Thursday, November 29, 2007


Dear Dad:

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007


One day left to vote in Spike's Thanksgiving poll (to the right and down a bit.) And don't forget to write a Spiku for someone you love. (It's just like a Haiku — five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables — you can find some great ones to the right and down a little less bit.)
— Spike's Dad

Dear Spike:

The snow came today. It was nearly a month late but, like a good friend, no one minded once it was here.

That was particularly true as it began to look as though it would be sticking around for a while. Here, we’ve learned not to count the inches that fall to the ground, but rather those that stick to it. And today the snow is sticking.

This is your first snow, and although I wanted to keep you warm as I took you to the car this afternoon, I couldn’t help but pull back the blanket in which you were wrapped so that a few flakes could fall on your nose and your cheeks. You flinched and sniffled and giggled. And then you smiled.

And then you cried. Too wet. Too cold. Too strange.

Later, your mother took you on a walk, knocking the frost from the neighbor’s bushes as she went so that you could watch the leaves turn from white to green. I watched from my office window as you tromped through the powder together. You didn’t look particularly happy, but it was clear that you were interested in all the ways the world had changed.

Your mother, on the other hand — I’ve never seen her happier than she was as she marched you in circles and zigzag patterns through our yard. And for me, it was such a joy just watching you two play.

I sometimes wonder how many of the things that we do for you we’re really doing for ourselves. When we dress you, we choose outfits that we think you look cute in, though you’re just as content in a pair of socks and nothing else. We try to keep you entertained with a variety of toys, but you’re often more fascinated by a handful of your mother’s hair or the buttons on my shirt.

Still, I’ve noticed that you seem happiest when we feel happiest. Our relationship is symbiotic in that way, even if it is a bit illusionary.

And that’s OK, I think.

The things that make us happy don’t have to make sense. They simply have to make us happy.

Maybe that helps explain the snow. Because really, you know, you’re initial observation is right: It’s wet and cold and strange.

And yet it makes so many of us so very happy.

Go figure.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Announcing the first semi-regular "Spiku" contest. Write a haiku for Spike (or any kid you love) and post it here. Winner gets a trip to Las Vegas. Or something else.

Dear Spike:

Today you are six months old. I wrote you a poem:

Six months. Summer. Fall.
Now, with winter upon us,
Joy, my girl, such joy.


Sunday, November 25, 2007


Dear Spike:

Before we met, your mother had never had a corn dog, never seen an episode of M*A*S*H, and never left the borders of the United States of America.

I’d never slept under a feather comforter, never understood the value of a good set of pajamas and never apologized to anyone and really meant it.

We’ve changed a lot, these last few years. And now we’re changing more than ever. And you’re changing too — so much and so fast.

You learned to twist your tiny body today — like a miniature Chubby Checker. Later we went to the park, and you had your first swing. These aren’t big changes. But they’re first steps toward big changes.

Some people think that when you love someone, it means you accept them just the way they are. And that is true.

But love also means accepting one another as we change — and we all change, all the time. Love means allowing yourself to be changed, too.

And love means accepting one another as we come to be whoever we come to be.

I love you, Spike, in ways so deep and so vast that I sometimes wonder whether I’ve finally met my capacity for love, like a runner who takes one final stride and, with that step, simply can run no further.

But tomorrow you will change — if only a little bit — and when you do I will love you more than I do today. And the next day, again. And the next day, again.

And the next day, again.


Friday, November 23, 2007


Dear Spike:

Finally, Friday.

Even with a day off for Thanksgiving this week, the days seemed to drag on and on. I’ve never been a live-for-the-weekend kind of guy, but these days it often feels as though I’m under water, all week long, just counting the seconds before I get to come up for air on Friday evening.

That’s when the three of us get together, hop in the big bed, sometimes order a pizza, and pop a movie into the DVD player.

Tonight was a bit different. About once every four or five months, your mother decides she “just can’t take it anymore,” and embarks upon a cleaning project so vast that we often must bring chaos to the entire home in order to bring it back into order.

Today’s project: Our bedroom closet (and in particular, my rather slovenly side of it. By the time I’d returned from work, this evening, your mother had completely emptied the closet onto the hallway floor. We spent the next three hours matching socks, tossing clothing that we no longer wear into giveaway bags and creating a latest, greatest system of organization that this time — this time for sure — will help me keep my side of the closet neat and tidy for more than a few weeks.

The best part of the night: Watching your mother try on dresses that she hasn’t fit into since she got pregnant. Just under six months after giving birth, she’s back into all of her old clothes. She looks fantastic and, I think, she is very proud about getting back into shape while also juggling work (her job is ten times tougher than mine) and mommydom — and occasionally doing things like emptying our entire bedroom closet.

I know you don’t know to be both proud of and humbled by your mother yet — but I know you will be someday. I certainly am.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007


LOOK! Spike has a new Thanksgiving week poll. Just glance to the right and pick your poison.

Dear Spike:

I’ve never had to struggle to come up with things for which I am thankful.

I grew up in a nice, middle-class home in the San Francisco suburbs, with parents who loved me and siblings that I count as my best friends in the world. Our grandparents lived close by. Our church family was indeed a family. Our schools were good. Our teachers cared. We were healthy and happy.

Come Thanksgiving, there was always a turkey on the table. Come Christmas, there were always presents under the tree.

When I grew up, I married a woman who is intelligent, adorable and fun. We both have careers that we enjoy and of which we are proud. We have a beautiful home that’s just a stone’s throw from one of the greatest city parks in the United States.

Things aren’t always easy. Sometimes I feel worried. Sometimes I feel sad. But I’ve seen poverty. And hunger. And pain. And hate. And violence. And so, on balance, things are good. There’s so much to be thankful for.

Especially now that you’re here.

On this day when we’re encouraged to take a moment to think about those things for which we are most thankful, I don’t even know where to begin.

I am thankful for your smile, your laugh, your screams and even your cries.

I am thankful for your soft little fingers, your tough little grip, your refusal to lie on your tummy and your persistence in learning to stand.

I am thankful for the way you sleep with your arm curled up and your fist tucked into your temple — just like your mom.

I am thankful for how big you’ve grown, having started so very small. For the way you look up at me when you sit on my lap. For the way you make heads turn at the grocery store, the library and the university.

I am thankful for the way you make me want to be a better father and a better husband. I am thankful for the way you make me want to be a better person.

I think you’ll find you’ll have plenty to be thankful for too. You’ve been born into a nice, middle-class home in Salt Lake City, with parents who love you and — who knows? — maybe someday a sibling that you’ll count as your best friend in the world.

None of your grandparents live close, but we stay in close contact and they’ll all be part of your life as you grow.

Come Thanksgiving, there always will be a turkey on the table. Come Christmas, there were always presents under the tree — handmade and heartfelt, as that’s our family’s tradition.

And come every single day of the year, you will have a father and a mother who are thankful for you — who love you unconditionally and will never hesitate to remind you it is so.

May you always have plenty for which to give thanks — so much so that you won’t even know where to begin.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Dear Spike:

You’ve vomited on the back of my neck. You’ve relieved yourself on my shirt. You’ve spit, puked, peed and pooped in colors and consistencies that would make Jackson Pollack envious.

I’ve lost sleep, missed work, ignored friends and forgotten — sometimes for days on end — to shower.

I think I’ve been a pretty good sport. They say no one is ever really ready to be a parent, but I can honestly say that nothing’s come up for which I haven’t felt at least passingly prepared.

Until this evening.

With just a few days to go before you turn six months old, you’ve found your..., your...

...I mean, you’ve discovered...

...oh, Lord Baby Jesus Away in a Manger, help me... now know where to find your...


...the place where...

...that is, the thing with which...

...oh bother.

I’m not squeamish. And I’m not embarrassed by anatomy — or at least, I didn’t think I was.

If you were a boy, I think I’d be proud

“Damn right, young man,” I’d say. “That’s your penis. Good for peein’ and procreatin’ — just not at the same time. Use it with gusto.”

Heck, I might even have snapped a photo.

But although I know there’s no reason to think about penises any different than...


...OK, here goes...

...vaginas (there I said it — and yes, that was tough!)...

...the truth is that there’s still a lot of baggage that goes with being a girl in this world — a lot of things that, by virtue of having one set of plumbing over another, you’re going to have to put up with that your friends Miles, Conrad, Michael, Jack and Brett just won’t have to.

Maybe that’s why I call you Spike. And why I dress you in skull-and-crossbone onesies. And why, whenever your mother’s not looking, I put your hair up in a Mohawk.

Maybe that’s why I’m so anti-pink.

Except, the thing is, you look really good in pink. And you’ve got a beautiful little girl’s name. And you look absolutely darling in the little dresses that your grandparents got for you.

And while you don’t really have much in the way of hair at the moment, I’m sure you’re going to grow a long, thick mess of it — just like your mom’s — and I’m sure it’s going to look very, very pretty.


And someday, I suppose, you’re going to look pretty for someone other than me. And in ways that I’m simply NOT going to appreciate.

There I go again. All you did was reach down during your bath. And here I am sitting on the porch with my shotgun.


I should be proud. This is simply another step in your development. Like laughing, crawling and eating solid foods.

You’re a little girl. And today you discovered part of what makes you a little girl.

Yes, I should be proud.

OK, so here goes...

“Damn right, young woman. That’s your vagina. Use it with gusto.”

But not until you’re 32.


Monday, November 19, 2007


Don't criticize
What you can't understand
— Bob Dylan

Dear Spike:

So profound was the work Albert Einstein did in 1905 that scientists have taken to calling that year his annus mirabilis — Latin for “miracle year.” The theories he advanced that year (in his spare time, no less, as he still was working as a clerk in a patent office) revolutionized the way we understand time, light, motion and matter.

Yet at the time, nobody really noticed.

It would be three years before Einstein would land even a part-time teaching job — and four years more before he would be accepted as a full professor at the prestigeous Swiss Polytechnic.

And it was not until 1919, 14 years after his now famous flurry of discovery, that Einstein was treated to the notoriety that marked the remainder of his life — not for the celebrated equation E = mc2 but rather for having predicted the way the light of distant stars would behave when nearing our Sun.

Detailing the way the effect had been measured and studied following a solar eclipse earlier in the year, The New York Times reported. . .

Men of Science More or Less Agog Over Results of Eclipse Observations;
Stars Not Where They Seemed or Were Calculated to be, but Nobody Need Worry.

Ah, they just don’t write headlines like they used to.

Here’s my point: Sometimes the world changes and no one notices. But that don't mean the times aren’t a changin’.

When you learn something that changes the way you see the world, don’t be discouraged if it seems that everyone else is still moving around the sun at the same old speed of 18.55 miles per second.

After all, everything is relative.



Dear Spike:

There are times when you will find, by virtue of personal limitations or physical ones, you are not able to do something.

But never assume something cannot be done -- certainly not because someone tells you it is so.

Find out for yourself.

Life is full of opportunities to walk in the footsteps of others. In many cases, where the trails of life are well worn, you will find beauty and decency and health and prosperity. (There is a reason, after all, that so many have stamped these paths before.)

On these paths you will encounter little risk. And much reward.

We’ll walk some of these routes together. And while it is unlikely that I will tell you to stray from the path, you might find that, from time to time, I will bump you a bit.

Into the bushes. Into the streams. Over the rocks and the fallen logs.

But when the time comes that you want to cut your own path, you might find that even I will be cautious.

In many cases, where the trails of life are not so well blazed, who will find danger. You will find disappointment. You will find struggle. And you will find the ghosts of those who tried before and failed, only to return to the safety of the better beaten of life’s trails.

Those individuals will be your greatest critics. They will tell you that it cannot be done.

It is not bad to heed their words. It’s possible that they know.

But if you believe otherwise, find out for yourself.

You might face struggle, disappointment and danger. Sometimes you will wish you had heeded the advice of others. And sometimes, I’m sure, you will wish I hadn’t bumped you, even a little bit, from the simpler of life’s paths.

But though the risks are great, so too are the rewards. And when you refuse to believe that something cannot be done — when the path you cut leads over a mountain or through an ocean — you might just find a better way, fraught with more beauty and decency and health and prosperity than anyone has known before.


Sunday, November 18, 2007


Dear Spike:

Your mother, just now: “Hey! You’re both staring at my boobs!”

I’m so glad that we already share some interests.


Friday, November 16, 2007


Dear Spike:

It’s cliché — my God, it’s cliché — but you’ve really changed my life.

There was a time when I defined myself by my work. But today your mother and I spent a considerable amount of time contemplating whether we could afford for me not to work.

Ultimately we decided we can’t quite cut it. Your mom’s salary might cover our mortgage, insurance, student loans and car payment, but we do like to eat and heat our home in the winter. So at least for the time being, we’ll remain a two-income family.

But in a big way, that’s beside the point. We had a discussion about me quitting my job. And I wasn’t completely sickened by the thought. In fact, I was sort of excited by it.

Maybe that’s the exhaustion talking. I’ve always felt like I was rather adept at multitasking, but you’ve challenged that skill to new heights. Today I gave a lecture while holding you on my hip (in addition to being cute, you made a nice prop when the discussion turned to the subject of teen pregnancy.) I’ve gotten rather good at balancing you between my arms while I type (sometimes with just one hand when I’m feeding you.) And I’ve become pretty good at diapering you with one hand, too (thank God for Bummis.)

But it’s never easy to serve two masters. And at the end of the day I don’t feel like showering or cleaning the kitchen or even reading a book. All I want to do is sleep.

I know your mother is tired, too. She spends all day with her kindergartners (someday ask me to show you the scene in the movie “Gremlins” where the monsters take over the movie theater — that’s what it is like.) Then she comes home and (if she’s lucky) she gets three minutes to decompress before I throw you into her arms.

And maybe this sort of madness might not sound like fun to some people. But in our rare, quiet and calm moments I look down at you and wonder aloud how I ever believed I was happy working without you. And on the days when I have to drop you off at the babysitter’s house for a few hours, all I want to do is get back as soon as possible to pick you up. And while the increasingly rare hours when you nap are my best opportunities to get any substantial work done, sometimes when you sleep I miss you and I feel like waking you up so we can play.

Obviously, I can’t take you to Iraq or Afghanistan with me. And next time I jump out of a helicopter or get Tasered by police officers, you won’t be invited along.

But you know what? Those things aren’t quite as compelling to me as they once were. And while I still feel committed to the profession I’ve chosen, it’s become less of who I am and more of what I do.

I do still like what I do. And that’s a good thing, I suppose, because it doesn’t appear than I’m going to be a full-time house husband any time soon.

But you know, I can dream.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Dear Spike:

Be careful what you wish for.

Today I was driving to the university when the lights on Fourth South went down. I don’t know why people always seem to panic when signal lights go out, but they do. They pull up to an intersection, look left, look right and then blast through irrespective of the order in which they should go.

Which on Fourth South — along which our city’s light rail trains run — creates a particularly dangerous situation.

But as luck would have it, after crossing safely and watching in my rearview mirror as another driver narrowly avoided getting T-boned by a train, I saw two police officers on motorcycles on the next street up.

“Hey guys,” I called out my window. “The signal lights are out back there and with the trains crossing there, it’s pretty dangerous.”

One of the two — a tall, young guy with curly brown hair and bronze Oakley sunglasses — looked back at me and shrugged.

“We don’t do traffic control,” he said.

“Well,” I said. “It seems kind of dangerous back there without anyone to direct traffic.”

“Thank you for your opinion,” he replied brusquely.

I rolled my eyes and rolled up my window. About halfway to the university, I began to have what the French call “L'esprit de l'escalier” — instantly regretting, as I replayed the incident in my head, that I didn’t respond in some clever way. . .

“Well sure, I understand. We wouldn’t want you to break a nail, Mary.”

“If it would help get you over there, I can go get a box of donuts and throw them onto the road.”

“If you’d like, I’ll go direct traffic and you can sit here and look pretty on your cute little bicycle.”

In the end, I decided, I simply should have asked for his badge number and driven away — slowly and while making all appropriate turn signals. By the time I was at the university, I was rather upset with myself for not doing just that.

A few hours later, you and I were driving up the hill to the post office when a police officer stepped out into the road and waved me over to the side. The same guy who’d earlier been too important to direct traffic was now working a speed trap — and had caught me doing 48 in a 30.

And so now, of course, I have his badge number — on a ticket he wrote with a wry smirk on his face before telling me to “have a nice day.”

So, like I said, be careful what you wish for.


Sunday, November 11, 2007


Dear Spike:

Someday, when you have children, you’ll do your very best to engage in talk about art, sports, politics and business. . .

. . . and you’ll still end up talking about your kids.

So it goes. Parents are inherently fascinated by their own children. Every giggle. Every gurgle. Every peep and every. . .

. . . yeah, I’m a bit ashamed to say it, but . . .

Every poop.

So when the invitation came in the mail to attend a new parents party, your mother and I were excited. In a gathering of others who were experiencing the thrills of new mommydom and daddydom, we could talk without shame about our latest thoughts about how thick rice cereal should be, what baby wipes work best and how many diapers should be packed for long car trips.

But the best part of the night was watching you play with the other babies. It was exciting for me to think that — with tiny baby steps — you were making new friends.


Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Dear Spike:

I usually vote in the mornings. Your mother usually votes in the afternoons. And often when she comes home she shakes her head and mutters something about how I once again made such an indelible impression on the little old bitties who volunteer at the polls.

“They just loooove you there,” she says, “I sign my name on the register and they just squeal. ‘Oooooh!’ they say. ‘We had another person by that name in here this morning. Was that your husband?’”

She thinks I flirt with the blue hairs. Maybe she’s right. I have been known to wink at the occasional octogenarian.

But do you know why I think they remember me? Really? Because I smile.

Ear to ear.

Every time.

I believe that voting is a sacred ritual. Like Holy Communion, the Hajj and the Seventh-Inning Stretch of a close ball game. And while it’s not popular to say such things these days, I believe that democracy is a gift from God.

Of course, I’m pretty sure communism was a gift from God also. And the the Black Plague. And Cheetos.

Sometimes God hits the mark. Sometimes She misses.

I’m not sure what She was thinking on Oct. 15, 2005, when Iraq’s citizens went to the polls to choose a new constitution. For the most part, Iraqis vote the way they’re told to by their tribal and religious leaders. So in truth, what I witnessed in Iraq on that day was little more than a religious census.

Still, it felt special. And historic. And holy.

I was just outside of the city of Najaf — close enough to see the tapered golden dome and two soaring minarets of the Imam Ali Shrine rising up into the polluted haze above the city. At a rundown village schoolhouse on the city’s west side, I walked along with a proud poll worker (a local teacher, I don’t think they have a League of Women Voters there) as he proudly showed off the box of ballots, the purple ink with which volunteers marked voters’ index fingers — and one brand new, baby blue, perforated cardboard privacy screen.

At that moment, a tall man with a scar on his face walked in, signed his name on a clipboard, picked up a ballot and walked toward the cardboard booth.

“Come around here so you can watch him vote,” the polling worker instructed through an interpreter as he followed behind the would-be voter.

I paused, frozen between what my journalistic sensibilities told be was a really nifty opportunity to watch history unfold and what my western democratic civilities tell me is a clear violation of a very hallowed privacy.

“Come, come,” the polling worker said as he watched from over the voter’s shoulder. “You’ll miss seeing who he chooses!”

Ultimately, I couldn’t bring myself to watch the guy cast his vote. And I tried — albeit unsuccessfully — to explain why to the poll worker. Voting is, after all, a sacred ritual, if only just to me.

Winston Churchill once quipped that democracy is worst form of government, “except for all the others.”

I’m not completely convinced that’s true. Nonetheless, it has been years since I missed an opportunity to vote.

I hope you’ll make a similar effort to be part of your government, if only in the small way of making it to the polls, each election day, with a smile on your face.

Ear to ear.

Every time.


Monday, November 5, 2007


Dear Spike:

The other shoe dropped today — the folks who sign my paychecks finally got around to spelling out just how much our insurance premiums are going to be raised.

And it’s a bunch. I could rent a pretty decent apartment on the increase alone. Nothing spectacular, mind you: just a little cottage, behind someone’s house, or perhaps a one-bedroom loft, or maybe something like what your mother and I lived in when we first moved to this city, almost four years ago.

I really loved that apartment. Sure, the guy downstairs was a smoker and the nauseating smell of his cigarettes sometimes wafted up through the space below the kitchen sink. And yes, the family in the unit next door was a little bit frightening and a lot bit strange. And granted, there was an old Vietnam War vet named Phil who lived in the garage. But there was a big balcony that was great for barbecues and a funny closet that you had to climb up into to get your clothes out of and a breakfast nook just big enough for our dining room table. Across the street, to the west, was a lovely little Artesian well. And across the street, to the north, was a funky Mexican cafe. There was a bus stop, out front, and sometimes it was fun to sit on the balcony, watch the people get on and off the bus, and wonder where they were going.

We were there for just about six months when, while out on a walk one day, we came upon a lovely old brick home, in the yard of which a man was driving in a “for sale” sign. We’d not really given much thought to buying a home, but we thought we’d take a look anyway. “Couldn’t hurt,” I said.

A month later, we were home owners. Or mortgage owners, I suppose. And in the three years that have gone by, this lovely old home — with its creaking floors and its drafty rooms and its cracking walls and its squeaking doors — has become such an important part of our lives.

I was pretty upset when I got home from the office today. Calmly and wisely, your mother placed you in my arms. Then she dished me up a bowl of French onion soup and sat across the table from me and looked me in the eyes.

“What’s most important?” she asked.

“Spike,” I said.

“And?” she asked.

“And you,” I replied.

“And what else?” she continued.

“Coltrane,” I said, reaching down with my free hand to scratch the back of our cat’s head.


“Your family and my family.”

“Anything else?”

I stopped for a moment and looked around. We’re no where near the point that I should worry about losing our home. We’ll find the money somewhere else. Maybe I’ll find some freelance work. Maybe we’ll get rid of a car. Or maybe, as your mother later suggested, I could sell a kidney.

But the thing that struck me, as I looked around our home, was that it doesn’t really matter.

“Anything else?” your mother asked again.

“No,” I said. “That’s it.”

Yes, I love this house and I love our neighborhood and I like our cars and I enjoy being able to go to soccer and baseball games and go out to eat, every now and then, and to meet my friends at the coffee shop down the street. And no, there’s no reason to worry that all of that is going to change.

But for some reason it gave me great comfort to know that, if worst came to worst and the two worsts got together for a worst party — if we were back in that tiny apartment choking on the neighbor’s cigarette smoke and watching people hop onto the bus in the morning from our bedroom window — I’d still be happy.

That’s how good life is.

Yes, that’s how good life is.


Saturday, November 3, 2007


Dear Spike:

People used to marvel when I’d tell them that you regularly slept through the night. Six, seven, eight hours. “Yeah,” I’d beam, “my baby rocks the party.”

But lately, I suppose because you’ve been growing so fast, you’ve been waking up to eat at least once a night — and sometimes two or three times. And since every bottle I feed you is another bottle that your mother will have to fill at some other point during the day, she’s been pretty insistent that she be the one to feed you at night.

I suppose that’s nice, because I get to sleep. Or have the opportunity to do so, at least.

Except here we are, it’s 3:06 a.m. You’re asleep. Your mother’s asleep. And, really, the vast majority of the United States is asleep. . .

And I’m awake. Up like the Red Sox in Game Three.

OK, Star Wars is partly to blame. At the moment, Luke and Han are searching the Endor Forest for Leia. In a few minutes, the Ewoks are going to open a can of yub nub on the evil Imperial Forces — and who would want to sleep through that?

But also — and more so — I simply enjoy lying here and watching you sleep.

These opportunities seem to be growing more infrequent. You’ve been spending fewer and fewer hours napping during the day. You still take a few 20-minute catnaps. And whenever we’re in the car for longer than 10 minutes, you’re out like the Rockies in Game Four.

But during the daytime, every moment you slumber is an opportunity for me to get a little bit of uninterrupted work done. And so I often miss these moments.

Thankfully, Friday night has become “slumber party night” in our home — the night when you get to escape your cradle and come sleep on the big bed between your mother and me.

And while we say it’s a treat for you, it’s really for us.

And particularly for me.

I love watching your tiny tummy move up and down and my heart melts at the way your sweet little lips curl into a smile while you dream.

I love watching as you curve your back up and stretch your arms out in a way that allows you to take up as much room on the bed as either of your parents — even though you're only five months old and you only weight 11 or 12 pounds.

I love listening to your soft sleepy snorts and your dreamy little squeals.

And I love it when you curl your skinny fingers around my pinky and we sleep together, hand in hand, though the night.

Yeah, my baby rocks the party.