Friday, December 31, 2010

I'm not asleep... but that doesn't mean I'm awake.

Not tailgaters. Not telemarketers. Not people who still don’t believe in global warming. Nothing is as frustrating as a baby that won’t fall asleep at .

41 days old

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Remembering the Future

Two days ago, I went for a walk around our property. There are twenty acres of fields, young woods, and a small pond where we once released an orphaned turtle. I always make plans in my head to circle the property once a week, to get up early enough to hike it before school or to make time on the weekend, but it rarely happens. I think how nice it would be to find one spot near the pond, or up along the edge of the mowed field to take a picture once a week for a year, and to look back at those pictures at year’s end, seeing the changes wrought by the earth’s slight tilt and the progression of seasons it brings. A nice idea, but I haven’t done it yet. Most days there are too many things to do, and a walk just isn’t possible. It’s been that way since I started taking hikes. I never get out as much as I want, and I always plan to do it more. Sometimes a month will go by, two or three, sometimes only a week or two, and I feel a need, and urge, to get myself outside. Leading up to Violet’s birth and in the weeks since, I haven’t thought too much about it, but the urge made itself known two days ago, and out I went with binoculars, my notebook, and a couple field guides.

I wanted to decide which maples to tap this year; with a thaw predicted for this weekend, it’s possible the sap would begin to flow. I also wanted to gather some wild rose hips for tea. I followed the same route I’ve walked dozens of times: around the wild rose thicket, past the garden, down the hill to the pond, and up into the woods. Usually when I walk, I remember things I’ve seen on past walks – a bluebird box that held a clutch of wren eggs last spring, the maple tree at who’s feet I found my first wild ginger flower, the raspberry bush that yielded us a gallon of berries two summers ago, the branch on the yellow birch that knocked out my contact lens last fall. This walk had my mind working in the opposite direction. It was as if I was remembering things that hadn’t happened yet, things that I hoped would happen: Violet tottering along behind me, swiping at tufts of dandelion seeds floating by, Violet grasping at pondside frogs, laughing as they slide through her tiny fingers, Violet holding tightly onto the bucket as I pour in another load of sap. What I saw was like the sap – clear and sweet.

I know I’m getting ahead of myself. She may not grow into a person who loves the outdoors, and this thought occurred to me as I examined the small, reddish bud at the end of a branch on an elm tree, trying to figure out if the tree was an American elm or a slippery elm. Most people wouldn’t care wouldn't care what kind of tree it was, let alone which species of elm. What if Violet was one of those people? Could I accept that? I think I could. As for the elm, it turned out to be an American. The scales on the bud have dark edges and lack tiny hairs. It’s very clear if one takes the time to look.

40 days old

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Are we there (yet)?

More than once, I’ve read that babies at this stage have no memory of the past and no concept of the future. Even when they get older, babies don't understand that something can exist when it is out of their sight. Hide a toy behind your back and to their mind, it just ceased to exist. Their brains need time to develop an understanding that a world exists beyond what’s right in front of them. We all do, really. Even as adults, it takes time for us to get used to change (How many times will we all write “2010” by mistake over the next few weeks?) Linda and I had a brush with this idea tonight. It started this morning, when Linda surprised me with a note – supposedly from Violet – telling me that mommy (Linda) would be taking me to the movies this afternoon for my birthday. Grandma would be coming over to watch the baby while we were gone. So, it was to be our first time going out without Violet. Linda did well. I thought she might cry when we left. She had, in fact, warned me in weeks past that she probably would, but every time I looked over at her in the car, she would flash me a pretend toothy smile. During the movie, I would lose myself in the story and I would forget about my life and the real world for a time. Then, suddenly, I would be flooded with the warm recollection that Violet was waiting for us at home. That I’m a father. I felt a little guilty about “forgetting” it, but Linda brought it up on the way home. “Violet’s so new, she doesn’t seem real when we’re away from her.” I imagine that six months from now, there will be a certain amount of comfort in having Violet’s presence ingrained in my neural pathways, that I’ll be aware of her even when I’m not thinking about her, but I think I’ll miss this time, too.

39 days old

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hit the Books

I know I shouldn’t put too much stock in what baby books have to say. I probably should put our stack into the recycling bin. More than one person has told me that the people who read parenting books aren’t usually the ones who need to do so, but yesterday, I did find a good bit in What to Expect the First Year. Normally, when I flip through it, it’s with a skeptic’s eye. The book is so middle of the road, it lives on the yellow line. Any section dealing with anything even slightly outside the mainstream (e.g., questioning the regular vaccination schedule, alternative medicine, even cloth diapers) has an undertone that seems to say, “Well, there are some nutjobs that do this. If you want to waste your time, money, and possibly put your baby’s life in jeopardy, you can try it if you want.” But the section on talking to your baby did help move me forward as a parent. As I‘ve mentioned before, I’m not a conversationalist. People who are have a talent for thinking on their feet. I think on the car ride home, coming up with all the things I should’ve said, but much too late to put them to use. With Violet, I watch Linda, aunts, and uncles hold her and talk to her about a million things. It seems so natural. I hold her and although I can stare at her for hours on end, telling her how beautiful she is and how much I love her, I can’t help but feel like she’s waiting for something more. She looks at me as if to say, “Yeah, Dad. You already told me that like a hundred times. Don’t you have any new material?” I know I’m projecting. She doesn’t even know that she has hands yet, but she will. So the book recommends doing a running commentary, letting Violet know everything I’m doing with her, to her, near her. I can explain why I’m doing this or that and ask her questions, giving her time to respond. It may sound a little silly, but put into practice, it feels completely natural, as if I’m having a conversation with my daughter. Eventually, she’ll start answering my questions, and even though she may get bored of the play-by-play at a certain point, I figure that by then, she’ll be providing me with plenty of material to talk about. So, I won’t quit the books just yet. I’ll just keep them for when I really need them. I swear, I can quit them anytime I want.

38 days old

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Busy Morning

By this morning, I’d already had a full day of interaction with Violet. I’d been pooped on, peed on, spit up on, smiled at, slept on, and then I put together a toy she’d received for Christmas. I don’t feel like a dad yet, but I no longer feel like the person I was - the one without the delightful daughter. 

37 days old

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Late Christmas Gift

Very early this morning, Linda slept the sleep of a new mother, and the house was quiet. I fed Violet on the couch, while we examined each other over the bottle’s round rim. When it was nearly empty, I gently removed the bottle from her lips and checked the amount of milk remaining. Only a few drops lingered, and I smiled at her, telling her what a good girl she was. A smile broke across her face at a run, appearing wide and all gums for only a moment, before disappearing again behind searching lips.

36 days old

Saturday, December 25, 2010

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown

Have you ever read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein? It’s a children’s book about a tree that loves a little boy. As the boy grows up, he keeps returning to the tree and asking for things: her fruit, her branches, her trunk, until in the end, the boy returns as an old man, looking for a stump to sit on, and this the tree provides, too.

This Christmas, instead of buying a bunch of presents for Violet that she doesn’t really need, Linda and I each bought her a gift and kept it a secret from one another. This morning, I opened Linda’s gift to Violet, a copy of The Giving Tree, inscribed with the following message:
To my dearest Violet on her very first Christmas –

I wanted to get you something meaningful (at least to me). This is one of my favorite books and authors. I used to feel sad for the tree because it seemed to me that she gave everything to the boy and was left with nothing. Now that I have you, I can see that I was mistaken. When you love someone that much you are happy to give them everything. I love you that much. Don’t ever forget that.

Mommy (That’s the first time I’ve ever written that about myself. I like the sound of it.
35 days old

Friday, December 24, 2010

So This is Christmas...

Violet’s first Christmas Eve, and what do I want to record for her here? That she looked adorable in her Santa suit? That she surprised me by being more often awake than asleep throughout the day and evening? That she was completely unfazed when we sat on Santa’s lap amid a cluster of camera flashes? That her young cousin Olivia told me three times how pretty she thought Violet was? That our cousin John Conor seemed so pleased and honored when we asked him to be her godfather? There’s just too much. More than a video or a pile of pictures or even these words could capture. Like most Christmas Eves, it was wonderful. At Linda’s parents house, Grandma cooked way too much food and everyone was too generous with presents (although this year they surprised us by listening (sort of) to Linda’s requests for some restraint). At my aunt’s house, kids were running everywhere, bouncing off the walls and delightfully strung out on the anticipation of Santa’s arrival. We passed Violet around and my father got to hold her for the first time (Linda thought it was funny that I reminded him – a doctor for 50 years – to support the baby’s head). What do I remember most? When we were called to sit on Santa’s lap, we sang Rudolph and my eye caught a gift tag on one of our boxes. I noticed how it no longer read “Bill and Linda”, as it has for the last 13 years. Now it read “Bill and Linda and Violet”.

34 days old

Thursday, December 23, 2010

You Never Forget the First Time

A few weeks ago, Linda said that she just didn't feel Christmas-y. She says this every year, and I remind her of that fact every year. I’m not sure what a Christmas-y feeling feels like. I have some idea, of course – something warm and fuzzy – the holiday equivalent of comfort food, but I don’t think it’s that simple. It might be a reference too far removed, but I'm going to equate it to what the writer Tim Cahill says about adventure: “…adventure is simply physical and emotional discomfort recollected in tranquility.” It’s all about the looking back, and it’s that way with Christmas, too. I have fond memories of every Christmas I’ve spent with Linda, but I probably didn’t feel anything special in the days leading up to those Christmases. The fondness for the holiday is rooted in remembering. So, when someone asked me today if I had special feelings about this Christmas – since it’s our first Christmas with Violet, my first Christmas as a father, I had to stop and think. Did I? I felt guilty when the only answer I could find was, “No.” I tried to backpedal a little, claiming that my lack of feeling was probably because of the fact that Violet has no idea what’s going on as far as Christmas is concerned. Sure, I got her a present or two, but I could’ve gotten her a Cadillac. Her reaction would be the same. I shouldn’t feel guilty, though, or try to explain it – I don’t feel anything because this Christmas hasn’t happened yet. Maybe other people aren't wired this way, but now that I have time to think about it, I have no doubt that next year, ten years from now, or fifty years from now, I’ll remember this Christmas fondly. It won’t be as elaborate as the ones to come – I won’t need to dress up as Santa or wonder aloud if I hear Santa’s sleigh or hide presents in a closet somewhere – but it will be the first one where Christmas ceased being mostly about me and Linda.

33 days old

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Taking Stock

So here we are, slightly over a month in. I used to stay after school until , sometimes 6, but back in October I promised Linda that once Violet was here, I would head home by . I’ve managed to keep my word, and I come home most nights itching to spend time holding and staring at Violet. She’s most often asleep and when she’s awake, she fusses a lot, often for reasons we can’t fathom, but like breaks in the clouds, there are the times when she’s awake, tongue slightly poking out, and calmly observing the world. I talk or read to her, even though I know every word is beyond her. Sometimes she even seems to pay attention. Already we can see changes and today, Linda discovered she's outgrown her first outfit.I can't say whether or not it's what I expected - the diapers are definitely more numerous and... full than I pictured - but I'm amazed how we've adapted to this completely new arrangement - this family.

32 days old

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon."

Linda and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to how we look at Violet. I watch her random eye movements and flailing limbs and I look forward to the time when some true form of interaction occurs with my daughter – when a smile will be answered with a smile, when the grip of her miniature hand is more than just reflex. Linda wants to hold Violet at this age forever, reveling in the simplicity of this tiny, adorable human being that belongs completely to just us two. She is safe. She is warm. She is ours. As I mentioned yesterday, Linda said she still doesn’t feel like a mother, and I offered the explanation that maybe the feeling will arrive when Violet starts responding to us. Linda wondered if it would happen once she went back to work, when we returned to something that resembles our old schedules. I mentioned this to a friend today, a mother of two, and she spoke of how with her own children, she was always looking forward to their next stage of development. “I can’t wait ‘till they’re walking…I can’t wait ‘till they’re talking… (and now) I can’t wait until they’re out of the house.” I find myself doing that a lot - looking ahead, and not just with Violet but with life in general. And it drives home an idea that’s been phrased in so many different ways – it’s hard to enjoy the present when you’re focused on the future. So, I’ll try to stop waiting for what comes next with Violet and just enjoy her as she is – in all her cross-eyed, grunting beauty.

31 days old

Monday, December 20, 2010

Has It Sunk In Yet?

The other night, Linda said, “I don’t feel like someone’s mother. I feel like a crappier version of me – one that’s tired all the time with a worse figure.” I kept my eyes on the road and said, “You will.”

30 days old

Sunday, December 19, 2010

First Night Out

Earlier this week I told Linda that I would be helping out at the Nature Center on Saturday, volunteering for their Christmas Bird Count (see yesterday’s post). She looked me square in the eye and stated, “You will be home by lunch. I need to get out of the house.” So, I cut my bird counting short, and yesterday afternoon, we put a warm Santa hat on Violet and had our first real outing as a family. It wasn’t a grand outing. We dropped off some donations at AmVets, picked up some groceries, went to a bookstore, and went out to eat (now, as I write it, it does seem like a lot). At the bookstore, I was fascinated by how many people stopped us or walked right up to admire Violet, while mothers with children only slightly older walked by unaccosted. At what age do babies stop being a celebrity? And it was odd to realize that from now on, any time spent in public with Violet will be a time where my attention is completely divided, split between paying attention to whatever it is I need or want to accomplish and making sure Violet is safe. And both of us found ourselves questioning whether we were taking Violet out too soon. She is still so small and it was so cold. We just couldn’t stop the, “Are we being selfish?” question from repeating in our minds. Dinner was a calmer affair. We went to our favorite restaurant, a vegan place in Darien Center (Can you believe it – in Darien Center?) called Minty Wellness. There was only one other couple dining, but we didn’t want to disturb anyone if Violet started crying, so we asked to sit outside the main dining area. We’ve gotten to know the owner, though, and when she saw us she insisted that we sit in the main area. She fawned over Violet, she was kind enough to find Linda a private space to breastfeed, and she asked to hold Violet when Linda came back to the table. So, for most of our meal, the owner went about her work with Violet on her hip while we ate and marveled at how beautiful our daughter looked. Most of our conversation was Linda telling me how tough it was trying to change Violet. Cleaning her off, dealing with the dirty diaper – how do people do it? And what happens when this kid starts to move around more? Right now, Violet is more a less a paperweight. She stays put while we get another washcloth or a diaper, but I imagine she’ll soon be more like a tennis ball, rolling to God knows where when left on her own. By the end of the meal, we were anxious to get back to the security of home. The new parent guilt and the stress were welling up. We ate dessert quickly, but damn it, we ate it. And it was good.

29 days old

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Littlest Birder

Every year, about a week or two before Christmas, I wake up before dawn and leave my warm bed and home, heading out into the cold in search of birds. I’m not alone. It’s all part of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. All across North and South America, groups of people large and small, choose a location and attempt to count all the birds within a 15 mile circle. To someone whose interests lay outside of birds, it may seem boring, silly, or a downright waste of time, but all I can say to that is to try it at least once. Even for someone who doesn’t know a robin from a blue jay, there’s something about driving along the country roads, binoculars in hand, scanning every bush, tree, and birdfeeder; a mania takes hold, driving you to find just one more kind of hawk, one more woodpecker, one more whatever-kind-of-bird that is on the telephone wire. I’ve counted in the rain, in blizzards, on days when it was so cold I had to have hand warmers in both gloves and my boots, but it didn’t matter. Those days, the birds are actually a little easier to find (harsh weather often causes the birds to gather at feeders in greater numbers; on warm days, the range farther across the countryside). I should mention that all of this craziness is for a good reason: wildlife biologists, ornithologist, and a bunch of other “-ists” use the information from the Christmas Counts to paint a picture, a picture of the status of birds in North America. Christmas Counts have gone on for over 100 years, so the scientists have a lot of data to go on, and every time a count takes place, it provides data that makes the picture broader and richer. What does all of this have to do with Violet? Well, I’ve done the Christmas Count at Beaver Meadow for about 13 years. During each one of those counts, I never spent a moment imagining future counts. This was the first year that I spent most of the day envisioning future counts. I kept picturing Violet by my side in a little snowsuit, a child-size pair of binoculars in her hand, pointing her mittened hand and saying, “Look, Daddy!” I know I’m getting ahead of myself. She may not even like birds, but I hope she does.

If the Christmas Count sounds like something you’d like to do, check out for a list of the Christmas counts still going on in your area. They take place during the two weeks before Christmas, as well as the two weeks after. So, you still plenty of time to take part.

28 days old

Friday, December 17, 2010

Perfection - you'll never reach it.

In past posts, I wrote about whether or not we will shelter Violet from the all the truths of the world, at least while she is still young. Today, something made me think of a truth I learned maybe too late in life. Growing up, I never had an adult that I thought of as a role model; a person that I wanted to emulate. I wasn’t looking for one, either, or at least I didn’t know I was until I found one in college. It was one of my professors, and I placed him on a dangerously tall pedestal. I would watch this person teach and tell stories of his life, and I would think, “That’s what I want to do. That’s how I want to live.” (Yes, it was maybe somewhat creepy.) I can remember to this day how disappointed I was when I found out that he wasn’t perfect. It was a hard slap to the face, and I was furious at him for disappointing me, for fooling me into believing he was something more than fallible. The depths of my unfairness knew no bounds. Maybe if I’d ever followed sports, I would’ve found out earlier that even the most talented, intelligent, and charismatic people have a laundry list of faults, just like the rest of us. Some are better at hiding it than others, shoving it deep under layers of confidence and personality, and the star struck gaze of the admirer sees what it needs to. Ultimately, the list always finds its way to the top. It took me more time than I want to admit, but I eventually realized that the perfect role model is a fiction, right up there with the honest politician. What I admired about my professor was still there despite what I saw as his faults, and the realization helped me take a more honest look at my own shortcomings, too. So what do we do with Violet? Let her discover for herself sometime down the line that no one is perfect (even daddy), or do we explain it to her a little earlier on?

27 days old

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gift Cards All Around (And Pictures of Violet)

Does having a baby in late November qualify as an excuse for starting my Christmas shopping 9 days before Christmas?

26 days old

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Secret Weapon

Today was one of those days requiring dealings with ornery and unpleasant people. Faced with such individuals, I can’t think straight. I try to remember that the true measure of our character is how we treat the people we don’t like. Somehow, having Violet around makes playing well with others that much easier.

 25 days old

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tabula rasa

Nights like tonight, when I have time to sit with Violet, I can’t help but be overwhelmed at this empty vessel in my arms, this blank slate. Linda and I will fill her with lessons intentional and otherwise, they will intermingle with whatever ingredients of personality are inherently her own, and some unknowable amalgam will emerge as our daughter. I’m dying to meet that person, to get to know her mannerisms, to hear how she laughs or better yet, to know her sense of humor. How will she look standing in the snow or opening presents on Christmas morning? Will she be slow or quick to anger, cry, forgive? I know I have some influence over the answers to these questions, but no one can tell me for sure – no matter what anyone says – how much influence I have. Still, it’s a little scary. So, for now, it’s nice to just sit back and enjoy this perfect child that I haven’t messed up yet.

24 days old

Monday, December 13, 2010

Like Softest Music to Attending Ears

There is no more satisfying sound than a burp emanating from a just-fed baby on your shoulder.

23 days old

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Do I Need to Know How Many Dirty Diapers We Had on the 5th?

Best advice received recently: stop recording every time we feed Violet and every time she poops or pees (We just completed our 21st log page.). It just gives us one more thing to agonize over.

22 days old

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Standing on the Shoulders of Quiet Giants

When I was 23, I was fortunate enough to land a job living and working at a nature center. It was a dream job for me because I was paid to spend hours and hours outside, working with plants and animals (human and otherwise), learning and teaching about every facet of the natural world in any way that I could envision. Some days found me in a school, draping a corn snake around the shoulders of an eight year old. Others found me in the Adirondacks, on the water with paddle in hand and behind me, a flotilla of canoes filled with adults and children zigzagging back and forth across the water, practicing the strokes that I had just taught them. Many days found me working with volunteers. The nature center depended heavily on volunteers, and this center was blessed with a dedicated core group. Mostly retired, they came from all around to fill various needs, be it trail maintenance, tour guide, gift shop clerk, or greeter. I can’t overstate how much these people gave (and give) in terms of their time, experience, and skill. As a relatively young man still learning how to do my job, they taught me a great deal about how to be a good naturalist and a good person, and I used to tell people it was like having fifty sets of parents. They took care of me in many ways. When I got engaged, they overwhelmed Linda and me with a magnificent bridal shower, and when I left the center to become a teacher, they threw us another big bash, this one a farewell, including generous contributions toward my graduate school tuition. I told them then that it had been an honor and a privilege to work with them, and that I would miss them all terribly. Linda and I didn’t move too far away, but I don’t back get to the center as much as I should. I tell myself that it’s due to the demands of teaching, but I know that’s not entirely true. I did make it back this Saturday, though, because it was the day of the annual volunteer Christmas potluck. I wanted all of these wonderful people to meet Violet – for these people that played such a big part in my young adulthood to see where their influence led. Walking into the center with Violet in my arms, I told her, “Take a good look around this place, kid, because we’re going to be here a lot.”

21 days old

Friday, December 10, 2010

It Caught Me Off Guard

I felt the sweetest pang of pleasure today. Someone at work asked me about Violet, and I referred to her, maybe for the first time, as “my daughter.”

20 days old

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I do?

Since going back to work on Monday, I’ve not had to do any of Violet’s overnight feedings. Linda has kindly insisted that I get a full night’s sleep in order to be ready for work. Yet I’ve had at least one person a day tell me, “You look so tired!” I'm not sure whether to be offended or not.

19 days old

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

And It's Time

Time is a funny thing. Before Violet was born, I had a conversation with a two-child parent about the time you have before children are born and the time you have after children are born, and they made the offhanded comment, “I can’t remember what it was like to have the time to read a book.” That comment seared into my brain, and it scared me. A thought just kept repeating in my brain - forlornly, “..but I like reading books.” And I thought of this blog, too. Looking back over the list of posts, I feel a little stab of pleasure when I see a post that meant a lot to me – a post that helped me work through a thought – a post that touched on something worthwhile. Most of them I wrote during the summer, when I’m afforded the luxury of time. Some people can think on their feet. I am not one of them, so days without multitasking are usually the days when some sprout of a thought germinates in my head early in the morning, and I can pick at it all day long, coaxing it into blossoming into a paragraph or two by the time bedtime rolls around – a paragraph that satisfies me on some level I can’t really describe. It was harder to get into that frame of mind once school started. Once in a while, it would happen, but it was rare. Now that Violet is here, it doesn’t even seem like an option. Not that I’m complaining. I know it’s early on. I haven’t even been a parent a month, but I’m getting the inkling of an idea that becoming a parent is a crucible – the lack of sleep and the sundry demands of this little person burn away all the unnecessaries in your life, and you don’t really care. I may not get to read a book for awhile (a non-baby-related book, that is) but Violet’s presence just wipes away any shade of regret that comes with that thought.

18 days old

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Another Quote

It's Linda's birthday today, so I'll leave you with a quote:

Babies are always more trouble than you thought -- and more wonderful.

Charles Osgood

17 days old

Monday, December 6, 2010

Back to Work

I went back to work today after two weeks at home. There were times, over the course of the day, when I was completely absorbed in teaching, or planning, or correcting papers, or talking to a student or colleague, thinking of nothing else except for what was in front of me. And the moments that immediately followed these times would be moments I loved; moments when I would suddenly recall what was waiting for me at home.

16 days old

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sleeping Through Christmas

We took Violet on her first “fun” outing this weekend; we went to cut down our Christmas tree. Bundling her up in a great mismatched collection of fuzzy suits, socks, and gloves (really just more socks), we drove to the tree farm and strapped her onto Linda’s chest. The folks at the tree farm eyed my wife’s magnificent bulge with suspicion, but they "ooohed" and "ahhed" when we pulled the blanket back. We hiked up the tree farm’s hill, saw in hand, into the snow-covered trees and selected a tree much faster than we usually do. Violet slept the whole time, but it didn’t matter. She was there and it added so much to the experience. She doesn’t even know what Christmas is, but her presence changes what it is for us. From now on, it will be much less about me and Linda and all about creating something for her to remember and enjoy. We’re already thinking of all the little traditions we can start that will make her Christmases memorable – when to put the baby Jesus in the manger (Christmas eve), when she’ll be allowed to watch the Charlie Brown Christmas special (to keep it special – only within the two weeks before Christmas), and the ornaments that will be hers and hers alone to hang. She’ll sleep through most of this Christmas, but I’m hoping next year she’ll be a bit more aware. Can a one-year old comprehend Christmas?

15 days old

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Violet's Weigh In

People tell us that babies aren’t as fragile as they seem, but that’s hard to believe when I’m holding Violet. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable holding her; I was surprised at how easily she fit in the crook of my arm, but what weighs on the mind are the million things that could go wrong – things that are, for the most part, beyond our control. We went to the pediatrician’s on Friday, and when they put Violet on the scale we held our breath. The last time, she had lost too much weight. She was dehydrated and we had to start supplementing her diet with formula. We spent a number of days breastfeeding, pumping, and bottle feeding every two to three hours - waiting for Linda’s milk supply to come in. But this time, she was a few ounces above her birth weight – and all was right with our little girl. Walking back to the car, Linda and I both felt as if we had just passed a test. We’ve kept her alive this long.

14 days old.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Resistance is Futile

Konrad Lorenz was a man who thought a lot about babies. He was a researcher who, about sixty years ago, put forth the idea that babies are cute for a very specific reason. It turns out that all of Violet’s features that I find so adorable have a purpose. The large head perched atop the disproportionately small body, the big eyes and small, short nose set low on the face, the round and soft body features – the cyclone of cuteness that all babies possess is designed by nature to turn us adults into jelly. Lorenz, and researchers since, proved to a considerable degree, that baby features trigger nurturing responses in adults. They’re evolutionary adaptations that ensure adults will care for the offspring of their species. What’s more, babies of other species have gotten in on the act – it’s the reason so many people can’t say no to a free kitten. One look in those big, round eyes and biology kicks in. Scientists even discovered similar traits in a baby triceratops skull. Knowing all this probably won’t help me say no when my little girl asks me for something she doesn’t need, but it might help me feel better if and when I give in. You can’t fight evolution.

13 days old

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Freeze Frame

Linda keeps saying how she wishes Violet could stay a newborn forever. At this size, she’s little more than a handful; perfect for holding in the crook of an arm; tolerant of staring and unable/not desiring to get away from our constant attention (she’s usually asleep anyway). Her needs are, for the most part, basic. Friends and relatives tell us to enjoy this time because this Violet will soon be gone, replaced by a crawling blur of energy. Linda doesn’t want to be reminded. She wants to freeze this time. I do, too. It’s one reason we’ve already taken hundreds of pictures, but I’m insanely curious and anxious for what comes next – for when I see that first spark of recognition in Violet’s eyes, when there appears a smile that I know is for me, for a time when interaction begins. I think then I’ll start to feel more like a daddy.

12 days old

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside

There was a snowstorm today. Normally, I’d be out in the woods enjoying it or itching to be, but I didn’t feel the twinge today. I stayed inside to help take care of Violet, and as the snow came down hard outside, we took a nap. There is no better place during a snowstorm than on the couch, asleep with a newborn on your chest.

11 days old