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