Wednesday, December 29, 2010

the girl with microscope eyes (or, how to improve fine motor skills)

it has been three weeks since emmi's first fledgling steps, and since then she is now officially walking around everywhere. it's great news, but the bad news is that she is now walking around everywhere. she is like a visa card in reverse: she's everywhere you don't want her to be. ergo, the gates are installed and the fences are up blocking off the tv. our living room now resembles guantanamo effin' bay, but with toys.

she also has picked up (no pun intended) a habit of finding and zooming in on the tiniest imperceptible piece of fuzz on the carpet. i look over to her, and she bends down, reaches out with thumb and forefinger, all dainty-like, and seemingly picks up nothing. yet the next thing i know is there is a thread the size of a nose hair in her hand. i grab it, put it in my pocket, and go about my business. until, that is, the next piece of fuzz makes it into her hand. i swear i don't know how she sees these in the carpet, unless we have given birth to a baby terminator who thinks that carpet fuzz is sarah connor.

and now that she is walking, she is also testing her boundaries. she understands 'no', but that sometimes doesn't stop her. i don't blame her - she is a kid, and god knows my dad is looking down and smiling, because i have found myself saying the same thing i heard as kid: 'don't touch things you're not supposed to touch...'

i have also been trying to perfect 'the look': you know, that look that a parent can give that will scare the bejeezus out of a child enough to freeze them in their tracks. i've tried it on her, but i probably look pretty dumb. i imagine i look something like the rock:

if this is true, she will probably be laughing too hard to continue the offending behavior. not quite the effect i was going for, but i guess if it works it works.

Friday, December 17, 2010

caldo verde (or, how to bridge the past and the future)

emmi had soup for lunch the other day. it was an ordinary day, and it wasn't the first time she's had soup, but it was significant. the soup she had was caldo verde, a portuguese soup made from collard greens. again, not out of the ordinary, i have been eating it all my life. but this batch was different.

as i've said before, my dad died the same week we found out kathy was pregnant, so she will never ever get to meet her grandfather. he loved cooking, and as kathy can tell you, i've picked up a lot of his mannerisms in the kitchen. as a function of having a wife, three kids, a mother-in-law, and whomever of our friends who happened to be over for dinner that night, he was fond of making huge batches of stuff and freezing them: chili, spaghetti sauce, etc. and caldo verde. a few months ago, i had found a batch in the freezer that he made before he died and had given to me. the night before, we decided to have it for dinner, i knew what it was and what it represented, but it didn't occur to me until the next day when i said i'd give some to emmi for lunch that it really hit me: here she is, eating something made for her by her grandfather. i'm not really too big on the sentimental stuff, but this kinda just felt like a big deal to me. it was something of my dad's that he created that i can share with her. it kinda makes me feel like he is a part of her life, even though he isn't here.

emmi ate it and loved it. and so did i.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

mommy bias (or, how to flip the script)

i'm a few months into my new job as professional daddy, and i have a little bit of a bone to pick with the established order of things. i understand that i am in the minority when it comes to the primary weekday caregiver, but is it really that out of the ordinary that i get puzzled looks while at the store with emmi in a stroller? are other guys so inept that total strangers feel the need to impart unsolicited advice to me? it kinda gets on my nerves that the mom is always the one who controls everything and can make everything work when it comes to kids. it's as if i am some sort of societal anomaly.

even most of the advertising is geared towards the mom. 'choosy moms choose jif.' what about dad? well, either he doesn't give a crap about peanut butter, or he's a peter pan man. enfamil formula is 'trusted by moms and pediatricians.' dad, however, is apparently skeptical. robitussin is 'recommended by dr. mom' because dr. dad is out on the golf course. kix cereal is 'kid tested, mother approved.' meanwhile, dad's choice, the sugar honey sweetieos, sit unopened in the cupboard. why is it automatically assumed that mom unilaterally makes all of the household decisions? and if this is the case, how on earth does the dad claim the title, 'head of the household'? for the most part, dad is like the queen of effin' england - leader of the empire, but having no real power.

sometimes guys are to blame for this reduced stature. nothing pisses me off more than a guy who passes responsibilities off to the mom. 'i'm the man, it's not my job.' it is neanderthals like that that is making my life more difficult. something i've learned in my year of being a dad is that in parenting, there is no such thing as 'her job' and 'his job.' any and everything that mom can do, dad should be able to do just as well, with the exception of those things that are anatomically impossible. i will never claim to be a hell of a breastfeeder.

i'll admit, i used to play the clueless dopey dad while in public, cause it got a few laughs. i stopped that though because it played into a stereotype i wanted no part of. i am still by no means perfect, but i'd like to think i'm always improving.

and for the record, skippy is my peanut butter of choice.

Friday, December 3, 2010

birth day (or, how to never forget)

as of 10:53 pm tonight, emmi has been on this side of the world for a whole year now. it still amazes me how much i remember from that day. as we know, i am more than a little scatterbrained, and i'm usually hazy on details not 10 minutes after the fact. the roller coaster actually started the night before around 1am when kathy said something i will never forget: 'ok. either i just peed myself, or my water broke...'

the contractions started around 2am, and me being the nerd i am, has to punch the 'start/stop' button on the handydandy contraction timing iphone app. folks, when apple says 'there's an app for that', they really effin' mean it. but i digress.

our first step is to labor a few hours at home, then go to the doctor's office. the act of walking into the office from the car was a 10 minute process. walk a few steps, contraction, breathe, massage, breathe....aaaand we're clear! once there, the doctor takes one looks and says, 'oh yeah, we're having a baby today.' ok, on to the hospital!

upon arriving at the maternity floor, we discovered that all the rooms were full, and that we would have to wait until a room opened up. this is where i learned the most valuable lesson of having a child: no matter how well and thoroughly you plan, something will always throw it off in some way. we had an entire plan of playing relaxing music, kathy quietly meditating, possibly even laboring in the shower to ease the pains. instead, for the first few hours, poor kathy is laying in a bed in the c-section recovery area, complete with a fresh-out-of-surgery mommy (as well as all the things that go with post-c-section), nurses constantly walking in and out, and a husband with a gallon-sized red bull in his hand constantly asking 'are you ok?'

finally a room opens up, so they roll kathy into her new private room. it's been close to 12 hours of labor, and by this time, she is getting tired and she decides to get an epidural, not so much to ease the pain of the delivery, really just to take the edge off so she can rest. it is this time that i go to get the most non-offensive smelling lunch i can find.

after a few more hours, it's time to push!!! and push!! and push! and push. and. push. my beautiful wife pushed for 3. effin. hours. there was a point the doctors and nurses left and i was the only one in there with her! after the threat of a c-section, to which kathy replied 'i have not been here pushing for 3 hours to have a c-section!', finally a little 6 lb. 13 oz. peanut made her debut.

we did not know she was a her. we didn't find out in advance if the baby was going to be a boy or girl. there are so few true happy surprises in life, and we took this chance to do it the old fashioned way - we'll know when it gets here.

only problem was, now that she was here, we still didn't know. the doctor, forgetting we didn't know in advance, turned to start cleaning up, and as it is laying on kathy's belly, the umbilical cord was covering up the telltale parts. and i was not about to go lifting it up like a kid peeking under the covers. kathy asked, 'what is it?' i said, 'i don't know!' i turned to the doctor, and he was almost out in the hallway! i had to chase him and get him back to lift up the cord to see what was (or as it turned out, wasn't) there. as i turned and got close to kathy and excitedly said to her, 'it's a girl! it's a girl!' she looked up and said, 'what??' her pregnancy hunch was that it was going to be a boy. i honestly had no clue; as long as it came out with 10 fingers, 10 toes, 2 arms, 2 legs and 1 head, i was happy. they cleaned her off, i cut the umbilical cord, (it feels very similar to cutting raw calamari) and then there she was, emmi delfina.

as i held emmi in my arms for the first time, i couldn't help but be amazed how alert she was. her eyes darted back, forth, up, down, and all around as if to say, 'hoooly crap where the hell am i? that was really freakin' trippy...'

a whole year later, it is still exciting, and scary as hell, to say the phrase, 'i have a daughter.' as she gets older, i'm looking forward to doing lots of things with her, but i'm not rushing. she took long enough to come out, i may as well follow her example and take my time and just enjoy being with her.

happy birthday beautiful baby. daddy loves you.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

two small steps, one giant leap (or, how to beam with pride)

it wasn't much, but it was a lot.

emmi took her first unassisted steps tonight, in full view of me, kathy, and her godparents who happened to be on a video chat at the time. for a few weeks she's been doing a tippytoe-goosestep looking walk when holding someone's hands, and even more recently taking steps with holding just one hand, as well as cruising around any and every piece of furniture in the living room that will support her, and some that won't support her; in those cases she usually ends up on her butt with a 'wtf??' face. she has even been standing up on her own, and when she does, you can see that she is trying to figure out what should happen next.

but tonight was different. in what could be described as looking like a drunken stumble, emmi took two unassisted steps from her stand up piano to the sofa. not really believing what we just saw, we guided her back and she did it again! she knew she had done something great, because she was as excited as a squirrel in a room full of acorns.

we were excited, too. how could you not be? here's this little peanut, two days away from her first birthday, having this seminal moment in which she begins to truly take control of her own destiny. we take for granted our ability to walk, but for emmi (and all babies) it is literally a leap of faith.

well, tonight those first two steps were her leap. and nothing is gonna stop her now.