Friday, February 29, 2008

THE LAST DAY

Dear Spike:

Today is the last day of February, a month in which...

• You were dropped on your face at my office.
• You took your first plane trip.
• You fell ill (twice.)
• You watched the Gummy Bear Video on YouTube about 47 times.
• You kicked me in the testicles (twice.)
• You learned to say “mama” and “phapa” (which is close enough for me.)
• You voted (twice.)
• You didn’t gain a single damn ounce, in spite of the fact thatwe shoved food down your throat like Kevin Spacey did to that fat guy during the "gluttony" scene in the movie “Seven.”

If there are no objections, I think I’ll invite your mother to join me in sleeping through March.

Love,
dad

Thursday, February 28, 2008

IN AMAZING WAYS


Dear Spike:

Yesterday marked nine months since the day you were born — and so as of today, you’ve officially spent more time “out” than “in.”

In spite of the fact that you’re still hovering around 13 pounds, the growth we’ve seen since the day you arrived has fascinated me in ways I can’t begin to describe.

You still rely on us for so very much. For food, comfort, warmth and for protection from the cat (who is growing a tad bit ornery about the way you “pet” him.) But you’ve also learned to communicate and interact with us in amazing ways. You sign to us when you want milk. You call to your mother when you see her walking up the steps to our door when she gets home from work.

Lately, we have begun to play a game called “Superman” in which you raise your hand above your head and we, in response, “fly” you around the room. And on your own, you’ve begun to play a game I call “Mess with Daddy’s Mind” in which you begin to cry when I turn away from you, then laugh when I turn back to face you.

Turn away. Cry. Turn back. Laugh. Turn away. Cry. Turn back. Laugh. I feel like a puppet. Or one of those fuzzy-hatted green-skinned guards from the Wizard of Oz... “Oh-weeeee-oh, Ooooh-oh!”

You spent the last three days sick with some sort of ugly stomach bug. As fast as we could pump in the Pedialite you were pumping it out the other end. And yet we didn’t once have to change a wet or messy diaper. You let us know when you needed to go and we obliged. I know I shouldn’t be so fascinated by these sorts of things, but I can’t help it.

And yet, beyond it all, I still look at you and shake my head and simply cannot believe what happened in the nine months before you arrived — how you went from a few small cells to a tiny-but-tough baby girl, with 10 fingers and 10 toes and two eyes and two ears and one cute little belly button seemingly holding it all together in one place.

When your Godmother told us she was pregnant, last month, we quickly rushed out to buy her a book with pictures of all the developmental stages of her baby. Before we sent it off to Oregon, I flipped through its pages and imagined what you once looked like inside the person you now call “mama.”

Amazing.

Amazing.

I wonder whether I’ll ever be able to look into your eyes and not feel awestruck by this miracle. I wonder whether I’ll ever be able to run my fingers through your hair and not be overwhelmed by this gift.

I wonder whether I’ll ever be able to hold your hand in mine and not feel as though the world, spinning round and round and round for so many billions of years, hasn’t suddenly stopped in place in recognition of the moment.

You wow me.

Love,
dad

Monday, February 25, 2008

GOT IT BAD


Dear Spike:

You’re sick again.

Last week it was an ear infection. This week it’s some sort of stomach bug.

I’ll spare you the horrible details. Suffice it to say, you’ve got it bad — and so does your mother.

You’re both sleeping now, thank goodness for that. And while you are resting I’ve been thinking about another night when your mother was dreadfully ill.

It was early into our relationship and she was still living at her with parents’ home, where I had been welcome to come over but not to stay over. As the exact parameters of those rules had not been spelled out, however, you mom and I were operating under a rather liberal interpretation: I was always out of the house before anyone else awoke.

It was during one of these late-night visits that your mother began to wonder whether the clam chowder she’d had for dinner was setting well. Within moments she had turned a very sour shade of green and darted from her room, down the hall and into the bathroom.

I followed behind — just close enough that when she pitched over the toilet she threw up all over my foot. I stood there and held her hair, rubbed her back and hoped that her parents, who were sleeping in the next room, wouldn’t be awakened.

No such luck.

Roused by the commotion, her mother walked in, took one look at me (I wasn’t wearing a shirt) and your mother (who had successfully puked out her dinner and was now working on her lunch) and sighed.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Clam chowder,” I said.

“Are you going to take care of her?” she asked.

“Yes, ma’am.”

She nodded, turned and grabbed two towels from the closet by the door. “One for her and one for your foot,” she explained, setting the towels next to the sink.

And that was that.

The next time I came over, your grandmother had laid out a towel, hand cloth and toothbrush for me. It was never specifically noted, but the implication was that I didn’t have to sneak out in the dead of the night anymore.

I can’t be certain what your grandmother saw that night, but I think she may have glimpsed a bit of the future.

A few weeks later, your mother and I moved in together. A few months after that, we were engaged. And the following year, I stood with your mother in the backyard of that very same home and said “in sickness and in health.”

I meant it. Every word. And I still do.

Love,
dad

Friday, February 22, 2008

YEAR AFTER YEAR



Dear Spike:

Your mother’s birthday is tomorrow.

She’s already gotten her “big gift” — a green and white mountain bike she’s named “Dragon” — and you and I went to pick her up a few other tokens of our collective affection last week. Tonight I’ll sneak out of the house to go pick up some cake mix and frosting (“white cake with confetti frosting,” she has reminded me at least twice a day for the past two weeks.)

I’ve never been a big fan of my own birthday, but I love the way your mother gets excited about hers — as though she is perpetually turning seven years old, year after year after year.

I hope you take after her. And not just on one day of the year.

Life sometimes has a way of sucking the joy out of joyful things, but there is nothing wrong with feeling joy.

There’s nothing wrong with expressing excitement about things that make you happy.

And there’s nothing wrong with turning seven, year after year after year.

Love,
dad

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

SHE'S VERY ADVANCED



Dear Spike:

Folks used to laugh when I told them I worked at The Toy Factory.

“So you’re an elf?” they’d ask with the invariability of the sun rising in the east, “so what’s Santa like?”

Ha ha. Roll eyes. Hadn’t heard that one before. Nope, not an elf. Don’t know Santa. Ha ha. Yawn.

People are soooo predictable.

The Toy Factory, I would explain, was in fact a quaint little toy shop in downtown Corvallis, Ore., where I attended college. We didn’t carry any toy guns or army figures. No Barbie Dolls. No video games. No Mickey Mouse-shaped television sets.

Many of the toys the shop carried were handcrafted. Almost all had some educational purpose. And everyone who shopped there knew, for certain, they were buying for the next Albert Einstein.

Here’s how it would go...

Customer (in a panic): “I need a gift for my nephew. It’s his birthday today.”

Me (in a blue apron): “No problem, why don’t you tell me how old he is.”

Customer: “He’s five — but he’s very advanced.

They all said it. Just like that. Every last one.

Corvallis may have been the academic home of the only man ever to win two unshared Noble Prizes and the guy who invented the modern maraschino cherry, but it is still an improbability of extreme statistical significance that all of the customers at The Toy Factory were shopping for children who were, in fact, “very advanced” or even “sort of advanced.”

But this, in fact, is how it went. Day after day and tenfold about Christmas.

“He’s very advanced.” “She’s very advanced.” “They’re very, very, very advanced.”

People are, after all, soooo predictable.

Fast forward to February 18, 2008. I’m strumming away on my computer keyboard, writing the great American novel. You’re sitting on my lap — and you’ve discovered that if you smack the “delete” key real hard, it makes daddy mad, which is very funny to you.
A band was playing. When Johnny Comes Marching. Waltzing Matilda. Tie a Yellow Ribbon. All around, soldiers in uniform were...
SMACK! Ha ha ha!
A band was playing. When Johnny Comes Marching. Waltzing Matilda. Tie a Yellow Ribbon. All around, sold...
SMACK! Ha ha ha!
A band was playing. When Johnny Comes March...

SMACK! Ha ha ha ha ha!

I’m not proud. I know when I’m beat. But I thought a compromise might be in order. I rushed to the local mega-super-ultra-lightning market, where I was certain I could find a toy computer for you to smack around to your heart’s delight.

And sure enough, there it was — on sale for $21.98, no less.

Perfect.

Except for one thing:

AGES 3 TO 6.

I did a little quick math. You’re nearly nine months old, which leaves you about 27 months shy of the intended age for this toy.

And then, God help me, a thought crossed my mind.

“Well,” I reasoned, “she is very advanced.

People are sooooo predictable.

Love,
dad

Monday, February 18, 2008

CONGRATULATIONS TO ANNA

Dear Spike's Friends:

Congratulations to Anna, mommy of two adorable kids, scrapbooking
pro, photo ace, former English teacher, past Miss Clatsop County, and, if that wasn't all enough, winner of the second irregular (but nonetheless awesome) "Spiku" contest.

Here is her poem, in case you missed it...

Found: One baby girl
Loud, whiny and whimpering
Will pay to give back

Love,
Spike's dad

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A LOVELY WEEKEND

Dear Spike:

We dropped your mother off at the hair salon this afternoon and then you and I made our way about town — two bookshops (we got you two new “board” books,) two gift shops (your mother’s birthday is coming up next week), a coffee shop (you had a bit of cheesecake and we read a New York Times piece about Barack Obama) and then to the market (we danced together near the citrus and picked up some bread for dinner.)

Afterward, we went back to the salon to pick up your mother — who was sporting a cute, short cut complete with purple streaks in the front and back. Usually, your mom leaves the salon in a dour mood, but today she was quite chipper about her new style (and she should be, as it is very adorable, funky and fun.)

Your ear infection seems to have been resolved over these past few days and you’ve returned to your usual jovial self again — save one thing...

... sleep!

Whether because you’re catching up from the zombish last week (which you spent awake all night, all day, every day) or because we’ve been stuffing you full of butter, yogurt, cheesecake and other fine and fatty foods in response to Dr. Shriewer’s concern for your weight, you’ve gotten more sleep over the past few days than I knew you were capable of. And that’s allowed your mother and I to get the house clean (it was beginning to look as though we we living in squalor,) have a bit of adult time together (discussing fine literature, doing taxes, that sort of thing) and get some sleep ourselves (I still don’t think we’ll ever catch up with what’s been lost over the past eight months.)

In short, it’s been a lovely weekend. And since your mother and I both have tomorrow off for President’s Day, we’ll all get to spend one more (hopefully happy) day together before getting back to the daily grind.

Thank God for small blessings. They all add up to big ones.

Love,
dad

Thursday, February 14, 2008

YOU! GO VOTE


Dear Spike's Friends:
One day left to vote in the 'Spiku' poll. I know I don't need to tell you what is riding on this. Rock the vote. Choose or lose. Blah blah blah. 
The poll is to the right and down just a bit.
Love,
Spike's dad


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

ON THE MOVE

Dear Spike:

A little food for thought from our local Catholic bishop on the increasingly contentious issue of illegal immigration. . .

“Jesus himself was a person on the move — an immigrant, if you will.”

Love,
dad

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

THE KING'S ENGLISH


Dear Spike:

I think it may be time for another visit to the The King’s English bookshop.

It’s not that you’ve grown bored with your current selection of stories. Far from it, in fact. Hell, you’d probably be content to listen to “Good Night Moon” 72 times in a row.

But I’m sorry, there are just so many times one can read the words “In the great green room there was a telephone...” without wanting to find said room, pick up said phone and dial up the suicide prevention hotline.

Looks like our psychopathy is your gain. And probably not for the last time, either.

Love,
dad

Monday, February 11, 2008

A GIANT NOW



Dear Spike:

Every few hours, somewhere in the world, a baby is born weighing 13 pounds or more.

Which means that every few hours, somewhere in the world, there appears yet another brand spankin’ newborn as big as you are now — at eight and a half months old.

Sigh.

I took you in to see Dr. Schriewer today. Ostensibly, we were there for your ear infection, but we spent far more time talking about you weight — or lack thereof, as it were. Last time around, she seemed mildly concerned. This time she was obviously more troubled by your stubborn skinniness.

I just keep trying to remember that you came out so very small and, by comparison, you’re practically a giant now.

I also take comfort in knowing that, in other developmental ways, you seem to be doing just fine. You started mumbling “ma ma ma ma” and “da da da da” a while back, but this week it seems you’ve been doing so with a bit more recognition of the particular parent standing before you. Meanwhile, you’re pulling yourself up to a standing position against the bars on your crib and you usually can manage a few brave shuffle steps before you tumble down. And after a rough week in the potty department (you even peed on our friend, Leslie) you seemed to remember how to do... um... “it” and once again are doing your business in the place where that business belongs.

But, alas, you’re still so very small — just a tiny percentile of a tiny percentile, I’m afraid. That does worry me a bit — and your mother, too.

It’s all well and good that you’re learning to use the toilet, after all, but if you’re never big enough to actually sit on it — without falling in — that’s not really going to do you a heckuva lot of good, will it?

And so, it’s time to eat, my precious tiny child.

It’s time to eat.

Love,
dad

Sunday, February 10, 2008

THE GIANT DIPPER

Dear Spike:

Up to 102. Down to 97. Up again and down once more. If we were to track your fever on a chart, I’ll bet it would look like a schematic for the Giant Dipper roller coaster at the Santa Cruz boardwalk.

Fevers, we’re told, are a pretty common malady for infants — particularly this time of year. And though your little body seemed so hot to the touch, anything less than 102 degrees generally is not considered severe. As such, we weren’t too worried until last night, when you woke every 20 minutes — screaming as though we’d been plucking out your eyebrows, hair by hair by hair.

When your fever dropped again today, your mother and I figured you’d pass out from sheer exhaustion, but you maintained the same tormented pace — 20 minutes of rest, 40 minutes of screaming, 20 minutes of rest — throughout the day.



The on-call doctor at our pediatric clinic thinks you probably have an ear infection, perhaps brought on by last week’s first airplane flight to California. He’s prescribed ibuprofen, olive oil drops, and a visit to Dr. Schriewer first thing tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, though, we’ve got to make it through tonight.

Without a doubt, these last three days have been the most miserable of your young life. And it’s been quite painful for your mother and I was well, as we’ve been able to do very little to ease your pain or soothe your cries.

I’m relieved to know that you’ll soon have forgotten all about this.

But I doubt we ever will.

I love you, Spike. Get well soon.

Love,
dad

Friday, February 8, 2008

THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT

Dear Spike:

You fell feverish last night — not terribly so, but enough that you were up most of the night, alternately crying, screaming, fussing and whining.

By this morning, your temperature had dropped back down to a more normal 98.7 — and now you’re simply fighting exhaustion. (It’s not yet 10:30 a.m. and I’ve just set you down for your third nap of the morning.) By this evening, I’m sure, you’ll have recovered your usual, cheery disposition, but having gotten plenty of sleep throughout the day, I’m certain, you’ll be up most of the night again.

So it goes. And goes. And goes.

The laws of science tell us that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. In the humanities, we simply say "what goes around, comes around," but it is equally incontrovertible as a principle of life as it is a principle of physics. Everything you do in this world — by choice, by circumstance or, most often, by both choice and circumstance — will set off an ever-splintering chain of reactions, the consequences of which might be felt today or years down the road. Some people call this the “butterfly effect” — based on the idea that if were you able to follow the infinite effects of an action as infinitesimal as a butterfly flapping its wings, you might find that, over days and weeks and months and years and centuries and millennia, an entire world is changed by an initial action not seen nor felt by anyone.

I’ve thought about this principle a lot as you, your mother and I have begun our journey through this world — at once so simple and so chaotic — together. What choices have we made today that will, in the decades to come, effect your life and the lives of others? What circumstances have occurred that will, as you live and breathe and grow, change your world and the worlds around you?

How will the dreams that you are dreaming this morning — at a time when you would usually be awake — inform the rest of your day? How will that day change your week, your year, your life?

You’re starting to wake from your nap, now. And coincidentally, the sun has broken through the winter clouds for the first time in weeks, so I think I’ll take you outside, for a moment or two, for a bit of fresh air.

We’ll breathe it all in. And change the world.

Love,
dad

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

ONE DUMB MOVE

Dear Spike:

I only turned my head for a moment.

I was leaning in to speak to a friend at work when I felt my balance shift and heard a sickening thump on the ground.

One moment you were snuggled in your baby carrier, which I’d set on my hip as I chatted with my friend. The next moment you were face down on the floor — doing that silent, shaky, red-faced, mouth-opened, oh-my-God-what-have-you-done-to-me thing that you do right before you scream.

And scream you did. Oh, scream you did.

Loud.

Phones dropped. Conversations ended. Every set of eyes in the building were fixed on us as I cradled you in my arms and rocked you back and forth, desperately trying to soothe you.

I did a quick inspection:

Two eyes, still relatively well aligned. One nose, still set straight. One tooth, still firmly implanted in your lower gums.

You had a little pink mark on you cheek, but otherwise, seemed no worse for the wear.

Unfortunately I can’t say the same for my ego.

Some of my colleagues at work have taken to calling me “Britney.” That’s a not-so-kind reference, I‘ve learned, to America’s favorite White trash mommy and Mickey Mouse Club alumna, Britney Spears, who was caught on film a few years ago nearly dropping her son (but somehow managing to hold onto the drink she was carrying in the process.) Others just greet me with the word “oops!” which, to my utter and eternal shame, is apparently the first thing I said when I realized you’d done a swan dive out the side of your chair.

I’ve always fancied myself a pretty decent dad. So I guess this is what you’d call a big dose of comeuppance. And as in most things in life, there’s a lesson here, I think.

It’s good to have a healthy ego. But it’s also good to know you’re never more than one dumb move away from making a complete ass of yourself.

I'm lucky you can't talk yet. Because as guilty as I've been feeling, I'd probably buy you a pony if you asked.

Love,
dad

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

TIME TO VOTE

Dear Spike's Friends:
In honor of Super Duper Tuesday, a new Spike Poll has been released in which we'll choose the winner of "Spiku Two."
Hidden from the public in the smoke-filled back rooms of "party headquarters," the greedy party power brokers (Spike and I) have eliminated all but four candidates (the rest of you need to learn a little more about "lobbying" if$you$know$what$I$mean).
Here they are, in no particular order...

Temper tantrum tot
For sale real cheap to good home
Good luck... you'll need it

—Carole

Feisty little girl
Who does not care for boundaries
Can be yours. B.O.

— Meeshemama

Found: One baby girl
Loud, whiny and whimpering
Will pay to give back

— Anna

Miracle needed
Two former tots moving fast
Last seen growing up

— Sfox

Thanks to everyone for playing — now go vote!
Love,
Spike's dad



Dear Spike:

Your mother and I cast our primary election votes this morning — the first time we've done so as a family. As usual, you wooed the old ladies at the poll, and picked up two more "I voted" stickers for your collection.

In Utah, only one of the two party races actually resembles a race this year. On the Republican side, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who is seeking to become the first member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be elected president, is a lock to win the GOP nomination in this largely Mormon state. On the Democratic side, however, Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton are running close in the polls, and since the Utah Democratic Party allows independent voters to participate in its primary, I cast my vote in that race.

Times like this come along infrequently. Come November's general election, the Democratic nominee will either be vying to be our nation's first black president or its first female president. And on the other side of the ballot, the Republican nominee will either be seeking to become our first Mormon president or our first Vietnam veteran president. The diversity of that group makes me proud. And it gives me hope.

Because this will be such a historic election, and because ├╝ber-conservative Utah's November vote is generally considered to be a forgone conclusion, even before we know who we'll be voting for, it was nice to know that, today, my vote might actually matter — helping determine who the Democratic nominee will be.

But I'd caution you against making that a prerequisite for participating. Yes, sometimes it's going to feel like it doesn't matter. And sometimes, mathematically speaking, it really won't, but I encourage to you make the time to vote anyway — it's one of the few things you can do to simultaneously tell this country that you're disgusted with it and that you love it.

Love,
dad

Sunday, February 3, 2008

WRITE MORE POETRY

Dear Spike’s Friends:
Don’t forget to try your hand at ‘Spiku. . . Two’
Scroll down a few posts for instructions, then leave your poem (generally five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables, but artistic license is always acceptable) in the comments area.
Love, Spike’s dad

Friday, February 1, 2008

ALL THE HASSLE

Dear Spike:

I'll admit I wasn't too fond of the idea when your grandfather called me, a few months back, with a plan to surprise your grandmother.

"I'd like to fly the three of you out for her birthday," he said. "It would be the best present in the world for her."

There are few things I wouldn't do for my mother, but I still was dreading the trip. I could already see the other passengers' spiteful gazes and hear their impatient sighs. Heck, for all the love we could expect to get from our fellow travelers, I feared, we might as well walk onto the plane wearing shirts that read: "About to meet my virgins."

But things went remarkably well on your first airplane trip. We got through security with no major hassles. One of the flight attendants encouraged us to take an extra seat for your safety chair, since the plane wasn't full. I didn't notice a single angry glance from our fellow passengers as we boarded (rather, quite a few of them looked up at you and cooed.) And you were remarkably well behaved during the hour-long wait for the plane to arrive and the hour and a half flight from Salt Lake City to Oakland.

We arrived, safe and sound, at your grandparents' home this evening — and nearly gave your grandmother a heart attack when we walked in the door.

It really turned out to be no great hassle at all, but the look on her face when she saw you would have been worth all the hassle in the world.

Love,
dad