Monday, November 12, 2012

Our Own Little Threenager...

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

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

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

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

I love you,

 Amari's New Ride

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

" cream cake."

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Waldorf Montesooria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 26, 2012

Almonds Are Good For Your Heart

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

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

Conversation 1

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

Conversation 2

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

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

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

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

Here's how it went down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

T-I- Double G Grrrrrrrrr.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

David Jacob Fishman

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

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

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

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

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

It was awful.

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

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

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

Nonetheless, welcome to the world little David.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Just Stuff

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

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

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

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


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

Damn you, smarty pants.

Cookie Monster Doesn't Need Teeth, Dad

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Go Diego Go

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

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

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

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

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

We'll see what happens next...

"Noooooo...not my stroller."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gratitude Schmatitude

I began last week feeling sentimental. Some of the parents with children around Amari's age have been talking about pre-school - which ones are good, which ones suck, which days does so-and-so go, etc. I realized I was only about six months away from researching these same questions, making a seemingly monumental decision, and ultimately bringing to an end my reign of terror as a full-time stay-at-home parent.

I decided that Monday morning that I would appreciate every single moment I had left with Amari - the relaxing, easy mornings, the long, lazy afternoons, and all the challenging, willful, whiny moments in between. Time moves fast, things change all the time, so I may as well enjoy it all. I was positive, hopeful, and determined.

Tuesday morning, Amari decided that 5:30 was the perfect time to start our day. Less than six hours of sleep under my belt, I grabbed my attitude of gratitude, and headed downstairs. "Wow," I said to myself somewhat unconvincingly, "This is awesome. The sun is starting to rise, there's mist over the coral, and I'm pretty sure that's a rooster crowing the dawn. This is awesome." Amari and I watched cartoons, read books, greeted Mom, and drank lots of coffee, and headed out for the morning. We went to The Gardens, met up with friends, picked blackberries, and did yard work. It was a great day, and by the afternoon I'd forgotten how early it started. I was grateful for the opportunity to spend so much time with a daughter who was heading for school soon. Life was good.

Wednesday morning Amari upped the ante, deciding 4:00 felt like an even better time to wake up. This time gratitude was not the first feeling I had. I think my exact thought was, "Are you fucking kidding me? Seriously? Go back to sleep. Jesus." Beaten down by a lack of sleep, I dragged myself out of bed and moped downstairs where I stared bitterly into the darkness. "This sucks," I thought sincerely, "This fucking blows. It's dark and I'm awake. And that goddamn rooster doesn't shut up all night. I wish Michael Vick had been into cock fighting." And other random angry thoughts. That morning also had cartoons, books, grumpier greetings to Mom, and an early nap where we both lay on the couch and slept for two hours.

The rest of the week was much smoother. I did appreciate things as much as I could and during the difficult moments I just convinced myself that she's preparing me to let go. Come January, pre-school won't seem so scary at all - to either of us.

Soon she'll be riding for real...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Happy Anniversary

Every now and again I am struck with an intoxicating feeling of gratitude and wonder. The moments sneak up on me, catching me on a quiet drive home from work, bleary-eyed first thing in the morning, or tucked in, cozy, and looking forward to sleep.

Here we are again. It's August and Carrie is returning to work tomorrow while I'm returning to perhaps my last six months as a full-time stay-at-home parent. Amari is growing and changing, reflecting us and becoming her own little person. There was a time Carrie cried because every milestone felt like Amari was crawling, walking, talking, and pooping her way farther away from us. Maybe there's some truth to that, but there is also an incredible depth to the relationship that comes with the passing of time.

Summer was simple and luxurious - nothing remarkable but more than enough. Sure there were challenges - Carrie's increasingly uncomfortable pregnancy along with my own physical challenges - but when it comes down to it, we have everything we need and most of the things we want. Except, perhaps, a little more time. We manage, though.

One of the drawbacks of parenting is the utter lack of down time. There were years when Carrie and I, a little indulgently, celebrated our anniversary every month with dinners or poems or at the very least a note on the other's windshield. We also had no kids, low rent, and part-time jobs. Now we're lucky if we can even remember the date.

Turns out it was ten days ago that Carrie I could have celebrated our 132nd month-a-versary of our first date at The Stanford Inn's Ravens restaurant in Mendocino. That's eleven years for those of you who don't want to do math. To give you an idea of how long ago it was, I still had a good amount of hair, Carrie still said "like" and "you know," and we were both so naive we actually thought the food on our date was good. With the wisdom of experience and taste, we now affectionately call the place The Blandford Inn.

Much like with Amari, I marvel at how much Carrie and I have changed and grown. Not in the fundamental ways that brought us together, but rather through the obstacles we've navigated together, that brought us closer together, and somehow managed to transform us along the way. Carrie was a girl when I met her and I was an adolescent thirty year-old. We had no idea what we wanted and for a while we weren't even sure we wanted it together. We certainly were never going to get married or have children. Yuck.

Now we're married with child. And although, we may not always know what we want, we're absolutely certain we want it together. Carrie is a woman now, still stunning and stronger than ever, while I'm a forty-year old adolescent but also self-reliant, confident, and even a little bit of a grown-up. I feel a deep and requited admiration and love for Carrie. With the exception of the rare moment of selfishness, I never feel like she's not doing enough nor do I ever worry she thinks that of me.

We work really hard and really well together. So much so, that sometimes twelve month-a-versaries pass without us pausing to celebrate.

I love you infinitely...all the way to Outerrrrr Spaaaace.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Early to Rise...

Without the early to bed part, there is nothing healthy, wealthy, or wise about waking up at 4:30 in the morning. Unfortunately, that's when Amari said, "I want to go downstairs." It was actually 5:15 by the time she made this proclamation, but the forty-five minutes before that were a frustrating exercise in futility, muttering "Go to sleep...Close your eyes...What the F, it's not even light," and so on.

When Carrie finally woke up around eight, Amari was starting to get a little tired. Cuddled up on the couch, Amari slumped onto a pillow and said, "Mama, lie down next to me."
"No thank you. I want to sit up."
"But we need to talk about something," Amari argued.
"What do we need to talk about," Carrie asked, giving me a quizzical look as to where she'd picked up that language.
"Ummmm...ummmm...we need to talk about butterflies."
Good one, I thought, but mom said, "I can talk about butterflies sitting up."
"No," Amari countered, "You need to lie down to talk about butterflies."

Maybe I'll remind her of that next time she's up at four freakin' thirty.

You're lucky you're cute, lady.

Friday, August 10, 2012

She's Crafty

When chocolates were handed out during a visit with friends this weekend, Amari showed exceptional taste by choosing the Dove over the god-knows-how-old-Costo-sized-bag of gold coins. A few minutes later, she outdid herself.

"I want another one," she announced.
"Sorry, sweetie, but we're going to have dinner soon. You can have another one after that."
Incomprehensible whining noise with perhaps some words ensued.
"Hey, hey, hey, you know that's not going to get you any chocolate, right? How about a grape? Do you want a grape?
"Yeah," she says somewhat normally, the whine fading towards the end of the affirmative.

I hand her a grape. She accepts it as a smile creeps back across her face. She holds it up and proclaims to me, "This will be my dinner."

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Days of Whine and Roses

I've been reading a book this summer called "The Whole Brain Child," another collaborative effort by psychiatrist and pediatrician, Daniel Seigel. The hope of the authors is to give parents and educators some practical tools with which to help children integrate their emotional and rational brain hemispheres. The result of hemispheric integration is an increased capacity to deal with emotions and respond rather than impulsively react to them as they arise.

In one of the early chapters the authors differentiate children's tantrums using the terms upstairs and downstairs. An upstairs tantrum is one where a child's higher thinking is still available to them. Behaviorally they are probably trying to get or escape something, and a minor tantrum may have worked for them in the past or may merely be the easiest way for them to express themselves in that moment. A downstairs tantrum, however, is one where the amygdala - the part of the brain responsible for processing feelings - takes over. Cortisol is released and flood the higher thinking parts of the brain, causing the child to literally lose its mind.

The important difference between the types of tantrums is how we as parents respond once we've identified which one we're dealing with. The upstairs tantrums require us firm but loving boundaries to be set. The child's needs must not be met that way. The downstairs tantrums require a gentle, calming approach to bring the child back to equilibrium. Only then will they be able to have any kind of meaningful exchange. There is no point in trying to reason with a downstairs tantrum. As you probably know, these tantrums can look very similar on the outside, but I have faith that most parents can tell the difference when it comes to their own child.

The past couple of days it feels as though Amari has taken out a lease and is living comfortably in the mind-numbing, crazy-making world of upstairs tantrums. On top of that, her latest go-to move while expressing her dissatisfaction with the world is coupling the tears and whining with a physical complaint. Not just any complaint -  she bases the phantom pain in reality by conjuring up her latest owie. Recent nominees have included: Owie in My Throat, Owie in My Ear, Owie on My Head, with this week's Ridiculously Long-Lasting Owie Award going to Owie on My Knee, a mild abrasion she picked up a week ago on our last road trip.

Warning: Upstairs Tantrum Coming Soon

Here's an example of the dialogue and why it drives me a little batty:
"Hey Amari, do you want to go to the park and play with friends?
"Like Hunter?"
"Yeah. And Oscar."
"Me too, let's get dressed."
"IIIIII dooooooon't want toooooo," followed by a dramatic flopping down on something.
"Amari. Come on. We get dressed every day. Can't we do this without whining?"
"Owie, owie on my knee."

Maybe I need to better integrate my hemispheres.

Yesterday was like that all day. By late morning, I was beginning to get anxious about Carrie going back to school. "How the hell am I going to deal with this all by myself?" I thought. Usually it's Carrie who gets caught up in the moment, but this time it was me grumping and complaining and saying, "I don't know what the hell to do with that."

Firm boundaries, I remind myself, knowing these are upstairs tantrums because Amari can shut them off as quickly as they begin, sometimes appearing to have the unique capability of sucking tears right back into her cheeks. It's amazing. So I try not to reinforce, try not to give in, while trying to get both of our needs met. It's tricky stuff to say the least. Yesterday, I did a lot of, "I'll be right over there on the couch when you're ready to calm down and talk to me." Instantly she would be on the couch with me, but mostly just asking for a hug.

Occasionally, and I'm pretty sure she knows this is a soft spot for me, she will repeat an expression we taught her by saying, "Owie in my heart." Gets me every time.

I guess the days like yesterday serve as a reminder not to take the days like today for granted. Ten plus hours of sleep, a warm, delicious breakfast of oatmeal with dinosaur eggs, and the conversation ended more like this:

"Me, too. Let's get dressed."
"Okay, I want to put my shirt on first."

Maybe today will end up smelling like a rose after all...

Or will it?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Perfect Game...

it was not

Not in the traditional sense, although I did have the good fortune of witnessing - from the comfort of my living room - Matt Cain spin the first one in Giants history a little over a month ago. When fully appreciated, pitching is an art form, and witnessing a perfect game - let alone one with five full counts, fourteen strikeouts, and two physics-defying plays in the outfield - is like standing in the Sistine Chapel during its transformation. By games end, I imagine even the Houston Astros fans were swept up by rare beauty they were witnessing unfold at AT & T Park that chilly, June evening.

This Sunday afternoon's game, however, a disappointing 4-0 loss to their rival Dodgers, was more like one of those abstract paintings at my buddy Jim's house. Beautiful to the questionably unintelligent Dodger fan base, but to the discerning eye of the Giants fan it just looks like a few scattered hits, mediocre defense, and pedestrian pitching thrown together on a big, lawn-green, canvas. Once again, however, the Houston Astros fans were likely swept up, only this time it was with the rare demonstration that a team can play worse than they do. 

Sure, I know, reigning Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw was pitching, and when all's said and done he may be recollected as one of his era's masters, but with this being Amari's second game ever, it's disappointing to say the least that the Giants have amassed a two-game total of five hits and zero runs. 

Aside from the result, however, the day and even the game were truly perfect. Carrie bought six tickets in April as a birthday present, so we invited my brother (Dodger fan, boooo), his wife (first game ever, crush on Ryan Vogelsong, so Giant potential), and one of my BFFs, Jessica (highly intelligent Giants fan). With uncertainty about the crowded Giants' ferry and the possible traffic from a marathon in San Francisco, we left early and drove into the city. There ended up being no traffic at all, so we ended up getting to the park early enough for me to witness batting practice for the first time. 

A little back story: The San Francisco Giants have a team full of characters and fan clubs for each one. Pablo Sandoval lovers wear Panda hats, Lincecum fans dangle hair extensions from their hats, fake beards honor Brian Wilson, and most recently a growing contingent is coming to the yard dressed as Milkmen for the hot-hitting Melky Cabrera. Having seen many of these fans on TV, I decided I would start a small fan base for Angel Pagan - aptly called Pagan's Angels - so I made a sign and bought a halo for my daughter to wear with her Giants shirt.

In front of our seats at the center field wall, we tried to get Pagan's attention, maybe have him toss us a game ball during batting practice. The only person, however, whom we caught the attention of was another Giants fan garnering a long pole with a grabby contraption designed for changing light bulbs on high ceilings. He was using it to grab balls that rolled to the outfield wall. When he finally managed to grab one, he turned back to see if Amari and I were still around and graciously gave us the ball. 

The game started, and Angel Pagan go the Giants' first hit, legging out an infield single. I raised my sign in the bleachers hoping to catch a camera, even though Amari had long since given her halo to her mother. I'm pretty sure I got nothing. By the third inning, a napless Amari was beginning to fade, so I took her for a walk on the promenade, making her wear the halo again with the promise of taking her to the slides. That's when the magic happened.

Walking along, weaving in and out of the crowd, we were stopped by a woman who said to Amari, "Hey, I'm an Angel Pagan fan, too. Give me a high five." Amari obliged, we chatted for a moment, and as we were about to walk away, a CSN Bay Area employee with a giant camera zoomed in on us. Amari and I both said our "Go Giants," the camera man lingered much too long, and on the way  home we got confirmation from Carrie's mom that she'd seen us on TV. Mike Krukow even said, "There's an Angel fan."

It may not have been a perfect game, but eventually it turned into a perfect day. 

And the re-recorded TV appearance. Express written consent from major league baseball still pending

Saturday, July 14, 2012

vERgins no more

That's right, Carrie and I finally made our first trip as parents to our local emergency room. The story isn't nearly as glamorous or dramatic as the countless events I imagined would one day compel us there - a freakishly awkward fall from the monkey bars, an unexpected tumble down the stairs, a mouth full of table corner, and so on - but in that moment a screaming child's agony makes the how inconsequential. 

Amari has had a cold for the past three weeks. She had had a great run of health until one day I cavalierly decided to say aloud to a friend something along the lines of, "She's had a great run of health." Then, I'm pretty sure it was just moments later, she started coughing. Then sniffling. Then oozing liquids out of seemingly everywhere. The cold, much like the tide, ebbed and flowed, then mostly flowed. Combine its stamina with Amari's propensity towards the dramatic, and I was starting to lose it a bit. I'm not saying she wasn't in pain, but for some reason coughing hurt a lot more when she had to put on pajamas or wipe her nose and a lot less when she was watching Dora or eating a popsicles.

Carrie's Guilt

Late last week I suggested we take Amari in to see Carla, to find out if there was something more going on than her cold. Carrie brushed off the idea, reminding me that our friend's daughter had survived much longer colds and that  there probably wasn't much that could be done. 

My guilt 

Amari continued to struggle with sleep, often needing to be driven around before she would eventually pass out. Two nights ago, Amari woke up at around two-thirty in the morning, crying and wanting to go downstairs. I took the first shift, and for a moment Dora, her cousin Diego, and a strawberry lemonade popsicle worked their magic, only this time it was fleeting. Carrie joined us downstairs, so I tried to get some sleep. No chance. I was back in a hurry and greeted with the news that Carrie had decided it was time to go to the ER, spurred by Amari's proclamation that she had an "Ouchie in her ear." 

I admit it. I balked. It seemed too sudden. Plus I'm pretty sure our medical plan doesn't cover ER visits. Selfish? Yes, but I wanted to be sure, because she was  also complaining about ouchies in her tummy, throat, knee, and elbow earlier that evening. "I'll drive her around again," thinking she might just be wound up and overtired. It took about three minutes of her screaming in the car seat for me to turn around, pick Carrie up, and drive the eleven more it took to get to the hospital. 

The next half an hour played out like that children's book "Fortunately":

Fortunately, when we arrived the ER was quiet. Unfortunately, a freaky puppet-looking, bald, male nurse with no bedside manner or experience with kids took Amari's temp and pulse, which amplified her screams echoing down the empty, sterile hallways. Fortunately, Carrie arrived with a young, attractive, part Asian doctor came with a teddy bear and the experience of two kids of her own. Unfortunately, she checked Amari's ears, and found infection on the right side. Fortunately, she sent in some magic ear drops that were supposed to anesthetize Amari's ear. Unfortunately, the nurse-puppet sucked at administering them. Fortunately, enough made it to the infected area to soothe Amari, and within 10 minutes she went from screaming to sleeping. 

Ahhh...Nothing sounds better than that silence.

Now she is on antibiotics and on the mend. She looks better, she's oozing less, her appetite is back, and best of all Fishmanor is once again sleeping through the night. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Fountain of Youth

While pushing Amari on her swing today I let out a little groan of discomfort.
"What's wrong, Dad?"
"My shoulder hurts."
This, of course, led to the mandatory, "Why?"
"Because I'm old," I replied for no one else's benefit.
"Drink water," she told me, "It will make your old feel better."

Two hours later, enjoying our afternoon coffee and milk respectively, Amari asked me, "Are you feeling better now, Dad?" Confused by the question, but honestly feeling great, I said, "I feel awesome."
"You don't feel old anymore?" she asked. My answer was somewhere between and "no" and a "yes," but I was too blown away by the thoughtfulness of her question that I just smiled and laughed.

 The new swing set
 On and Amari enjoying the sunshine
A recent self-portrait by Amari B Fishman

Monday, May 28, 2012

Who? What? Why? Why? Why?...Why? Why?


Just for fun, the next time a friend shares a thought or an intention, something as innocuous as, "I'm pretty thirsty," just throw a "Why?" at them to see what happens. That's what life inside FishManor has been like the past few weeks. You can quickly see where this conversation goes.
"Well, I was in the sun for a while and it was pretty hot."
"I had to do some yard work out there."
"Because there were weeds growing in places I don't like them to."
"Well, the rain makes things grow..."

And eventually everything ends up as an intense conversation about photosynthesis, gravity, or genetic illnesses. Either that or it comes back around to me being thirsty. Pete and repeat are in a boat, Pete fell out. Who's left?

Refreshingly from time to time, however, Amari also throws in a little Name Game.
"Want a green bean?"
"Yeah," munch munch, "What's this guy called?"
"'s called a green bean."
"Because it's green and it's in the bean family."
And then, as you can see, we're back to photosynthesis again.

Try it. It's like one of those weird math games somebody spent far too much time figuring out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nice Things All Around

Mornings can be an adventure. Sometimes Amari happily gets dressed, grabs a toy or a book, and climbs into the car to take Mama to work. Other days, every step in the direction of exiting is a battle. If she could have it her way she would spend her lifetime in pajamas. 

On one such occasion, we indulged her by letting Mama take the car while we remained comfortably PJed by the wood burning stove. Unfortunately, that was not quite enough.
Mama: Bye Amari
Amari: Where are you going?
Mama: I'm going to work?
Amari: Why?
Mama: So I can make money to buy nice things.
Amari (insta-whine): Nooooo. I don't want nice things.
Mama: I'm also doing good for society.
Amari (indignant): No! Don't do good for society. Do good for me.

Later in the week we were breaking in the fort on her new swing set when Amari decided to pretend to go to work like Mama. She walked out of the little wooden door saying, "Okay. I'm going to work to buy nice things." 
When she returned I asked, "What did you get me?" 
"Salad," she replied, obviously paying attention to the changes I've been trying make in my diet.
When she returned again she handed Mama a  handful of emptiness and said, "There you go, Mom. Olives," which are just about one of Mama's favorite things in the world. I often marvel at what the undamaged (by drugs, alcohol, trauma, age) is capable of. 

This morning, however, fell between the two extremes. Amari was good-tempered but not enthusiastic about leaving. After breakfast she asked if she could have a yogurt-covered almond. 
"It's kind of early," I said, "but I'll give you one."
"Two," she countered.
"One," I stood firm, impervious to her ever-improving negotiating skills. 
"Two," she tried again.
"I'll tell you what," I decided, "I'll give you two if you get dressed and ready to take Mama to work without complaining."
She paused, looked up at me, and said, "One." 

 The Negotiator
 The Artist
The Reluctant Sports Fan

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Old Die Young?

Me: Where's Amari?
Carrie: Upstairs, I think.

As if sensing the uncertainty in her response, a loud, crashing noise comes from the bedroom above our heads.

Me (hustling to the staircase): Amari?
Amari (nonchalantly walking down the stairs): Coming.
Me: What was that loud noise?
Amari: I don't know. It was me.
Me: Well, what were you doing.
Amari (without hesitating): I was making a loud noise.

Later on, at the dinner table and for seemingly no apparent reason Amari says, "Annie's dead." It was true, Granny had  rough dog year in 2011, losing Tigger, Mr. Steed, and finally Annie, who is buried in our garden beneath a bed of poppies. Amari was at the funeral where Carrie introduced her to the concept of death by telling her that Annie was going to "outer space." As you'll see from the end of this conversation, I think she missed that part.

Amari repeats, "Annie died."
Carrie and I look puzzled. "Yep" we say together.
"Why did she die?" Amari asked.
I'll take this one, I thought, and say, "Well, she got old. And when you live a long time, you get old and die."
Amari ponders that for a moment while I silently congratulate myself for nailing a hard question until Amari blurts, "I want to get old and die so I can go in the dirt and cuddle Annie."

Carrie and I both had holy shit faces before we started giggling a bit. "Take your time, Amari. Take your time." 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

My Own Private Triangle

In some ways becoming a parent transforms your house into mystical and frustrating force of nature, a Bermuda Triangle of sorts which not disappears things without a trace, but also seems to spit out new things in their stead, creating what eventually becomes a comfortable blend of novelty and confusion. Some things end up victims of both - vanishing for weeks then magically reappearing as though a Pixar film were being filmed during the night.

Although for years my wife, Carrie, has attributed the disappearance of small things such as keys, wallets, or cell phones to my age and general forgetfulness, a description against which I have no defense, I do believe introducing a child into the equation has both changed the playing field and relieved some of the burden of my guilt. I may still be old and forgetful, but now there's a mysterious force at play lifting and depositing things into various boxes, shelves, and corners of our house.

When considered carefully, I've found three possible origins for our triangle. First and foremost, as the last in our circle of friends to procreate, we gained an incomprehensible amount of hand-me-down clothes, toys, and baby/toddler accessories. Bags of all of these things found their way into closets, guest rooms, and storage areas, leaking out slowly into the various play stations Carrie created when Amari was crawling her way around the world.

The play stations are my second hypothesis. Cleverly place in areas around the downstairs of our home, they all seem to include a variety of toys, stuffed animals, and housing units such as laundry hampers, dollar store baskets, or old lunch boxes for small toys and pieces to be tossed in during clean up time. When she's on her own, Amari is quite content to play with the toys and books she loves most or the ones closest to the surface of the toy receptacles. As a result, some things remain buried in the depths until curious friends up end the containers or conjure buried items from their graves with willful little arms.

Lastly, there is my wife's low tolerance for toys with loud, annoying sounds or large numbers of pieces to clean up. When Amari's friends come over, dominoes and blocks disappear, puzzles find their way to high counter tops, and keyboard, guitars, and creepy bear somehow end up in the laundry room. Although in her work life, her drive and attention to detail knows no equal, at home that same level of motivation (what I call preventative parenting - it's the best medicine) used to hide the toys in the first place will also leave them there until her old, forgetful husband stumbles upon them and thinks, "I don't remember putting this here."

Books are no exception to these forces. In fact, with full shelves littered about the house - upstairs and down, baskets overflowing by every potential reading spot, a much too small rotation of favorites stacked on coffee and end tables, and a handful hiding beneath car seats, US Weeklys,
and junk mail, the vanishing and emergence of literature, though once a bit crazy-making, now makes me feel like I'm shopping at a bookstore every day.

One series of books, while they existed, quickly became Amari's favorites. I believe they were left-overs from a summer reading program Carrie taught during grad school. Each book is titled, "When I'm feeling ________" and include descriptions of feeling mad, sad, loved, happy and kind. I especially liked the last one, because it sounded so sweet and unique when Amari would quiz me. After going through a few of the other feelings she would ask me, "Dada are you feeling kind?" And usually, by the time she got to that question, I was. If, however, I were ever feeling sad, she would immediately stop the questioning, wrap her arms around my neck, kiss my cheek, and say, "I make your sad feel better."

On Wednesday, Amari learned another feeling. We were over the hill in Ukiah where I'd just purchased a few items at Ross, including a new pair of flip flops for her. Although I explained we'd have to wait, she wanted me to put them on immediately and began to take off her shoes on the floor by the check out counter. I snatched her off the floor with one arm, held my bag, keys, and her old shoes in the other, and whisked her across the parking lot where I unlocked the hatchback and dumped the contents of both hands into the back of our car.

After changing her shoes I spotted another store across the street we could just walk to, so I picked her up, closed the hatchback, and had the immediate sensation that can only be described as "Oh Fuck." After a quick check of my pockets, I peered into the hatchback where I saw, partially hidden by the word Ross and a pair of my daughter's shoes, my car keys. Not too old to remember where they were this time.

Unfortunately, my wife did not bring home the "When I'm Feeling Oh Fuck" book from her summer reading program, so I had translate my frustration. After calling AAA, Amari and I waited by the parking lot, bathed in a pleasant, morning sun. I quickly noticed that although I was feeling annoyed and stupid, Amari could care less. She was hanging out with her dad, she was warm, she was full, and she was waiting for a magical yellow truck that I seemed to be pretty excited about. It was contagious, and for a while I'd forgotten my stupid fucking forgetfulness.

When, however, an already occupied yellow truck drove by with mangled car in tow, I relapsed into  my adult thinking and mumbled, "Dammit."
"What happened Dad?" asked Amari, pausing from her game of "I'm a frog."
"Oh nothing," I said, "Dad just feels dumb."
Without hesitating, she hopped over to me, threw her arms around my once again, kissed my cheek, and said, "I make your dumb feel better."

And she did.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Leggo My Ego

Children can be great for our egos - especially when they're full of hugs and kisses and can't say a damn word. Then language comes and still, for a little while, things get even better.
"My love you, Dada."
"You're best my friend."
"I love you to the moon and the stars and the fan."
These were all things Amari has said to me since beginning her mastery of the English language.

Even without words, she has made given me magical powers to heal boo boo's with kisses and dissolve fears and  sadness with hugs. She has helped me to finally feel like the grown-up I always imagined I would one day become. And then, in a matter of moments, she reduced me to the insecure teenager I used to be.

The scene was our front yard, a sunny enough day to pull out the dinky, fifteen dollar, plastic pool. While she splashed around, I decided to get some vitamin D on my magic hugging arms so I took off my shirt and lay down on a towel. I've never been a confident fan of sunbathing, but I was with my "best friend" who loves me "to the moon and the fan," so I went for it. Seconds later, on one of her jaunts outside the pool, Amari sat next to me and said, "Dada, your boobs are wobbly." I took it pretty well, and promptly rolled over onto my stomach. She took that well, and as an opportunity to climb on my back, poke my shoulder, and ask, "Dada, is your pimple happy?" For the record, it was a mole. But nonetheless, neither my mole nor I were exceptionally happy. It was all pretty funny, though.

Yesterday, I told Amari we might go to the park in the morning. With the weather changing quickly and creating some uncertainty about outdoor activities, I tried to disguise our plans during a phone call with Jim.
Jim: What do you have going on this morning?
Me: We're thinking about going to the P - A - R - K.
Amari (angrily): No, I don't want to go to the P - A - R - K. I want to go to the park.

And finally, tonight at dinner, she was talking to her food, creating a little dramatic scene between her and the starch. Playing both rolls, she says:

Rice says, "Are you going to eat me?"
Amari says, "Yes. I'm going to eat you."
(Pause to take giant bite of rice) "Mmmmm."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Your Frinds All Think It's Funny But It's Snot

First an update on the Isaac/Dada situation. Returning to the parenting philosophy upon which I base most of my actions - that you get more of what you pay attention to - I realized my retelling of Amari's new-found amusement with calling me Isaac was reenforcing it. The more I told the story, whether with a tone of amusement or sorrow, the more she called me Isaac.  Finally, I just stopped talking about it. And so did she. Almost instantly.

I was getting so discouraged that I even dreamed about it - a nightmare that an elderly woman drove Amari into a large crevasse on the side of the road and all I could hear were the faint cries of my daughter echoing from the darkness - "Dada...Dada..." I waited almost forty years to be a dad - I wasn't ready to let it go. Now I'm Dada again, and even when it comes with a "No," a "Pick me up," or a mini-tantrum, it sounds pretty sweet. Makes me wonder who's teaching whom here?

Meanwhile, back at the Hall of Useless Parents...

Okay, I'm still new at this whole parenting thing and I certainly don't claim to know everything. That being said, I'm pretty sure I did the right thing here. You be the judge.

The story began two weeks ago, but I didn't know it at the time. In the days that followed, Carrie came home sick with a cold - a not entirely uncommon occurrence as a high school English teacher. A few days after that Amari followed suit, while I began to wonder if my gratitude for our long run of health might have been misunderstood by the Universe as boasting. On the final day of our road trip last weekend, I finally caught a much milder version sans coughing and congestion - just a sore throat and low energy for a couple of days.

Mildly afflicted, I decided to go about my week, beginning with toddler yoga on Tuesday. It was then, confronted with a round-faced, profusely snotty, extremely affectionate fourteen month old that I flashed back to the previous week when the same child with less and much clearer snot had bee-lined for me when I entered the room, put his arm around me, smiled, and maybe even put his head on my shoulder between deep, rumbling, frightening coughs.

Even though my neck and head were doing the Tae Kwon Do stance I learned from bosses with bad breath, his seemingly well-kept and pregnant mother across the room did not take the hint, but simply enjoyed the reprieve from her repulsive child and said, "Oh, he just loves men." I smiled, made some comment about yoga not being the best place to meet them, then did my best to keep this disgusting disease-ball away from my daughter. I couldn't help but wonder if he was the reason we all got sick, and even though all my wrath should have been reserved for his mother, I couldn't help but direct some at him

This week was even worse. The once-clear snot hanging from the child's nose was now a multi-colored stream of yellows and greens dripping from his upper lip into his mouth. Seriously, I thought. Is she fucking kidding me? Was this some kind of hippie therapy where you just let the kid drink up the goop his body is trying to get rid of? She smiled again as her son plopped himself in my lap and looked up at me adoringly. "Something about guys," she said happily. Yeah, probably handkerchiefs, I thought. It's like his holy fucking grail. You will find the Kleenex in the Lost Tomb of Parenting Skills, young Indy.

Three times I watched this kid walk back to his mother and three times he returned with a growing river of snot. Finally - mercifully - Reya (who had joined us for yoga) asked me for a glass of water, which gave us an appropriate and well-timed escape. Unfortunately, this kid's love of men knew no bounds - including doors and hallways - because as soon as we left he followed us, walked into a wall and burst into tears - which is always really helpful for slowing down the flow of mucous. "Men, men, men, blah, blah, blah," said his mom, following him out.

By now the kid's tears are swimming in snot, pulling it down around the edges of his mouth. His arms are raised up to me while I'm fighting to conceal my look of contempt and disgust. He wants me to pick him up and all I want to do is wrap him in a thousand of those warm towels you get on International flights before take off. Finally, in lieu of those, I grab a paper towel from behind the water cooler  and politely ask, "Can I wipe his nose?" Unbelievably taken aback for a moment, the mom actually pauses, before saying, "Yeah, I guess," as though I were asking to share something precious to her.

Un-freakin' believable. If you're not going to take care of the babies you have, stop making more. It's a scary world we share...

The End

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

That's Mr. Fishman to You Lady

Albeit brief, it was unequivocally the best experience I've ever had. Alas, I am Dada no longer. Yes, I'm still a dad, but for some reason about a week ago Amari started calling me Isaac. I used to enjoy quizzing her on what the names of all of her relatives were - from mom and dad to CC and Babaji - and was delighted by the sound of my name squeaking past her lips. Even last week in its modest beginnings it was pretty darn cute - a potential party trick if time correctly. Unfortunately, however, where she was mixing it up as recently as this past weekend, throwing in the occasional "Dada" to keep me on my toes and under her spell, she appears now to have made that title obsolete.

"Wait for me," she calls as we're walking to the car, and when I don't immediately stop she emphasizes, "ISAAC, wait for me." Initially it was just situations like this that she would use the informal (formal?) to get my attention, but I think she's overheard me tell the story of this new development several times and has perhaps misunderstood the tone as pride.

Fortunately, she has also adopted some of the terms of endearment Carrie and I use around the house, so in addition to Isaac I sometimes get called "Honey," "Babe," or "Lady." The latter is something we often call her. "What are you doing, Isaac?" and if I don't answer quickly enough she repeats, "What are you doing lady?"

I'm sure Dada and its variations will be back soon, but I already miss them. I remember experimenting with calling my parents by their first names when I was in high school. My dad didn't care, but I could tell my mom wasn't into it. Now I know why. There's something special about hearing the word "dad" - a constant reminder of the magical little being I had a part in creating.

I've also noticed that Amari is becoming very interested in being a part of our conversations - not just adding her own commentary on the world, but listening and responding. Tonight at dinner Carrie was talking about one of her students saying, "She got a full ride to UCLA."
"She got a full ride?" Amari asked.
"A full ride?"
"A full ride on CC's tractor?"
"Yes." And to her, that's a much more interesting ride.

Here are some pics of recent visits Amari had with some of her new BFF's, Eric, On, and Uncle Matt

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Lorax

Today we took Amari to her second movie - the 2D version of "The Lorax." We figured the 3D glasses alone would be too distracting in and of themselves. What we didn't figure was the previews to this soft, fun, colorful, musical, whimsical animated feature would be dark, loud, and frightening.

When we saw "The Muppets," I think the previews were for "The Lorax" and some other G-Movie. This time, after five minutes of fielding questions like, "Where's the movie, Dada? Is the movie coming? Is it? Is it? Really?" (this is a new behavior which toes the line between cute and crazy-making), the theater lights dimmed simultaneously with loud music filling the darkness before giant images of goofy teenagers, spiders, and bad guys filled the screen. Really? Another Spiderman movie? It looked like a "Smallville" version of "Superman," but a la standard preview style it showed a lot of action and frightening images which left Amari saying, head buried in my chest and her little hands covering her ears, "Amari wants to go bye bye now."

Fortunately the second preview, "Franken-Weiner," a new Tim Burten production I believe, was a little less frightening. Claymation makes reanimation less terrifying. At the end of each preview, as she does when her cartoons are over at home, Amari blurted to our fellow audience members, "The End." Needless to say, we were all grateful when the stunning, colorful animation of "The Lorax" began.

With the exception of a single bathroom break, Amari sat riveted the whole time. I kept checking in with her early on to make sure she wasn't just paralyzed by the fear of giant cartoons, but her gaze and mindless munching of popcorn set my mind at ease.

As we walked out of the theater, Carrie asked what her favorite part was and she said, "My favorite thing was the orange guy." He was very endearing. And so was she.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Thing Best Ever

This afternoon, amidst a lengthy, rain-soaked, March Madness-filled, indoor activity only day, Amari cozied up next to me on our couch, put her head on my shoulder and said, "Dada. You're best my friend." Much like when she said, "My love you," I hadn't the slightest desire to correct her. Instead I leaned back and said, "You're best my friend, too."

And now for something completely different...

One of the reasons I started writing this blog was to be able to answer Amari's future questions about her childhood. Sure, I've earned the right to say, "I don't f-ing remember. Check your blog," but in case we still get along, I'd like to be able to check it myself, share some proud and/or embarrassing moments with the boy or girl or she one day brings home.

Also, I recently realized with all of the photos and videos I take of Amari, there are very few of the two of us together. In case I die, become irrecognizably disfigured, or simply have to be place in WitSec for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, I've decided to chronicle a few of our days together.

In case I get relocated, Amari, look for the Panda hat. And don't go to Giants games, it will only confuse and upset you.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Taking the Leap

Today I learned two things:

1. Amari's little two-year old body is perfectly designed to survive an unintentional, inelegant roll down our flight of stairs.

2. Be it in writing, words, or even thoughts, one should never tempt the universe with over-confidence in that which one knows is ever-changing and always fleeting.

The second lesson actually began last night. I had one of the best days I've ever had as a parent. Amari woke up in a good mood and hit the ground running. She didn't complain about transitions, put her shoes on by herself, pooped in the potty - things were looking up. When we hit the sometimes crowded, often unpredictable local playground it was completely empty except for the two kids we were meeting there. Could it get any better? Yes, it could. Fifteen minutes later, Amari was taking her first solo trips down the big kid slides she'd always been afraid of. What was going on here?

Next up, toddler yoga. Hit or miss up 'til this point - one week Amari was all about the tree pose, the next one she stuck with shivasana (the corpse pose) across my lap for thirty minutes. This week, she was like I'd never seen - except occasionally on way too much sugar or way to little sleep. She was out-going, funny, doing poses, making noises, rolling on the ground, giggling, dancing. It was so great to see her enjoying herself so much. She's like that at home a lot, but I hadn't seen her cut loose like that in a social setting.

I loved it.

After yoga, we had lunch with Mama at the high school, then went home for a nap that was long enough and deep enough that I could put on the monitor, get an hour of exercise in and still have some time to relax. This was unbelievable. Post-nap the good vibrations continued. We built a fort, picked up mom, and had a yummy picnic dinner on the living room floor. That was when I made my fatal mistake.

Sitting on the couch by our blazing wood stove, listening to the lilting sounds of the bathtub filling over a chorus of Amari chattering and music playing, I reflected on the day and thought to myself, "This is awesome. What a great age. I totally have this parenting thing dialed." I may have even gone on to toot my own horn even more and wonder how on earth I would be able to relate to other parents at the next bitch session.

Big mistake. Huge. Next thing I know it's taking an hour for Amari to fall asleep, while I lay there cursing myself for even thinking such stupid thoughts.

Today, and I'll hyphenate as I've learned to do with almost everything, was an F-ing N-mare. The details aren't important, as I'm sure everyone has had a day like this in one of its insundry forms. Mine came in the shape of a moody two year-old and a mother-in-law. It was a day of spills and falls and bad timing. Even when I tried to go with flow, breathe in the bad day and breathe out acceptance, it backfired.

The first incident was the staircase. I have a rule I try to enforce where Amari is not allowed to carry things up or down the stairs. I feel like she has enough to focus on as it is. Recently she has taken to sliding down the (carpeted) stairs backwards on her stomach. It's fast and fun and safe and I don't mind at all. Today she wanted to try going head-first. I said, "I don't think that's a good idea." She tried anyway and got stuck on the first stair.

Later on, despite my rules and suggestions, Amari carried two "Little People" (small plastic toys) up the stairs. I can only imagine that she then tried to roll down the stairs with them, because the next thing I heard was "" By the time I got to the landing, she was bouncing off the second to last step into my outstretched arms. I did dramatize it a bit - a la Grady Sizemore - and dive unnecessarily after the catch. Amari was red-faced and in tears, burying her face in my chest, saying some incoherent things between sobs, and all the while clutching firmly to the "Little People" she had obviously saved from injury.


The day went on...and on...and I can't even remember why it sucked so much at this point. Like childhood amnesia spares children from the horrific memories of birth and teething and lousy parenting, we parents have a similar mechanism that allows us to block out the hard days and continue to love and adore our children the next.

Later on, the days of adolescence are too vivid to repress and we look forward to them going off to college, getting a job, joining a cult, or whatever else will get them out of the house. So in this moment, I humbly think, write, and say out loud, "I have nothing dialed." Like my recovery from alcoholism. All I have is today.

Amari with her various Homies

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Coming of Age

Amari will be two and a third in early March. That's right, we've moved on from weeks and months to fractions. I'm really looking forward to mid-April when she's two and six-thirteenths. I hear it's an awesome time in a toddlers life.

In all seriousness, this is the age I imagined writing about when Jen suggested I write a blog of my parenting experiences. Sure, babies are cute and ever-changing, novel and priceless, and the milestones of rolling, crawling, walking, and talking are note-worthy (I took many notes), but now that Amari's stringing together sentences, putting the pieces together, and dare I say cultivating a world-view (sort of), I find myself sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for what she might say next. Reminds me of that old Bill Cosby TV show, "Kids Say the Cutest Fucking Shit." 

Just the other morning I woke up and toyed with the idea of getting out of bed. Amari was still asleep next to me, tossing and turning, probably contemplating the same thing. Finally she noticed my eyes were open and she lift her weary head and said (with more enthusiasm than I ever say it), "Amari need coffee." That's my girl. The interesting thing is that she still doesn't use the pronoun "I." Early on I read in a parenting book that we should avoid "I" and "you" and instead use more concrete pronouns, "Dada loves Amari," and I took it to heart. As a result - for now - everything is "Amari..." 

Here are a few episodes of my own, home-version, of that funny, old Cosby show.

 --While cutting Amari's hair the other day, evening up a few stray pieces, she asked me, "Can Amari cut Dada's hair?" to which I replied, "Sure. When you're older." She paused for about five seconds and then asked, "Am I older now?"

--Although the two's have come with the whole-hearted development of the word "mine," I recently discovered a couple of advantages. The first is during moment of resistance - PJs and bedtime. When I claim it's time to put on my PJs and drink my bottle, Amari will let down her guard and claim her ownership. "My PJs, my bottle," and it's off to bed. The other advantage came during an apology. I can't remember the details, but when I said, "I'm sorry Amari. That was my fault," she was immediately up in arms saying, "No Dada, my fault." I'll enjoy this stage for a while.

--I brief truth-telling about potty training. Several months ago Amari took toe pee-pee-ing on the potty at home and we thought we were free and clear of diapers. I was excited, but the excitement quickly wore off for Amari and it became hit or miss - and there was certainly no training going on outside the house. I got lots of feedback from other parents including one who said, "When she's ready, she'll tell you." When I heard that I thought, "That's ridiculous."

Sure enough, after the quick and successful training of her friend Hunter, Amari was putting up her normal diaper-changing fuss, complete with kicking and whining, when I finally said, "Listen, if you don't want to wear diapers anymore then you have to potty train like Hunter. If that's something you want, then tell me." Silence. Diaper on. End of conversation. Three hours later, rolling around on the floor and playing with something or other, Amari paused, looked up at me and said, "Dada, Amari want to potty train." That was the beginning. An accident a day for the first three days, and since then she's been pretty solid. Except for the solids. Poop has been an issue, which appears to be resolving itself, but pretty traumatic for a while. Really traumatic for a while after that. We had to model making grunting noises/faces and helping her push them out, and I think she's getting better at letting go. A therapist friends says it's a very existential experience for some kids, but who knows.

--An indication that she is getting the poop idea came when I was trying to get a sticker off a page for her. "What's wrong, Dada?" Amari asked.
"It's really stuck," I said.
"You have to Mmmmmm (grunting poop noise with accompanied face) like poo-poo."
I obliged and the sticker came right off.

--And finally, the other night at dinner, Amari passed something to her mom and said, "There you go, babe." We definitely are watching what we say more closely, and I'm really grateful she didn't say, "There you go you ungrateful bitch."

More cute fucking shit soon.