me that I am a great teacher, but every day I feel that I land far short of the mark. I know I’m right, too. I’m the one there every day, the one who is in front of the class, living those million daily decisions that add up to a classroom day, and simply put – I’m not what I could be. I am not what I should be. Part of it comes from my tendency to get lost in the details of teaching – the paperwork, the routines – so much so that I lose sense of the big picture. Without a sense of direction, I end up treading water, just taking care of what is right in front of me. The rest of it is just plain inexperience. It usually takes me longer than most people to learn to do something really well, and classroom teaching is like having the Pacific poured down your throat – it’s a lot to take in at once. So, I don’t doubt that I’ll get there – to that future point where I don’t feel like a complete fraud when I thank someone for a compliment – it’s just going to take me some time.

I imagine I will feel the same way about being a father – overwhelmed, admiring of other fathers, and all too aware of my limitations. Again, I expect time to bestow confidence, but there is the gnawing reality that, unlike classroom teaching, you don’t get to start fresh with a new crop of kids every year. Nope. As a parent, the summer ends, and it’s the same kid staring up at you, only they’re a year older and they know all your tricks. People are already telling me I’m going to be a great dad, and I appreciate it, I really do, but I want to think I’m a great dad. The author Michael Chabon, in his book Manhood for Amateurs, writes that fathers have it easy compared to moms, mostly due to our culture’s low expectations for dads. A dad shows up at a soccer game or takes his kid to buy new shoes and he’s a “great dad,” but moms are expected to do these things as a matter of course. In What to Expect When You’re Expecting, there’s a single section devoted to dads. I read it, expecting insight into my new role, and it more or less told me to: curb my late night poker games, be willing to do the laundry and the dishes, and be sympathetic to my wife.

I’ll be setting my sights a little higher.

53 days until baby.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Toil and Trouble

I read this somewhere:

When you’re in your twenties, you worry about what other people think.
When you’re in your thirties, you realize it doesn’t matter what other people think.
In your forties, you realize that no ones thinking about you anyway.

Is there something like that for parents? From the advice and the stories I’ve taken in from good parents, it would seem to go something like this:

Before your baby is born, you worry about how it’s all going to go.
Right after your baby is born, you’re too tired to worry about how it’s all going.
Once they’re old enough for you to get some sleep, they amaze you, frustrate you, make you happy, sad, and everything in between, and, for the rest of your life, you continue to worry about them.

54 days until baby.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Talk

I don’t ever remember my parents having the “sex talk” with me. Maybe they did and I was so mortified that my brain went ahead and deleted the memory. Maybe they didn’t and I entered my late adolescence armed only with what I gleaned from a bunch of Playboys, late night cable, and listening to the older kids on the school bus. I never felt prepared – the prospect of someone wanting to sleep with me was both exhilarating and terrifying – but I think that was a good thing. Ignorance and innocence are sometimes interchangeable. With so much information now instantly available, will I even need to worry about sitting my teenage son/daughter down to discuss the birds and bees? When they arrive at an age when sex becomes an option, they’ll probably know more about it than I do right now. Still, I want them to see it as something special and sacred, something not to be used thoughtlessly or carelessly. I’ll start working on my talk now - starting with that last bit - and maybe, by the time I need it, I’ll have it all planned out.

55 days until baby.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Into the Wild

I took my second grade class on their first nature walk of the year today. Each student was assigned a buddy and we headed out the school’s front door, crossed the old baseball diamond, and walked along the scrubby patch of woods at the schoolyard’s edge. We took a wide path through the trees to a small meadow full of goldenrods and asters, where we spent some time looking for monarch caterpillars and pulling apart milkweed pods, tossing the parachute-like seeds up and away into the breeze. We peeked inside the weathered bluebird box and discovered a mother deer mouse, black marble eyes staring at us and a trio of young suckling at her chest. The kids loved it all, and I did, too, but the whole time I couldn’t help thinking - I can’t wait to be doing this same thing with a class of one – a student for whom I’ll never have to say, “Sorry, we have to cut this short, the buses are coming.” 

56 days until baby.  

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Don't Want to Fight

Linda and I had an argument last night. Like most fights, it was about something unimportant, but with both of us being so stubborn, the car ride back from the breastfeeding class descended into silence, followed by a cold, curt kiss good night once we got home. I know people say that spouses should never go to bed angry, but we’ve been together a long time. Occasionally, a disagreement rears up in which neither of us is willing to concede our position in the name of a peaceful night’s sleep. We go to bed angry, wake up angry, and I go through the day with that uneasy feeling in my gut. The routines of the day might let me forget about it for short periods, but I always remember and my stomach sinks into my shoes.

We talk through it eventually (as we did tonight), and at some point, when the edge of the conversation has softened, one of us will say something to make the other smile. Then I know we’re okay again.

I loathe fighting with my wife, and I'm so relieved when we get to the far side of an argument, but I can’t help imagining how much worse arguing will be when there’s a kid in the mix. I know the disagreement and make-up cycle is part of any healthy relationship. It’s a good thing. If two people live together and never have a disagreement, someone’s probably sailing on the river of denial (or the rapids of repression). I just hate for any kid of mine to have to live through a night of us not talking. Sure, we can make resolutions about never fighting in front of our child, pretending that everything’s fine until we’re alone, but that’s a form of lying I’ve never been very good at. Maybe it’s better for our kid to see their parent’s relationship, unvarnished and genuine, go through all of its natural ups and downs (up to a certain point, of course). Still, who wants to put a kid through that? I’m sure there’s a glut of books out there on this, and maybe when my kid’s old enough to see farther than the length of a ruler, I’ll pick one up, but for now, it’s something I’ll be thinking about.

57 days until baby.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Prenatal Premonition

We had our breastfeeding class tonight. Near the end, the instructor gave each couple a doll to practice holding in the various breastfeeding grips. I sat next to my wife and watched her - her head bent to look at the baby, concentrating and adjusting her arms to make sure their placement was correct. Seeing her holding that baby, real or not, hit me like a warm wave and - I know it sounds cliche- I felt my heart actually swell. The way I feel right now, 58 days can't go fast enough.

58 days until baby.   

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'll Be Your Masseuse Tonight...

From The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, MD (a book full of otherwise good advice):

“It’s easier to establish a schedule if you follow the same pattern every day. After your baby is a month old, start this reassuring nighttime routine:

low lights
toasty bath
loving massage with heated oil
some warm milk
cozy swaddle
a lullaby..softly sung
gentle white noise playing in the background”

I would expect a big tip after all that. Does this sound nuts to everyone else, too? Heated oil!? He forgot to add, “Lay prostrate on the ground and then bow deeply as you back slowly out of the room.” Sheesh.

59 days until baby.

Monday, September 20, 2010

And maybe a good kid, too.

Each year, sometime after the first day of school, I spend some time looking over the second grade curriculum. I scan the long list of concepts with no plan of attack in mind; I just want to get into my head at least a vague idea of everything I need to teach these kids before their bus rolls away from school on that final June day. It’s always depressing, overwhelming, scary – whatever the adjective is for when the task before you is so immense that you just want to fake your own death and go live on a beach in Mexico. I know you might be saying, “Come on, it’s only second grade,” and I thought the same thing before I was the one teaching it, but take my word for it, there’s a hell of a lot of stuff to cram into these kids’ heads in second grade.

But I’m not complaining. I’m just stating what’s what. Each year, I do what I can and I get most of it in there. Some falls out. I pick it up and try to shove it back between their ears. Sometimes it stays. A lot of it falls out during the summer. But whatever happens, I try to give it all to them in a way that makes it stick. In the end, I get a third grade teacher at my classroom door saying, “They’re telling me you never taught them this.”

And now, we have this baby coming, and we don’t have to just teach them cursive, and how to add double digit numbers, and what a contraction is, we have to teach them everything. Ev-er-y-thing. How not to take poo out of the toilet. How not to play in traffic. How not to put your head in plastic bags. How not to believe most of what you hear on Fox news. The list is beyond imagining, and that’s a hard thing for me to accept. Before doing anything, I like to take in the scope of what’s before me – get a handle on it, and for this thing that’s coming? That’s just not possible. This appears to be one of those maddening situations where you just hold on for dear life, do the best you can, and hope you make it out the other side with your sanity intact and a job well done. And maybe a good kid, too.

60 days until baby.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Linda said...

Today, Linda mused, "Some days, I want this to just get going already - for the baby to come. Then, I go back to feeling scared."

61 days until baby.

Thank you to everyone for your thoughtful comments! Linda and I enjoy them immensely - please keep 'em coming.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Attentive Parent

One morning this past summer, I was working at my desk and looked out the window to see a mother turkey walking across the backyard, her bevy of poults scurrying along in a disorganized line behind her. The group of them hugged the edge of the yard, with the safety of the tall grass and shrubs to one side, and the fuzzy youngsters were simultaneously distracted and fascinated by every blade of grass and bug in their immediate vicinity. They would step out of line to investigate some interesting item, realize that the line was moving on without them, waddle quickly to catch up, and be distracted into leaving the line again a moment later, repeating the whole process. The young all carried on this routine at the same time, making for a chaotic mass of movement. The mother, in contrast, was wary and took each step with care. Her neck strained upward, trying to take in as much of her surroundings as she could, and her head constantly jerked left and right, attempting to look in all directions at once. Even though she was at least thirty yards away from the house, she froze when I rose out of my seat. The faint squeak of the chair had somehow reached her ears. The poults continued their wanderings, oblivious to any danger, but she kept staring, waiting a few more seconds before guiding the whole group into the brush.

At the time, I marveled at the attention of that mother. Her children explored the world, feeling safe and happy under her protection, and she must have been exhausted, having to spend every waking minute on the lookout for all the dangers imaginable to her mind. I was telling someone about that sighting today, and I realized that Linda and I will probably feel that way much of the time, fearful for everything that might happen to our child, while they barrel forward into the world, confident that we’ll take care of them no matter what.

62 days until baby.

Friday, September 17, 2010

For the cute little deer with the bare behind...

When I was growing up, my dad kept a wooden paddle in our front hall closet. It was about eighteen inches long and six inches wide, with one end narrowed into a handle. Across one side was a crude illustration of a fawn and the words, “For the cute little deer with the bare behind.”I kid you not. It’s disquieting to imagine such a thing now, but back then, most kids I knew had some designated spanking device in their house, be it a paddle, a belt, a wooden spoon, or a cutting board (one classmate claimed that his parents spanked him with the bible). Most often, parents went the low-tech route and employed the open palm technique, but in our house, the paddle dispensed the spankings. I remember sneaking into our closet and wrapping my young fingers around its handle and giving myself a few experimental whacks. My dad rarely used the paddle on us, as far as I can remember. Just the threat of it was usually enough to get us to quit whatever trouble we were up to, and now that I really think about it, I can’t recall a single specific instance when he did spank me. I remember the threat, but not the actual event. Have I blocked it out, forgotten it, or did it never happen? All of this comes to mind as Linda and I discuss what the spanking policy will be in our house. We’re not putting anything in writing, but we’re both of the mind that spanking will be in our toolbox but as a tool that will rarely see the light of day. It’s all hypothetical, of course. I imagine when it comes down to actually doing it, we’ll each be looking at the other to do the dirty work.

63 days until baby. Please comment and follow!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Pushover

Someone told me today that I’ll be a pushover; that when my kid looks at me with their big, blue eyes, I’ll gladly hand over my car keys and my dignity. Without a thought, I denied it – refused to believe it, and I went on to explain how I’m determined to be that parent who’s tough but fair, that parent who sets high expectations, clear consequences, and follows through on the consequences when necessary, even if it means tears and a child who hates me for a little while. I’ve thought about this even before today, and I keep returning to the fact that my father was strict with me, but I don’t ever remember questioning for a moment that he loved me. I think of him when I meet with permissive parents. I so want to want to say to them, “Your child doesn’t need you to be a buddy, they need you to be a parent.” I want to heed my own unspoken advice.

This is all easy for me to say, right? I know that right now, with Linda reading next to me and a tranquil house around us, it’s easy to imagine our future toddler, then kid, and eventual adolescent falling right into line. We’ll stick to our guns, and they’ll grow into perfectly well-adjusted, confident and compassionate adults. But maybe not. I know kids have a way of wearing you down. And I know they’re cute, too. Maybe it’s true. Maybe I will buckle like a belt.

64 days until baby.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Last night I was thinking of my first year at college; the year of my first serious girlfriend, my first road trip, and how much I didn’t tell my parents. In about eighteen years, I’ll be on the other end. “Grandchild” is another word for payback.

65 days until baby.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Former Cuteness = Reprieve

Your life, as you know it... is gone. Never to return. But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk... and you want to be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life.
From “Lost in Translation”

Linda likes to say that babies are so cute because the memory of that cuteness is the only thing that keeps you from killing them when they’re teenagers. Maybe it’s true. We’ll find out eventually, but right now, I’m dying to see what their personality turns out to be like. Long after the diapers and the bottles and the sleepless nights, when the teenage years are looming closer, what kind of conversations will we have? What will excite them or fascinate them? What will their laugh sound like?

66 days until baby.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Like adding sprinkles...

When I can get myself to think beyond the delivery of our baby, I’m left wondering how the relationship will change between my wife and me. For thirteen years, it’s been the two of us. Day in and day out, we’ve smelled each other’s morning breath and witnessed the drool on each other’s pillows. It works, the two of us together, and if this baby had never happened, there’s not a doubt in my mind that we would’ve been together long enough for one to plant flowers on the other’s grave. And it would’ve been good. No, not just good, it would’ve been worth it.

But now, that’s gone, and the thirteen years I know about, the thirteen years that taught me how to live with and love this person next to me, are just prelude. I know how to make things work with the two of us - when to back off, when to push, when I can move in for a kiss and make her smile, but when one of us has just been vomited on or is holding a diaper full of crap, it sort of changes the whole dynamic, you know?

Before we got pregnant, I remember Linda telling me about a radio piece she’d heard on a study/survey that found childless couples are happier in their relationship than couples with children. At the time, it made sense to me, but now, I find myself praying that the report was way off base. Maybe they just caught the people on a bad day, a day without much sleep the night before. I want to prove that study wrong - keep our great relationship and just add a baby into the mix. Like adding sprinkles onto the chocolate syrup and ice cream. Why can’t a baby make a good thing even better?

67 days until baby. Please comment and follow.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It Just Ain't The Same

Yesterday, a friend sent me a message via Facebook asking for my “15 in 15”; I had 15 minutes to name the 15 albums that mean the most to me. The process brought up recollections of the first tape I ever bought (Huey Lewis and the News’ Sports) and all the hours I spent secretly looking through my four brothers’ collections of LPs, staring at Led Zepplin and Iron Maiden covers. Back then I had no idea what the covers (or the music inside) was about, but I knew that I liked what I saw and heard. My dad had a record collection, too, as well as a nice selection of 8-tracks. I would plug the Bay City Rollers into our family stereo and arrange the speakers so they were only inches from either side of my head. Stretched out on the floor, I would let Saturday Night envelop me. The presence of all that music in our house made me into someone for whom music is an integral part of life. Not a day goes by that I don’t choose a song on my ipod to fit my mood as I drive to work or clean up my classroom, and I’m constantly on the lookout for the next band that has worked out the arrangement of chords and lyrics that will send a shiver of pleasure down my spine. Music enriches my life and brings a certain kind of joy that I get nowhere else, and I’m grateful for it. I have to wonder though, will it be the same for my kid? Will they come to it as I did? Will they appreciate it like I do? My music collection is on a device no bigger than an index card. There’s nothing to look at; nothing to hold and ponder as the music bounces around between my ears. Sure, a picture of the album cover comes with each file, but the picture’s about as big as a postage stamp. It’s not large enough for serious pondering. I can remember where and when I was sitting, listening to U2’s The Joshua Tree back in 1987, the gatefold album open on my knees as I read the lyrics and took in every detail of the stark black and white photos of the desert. I wasn’t in my brother’s room anymore, I was in the desert with those four guys. Maybe I would’ve liked the album just as much without something physical to hold and take in, but I like that memory and my others like it. I want my kid to have some of the same. I wonder what Linda will say when I tell her I want to find an old record player, a set of headphones, and start collecting LPs.

68 days until baby. Please comment and follow!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I'll miss it, too

Today, Linda said, “I’ll miss being pregnant. I’ll miss knowing where the baby is at all times and knowing that the baby is safe.” That breaks my heart.

69 days until baby.  Please comment and follow!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The most unnecessary things in this world are the most necessary

Do you remember getting a brand new box of cereal down from the kitchen cupboard, looking twice at the seal because you couldn’t believe that no one else had gotten to it yet? You’d tear it open and dig your hand down into the cereal, pieces spilling onto the floor from around your forearm, and, finally, your hand would find it. The prize. And whatever it was, it would make you so happy for a short while. Why don’t they have prizes in cereal anymore? I want my kid to have that.

70 days until baby.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

O, Death

Am I the only one that wonders what would happen if I were to die? A car accident too severe to survive, a plane crash, a stray meteorite - whatever the means, I imagine the aftermath. How would my loved ones react and how would it effect my circle of friends and acquaintances? I know it’s morbid – and vain - to have these thoughts, but they’re there in my head all the same and have been for as long as I can remember. They’ve changed recently, however, and it’s all because of the baby. Back in the spring, I was hiking with two friends, both fathers, and we stopped to rest at an overlook. We stood on the edge of a tall cliff, woods and a wide stream stretched out below us, and I told them the news I’d been holding in since we started - that Linda was pregnant. After the congratulations and the hugs, we talked for a bit about kids and dads (With six kids between them, they have a fair amount of experience), and then, as we moved to continue on our hike, one of them put out a hand and warned me not to get too close to the cliff’s edge; that now would not be the time for something to happen to me. The other said that before becoming a father, he never thought too much about taking risks, but once he did, the prospect of death became a lot more real – and a lot scarier. The thought of missing any of his children’s experiences was just too unthinkable, and it’s startling how right he was. With each new kick I feel emanating from inside my wife, with each new piece of hand-me-down baby gear that comes into our house, my imaginings of what would happen if I were gone grow more and more anxious. I want to be here. I need to be here. For everything. So, from now on, my adventures will be a little more subdued, but I don’t think they’ll be any less exciting. There's so much to see...

71 days until baby.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pele in the Belly

We’re at roughly thirty weeks. The kicks are coming hard and often. My wife sat on the couch tonight, wincing and proclaiming that, “It feels like knuckles scraping the inside of my guts.” (She said it with love.) I held my head to her belly and felt the pushes and rolls against my cheek, and I struggled to grasp the reality of something living and growing inside of her. I tried to picture their delicate fingers curling around one of mine, their tiny, gummy smile, their plump feet; it still seems unreal and at the same time, too good to be true.

72 days until baby.

Please comment and follow!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pack and Sweat

Back in June, a co-worker gave me her pack-and-play. Her children had grown too old for it, and she was kind enough to think of our coming baby when it came time to get rid of it. We stored it away, but when making up our baby registry this past weekend, we figured we should set it up to make sure it was in good shape. I dragged it upstairs (the weight of it did not being the word “convenient” to my mind) and was pleased to see that my co-worker had packed it away neatly in its carrying case. The directions were even set in the little inside pocket. Everything looked good. I laid out all the pieces, opened up the directions, and what followed were perhaps the most frustrating twenty-five minutes of my life. By the end of it, both my wife and I were sweating, red-faced, and cursing. But we got the damn thing up! I can’t wait to install the car seat…

73 days until baby.

Thank you to everyone for their comments! Thanks for reading, and please keep them coming!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Turn, turn

Tomorrow is the first day of school; the first day for us teachers, anyway, and that means today is the end – the last official day of summer. I know I have no right to complain, since I’m coming off more than eight weeks of vacation, but I'm lucky because my wife is very forgiving about listening to me moan – a little – about summer’s demise. I normally greet the new school year with a mixture of excitement and sadness; I’m excited to meet the new class, to be teaching, to be back into the beautifully exhausting give-and-take of trying to teach a score of second graders what I know they need to know; and I’m sad about leaving behind the freedom, the relaxation, and the ease of summer. This year, the arrival of school is especially bittersweet. It’s selfish to say, but I regret that this is the last summer of Linda and me - the last summer that’s just ours. We sat on the deck today, watching the hummingbirds come and go from the feeder, hummingbirds that will soon be gone, and I knew that our summers will be different from here on out. That’s the bitter part, but the sweet part is what they’ll become. As a teacher, I get to spend summer days with my child, and I plan on making sure those days are packed with adventures big and small.

I took one, final summer hike with a friend today. The goldenrods and asters were in bloom, chickadees were flocking up, wild black cherries littered the trail at our feet – even though the temperature said summer, all the signs of the change in season were scattered about the fields and the woods.

74 days until baby.

Please comment and follow.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Binkie of Death

Linda and I walked the aisles of Babies ‘R’ Us today, scanner in hand, and we did our best to figure out what our baby will need for the first few months of their new life. We thought registering our baby would be fun, but once we started, we both felt enormous pressure. Unlike a wedding registry, where if you pick out the wrong accessory or piece of furniture, there’s little risk of death to the future user, this is not the case with a baby registry. We had to pick out a car seat, crib bumpers (before today I had never heard of crib bumpers), a stroller, and numerous other items that all could potentially harm – or fail to protect - our future child. With each pull on the scanner’s trigger and each little beep, I couldn’t help but picture us in the future, crying out, “Why, why didn’t we get the more expensive one?” Not to mention that for every item, there are so many different models and options. I counted no less than nineteen different kinds of pacifiers. Nineteen! This one’s BPA free, but that one is designed with proper dental development in mind, but no!, this one has a little air hole that prevents colic. What kind of parents would we be if we got a binkie that encouraged colic? Horrible parents, that’s what kind. And choosing a breast pump was the oddest part. Never in my life did I think I’d find myself saying the word “nipple” in the middle of a store on a Sunday afternoon, but there I was, not even thinking twice about it. Ninety minutes after starting, we pulled the trigger one last time and left the store, surprised at how exhausted we felt.

75 days until baby.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Playing Pregnant

“It still doesn’t seem real,” my wife said today, and I had to agree with her. More often than not, she walks by me and I’m caught off guard by the new location of her belly button. It still feels as it did when we just moved in together, as if we’re pretending. Just “playing house.” We wondered together today when it would feel real. For my wife, we imagined it would right about the time when the labor pains set in; we’ve heard there’s no denying the reality of those. For me, who knows? Even as a teacher, a role I’ve filled in various capacities for almost fifteen years, I still expect someone to walk into the classroom, point a finger at me, and shout, “You’re a fraud, and everyone knows it!” Will I feel that way as a parent, too?

76 days until baby.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

The Great Ak and the Meaning of Life - Part 2

The meaning of life. Yesterday, I wrote about how I found the meaning of life in a Christmas special from the 1980s called The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. The show’s script was based on a book by L. Frank Baum. His name probably rings a bell because he’s better known for another of his books, The Wizard of Oz. Even as a kid, I never thought much of the Wizard of Oz, but Baum’s gem of a line in Santa Claus about leaving the world a better place than you found it affected me to such a deep degree that I felt a strong connection to him. I looked up to him as a human being. Then, when I was in college, I learned that at a certain point in his life, he called for the extinction of Native Americans as a race. His exact words were, “The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians.” I was astounded when I read this. I felt betrayed. How could I take to heart the words of a man capable of such brutal thought? What does any of this have to do with being a parent? Well, it wasn’t until I encountered this information about Baum, and worked it over in my head for years, that I realized the contradictions present in most human beings: that all of us are capable of such profound, compassionate insights, while at the same time we can be intensely callous and cruel (veal, anyone?). Looking at most debate that occurs across the media today, it’s easy to see that people desperately want the world to be black and white, to be able to pigeonhole everyone into one group or another: republican/democrat, conservative/liberal, Team Jacob/Team Edward, etc., etc. – but in reality, most people live out their lives somewhere in the middle of all these factions. After all, the people who shout the loudest are usually the most wrong. If the only thing I can teach my child is to appreciate people for the good they do, and to some degree forgive them for the rest, then I’ll have done something worthwhile.

77 days until baby.

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Great Ak and the Meaning of Life

When I was thirteen or fourteen, my little brother and sisters would watch certain movies on our VHS player over and over and over again. One month, they would watch Mary Poppins repeatedly. The next month, it might be The Last Unicorn (an exceedingly strange bit of anime from the 80s) on continuous loop. Around Christmas time, the holiday videos would come out. Those, I loved (still do), and I would usually get pulled in to whatever was on. One of the videos was a stop-motion production that I’ve never seen on TV since it was played back in the 80s – The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. It gives The Last Unicorn a run for its money on the strangeness meter, basing the Santa Claus origin in a surreal, pagan world of woodland spirits, nymphs, and monsters. Part of the story has an adolescent Santa Claus being mentored by the Great Ak (great name, right?), a character that reminded me a lot of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, except that he had a hat with antlers. Yes, a hat with antlers. The reason that all of this sticks in my head is that on one of the dozens of occasions that I was walking by while one of my siblings was watching the video, I decided to sit down during the scene in which the Great Ak takes Santa all over the earth to see how his fellow humans live. After witnessing man’s cruelty, the young Santa wonders why man is here at all (pretty heavy stuff for a Christmas special). The Great Ak replies, “To leave the world in some way better than he found it.” I had watched the video and that particular scene so many times, but something about that particular day and that particular time...I heard those words and I felt something drop into place. It hit me hard; how true the words were – how true that simple statement had to be – and what the world could be like if everyone tried to live their life that way. Since then, I’ve tried to live up to the sentiment (tried is the operative word), and I’ve shared it with my second grade students, too. It’s a straightforward statement that they can refer to whenever they’re faced with a social dilemma (e.g., “Should I shoot my BB gun at Jimmy’s calf? Hmmm..would that make the world a better place?”). Sometime before my son/daughter turns five or six, I need to get my hands on that video and play it for them. Maybe they’ll watch it a hundred times or so. I found the meaning of life in a Christmas special and maybe they will, too.

78 days until baby.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Standing in the middle of a baby store today, I held up a Halloween costume for an infant; a tiny cat costume with little black ears that stick up from the hood. I showed it to my wife and said, “Oh my God, this is so cute.”

What is happening to me?

And can someone tell me why a baby, who can’t walk or even lift their head, needs shoes?

79 days until baby.