Friday, May 31, 2013

Belly-button lint meltdowns, congratulations and one-upping, and gentle rage

Installment number two of this month's conversations with my daughter. Also, in case you're confused, this comic is mostly connected by the way my daughter tells me to calm down.
I spent the morning chopping at a stump with a mattock, and when I came back I stripped off my disgusting shirt and chased my wife and daughter, trying to give them hugs. I got The Look from my wife, so I stopped chasing. But I decided to turn the melodramatic tables on my daughter. 
Addison (pointing to my belly-button): What is that? 
Me: A little piece of schmutz. 
Addison: You need to get it out.

Me: I can't. You do it.

Addison (a disgusted look on her face): I don't want to touch it.

Me (falling on my knees): HELP ME!

Addison (backing away): I can't.

Me (arms thrown back, shouting at the sky): FOR! THE! LOVE! OF! PETE! GET IT OUT!

Addison (approaching to pat me on the shoulder): Calm down, dad.


Addison (holding her hands up, palms towards me, placating): It's okay, dad. It's okay. Just take a shower.

Me (sighing): Okay.

Me: Guess how many people saw my comic? 
Addison: How many? 
Me: A million. 
Addison (exuberant, clapping hands): SO MANY!! 
Addison (suddenly nonchalant): I have a pretend comic. 
Me: You do? What's in it? 
Addison: It has Barbie and a dog. Just those. But there was a gorilla too, and that's all. Lot of people saw my comic too. Probably about a million, or more than that. 
Me: Are you one-upping me? 
Addison: Yes. 
I knew I could count on my three-year-old to crush my self-esteem. I mean, keep me humble.

Just had a long conversation with my daughter about why, when you hurt yourself, it doesn't really help to hit the offending thing. You know, 'cause you could break your hand or something. 
Addison (demonstrating a very delicate remonstration): But if I just hit it gentle, like *this* then it won't hurt so much. 
As long as it's a gentle rage you direct at inanimate objects, kiddo, I won't offer any criticism.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rorschach tests, the primacy of pink, and alien life

I'm catching up with conversations had with my daughter over the last month, and here's the first installment. Her early proclivities towards drawing are still going strong, which makes me a proud dad.
Addison comes running, a paper flapping in her hand. 
Addison: Look! Look what I drew! 
Me: What is it? 
Addison: I don't know! Tell me! Tell me! 
With my three-year-old already giving me Rorschach tests, I wonder when the psychoanalysis comes.
While coloring with my daughter, I started to put the cap on the pink marker and reach for the green one. 
Addison: Hey! Do NOT put that cap on! 
Me: But I was just going to... 
Addison: No! You are using the pink. I asked for you to use it, and so you need to USE IT! 
Me: When do I get to use something else? 
Addison: When I tell you to. Now, finish coloring! 
She's especially assertive today. And really likes pink.
This morning after working on our letters on the whiteboard, we turned to drawing: 
Addison: Wait, what are you doing dad? 
Me: Drawing an alien. 
Addison (laughing): Not on earth! Aliens are not on earth! Silly daddy. (still laughing) 
Me: Okay, where are aliens? 
Addison: On that other planet. The RED one. 
She marches over to the far side of the white board and jabs her finger at a blank spot in the corner. 
Addison: You can draw the red planet here. And that's where the aliens are. 
I can not tell you how psyched I am that the exploration (and colonization?!) of Mars is basically occurring during the most formative years of her life. This kid is gonna learn about outer space, I can tell you. It reminds me of the sense of wonder I had as a kid. This is really going to be a lot of fun.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Reading in the Dark

I've recently been lamenting to my wife that it's been a long time since there was a good movie for Addison in the dollar theater. Back before Christmas-time, we'd go on daddy-daughter dates to the dollar theater once or twice per month, and there was some real quality stuff with Brave and The Secret World or Arrietty and a few others. But Lindsay and I just watched Wreck-It Ralph this week, and while we enjoyed it, we agreed it was a little intense for our three-year-old
And it doesn't look like there's much on the horizon. I'm pretty sure Addison will love Monster's University, since she LOVES its predecessor, but it'll probably be the end of summer before it shows up in the dollar theater. When it does get here, though, we'll likely end up watching it five or six times on the big screen. And the first two or three times, I'll probably watch as raptly as she does. There's nothing quite like snuggling with your kid and watching a great show, laughing together and excitedly pointing out the cool bits.
After the first couple times, of course, I'll start trying to figure out ways to occupy myself during the two hours of darkness. I love to see how excited my daughter is to go to the movie theater, and so I've spent a lot of time thinking about what to do when I bring her there for repeat showings. I wrote this piece back in December when we were still watching Brave in the theater:

The theater lights go out, and I smile to myself as latecomers scramble to find seats and run into each other, spilling their popcorn and bruising their shins. Suckers. Of course, this could have been me on any number of other occasions. But not today. Today is different. Today is the fourth screening of Brave with my toddler at the dollar theater, and we finally got it right. Fourth time’s the charm. 
Addison sits on my lap, her head leaning back against my chest. She holds one of my fingers in her hand and a baby carrot in the other. I’m pretty sure she’s going to forget which hand holds the edibles, but I’m feeling benevolent. Maybe this time I won’t get bit. Her hair smells faintly of soap and spaghetti sauce. It’s nice. This is a good moment. 
The movie’s about to start, and I hold my daughter’s little body close as I bend and dig into the diaper bag, pulling out a book. So far, so good. I reach into my pocket, and pull out a little flashlight. Deep breath. Moment of truth, here we come. 
I remove my finger from the kid’s grasp and open the book in my left hand. I flick on the flashlight with my right. 
Too bright! Addison shields her eyes, and I can see the glow reflecting off of the walls nearby. I flick it off. I think for a while as I watch Merida and her “Mum” playing hide and seek. Maybe if I sort of cup the end of the flashlight in my fist, allowing just a tiny sliver of light to escape . . . 
Alright! It . . . kind of works. As long as I’m gripping the light just the right way . . . damn. I just blinded someone. I put the book down, re-positioning my fingers over the end of the light. 
Addison looks up at me and tries to swat my hand away. 
“Shhh. It’s okay. Just watch the movie, kiddo.” 
I try the light again. Okay, this could work. It takes me a minute to find my page in the book again. But Addison’s in the way. I struggle to find a way to get the light close to the page and also be able to see the thing. The light slips again. It’s like a little light show over in this corner of the theater. I wonder if I should whisper really loudly, “Sorry!” but decide against it. 
I make Addison get off my lap, but she's too small for the chair next to me, which keeps wanting to fold up and eat her. So I stand her up next to me in the aisle. She usually slides off my lap and ends up in that position sooner or later anyway. So I position my flashlight hand again, and make another attempt. 
I do my best to shield the light, which means that it comes out rather dim and unpredictably. I have to hunch forward and peer close to the page to read, but I’m going to make this work. I get through about a page and a half before my flashlight hand starts to cramp up. The pressure building up inside of me leaks out of my mouth in a strange, unpleasant sound. 
“What’s wrong, daddy?” 
“Nothing, just watch the movie.” 
I massage my hand and have another go at it. In the movie, a bear makes an appearance, and Addison rushes back for me and I fumble the flashlight. It rolls a couple of rows, stopping with the light shining down towards the front of the theater. Damn. Nation. 
I manage to get the book and flashlight packed away. I watch the rest of the movie with my daughter on my lap and thirty-thousand people staring angrily at the back of my head. I can feel them. It burns. 
Since I’ve got the movie memorized, we’re at the door before the scene fades to black. As we flee, I’m making revisions in my head for our next visit. Fifth time’s the charm, maybe. 
I imagine being back in the theater, holding a book in one hand, my daughter in the other, and still being able to read. Somehow. It’s close, I can feel it.

This story first appeared over at the Insatiable Booksluts. I should mention that I only ever go to matinee shows with Addison, which means that each theater is usually at less than 20% capacity, and there are lots of empty seats around us, and it's mostly just other moms with a bunch of rowdy kids. I'd fully expect to be assaulted for trying these shenanigans at a full-price theater at the height of a film's run. 

Another funny note is that after writing this, a lot of people's comments were like: "Um, you could just use an e-reader?" And it shows how technologically primitive we are that not only do we not own an e-reader, but neither my wife nor I even thought of one before I made my glow-in-the-dark comic. I'd still love to see a book printed on old-school glow-in-the-dark pages, though.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

This one goes out to all the mothers...

My blog is pretty me-centric. Lots of my words here, and not a lot of anyone else's (except for maybe my daughter's). 'Cause it's my blog. What else would you expect? But I'm actually part of a community of bloggers, both in a general, expansive sense, and in the sense that I participate in a Dad Bloggers Facebook group that includes hundreds of other dad bloggers. And since I've already said a bit about Mother's Day, I thought it might be cool to highlight some of the words of other dads to their wives and mothers. Because it's worth having a conversation about. I'll just end my own thoughts with these three pictures:

My mom with her firstborn (my sister)

My wife's mom, and my daughter's beloved Grammy
My bride
These ladies are the best.

And here go the other dudes:

Scott Behson - Fathers, Work and Family blog

You know how revved up Nick gets on nights you come home late and he gets out of bed, hides/jumps out to surprise you, runs around like a loony, and can’t get enough of cuddling and laughing with you? I feel that way too.

Happy Mother’s Day to the best wife and mom I could imagine. You have given me the gifts of true love, the amazing life we’re building together, and of fatherhood. I can never repay what you have given me. But I’ll spend every day trying.

Nik - DadLabs.  

Mother is the word for God on the lips and hearts of all children.” – Eric Draven
The greatest thing that’s ever happened to me is a direct result of the second greatest thing that’s ever happened to me, TheBoy&HisMother. I love you both. Happy Mother’s Day!

James W. - Naturally Daddy

“Who ran to help me when I fell,
And would some pretty story tell,
Or kiss the place to make it well?
My mother.”
~Ann Taylor

Mom, you taught me too much to explain all of the happiness that you brought into my life. To my wife, you are a very special woman and I could never imagine being in your shoes and our daughter could never have a more loving mother.

Jeff T.

Happy Mother's Day to four special women: To my mother, for unconditional love always, no matter what I ever did or said. To my mother in law, Nana, for the love and support. Seeing RJ with his Nana warms my heart. To my grandmother, matriarch of our family four generations strong, and enough love in her heart for many more. And lastly to my wife. RJ and I are so blessed to have you in our life.

Scotty Schrier - Dads Who Change Diapers 

There are only 26 paltry letters to describe the most important women in my life:
The one who gave birth to me and left this plane before meeting my sons.
The one who married me and gave birth to the two most amazing little miracles I have ever seen.
And the one who took my mother’s place and made me one of her own.
There are no words that can describe the debt I owe these women. I only hope that my actions can show them how much I truly care. For without them, I would be but a pale image of the man I am today. I love each and every one of you with all of the ferocity of a thousand suns. Thank you for putting up with me and loving me back. Especially when I didn’t deserve it.

Eric - Dad on The Run

My Mother looked life’s greatest obstacles in the eye and kept on trucking while I grew up with little understanding of that. Over the years Mom’s physical abilities have deteriorated due to her ongoing battle with MS. However, her mental steadfastness and unconditional love have remained unchanged. Her love is an anchor during any storm and it taught me what love could be and what I could find in a wife, which brings me to another great mother in my life. The love and encouragement my wife can deliver to another human amazes me and when she focuses those gifts on our children they light up in very special ways. Of course, I also have to thank my wife’s mother for raising not one, but two, fantastic Mom’s and I look on with pride and great expectations to my own sister who is a new Mom this year!  Thank you to these mothers, and all great mothers, for what you do for your children and the world every day.

Victor Aragon, Jr.

This Mother’s Day is going to be a special one, because it will be our first one with our new addition.  Last year, my wife worked and our plans with family members fell apart, so it wasn’t a good one for my wife.  This year, I am hoping to erase that memory and hopefully have a great one.  My wife and I have known each other for over sixteen years.  In those years it seems like even with our ups and downs, we are constantly getting to know each other and our love keeps getting stronger.  I am thankful for having her in my life and for all the hard work that she does for me and the little ones.  Thank you for all you do babe, I love you.

There is another great woman in my life that if wasn’t for her I wouldn’t exist; my mother.  My mom is a strong woman and I am very thankful for all that she does for my family.  Even though I am not her little boy anymore, my mother still insists on giving me money for gas or to get something for my little girl.  My mom and dad have always gone above and beyond for my sisters and me and I feel that I am trying the best that I can to repay them for everything they did.  I would like to thank my mother for all her sacrifices and to tell her how much I love her.  Thanks Mom.  

DorkDad - 

Because of the way you move through the room. Because of the way your smile sounds on your voice. Because every single curve on your body is in exactly the right place. Because of the way your hair smells and the way it tickles my face.  Because of the twinkle in your eyes when you’re making mischief, and the look on your face when you’re asleep. Because of the feel of your heart and the warmth of your skin when you’re holding me. Because of the magic you made with our children, and the magic you make with our family. Because everything I love about my life I can trace directly back to you.
Thank you.
Happy Mother’s Day.

Dave Lesser - Amateur Idiot / Professional Dad 

A Mother’s Day Haiku

Mother’s Day is here
I forgot a card again
Glad I’ve got a blog!

Mom, I love you. I don’t say it often enough, but you’re awesome. You did an outstanding job raising me (and those two other dudes who kind of look like me).

Allie, what can I say? You’re an unbelievable mother and an amazing wife. This whole family would be lost without you. Literally. I just cannot follow the turn-by-turn directions on my phone without you in the passenger’s seat. Again, this is not a metaphor. Well, maybe it is a little. I’m an idiot. But I’m your idiot and you’re stuck with me. You and the kids are my world. Thank you for everything, everything you do. I love you a super friggin’ jillion much!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Jeff Bogle

My ability to find the perfect set of curtains for the dining room and my knowledge of how to wash them and hang them damp to dry without creases. My need to vacuum my way out of a room. And my dry humor that has served me, mostly well.  Most of what people like about me, I am because of you. And to this day I enjoy talking with you on the phone almost daily, even when it is you calling me because you, once again, cannot figure out how to properly interact with technological devices. I love you, Mom, more than I’ll ever be able to write down, because even though I string sentences together every day, for some kind of living, I have yet to be able to find the correct combination of letters and words to form the single sentence that does you justice. Thank you for everything, Mom.

James Rohl - Portland Dad

Thank you mom for showing me how to be radically hospitable, fiercely loyal, and emotionally available. I am thankful to call you my mom, and proud to call you my friend. Happy Mother’s Day.

Colby Shipwash - Days of a Domestic Dad: 

You hug, you play, you teach, you love; you are their Mom and friend forever.

To my loving wife, and mom to our children, I want to thank you for being a wonderful mom all the time. A day doesn't go by that I am not grateful for you, and that our kids are lucky to have you in their life.

Thank You and Happy Mother’s Day

Robert Duffer - Editor, The Good Men Project
Dads & Families section of The Good Men Project

Because you built a lego racecar ramp in our basement that would’ve made the Pinewood Derby and MacGyver proud,
Because you made your own pinata, your own decorations, your own party for 30 first graders,
Because your daughter handles a hockey stick like you, laughs like you, smiles like you, needs like you, plays like you, cares like you, loves like you,
Because you fly home when your grandparents are ill,
Because you adventure, you explore, you inquire,
Because you love without condition, and you care without self,
You are the most wonderful mother, a role model, a hero.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Some thoughts on aliens and the miracle of life

"Did you hear about Sally? How they stabbed a needle right into her spine? And how she sloughed off that brand new ORGAN the size of your face that she grew from scratch just a couple months ago, after which she bled out like a pint of blood? Not to mention that in the midst of all this her pelvis basically split open so that she could push A WHOLE OTHER HUMAN out of her body?"
"Oh, that's nice. Good for her."
Before my wife's pregnancy, I didn't fully understand what it meant to be pregnant or to deliver a baby. I mean, I knew about the birds and the bees, and I'd seen NOVA's The Miracle of Life in middle school, and I theoretically understood what "high risk" meant, but I didn't really GET IT until my own wife came down with the pregnancy bug. When I heard that someone I kinda knew had had a baby, I was like, "Oh, cool. What's on TV?" It just didn't really register in any dramatic sense. It was like hearing that someone had bought a new car, or gone on a trip to Europe or something.

The thing is, despite being one of the most traumatic and jaw-dropping things that can happen to a person or family, childbirth is astonishingly ubiquitous. Around 130 million babies are born each year. About 350,000 every single day. And while I know that worldwide mortality rates vary, wherever I look, I see mostly normal-looking people who were born, or who gave birth, or even both. I mean, the realities of birth are everywhere.

A part of my under-reacting attitude is a result of that ubiquity; people just adapt to things that are common. They normalize them. They even overlook them. But probably an even bigger part of my nonchalance is surely that I am male. Why worry about it if it's not something that could ever happen to me? Sometimes, you see, I can be an idiot.

It wasn't until I knew my own progeny was on the way that I really internalized why that old (made in 1983, the year I was born!) NOVA special talked about miracles. I mean, growing and then pushing a creature out of your body? That stuff's crazy. It's the stuff of horror movies. There's even a name for it: Body Horror. It's Ridley Scott's Alien, you know?

But at the same time that (for this squeamish dude, anyway) birth can be a surreal, frightening experience, it's also amazing. To counter my Xenomorph nightmares, there's the beautiful, heart-breaking film Children of Men, in which mankind struggles to find a reason to hope, to strive, even to live, once they learn that no more children will ever be born. In a scene that started the waterworks for me, the protagonist carries a crying newborn through a vicious firefight, and as each combatant realizes in shock that Clive Owen is holding a miracle in his arms, their fingers pause on their triggers, their shouts cease, and the infant is borne along in a protected pocket of peace and awe. That's the way I wish I reacted.

I still frequently find myself treating birth trivially, and it shames me. Not just because of the way it ignores what mothers endure to bring forth a new life, but because it's a lost opportunity to visit hope, and peace, and innocence, and awe. Wherever "life" ultimately comes from, how amazing is it that we, imperfect blundering creatures, are entrusted with the power to create more of it!

With Mother's Day around the bend, I just want to say a humble thank you to my mother, my wife, and to all women who bear or nurture these little seeds that bring purity and wonder into the world. The "bearing" part is pretty awesome and mind-boggling, but at least as important is the part involving raising these creatures; of sacrificing what you want for what they need; of protecting them so desperately and then encouraging them to spread their wings. These are things that anybody can do, male or female, but I've learned the most about them from the women in my life. So, thanks.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Eating babies, awful smells, and hating quiet time

The roundup of recent conversations:

I grab my daughter's arm in two hands and hold it up to my chomping teeth. 
Me: Mmmm. Somebody smells good enough to eat. 
Addison: Hey! That is MY arm! 
Me: And it smells soooo good. I will just take a little bite. 
Addison: It will hurt! 
Me: Probably. 
Addison: You cannot do that! You need to go downstairs and eat real food. I am NOT real food. I am people, and we DON'T! EAT! PEOPLE! 
Me (dropping her arm): Ah, nuts. I guess you're right. 
Addison (sternly): Say sorry, daddy. 
Me (sheepishly): Sorry.

During the middle of our walk around the block: 
Addison: I need to stop.  
Me: Why? 
Addison: My bum says it is tired. Will you carry me?

Addison (frowning): Something is awful. I have an awful smell in my nose. 
Me: What? What is it? 
Addison: Maybe it was the beans and cheese last night. 
Me: And that's why it really hurts. You did it to yourself. 
Addison (quietly): Yeah.
Heard my daughter shouting and I went in to the family room to see what was going on. 
Me: Were you shouting for me? 
Addison: No, I was shouting "MAP!"  
A voice on the TV asks where a backpack is located. 
Addison (screamed): THE LEFT SIDE! THE LEFT SIDE! 
Dora, you're gonna make my daughter a lot of fun for her first school teacher.

Addison is in quiet time and she is not very happy about it.
Me: You haven't been in quiet time very long. Everyone needs to do quiet time to recharge their batteries. 
Addison: I don't have batteries! 
Me: It's an expression. 
Addison: My expression is MAD! 
Me: I can see that. But the more you speak mean to me, the longer you will be in quiet time. 
Addison: That is NOT a nice attitude. 
Me: Yours or mine? 
Addison: Just all of them! 
She's pouting in the corner now, and every time I go over to look, she shoots laser bolts of rage from her eyes. I think she's saying mean things about me to her bunny, but if I get close enough to hear, I'll have to discipline her. So I'm keeping my distance.

And then 20 minutes later...

Addison: My bunny very very wants to come out of quiet time.
Me: Tell your bunny that he needs to wait until the timer dings. 
Addison: No! I won't tell him! 
Me: He needs to know. 
Addison: I will never, never tell him that!