Saturday, November 29, 2008


Dear Spike:

I've said it before, I'll say it again: If you're going to root for The Beavers, you're going to have to get used to disappointment.

One win away from earning its first Rose Bowl appearance since the Vietnam War, OSU couldn't get the best of the team in the ugly green and yellow uniforms from Eugene. That team (the name of which shall not be spoken in our family) racked up a huge win...

... against Oregon State's injured quarterback and Oregon State's second-string running back.

Oooh. Impressive.

And this, my darling little daughter, leads us to today's lesson in how to live with disappointment: You can't win all the time, but you can almost always find some way to undercut the significance of the other team's victory.

That won't make you happy, but it'll annoy the enemy. And on days like today, that's at least something.


Thursday, November 27, 2008


Dear Spike:

Your mother just went into your room to rock you down to sleep. It's been a lovely Thanksgiving Day, but now I think we're all ready to nestle into our beds and give in to the tryptophan. I think it might snow tonight and I'm likely to have a pretty light day at work tomorrow, so perhaps we can all go for an icy romp through the park and then come home for a cup of hot cocoa.

Your grandparents left before we even had the turkey in the oven, but it was fun to share part of our Thanksgiving week with them. They're really quite smitten with you and you love spending time with them, too. We're lucky to have such a wonderful family, and on this day that is something I am very thankful for.

Because we live so far away from much of our family, we don't get to see everyone all that often. But earlier this month you and your mother got to visit your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in Oregon, and next month we'll be going to see your aunt and uncles in Southern California, and the month after that we'll be going to see the rest of our family in Northern California. We are very lucky in this way — and that is another thing that I am thankful for.

And, as long as I'm at it, here are a few other things I am thankful for today (and every day.)

For our old drafty home and for our big, furry cat, who keeps my feet warm on winter nights. For our chickens and the delicious eggs they give us. For your mother's job, which is so close to our home and which gives her a chance to change the world, every day. For my job, which provides me the ability to stay at home with you on most days.

For the Mighty Fighting Beavers football team of Oregon State University, which is one win away from going to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1965.

For our new president and for the president he is replacing. God knows I've got high hopes for the former and great sympathy for the latter, for these are difficult times and history is not apt to be very kind.

For our friends — especially those whom you probably won't be able to distinguish from our family — for they have made our lives feel rich and our hearts feel big.

And, of course, for you and your mother. You are my best friends.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Dear Spike:

I just got back to bed after rocking you down — for the second time tonight. I anticipate we'll be having another meeting sometime between now and 3 a.m. That's just the way it's been, lately.

I'm tired. You're mother is, too.

We've chatted a lot this week about weaning you from our nightly rocking sessions. And the truth is, you're probably ready for that.

But I'm not sure we're ready for that. Because I, for one, start feeling very lonely on the rare nights when I don't get to lift you from your crib and rock you back to sleep and smell your soft, clean hair and feel your sweet little snores and feel your warm breath against my arm.

Yes, maybe you are ready to sleep through the night. But I'm not.


Friday, November 21, 2008


Dear Spike:

We cut your hair yesterday.

Really, we should have gotten to it weeks ago. Maybe months ago. But for the longest time, it just didn't seem right to rob you of the only locks you had — even if that little whisp of hair did hang down over your face, like Eddie Munster on a Rogaine binge.

But things were getting out of hand. You're not a big fan of hair clips, and although we'd always start the day by brushing it to one side or the other, it never stayed that way.

The last straw came the other day, when your hair got stuck under your runny nose. Yeah. It was that kind of gross.

And so, last night, your mother held you down while I played Delilah to your Sampson.

Snip. Snip. Snip.

And just like that, you had bangs worthy of Bettie Page, or maybe one of those creepy Catholic monks.

For a very long time, your mother had a custom of coming home from a haircut feeling as though she'd made the worst decision of her life. "I don't think I like it," she'd fret (sometimes for several days) after each new cut.

I always told her the same thing: "You look darling."

It was always true for her then. And it's true for you now.

You look darling.


Monday, November 17, 2008


Dear Spike:

As a matter of parental responsibility, we always kiss your boo-boos. Being rather boo-boo prone, you get a lot of kisses. And so lately you've come to expect a little smooch to cure whatever ails you.

So when you got a splinter in your hand at the playground: "Kiss it! Kiss it! Kiss it!"

And when you got scratched on your leg by the cat: "Kiss it! Kiss it! Kiss it!"

And when you bumped your head on the cabinet: "Kiss it! Kiss it! Kiss it!"

In almost every other situation, your mother and I wouldn't let you get by with demanding anything from us without so much as a "please" and then a "thank you."

But when you're in pain, we always comply. Finishing school can wait. Boo-boos can't.

But today, I really had to draw the line.

You were running around your bedroom when you lost your footing, spun around backward and fell — bum first — onto a wooden block. Unfortunately, you don't really have much of a butt to speak of, so I'm sure it smarted something fierce.

You writhed on the ground before jumping up, hand on butt, to ask for daddy's magic remedy.

"Kiss it! Kiss it! Kiss it!" you screamed.

I looked down at you and shook my head.

"Kiss it! Kiss it! Kiss it!" you pleaded.

"No way, Jose," I said.

"Kiss it! Kiss it! Kiss it!" you cried.

I sighed and rolled my eyes. "Say please."

"Pleeeeeeeaaaase! Kiss it! Kiss it! Kiss it!"

I complied. And just like that, you were all better.

My dignity? That's another story entirely.


Saturday, November 15, 2008


Dear Spike:

I came home from work yesterday to find you and your mother curled up together in bed.

You both melt my heart.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Dear Spike:

No snacking between meals.

It seems counterintuitive, given that we're trying to fatten you up for the winter, but that's what the doctor ordered.

Except today, walking back from the park and past the chocolate studio around the corner (two parts blessing, one part curse, five parts yummy) I sort of forgot about the new rules and bought you a chocolate-covered strawberry.

Don't tell the doctor, OK?



Dear Spike:

You're back from your big Oregon adventure — and at this moment sleeping between your mother and me.

Home feels like home again.


Saturday, November 8, 2008


Dear Spike:

You and your mother are visiting our family in Oregon this weekend, so I'm all alone in this big old house. Funny, it doesn't seem so big when we're all here together. And it doesn't seem so lonely, either.

I woke up last night expecting to hear your sweet little snores over the baby monitor. It took me a few moments to remember why it was so very quiet. I tossed and turned and finally fell back asleep, only to wake up an hour later when I rolled over to hold your mother and got nothing but an armful of pillows.

Your mom called me twice today to tell me about how much fun you're having with your Aunt Molly, Uncle Matt and cousins Jay and Brett. Today you went to the Portland Children's Museum, where you played in the Bob The Builder exhibit. (I can only imagine your excitement at "meeting" the characters of which you've grown so fond. Tomorrow you'll head down to your grandparents house, where you'll be meeting up with more aunts, uncles and cousins. And then on Monday, you'll be visiting your Godmother and her new baby, Aaron.

I miss you, but I'm excited for your adventures and happy you're getting to spend time with people who love you. And I'll keep this big old house warm for your return.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Dear Spike:

Today will come and go for you like any other.

The sun has not imploded. Gravity has not been upended. The sky is still the sky and the land is still the land and the sea is still the sea.

Today is just another day for you. And, in the very grand scheme of things, for all of us.

But it does not feel that way. No, today it feels as though the entire world has changed.

Today, a black man has been elected as our president.

You are still very young, but at some point in the next four years, you will come to understand that there is someone in this nation we call our president. You won't at first understand how he came to be who he came to be. You won't know precisely what he does.

You will simply know him as a photograph. As an image on the television screen. As a name spoken on the radio.

And when you come to this very simple understanding, the man you will know as your president will not look like any of the men that preceded him as the leader of our nation.

But you will not know that this is special.

For you will not know — not for a few more years, at least — our nation's great shame. You will not know that, at one time in our history, we held people in chains and sold them as cattle and kept them as property. You will not know that, at one time in our history, we kept people from voting and sent them to sit in the back of the bus and told them that they were not human enough to eat at our side. You will not know that, at one time in our history, we hung people from trees.

Thank God Almighty that you will not know. Thank God Almighty that when you come to learn these things, you will learn them as history. Ancient as the pyramids, I pray.

You will come to learn these things in a classroom full of children of many races, colors and creeds. You will come to learn these things in a classroom full of children belonging to parents who look like your parents and who do not. You will come to learn these things in a classroom full of children who, like you, will be learning these things for the first time, too. You will come to learn these things in a classroom full of children who, like you, will not know that the ascension of a black man into the White House is in any way significant.

For as far as you will know, that is how it always has been.

As you grow you will come to know that our shame is not so ancient, that our wounds are still quite fresh. You will learn that there is still so much work to be done.

You will learn of a dream not yet realized, of a check still not cashed.

Do not be dismayed.

Listen to me, my child: The world can change.

I know that it is so.



Dear Spike's Friends:

I was there, in the fall of 2005, standing in the shadow of the tapered golden dome of the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf, as Iraqis braved shootings, bombings, and even beheadings to vote in that nation's first constitutional referendum. On that day, 10 Iraqi poll workers were kidnapped, dozens of others were killed or injured, and six U.S. service members lost their lives.

What's stopping you, today, from voting?

Spike's dad