Monday, December 20, 2010

And the Winner is...

In college I received an extremely eclectic education, which is a fancy way of saying I was both lazy and indecisive. What ultimately grabbed and held my attention was the field of psychology and my insatiable curiosity about human behavior - specifically my own. During my time at UC Davis, the Center for Neuroscience was completed and opened for business (research), so I applied for and earned an internship under a professor who was studying blood flow in the brain during short-term memory. The specific study I was involved in had me reading a list of words to subjects that included a sub-theme, a few words such as sleep, pillow, and sheets mixed into a larger list. When asked to recall whether they'd heard certain words on the list, subjects often claimed they'd heard a related word such as bed or dream even though they were not on the original list.

Outside the lab, I started to wonder about my own memories. How had time, association, or my own personal world view shaped my memories. How were they shaping my current experiences. There had been countless times I'd said to myself, "I'm never going to forget this," but only a handful of times that I actually remembered. What made some memories fade while others endured? Some research I read at the time suggested trauma preserved memory, but who the hell wanted those ones. Other studies indicated that glucose levels in the brain influenced the longevity of memories, but did that mean I should eat a candy bar every time I say, "I'm never going to forget this?" Chances are I'd just develop a powerful sense of nostalgia every time I smelled a Baby Ruth.

Did I ever find a satisfactory answer to my questions? If I did, I must not have been on a sugar high at the time because I can't remember jack.

The reason I mention this is two-fold. First of all, I feel as though I've been having random memories pop into my head lately - memories that I can't trace to their origins through the thoughts or feelings I'd been having prior to their emergence. Secondly, I've been wondering if the novelty of my early experiences as a parent gives them an edge in becoming long-term memories? Not to mention all the writing, pictures, and videos. I know childhood amnesia will wipe away many of Amari's memories, but I have no doubt that the sense of love and safety in the world she is developing will influence her future experiences.

In the past couple of weeks there have been many highlights, but in the interest of time and my aging brain's limited memory capacity I will include the top three.

Story Time

Amari loves her books. She loves to turn the pages, look at the pages, kiss the occasional character, and most recently actually listen to and interact with the story. When we read a sequel to "Harold and the Purple Crayon," Amari says a loud, "Mmmmmm" when they eat pie in the park, then imitates a monkey when they go to the zoo, and finally makes a bouncing bunny with two fingers when they run into Little Bunny Foo Foo. At bedtime the other night, I decided to tell her the story without the book and she made the same sound effects at exactly the right time. It was very sweet and it never gets old. In fact, that is now one of my favorite books.

Theatrical Debut

On the last day of school before the winter break, the high schoolers put on a Winter Workshop for the local elementary school. Carrie and I were recruited to sing Christmas carols and put on a small production of "The Shoemaker and the Elves." During one of the six performances Friday morning I decided to film the short play, and was rewarded with what I will now dub a Baby Ruth moment. If Amari ever goes into acting, this video will definitely be a part of her resume.

I also made another video which awards Amari B the Best Actress of 2010 for various Hollywood roles

Toddler Therapy

Just prior to the Winter Workshop, I took Amari over to the elementary school to wonder up and down their halls. Amari loves people - especially other kids. She waddled her way through the increasingly busy corridors, smiling and blathering "Hella's" and other incomprehensible noises. I was filming her up until she stopped and stared at a little girl sitting by the wall and crying. I turned off the camera and watched as Amari peered in at the girl, tilted her head to the side, peered in again, then toddled over and gave her a giant, heart-melting hug. The girl couldn't help but smile and hug her back.

"What a beautiful thing to be uninhibited by the world of social construct," I thought, "I'm never ever going to forget this." ;) 

Friday, December 10, 2010

From the Mouths of Babes...

Dear Amari,

I've started this blog about a half a dozen times in the past two weeks, but can't seem to get past the first paragraph. Some days I've complained about the weather, the cabin fever that comes with combination of winter and stay-at-home parenting. Other times I try to capture your latest development or accomplishment or just the way you bite into a piece of cheese and let out an exaggerated, heart-melting, "Mmmmmm." Trust me, Amari, it's not for lack of inspiration - just a serious lack of time.

Your growth as a little human being is accelerating now. Every day you do something new that makes me think, "Wow, she's really starting to get things." Everywhere we go people marvel at how much you've grown, how much you look like your mother, and how doll-like and adorable you are. Tonight, as we walked through the Botanical Gardens, lit up like Disneyland for the holidays, an chorus of "Awww, she's so cute," echoed in your wake. It's true - you are awwww-fully cute, but more importantly your kind, loving personality is beginning to shine through. Are you a little bit clingy and whiny sometimes? Absolutely. But you more than make up for it with smiles, and laughs, and hugs, and kisses. 

As we shared lunch the other day, I was silently cursing myself for not writing more. I feel like you've turned a corner in the last month - jumped from infant to toddler, baby to little girl, and student to teacher. Pasta was on the menu, and you took each noodle with your hand and felt it carefully with your fingers before you slowly raised it to your mouth. For the rest of the day, I made mental notes of the things you remind me to do in my life. In no particular order, here are a few of your teachings.


Seven Lessons From Amari

1. Eat slowly and with your hands. Amari a grazer. She does better with an assorted plate of snacks on the living room table than with solid meal time in her high chair. She'll grab a cracker or a grape, traipse off on some errand, then return later for some apple or a yogurt melt. Growing up in India we at with our hands all the time, and I think it slowed me down a little because I wasn't very good at it. It's also pretty fun. 

2. Hug and kiss people with reckless abandon. Now that Amari seems to appreciate the hug and kiss, she surprises me with sneak attacks when we're walking to the car or lying on the floor reading a book. I'll be talking to the lady at the bank or the coffee shop, and I'll hear a warning smack of the lips before I turn into an unabashed and spontaneous kiss. More recently, she has mastered the first part of blowing a kiss. Raising her hand to her mouth and kissing it is her latest form of good-bye. 

3. To set appropriate boundaries. When Hunter hit Amari, it was called abuse. Now that she's retaliating, I call it boundary-setting. Granted, she will sometimes do a preemptive violent waving of her hands as he approaches, she generally reserves her aggression for when Hunter takes things, hugs too hard, or tries to sit on her lap - which is interestingly one of his favorite moves. Jim was telling me about a kid who was hitting Hunter at the park when the mom came over and asked Jim if little Billy was being too "assertive." Semantics are a wonderful thing when your a parent. 

4. To always go after what you want. Although Amari's vocabulary hasn't evolved past the words "Hell-a," "More," and "Dis," the latter is used with her pointer finger to obtain almost anything she wants. It's often an exercise in frustration for Carrie and me, but Amari will continue to exploit her very useful demonstrative adjective until we figure out what she's after.

5. To greet every day, everyone, and everything every chance you get. More often than not, when Amari wakes me up in the morning it's with a "Hell-a." I'm not always as joyous as she is to greet the day, but as the morning goes on and the caffeine goes down, her enthusiasm becomes contagious. Once we're down in the living room, she begins saying hello to the cats, then to Granny C across the way, then Moonshadow and Peanut, the dogs, and so on.

6. To re-read books you like. This can either be right away, daily, weekly, and anywhere between twice and about six zillion times. This has prompted me to come up with the idea I call the "I Fucking Hate This Book" exchange program for parents. We've already swapped one set with the Calverts and I look forward to finding another family to unload/share those gems with. When I was eleven I read the book "Tex" by S.E. Hinton. Jamie, the female lead, was my first literary crush. When I finished the book, I was so smitten by her character, that I turned back to the beginning and read through the night so I could stay close to her. Perhaps she has a little crush on Harold...or the Purple Crayon.

7. To laugh and cry a little each day. Sometimes Amari will do both of these things within moments of each other. Her laugh is infectious and her tears come fast and full. When she's tired, they come even faster. When she's well rested, she's absolutely delightful.

Once again, it's getting late and I'm getting tired. Tonight at the Botanical Gardens, Amari discovered the joys of walking down hill, letting her weight and momentum carry one foot in front of the other. Sometimes it takes her a little while to warm up to new situations, but once she does she's off to the races.

This is so much fun...

Dad Gets Artsy with the lights at The Botanical Gardens

Amari walking up a storm at The Gardens

Box cars at the Calverts

Awwww, she really is sooooo cute.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Happy Belated Spanksgiving

I feel like I can't write anymore. I've started this entry about six times trying to find the words to capture four days with family and fourteen without a word about Amari. Am I missing things, forgetting things, becoming immune to the novelty of parenting? Quite the opposite. I'm fully engaged, entertained, and enamored, but by the end of the days I'm too exhausted to put it all together.

Two and a half months into being a full-time stay-at-home dad, Carrie and I have settled into a nice routine that allows us to maximize both our sleep (relatively) and our time with Amari (literally). On weekdays, Carrie wakes up at some ungodly hour around five o'clock and either gets in a workout, grades papers, or preps for classes while Amari sleeps and in the evenings I stay up after her bedtime to write, make videos, or work my new part-time job packaging knitting needles for local company, Brittany Needles. Lately, with the holidays fast-approaching, it's been a lot more work than play. 

Carrie was home again this week, but for any of you who aren't married to a teacher, don't confuse the many weeks off during the school year with vacation. In fact, Carrie set the alarm an hour earlier all week so she could catch up on the piles of essays and scholarships and letters of recommendation her students were anxious to get back. English teachers are like the offensive linemen in football. They work harder than anyone on the field, but don't get appreciated until the end of the year when their quarterback buys them a Rolex. Sorry - it's the best I could do with the Monday Night Football post-game report blaring in the background. 

Go Niners. Four and seven, but only one game out of the NFC Worst. I mean West. 

On Tuesday evening we celebrated our third annual Spanksgiving - a gathering created for friends to avoid Thursday family obligations/conflicts. This year was small. With the Calverts out of town and a couple of no-shows, we were very fortuitously reduced to our family and the Golds. The highlight of the evening, as it often is, was going around the table giving thanks. Granny C and Siobhan offered tear-filled appreciations for family, and Noah brought us home with a poetic tale of his first visit to the coast and how he reflects upon that new beginning with immense gratitude every time he drives over Highway 20. Nicole was beautiful with her bump getting larger by the week, and I'm putting it in writing here that I'm convinced it's a boy. Meanwhile, even little Reya appears to have emerged from her Terrible Two's with almost everyone around her relatively unscathed. All in all, it was a delightful evening.

 Amari, Nicole, and Reya

Amari, Siobhan, and Reya

Wednesday came with a light rain and evening with the Freedoms. Bodhi, Jen, Poet, and Hero arrived in the afternoon and stayed until Amari's bedtime. Amari absolutely loves being around other kids and I think the very grown-up, five year-old Hero likes the idea of having a slightly mellower, much younger, female sibling. Hero also likes to translate for kids who can't speak yet. "I think Amari wants me to pick her up. I think Amari want's to play upstairs. I think Amari wants me to have this toy," and so on. Hero has always been one of my favorite kids, and this visit did nothing to diminish her ranking. She is beautiful, adorable, smart as a whip, and pretty darn funny, too. And by funny, I mean she laughs at my jokes.

Poet, on the other hand, is a boy. I'm always grateful I didn't have one, and this visit did nothing to diminish my gratitude. He's rowdy, a little aggressive, and in my experience perfectly normal. I also really like him, but what I didn't like was his tendency to throw things near Amari with increasing proximity to her head. Fortunately, no children were harmed in the testing of his boundaries. I do have a very cute interview of Poet on video that I will submit with a future blog once I get the image of his little fingers making imaginary guns and shooting my one year-old daughter. I guess Bodhi's right - I'm an old fuddy duddy.

After the Freedoms left, my dad, Brandy, and Dromne arrived and stayed through Sunday. On Thursday afternoon we all drove to Comptche to celebrate Thanksgiving at Sandy's house with our extended family of friends. It was a full house, a fuller table, and festive afternoon/evening.

Poet and Hero help Amari open a belated b-day gift

Jen and Poet capture some other memory

Interview with a Poet coming soon...

Now it's late and I've been rambling and fading. It was really great to have my dad in town again. He and Brandy still plan to move here in a few years which really warms my soul. I only had one grandparent that I remember spending time with, so to have him almost as close as Granny C would be a wonderful, lifelong gift to Amari. 

I am rededicating myself to this blog. Again. Amari is growing and changing so much and so fast that it's hard to keep up with - especially when I don't keep up at all. This morning while we were reading, she blew my mind again. Usually when I want her to crawl over to me, I'll pat the ground next to me and say, "Amari. Come," with an open book waiting to be viewed. This morning, after finishing "Harold and the Purple Crayon," Amari crawled over to her book box, pulled out another book, placed it next her her and said, "Dis," while inviting me over by patting the floor next to her. 

What's she been up to lately? Tons and tons of walking plus the very painful breaking of three new teeth - top front two, and another bottom. Very sucky followed by very cute. Oh, and she also had her first unidentifiable, full-body rash. It was either new detergent or clam chowder, and fortunately it wasn't anything like the disgusting slideshow of hideous rashes I discovered on the Internet while Googling baby rashes. Yikes. 

More soon. I promise...

Here's the star of every week:

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In-Laws vs Out Laws

Grrrrrr. That's all I have to say this morning.

Let me qualify the vehemence of this entry by saying that Amari slept like a baby last night - which is to say that she was up every half an hour crying inconsolably. It was as though a time machine transported us back eleven months, but unlike then her tears fell for pain last night rather starvation. Amari only has two adorable lower teeth so far, but a mouth full of others which seem intent on breaking through in unison. Poor thing.

My grrrrr is not for her.

Carrie and I took turns waking up, trying to soothe her with a bottle, a pacifier, and eventually trips downstairs to the rocking chair. That chair is the most effective thing we have, but it does nothing to help grown-ups sleep. After an hour or so each we'd return to bed only to have the horizontal sleeping position rush blood to Amari's pain-filled head and the tossing and turning and crying would start all over again. At five-thirty this morning, Carrie took Amari downstairs and in her own words, "Watch her play while I stared at her angrily." By the time I got downstairs at seven-thirty both Amari and Carrie looked done.

Moments later, not two sips into my morning cup of coffee, Granny C came in to give us an unsolicited report on the state of her oldest dog who was recovering from being fixed about fifteen years late (I'll explain later). I listened graciously, and when Granny C asked how we were doing I gave her the details of the previous paragraph to which she replied, "Teething shouldn't be hurting her that much."

Now what I should have said was...nothing.

The combination, however, of lack of sleep and knowing it was a question loaded with catastrophic thinking compelled me to blurt out, "What's that supposed to mean? How do you know how much it should hurt? Do you remember teething? Apparently it's the most painful thing we ever experience," I argued - barring her detailed, post-surgical doggy reports I omitted.

Granny C and I practically share an April birthday, so we do lock horns from time to time but we see eye-to-eye just as often. I just need to remind myself (and her) that - although I find it hard to believe - the way Carrie and I feel about Amari is the way she feels about her dogs. For example, three nights ago Granny C came over in tears because she thought Annie (her eldest rescue dog) was dying. Although Carrie and I were both rolling our eyes on the inside, I didn't hesitate to rush Annie to an emergency vet visit where she was diagnosed with an infection of her girl parts. Two days and two thousand dollars later Annie was basically fixed - just fifteen years later than she should have been.

Would Carrie and I do that for our cats? No chance. We have a New Parts New Cat policy, so we'd let them go and get a new one. Careless? Perhaps, but let's keep our priorities straight. Would I rush Amari to the ER for an uncomfortable looking ingrown toenail? Absolutely, so I understood where G.C. was coming from and was happy to help.

When I finally went to apologize later that day, Granny C was ready to do the same. The nice thing about both of us is that we love each others "kids," too and we don't hold grudges.

I've gotten behind once again, but I did manage to put together a nice year in review video of Amari. What an amazing year. And it keeps getting better...and harder...and cooler...and harder...and...and...and...

The End

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Happy Birthday Amari

Last Tuesday I realized it was Carrie's Labor-versary, that first contraction that we assumed meant our daughter's arrival was just around the corner. Two and a half days later, after a few light hours of sleep I wrote these words:

Thursday, 3:40 PM - I have neither the energy nor the words to describe the last twenty-four hours. Our daughter, Amari Becker Fishman, arrived in our living room at 4:21 this morning. She is 6 pounds 8 ounces, she is beautiful, and she is all ours. I'm sure every man who witnesses his wife go through labor and childbirth believes that she is the strongest, most persistent, and courageous person on the planet. Tomorrow I will try to describe Amari's birthday and the hours that led up to it, but suffice it to say that Carrie is now, and forever will be, my hero.Welcome to our world, Amari. I love you.

Amari has been with us for a year now, and although I can't remember what my life was like without her, I'm pretty sure it involved more sleep. What it didn't involve - and what I've always been missing - was a sense of purpose and an indescribable depth of emotion. In the past twelve months Carrie and I have co-piloted the adventure of first-time parenting. I remember the first moment I held Amari:

I walked away from the light of the living room to ease the transition from womb to world. In my head I kept thinking, "Holy shit. Holy shit," an expression I notice pops into my head or out of my mouth during completely unpredictable, unfathomable moments - like when Carrie and I were hit head-on driving over Highway 20, or when George W. actually managed to swindle his way into office. This was a wonderful "Holy Shit," but a holy shit nonetheless.

I still have those holy shit moments all the time, but much like our piles of baby books have given way to instinct, fear has given way to wonder. Parenting continues to be the coolest thing ever. 

A holy shit moment came three days before her birthday while she was doing some assisted walking/chasing of the Calvert boy. After a few steps, Amari let go of one of my hands, then a few steps later pushed the other one away and chased him on her own. She made it about five feet flopped down, raised her hands for help, rinsed and repeated. She did this for the next five minutes or so. Later that day, when I came inside from a workout, Siobhan yelled, "Check this out Uncle Isaac," and I walked in to see my previously walking-inhibited daughter stagger the length of the hallway all smiles and giggles. It was especially cute, because she was walking with her hands twisting in the air as though she were doing that Indian twist in the light bulb dance. Very cultural. 

Another holy shit moment came when I spread out about ten memory cards and asked Amari to identify the ball, then the sun, then a dog. She may not be able to say much yet, but she's starting to know some shit. She now says, "Mo" (more) with regularity, "Mmm-bah," for bottle, and "Bah" for pretty much everything else. Fortunately for both of us she has a very seasoned pointer finger and a strong love of a few select foods. Actually, I'm sometimes surprised by how diverse her palate is, but on an average morning, cottage cheese, puffed cereal, and a dried apple/teething ring will suffice. 

Amari continues to use "Hellah," correctly, greeting anything and everything that she hasn't seen in a while, including the cats, Grannie C, and the downstairs living room first thing in the morning. Sometimes she'll wave at the same time, but she generally reserves that gesture for good-bye's. 

Saturday we celebrated Amari's first birthday with the Golds and the Calverts. There were a couple of balloons, a few decorations, and twp homemade cakes made by Siobhan and yours truly. Amari, decked out in yellow-striped tights, was the perfect hostess. She entertained her guests with walking, talking, music, dancing, and some cooperative play/toddler death match. By the end of the afternoon, both Amari and her devoted parents were thoroughly exhausted. 

The next day - today - felt melancholy. Carrie and I both had the Sunday blues and it was compounded by the realization that Amari is no longer a baby. People used to tell me all the time (they still do) to enjoy the early months because it goes by so fast. "Maybe for you," I thought, "but you're really old." Truth is, I'm pretty old, and time goes by more quickly all the time. I've definitely enjoyed every step along the way, stayed present and appreciated even the most challenging days, but time - just like it always does - keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping...

Happy Birthday, Amari. May the next year be as full of love and new adventures as the last one. 

Cake #1: The Cat

Cake #2: The Other Cake

The Artists

The Birthday Girl

The Band

The End

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Wait is Over...

"Monday, Monday," the Mamas and the Papas sang, and I think what they were trying to say is "Mondays suck, they always have." As a kid going to school, an employee going to work, and now as a stay-at-home dad enjoying the luxury of co-parenting on the weekends, Monday's quite simply blow. Being a dad is still the best job I've ever had, but it's definitely designed for two or more people. When Carrie's home, we both get to share in the joys but more importantly we get to give each other timely and necessary breaks. Monday then becomes a transition, a mental shift to accepting that the breaks may not come.

Today they didn't.

Normally Amari will either take a couple hour-long naps, or an epic mid-dayer, but today she slept for all of forty minutes. Normally, Grannie C will give me an hour or so to get some exercise or do some chores, but today she had her own break-free day of chores and errands. Normally, I feel rested, even energized after six hours of sleep, but today no amount of caffeine, or sing-along books, or pre-game World Series hype could get me going. Normally, Amari makes up for all of this with her ever-changing, always engaging, sometimes surprising personality...

Today was no exception.

When I arrived at the Calvert's for Amari's morning socialization, even though the Giants were one win away from their first World Series Championship since moving to San Francisco, I was feeling pretty blah. That changed in an instant. Little Hunter, whose behavior was exceptional when we saw him yesterday, continued to be sweet and loving during the early part of our visits. Although Amari isn't terribly into his lingering hugs, it's better than him hitting her. I think her boundary setting of flailing her arms aggressively in his general direction may have gotten through to him after all.

Toward the end of our visit, however, Hunter came up to Amari who was sitting in front of me, reached his arm back and whacked me instead. I may or may not have given him a stern, "No," but what I do remember is that Amari jumped to my defense and whacked him several times in a row. For a moment I was disappointed, a feeling which was quickly replaced with pride at her loyalty. Not to give away the ending of the blog, but I think I felt a little like Barry Bonds when the Giants finally won the World Series tonight. I couldn't do it myself, but it was nice to see the organization get the job done. Good work, Amari. You get a big fat contract extension.

Monday was beginning to look brighter

Later on, in the wake of a whining binge coupled with finicky food refusal, I decided it would be best if Amari and I ran some errands with Grannie C just to get out of the house. To preface this story a bit, Amari has begun saying a couple of words. Her first word, although at first we weren't entirely sure she knew what it meant, "Hel-la," a greeting she commonly used when she'd see Grannie's horse or donkey or dogs. Later it evolved into a greeting for everyone, and we reinforced it by repeating it back to her. Today, while we waited for Grannie C in the car, I said, "Hello Amari," and she said, "Hel-la." I asked, "Hello Dada?" and she forever endeared herself to me by slowly saying, "Hel-la Da...Da."

It was awesome. It almost made up for a complete lack of naps.

And finally, my beloved San Francisco Giants are the 2010 World Series Champions.
When I was a kid my dad raised/brainwashed me into loving all things Los Angeles. I was Dodgers fan by the time I was six, a Lakers fan by the time a could pronounce Abdul-Jabbar, and a Rams fan by the time I could feather my hair a la Vince Ferragamo. In the days before free-agency, I could count on the Dodgers infield of Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and Cey remaining intact more than my own family. I admired Cey's hitting, Lopes's speed, Russell's fielding, and Garvey's giant forearms. I was never any good at baseball myself, but when I imagined being anyone of these players striking out somehow felt a little bit better.

My first baseball game was a late summer Giants-Dodgers double header at Candlestick Park. I don't remember who won, but I do remember a Dodgers fan being so brutally heckled and pelted with sunflower seeds that he left by the fifth inning. I also remember my dad buying us Dodgers hats and asking the same hecklers if they would allow us to wear them. The bleacher bums sized up my four year-old brother and my slightly broad six year-old frame and said, "The kids can, but not you."

As I grew older and began to make my own decisions, a couple of things happened simultaneously to convert me into a nearly life-long Giants fan. First and foremost, I was raised in the Bay Area and quickly realized that loving anything below San Luis Obispo was not a good way to make friends. Second, the Los Angeles Rams moved St. Louis. And third, the San Francisco Giants put together a lovable team with characters like Will Clark, Matt Williams, and Woody. Winning attracts new fans, and I was no exception. The Dodgers won in '88 and I was happy for them, but the conversion had already begun. By the time the Giants made the World Series in 1989 I was wearing orange and black.

And not just on Halloween.

Speaking of which, before I close this entry, rather than telling you how cute Amari was in her first Halloween costume, let me just show you.

Congratulations San Francisco - you've waited a long time for this. Enjoy the celebration.

Amari and Mama

Amari and Da...Da

Hunter-saurus Rex

Happy Halloween

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Soccer Days

It's October and it's been raining for almost a week. I love the rain, but not in the fall, not when days are supposed to grow gradually colder and shorter, slowly easing us into voluntary hibernation, not when the leaves haven't even turned yet and the the World Series isn't over. I guess I just love the rain when it's expected, and not when my shoes suck and my giant, Gust Buster umbrella is at my brother's house.

When I picked Carrie up from school today she was in a better mood than she's been in all week. She shared some the highlights, vented the lowlights, and asked me how my day was. It had been seven hours, but I struggled to remember what I'd done with all that time. I felt honest saying, "It was a good day," but drew a blank when I tried to fill in some of the details.

When I was in high school I used to watch our varsity soccer team play. There was a kid named Mike Something-or-other who played striker and was always the fastest guy on the field. He would race easily past the opposing defenders, and our excited cheers from the sidelines went something like, "Mike, Mike, Mike, Mike, awwwwww," because what he had in speed and stamina he completely lacked in skill. Mike's effort would invariably end with him cursing himself after kicking the ball out-of-bounds or directly to their goalie. By the end of the game he was often bent over with exhaustion with absolutely nothing to show for it.

That's kind of what my day felt like.

So, I now call them "Soccer Days" - those days that take a lot of work with very little to show for it. There was no vacuuming or laundry done, no videos made or projects completed. There were no milestones reached or words spoken, no unforgettable memories of cuteness. Well, maybe some - but mostly it was just a day of putting one foot in front of another with small goals as simple as returning the videos, dropping off the mail, or trying not to let poop get on the diaper changing station. I did manage to return the videos...

Amari and I began the day at the Calverts for her regular dose of beat down. Amari continues to grow more assertive with Hunter, but Hunter also continues to hit her even in the face of loud "No's" from both Jim and me. Today I experimented by putting him in lock down after he hit Amari. I sat him in my lab, wrapped my arms around him, and wouldn't let him move. Within thirty seconds, however, he was squirming and crying and yelling, "CPS, CPS," so I released him. I'm at a loss about what to do with Hunter's aggression. I like that Amari is defending herself, but I don't like that she's taking on his behaviors. Perhaps this is just something that all toddlers go through and pretty soon Amari will be putting the hurt on some other poor, unsuspecting kid.

After that, the day gets a little blurry. Amari ate, pooped, napped, and played. Grannie C relieved me for an hour so I could get some exercise and then I'm pretty sure there was more eating, pooping, and crying after that.

The cool thing that happened last night and today is that Amari learned to play the kazoo. No complete songs yet, but she's got the pentatonic scale down perfectly. She continues to say "Bah" for everything food related, crawls rather than walks, and prefers to have me carry her rather than do either of those things.  She is clingy/securely attached, whiny/expressive, and no matter how much she does either, I happily oblige, pick her up to my hip and doing my best to figure out what she wants.

Amari after not meeting the diaper station goal

Monday, October 25, 2010

Giants Win National League Pennant, Carrie Takes Home MVP (Most Valuable Parent)

In a season coined as "Torture" by long-time, local broadcaster, Duane Kuiper, the San Francisco Giants continued their improbable playoff run by defeating the heavily-favored, two-time defending National League champion Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS to make the third World Series appearance in franchise history.  On Saturday morning, Amari and I hit the road to catch Game 6 in Philadelphia, but unfortunately, due to a (very) late start and bad weather, we had to resort to Plan B. If you have five minutes, enjoy this video of our adventure. And Vamos Gigantes. If you like feel-good stories, you'll love the San Francisco Giants. And if you like feel-good movies, you should enjoy this...

It's been a month now since I took my leave from work and became a full-time stay-at-home dad. The first couple of weeks were a little turbulent - just normal transition stuff. Carrie suddenly felt like a second-class citizen, while I went through some severe adult conversation withdrawal. As we settled into our new roles, however, we began to feel great about our decision. Things are less stressful now because we aren't both spreading ourselves thin trying to be employees, parents, and homemakers. We now have a clear division of labor. Carrie busts her ass at work to make a living and I bust mine to make sure she just gets unadulterated Amari-time when she gets home. 

Meanwhile, Amari makes both of our jobs worth it.

Since Friday's first steps, Amari has shied away from walking, probably deciding that crawling is both more efficient and less painful and awkward. At least once a day we'll stand her between us and encourage her to practice a few steps back and forth. She generally likes it until she doesn't, and she lets us know when she's done by lifting her feet into the air or letting her knees buckle when we prop her up. More than once I've wondered, "How do single parents get their kids to practice?" until this afternoon when I tried pointing Amari towards the couch and letting her stumble clumsily into the soft cushions. Success. "Ah-hah," I thought, "Necessity is the mother of invention." My Nerf furniture idea may catch on after all.

Carrie has been home all week for what the local schools call their "Fall Break," and it couldn't have come at a better time. Now that I've worked in education I know that the abundance of weeks and three-day weekends littered throughout the year are designed perfectly to keep teachers from teetering over the brink of insanity. As an English teacher, Carrie's dance along that ledge is tenuous at times, but she never ceases to amaze. She puts a ton of energy into her job and still finds the patience and compassion to soothe her tired and toothy daughter when she's home. She is super-mom. As a tribute to her, I've prepared another video - a montage of moments she's shared with Amari.

Tomorrow - more about Amari. For now, enjoy this picture of her levitating in a flower bed.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Before and...

I woke up this morning and realized that I'm thirty-nine and a half years old today. I know - I sound like I'm in pre-school, which incidentally, I also resemble when I boast my height as five six and three-quarters. I have a hard time believing I'm almost forty - except when I look in the mirror...or step on a scale...or try to climb a flight of stairs too quickly. Even though I've grown fatter, grayer, and slower through the years, on the inside I still feel like I'm about 13 to 25, occasionally 10 or 11 when I'm hanging out with Noah.

Amari, on the other hand, is just about to complete her first year. I remember when I would mark every week with a sentimental entry about how big or cute or challenging she was. Now I know I was only scratching the surface. Although the week-a-versaries have ceased to be celebrated, it's not for lack of wonder, pride, and awe. The more interesting Amari becomes (and the less she naps), the less I seem to write.

I spent the better part of the last two nights combining pictures of Amari from our two computers onto Carrie's laptop. I finished up just before midnight and found myself looking through the file titled November, 2009. There were pictures of Carrie and I walking around Lake Cleon, Carrie in her second day of labor, and I innocently naive of what that really means having her pose patiently while I set the self-timer or asked her to move left or right so I could get a better shot. Then there were pictures of Amari, precious and little, swaddled and sleeping, floating colorfully in clothes much too large. What an amazing year it has been.

To think, less than twelve months ago, our charming, fickle, demanding, delightful, personality-filled daughter was a six-pound eight ounce sleep-poop-eat-cry machine. Needless to say, much like tonight, I stayed up way too late.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Seven Small Steps for Amari and One Giants Leap for Anyone Who Cares

Three amazing things happened this week, culminating this afternoon in what may have been my first prophecy since predicting that the Commodore 64 would not survive as the all-time best-selling computer.

1. Ross Leads Giants into NLDS

The San Francisco Giants, who clinched the National League West on the last day of a 162 game season to make their first playoff appearance in seven years, proceeded to win their division series in convincing albeit dramatic fashion three games to one over the wild card, Atlanta Braves.

After winning the opener in San Francisco behind an historic, record-breaking, fourteen strike out performance by two-time defending Cy Young Award winner, Tim Lincecum, the Giants blew a four run lead in the second game losing 5-4 and handing the home field advantage over to the Braves. Games three and four were also won in late-inning, come-from-behind fashion, only this time it was the Giants who silenced the Native American chants of 50,000 rich, white Georgians.

The hero once again was everyone's favorite eleven month-old rookie, Amari B Fishman (as Cody Ross), greeted by her teammates after hitting the game-tying home run in the decisive fourth game.

2. Braves Lead Cox Into Post-Mortum Retirement

This was going to be its own blog entry on my other site, but now it's about as current as Bobby Cox's driver's license. The Atlanta Braves were one of several surprise stories in the National League this year, using a combination of pitching and youth to earn a wild-card playoff birth in long-time manager Bobby Cox's final season.

Less publicized was the fact that Bobby Cox actually died just over five years ago after the Braves streak of fourteen consecutive National League East division titles was snapped by the upstart Mets in 2005. Reluctant to let Cox go, Braves owner Ted Turner used all of his extensive resources to keep his manager as life-like as possible four the next five seasons. Early on, the embalming, the internal cryogenic technology, and Turner Robotics, Inc. technology used stunning advancements to keep Cox's death a secret from players, fans, and media. As seen below, they would often have Cox strike poses that looked both vital and held promise for longevity. Eventually, however, the inevitability of the dying process caught up with Cox, Turner, and the Atlanta Braves.

In all seriousness, when Eric Hinske hit the go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning of game three and the Atlanta dugout went nuts, Cox just sat there motionless until a bench coach came over and, for the benefit of the national television cameras, held Cox's hand up for a celebratory fist-bump.

Farewell, Bobby. Congrats on making fourteen straight post-seasons and only winning one World Series. Way to rule a dormant division.

Amari Leads Parents Into Frightening Unknown Future

When Carrie went back to work last February one of her biggest worries was that she would miss Amari's upcoming milestones. For the next four months we expected to pick her up from Nicole, Susan, or Grannie C with the news, "Oh yeah, she crawled," or "By the way, she said thesaurus today." Fortuitously, on the last day of school, about an hour after Carrie got home, Amari took her first real crawl forward. It was perfect. We spent the rest of the summer as a family watching Amari master her environment as quickly as we rearranged it.

In August, as Carrie was preparing to go back to school, I joked that Amari would probably wait until the fall break to take her first steps. Now I wish I'd joked that I'd be out of debt and have a full head of hair again by the fall break, because yesterday afternoon, the Friday before the break - about an hour after Carrie got home from work - Amari clumsily took her first steps. Again it was perfect, and for the next twenty minutes or so Carrie, Siobhan, and I led Amari back and forth and let her take unassisted steps until she crouched or flopped down onto her butt. I think she managed about seven before she became exhausted and a little frustrated.

It was awesome. We all applauded and giggled and Amari smiled and shrieked. Even though we now have to reevaluate the safety of everything in our house below two and a half feet, it was definitely one of the coolest moments I've experienced as a dad.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Friends and Baby Aikido

As parents, I believe we are always playing catch-up - the ever-expanding "To Do" list. Carrie and I promised to complete Amari's baby book last summer when we both had time off. That promise was amended to "completed by her first birthday," which undoubtedly will be amended to "started by Christmas...New Year's...etc." We'll probably end up leaving it to her in a will - whoever dies last, that is.

In her first eleven months of life, Amari has two friends she sees on a regular basis - Reya and Hunter. And by friends I mean toddlers who like to beat on her and take her metaphorical lunch money. Amari still adores them, loves their visits, and is slowly cultivating her own methods of dealing with them.

Reya is two and a half and fully immersed in the Freudian "Mine" stage of development. Whether she is at home or away, Reya will peruse her surroundings and collect the toys that she wants to carry around with her - often but not limited to something that has Amari's interest. By the end of a visit Reya, arms full of toys and books, looks like Navin R. Johnson in "The Jerk" wandering around his mansion after he learns that he is going to lose everything in a class-action lawsuit against his multi-million dollar invention, the Opti-Grab. "I don't need any of this stuff," proclaims Johnson, "I don't need you or any of this...I need this (grabbing his remote control), but that's all, just this lamp, this remote control, and that's all I need...I need this," and so on.

Reya also likes to poke and hit, but she appears to be growing out of it thanks to her parents and her recent adventures in pre-school. Hunter, on the other hand, is only just beginning. On recent visits to the Calverts, Papa Jim and I have spent a good chunk of our time catching Hunter just before he is about to whack Amari with his hand or some small to medium throw-able toy. Hunter is also a taker, snatching toys away from Amari and putting them far out of reach with his advanced walking capabilities. Hunter appears to be getting better the more time he spends with Amari, but he is also getting sneakier, sometimes crawling innocently by her before turning to grab her hair or wonk her on the head.

Amari is months and years behind her friends, so although we may see these stages soon, for now she appears to be more of a pacifist with perhaps an edge of passive aggression. Instead of taking things, she offers toys to Reya or Hunter and then pulls them away at the last second with an implied, "Psych." After dinner on Friday, however, Amari tried a new, very entertaining trick. When Hunter tried to grab the remote from her, she held on tightly. When Hunter pulled harder, she let go and Hunter pulled the remote square into his face with a loud whack followed by a stunned look and a round of loud laughter from surrounding adults.

That has now been dubbed Baby Aikido, using your opponents strengths against them. Well done, Amari-san. Well, done. That'll teach Hunter to offend your honor.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Journey Not the Destination

A little over a decade ago, my friend Noah and I began a long-distance writing project that essentially had us e-mailing our personal journal entries to each other. Over the course of the next eight years we accumulated thousands of pages of personal stories, inside jokes, philosophical rants, and dreams of our futures. At the time we lived on opposite coasts in opposite situations, but through our writing we discovered that we had similar dreams of having families, working with kids, becoming neighbors, and most importantly, finding a way to make a ton of money with very little effort. At the time we were both terminally single, could barely take care of ourselves let alone a family, and neither of our jobs were nearly rewarding enough to make them a career. 

Ten years later, Noah and I live in the same community, we have wonderful wives and beautiful children, and until recently we both worked in education. Noah moved from New York in 2004, coached high school basketball with me, fell in love, stuck around, and made a life for himself. Now he's an athletic director, a husband, and a father. I fell in love, too, went back to school, became a counselor, returned to the coast, stuck around, and made a life and family for myself, too. It's amazing how much we created through sharing our dreams and finding a way to realize them. 

Unfortunately, we haven't been quite as successful at finding that high reward job situation. And I don't just mean that "If you love what you do you'll never work a day in your life" crap, because I did love my job, but it was still work. Every day. What Noah and I were looking for was something more along the lines of getting paid for just being ourselves. We considered converting our thousands of journal pages into a screenplay about two guys growing up through their individual and shared experiences, but quickly realized that nobody finds us nearly as interesting or entertaining as we do. We explored other book ideas - a Harry Potter spoof that someone else ended up writing two years later, a self-help book that would climb the bestsellers list because of its amazing title(i.e "Lose Weight, Make Money, Have Sex," or "The Four Disagreements"), or a Greek myth based on the Star Wars trilogy that actually had me watching episodes IV through VI with a notepad and a case of wine and calling it "research." Where is that damn notepad?

So where am I going with all of this? I don't know. I just felt like I needed to pay tribute to Noah for being the person I write to when I'm writing. Really writing. Effortlessly. When I changed the direction of this blog a few weeks ago, I did it for a few reasons - to increase traffic to my site, to build a fan base, and to make a few dollars along the way. I did all of those things - with the added bonus of pissing off a few thousand people - but what I rediscovered along the way was even more valuable. My writing voice. The voice I cultivated through days and months and years of writing to a person I trust, respect, and love unconditionally. Even though he's a Yankees fan.

I still have a dream of publishing a novel, a children's book, or even a self-help book on how to be a parent and not lose your mind and your sense of identity. Or better yet, how to accept that those things are going to happen and deal with it.

I keep meaning to write a catch-up blog on what's been going on with Amari since I went all Hollywood last month, but then things like baseball and nostalgic friendships get in the way. Suffice it to say that being a dad continues to exceed any expectations I ever had. It's not always easy, but it's always worth it. We may not have money, but our lives are indescribably rich.

G'night, Skipper.

Reya and Nicole

Carrie and Amari

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Giants Win the West With Youthful Pitching

Greetings Everyone. Fresh from a sabbatical to the playground known as the Internet, I have returned just in time celebrate the San Franciso Giants first division title since 2003. In a roller coaster season whose team has been "torture" to both its fans and its players, the Giants prevailed on the final day of the season, defeating the second place Padres to secure the National League West crown.

In the words of Jeremy Affeldt, "It was awesome." The Giants came into the series with a three game lead over the Padres and needed to win just one game in the series. The Padres have had the Giants' number all year, and the first two games were no exception. By Sunday they had trimmed the Giants' lead to just one game. In the end, pitching and timely hitting finally came together as the Giants blanked the Padres 3-0.

In all honesty, I was a confident and happy fan on Friday, but by Sunday morning I was irritable and discontent. I worried that the impossible might happen and that the agonizing years of waiting for the post-season would continue. At one o'clock sharp I next door with Grannie C, nervously chewing on pistachios, and feeling my pulse in my throat with every pitch. Not only was I fan of the team, but I had a vested interest in the rookie pitcher starting the game. Unlike me, Amari was as calm as ever, effortlessly throwing five shutout innings and ultimately earning the victory in the most important game of her young career. 
Amari B Dominates the Padres

The Padres couldn't figure her out. They were patient as ever at the plate, earned a few walks, but Amari always managed to pitch her way out of the jams. She also hit a triple and scored the game's first run. During the post-game champagne celebration, when Mike Krukow asked her to describe the feeling of carrying this team into the post-season, Amari calmly replied, "Bah," then tried to grab his tie and chew on it. 

In reality, Amari sat calmly on the floor at Granny C's, kissing dogs and and being occasionally frightened by loud cheers and illy performed high fives. Towards the end of the game, she was used to both and even offered her own round of applause when Buster Posey gave the Giants an insurance run in the eighth. When Brian Wilson pitched the final strike, tying Rob Nen's record of forty-nine save, Amari was fast asleep in my arms, preventing me from doing the very silly happy dance I'd been planning for the past seven years. As the Giants celebrated on the infield, a flicker of a smile crossed Amari's lips, and I can only imagine what she must have been dreaming...
G'night everyone...and Go Giants.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Going Totally Underground...

After three sweltering days in my mother-in-law's barn, I have decided to take my fugitive show on the road. I have launched a new site where I will continue to hide from the idiots of the world who tried to scare me into submission.

While Parenting From the Up Side Down will continue to be a mushy blog of love and sentimentality - perhaps the occasional photo shopped picture of Amari travelling the world and exploring career opportunities - the faux reality enterprise I've embarked upon will continue at "Hollywood Underground" - the hottest new entertainment blog on the Net.

If you have time - check it out. You won't believe (hopefully) what you read.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Blogger Incarcerated for Making Fun of America

My fellow Americans,

I am writing to you today from a secret location in my mother-in-law's barn. That's right, somebody actually married me. It is with a heavy heart that I share the horrific events that have transpired since last I blogged nearly ten days ago. In the interest of maintaining interest, I will try to be brief, sparing you of the traumatic details that will forever be etched upon the fabric of my being. Suffice it to say that I am now a fugitive of the American government and its people. If they find me, they will surely take me back to that place - that horrible, horrible place...

On September 16th of this year, as I lazily nibbled on an extra-thick shelled Klondike bar and checked the scores of my fantasy baseball playoff match-ups, I happened to notice that Google's top-searched story of the evening was America's Got Talent crowning their fifth season's winner - a dashing, young singer from Mississippi named Michael Grimm. I surfed around, did some reading about the finalists, finished my ice cream, drafted a shortstop to replace the injured Hanley Ramirez, and decided on a whim to write a comical piece claiming that Michael Grimm had made up his entire back story to pull at the heartstrings of American voters. 

Those were the last normal moments I remember. 

On the morning of September 17th, I logged onto my wife's laptop to check the stats of my blog and my replacement shortstop. Alex Gonzalez had gone three for four with a double and two RBIs, and my blog had gone for...Holy Shit! 2,200 hits? This must be mistake, I thought. Seven comments? No one comments on my blog. I've been writing about his granddaughter for over ten months and I don't think my dad even reads it. I hit refresh - 2,208. What the f--- is going on? 

I spent the rest of the day watching - no, marveling - at the number of page views and editorials my fabricated story receiving. While a very small percentage of readers found the humor in my writing, the cynicism with which it was intended, their comments were far outnumbered by the onslaught of cyber-hate-mail that ensued. People were angry, indignant, threatening both litigation and karmic retribution. For a fleeting moment I felt worried and guilty, but then I decided that anyone who believed that Grimm really sang "When a Man Loves a Woman Who's House Got Flooded By a Natural Disaster and Who Doesn't Have Any Insurance at All," is too stupid to know anything about defamation lawsuits. 

How wrong I turned out to be...

That evening, about 4,500 page views and 23 angry comments later, I felt compelled to write a follow-up story. I needed to clear the air and give Michael Grimm his good name back, but more importantly I needed a fall guy. Very little research later, I stumbled upon Michael Evancho, the talented opera-singing runner-up's father. Turns out, according to my complete lack of sources, Mr. Evancho was the one who had originally leaked the fake story about Michael Grimm to the press. And by press, I mean a stay-at-home daddy blogger from the boonies of northern California. And by story I mean one hundred percent fiction. 

Needless to say, more page views, more hate mail, and more litigious threats ensued. I couldn't believe what I was reading. Is there no room left for comedy in this world? And what exactly did these people think I was going to get sued for? Violating our protected freedom of SPEACH claimed one reader, and if she weren't equally protected by the freedom to misspell I could totally counter-sue. By sundown that day, I was comfortably convinced that these people, with names like daradoodle, feldwoja, and raaketa, didn't have a clue what they were talking about. 

That, dear readers, was the last thought that crossed my mind before my front door was kicked in. I barely had time to put my wife's laptop on stand by, turn off Sports Center, and fold up the blanket I like to use on cold, autumn nights, before I was drugged, handcuffed, and escorted to an unmarked car idling in my driveway. The last thing I saw as I drifted from consciousness were the letters R.O.N.S., but that's all I could make out.

The next few days were a blur. My first memory is being interrogated by two women named Pat and Lisa who wanted to know where the hell I got my information about Michael Grimm and why on earth I thought it was funny to satirize reality television and American culture. When I couldn't give them a satisfactory explanation, they sent me to an internment camp where they house people who dare insult the intelligence of the average American television viewers and Internet users.

The frightening reality is that these camps exist all over the country, with new ones being built all the time. It was there that I met others like myself - countless "retired" writers from The Onion, Vance Degeneres and Lewis Black from "The Daily Show," and Billy Mays who isn't dead at all, and who still clings to the hope that he will one day be pardoned when the camp's warden realizes he actually believes in Mighty Putty.

Days inside the camp were spent being reprogrammed with shock treatments, group therapy and repetitive workshops on things like literal humor. "What are you up to?" the counselors would ask us, and if we didn't say something like, "About two hundred pounds," or "Five foot seven," we were forced to watch episodes of "Mama's Family" and "My Two Dads" until we obliged. Sarcasm was greeted with caning while anything less than a truthful joke was punishable by up to a week in a padded cell wall-papered with Family Circus sketches. By week's end, I looked as defeated as the rest of them.

With every ounce of determination we could muster, we managed to craft a Billy Mays inspired escape plan. First we used the infamous Dual Saw to cut through the metal bars to our cells. Once we were in the common area we converted an AM radio into a cell phone with the Jupiter Jack and called for a taxi. Rather than navigate the labyrinth and swim across the moat to freedom, we used the Awesome Auger to chop right through the hedges before soaking up the entire moat with a dozen or so Zorbeez. Finally, once were were safely on the other side, we whipped out the Grater Plater to make some awesome quesadillas before bidding farewell and going our separate ways.

Two days later I managed to secure this secret location where I am writing to you from now. This will be the second to last time I write to you from this URL. I now know what those letters on the unmarked car stood for and I vow never to be captured again by the Middle-American Organization of Radicals Opposed to Naughty Sarcasm (M.O.R.O.N.S).

In the next couple of days I will be creating a new, safer blog location from which to communicate. I will forever continue the good fight of comedy in all forms and the American way. I will continue, dear readers, to create without fear of retribution, to lie without concern for litigation, and to point fingers without giving a shit about the three pointing back at me. My motto is, "If it ain't made up, it ain't worth writing."

God bless America and god bless you all. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Evancho's Father Comes Clean About Blog of Hate

Just hours after his surprising and emotional win on America's Got Talent's season 5 finale, Michael Grimm got a taste of the bitter side of rock stardom as the Internet was flooded with claims that he'd made up his entire back story to pull at the heartstrings of American voters. Word on the cyber street was that Grimm accepted his million dollar check and his Vegas contract and announced to the world that he was a fraud.

Not since the hanging chads of 2000 held Bush, Gore, and our great nation hostage with political uncertainty, had the results of an American vote become so controversial.

In the subsequent hours, thousands (yes thousands) of people followed a mysterious link to a parenting blog of all places where they read the disappointing news they worried might be true. By seven o'clock this morning, Yahoo and Google news had swooped up the link, sending thousands more outraged Grimm fans to stand up with their keyboards and defend their new-found hero with the vehemence that can only come from the deep, heart-felt connection elicited by watching a total stranger perform cover songs on national TV. Profanities were "uttered," lawsuits were threatened, and all the while not a single reader offered to make even a small donation to "Baby DJs of America."

Now, less than a day later, the source of the "Michael Grimm is a Big Fat Talented Liar" rumor has come forward to make a public apology. At ten o'clock this evening, Michael Evancho, father to AGT's runner-up and talented opera singer, Jackie, made an anonymous call and confessed. "I was just so frustrated with the American voters," he began, "My daughter, Jackie, was clearly the most talented act in the show, and I think America blew it."

Mr. Evancho went on to read a letter he'd prepared with his sentiments about America's Got Talent, Michael Grimm, and the American people. "It's been a long day," Evancho sighed, "When I leaked the story about Michael last night I was bitter and angry. I wasn't thinking clearly. I wanted to hurt Michael's feelings. I wanted to hurt them badly. Now that I've had a day to reflect and sift through the angry comments I elicited, I realize it's time to come clean." He flipped his paper over and continued reading.

"After seeing all the angry responses written to the totally innocent stay-at-home dad whom I'd leaked the story to, I knew I had to take responsibility and set the story straight. That being said, I feel as though I must apologize, from the bottom of my the rest of the world for having to put up with 350 million of the stupidest people on the planet. How America is a super-power at all is beyond me. I'm starting to think that reality shows are the equivalent of Aldus Huxley's Soma, blatantly keeping our citizens intoxicated with apathy through the use of the emotional pornography that is reality television."

"I've learned a lot through this experience," Evancho continued.

1. I've learned that the Internet is a dangerous place for the moronic and undiscerning and yet a playground for anyone with half a brain.

2. I've learned that, although America has some talent, what it really has is an abundance of semi-retarded followers looking for a shepherd, regardless of whether he leads with a song, a dance, or a Texas accent as thick as its owner.

3. I've learned that people who complain about wasting time reading nonsense on the Internet are the same people who waste even more time writing inexplicably long comments about just how disappointed they are in themselves for wasting time.

4. I've learned that only 3 out of 18 people (that's less than 20%) have a sense of humor at all, while another 20% claim they have a sense of humor, but either just aren't willing to laugh at funny things or have been spending too much time reading their own mind-numbingly boring blogs.

5. And finally, I've learned that America is a litigious society through and through, and when people run out of  adjectives or support for their opinions, they immediately threaten lawsuits. For example, "Instead I found it sad, shameful, misinformed, hateful, and something worthy of suing you for." A comment pulled from yesterday's blog.

So that's my apology, America," Michael Evancho concluded, "I'm sorry I leaked the story, I'm sorrier you believed it, and I'm sorriest of all that it may contribute to the rise of Michael Grimm's fame in any way."

In other AGT news, Prince Poppycock was seen ducking out of a nightclub with the other Michael Grimm - Republican Congressional candidate - and you are not going to believe what happened next. Well, unless you're the average American - then you'll probably believe every word...

Note to Readers: This blogger has now been arrested and is in custody:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

America's Got a Big Fat Talented Liar

As shocking as Michael Grimm's season finale win on America's Got Talent were the tearful confessions he shared moments after the million dollar check was in his hand. The fifth season of the hit reality show culminated tonight in a showdown between Grimm and fellow finalists, Jackie Evancho - the mega-talented child opera singer, Prince Poppycock - the unfortunately named drag queen/Moulin Rouge throwback, and the always flashy dance troop - Fighting Gravity. Although many contend that runner-up Evancho was robbed, by the end of the two hour program this viewer learned four things with absolutely certainty:

1. I still don't like opera.
2. Dance troops are really cool.
3. I'm not convinced dressing up like a "Dangerous Liasons" character constitutes talent.
4. And what America's got is way more advertising than than anything else.

What I didn't learn during the show, and what I only know because my sister's boyfriend's aunt's cousin's little brother is a production assistant for The Biggest Loser (which uses AGT's Studio 36 during the day), is that less than a half an hour after he accepted his Vegas contract and his million dollar check, Michael Grimm confessed that he was not the man America thought he was at all.

In his first few appearances on AGT, Grimm spoke tearfully about his grandparents who raised him, encouraged him musically, and took him around to bars in Mississippi to show off his talents. On numerous occasions he said that his goal in winning America's Got Talent was to repay his debt to his grandparents for their love and guidance, and to repay their debt which they incurred in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's devastation of their Louisiana home. Every time he shared these intimate details, the collective sigh of America's voting audience was palpable.

Once the seed of sympathy was planted, it grew disproportionately to Grimm's talent carrying him all the way to the finale. Along the way, Grimm used his back story to his advantage, playing songs that helped the judges and the audience remember why he was there. Early on he covered the song "Katrina was Her Name," by American blues guitarist, Bryan Lee. A few weeks later, he finger-plucked the old Scorpion's ballad, "Rock You Like a Hurricane." Tonight Grimm concluded with a modified but soulful rendition of "When a Man Loves a Woman Whose House Got Flooded By a Natural Disaster and Who Doesn't Have Any Insurance At All."

Less than an hours after AGT finished filming, Grimm broke down in tears. While judges, cast, and crew assumed the emotions had merely caught up with him.

"I did it," Grimm said between tears, "I fucking did it. I can't believe everyone bought it, but they did."

"Bought what, luv?" a confused Sharron Osbourne asked.

"Me!" the bohemian, Silverlake native explained, "You bought me. I made it all up. Everything. I wasn't raised by my grandparents. They live in The Valley for Chrissakes. As if I'd ever live there. Gross."

"What about Hurrican Katrina? The devastation?" Piers Morgan interjected.

"Please," Grimm said, "Who wouldn't vote a white Katrina survivor? I did my research, Piers."

"So all of it was a lie?" Mandel asked.

"Well, not all of it," Grimm confessed wiping away the last of his tears, "I did bang a girl named Katrina once. And I do love The Scorpions. But that's it. You gotta love this country," Grimm concluded, saluting the AGT crew with his million dollar check as he grabbed his coat and his Las Vegas contract and walked out the door.

 A Tearful Grimm Tells All

Now America's got some serious thinking to do now...

Should the prize money go to one of the other finalists? Or should it be donated to a virtuous cause for future talents such as "Baby DJs of America?"