Monday, November 12, 2012

Our Own Little Threenager...

A week ago now, Amari Becker Fishman - as she introduces herself now - turned three years old. Amazing. This is such a fun age. All along the way she has been slowly moving towards becoming her own little person, and now more than ever she is establishing her personality as a part of our family mix. A lot of it comes from what we've modeled - the manners, the humor, the reluctance at times to try new things - while a lot of it is all hers - the imagination, the creative talent, the stubbornness, the defiance/individuation. It's fascinating to Carrie and I reflected in our daughter.

School didn't go quite as smoothly on day two or week two. I think I took it for granted that Amari was fine the second day when I said, "I'll see you later," while she was engaged in a puzzle. Apparently, when she realized I was gone, she shed some tears, eventually recovered, and finished the day. The next Tuesday I kept her home sick and that Thursday ended up being my first day at preschool. She didn't want me to leave and I didn't want to traumatize her and make it completely distasteful. Since then, I've tried not to talk about school in hopes of a short-term memory and a healthy new attitude come tomorrow morning.

Amari's birthday party was on Saturday, and it went off without a hitch. No tears or fights or unhappy moments during present-opening time. I was worried there wouldn't be enough entertainment for the kids, but when everyone showed up I realized it's us adults who are more entertainment dependent. The kids just ran around, played, ate, and played some more. By the end of the evening, Amari was dancing around by herself singing, "It's my birthday. It's my birthday." She was completed sated and elated.

Happy Birthday, Kiddo. Sorry I don't write as much.

I love you,

 Amari's New Ride

 "It's my birthday. It's my birthday." 

" cream cake."

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Waldorf Montesooria

For the past few months, pre-school has been the hot topic around Amari's playgroups. There about half a dozen to choose from on the coast, and depending on the parent you ask you'll get a rave review or a cautionary tale. Six months ago, I was barely open to discussing it, feeling as though time had gone by too quickly already and school of any kind would only cement the inevitable end to my journey as a stay-at-home dad. I wasn't ready - and if I'm honest, I don't think Amari was either at that point.

More recently, however, I began to imagine what I could accomplish with a few hours to myself each week. Indoors and out, personally and professionally, my "To Do" lists were mounting. I began opening myself to prospect of letting go, the certainty that I would eventually have to in so many ways as a parent, and I quizzed other parents about schools I was interested in. For a while, I was sure the local Montesoorie school was the perfect fit.

I never visited, I just liked the idea of a school with a philosophy. What I didn't like and what was ultimately the deal-breaker was their minimum requirement of four days a week. Too expensive financially and emotionally right out of the gate. Oh yeah, and the aforementioned Vegippie from the episode titled "And the Award for the Worst Townie Ever Goes to..." has her children enrolled there.

Then I started paying attention to the kids I felt Amari was temperamentally aligned with and asked where they attended school. A small sample size of similar children led me to check out the pre-school at a local church. Carrie was reticent and worried about indoctrination, but I figured it was pretty naive to think we could protect Amari from a world full of ideas. That's life. Whatever she comes home with will be tempered by or assimilated into what we teach here. When I asked the director of the pre-school, she let me know what to expect - very minimal religious influence - and told me they encouraged families from other faiths to come in and share their belief systems. That was enough for me - I enrolled Amari the next day.

The next day was last Tuesday. When we visited Monday, Amari wanted to stay, so I was optimistic and hopeful the next morning. It honestly couldn't have gone better. I was more anxious than she was. She sat down to play blocks with her friend Adam and when I asked for a hug goodbye, she jumped up, wrapped her arms around me, and said, "Goodbye." I drove away feeling relieved and nervous, and for the next two plus hours amidst a flurry of chores I checked my phones in case there was a call saying, "This just isn't working," followed by a list of all the things I need to work on if I'm going to continue raising an only child.

Instead, the phones remained silent. I got a ton of work done inside and out, and when I picked Amari up at 11:30 she saw me from across the room and and smiled, "You came back," she said -  a reference to the Llama Llama book we'd been reading in preparation for school.
"How did it go?" I asked her.
"I didn't miss you," she assured me, unlike Llama Llama had.

To be honest, those words have never sounded so sweet...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Almonds Are Good For Your Heart

I saw the Worst Townie Ever at the park again yesterday. This time I didn't say a word, just stood silently twice as she stood nearby watching her older daughter while her little boy ran feral around the playground. Within the half an hour I was there, two other parents confided that they could also tell me a few stories about the Vegippie. When she finally left, the usually calm, aloof, weirdo was screaming at her daughter and making ultimatums about her near future. It looked like she might just get sent to bed without her Tofurky burger.

Back at home, Amari has been saying some pretty memorable things that I don't want to forget. I know - sounds like a contradiction - but if you're like me, there's just too much to keep track of these days.

Conversation 1

A commercial came on TV yesterday with a guy dressed up like a heart promoting California Almonds. Amari asked, "Why is he dressed up like a heart."
"I  think he's trying to let us know that almonds are good for your heart."
"You know what else is good for my heart?" I asked.
"You are," I smiled.
"You and your friends and my friends are good for my heart," she added.
Who needs almonds?

Conversation 2

Amari has been going through a phase of not wanting to get dressed. With time, it can be a less distressing experience for both of us. Yesterday, I did not have that luxury. As a result, I had to force the issue, putting her clothes on with the added challenge of dodging her kicks and half cries. By the end of it, I was pretty annoyed that she wouldn't stop, so I put her on a time out.

This has happened about a half a dozen times without much success and here's why. When I put her down she was crying and immediately got up and started following me as I walked away. I kept walking, she kept following. Finally I sat down and she collapsed in my arms and cried hard. When she finally calmed down, we left the house. On the way into town I asked her, "Hey Amari. What do you think about time outs? Do you think that's a good punishment?"
"No," she stated the obvious.
"Well," I asked, "What should I do when I'm upset and you're kicking me and not listening?"
Without hesitation she said, "You should just hug me."

There was another one, but it already slipped through the cracks of my aging brain.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

And the Winner of the Worst Townie Ever Goes To...

When Amari was just a wee lass I used to take her to our local park. I'd let her stumble around on the tan bark, covertly eat a few pieces, amble up and down some stairs, and navigate the occasional slide. On our early adventures we encountered a wide range of parenting styles - from the basic Text-a-holics (self-explanatory) to the Euphemistics (with children who are assertive and expressive rather than aggressive cry babies) all the way to the What-the-hell-do-you-think-you're-doing-this-is-a-public-placists (i.e. the tweaker dad who took off his shirt to do push-ups in the middle of the park on a cold day in November).

Today, however, I met the most annoying parent of all. You might recall her from previous entries that should have been titled "Get Your Freakin' Snot-Covered Hug-Obsessed Kid Away from Me," or "Please Wipe that Disgusting Green Disease River Off His Face Before Everyone in Toddler Yoga Gets Sick." That's right, the hippie chick with too many kids is back, getting my full attention by being a complete B-Word today. Can you tell I'm a little fired up?

Here's how it went down.

First of all during snack time, her almost two year-old from the previously mentioned episodes came over to our bench to see what was going on. My much more intuitive daughter stuck her hand out to the boy when he showed some interest in her cheese-flavored mini-rice cakes. "No," she insisted, but I interjected and turned to his mom who was approaching now and said, "He's welcome to have some if it's okay."
"Actually, we're mostly vegan," she replied, with only a hint of condescension at this point. I didn't question the mostly part.
"Oh, how about an apple from our apple tree?" I offered.
She accepted. Took the apple and her child and went back to her corner of the park.

For the next forty-five minutes, Jim and I watched her child wander aimlessly around the park while she tended to her infant and her vegan cell phone. In one instance towards the end of our park time, he walked right in front of a moving swing with child. I snatched him up, moved him to the side and gave him a few kind words of instruction about safety. Moments later mom showed up, snatched him up again, and gave us a few words of nothing.

I turned to Jim and made a list of suggestions as to what she could have said, which of course included, "Thank you...Sorry... I've tried to tell him...Vegans consider swings holy and therefore harmless," anything really except nothing.

The straw that broke this camels back, however, came a few minutes later when I went to collect my survival bag from the bench it had been sitting on since we arrived. As I approach, the Vegippie rushes over and shoves our bag of mini-rice cakes her son had obviously absconded with back into our bag.
"Ooops," I said trying to ease any embarrassment she might have felt that her son made off with our food."
"Yeah," she said with indignation oozing from her trans-fat-free pores. Then she huffed off, leaving me feeling for the briefest of moments like I'd done something wrong.
"Did you hear that, Jim?" I asked. He had, so I added, "I think I might have a mortal enemy."

For the next 15 minutes we plotted my revenge and talked about how disappointed she will be when her kids come home from school raving about the corn dogs and Salsbury steak they had for lunch. Revenge included luring her into a friendship with talk of reformed eating habits, home schooling, and how the jet streams off the coast surely control the weather. Then, I would offer her an apple again, maybe several apples, one for each little Hegan. Only my fresh, tree-picked, organic apples, would be infused with the most delicious, hickory-smoked bacon grease her children have ever had. Her whole world would come crumbling down like the wake of an anarchistic-inspired transformation.

Moral: Don't leave your gross, little kid unattended at the park all morning and then get mad at me when he steals shit from my bag. Put that one in your pipe and smoke it Aesop.

T-I- Double G Grrrrrrrrr.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

David Jacob Fishman

A week ago today, we welcomed our nephew David Jacob Fishman into the world. He was 6 pounds 14 ounces, 10 fingered, 10 toed, and absolutely perfect. Birth and pregnancy, however, is another story.

A year or two ago, probably during some insane sleep deprivation or an blindingly cute period of Amari's toddler-hood, Carrie offered to be a surrogate for my brother Jacob and his wife, Olga. They had been trying without success to start a family, and were looking into adoption and invitro fertilization. When they started the latter process, Carrie reminded them of her offer, but they wanted to try on their own first. After two failed attempts, they had one DNA package left and decided to take Carrie up on her offer.

The doctor was pessimistic, telling us the eggs were probably too old and not to get our hopes up. The process was a drag - hormone shots, long drives to and from the clinic down south, and the ultimate possibility that it wouldn't work at all. After a few weeks of hormone therapy, the zygote was implanted. Within a week, Carrie knew she was pregnant, and within 12 days it was confirmed by the doctor.

The skinny on the pregnancy and the birth is that they were not as magical, inspiring, or easy as the one Carrie had with Amari. The nausea was worse, the indigestion and heartburn came sooner, and her body ached more often. Come September, Carrie was ready to be done. Who am I kidding? Come June she was ready to be done.

Another disappointment this time around was Carrie's water broke early and before labor began. This meant that in absence of labor starting organically within the next 24 hours, she had to check into the hospital and have it induced. No home birth. No comforts of our living room. No Amari nearby until the last possible moment. Instead, a cold, sterile room that was sent to the future from the 1970's, fully equipped with General Hospital-style machines and a TV that I'm pretty sure we once owned during my childhood.

It was awful.

Then came the induced labor. Harder, faster, and more painful. Then came the multiple nurses, the male doctor, the agony, the gory details which will remain omitted here, the merciful arrival of our midwife Carla, and finally at 9:00 in the morning, fifteen hours after admission, the arrival of our 6 pound 14 ounce nephew, David Jacob Fishman.

As miserable as it all was, Carrie said that seeing Jacob and Olga adoring their new baby over the next few days made it all worth it.

But never, ever again. My vasectomy will be performed by the end of the year.

Nonetheless, welcome to the world little David.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Just Stuff

The other day Amari asked me to teach her some ballet. Fortunately, although I didn't have any girlfriends in middle school, I did have a lot of friends that were girls. Yay. Who knew that the plies and releves my friend Jessica taught me years ago would one day make me a better parent.

"Plie," I'd say, and Amari would bend her legs in a half squat.
"Grande plie," and she would cast her arms out and go deeper.
"Releve," up on her toes
"And down," and she would come down and spin in cirlces.

This went on and on, with the plies getting deeper, the releves higher, and the spinning much much longer. Eventually, she collapsed on the floor, picked up her head and said, "What's that Dada?"
"What's what?"
"What's making the house spin around?"

Cute, if I weren't worried it might be an early indicator that she has the genetic, I-like-feeling-different, alcoholic gene.


Both of my ladies are sick right now, which makes both of them a little moody and unpredictable. When bedtime rolled around, Amari was adamant that she would not brush her teeth.
"Come on, lady. We brush our teeth every night."
"My don't want to."
"Do you want your teeth to fall out?" Fortunately she doesn't know that happens anyway.
"Yes," she replied.
"How are you going to eat cookies without teeth," I asked, certain I'd trumped her.
"My will just suck on them."

Damn you, smarty pants.

Cookie Monster Doesn't Need Teeth, Dad

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Go Diego Go

Yes, it's true - I started a ridiculous fake gambling football blog and it has completely supplanted the one I write here for Amari. I've often wondered if my love of sports will be one of her early childhood resentments. "Not now, the Giants are in a pennant race. There are only 89 games left in the season, so this one's really important." After hearing her wake up from a nap crying, "No. No. Don't take my stroller," I'm not too worried that I'm mistreating her. Life's pretty good if that's her worst nightmare.

My worst nightmare - also not so bad - is that Amari will continue to wake me up at four in the morning every Wednesday, which has bee the trend the past three weeks. If she just woke up and tossed and turned a bit that would be fine, but instead she says, "My hungry," and if I don't jump up right away she just says it over and over again until I do. It's like Chinese water torture trying to block out the low whine of a hungry child. I'm guessing growth spurt - or we just need to stop starving her at night.

When she's not waking me up early, Amari is finding a natural groove as a pretty sweet little kid. Last week CC and I took her out to breakfast. She knelt on the booth seat, played with her horsie, colored, and reminded us that she was going to have mad 'n cheese about eighteen times before she reminded the waitress. While we were waiting for our food, an elderly woman kept glaring (I thought) back at us, then returning to her meal. "What's your problem, lady?" I thought to myself. At the end of her meal, she stopped at our table, asked how old Amari was, then told us she thought she was an amazingly well-behaved child, the likes of which she "rarely sees these days." I did not disclose that we were starving her at night to make sure she's quiet during breakfast.

On the home front, Amari has taken her affection for Diego to new heights, deciding most days that she is in fact him. This has been awesome, because Diego is a "big boy" who doesn't like pacifiers and is much more open-minded when it comes to eating vegetables and new food dishes. I'm working on convincing her that he also loves to do dishes, yard work, and windows. So far, I'm just thrilled that we are pacifier-free for a good chunk of most days. I was hoping that a smooth transition idea would present itself, and right now - emphasis right now - it has.

Diego still hangs out with Amari, and often carries her pacifier for her in case she shows up, but when I catch her with it and say, "Oh hi, Amari, nice to see you again. I missed you," she smiles, pulls the pa-pa out and says, "My Diego."

We'll see what happens next...

"Noooooo...not my stroller."