Friday, April 30, 2010

Spring Break Part II: T - I - Single G Brrrrrrr

Nothing springy at all about Part II.

After a temperate weekend in Marin County where even the weather is richer than average, Carrie, Amari, and I headed north towards the Sierras and a visit with Babaji, which is both a term of respect my dad has adopted in place of grandpa and a not-so-hit single from Supertramp's 1977 album Even in the Quietest Moments. Much like the song, our visit to South Lake Tahoe was nice, even meaningful, but failed to chart in both the U.S. and the U.K., which is only because it was cloaked beneath a thick, powdery layer of April snow.

We drove north on Monday, April 19th - my 39th birthday - a day I now share with historic events such as the shoot out in Waco, Texas, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the matrimonial vows of two of my dearest friends. I think there's a joke in there somewhere, but I don't want to alienate any of my readers. I have a lot of Branch Davidian fans.

So we headed north despite the forecast of rain and snow, hoping that the old adage "If you don't like the weather in the mountains wait five minutes" would hold true. Monday was clear skies and the drive uneventful. Amari continues to be a happy traveler - especially with coddling parents who climb into the backseat at the slightest sounds of distress. Carrie, who packed a large collection of toys, spent the last leg between Placerville and Tahoe waving them in Amari's face, endlessly distracting her from distraction with distraction. We really are just grown up babies aren't we?

When we arrived at Casa de Babaji, everyone was anxiously awaiting our arrival - at the airport in Reno. I mistakenly thought my dad and Brandy were going to be home Sunday night, but we received a call from them as we pulled into their driveway saying they'd just flown in from Boston and would be home in a couple of hours. We settled in and waited, marveling at the amount of snow still on mountains across the lake, and watching a few innings of the Giants disastrous series sweep in San Diego.

When Babaji and Brandy arrived they took us out to Indian food for my birthday. I know I said in Part I that I don't really care about my birthday, but the truth is I do like to at least acknowledge it in some way - like with baseball and samosas. It seemed fitting having been born in India 39 years earlier. The food was excellent and the restaurant was wall-to-wall mirrors, which meant Amari was easily entertained with her own reflection - whom I've affectionately named "her best friend." It's my way of preparing her to be an only child, which I'm certain will be the subject of a future blog. Good thing she absolutely loves her new BFF. 

When we woke up Tuesday morning there was an inch of fresh snow on the porch. It also happened to be Granny C's birthday (which is why we sometimes lock horns), so I took a stick and a moment to send her our love just in case she was feeling the way I had the day before.

We spent the next two days watching the snow fall, gather, melt, and fall again. Much like their visits to see us earlier this year, being with my dad and his family was effortless. We all began our days differently, separately, then watched Amari-vision throughout the day, and spent evenings playing Apples to Apples and listening to the Giants suck. On Wednesday, the weather broke just long enough for us to get a walk in by the lake. Amari's warm weather gear was cute, fashionable, and practical in case we needed to be visible to rescue choppers. Even if it hadn't cleared up I had plans of dressing her up and sitting her in a chair made of snow for a fashion shoot. The walk, I think, was much more comfortable and far less traumatizing.

Much like Tiggers, the wonderful thing about Amari is she's the only one.

I have surprisingly long arms

South shore near The Keys

I haven't written enough about the experience of being with my dad now that I'm a father. It has been an authentic healing experience for me. I see how he adores Amari, volunteers to take her when she's hurting, tired, or hungry, and I imagine he must have been at least that committed to me when I was little. I've been told by many that he was a wonderful father to us when we were little, and I believe I would not have the natural parental instincts I have had it not been for the love of both my parents. Although their relationship began to fall apart when I was four years old, they gave me enough love in those early years to sustain a lifetime. Their separation and the years that followed had a profound impact on who I  became, who I am, but the foundation of love - to the best of their ability - was there all along, that part of my being that always believed, even in the darkest of moments, that I was going to be okay. 

I know that's easy to say now, but I recently received an e-mail from my friend, Diana, who shared a similar faith saying, "I have never flinched at any of your life stories, be them hard or easy, that you have shared with me. I have always had this steady intuition about you, it was kind of a.... "I know" that your world turns out okay." I do not believe that either one of us would feel that way had my fundamental needs for acceptance an love been met when it mattered. Thank you, Mom, and thank you, Babaji, for in the words of Supertramp, especially in the quietest of moments, you managed to "give a little bit of your love to me." Because of that, I have something to pass on to Amari, and that, I believe, will make all the difference. 

Tomorrow - Spring Break Part III: Homeward Bound or Old Friends and Jumparoo's

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spring Break Part I: Logizomechanophobia

Wow. English might be a difficult language to learn, but its attention to detail is flabbergasting (literally to flap around with surprise). If you ever find yourself unreasonably or excessively fearful of something - anything - just click on the link below to normalize your feelings with the knowledge that enough people share your worldview that there is a word for your experience. Sometimes just naming it makes you feel better...

Here is an example of three phobias in a row taken just from the P's:

Pteronophobia - Fear of being tickled by feathers
Pupaphobia - Fear of puppets
Pyrexiophobia - Fear of fever (this last one doubles as "Fear of glass cookware popular in the 1920's")

In his first inaugural address in 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt offered hope to a nation mired in economic depression by reminding us that "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror." Turns out that fear of fear, or Phobophobia (that's ridiculous), isn't nameless after all. Nonetheless, good quote, great speech, even better president - despite my handiphobia (fear of crippled people).

But enough about words - let's hear about the much anticipated, greatly deserved first official Fishman Family Vacation. Just like the Griswald's in 1983 (holy shit I'm old), our family piled into a station wagon and headed south (then east and north) with the hopes of some day making it to Wally World - or at least my dad's house in South Lake Tahoe. Last Saturday afternoon we packed and prepared as best we could and headed out on a six hundred eighty mile adventure. Although Carrie was a little nervous about Amari being in the car for such long periods of time (also known as infantoclaustrocarophobia (kidding)), I was confident that with our powers combined we could ensure a relatively smooth trip.

Our first stop was Marin County - my old stomping grounds, my childhood home - where we spent two nights with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Jessica. Although I've grown used to Amari taking center, left, and right stage to everything in our lives, I was a little surprised when Carrie asked, "So is it Jessica's birthday party tomorrow?" referring to the BBQ planned for Sunday afternoon.
"Actually, it's mine," I said.
"Oops," Carrie replied, "I got you a baby. Hope you like it." Fortunately for her, I love it - Amari is the prototypical gift that keeps on giving. See "Spring Break Part III" for our romantic wedding anniversary later that week.

Sunday morning Carrie, Amari, and I went to see my friend Sara's newest addition to her family. It had been nearly five years since I'd seen Sara and it took all of five minutes for me to remember why I've always treasured her friendship. She is the perfect balance of funny, thoughtful, intelligent, and down-to-earth. It was more than just picking up where we'd left off, it was this seamless integration of these monumentally new people in our lives - spouses and children - coupled with the effortlessness of being with a true friend. As we drove away from her house I turned to Carrie and said, "I'd forgotten how much I love Sara. She's definitely in my top ten favorite people of all time." I paused, then quickly corrected myself, "Actually, top five."

When we arrived at Sara's, her three month-old son, Aleksandr, was sleeping peacefully in a swing. He looked so handsome in his grown-up clothes and although his face was serene, his body was so straight - arms tucked neatly by his side - that he initially reminded me of a baby-shaped nutcracker - an image that quickly disappeared when he woke up and smiled. Papa Kiril returned from work shortly after we arrived and we spent the rest of the morning snacking on banana bread (that Sara fully intended to make from scratch) and catching up on birthing, parenting, and life in general. I hope we will not let five years pass again between visits, Sara. Here's a picture of the beautiful Roditi family.
Although the afternoon would be hard-pressed to top the morning, the Freedoms arrived with their children - Hero (age 5) and Poet (nearly 3) - whose boundless, free-spirits offered endless entertainment for us adults and a sweet contrast to the acrimony lingering between some of the guests. Hero, sometimes suffering from incurable buyer's remorse at having a little brother, developed a very strong, sororal affection for Amari. At one point, towards the end of the evening, she hugged Amari tightly and said, "I will take her home and make her my little sister." She didn't even recant when I reminded her that she would have to change her and feed her. "No - Mommy will change her and I will feed her," she said confidently.

As is often the case, the most memorable event of the day was also the most traumatic. Upon returning from a trip to the grocery store I found a very distressed Carrie holding a somewhat damaged Amari close to her bosom. Amari looked distressed, a fresh scratch on her nose and the imprint of something on the side of her forehead. Apparently, while looking at pictures on a laptop with Hero, Amari took a nosedive into the keyboard, then onto the ground. Carrie had only turned her back for a moment, assuming that Hero was clinging to Amari as she had been all day. Two seconds later, she turned to see the back of Amari's head followed by an onslaught of shrieks and wails.

Although Amari had calmed down completely by the time I returned, Carrie was clearly still traumatized by the whole ordeal. With the exception of a poke, a nail clipping accident, or a self-inflicted scratch, this was Amari's first injury. "I was worried you'd be mad at me," Carrie said. "No, of course not" I comforted, but if Amari develops logizomechanophobia (excessive fear of computers, not kidding) as a result this experience I'm definitely making her pay for therapy - plus the 5.6 million dollars Amari would have made had she not been terrified by the thought of a degree in computer science. 

These before and after pictures really say it all.

            Before: Happily air swimming without a care in the world

After: Afraid of both technology and becoming an indentured sibling

Poet tried to cheer Amari up, but instead just added herpetohallophobia (fear of reptilian Halloween costumes) to Amari's quickly growing list of phobias.

Stay tuned for Spring Break Part II - Snowbody's Business or The Wonderful Thing About Tigers

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Best Sports Day Ever

And Amari's birthday. If there's one thing that she may grow to resent, it's my passion for baseball...and basketball...and football when there's nothing else on. Who am kidding? Now that Tiger's back from his sex camp, I'll even watch the occasional round of golf. Here's how our week started.

The Butler Didn't Do It

I know I'm  almost a week late for this story, but such is life for a working, blogging, sports fanatical, stay-at-home dad. Have I mentioned that it's impossible to keep up with everything? The first time I ever saw my dad cry was when UCLA lost to Louisville in the 1980 basketball championship. This story is for him.

On Monday, April 5th, as the clock struck five months for Amari, it struck midnight on this year's March Madness Cinderella story - the Butler Bulldogs. In the best story college basketball has seen since Jim Valvano's NC State Wolfpack's magical run to the title in 1983, this small, mid-western university better-known for its academics than its athletics surprised everyone by marching through the madness to the championship game where it met one of the game's most storied franchises, the Duke Blue Devils. Unlike 1983, where a tip-in at the buzzer defeated the Goliath, Olajuwan-Drexler-led Houston team, this year's story ended with a half-court shot rimming out as horn sounded.

It was Amari's first championship game, and she and I watched every minute together. I explained the odds that Butler was facing - their first title game in school history against a team that routinely hangs championship banners - and like me she was immediately hooked by the human interest part of the sport. Amari sat on my lap and we cheered and booed loudly as Butler and Duke fought an amazing, albeit unattractive, defensive battle. Although I have nothing personal against the Mike Kryszewski (pronounced Natzi) led Blue Devils, I just don't like teams that win so often and so convincingly - unless of course it's the UCLA Bruins, the Lakers, the Giants, or the Niners. Sadly, our cheers and jeers were to no avail - except the undeniable bond that is forming between us.

Giants Begin World Series Run or Kids Storm Ravens Hollow

Monday was also baseball's Opening Day. The real opening day - not the made for TV/Money Sunday night bullshit between the Yankees-Red Sox. My buddy, Matt, always takes this day off - a tradition I have adopted since we met in grad school. Fortunately, I don't work Mondays this year. Instead, I stayed home and had a slew of visitors and their children take over the house for a few hours. In total, we had eight adults, four kids, and two infants. It was nice to have our home so full. It reminded me of good times before my parents went their separate ways.

In my opinion, baseball is the greatest sport of all. It may not have the athleticism or physicality of other sports, but it has a timeless beauty to it - an undeniable magic that brings generations together. I love the pacing, the strategy, the impact of single plays or single players. I have no doubt that many could argue circles around me about other sports, but this is the one I grew up loving. I used to wear my Dodgers hat incessantly, and although my mom made me take it off at the dinner table and when I went to bed, as soon as the lights were off, out came the hat from where it was hidden beneath my pillow.

I may have been brainwashed into loving all things L.A. as a child, but growing up in the Bay Area in the 1980's helped me choose my own teams to the tune of the Giants and the Niners. I'm still a Lakers fan, because there was no need to give up on a dynasty. Amari may choose her own teams later, but for now, since I still get to choose her outfits, she's stuck with the Giants. Fortunately, she makes orange and black look almost as good as I do.

She's a really good sport about all of this. At least for now.
The Giants won 5-2 and proceeded to win four of their next five games. I have a good feeling about this year.

Five Months and Counting

Literally. Although she can't talk yet, Amari is now using one of her toys as an abacus and has hung her shingle for tax season. Girl's earning her keep.

Rivaling both Opening Day and Championship Basketball was Amari's five month birthday. In past couple of weeks she has reached both significant milestones and daunting challenges. About three weeks ago, she managed to roll over from her back to her front. Although initially a struggle, generally paired with loud shrieks of frustration as she wiggled her second arm out from under her body, she now does it effortlessly and prefers to be on her stomach where she performs a variety of freestyle swimming moves, upward facing dogs, and most recently the two-handed grab of anything dangling in front of her. I wish I had her lower back strength.

She's also showing an interest in solid foods - watching us eat and opening her mouth as food enters ours. Unfortunately, with solid foods come these pesky little things called teeth, and I do believe we'll be seeing some very shortly. Two weeks ago, the predictability of Amari's mood began to change. Food, Diaper, Burp, Nap, Hug had been my mantra for nearly three months. My checklist, if you will. More recently it has become Food, Diaper, Burp, Nap, Hug, Tylenol, Hug, Hug, Wyman's Teething Tablets, Hug, Hug, Hug, Say Nice Things and Hope the Pain Goes Away for a While. Rinse and repeat.

Amari's a trooper. Even during inconsolable pain, she finds ways to be endearing. I love that she recognizes her name now and will turn her head when I call from across the room to let her know I'll be right there. I love that she reaches her arms towards me when I bend down to pick her up, then wraps them around my neck as I pull her towards my shoulder. She whimpers in pain and I say, "I'm sorry you're hurting." She cries and I hold her. It breaks my heart, but I'm grateful I can at least make her feel safe in these moments. Although I didn't cry when Butler lost to Duke, I sometimes do when Amari hurts so much.

Looks like I finally found something better than sports.

Happy Belated, Amari.