Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Dear Spike:

You cried a lot last night. And I let you.

It wasn’t that it didn’t break my heart to hear you cry. It does. But it warms it, too.

You were silent when the doctors pulled you into this world. It could have been for a few seconds. It probably didn’t take longer than a few minutes. But God, it felt like I was waiting for the next millennium.

And when you finally cried, I did too.

Today you are one month old. You cry a lot. Sometimes I try to sooth you, to quiet you.

But sometimes I simply let you cry.

God, I love that sound.

God, I do.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Number 29

Dear Spike:

I turned 29 a few weeks ago — happy, for the first time in a long time, to accept the gaieties with which we celebrate birthdays in our culture. Thank you for giving that back to me, by the way.

The symbolism of 29 was not lost on me in the jocularity of the occasion, however. In our nation, 29 is the age people say they are for many years after turning 30 — and for some, many years after turning 40.

It is the last year of youth — or at least it is the last year in which you can get away with “being young.” According to some, it is the last year you can be trusted. And partial to all of that, it seems, it is the last year you can dream.

Truth be known, I turned the figurative corner on 30 a long time ago. I hope you inherit the same sense of responsibility and early maturity that your mother and I both possess. But I also hope you learn to balance those traits with a desire to maintain a sense of youthfulness in your life.

To put it another way: Don’t grow up too soon. For if you do, far sooner than it should, the world will get small. People will become predictable. And though your path may be richly scenic, as mine has been, it will feel worn.

Reality will set in. And dreaming will be relegated to sleep time.

So it goes.

A few things struck me this week — realities I’ve known to be realities for quite some time but seem to have been calcified by the number 29.

As it turns out, I’ll never be an astronaut. I’ll never be a professional soccer player. I’ll never be president of the United States.

I won’t be an airplane pilot. Or a steamboat captain (there are not too many of those left anyway, but no one bothered to tell me that when I was first introduced to Mark Twain.)

I won’t win an Oscar. Or an Emmy — not even a “Daytime” one.

I’ll never be 6 feet tall. I’ll never be built like Lou Ferigno’s Incredible Hulk. And I suppose I’m never going to get my hair back.

Let me tell you: It doesn’t matter.

Maybe I won’t visit Antarctica. Maybe I won’t discover a new planet. Maybe I won’t sail around the world.

And yet, I don’t think I’m done dreaming. And I don’t think I’m done being young.

Thank you for that, by the way.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Dear Spike:

When one of the players on my team made a string of a lazy passes during a scrimmage this week, I let him know (perhaps a bit loudly, as I am prone to do) that I wasn’t happy with his performance.

So when, just minutes later, I made a poor pass that the very same player stole away, he was quick to remind me that everyone makes mistakes.

“Fair enough,” I told him. “I’ll run a few laps after we’re done.”

I’d forgotten about the promise by the end of our practice. Ian had not.

“Don’t you have something you need to be doing?” he asked me with a haughty smile.

“Right,” I said with a sigh. “So how many will it be?”


“How about one?”



“OK, five — but I’m not going any lower,” he said.

And so I started my run. And with that, Ian jumped into his father’s car and they drove off.

“Well,” I thought as I watched them drive away. “I guess I got out of that.”

Except that, as I slowed my run to a jog, I could see another of my players hiding behind a tree on the far end of the field. He was watching to make sure I finished.

I picked up my pace. By the time I was done with my second lap, Gio’s family had arrived to pick him up.

“Well,” I thought as I watched the second car drive away. “I guess I got out of that.”

Except, when I began to slow again, I found I couldn’t stop.

There are going to be plenty of times in your life when no one is going to know whether you did the right thing or the easy thing. And when no one is looking, the easy thing can be very easy indeed.

It’s likely you’ll take that road a few times. We all do — at work and school, with our families and our friends. We cut corners. We take shortcuts. We stop short.

If Ian and Gio had stayed to watch me run, I would have completed my laps but would have felt indifferent about having done so. It was, in fact, because no one was watching that I finished my fifth lap with a small smile on my face. I even felt a little bit proud of myself.

Most of the time, doing the right thing is a bit more difficult, complicated, painful or arduous than doing the easy thing.

But most of the time, that’s the very thing that makes it worthwhile.



Dear Spike's friends:
This is a slide show from Spike's first two weeks on Planet Earth. I'm sure you'll notice that at one point she was down to 4 pounds 6 ounces. Not to worry: By her two-week appointment with Dr. Schriewer, the little screamer was up to 5 pounds and we think she's put on a few more ounces since then.
spike's dad

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Dear Spike:

When I was a little boy, my father would read “Go, Dog. Go!” to me and my siblings, always slowing slightly, toward the end, as the canine cast climbed a tree and then crescendoing in a rapid-fire fit of glee as they surfaced, above the leaves, to reveal...

A dog party!
A big dog party!
Big dogs, little dogs,
red dogs, blue dogs,
yellow dogs, green dogs,
black dogs, and white dogs
are all at a dog party!
What a dog party!

We all loved it.

Not only because P.D. Eastman’s story was such an amusing — and absurd — tale, and not only because our father’s reading of the book was so entertaining.

No, I think we loved it most because we got to see our father — normally so stern and serious — having fun.

For my first Father’s Day, you and your mom gave me a copy of the book I so loved when I was a boy. I immediately turned to the dog party scene, trying to invoke my father’s tone as I read...

A dog party!
A big dog party!
Big dogs, little dogs,
red dogs, blue dogs,
yellow dogs, green dogs,
black dogs, and white dogs
are all at a dog party!
What a dog party!

I’m not sure I have it down, quite yet. But I suspect I’ll have plenty of opportunities, over the next few years, to work on it.

Meanwhile, I’ll be trying to emulate my father in other ways, striving to balance my dedication to work with my devotion to family; trying to teach you to make principled decisions; and hoping to be a righteous example for you.

To be authoritative and yet compassionate. To be strict and yet yielding. To be serious and yet fun.

At times amusing. At time absurd. And always — always — letting you know that you are the most important thing in my life.


Friday, June 15, 2007


Dear Spike:

Tonight, we took you to your first soccer contest.

It was a heartbreaking ordeal. The referee was lousy. The home team’s coach got red carded. And then, with less than a minute to play in what seemed destined to be yet another scoreless draw for Real Salt Lake, the team gave up a goal to lose the game 0-1.

A woman after my own heart, you showed your displeasure by screaming all the way home.

We humans are passionate about our professional sports clubs. Teams are a point of identification, community and culture — another place to find one’s place in our all-too-frequently placeless world.

But with all the joys, be warned: At times your team will play lousy. And at times they’ll make you wonder why you spend your money to watch them play.

And even for the fans of the best teams in the world, most seasons end with disappointment. There is, after all, only room for one World Series Champion, for one Super Bowl winner, for one Stanley Cup holder.

And so you may simply decide to be a connoisseur of sports: To watch and enjoy and appreciate a beautiful game being played beautifully. To marvel at the endurance, finesse and resiliency of the human body. To be staggered by brilliant performances, regardless of the color of the performer’s uniform.

I found myself in Germany last summer as the World Cup was being played. Wedded to only one of teams in the tournament (and alas, the U.S. side played poorly and quickly was eliminated) there was plenty of time left to simply enjoy “the beautiful game” being played on its grandest stage.

And yet, as I entered the stadium at Kaiserslautern to watch Trinidad against Paraguay, I felt compelled by the drums, singing and costumes of the Trinidadian fans and by their passion for the “Soca Warriors.” And when, a week later, I found myself in the middle of the Saudi Arabian cheering section for a Saudi-Spain match, I was enchanted into cheering for the Middle Eastern underdogs.

Yes, there will be heartache — nights like tonight. And lots of them.

But you cannot dream in neutrality. So it goes in sports. So it goes in life.

Accept the heartbreak and the hurt. Choose. And cheer.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Dear Spike:

I don't know all of your sounds yet. And so sometimes I change you when I need to feed you. And sometimes I feed you when I need to hold you. It can be frustrating for me and, I'm sure, for you as well.

Would you believe that the basic problems in communication we have now will continue on for as long as we're together? That sometimes you will tell me, in your way, what you need and I will hear you saying something completely different?

In those times, please remember that I love you and that yes, I do want — more than anything — to help you. Try to be patient with me and I will try to be patient with you.

And together, slowly, we will learn to communicate. To hear one another. And to be there for one another.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Dear Spike:

This is fast becoming my favorite time of the day. I’m in the rocker. You’re on my lap. Your mother’s in bed, next to us, fast asleep.

Every few minutes, I nod down to kiss your head and whisper that I love you. Every hour, you wake up to cry.

I rock you and sing to you. If that doesn’t work I change you. If that doesn’t work I fix you a bottle.

We get to hang out this way until 3:30 or 4 a.m. — maybe two feedings and two changings — and then your mom will get up and I’ll go to sleep.

I know our relationship will change as you grow.

Sooner or later you won’t need me to feed you. Sooner or later (please, God, let it be sooner) you won’t need me to change you.

One day you’ll no longer need me to rock you to sleep. And one day, I know, I won’t be able to rock you at all.

I imagine you’ll let me sing to you for a few years to come. But someday you’ll find someone else to sing to you. That’s just how it goes.

But maybe, from time to time, you’ll let me kiss your head. Maybe you’ll let me whisper that I love you.

Maybe you’ll let me remember these times we shared, late at night, rocking the nights away.


Sunday, June 10, 2007


Dear Spike:

My father likes to tell people that I was just three days old when I attended my first baseball game.

We waited a bit longer to introduce you (mostly because the local team has been on the road since you were born) but I’ll still be proud to tell folks that we took you out to the ball game when you were small enough to fit into my mitt.

The home team won, 7 to 3. You saw your first home run and your first 6-4-3 double play. And when the visiting batters were retired in the top of the seventh, you stretched out your arms as if, by instinct, you knew what to do.

And in doing so, you participated in a noble ritual.

There’s something religious about baseball. Maybe its the strict adherence to an ancient liturgy, to rules and seance and tradition. Maybe it’s the communion of peanuts and Cracker Jack. Maybe it’s the hymns.

You don’t have to love this game the way I do (and your grandfather does, and your great-grandfather does) but I hope you’ll understand it and respect it. It’s as important a part of our country’s heritage as our national anthem and our flag.

Maybe more.

Yes, I think more.

That might be patriotic sacrilege in these days of bumper-sticker nationalism, but I think it’s true.

Like our nation, the game was born of British stock. And like our nation, it quickly and hubristically came into its own, maturing during our country’s darkest hours as men gathered in Army camps and war prisons — officers with enlisted men, side by side.

When the Civil War ended, baseball survived — though like our nation it remained soiled by racism and segregation for generations upon generations to come. And like our nation, it ultimately righted itself of that evil.

It still remains segregated in one sad way: At some point along the line, women were relegated to the derivative game of softball. And with very limited exceptions at the higher levels of the game, they do not play alongside men.

Maybe you could change that. Like our nation, baseball is ever-changing.

Much as our Constitution has proven both supple and resilient, the game has proven able to evolve and yet remain affixed in ordinance and tradition.

Much as our government has proven stronger than any President, Congress or court, baseball has proven stronger than its players, its owners or its fans.

And much as our nation has increasingly come into the possessorship of corporate interests, so too has the professional arm of the game.

And yet it survives.

Three strikes, four balls, three outs. Nine innings, nine players. Ninety feet, from base to base.

Peanuts and Cracker Jack. The seventh-inning stretch.

Rules and seance and tradition. Suppleness and resilience.

No, you don’t have to love this game the way I do.

But I do hope you’ll let me take you again. And again. And again.


Saturday, June 9, 2007


Dear Spike:

You're so small I can catch you in my baseball glove...

You're like a little pinapple...

And your tiny feet...

... are the size of my thumbs...

It's going to be a long time before you fit into my sunglasses...

You're the size of a wine bottle...

And smaller than a decent chuck roast...

But you're the biggest thing that's ever happened to me.


Friday, June 8, 2007


Dear Spike:

I’ve never been a big fan of birthdays — not my own, at least.

Maybe I’m still not over the time I turned 15 and only two people showed up for my party (we ate the leftover chips and salsa for weeks.) Maybe it’s just that I’ve never really liked cake all that much. Maybe I just don’t like the idea of growing old.

Or maybe I’m just a party pooper.

Your mother hates that I don’t like my birthday. I guess because she so loves having her very own day, she has a hard time believing anyone else wouldn’t. And I think it has always made her a bit sad that I’ve never been interested in parties and cake and candles and presents.

I had come up with a solution, albeit a longshot of one: If you were to come on June 8, just two days past your due date, we could share a birthday. Then I’d always have something to look forward to, because while I’m not a fan of my own birthday, I love celebrating the birthdays of the people I love.

Alas, you came early. And so, this year and forever more, I was prepared to ho-hum my way through another birthday.

But something happened this morning when I woke up. The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes was your mother looking down at me. And in that moment, everything came together.

Today was my day.

Bring on the candles. Bring on the cake. Heck, bring on those funny cone hats and stupid paper horns.

It was almost as though I was a little kid again. I could have whatever I wanted. I could do whatever I wanted.

It was all possible.

Because all that I wanted — more than anything in the world — was already in our little bedroom:

You. Your mom. And me, the birthday boy.


Thursday, June 7, 2007


Dear Spike:

You slept for hours in my arms today. These days, that’s a mixed blessing. For all the joy I get from watching you rest, I know that every minute you spend sleeping during the day is a minute you likely won’t sleep tonight.

And when you don’t sleep, we don’t sleep.

Alas, there are far worse fates than staying up late watching Star Wars with your daughter. Maybe a little popcorn. Maybe a little pizza. Chocolate milk for me. Mommy’s milk for you. A little Internet surfing. A little song singing. Maybe a stroll around the house together, then back to the rocking chair.

Come to think of it, I’m not sure there is anything in the world I enjoy more.

Now, admittedly, our slumber parties haven't done wonders for my game at work. But I’ve got the rest of my life to work — we’ve only a very short time to share these nights together.

And so, my little nocturnal one, sleep all day if you wish.

Our nights await.


Wednesday, June 6, 2007


Dear Spike:

Sometimes, when I watch you in your cradle, I can see your eyes moving under your tiny eyelids — an indication that you’re deep at sleep and dreaming.

And I wonder: What does someone so new to the world dream about?

For all we know about the universe, our own dreams remain a great mystery. And the dreams of infants — virtually impossible to study — may be one of the greatest mysteries of all.

But I like to think that when you sleep you simply dream of beauty.

Of a sound you’ve heard or a color you’ve sensed. Of the taste of milk on your lips. Of the texture of your blanket.

Of songs and sounds and soothing voices. Of the sun on your face. Of your mother’s breath on your neck.

As you learn and grow, your dreams will become more complex. You’ll dream of places you’ve been and things you’d like to do. You’ll dream about people you know and feelings you’ve had. You’ll dream of who you are and what you’ll be.

Sometimes you’ll have nightmares.

But maybe, once in a while, you’ll simply dream the dreams you had when you were very small and very new to the world. Maybe, you’ll simply dream of beauty.

And I hope you do. We should all dream of beauty — when we’re asleep and, especially, when we’re awake.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007


Dear Spike:

There was a time, before you were born, that I pledged never to talk about my children’s bodily functions as if I were discussing presidential politics, the Major League Soccer standings or a hot stock tip.

It took me less than a week, after you were born, to nullify that promise.

In my defense, we’ve spent the past week swimming in your diapers. Following one particularly astonishing diaper-changing incident, your mother and I actually got out a tape measure to record the distance that your poop flew (60 inches — that’s more than three times as far as you are long.) And hey, from a purely scientific point of view, the stuff that has been coming out of your body really has been quite fascinating.

But none of that justifies the utter hypocrisy and lack of social grace your father demonstrated the other day when my friend Sheena came to visit us (well, to visit you, anyway.)

We’d made it through the obligatory “how the doctors stormed Spike’s mom’s castle” explanation. Though graphic — even nauseating for those with weak stomachs — there is, in fact, an exceptional interest in this subject, particularly on the part of women who are still contemplating whether they want to experience the so-called “miracle” of birth.

Those details out of the way, we’d chatted about work at the newspaper; about your mother’s new job; about how Utah has once again distinguished itself by spending less on education than any other state in the union; and about Sheena’s new house, just a few blocks away.

And at some point, I guess I just ran out of other interesting things to say.

“Your daughter is beautiful,” Sheena said.

“Thanks,” I said. “You know, you’d be amazed at all the different colors of poop she makes.”

And just like that, in 15 little words, I was the parent I’d professed I’d never be.

I might as well have bought a giant Sports Utility Vehicle, an enormous house in the suburbs and a trampoline for the backyard. I might as well have sent away for the entire ten-thousand video disc edition of Baby Einstein. I might as well have dropped everything I was doing to make an emergency shopping spree at Baby Gap.

Oh my my. Oh Hell yes. I was that parent: The one who talks about his daughter’s poop.

At just 10 days old, you’ve already made me a better person in so many different ways.

This just doesn’t happen to be one of them.


Monday, June 4, 2007


Dear Spike:

We had you to sleep at seven minutes before midnight this evening. Your mother rocked you in her arms as I strummed softly on my guitar and sang to you.

I sang to you your lullaby...

Dream of castles,
in a land,
far beyond what we understand.
Dream a dream for me...

And then made up a few more...

Take Mia to her bedroom.
Take Mia to her crib.
Just rock her and love her and lay her down.
Do it quiet — don’t make a sound...

But it wasn’t until I sang to you a song I wrote for your mother...

I will take you to England,
To Spain and to France.
I will give you the moon,
And there we can dance.
You’re all I want.
But all you want is Disneyland.
Pirates of the Caribbean.
Big Thunder and Space Mountains.
The Matterhorn if it’s open.
Mr. Toad and Peter Pan.
Teacups in Wonderland.
All you want is Disneyland.
All you want is Disneyland...

... that you fell asleep.

Funny, that song puts your mother to sleep as well. I think her subconscious mind just can't resist the urge to take a dreamy stroll through the Magical Kingdom.

And so, I suppose, you are your mother’s child. And that is a very good thing — for I love her so very much.

And I love you. So very much.

Sleep well, little one. Dream a dream for me.


Saturday, June 2, 2007


Dear Spike:

Back when I was new to newspaper reporting, one of my jobs was to cover the dirt track stock car races that were held each Saturday night outside the small Oregon town where I worked.

The center of the track always felt to me like the eye of a hurricane. The cars — so big, so fast, so loud — blurred past in streaks of yellows, blues, whites, reds. Over the public address system, a smokey-voiced announcer would introduce the drivers and call the action. “And here comes the Number Thirty-Three car out of turn two... he’s gonna bank it high past Larry Johnson in the Number Two... let’s hear some noise, folks....” All around the inside oval, oil-tarred mechanics cranked wrenches with shiny black hands, sucking on unlit cigarette nubs, yelling for tires and hoses and clasps and clamps.

I’d walk into the oval on a Saturday evening, just as the sun was coming down. I’d walk out three, four, five hours later, my head pounding from the noise, dust and exhaust, glad that — at my weekly newspaper — I’d have several days to make sense of what I’d seen.

Even today, much of what I remember from those nights is just a blur. That’s OK with me. There’s little from those races I’d mourn were it erased from my memory altogether. There are more important things...

Tomorrow morning you’ll be a week old. And in so many ways, I feel I’ve stepped into another hurricane, this one a blur of doctors and nurses and phlebotomists; of family and friends and neighbors; of feeding you at 3 a.m. and changing you at 3:15 and rocking you at 3:30 and putting you down at 3:45 and picking you up to feed you again at 4; of marveling at your strength; of fretting at your delicateness; of watching for your belly to raise with each breath; of firsts or this and firsts of that; of love and hope and happiness beyond anything I’ve ever felt.

Oh, what a beautiful blur. And all of it — every tear, every breath, every cry — I want to remember. I do not want to lose. There is nothing more important.

And so I find myself lamenting the limitations of the human memory. Already, I wonder why I can’t remember the names and faces of all of your doctors and nurses. I wonder why I can’t remember whether I first heard you cry in the delivery room or in the room I followed you to next. What time was it when they brought you in to see your mother? What outfit did we dress you in when we first arrived home?

Funny thing about details, you don’t always know which ones are most significant until time has passed. And, of course, by that time it is often too late — they speed by like a stock car in a blur of noise, dust and exhaust.

And so I sit here and watch you as you watch the world. I count your hiccups, I memorize your breaths, I study your eyes. And I try — so very desperately — not to fall asleep.

Oh, what a beuatiful blur. Oh, what a hurricane. Oh, don't let me forget.


Friday, June 1, 2007


Dear Spike:

As I write this, you’re sleeping in my arms — a very real and rare privilege for me over the past few days.

You spend a lot of time at rest, but per your doctor’s orders, it is mostly in a “home bili light” that has been set up on your mother’s dresser. It’s a funny contraption: a baby blue suitcase, about two feet long, that opens like a tanning bed — with two long blue florescent bulbs running down the center. At night, it sets our bedroom in a soft blue haze.

When you’re not sleeping in the box, which is supposed to help with your jaundice, you are usually at your mother’s breast. You’ve been so hungry in the past few days and that is a wonderful sign that you are growing increasingly healthy and strong.

Alas, that has left little time for me and you to simply be together, and so I’ve spent many hours at the side of your box, peeking in (sometimes with sunglasses) at your tiny bare body.

Even is such a surreal setting, you are so beautiful. I marvel at your tiny features, your soft hair and your every delicate breath.

And I pine for when holding you is no longer such a rare treat.