Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Key In the Hand...


is worth about a million in the car - especially when it's locked. 

I don't believe in coincidence anymore. Too many experiences in my life, when honestly reflected upon, have come with signs/omens/seemingly random thoughts, and today's was no different. Last week, at the end of one of our adventure walks, I flashed on how horrible it would be to arrive back at the car only to discover the keys had dropped out of the pocket of the stroller at some point during the past three hours of trekking around logging roads. It occurred to me almost simultaneously that it would be really smart to have a hide-a-key tucked away somewhere under the car. I wondered for a moment if they were obsolete - like fanny packs or walkmans - and then I wondered where we might go for lunch before, never returning to the practicality of hidden spare keys. 

Until today. 

This morning I drove to my employers with Amari napping in the back has I have done countless times since her birth. Upon arriving, I popped the trunk, clicked the unlock bottom to open all the doors, and simultaneously rolled up my windows because there were a couple of guys in the driveway swinging golf clubs and kicking up dust. I made small talk, declined a morning beer, unloaded my boxes, bid farewell, and closed the trunk. When I got to my door, however, it wouldn't open. Locked. I checked my pockets. Empty. I looked in the car. Bingo. And by bingo I mean shit, fuck, piss, goddammit. 

Luckily, Amari was sleeping, unaware that her dad had made his first really big parenting boo boo. Thankfully, some of her favorite tunes were playing softly on the stereo. Mercifully, the fog had only just rolled out, so the sealed car was still comfortably cool. These factors combined stopped me from panicking, and I quickly started to make phone calls. Carrie - no answer. Melissa - dead phone. AAA Road Side Assistance - forty-five minutes and a promise they would try to hurry. 

Meanwhile, Chris's slightly buzzed buddy, Brian ("with and I") said, "I've got a Slim Jim in the car." Weird right? "I don't know why. It came with my truck," he added. He proceeded to go to work on the driver's side door, but with very little success. Fueled perhaps by the Keystone Light in his other hand, Brian persisted until Chris suggested they try a different approach.  Chris pried open the top of the driver's side door, and slid the Slim Jim in to manually unlock the door. This went on for several minutes and with each failed attempt Amari began to stir slightly until she was wide awake staring at this long, metal blade poking around where her dad was when she'd drifted off to sleep. 
s thi
"You'd better hurry up, Chris," I urged him, ducking out of site to avoid Amari realizing this wasn't just a dream. Less than two minutes later - click, clack, open, and Chris and Brian saved the day. I was completely relieved, especially that Amari will never know what happened until she reads this blog and realizes why she has an irrational fear of snakes breaking into our car. 

For the rest of the day, I washed my shame and stupidity away by telling as many people as I could about what happened. I felt terrible, but if there's one thing I've learned as a parent it's that the severity of a mistake is not measured by its action but rather by its outcome. Although I doubt I'll make that same mistake again - tomorrow, Hide-A-Key.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Harry Potter and the Disappointing Ending

This afternoon Carrie and I enjoyed the rare treat of going out to a movie together. I think this may be our fourth movie in twenty plus months, and only the second one I can actually remember because I wasn't sleep deprived. The other one was was Pirates IV, which did not have a disappointing ending because that would imply the rest of the movie provided a non-disappointing contrast. I guess I'm just over sword fighting and slurring.

Harry Potter, on the other hand, has been a memorable part of my life for nearly a decade now. Carrie and I read all the books and anxiously awaited each movie release. The books grew longer, darker, and more complex with each volume, and the movies did their best to keep up, including the executive decision to split the final chapter into two parts. Having now watched both parts, I can honestly say that I would have preferred either some major editing of the first part and a single volume three and a half hour, Lord of the Rings-like movie, or just a plot summary that stated, "Previously, at Hogwarts...," or "Previously, in what we decided wasn't worth filming..." 

The Deathly Hallows Part I was the weakest HP link in the series, and although it left you wanting more (i.e. the rest of the book), it was mostly because it was just starting to pick up speed. Yes, I fell asleep a little in Part I, but much like the books, the movies seem to get darker, too. Part II, however, be it a popcorn-induced sugar rush or the novelty of Amari-freedom, had me riveted the entire time. With the long lag between the final book and the final movie, I barely remembered what was going to happen next. What ensued was two hours of dramatic, magical fight scenes, epic battles, dragons, horcruxes, surprising heroes, and...AND...a disappointing ending. 

Spoiler alert!

I felt the same way about the book when the author - probably coaxed by the publishers - added a final chapter nineteen years in the future where Harry, Hermoine, and Ron are dropping their kids off at Platform Nine and Three-Quarters to catch the Hogwarts Express. I didn't need it when I was reading, and I didn't need it when I was watching. What made it worse on the screen was the complete and utter lack of energy put into trying to make any of the characters look any older. 

I mean seriously - they can make Ralph Fiennes look like a snake and bring Jerry Garcia back from the dead to play a wizard, but they can't add a few years to kids?  Ginny looked younger at 37, Harry had what wanted to be a five o'clock shadow, and I think Ron shoved a pillow under his shirt. It was laughable, which is why Carrie and I burst out laughing the minute we saw them. I hope the characters got a kick out of it because it was ridiculous. Maybe they all took some polyjuice potion with the hair of their own adolescence or something. I guess it's a weird place for me to stop suspending disbelief...

Other than that, however, awesome move. A+ finish to an all-time classic series.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Day at the Beach

One of the joys of parenting is getting do-overs, getting to re-experience the novelties of life through the eyes of your child. Whether those experiences were joyous or difficult, memorable or non-existent, they have the opportunity to be remembered, shared, and recreated.

I spent a good chunk (pun intended) of my childhood overweight and uncomfortable in my own, and those feelings were amplified in surroundings such as public swimming pools, beaches, and the 1980's where neither pegged pants nor my Flock of Seagulls hairdo made me feel any better about myself. Carrie dealt with similar issues in her childhood, though her fashion sense probably served as a stronger protective factor than mine. Nonetheless, we got each other and support each other's silent boycott of uncomfortable settings.

Now that Amari's here, I realize I have to get over it. I know the way I feel about myself is incongruous with the way I look, but more importantly I can't deprive Amari of experiences that she will no doubt enjoy just because I'm self-conscious. In Tahoe I began the journey of not giving a shit, and took Amari to the community pool in my dad's neighborhood. We had a blast, and I succeeded at feeling comfortable, even confident and proud as my little girl braved the novelty of the biggest pool she'd ever seen.

Today, back at home, we had our first family beach day. Carrie was reticent, but agreed to go. The Gold's joined us and we all enjoyed splashing around in the water, walking on the sand, soaking up the sun, and watching our little people take it all in.

Amari had been to the beach a few times as a pre-walking infant, and she loved it, but since she started walking the sand kind of freaks her out a little. Initially, this time was no different, and she wanted to be carried down to the water. When I tried to put her down on the firm sand, she would raise her feet up and squeal. She had me carry her into a little river by the ocean and walk around for quite some time before she got the courage up to walk along its shore. By the end of the afternoon, however, she was traipsing through streams, climbing up sand banks, and thoroughly exhausting herself.

Besides watching Amari overcome her fears, the highlight of the afternoon was building drip castles with Noah by the water. He's a better architect than I am, but it was nice reminiscing about our early beach days - his in Hawaii and mine thousands of miles away on the west coast of India. It's pretty cool how life brings up together with the people we love.


About a year ago today

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Assertiveness Training at Tot Town

It's actually called Tahoe Tot Spot, and it happens to be where I've spent the last two mornings re-acclimating to daytime single-parenting. Carrie has an AP English training this week, so we've combined a vacation visit to my dad's in South Lake Tahoe with her professional obligation on north shore. Tahoe Tot Spot is a super fun indoor playground I wrote about in April where there is open playtime for toddlers from 10 - 2 almost every day. It's about a thousand square feet of gym mats, trampolines, balls (an entire pool of balls pictured above), scooters, dolls, toys, and other kids. And best of all, it's a prelude to long-assed afternoon naps - which I happen to be enjoying right now.

It's also a great venue for other parents to get adult contact. I've been pleasantly surprised by how candid both the moms and dads I've met there are. Parenting is truly an experience that can unite total strangers - like surviving natural disasters or war. There is also the common thread of pride and joy we all experience and there is no better audience than another parent dying to share their story.

Yesterday's visit at "The Spot" was relatively uneventful. The owner's daughter, Daisy showed Amari the ropes and invited her to play a game of make believe family where (I know it's a stretch) I was The Dad, Amari was The Kid, and she was The Big Sister. Very Cute. I learned later that she has a big sister of her own and wants more than anything to be one herself. According to her mom, she's SOL outside the realm of make believe. I don't blame mom, two seems like plenty.

Today, however, there was another (much less adorable) little sister longing to be big. I should preface by telling you that she also had some weird skin condition all over her legs and arms that made me uncomfortable in a protective parenting kind of way. I'm sure it wasn't contagious, but that didn't stop me from tracking where the kid had sat and what she had touched.

In the kitchen area Amari was playing her third round of fill the shopping cart with fake fruits and veggies when Scabby decided to join in and help with the shopping. Amari didn't mind the girl filling the cart for her, but when she tried to help push the cart Amari (sort of) gently removed her hand. The girl persisted, and the second time, Amari grabbed her by the wrist, removed her hand from the cart, and then backed the girl up to the closest wall and placed her arm against it. Had I not seen the events leading up to her acts, I might have worried Amari was bullying the three year-old, but having witnessed the whole thing I felt a little pride mixed with some serious worry that she'd touched a very rashy, disgusting wrist for much, much too long.

Later on, back in the Ball Pool, Amari was gaining confidence, sliding off the edge and into the pool and eventually letting me toss her in from the edge. Towards the end of our time, a grandma showed up with two boys - probably about two and four years old. I don't usually believe in coincidence and this was no exception, because at approximately the same time as the two boys showed up, the Pool of Balls started smelling like poo. And by approximately, I mean exactly, and by started smelling like poo, I mean really started smelling like poo. As a subtle gesture, I said, "Amari, did you make poo poo?" then picked her up and checked her pants. The other parents ignored my hint. I rinsed, repeated, and said out loud, "Let me double check. Nope. No poo poo here." Nothing. Finally, I said, "I think somebody in this pool has a doo doo." The mom and grandma checked and both said they'd found nothing. Later on in the kitchen area, same grandma, same boys, same smell. Mercifully, it was noon and time to head home for this glorious nap...

When Amari wakes up, we'll have lunch and head down to the community pool. So far on this vacation she has graduated from her four inches of water at home to Jess's two foot pool to my dad's hot tub to full immersion in a nice outdoor pool by the lake. Video and pictures coming soon. For now, here are some more action shots from Tot Town.


Protective Gear

Ahhhh, balls of poo...

Sunday, July 10, 2011



During tonight's ritual of postponing sleep by naming parts of my face, I asked Amari if she wanted to count with me. She'd surprised me earlier in the week by saying the number "two" while I was counting, and then yesterday Carrie said she'd uttered other random numbers all the way up to ten. 

I started us off with "one," she said "two," I said "three," 
"What about eight?" I asked, and she just giggled. I imagine she will continue to blow my mind on a daily basis for years to come.

What did happen to eight?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Love is the Underside of Leaves

I can't remember who wrote it or why it meant so much to me, but there was a time when "Love is the underside of leaves" was, in my opinion, just about the best thing ever written. It was actually on a short list of names for this blog. It moved me, it made perfect sense, and it was exactly what I needed at the time. That's what parenting has become these past weeks - a series of moments, one after another, each dethroning its predecessor as the perfect memory - the new queen of the cutest things ever. I imagine it's like pausing at breathtaking views on the long journey up Mt. Everest thinking, "Wow. It doesn't get any better than this," and then finding an even better view just around the corner.

I honestly can't keep up anymore. I had a fantasy that I would keep track of every word Amari ever said in a little journal and be able to tell her later, "And the six hundred and tenth through twentieth words you said were Why the fuck is Dada always writing in that stupid journal. So adorable." Instead, I struggle to get my own words out twice a month. In the spirit of re-commitment and never being caught dead with a Word Journal, however, I will now try to write more often and more briefly about the cute shit Amari does. I would probably call it, "Love is the Cute Shit Amari Does," and it would mean everything to me.

Here are a few catch up stories:

1. HOT!!

Hot is a good word to teach your kid. Long before any words came out of her mouth, Carrie and I agreed that it would be funny to teach Amari the meaning of the word hot (as it pertains to a stove because that's a powerful lesson), and then use the word freely to keep Amari away from things like electric sockets, our television, and food we don't want to share.

This never happened, but Amari did eventually learn the correct meaning of hot and cold and is able to use them correctly and contextually. The other night during dinner, however, I gave Amari a piece of chicken with some hidden hot sauce on it. Amari immediatly began whining her protests, so I went to the sink to get her some cold water. She followed me with her tongue sticking out of her mouth saying, "Hot, hot, hot..." and before I could fill a cup up for her she began licking the fridge door, which she'd already learned was just about the coldest place in our house.


About a week ago, Amari's language development took off. She went from yeah, no, kay, more, etc. to surprising the hell out of us at every turn. During a family meal with Granny C, we let one of her dogs, Emma, into the dinning room to clean up the food around Amari's high chair. Amari can say Emma clear as day and loves doing it whenever she gets a chance, often yelling "Emma! Emma!" when Emma is nowhere to be seen. Yesterday, on a walk in Marin, we passed a black lab on our way down to Phoenix lake. A very silent Amari suddenly perked up and began yelling, "Emma! Emma!"

On this occasion, however, after Emma had licked up all of Amari's fallen pasta, I said, "Amari can you give her a pat?" She obliged, and I added, "Good girl, Emma," and Amari immediately mimicked, "Goo gir, Emma," and gave her another pat. Wow, that's a freakin' sentence we all marveled.

A couple of days and a few timely "Goo gir's" later, Amari had done something I appreciated, so I signed and said, "Thank you, Amari." She smiled, patted herself on the chest and said, "Goo gir." Yes you are, I agreed.


A couple of mornings ago I was so grateful that I no longer smoke cigarettes, drink, or do drugs when Amari picked up my little bottle of nasal spray and began imitating a sniffing sound as she stuck the pointy end up each of her nostrils. Time to start being very conscious of what I say and do.


We're on the road at Babaji's house in Tahoe now. We spent two lovely days in Marin where Amari grew more comfortable with both Jessica and her swimming pool. When I put her to bed tonight, after her ritual bottle she wasn't quite tired enough so she engaged me in a game of Which Part of Your Face is That? She points and says things like, "Nose," "Eye," "Che," until we've covered all the ones she knows and the ones she wants to know. After that, she said, "Bye Dad," expecting Mama to come and take over as she usually does at home. I happened to know that wasn't going to happen, so I said, "No, Dada stay." She looked at me for a moment, then patted my arm and said, "Goo gir, Dada," and snuggled up to sleep.