Monday, January 31, 2011

What is Grey Owl doing here?

I keep a file on my computer called "blog" and it's that file I open when I'm stumped for something to write about. It has about two dozen ideas in various states of life - some are only a sentence or two, some longer, some out-of-date, and some too revealing (at least for now) to release into the world. Some ideas I return to every few days, adding words or taking them away, massaging the lines into something that feels finished. Some sit in the file, untouched for weeks, until a night comes along when the mental tumblers slide into place and I suddenly see what I was trying to say. Here's something I wrote that I've been hacking away at for over a month:
“Have you ever heard of Grey Owl? He was an Ojibwe Indian guide and trapper who lived in central Ontario, and he was one of the first people to write about conservation - a new concept in his time. He gave up trapping and devoted his time to publishing books and articles about the wilderness, writing in an eloquent and engaging style, and his popularity grew to the point that he toured Canada and England, even meeting with King George VI. He influenced the early conservation movement and inspired individuals like David Attenborough to become naturalists. The twist in the story? Grey Owl wasn’t really an Indian. His real name was Archibald Belaney. Born in England, he sailed to Canada as a young man and eventually adopted an Indian identity, a ruse he sustained for roughly twenty years. His origins were revealed after his death in 1938, and the revelation caused publishers to pull his books and his name to virtually disappear until a recent resurgence in interest.”
I haven't changed it too much from its original state, but I could never figure out why this idea came to mind as I sat pondering Violet and what to say about her. I still can't figure it out. Maybe I just want to tell you about Grey Owl because he was a great writer with a compelling backstory. Maybe it's because he spoke up for something that means a great deal to me and I hope will mean a great deal to Violet. Maybe he's a great example of how we all show one side of ourselves to the world - the side that we want the world to see - while the "real" one looks out from the mirror when we're alone. Are the happiest people the ones who can reconcile the two to some degree? Maybe this idea is so persistent because I find it frustrating that Grey Owl was such an eloquent voice for the wilderness and a treasure trove of backcountry knowledge but also a horrible husband and father, abandoning children and wives from England to Canada. They're all good reasons to write about him, I suppose, but I'll leave it to you to decide. What does he have to do with Violet?

72 days old

Wikipedia article on Grey Owl:

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Fall

One day, when I eight or nine years old, I was carrying my baby brother Brian around the house. I held him against my chest, facing me, and ran from the kitchen into the family room, picking up speed, before stopping suddenly to slide across the floor on my socks. On some previous day, I had discovered that this made Brian squeal with delight, and despite my stepmother’s decree that I would stop doing such a dangerous move, I continued doing it when she wasn’t around; the look on his face, and the knowledge that I put it there, was just too pleasing. Of course, she was right. On my last run, I tripped over my own feet and fell forward, more or less landing on my infant brother. I still remember with complete clarity how very wide his eyes were as I pushed myself off of him. He looked strange, lying on the bare floor, but for a split second, I thought he might be okay. He wasn’t crying. Maybe I didn’t hurt him. Maybe I wouldn’t be in trouble. And then, he started to scream. Louder than I thought a baby could scream, and that’s where my memory of the event ends. I’m sure much yelling followed and probably some punishment came my way, but I have no idea what it was. My guilt stayed with me, however, and I thought about that day nearly every time I picked up a baby for years afterward. The memory faded eventually, but it came back during a recent late night feeding, while I was half asleep and trying to burp Violet. She surprised me with a forceful, backwards jerk of her head, and I thought to myself that if my grip had been looser, she might have slipped from my arms. And in my mind, there was Brian, on the floor, screaming. So now when I walk with her, I probably hold her a little too tight. Walking back and forth in the middle of the night, trying to persuade a burp, I keep a death grip on one of her legs.

71 days old

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Party Girl

We just returned from a family party – my 5 year old niece’s birthday party. Here are some things I learned today:

• Before Violet, Linda and I needed about an hour to get ourselves from a pajamas and bedhead state to “ready to leave the house”. With Violet, prep time is at least a half hour longer.

• Taking a two-month old out for the afternoon requires more bags and gear than we used to pack for a weekend trip.

• We can no longer schedule stops between home and a family party, at least while Violet is a baby. Too many people are waiting to hold her, and I could tell we disappointed them when we walked into the party, said, “Sorry, she needs to eat,” and locked ourselves in a bedroom for twenty minutes.

• When we breastfeed Violet in a separate room at someone else’s house, we should lock the door.

• Violet can get even the most serious person to emit babytalk

• We should get home before Violet’s bedtime – otherwise she is wide awake while Linda and I can barely keep our eyes open (or write a post).

70 days old

Friday, January 28, 2011

Whine beats Whine

Violet has been inexplicably fussy the past few evenings. Her mood’s even-keeled all day, but when the sun goes down, it shifts. Full belly, dry diaper, a good burp – her needs are met, and still she fusses. She’s not in meltdown, but she’s not happy. Walking with her face-out, sitting up against my stomach will keep her calm for a bit, but it’s a temporary fix. Linda did some reading today, and it could be reflux, or it could be something Linda ate. The book said breastfeeding mothers should avoid dairy and wheat – with Linda being vegan/gluten-free that’s no problem - but she should also steer clear of soy, beans, cabbage-type vegetables, broccoli, chocolate, tomatoes, onions, and spices. That’s a good chunk of what we eat, but to ease her mind, Linda told me to hide the chocolate (there is no bigger sign that Linda loves Violet than her willingness to forego chocolate). I’m skeptical of the reflux theory because it’s just after as I type this, and Violet is sleeping next to me on the couch, nestled in pillow and blanket. The dust buster settled her tonight and last night; the loud drone of its motor soothes her like nothing else. Could the noise take her attention away from the pain of reflux? Seems unlikely. Still, I feel like a cheater using it. Some part of me feels that we should figure this out without a mechanical crutch. The rest of me already has the dust buster on the charger, making sure it’s juiced up for tomorrow night.

69 days old

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Weight of Words

I once heard a folktale that said the reason birds can fly is because they lack the power of speech – that the weight of words would hold them down and it's that same weight that fastens our feet to the ground. I thought of that story today when Linda said, “I realized that I shouldn’t miss the way Violet was, because if she stayed like that, then we wouldn’t have this,” meaning the beautiful nine-week sitting in her arms. And it’s true. I’ve had so many people tell me that every stepping stone of a child’s growth is hard to abandon to time, but the next one brings with it some enthralling leap forward in personality or movement or sound. Right now, only the barest hint of a personality rests on Violet – in the way she looks at us, how she reacts to our travels around her and with her – and her sounds are limited to only a few vowels. She is so easy to love – and our relationship is simple. On the one hand, I look forward to the day when her lips move with the knowledge of speech, even the rudimentary sort, and we can begin building a deeper understanding of each other, but I’ll miss this, too.
68 days old

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gift of the Mother

Monday was a snow day. I told Linda that she should take the day and spend some time by herself – go to a bookstore, do some shopping – and I would watch Violet. It would have been the first stretch of time she had to herself since Violet was born. She dismissed the idea almost immediately, as if I’d said, “Let’s give Violet some vodka,” and I figured that was it. But a little while later, she decided to do it, and I thought to myself, “I’m a pretty good husband.” Later that night, I overheard her talking to our sister-in-law, saying how she hadn’t really cared about the time to herself. She wanted to give me the time alone with Violet.

67 days old

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

I realize the irony in my posting this to an online blog...

I read an article* today about our “digital afterlife”, describing how, as we all become more involved in the online world and social networking, the more varied the possibilities for our digital selves after we’re gone. (I can hear you wondering, “What the hell does that mean?”) Apparently, there are companies starting up that will act as executor of your digital self and its properties upon your death (blogs, online accounts, Flickr accounts, webpages, etc.), and there is even a company called DeathSwitch that allows users to send digital messages from the great beyond to friends and loved ones (is it just me, or does that sound creepy to you, too?). With millions of people using Facebook and more and more people going online as part of their daily routine (think about it, are there many days you don’t go online at least once?), it was only a matter of time before someone saw this sort of business opportunity. How you look at all of this probably depends on how much time you spend in the digital world. I’m a relative newcomer to blogging, Facebook, and Twitter; I just started this past summer and one led to the others, but I know some people who don’t go more than several hours without tweeting or posting on their wall. Can you imagine turning off your computer and walking away from it – living your life without ever turning it on again? If you can, I’m with you, but you and I probably don’t have that much invested in our digital selves. Many other people do, and as time goes on, there’s just going to be more and more of them and less of us. I know this is a big can of worms I’m scratching at, and it’s a can that’s been pried open by many others, but reading that article left me wondering how all of this will relate to Violet. For her, technology will likely advance to the point where there will be no clear distinction between her online life and her off-line one. Part of me knows I have to accept that, but a bigger part of me – the part that wants to keep her away from video games and cell phones and Facebook as long as possible – hopes beyond hope that she’ll see all of these technologies for what they are – nice accessories to a life, not a substitute for one. A Facebook friend is no substitute for a real one, and a digital life is no replacement for one well lived among the living and the wild. A person should be able to live, and live well, without their phone and their computer, or at least be able to imagine doing so – to see the value in doing so. It worries me that its going to get more and more difficult – not only to imagine it, but to do it.

65 days old

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tell Me About Your Day...

I came home later than usual one night last week. Linda warmed up some dinner for me while I sat with Violet on the couch. She lay on her back and I leaned over, trying to coax a smile onto her lips. Over the course of several minutes, a stream of cooing, giggles, and consonant sounds emerged from her while she looked at me and intermittently flailed her arms and kicked her legs. I felt as though she were filling me in on everything that happened while I was gone. I asked her questions, and she fed me more noises. Whatever was happening, it was a first for Violet. Instead of feeling like a bystander – someone watching her watching the world – I felt like we were doing something with each other. Talking? Having our first conversation? Maybe. Just making noises together? I’ll take it. Whatever was going on, it was worth writing about.

64 days old

Saturday, January 22, 2011

All Good Things Must Come To an End

Did you know that for the first three months of their lives, babies do not comprehend cause-and-effect? In other words, you can spoil the hell out of them – respond to their every coo, cry, and whimper – without fear of establishing bad habits. Put them to bed early, late, whenever – tomorrow is a clean slate. Linda and I are hanging onto this notion like grim death, and why not? It's like in the movie Groundhog Day - yesterday never happened so there are no consequences! (Too early for flapjacks?) The problem is we are nearing the end of our free ride, and as all proud parents do, we assume our child is brilliant, so she’ll probably catch onto this cause-and-effect thing much earlier than the average kid, right? Oh God, maybe she already has, and she’s playing us for a couple of chumps.

63 days old

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dissapointed by a Snow Day?

At this morning, after feeding Violet and putting her to bed, I looked out the window to see the snow’s progress. I think all teachers pay extra attention to weather forecasts from November through March, and last night’s called for snow. The possibility of a snow day hung in the air like sex on the third date. Once upon a time, when I was studying to be a teacher, I wrote in some required “reflection” assignment how I wanted to become a teacher who would be disappointed by a snow day, and I hoped my future students would feel the same. Maybe it was a naive thought – okay, it definitely was. Is it even possible? I want to believe it is, and I want to believe I’m capable of it. But a snow day is such a beautiful thing, on so many levels, and now, with the difficulty of pulling myself away from my two beautiful, slumbering girls every morning – I don’t know if I’ll ever get there. And six or seven years from now, when I’m woken up by the sweet sound of a 5 AM “school is closed today” call, and I know a day with my little girl awaits – a day of snowshoeing, animal tracking, snow shelter building, and hot cocoa, I can’t picture myself thinking, “Damn!” Maybe it’ll happen after she goes off to college.

62 days old

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Shot of Angry

Violet is two months old today and we “celebrated” with a visit to the pediatrician (for some reason, I keep wanting to say “vet”). She’s up to 11 lbs., 12 oz., a weight that tells us she’s gained more than an ounce a day since the beginning of the month. That’s a good thing; our doctor said she rarely sees babies grow so well across all areas. Violet could be the vegan poster child.

Weeks of research into vaccines left us open to just one of the seven they wanted to give her today, and although I knew it was for Violet’s own good, that it was all part of being a parent, and that I had to just watch and console her as best I could, I wasn’t prepared for what I felt when it actually happened. That sliver of a needle pierced her skin, her face turned purple, and she cried so hard that it was one of those horrible, silent cries. I watched it happen, and I wanted to rip the syringe out and throw the nurse through the wall. I felt it for a moment, the instinct to protect that is there despite all reason and rational thought.

61 days old

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Keep An Open Mind

I’ve encountered a lot of debates lately – debates about guns, vaccines, veganism, Barbie dolls (maybe I’ll write more about the great Barbie doll debate some other night), but all of this back-and-forth exchange of ideas leaves me with another impression; an idea I hope to instill in Violet: always be ready and willing to change your mind, especially in the presence of a new perspective or new information. With that idea in her head, she’ll never make it as a pundit or politician, but her life will be less frustrating.

60 days old

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Chest Warmer

I came home from a long day and stretched out on the couch, Violet on my chest, her feet curled up underneath her, arms tucked up to her chest. Hands down, it was the best part of my day.

59 days old

Monday, January 17, 2011

Don't Look Back

This weekend was the first weekend that we had no visitors coming to see Violet. It was just us, and it gave me the chance to see what our weekends will be like for the foreseeable future. Back when Linda was pregnant, I wrote about how I thought our Sundays might go – those days when we sleep in and make a big breakfast and often never get out of our pajamas. I figured they wouldn’t be too different, and so far, I seem to be right. What I didn’t write then was that I was also wondering if I would miss the days when it was just Linda and me (Yes, I know that was selfish of me. I’m not proud of it.). Would I miss those Friday nights when we’d suddenly decide to go the movies or Saturdays when we would, on the spur of the moment, drive to Rochester? Before the baby arrived, a male friend of Linda’s with two kids told her that once your children arrive, “You never look back,” and I have to say that so far, he’s right. I haven’t thought much about what life was like before, and when I do, I don’t miss it. It’s more like looking back at someone else’s life – some guy that got more sleep – and I feel no envy because there’s no Violet in his life. She’s here, in my life now, so why would I want to be anywhere else? I asked Linda tonight if she thought that we would grow to miss our footloose, childless days at some point in the future, since all of this was still fairly new and exciting. She didn’t hesitate. “No, Violet will be there - doing everything with us.”

58 days old

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Who's Baby Was That?

Linda and I had some down time last night, and we went through the videos we took of Violet so far. There weren’t many, maybe a dozen or so clips and none of them much longer than a minute. Now, this is probably an utterly obvious statement to most parents, but I was completely taken aback by how much Violet has changed in the past eight weeks. I’ve noticed it to some degree in our photos, but the videos put the differences in stark relief. The ones we took at the hospital show a baby that appeared to have just returned from a rumble, a baby swollen from her ordeal. Her movements were erratic, jumpy. She responded to our words and movements on only the most basic level. “Primitive” is a word that comes to mind. “Fragile” is another, and I would’ve used it to describe her right up until we watched those videos last night. Now, her movements are those of a different baby; they’re almost purposeful, almost sure. She often smiles in response to ours, and every day, her gaze locks delightfully with ours for longer stretches of time. Compared with the baby in the video, Violet seems grown up - nearly ready to move out on her own. Those videos leave me wondering, “When did his happen?” Linda has said right along that she wants to keep Violet at the stage she’s at, but I never completely understood why until last night. Violet is changing at breakneck speed, and the Violet sleeping upstairs as I write this is a Violet that I’ll never get to spend time with again. So, I’m stopping here.

57 days old
7 hours old

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Five Days For a Permit? But I'm Mad Right Now...

The other day at work, another teacher and I were discussing guns. Not in a technical way, but more in a philosophical-debate-kind-of-way. He brought up the recent shooting of a congresswoman, and he commented that if everyone at that event had had a gun, then the shooting might not have happened, or at the very least, not as many bystanders would have died. I said that he was crazy – that a roomful of guns going off would’ve made the situation even uglier. That’s my opinion, and I know enough about myself to know that it’s rooted in the fact that I’m not comfortable around guns. I’ve fired one, enjoyed it, too,  but I just can’t get past the fact of how easily a gun can snuff out a life – intentionally or otherwise; that when you get right down to it, that’s the point of their existence – to end a life. They have the reek of death resting on them. (I’ve had people tell me that cars can kill just as easily, but that’s not why cars were invented.) But I’m sure I could get used to their presence, desensitized to it, especially if I grew up around guns, and I know most people who keep guns do it for practical reasons – hunting, self-defense, etc. A friend of mine who passed away a few years ago left a gun to me, but I never claimed it. I felt like having a gun in the house would fit in about as well as mirrors over our bed – just too unsettling. Sometime after Violet was born, the gun came to mind, and I wondered if I should bring it into our house – shouldn’t a father have one to protect his family? After living with the notion for a few days, I realized that more than ever, I didn’t want the gun in the house; I didn’t want it near Violet. The conversation with my fellow teacher got me thinking about it again, wondering why I didn’t see the gun as more of a tool than a danger, and the more I thought on it, I realized that the whole issue is really about control. We all have ways of keeping the dark possibilities of life at bay or at least off our minds. Most of them are necessary but futile, and while there’s no doubt that a gun in the hand grants a feeling of power, it’s an empty promise like most of our crutches. Life happens and the best thing that we can do to gain some measure of real control, the best thing I can try to teach Violet to do, is create a life that’s about making the world a better place.

56 days old

Friday, January 14, 2011

God, I Hope That's Mustard

This morning, as I kissed Violet’s foot, Linda said, “You should probably check and make sure there’s no poop on that first.”

55 days old

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Bees and Dogs Can Smell Fear - Can Babies?

I received an email forward today about parenting – one of those “now that you’re a parent, you’ll appreciate this…” emails – and there was a bit in there about how non-parents blithely judge the parenting techniques of other adults. It made me think of a post I wrote back in August in which I admitted to being guilty of such behavior, and I vowed then to try to look for parenting techniques that I wanted to emulate instead of condemning ones I didn’t. That goal still eludes me, but now that Violet’s here, my perceptions have changed. I watch other parents whose children behave like sociopaths and I am afraid; afraid because I’m only 54 days into this strange trip, Violet’s not even capable of coherent speech or taking a step, but I can already understand how a parent might end up there. Lack of sleep alone has a powerful ability to lower the bar on acceptable behavior. Cuteness does, too. C'mon, look at the picture down below, and tell me it's going to be easy to tell this kid, "No".

54 days old

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

15 minutes

Fifteen minutes. For the past few days, that’s about how long Violet will sit contentedly when she’s awake. There might be smiling, there might be cooing, definitely some flailing of limbs, and most likely some passing of gas, but after fifteen minutes the fussing starts. Her breathing comes in short bursts, she turns various shades of red, and the corners of her mouth pull down into an adorably heart-breaking frown. We try various interventions, but we almost always end up pacing from the kitchen to the living room and back again with her draped over one shoulder. That’s her go-to position, be it the middle of the day or the middle of the night. When she's perched there, she's happy. There’s no denying the pleasant sensation of her leaning her head against my ear and feeling a big sigh leave her small frame, but it’s frustrating not being able to look at her. I can’t help wonder if there’s something wrong with her or with us; I tell myself that, of course, there's not, but what is it that leaves us with such a small window of contented face time? Maybe my beard frightens her...

 53 days old

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It's For You

I had to make one of “those calls” this afternoon – a call to a parent about something unfortunate their child did in school today. As the phone rang and I waited for them pick up, a thought occurred to me for the very first time, “My God, someday it’s going to be me answering one of these calls.”

52 days old

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Shot of Crazy

Linda and I are looking into vaccines for Violet. We’ve spent some time on most nights trying to educate ourselves on the dangers and the benefits of each shot – and it is baffling at times. You know how statistics can be used to prove any point? It works that way with scientific studies (even rigged ones) and vaccines. But this isn’t a post about what we’ve learned or what we’re going to do with Violet’s vaccines. This is a post about how whenever there’s a really important issue – like vaccination safety vs. public health – it seems like the crazies get the spotlight. I know I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but I find it disturbing that most info on vaccines consists of people screaming, “WAAAUUUGHH!!!!! Vaccines are the antichrist!!!” or, “WAAAUUUGHH!!!! Parents who don’t vaccinate their kids are hippie antichrists!!!” I’m paraphrasing….a little. It takes some work to find voices of reason – voices that respect you enough to give you the facts – the real risks and the real benefits - and let you make your own decision. Too often in this world, “crazy” is so easy to find and “sane” is so well-hidden – I hope Linda and I can give Violet the tools to find the latter, and the strength to let us know when we’re drifting towards the former.
51 days old

Sunday, January 9, 2011

God Smiled on Me Last Night

Is there any better alignment of the cosmos than when, in the latest, most sleepy part of the night, you put your  baby in her bed after a feeding and she falls right to sleep?

50 days old

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Frailty, Thy Name is Memory - Part 2

My post yesterday got me thinking more about photographs. According to the file folder on our computer, Linda and I have taken over 900 pictures of Violet. I’m surprised by the number, too. My plan was to take one picture a day, not 20, but here we are. Why do we feel the need to capture every smile, every look, every angle of her face? Is it a bad thing? Are we overdoing it? I don’t know, but I wonder if our obsession will continue. Violet’s still a new addition to our reality; in my mind, when I think of “us” I think of me and Linda, and then I catch myself – oh, that’s right - and Violet, too. But an undeniable fact of our reality is that if we keep taking pictures at this rate, we’ll never have time to look at them all. The author Douglas Coupland recently wrote about people who “tape pretty much everything…and there’s not enough time in life to review even a fraction of those recorded memories. Kitchen drawers filled with abandoned memory cards.” I read that and it made me think of a book I read a number of years back called The Beach by Alex Garland. It was a modern day take on Lord of the Flies, only instead of schoolboys marooned on an island, it involved twentysomething vagabond travelers finding the perfect beach on the perfect tropical island and keeping it a secret. The main character was a self-absorbed young man who scoffs at the idea of taking pictures. To him, any picture he takes of an experience will limit his memories to what’s in the picture – that’s all he’ll remember. He sees pictures not as capturing memories, but as restricting them. When I read the book, the sentiment sounded familiar because I felt the same way in my early twenties. My trips to Europe, camping trips with friends, bonfires on the beach – I took few pictures because I had some high and mighty notion that it would somehow pollute the moment. And maybe it would have. It's hard to fully engage with something that you're recording, but by the time I read The Beach I realized what I wrote in yesterday’s post – memory is a faulty construction, and that wouldn’t be so bad on it’s own. I’d be happy if I could remember all the details of my youth and young adulthood, even if those details weren’t exactly true – the bigger problem is that memory is also lazy – or at least mine is, and there is so much of the past that just slips away, and if I haven’t written about it or taken a picture of it, eventually, it’s just gone. And I’m not even 40. I know I have to accept a certain amount of that – 900 pictures really is too much. It’s not practical or even logical to try and capture that much; I’d be better off just spending more time with Violet than spending too much time taking pictures of her, but I’m figuring that years from now, when Violet has grown up and moved away, and I’m waiting for her to call, or email, or Skype, or whatever we’ll be using in twenty years to communicate, I’ll be looking through the piles of pictures and videos while I wait, happy and grateful that I took more than enough.

49 days old

Friday, January 7, 2011

Frailty, Thy Name is Memory

Linda says that she can no longer remember the pain of childbirth – not the hours of contractions leading up to the delivery room nor the pain of pushing. She’s had other women tell her as much (one friend heard that there’s a hormone released after childbirth that causes a woman to forget the pain). Linda regrets that we didn’t take pictures or video of the day and night leading up to Violet’s birth, and she really wishes that she could’ve seen the birth. She freely admits that, at the time, if I’d tried to capture any of those moments on film, she would’ve fed the camera to me. I remember wondering for a brief moment as we were on our way to the hospital, ” Should I get a picture of this?” but then a contraction hit and the thought was gone. It didn’t seem right at the time. I’m not sure how I feel about the idea – pictures or video of Linda kneeling on the floor in pain or doubled over in the front seat of the car or the gory reality of birth. Those moments have their own sort of beauty, but how often would we throw that video in the DVD player or flip through those photos? So we have to rely on our own faulty memories. We both started writing our own versions of that day – neither of us have finished, and I’m amazed when I sit down to write more how much I’ve already forgotten.

48 days old

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Good Morning, Good Morning

This morning I was finishing up in the bathroom, getting ready for work, when I heard Linda yell, “Bill, I need to get in there!” I opened the door to her holding Violet, splashes of spit up across and down the front of her shirt. She put Violet on the changing pad next to the sink. “She puked all over the rug in front of the couch, too.” Violet had spit up all over her own shirt and diaper, and Linda started the process of a complete diaper/clothes change. I squeezed past her to clean up the rug, and when I came back, Violet had started choking. She does it alarmingly often and for no apparent reason. Sometimes, it upsets her, and it did this morning. Linda bent over her, leaning in close to comfort her, and a moment later gave out a yell, jumping back. Violet discharged a small, steady arc of urine onto the counter, and Linda had a large, oval wet spot on the stomach of her shirt – to go along with the spit up – and a big smile on her face. It was not yet .

47 days old

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fox in the Snow

Linda spotted a fox crossing our driveway yesterday. It moved on delicate paws, stopped for a quick survey of the surroundings, and continued on, purposefully, towards the woods. I was sorry to have missed it because I always savor a sighting of one; it’s such a rare occurrence. Not quite a feline, not quite a canine, foxes are a fluid blend of both (although strictly speaking, they are a canine), and they fascinate me. When Linda told me about the animal, I wondered if its mate was nearby. Foxes pair up in mid- to late-December, usually with the same mate each year. Anyone who makes a habit of studying animal tracks will tell you that, like clockwork, the arrival of winter coincides with a change in fox tracks. Throughout the fall, foxes are solitary, leaving a lonely, single line of tracks after early snows, but around the solstice, nearly every line of fox tracks has a companion set running parallel to it, sometimes up to two hundred yards away, sometimes just beside it, left by a mate. The two foxes roam and hunt together before establishing a den and giving birth to a liter of kits, often around Valentine’s Day. They raise the kits throughout the rest of the winter, spring, and summer, before the family breaks up at summer’s end.

As I held Violet today and looked out into the postcard snow, I thought of that fox and its mate, both of them preparing to start a family in a harsh and handsome world. I couldn’t help feeling a small measure of kinship.

46 days old

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Maybe She's Just Not That Into You

Violet rarely looks directly at us. The books say that, as their sight develops, infants more often look at the edges of the objects in front of them. I think it’s nature way of making them all the more fascinating. Aren’t we all drawn to people that don’t seem interested in us? I make goofy faces, talk in a high baby voice, speak in overly excited tones – I do everything this side of standing on my head – and Violet looks juuuust off to the left of me. And I keep coming back for more.

45 days old

Monday, January 3, 2011

Just a play-by-play of the day, but it feels necessary...

It was a roller coaster of a day. Violet decided at this morning that she wanted to stay up. I tried for a good 20 minutes to lull her back to sleep – jiggling her, walking with her on my shoulder, holding her on her side; twenty minutes doesn’t sound that long, but that early in the morning, when you have to get up for work in a couple of hours, you can’t help but feel a little panicky. I finally woke Linda up and asked her to take over. She graciously complied. Then, before I left for work, Linda pointed out a small lump at the base of Violet’s neck. It was about the size of a raisin, just under the skin, and it moved when I touched it. I told her it felt like a gland (I had no idea what it was). She called the doctor and made an appointment. So, I left for work, a little sleepy, a little worried, and a little miserable about having to leave Violet and Linda after a week at home. I talked to Linda after the appointment, and things were looking up. Violet’s weight, which we hadn’t had measured since our last doctor’s visit in early December (8 lbs, 5 oz) was up to 10 lbs. 10oz., and the doctor said she looked “perfect”. The doctor also said the lump was nothing to worry about and that it was a gland (Wow! I was right?) that was slightly inflamed, maybe due to Violet’s baby acne, and that it should go down soon. Good news! I felt better. Then I came home from work to find Linda a bit overwhelmed. She’d gone grocery shopping – never an easy task with an infant – and from then on, Violet had alternated between crying and eating. While preparing dinner, Linda had to keep one foot on Violet’s chair, rocking her. We also had made plans to continue our research into vaccines tonight. Violet’s two month appointment is coming up and the doctor will be wanting to begin the shots. We want to make informed decisions, but, man, there’s a lot of competing and conflicting information out there. It’s going to take some time to absorb it all. Now, it’s , Violet’s sleeping on the couch between us, making noises strange and soft, diapers are tumbling rhythmically in the dryer, and Linda’s finishing her dinner.

44 days old

Sunday, January 2, 2011

January Blackout

My new year’s resolution is more of a month-long thing: No TV during the month of January. No movies, no TV shows, no video games. I’ve written before how I would like to get rid of our TV completely, especially now that Violet’s around, but Linda’s not completely behind the idea. She hates commercial TV, but she loves popping in a video during dinner or on a lazy afternoon. To be fair, I do, too. She says I’m into self-deprivation, and maybe she’s right, but I got the idea for this “no TV for a month” last January. I noticed that once winter sets in and we aren’t outside as much, time spent in front of the TV definitely spikes. There’s books to read, writing to be done, odd jobs around the house – but on most nights, it’s much easier to turn on the TV. After a long day at work, I feel like I earned the relaxation time, but after an hour or two spent on my butt staring at the screen, I start to feel antsy – a little guilty. Is it just me? A night spent in front of the TV, no matter how entertaining the movie or the show, no matter how many zombies I skillfully execute, is not an evening that leaves me feeling fulfilled. Time spent next to someone on the couch, both people staring at a screen, is not quality time. So I’m telling myself that it’s not about self-deprivation – it’s about self-fulfillment. Last year, with that month of the TV turned off – I read more than usual – to myself and out loud to my wife, I wrote more than usual and talked to friends more than usual (including my wife). True, come February 1st, we went a little nuts. I think we watched three or four movies that day, but the month of January was like a reset to zero. It showed me how much time I could have if I wanted it, and most nights I went to bed feeling like I accomplished something more than a day at work. Ever since Violet was born, I’ve been trying to get down on paper the story of her birth – from first contraction to mop up. Every day, I try to read at least one book to her. And a day is just not complete without at least an hour of moony-eyed staring at her. Over the course of this month, I’m hoping to keep all these balls in the air and add a bunch more. Linda may protest, but I’m thinking I might stretch the no-TV ban to two months.

PS – Before I come across sounding like a husband who won’t let his wife watch TV just because I don’t want to, I’ll point out that my no TV resolution applies only to me - Linda is free to watch TV whenever she wants. She just feels guilty turning on the TV when I’m home and won’t watch it.

43 days old

Saturday, January 1, 2011

And it was good...

Violet is starting to smile. It’s not consistent yet. She does it when I bicycle her legs or now and then when we’re looking at each other (Linda’s insisting that she does it more for me and that she must like me more). There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason yet, but when it does happen, it’s like looking into the face of God. Really. I’m a little frightened of the day when she learns to control her ability to smile. I will be putty.

42 days old - Happy New Year!