Time Machine: Sickness, Work and Christmas Shopping

Originally posted December 21, 2001.

I spent the last several days battling a wicked flu that has more stages than an Apollo space shuttle. Initially it was just a bad sore throat and some temperature control issues (too hot, then too cold). Eventually a nice bit of fatigue was added to the mix, followed by severe body aches and head congestion. By the third day the temperature issues had been replaced by a cough, and this morning the fatigue and part of the sore throat had given way to an incessantly running nose and fits of sneezing, usually when my hands are full.

I’ve felt like a walking germ all day and I’ve had to interact with far too many people. I’d feel badly for them, but I did have to get out of bed today, so it serves them right for not petitioning harder to make today null and void like I requested.

I was working on the Splendid Products web page until 4 am last night (not recommended for flu sufferers… sleep deprivation and sickness do not make a happy marriage) and dragged myself out of bed to finish the badly neglected pool route this afternoon. I still didn’t get in the pool truck until around 1:30, which meant that I wasn’t on the road back home until around 4:00.

Nikki was meanwhile waiting at home (cleaning and decorating with Christmas stuff… hey, shut up, we’ve both been sick and busy okay?) for me to return so we could get some shopping done. I had done some of hers Tuesday, but she hadn’t started on mine and the rest of our list was in danger of receiving IOUs. In the end we were out and about for almost six hours and managed to get some household products we needed and three gifts. When we got home Nikki hit the web and in about 45 minutes managed to basically finish the rest of the shopping. Odd that we didn’t do that from the beginning.

Meanwhile I have gone through two entire Pocket Pak® Kleenex© Brand pouches, about 40 cardboard-textured Burger King napkins, half a full box of pink Kleenex© Brand Facial Tissues and various assorted shirtsleeves, paper towels and old gas receipts in a vain effort to keep myself somewhat mucous-free. My nose is now the color and texture of road rash, and feels about as good.

I love winter. Merry Christmas.

I think this is the first post I made that had a couple of jokes I still like, which meant it was one of the first “funny” posts. I guess early on I talked about my work projects as if the people reading the site were supposed to know what I was referring to, which strikes me as pretty annoying now, like people who talk about friends you’ve never met as if they were mutual acquaintances. I think the mindset was that the original intended audience was simply me, the way any private journal or diary would be. The fact that it was publicly accessible seems to have been incidental and the presumption was that whenever I was going back and reading it, I’d remember what “the Splendid Products web page” referred to. It turns out I do remember that particular example, but others will turn out to be much more hazy.

It took a little while for the pattern to begin in earnest but this is the first example of the blog post titles being mini-lists which highlight my writer’s Attention Deficit Disorder as I jump from topic to topic. For whatever reason I tended to use groups of three. I’m not sure why three felt like a magic number, but this is where it began.

Time Machine: Odd Jobs

Originally posted December 15, 2001.

So it’s been almost four months since I was laid off my cushy Graphic Artist position at a Coin-Operated arcade game manufacturing company turned Internet New Economy latecomer turned back manufacturing company. Or whatever. The point is, it’s been a while since I had a real office job.

I looked for a replacement office job, but that 18 month degree I got in Graphic Arts that made me a very much in demand web designer a year ago has made me a very much under-needed entry-level skill-deprived tech worker in a recessing economy. To help pay the bills I sort of stumbled into doing odd jobs for pretty much whomever asks me for some help in exchange for money. I’m helping one set of in-laws get their pool service business off the ground by cleaning swimming pools, lawns and rain gutters. I’m helping another set of in-laws with some actual web design work; I’m putting in more time as webmaster of a high-profile fan site for an actor and I’m holding open houses for a real estate agent on the weekends.

It’s very strange to go from getting nice consistent paychecks every two weeks to getting small personal checks in varying degrees of frequency. Really, I’m not complaining. I could be unable to find anything that brought in money. The weird thing is, I’m doing at least partially what I really wanted to be doing all the while I worked for the game company. That is, I’m designing web pages and working with computers on my own time, at home. I still have to do the pool cleaning, but it’s good for a guy who would sit in front of a monitor 24/7 if he could to be required to get up at least once in a while and move around, remind myself what the outdoors looks like.

It’s also strange how life throws you curve balls and most of the time you just close your eyes and take a wild swing. But you know, I’m starting to find that a good percentage of the time those blind swats connect at least a little, and sometimes that’s quite enough to at least keep you from striking out.

I mentioned to Dr. Mac a few weeks ago that I actually missed the dotcom boom/bubble. A lot of the nostalgia for that time comes from my being an undeserving beneficiary of the insane demand for people who could rub two HTML tags together rather than one of the fleeced investors who were hoping to get rich off of ethereal potential rather than, you know, business models and revenue and all that.

The odd job thing was incredibly stressful at the time and certainly wouldn’t fly for our family now, but in retrospect it was kind of an exciting time and the whole year that was to come would really serve to solidify the relationship between Nik and I since we didn’t have traditional careers to pull on our time and we didn’t have much money to engage in a lot of diversions so we had to learn to work together and lean on each other heavily for support (especially since at times it wasn’t clear what would be in store for me work-wise down the road and it definitely wasn’t obvious how we were going to keep the lights on and food on the table week to week). We sure made some mistakes as we stumbled through it (the pool cleaning service was a poor fit and an awkward transitional moment between the in-laws and myself, for example) but it turns out a lot of those blind swings don’t just keep the count steady at 3-2 but unexpectedly end up being the sacrifice bloop that scores the winning run.

The trick is to open your eyes when you’re done taking the rip.

Never Look Back

Occasionally I have to remind myself why I don’t make promises on my blog. You know, things like “I plan to update ironSoap.org at least three times a week from now on!” Or, “I’m going to read a bunch of books I’ve been meaning to finish before I read anything else!


At the time I usually think, “Well, it’s going to be out there. Public. I’ll be more likely to stick with it because people will be counting on me.” However, if I’ve learned one thing from maintaining this website it is that no one in my mythical audience cares what I intend to do, or what I say I’m going to do. Very rarely a straggler will stop by—clearly lost on the information superhighway—and show some mild interest in something I am doing or have already done. But promises and statements of intent interest no one and inevitably end in shamefaced apologies from me because “Ball Dropper” is my middle name. Paul Ball Dropper Hamilton. Actually, that doesn’t sound good at all. Forget I said that. The point is, I’m not so much with the follow-through.

Well, there is one exception. That exception is ironSoap.org. To a degree, I mean. It’s not like there haven’t been lengthy lapses in updates and I haven’t been what anyone would call a consistent blogger in probably several years but, in fits and starts and with any number of format and direction changes, I’ve been manning the wheel on this ship for going on ten years now.

The very first entry on ironSoap.org came in December of 2001, which means that on 12/03 of this year ironSoap will turn 10 years old. That’s so old style guides permit me to use numerals for the year rather than spelling it out. That’s so old that in Internet years I’m officially a cane-waving codger imploring these smart phone-waving, social media driven, html5 toting kids to get off my virtual lawn. My first blog entry was done by hand-editing the HTML in vi right there on the server, uphill both ways in the cyber-snow. And I liked it.

Here’s what a much younger and far less mature me had to say back then:

You know, I think if I counted the number of journals I’ve started and vowed to keep current and multiplied that by the number of projects I’ve started and never finished and added to that the number of great ideas I’ve had but never done anything about and later forgotten and then had 0.01 cents times the sum of all that I’d be rich enough to hire some schlep to write my journals for me. I could even pay him to write some fascinating yet realistic sounding activities for the day to attract hordes of fans to my site to read about my daily exploits.

All that would be covering the truth, of course, which is that, being rich, I’d most likely spend most of the day playing video games on my obscenely over-priced home entertainment system.

And yet here I am again, promising myself that I’ll do better this time. I’d ponder about the significance of a consistent journal being a strong priority in (some) people’s lives and the desire to chronicle their existence. Perhaps I’d wonder if the difficulty many have in doing so is related to the fact that when enough time is available to write, there isn’t really that much going on and when we can’t find time to write is when we would find doing so most cathartic and others would find it most interesting.

I’d ponder that, but I have to go play some video games.

Well, things certainly have changed! I mean, ahem. Right. Anyway.

All the early blog posts from those first few days have been lost on the site as it currently exists, victims of some WordPress upgrade or another. A period of them have been lost forever, double victims of a corrupted database backup file. But I do have quite a few of the first couple of years lying around. My brother (you did know he was back in the blahgosphere, right?) has attempted to convince me to format them together into something like a book on a number of occasions, and I made some progress on that front before I dropped the ball (sensing a trend here?). Actually the problem was that I wanted to include some commentary that would fill in the blanks between those archived entries but I realized soon enough that those commentaries would be restricted to a particular time and place as well, possibly opening the door for future revisions to include comments on the commentary and before I knew it I was envisioning an endless loop of meta-discussion that would never be finished like some sort of punishment from a digital age Greek Myth and I had to go lie down.

But here’s my thought. And I want to make clear this is not a statement of intent nor should it be construed in any way as a promise, a commitment or anything that could lead to any type of expectation. I’m just thinking out loud here. As part of a celebration leading up to ironSoap.org’s tenth birthday I was thinking that I might occasionally post some of those old entries as sort of a “Best Of…” series. I’ve zero intention (note that there is a value only slightly greater than zero of doing any of this at all) of posting every one of the old entries. I mean honestly, most of them are along these lines:

So it was no more than five minutes after I posted the last journal entry that I figured out what was up with PostNuke. Apparently it requires cookies to be turned on to authenticate users (okay, I knew that) and I had cookies blocked from my localhost.localdomain (now I didn’t know that, and don’t remember doing that, either). Fixing the filter made the problem go away. I’m not sure if it’s going to work for me or not, though.

Riveting, right? I can’t possibly apologize enough if you suffered through all those updates the first time around, I certainly don’t want to subject you to them again. But there may be a few interesting nuggets that would provide some interesting decade-spanning dissection. Also, I could pretend to actually be updating the site without actually having to write anything new! On paper, it sounds like a fantastic idea.

But, probably I’m just going to go play some video games instead.

Wonder in Winterland

One of the few things I dislike about living in the Bay Area is that Christmas time never really seems to have quite the same punch and magic here as is described by non-classical Christmas songs. Perhaps it is the preponderance of Godless heathens clustered together or maybe it’s just age and an accompanying cynicism puncturing the delight of innocent, youthful greed but honestly I think it boils down to the lack of relatively inclement weather. With the relatively mild winter of coastal California, there seems to be less of an obvious requirement to stay indoors, avoid roads and thus dedicate time to cozy firesides and spiked nogs and craft projects.

Or whatever that means. I don’t know why craft projects remind me of Christmas spirit, but there you are. The point is it seems like the—at worst—inconvenient annoyance of Bay Area December weather isn’t sufficient to prevent the season from descending into commercialized excess of gaudy strip malls and Black Friday sales. So I was feeling kind of glum about the season in general, wishing impotently that I could demonstrate to my 16-month old daughter that Christmas was more than just counting boxes under the tree.

Then Nik somehow heard about this event in downtown San Jose called Christmas in the Park, held in the small public space between the Tech Museum, the Art Museum and tons of high-rise office buildings and even higher-priced restaurants. The plan was to pick me up from work and grab some dinner before we took Callie over there. As I tend to do when Nik suggests family activities I shrugged and said, “Sure, sounds fun.” I’m trying to make these words mean something other than “Okay: I probably won’t hate it,” although I do better some days with that than others.

We actually tried to go earlier when a work issue resulted in me having to stay later than usual and miss my shuttle so Nik drove out to pick me up and we thought we might go after that, but by the time I was done and Nik had a chance to make it to my office and we fought through rush hour traffic on 101 South it was approaching 6:30. Given an hour for dinner and we’d be arriving when Callie’s bedtime routine typically begins and it seemed like less than responsible parenting to keep her up hours just to take advantage of an unexpected car trip. So we made arrangements to do as we originally intended and went on Thursday after I got off work (at the normal time). We had dinner at a retro themed diner which I thought was excellent but Nik was quite unimpressed by and then crossed the street again to check out the spread which we had only seen in passing on our way in.

The marvelous thing about Christmas in the Park is that it’s donation-run so admission is completely free. The bulk of the set up is a series of donated Christmas trees decorated by local groups. As you might predict a huge number of these end up being Boy and Girl Scout troops, but that’s actually fine and many of them were very cleverly put together. Around the perimeter of the park are a series of dioramas, some fairly elaborate with mechanical bits and musical accompaniment, which depict whimsical scenes that are very kid-friendly: Silly elves, friendly looking woodland creatures and so forth.  Because Nik didn’t care for dinner she stopped and got a snack to munch on while we perused the aisles of trees and displays.

Throughout this initial sequence Calliope seemed a little overwhelmed: Her eyes were as big and round as saucers but she didn’t seem to react much to anything. I’m not sure if the lights were too much or if it was packed too tightly into the space for her little mind to process, but while I wouldn’t describe her as having anything but a good time it was as if she didn’t quite know what to make of it all.

By the time we reached the center of the park where they had erected a huge display tree out of light strings Callie seemed to be appreciating what was going on a little more. She got excited about a teddy bear statue that was under the tree and offered to share bites of her gummy churro with passing strangers. Just to one side of the big tree they has set up a gazeebo and stage with some benches in front and a horn ensemble was playing brassy renditions of popular Christmas tunes. For the first time that I can recall, despite being exposed almost daily to a variety of musical stylings via iPod and radio, she lit up about the band and got this huge grin on her face as they bleated their way through “Frosty the Snowman” and “Carol of the Bells” and others. We sat and watched them play through three or four songs and then moved on to keep Callie from getting bored.

Just behind the stage they had set up a snow-maker using soap bubbles and Nik bravely carried Callie into the shower where she laughed and squealed while the shower of suds swirled through the night sky. They were both fairly covered in soap by the time the shower stopped (it seemed to be set to “snow” in about three minute intervals) and Callie was so delighted she made Nik stand through another storm. It was very cool to see her getting so excited, enough that Nik and I wondered afterward if she might enjoy a trip to the actual snow.

In the center of the park was a sort of gift shop/visitor’s center, and Nik poked her head in to see if there was a map or a listing perhaps of all the groups that had donated a tree (she seemed to get into her head that the San Jose Sharks should have made a tree and was fairly convinced there was a Sharks tree we just weren’t able to find). I guess they didn’t have anything like that but she did emerge with a set of jingle bells that had been a display. Apparently she’d had to talk the cashiers into selling it to her. To understand why she went to extremes to buy some bells, I should mention that we had tried the previous week to take Calliope to get her picture taken with Santa in the mall. We did it last year and the pictures came out pretty well (in spite of a diaper incident that resulted in a last minute outfit change) so we figured it would be a kind of tradition. But this year when Nik went to hand Callie to Santa she flipped out and wouldn’t relax until Nik agreed to hold her in the pictures. Needless to say none of them came out well and we didn’t really want to fight her on it so we left empty-handed excepting a little jingle bell on a red string.

I can’t explain why but Callie absolutely fell in love with that cheesy little bell and held it and jingled it and played with it until it basically disintegrated. I guess the free bell was worth the waste of time standing in the line but Nik felt bad that it hadn’t held up so she was willing to really make it happen with this new set of bells. I velcroed the new bells onto Callie’s arm and she shook them enthusiastically for the remainder of our visit to the park, boldly announcing her presence, though at least in a very seasonally appropriate manner.

At the far end of the park they do in fact have a structure set up with your typical Santa/picture ordeal and I think this was ultimately Nik’s aim, to get a re-try on the Santa thing. I confess I don’t really have the Santa-picture nostalgia she does and there is something rather unnerving to me about what amounts to having our child pose with a disguised stranger so I wasn’t really all that thrilled about the notion of another epic line which ended at best with an expensive and poorly compressed digital photo printout and at worst another meltdown so I may have steered us toward skipping the Santa house. Fortunately while our winter is nothing like the ones depicted in song and verse, it was pretty cold for this old California native and I hadn’t really prepared with sufficient layers so I suggested we check out the Nutcracker display and then start making our way home. Fortunately for me it was already well past the little one’s bedtime and Nik was tired and hungry enough not to put up a fight.

As we drove home I marveled at the joy that was etched onto my daughter’s face the whole night. It occurred to me that she didn’t really need to have the marvel of Christmas explained in great detail to her, she felt the magic simply by viewing the spectacle through fresh eyes: The sweet refrains of carols heralding Jesus’ arrival on Earth, the festive glow of brightly colored lights everywhere, the focused attention on whimsical fairy tales like elves and flying sleighs. To her it seemed so vibrant and exciting, just by its nature. Sure, she’ll probably be beside herself when Christmas morning comes as well, buried under a mound of loot and the thrill of getting will begin the slow descent into and/or lifelong struggle against consumerism and greed, but for now she’s just as likely to be enchanted by the bright paper, silky bows and fort-friendly boxes as any amount of toys within, a testament to the innocence of her delight with the whole charade.

Reflecting on this I realized that maybe at some point I just outgrew Christmas, but for me the vicarious experience of watching the season work its way into my daughter’s heart was softening this crusty old shell of angst and… what was that I felt there for a moment? The thirst for egg nog and a refrain from the Nutcracker buzzing in a hum in the back of my throat; it felt suspiciously like Christmas spirit again. I guess I didn’t need postcard-friendly winter landscapes or manufactured nostalgia after all, just the perspective of a receptive little girl who seems to be teaching her daddy more than he’s taught her.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

When Other Worlds You Enter

As with most every non-essential facet of my life, I’m pretty cyclical when it comes to reading. I suppose that reading is like watching movies moreso than, say, playing video games or drawing: I’m almost always reading something and don’t know if I can think of a time when I didn’t do much reading for pleasure at all but I certainly slow way down at times.

Lately I’ve been on something of an upswing, probably brought about by the proximity of our current apartment to the local branch library: It’s no more than a ten minute walk. Combined with the county library’s website feature that allows you to search the catalog and put a hold on any item with a destination branch of your choosing, this has allowed me to have ready access within about a week to mostly any book I’m inclined to read. I also think that Goodreads has had a lot to do with my increased reading because I’m such a stats junkie when it comes to every aspect of my life (I also credit Last.fm with making me listen to more music and Netflix for making me watch more movies as I can track my activity for the respective media on those sites).

But as I’ve been checking all these books out of the library I keep having this twinge of guilt as I walk through my living room with another stack of borrowed items, past the bookshelf that houses what I know are at least a couple dozen books that I picked up over the years and either meant to read but didn’t, started but couldn’t finish or read but wanted to re-visit and it’s like they taunt me mockingly. “What’s that? Another pile of books? Another chance to rack up some late fees? Another set of tomes to renew four or five times while you struggle to read them? You know what doesn’t cost late fees? You know what you don’t have to renew? Books you already own, jerk!”

My books are kind of mean. I’m not sure why.

In any case I keep having all these reasons why the unread books are sitting on my shelf and finally I got sick of it. So after the most recent round of checkouts went back (completed in this case), I did some organizing and arranged all the books I owned but needed to attend to into the same shelves. I expected there to be like I said maybe 15-25. There were 41. So I did the only thing that I could think of: I made a game out of it. I call it my Reading Project (I guess I should take “Good at coming up with clever names for stuff” off my resume) and my intent is to either read or get rid of every book on the list by the end of 2011.

Now, this is an ambitious goal. For reference 2010 was an “up” year for reading and I tracked 22 books I finished on Goodreads this past year. However, I don’t really expect to actually read through 41 books as will become evident in a minute. The point is not to read every book, but to determine once and for all if the book will be read so I can stop feeling like I have no business borrowing or buying any more books until I get through the ones I already have. Some of the books on the list I’ve actually read already, but they are included because I intend to read them again. For example I read Watership Down back in high school. At least, I think I did. I’ve picked it up a few times since and flipped to random pages and it all sounds very familiar to me. I have fond memories of the story but for whatever reason I can’t remember beyond the back cover copy what it’s really about. So it’s on the list because I want to not just say I read it and think I read it but know I read it and determine if I actually enjoyed it as much as I think I did.

Others, like the first three books of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, I’ve read and remember but it took so long for King to get from Book 3 to Book 4 that when I tried to read Wizard and Glass, I couldn’t remember enough details about the previous books to get into it. I’ve meant (and actually attempted) to re-read the first three but I’ve never seemed to be able to make it through. So they’re all on the list because I want to try one last time to read 1-3 and then continue on the series but if I can’t do the re-reading thing I may try Book 4 alone once more to see if I can power through. If not, I’m at a point in my life where I’m comfortable declaring that I just don’t have to finish every single thing I start (my experience with the Wheel of Time series did a lot to get me to that place).

Some, like Lies My Teacher Told Me, I mostly skimmed and skipped around in the first time through. I read enough of it to feel comfortable saying, “Yeah I read that” and rating it on Goodreads but now I’d like to actually go through it cover to cover. A few of them like The Lovely Bones and Bookends are Nik’s books by authors she enjoys that I’m interested in trying out because I like to take steps to not box myself into any particular corner (of any media, not just literature). I may end up swapping the actual titles of these at some point because I didn’t consult with Nik on which she would recommend but I read some Christopher Pike young adult thrillers on her recommendation this summer and enjoyed them, plus it was fun to be able to talk about them with her so I figure they count as “books I’ve been telling myself I’ll try one of these days” and thus belong in the Project. Maybe I should rename the project to “Today Is One Of These Days.”

Finally there are a handful of titles on the list that I either hated but slogged through anyway, hated and therefore gave up on or read because I had to for school and therefore was prejudiced against (I dislike being told what I must read). These include The Good Earth, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Fountainhead and Life Work. I’m giving them all another chance because I’ve been slowly working my way through Crime and Punishment via DailyLit and finding that it’s much more interesting this time around than it was Sophomore year so I wonder if voluntarily approaching some of these bad reading experiences with a fresh perspective will change my tune on some of them.

The Rules

I wanted to keep it simple but I needed some criteria to determine if I was going to take a book off the list without actually finishing it and just write it off as a book I wasn’t meant to read. So here they are:

  1. I must read only one book at a time. Historically I’ve been “halfway through” as many as ten or eleven books simultaneously. But in order for me to work through the list, I need to focus (the case could even be made that I’m already halfway through a lot of these). Therefore when I set a book in Goodreads to my “currently-reading” list, it’s the only one that I can have on there. I’m not counting stuff I read on DailyLit because it’s not on the list to begin with and it by design gets read over time.
  2. I have to finish at least 20% of the book. The amount is kind of arbitrary but I figure one-fifth of a book is sufficient to give a pretty good idea whether you can stand to read the remaining 80%. My percentage will be based on page count, minus any appendices or notes. As an example my first book is Lies My Teacher Told Me which is 318 pages, so I have to read at least 64 pages before I can give up on it.
  3. I have to cycle books that don’t hit the 20% mark within five days. With just over a year to read 41 books, I need to be on pace for about a book (the average page count for the books on the list is 396) every nine to ten days. Realistically that means if I’m not making progress enough to decide if I want to keep reading or not in about a work week I need to move on to something else. Ideally I’m either reading a book at a pretty comfortable pace for a book I’m enjoying (roughly 62 pages a week) or I’m deciding it’s not for me in that same time period. If I’m getting toward the end of the week and still haven’t met the base criteria for crossing it off the list, I’ll need to save it for later in the year when hopefully I’ll have banked some time on some of the easier reads to make up lost ground.

So that’s my project. You can follow along on my Goodreads page or wager on how many books I’ll actually cross off the list through before the end of next year in the comments. If you want to go for super bragging rights I’m also accepting predictions for how many of the books will be fully read as opposed to being discarded and what the ratio of completed to rejected books will be. And of course if you’re a reader and not already on Goodreads, I can’t recommend the site enough; sign up and add me as a friend.

At a Funeral

To understand it, I think you have to go back many years, even before High School. I met a kid when I first moved to the place that would eventually be counted as my hometown. He got tasked somehow with introducing me around to people, partially I think because he was also tasked with showing off my brother, who was sort of a reading wünderkind in Kindergarten, able to read at least as well as most fourth graders. They brought him into the third- and fourth-grade classes so he could read for them as if to say, “See what you could do, too, if you applied yourself?” Anyway, this kid, D, sort of befriended me because he was outgoing and personable and I was new, but probably not because he thought I was anything special. Well, other than “the guy with the whiz-kid little brother.”

D and I ended up in the same class the next year. I honestly don’t remember much about that first half year, I guess the whirl of change and turmoil overwhelmed me and I didn’t have time to think about who I was going to hang out with at lunch and recess. But fourth grade was different. D and I were buddies that year. We played at each others’ houses. We chose desks near each other. We rode bikes together and bounced tennis balls off of his garage door.

It was significant that I was switched to a different program the year after—that would have been fifth grade—because without D as my in- and out-of-class companion, I was lonely. The first few months of that year were tough as I tried to transition to a higher-expectation curriculum and dealt with the fact that I really didn’t have any friends. It was there that I met AB and Dr. Mac. I don’t think I realized at the time that Dr. Mac and D had been friends in an earlier grade, before I’d arrived at the school. But like myself, Dr. Mac had moved into the alternate program and D was off making other friends.

AB and Dr. Mac were very close friends already, going back to the third grade, the year I had arrived. When I realized they were into the same things as I was, the three of us formed a bond that lasted us the rest of elementary school, and I felt secure enough socially to allow myself to deal with the new pressure of the class structure and I ended up doing okay. I recall at one point the three of us started a game in which we would hurl insults at each other, jesting barbs that were supposed to be funny but were often in fact hurtful and mean. Dr. Mac, sarcastic and witty by nature, typically won these contests, and with my thick skull came a fairly thick hide so for the two of us it was largely understood to be no big deal. AB was always a bit more sensitive, perhaps I might have described him as artistically emotional if I’d been observant enough to pay attention. I didn’t know we were really hurting him, so it wasn’t until Dr. Mac and AB’s folks sat the three of us down to discuss our little game that I comprehended something was wrong.

I specifically recall part of the parents’ speech in which they pointed out that we were supposed to be friends. We were good friends; close friends. The kind of friends we were going to need as we entered adolescence and found along our way a new kind of struggle and an alien sort of torment at the hands of other kids. Older kids. Now was not the time to devour each other. Being insolent and stupid, I remember thinking the adults were completely missing the point and that I wasn’t going to be told what games not to play. Thankfully Dr. Mac had enough sense to recognize the danger of the game and without his wit the whole thing was more or less discarded in favor of some other, more constructive activity. While I still don’t remember why we thought insulting each other was fun or funny, I do recall clearly the prescience the parents showed us that day, knowing what I know now about what was to come.

When we all moved on to Junior High, the scattered class schedule meant that spending an hour here or there without a specific clique member was no great social impediment so D joined (perhaps re-joined) our trio making us a group of four. It was a good number. A safe number. Here and there we picked up an extra person or two for a period of time. The core of us, the four of us, remained pretty steadfast. That’s how I remember it anyway. We carried through into high school.

In the meantime we did what young friends do: We played together. We spent time with each other’s families. We got to know each other. We worked together. We learned in tandem. We explored new ideas, new passions, new hobbies. We introduced each other to our individual backgrounds so that we could see a wider view of the world. We cheered for each other. We didn’t let ourselves get away with being stupid. We watched out for each other. Some of us did these things better than others. All three of them executed better than I. Of the four of us, I know I was the lucky one to have had them. Maybe they could have done better at choosing a friend, but I’m glad they didn’t.

It really was the three of them that kept me sane in high school. There was something about each of them that I admired—still admire. D’s boundless energy and enthusiasm, his unwillingness to do anything half-hearted. He would succeed because “no” or “impossible” don’t exist in his world. He taught me about not giving up. AB’s thirst for new experiences, the casual way he granted me a passion for music and beauty and that magical moment when you see something from a fresh perspective for the first time. He would succeed because he knew tomorrow was one more chance to begin the search again. He taught me about the intangibles in life, the things you can’t hold but that frequently are even more precious. Dr. Mac’s analytical steadfastness, the way he never stops asking how and why. He would succeed because he figured out the way to get it all was to give everything it’s season and leave just enough flexibility to withstand the sudden storm. He would teach me that being smart wasn’t about having a lot of brains, but using them, all the time.

Time passed from the early days in high school where all we had was one another, huddled close in hidden areas of the school to avoid devastating scrutiny, into the more carefree years of the upperclassmen when the older aggressors were all gone and the peers who may have hassled us at one point lost their appetite for conflict in a dawning realization that our youths were ending in the present tense and they hoped for some selective amnesia if not outright forgiveness under the unspoken pact of the shared-experience survivor clause. New friends would come, girls would (finally) come around, and our protective four-sided shield would no longer be necessary. I know I didn’t recognize the significance of the moment when that happened.

After the tour of duty we shared in the public education trenches, our paths would diverge. They always do. In some cases the divides would be physical, as geographic miles separated us. In others, it was just life, where distant colleges and separate paces to key post-high school events staggered our common ground. Perhaps there were some grievances that went un-aired, a slight or misunderstanding. I’ve struggled to grow past that know-it-all brat in fifth grade who still thinks it’s funny to tease a friend (but would certainly lack the courage to tease an enemy), still trying to quash the snooty punk who declares with a scowl that no one is going to tell him how to act, still working to rid myself of the blind fool behind my eyes who never sees the value of what I have until long after the point is moot. I wish I knew if I needed to apologize. I wish I knew what to apologize for. I could say I’m sorry for not being a better friend, if only I knew how to try harder. Maybe it’s just me that misses them. Maybe I always needed them more than they needed me. Maybe there’s nothing to it, there’s no divide, there’s no misunderstanding. Maybe this is just the way it goes. You win some, you lose some. Friends drift in, friends drift out.

AB’s father passed away recently. I hadn’t spoken to him in maybe five years. It wasn’t a cold silence. It wasn’t a heated, angry silence. It was just silence. D contacted Dr. Mac and told him the sad news. Dr. Mac told me about it, said he wanted to try and make it back. Turned out he couldn’t do it. But I could. The physical separation isn’t there. It only feels like a canyon.

I was trembling as I made my way through the dark-clad throng of people. Mr. B was a very well-liked man. I myself had liked him a whole lot. He taught me what very little I know about fishing. He let me help run drills at little league practice for AB’s younger brothers. He had an opinion about everything and he was always right, as far as I ever heard. He was outgoing and funny. The chapel was crowded, which I expected. I had butterflies in my gut, which I didn’t expect. What if AB was mad at me for some reason? What if he didn’t want me to be there? I knew I was drowning in my own stupid antisocial baloney, but I couldn’t stop. Nik was there, but I didn’t know how to let her help me not be miserable. We finally waded through the line and paused at the chapel doorway.

AB was right inside the door and when he saw me he didn’t hesitate. He grabbed my hand in his and yanked me into a giant hug. He told me he was glad I was there. I was suddenly glad I was there, too. I told him, “I’m sorry.” I wasn’t just referring to his dad. AB introduced me to his fianceé, and framed her round belly with his hands, introducing me to his daughter. She’ll be born in the fall. My eyes burned and I wished him congratulations. Nik hugged AB and then squeezed my hand as we found some seats near the back. I wanted to linger, to monopolize his time. It wasn’t appropriate. I knew that.

During the service I kept running over memories of Mr. B. I remembered AB’s family went to Disneyland on vacation and they took me with them so AB would be able to have fun with a friend instead of having to babysit his younger brothers. I was honored to go. I thought about Mr. B coming up to AB and describing a hand signal he had devised, like a third base coach giving the steal gesture to the runner. I don’t even remember what it was supposed to signify now. AB seemed a little embarrassed at the time, as if he didn’t want me to think he was a dork for having a bunch of encoded gestures as part of a secret language he shared with his dad. I didn’t think it was dorky. I thought it was cool. AB and his dad, they had a bond. They were buddies. They had their own little world. I wanted to tell AB about that. I wanted to tell AB about a lot of things. Music I had found. Games I had played. I wanted to show him pictures of Callie and ask about his baby. I wanted to find out where he’d met his fianceé, when they were getting married and what kind of work he was doing. It wasn’t the right time.

The service was, as these things go, beautiful. AB stood up and spoke quickly, trying to get through a couple of prepared notes, one he’d written, another his mom had put together. His rapid-fire delivery was peppered with deep, heaving breaths as he struggled to stay in control of his surfacing emotions. I felt for him, but I was proud of him. He did a wonderful job paying tribute to his dad. The minister stumbled through the benedictions, clearly unfamiliar with the man he was trying in vain to honor. It wasn’t appropriate to feel so, but I was angry with the man for mispronouncing AB’s gestating daughter’s name. I didn’t care for the way he said things like “I guess he fell in love.” I didn’t think the pastor should be guessing. I felt he should have done some more research. The least he could do was worked to understand the man he was soon to bury. I wondered if AB even noticed.

After the service we stood around, waiting for a chance to meet up with the family. I had to get back to work, which I thought was a crummy excuse for leaving so soon. But part of me didn’t want to stay, to wear out my welcome. I hugged AB again when the coast was clear. I babbled about the few memories that had come up during the service. AB seemed to humor me, but here I was monopolizing his time. I was trying to be supportive, to let him know that his dad had impacted my life, perhaps in a small way, but not an insignificant one. I don’t know how it came across. He smiled at me, and there was pain in his eyes. He said he missed me. I assured him I felt the same way. He suggested I contact him on Facebook and I told him I would. Some other people got tired of having me overstay my welcome with AB and shouldered me aside. I understood.

I lurked uncomfortably near AB’s mom, and finally got a chance to speak to her. I said hello and she asked, “And you are…?” It should have been expected, after all I had hardly recognized AB’s brothers. Time, kind or unkind, has an effect on people. I told her my name and her eyes widened, but she smiled and there was some pain in her eyes, too. I tried to tell myself it was just normal: She had lost a husband, AB had lost a dad. There was perhaps something in the way she said, “It’s been a long time,” though, that I thought maybe meant some tiny part of that pain was meant for me. I told myself to stop being so narcissistic and offered my limp condolences, and introduced her to my wife. She thanked us for coming in that robotic way people do at weddings and funerals because they don’t have much else to say but blithe politeness. We drifted away as others moved in to be more comforting, more supportive, more welcome. I didn’t care that there was a certain misery brewing in my guts, suggesting that I had more than I wanted to admit to do with the long period of silence that had grown into a gaping chasm of communication and distance between the family I once knew and the relative strangers that we were now. After all, what’s some guilt over poor relationship management compared to the loss of a father, of a spouse?

We ran into D on the way out. He looks basically the same, fit and trim with a fashionable suit that made my wardrobe-by-Target slacks and dress shirt feel crass and inappropriate by comparison. The crow’s feet webbing away from the corners of his eyes suggest the years since I’ve seen him have been kind, filled with enough smiles and laughter to keep his fiery spirit nourished and thriving. But the conversation was stilted, stiff. We talked small about kids and parenthood, neighborhoods and commutes. We laughed nervously and I tried to resist casting my eyes down at my shoes. “You have to get back to work?” he asked, and it stung like an accusation though his tone was neutral. I mumbled something affirmative and felt chastened. I’m still doing it, I thought, still making excuses. Still finding reasons to not be around. We finally broke away and headed out for the car.

As the summer sun warmed me back up from the relative chill of the air-conditioned chapel, I finished sorting through the bitter introspection that made me feel like I hadn’t done a good job at memorializing AB’s father. It was part of the parcel, I guessed. My problem, universally, is me. No one dislikes me as much as I think they do. Very few people like me as much as I hope they would, either. My social anxieties are rooted in my inability to accept that being social is just a matter of being social. There’s no magic trick to it, no secret that can be taught. My daughter knows how to do it already and she’s so fresh in the world still the new baby scent hasn’t rubbed off of her yet. She smiles at people. She shows an interest in them. She gets delighted when they show an interest back. She spends some time by herself, but not so much that she has learned to prefer it. It’s practically instinctive, and I haven’t spontaneously developed some aversion to it or been afflicted with some kind of block against it. I’ve fostered this isolation. I’ve groomed it. I’ve taught myself to adore the terrifying solitude of talking to myself as the only audience who gets it, who appreciates the me I imagine myself to be. I’ve pushed everyone out and aside and away and sprayed these ill-fitting words into the light of the world of human beings so far away now it’s a tiny dot of light above my head.

The sound echoes and fades and resonates only with the grubs and worms and scarcely reaches the few who keep lowering their ears closer to the bottom of the well while I dig ever further from them and shake my fist that I’m not heard.

So no, I’m not the victim of unfortunate disorders. I’m not the afflicted with a short straw in my dirty fingers who lost the lottery of mystical or genetic ability to simply speak and listen with other human beings. I’m out of excuses.

I know I mourn the loss of a man I once knew and admired. I don’t think there will be mourning for the death of a foolish hermit, the portion of my self who let cowardice and selfishness deny the growth of a well-adjusted person. The slaying of that facet, shearing it from my personality, may be gruesome and painful, but there will be no tears. At the funeral we’ll never hold for the unlovable persona I loathe there will be only this eulogy:

“Spoken once in only whispers,
This self-imposed impostor lies
It gave birth to winged drifter
On firey wings of fellows flies.”

Keeping House

While I work on the next epic post, I have made a few minor changes here and there around the site. One is that if you look at the bottom of the sidebar you’ll now see some entries from my Tumblr blog. So yeah, that means it’s pretty much a blog within a blog. I use Tumblr for most of the things that ironSoap used to do before it became my essay writing venue. Not sure why, but Tumblr feels better suited for quick, disposable blog posts about movies or links or sports and now they’re all included here as well so you don’t have to go hunting for anything.

I’ve also updated a few of the static pages since the content on those goes out of date from time to time. None of it is all that thrilling but there are a couple of additions to the 10 Random… page and I’ve modified some of my Contact information to better reflect current truth.

Additionally I’ve included a little gizmo that shows the search queries people are using to find the site. I used to post these as something kind of strange and funny and cool as individual blog posts but I don’t see any harm in having them just generated for all to see. Enjoy. Or not, I’m not the boss of you.

It Hit Like Thunder

I didn’t mean for it to be a moment. In fact, I had intended to eat breakfast at home, to go directly from the shuttle stop up to my cube on the second floor and work on my project until the rest of my peers showed up and started messing with stuff which would inevitably make my status as primary oncall person onerous as I’d chase around the alerts their activities triggered. But instead I’d missed my alarm, woken up by my wife with only about twenty minutes to get out the door. Breakfast had fallen by the wayside, other morning routines were abbreviated or discarded altogether. Everything was done with haste.

Even as I entered the building, I was intending only to grab something small to eat and a cup of coffee. There was work to be done, I didn’t have the luxury I usually enjoyed to lounge around the cafe and read a book or enjoy my meal in a relaxed state of leisure. When I passed through the door, I was somewhat surprised to see so many people. I was familiar with the way they’d been broadcasting the World Cup matches on the intermittent flatscreen TVs that lined the cafe wall and projecting it on the huge screen usually reserved for Powerpoint slides during company meetings, but typically the onlookers were limited to a small handful of football devotees. It wasn’t until I noted that USA was playing that it registered why this day in particular had drawn such a crowd.

I’ve been recording many of the World Cup matches this year. I’m not even all that sure why since I can hardly be called a devoted soccer fan. Something about it just grabbed my attention this time around. Maybe it was the four-year cycle, maybe it was having worked recently on a site devoted to European sports, I don’t know. But I had this game set to record like so many other, so I knew I could watch it when I got home. That had been the plan. There was really no reason to stay and watch; I did have plenty of work to attend to.

Still, something made me find a spot near a power outlet, set up my computer, arrange my breakfast just so and try to multitask, watching the game, starting my work, finishing my food in as much unison as possible.

At first I sat down during halftime with the score still tied at 0-0. It gave me a chance to collect myself work-wise, eat most of my meal and catch enough of the recap of the game so far to know what the stakes were. Basically it was win or go home: Slovenia, the team that had been on the other end of the curiously bad call a few days before that had cost the US a come-from-behind victory, was losing to England. Here, Algeria had threatened early but the US had since taken control of the game though they found that key goal elusive. A tie wouldn’t cut it anymore, it had to be a win. I finished the last bite of my cereal and hit send on an email, more or less catching up for the moment. The second half kickoff got the game back underway.

As play progressed, I noticed more and more of the seats in front of the screen filling up. Others with unfinished work filled the tables next to and behind me. A crowd grew over near the coffee bar, paying more attention to the game than to their lattes and mochaccinos as the orders were shouted out over and over with annoyance by the baristas. The US missed a close chance and a collective groan went up. I got a page for a new issue, and spent some time only glancing at the screen while I coordinated with my boss and a colleague on a security issue. As the problem settled down and someone went off to work on it, my attention refocused on the game.

A man in a red jacket walked through the doors to my left and stopped dead in front of me, completely obscuring my view. “Excuse me,” I said pointedly. He either didn’t hear or didn’t register it as being directed at him. I gave my tablemates—strangers, all—a sidelong glance and tried again, louder and with more vigor: “Excuse me!” He didn’t budge. Exasperated, I jumped one seat to the right so I could at least see around the guy. Just as I did so a glorious chance unfolded, with a man on the far side of the net breaking free. His shot was hesitant, as if he couldn’t believe how easy it looked. He missed, but there! On the opposite side, uncovered, a second striker roared past the defense, staring at nothing but a ball and an empty net.

He missed.

The gathering crowd collapsed in agony. “So close!” came a number of laments. I shared disappointed looks and shook my head at the unknown co-workers around me. I checked my email again, switched windows and ran a few diagnostic commands. The action was back underway, and now that the play stoppage had allowed the man in the red coat to move on, I settled back into my original seat. More people joined those watching: Women who were relaying results via Blackberry to their significant others at some other company that didn’t feel broadcasting sporting events during business hours was appropriate; contract workers who were supposed to be cleaning the soda fountains ignored their duties and leaned on the walls with arms crossed and concerned looks on their faces; high-ranking executives switched their beloved iPhones to silent mode and gathered in the standing-room-only cluster of people waiting just inside the doors for a reason to celebrate or dissipate. I drained the last of my coffee and raised my eyebrows at the guy next to me, who had abandoned his pretense of work and folded his hands on his closed laptop lid. I kept mine open, but I as finding it harder to look down.

Algeria suddenly had a break, a defensive collapse by the US and three green-shirted players danced casually into the box, all of them ready to dash the hopes of the room. The goalkeeper, Howard, made a great play and the defense recovered just enough to avert catastrophe. Everyone buzzed with nervous sighs and a momentary release of anticipated tension. We watched the clock count down from 85:00 to 88:00. The announcer spoke grimly, reminding the audience unnecessarily that the Americans would just have to push the ball down the field now, trying to keep it in the offensive half as much as they could and take whatever shots presented themselves. Slovenia didn’t seem to be offering a tying goal that would help, we still needed that one score.

The clock passed the 90:00 mark, pushing into stoppage or overage or injury time, depending on who you asked. A brash man in a ragged and ugly polo shirt lurked over my shoulder, watching the smaller flatscreen above, a little behind and to my left. He shouted unheard instructions and encouragement at the players, directly into my ear. “Come on! Still time! Still some time! We can do this!” I might have been annoyed with him in another context. Here, it was a source of comedy and an atmospheric necessity. He was a true believer, the kind of guy who really believed in Dave Barry’s concern rays. If he himself wanted it enough, it would happen. It was all he had to give, as a fan, and he gave it his all. “Here we go!” he reminded no one, slapping his hands together noisily.

Four minutes, said the sign. That was how much they would extend the match. Two hundred and forty seconds to accomplish what an hour and a half had not yielded. The play began and Howard took the ball, tossing it down to a midfielder, Donovan, and I glanced at my screen. No new crises, no new messages demanding my attention. My breakfast tray was empty, save a few crumbs and a discarded napkin. I looked back to the screen. Everyone seemed to stop breathing, narrowing eyes and leaning a few inches forward. A play unfolded.

The first shot came in and the Algerian goalkeeper stopped it, but the rebound squirted free. I didn’t see what became of the keeper, I was busy watching the ball roll lazily through two defenders who raced to converge on the loose ball. Donovan, who had started the rush up the side, came seemingly out of nowhere. I don’t know how he beat those defenders, but suddenly he was there and the ball was sailing. The sense that it could be deflected or somehow twist just off course made teeth clench and knuckles grip table edges. Time crawled.

The net rippled from the force of the ball hitting it, and the room exploded.

We jumped to our feet, clapped, and whooped. We pumped fists and high fived our neighbors, strangers or not. The noise was deafening. Then for a moment we paused and turned back to the screens. This had happened before, this had happened in the same game. They showed the replay. They didn’t mention the referees calling it back. The goal would stand. We resumed our celebration.

There was a bit more of the game, there had been less than a minute of the injury time elapsed when the goal was scored. But most of it was taken up by a lengthy protest from an Algerian player who got yellow- and then red-carded. His teammates griped some, too. The clock kept running. At last they tried to start the game, but the four minutes were over. A few unenthusiastic kicks later the whistle blew several times, marking the end of the match. Another round of applause and cheers went up. I smiled at people I didn’t know. They smiled back, with a slight tilt of the head. We’d been there for it. We knew. Go USA.

I closed my laptop and returned my dishes. I gathered the rest of my belongings and nodded silently at the guys who were standing around the tables, also packing up to go back to their cubes and offices. It felt like the end of every sports movie, where the hero finds a way to make it happen at the most dramatic moment possible. Only it had happened in real time, in real life. It could have gone the other way. That Algerian could have scored late and made Donovan’s goal a mere equalizer that landed with a dull thud of disappointment as the US walked away unable to overcome the challenge. But it didn’t. Instead it hit like thunder and it ignited a cafe full of co-workers and, for just a minute, made everyone happy to be there, glad to be working in that place at that moment, sharing that triumph with people just living their lives and doing their jobs. People just being American.

In the grand scheme of things, it was a very minor and very temporary victory. The team moves on, but the next obstacles are even more insurmountable. But sometimes you have to relish the present. Tomorrow will worry about itself, the Good Book says. Soccer isn’t even our game, Americans will tell you, but for a couple hundred Silicon Valley early-risers, it was our game. And we shared it, and the moment, together.

First Father’s Day

Posted by Nikki

Paul has been a dad for almost a year now, and yet by watching him, you’d think he’d been doing this forever.

He wasn’t always sure he wanted kids. For years it was a source of tension in our marriage as we decided what our future would hold. Eventually he came around and we got pregnant. Sadly, we had a miscarriage with our first pregnancy, but all this did was solidify Paul’s conviction that he wanted to be a father. We were fortunate to get pregnant again about a year later, and were blessed with a beautiful baby girl. For all of his doubts about his ability to be a good father, Paul was a pro at it, from day one. I had a rough labor that ended in a c-section, so I was unable to do a lot of the caring for our baby, initially. Paul stepped in without pause. Within the first 24 hours of her life, I could tell that my husband would exceed my expectations as her dad. It was love at first sight for him – and she was equally smitten.

From the beginning Paul has has been an equal partner when it comes to caring for Callie, with the obvious exception of nursing. Changing diapers? Check. (I don’t think I changed a diaper until we’d been home for several days.) Middle-of-the-night feedings? Check. Bath time? Check. Comforting a tired/sad/cranky baby? Check, check, check. He goes to (almost) every doctor’s appointment, no matter how minor the issue. He rocks her, sings to her, plays with her, and reads to her. He steps in to give me a break when he knows that I’ve had a long day or am reaching my limit. He teaches her about life, and nurtures her imagination.

I’ve always known that I won the lottery when it came to finding a life partner. Paul is loyal, caring, sensitive, hilarious, level-headed, and handsome to boot. He is my best friend in the world, and I can’t imagine my life without him. And now my daughter is going to grow up with the best dad she could ever ask for. I can’t wait to watch their relationship develop and change as she blossoms into a young child, a teenager, and eventually a young woman. He will teach her what to expect from a mate, and what kind of treatment she deserves. He will be her biggest fan and most loyal supporter. He will challenge her to reach her fullest potential, and will teach her morals to help guide and shape her life. He will love her more than she will ever know.

Happy Father’s Day, Honey. You are the man I would choose to be Callie’s father, if I wasn’t already lucky enough to have you as my husband.

As These Pass From Routine

My life moves in tides formed from temporary routines that feel, as they settle momentarily, far more permanent than they remain. For a time, the chaos of change will recede in one area or another and I’ll find mild comfort in a regimen. Usually I only have anything approaching a true appreciation for them in retrospect. Here are a few of my favorites, and two from the present, which I actually can identify as they happen.

The Lunch Workout

Working at the City, at that time, was ridiculously easy. The workload was light, the atmosphere was loose and, to sully a term, municipal. I ultimately left that job for the sole reason that it was devoid of challenge and, after three years of what sometimes felt like vacation, I was surprised to find I felt trapped by the lack of pressure.

I guess we made up for the atrophy of our trade skills by joining the gym. When you feel like you have a lot of time, I guess you start to go down that list of things you always said you’d do if you had more of it. I was as surprised as anyone. There were three of us—you know, work buddies. We didn’t interact in a whole lot of social scenarios but we’d spend some amount of time most days chatting idly. It started with the two of them, I’m sure, some kind of mutual whinging about the lack of self-esteem or a sense of slipping health common in early middle aged Americans. Somehow they decided to do something about it, and they joined the local gym. I think they’d only gone a few weeks when they invited me, and I made excuses for a few days before finally trying it out.

Our routine was to break for lunch, hit the gym and then stop and grab something semi-healthy to eat back at our desks. It was supposed to match our granted hour long break we were approved to use, but in practice we regularly found ourselves absent for ninety minutes, sometimes even longer, especially as our circuits became more complex. We did very well at the gym, and we stuck with it using each other as motivators, which meant we lost weight, got stronger, became more athletic. It was hard to keep the workouts short. They became the highlights of the day, and when the office is so dull and dreary it’s easy to justify a few more reps or another five minutes. In between sets we’d shoot the breeze as we spotted each other. Later we began frequenting a different facility that had racquetball courts and the lunch breaks stretched even longer, as it wasn’t even just the joy of doing something positive but now it was a game, spending time with friends.

When I decided to move on, to seek higher salaries and better working environments, I added a commute to my day. I didn’t have in-town gym access during lunch. We tried to keep meeting up. For a while we switched to tennis at night, and that was fun, too. My schedule switched again as I got yet another job. Working nights was hard enough, there wasn’t much energy for workouts anyway. Schedules were hard to sync up. Sometimes this happens with people. Eventually I had to quit the gym. I wasn’t going often enough to justify the expense. Finally we moved away, back toward where my jobs had been for a couple of years at that point and it was looking like hitting the gym with my friends wasn’t going to be a reality any more. I still miss the ease of how those workouts fit into my schedule. I chat occasionally with my friends still, but all of our interactions happen online. I don’t know if either of them still work out. I like to think that at some point I’ll find a way to get focused, regular exercise back into my life, but it’s a challenge. I miss the old routine.

Lightbox Drawing

One of my shorter, happier routines settled in as I was in the process of graduating from trade school. One of the instructors at the school and a couple of students had formed a multimedia production house called Spotbox.com. The site is long since defunct, the domain registered now to an anonymous squatter, but this was in 1999, and Silicon Valley was in the height of the dotcom boom. I was interning there, basically just squinting my eyes and hoping a lucrative degree would land in my lap. I was less than six months away from getting married and after over a year of practical unemployment as I pursued my education, I really needed a paycheck.

Spotbox didn’t pay me, they could barely keep the lights on as I recall. They were basically a contract design firm who, in their spare time, were being spectacularly creative with what was at the time a very uncharted new medium. I was asked to create tweens: Basically an animator would draw several keyframes of an animation, maybe one of every six to ten frames necessary to create a moving cartoon. The grunt work of animation is the tweens (well, it was before computers took over everything; get off my lawn) where you just draw the transitional images that go between the keyframes. That was me.

What it involves is taking the keyframe drawing, putting it on a box with a diffused glass surface and a light inside. It’s called, naturally, a lightbox. You then place a new sheet of paper on top of the old so some light shines through and you can see the original drawing beneath and then you copy the drawing. Almost. What you actually do is make almost the same drawing only with a slight adjustment toward the next keyframe. Eventually you’re closer to copying the next keyframe and when you’re done, the rapid succession of each image creates the animation.

We did these animations by hand, on paper, and then scanned them into the computer and used a program called Adobe Streamline (now discontinued since the functionality was duplicated as part of Adobe Illustrator CS2) to convert the line art into vector format for coloring in Illustrator. It was a process that probably could have been done more efficiently, but like I said, we were experimental and we were broke. My lightbox was actually homemade out of an old drawer and was really too tall for me to sit at comfortably. I’d come home with deep grooves worn into my arms from resting them heavily on the edges of the box.

For maybe a month I would go to school in the morning, then drive a few blocks over to the Spotbox office which was on the top floor of a disgusting tenement that I can only presume was selected because the rent was practically nothing owing to the fact that there were residential apartments mixed in with the leased office space. Or maybe Spotbox just leased a regular apartment and used it as an office, I don’t know for sure. I don’t recall there being a kitchen, but I spent most of my time in the back of the side room (maybe a bedroom?) hunched over the lightbox while the rest of the people worked nearly 16 hour days on the handful of Macintoshes trying to finish design projects for Apple and Daimler Chrysler so they could pad out the portfolio.

I worked mostly on some of the side projects Spotbox was hoping would eventually become their stock and trade: These were basically webisodes and animated web series before those were actual things. We were using Macromedia Flash 2 for heaven’s sake. We did things like Yo-Yo Ninja Boy (which I did the original design and animations for, although the far more talented Scott Lewis would eventually go back and re-do all my work to make it look, you know, good; my contribution to the project will forever be lost to history which is probably for the best) and some very odd cartoons about drive-thrus.

What stands out to me most about this time was that I was spending my days in the company of creative people just being creative. We’d riff various ideas, someone would start telling a story about how they got inspired by something, maybe a run-in with a waiter or a quip by their toddler that cracked them up. There would be a joke told in response, and we’d all laugh. Then someone would take the idea and add on, doing the “What if instead of this, it was like…” thing until everyone was laughing and throwing around ideas. The sound guy (a fellow named Fred I believe) would stop by and play a riff he’d come up with and you could see the wheels turning in everyone’s head as they tried to come up with where it might fit. There was a lot of, “Hey everyone! Come check this out!” and we’d all huddle over a monitor and see what someone had whipped up. People slept under the tables when deadlines loomed. We talked about books we read or movies we wanted to see and what we would do if we were going to make Star Wars Episode I (before the horrible truth about the prequels was revealed).

Eventually I had to find something that paid. I landed a job building corporate training programs in Flash and announced I was leaving Spotbox the same day they were going to offer me a small wage (I had to turn it down; like I said, I was about to get married). I’ve often wondered if my career might have gone in a different direction if I’d decided to stick with Spotbox, maybe more along the lines I envisioned when I graduated: Commercial art peppered in my off time by creative personal projects until leading eventually to LucasArts or Weta or Pixar. I suppose I’ll never know, but I miss the creative atmosphere.

Regularly Visiting

Early in Nik’s pregnancy she was very sick. Morning sickness was a big concern of hers going in because she loathes feeling nauseated. Sadly for her it turned out to be a valid concern and the first trimester saw her spending an awful lot of time in bed, trying to keep from losing the small amounts of pretzels and buttered noodles she could force down. She was also tired a lot, and while she was going to school and I was working, her class work was mostly manageable during my working hours which were clearly demarcated so we had a lot of shared leisure time.

For several months we mostly just hung out in our room. She watched TV back there, trashy reality shows and re-runs of Friends. Since a lot of the TV she was watching didn’t interest me that much I could have spent the time away from her, doing my own thing in the other room. But I wanted to spend time with her. She was carrying my child, after all. We compromised by having me hang out with her, playing World of Warcraft on my laptop and half-watching whatever show she was engrossed in. We spent countless hours this way: I grinded my way through Azeroth while Nik controlled the remote. I’d show her silly things that were happening in the game; she’d back the TiVo up if I missed anything crazy on the tube.

I don’t think at the time that I recognized the significance of this quiet, low key leisure time we shared. I knew, conceptually, that things would change once the baby arrived but I didn’t have a frame of reference for how long it might be once a child entered the picture before a lazy evening spent in bed would be a possibility again. From the outside it may have seemed like we were in separate worlds, but I didn’t feel that way at all. I felt close to her, comfortable that we were enjoying each others’ company in that way that happily married couples can do with non-interactive diversions like two people reading separate books in the same room. In many ways it’s the pleasure of company itself that fills the need for companionship and interaction isn’t always mandatory.

In the intervening months the time we’ve had to sit in relative silence has been minimal. Stolen moments when Callie is asleep or occupied by someone else feel like opportunities that simply must be taken advantage of with the kinds of interaction we used to take for granted: Adult conversation, chore completion, shared meals, etc. Our together time seems like it is necessarily directly shared because so much of the rest of our lives right now are defined by the divide-and-conquer approach. The rewards that come from caring for our beautiful daughter cannot be overstated, and I’d never trade back down, not even for a second. But still. I miss the contented quiet.

The Cafeteria Breakfast

My normal morning routine goes like this: I’m up sometime between 5:15 and 5:30 am so I can be at the shuttle stop by 6:30. 0500 hours is excessively early for me to begin with but when you factor in a chronically sleepless little baby, that’s a very short window. Because of this I usually sleep on the shuttle as it travels to work. It’s not the most comfortable thing in the world, but sleep comfort is a forgotten luxury anyway so I take what I can get. When the shuttle drops off at work around 7:40 I don’t go straight to my cube and start working. Instead I go to the cafeteria and get a hot breakfast.

Unlike the lunch provided by the on-campus food service, the breakfast menu is reasonably priced and I like almost everything they offer. This gives me a wide variety of options every day and while I don’t often vary too far from the toast/fruit/hot cereal routine, I occasionally select the weekly healthy entree (whole wheat french toast with berries for example, or egg white scramble with spinach and bell peppers on a wheat tortilla perhaps) and I’ve been known to get a croissant instead or get a small scoop of scrambled eggs or yogurt instead of diced fruit. Then I grab a glass of milk and a small mug of coffee (both free) and I find a quiet corner of the typically vacant seating area and sit down to a solitary breakfast.

Sometimes I do a little work on my laptop to get a head start. Often I’ll read the book I carry around as my afternoon shuttle ride entertainment. Occasionally I’ll play a game on my phone or just sit and enjoy some alone time. It’s usually a big breakfast and it takes me until eight o’clock or slightly after to finish, but that’s just fine with me.

I don’t feel lonely eating my breakfast alone in the cafeteria. Mornings to me have always been—when they aren’t being reviled—the domain of quiet introspection. I love the sleepy optimism that accompanies the first part of he day: Most people have yet to find time to get their irritable dispositions into full swing, and the few who have, by choice or by turn of fortune, found themselves up before the bulk of their geographic contemporaries are typically reserved but present a quiet show of solidarity with each other in the form of slow smiles over the brims of steaming coffee mugs.

Maybe it’s the orderly way in which every day starts almost exactly the same that appeals to me. Schedules don’t get disrupted prior to the first appointments. The birds are almost always up before the people. The same parking spots are emptied at homes and the same ones are filled at work at roughly the same time every day. You can’t pinpoint when a day’s plan goes off the rails all the time, but you can be sure that starting tomorrow, you’ll have a second chance to keep it on track again. Or it could be that the weather patterns in the morning always seem a little more welcome. Even blustery, rain-soaked days seem beautiful for a moment when viewed through a kitchen window while the house remains dark and still. You move slower and more carefully to not disturb the family. Mornings contain warm showers and fresh clothes, sleepy good-bye kisses and wishes for happy days. Mornings contain scrambled eggs and cold milk and a few stolen moments to yourself.

Yeah, a lot of people—myself included—like to complain about mornings. But, I’ll miss the chance to relish them.

The Bucket of Toys

I don’t remember, even though it was only a few months ago, how my daughter transitioned into having an actual playtime. When she had crossed out of the newborn stage where she was mostly a drowsy little lump she would lie on her play mat and stare dumbfounded at the crazy lights and repetitive warbling tunes it emitted electronically. At some point she began reaching for the dangling tchochkes and tugging on them and feeling their varied fabric textures. But I don’t recall when she acquired the equivalent of a Toys “R” Us inventory stock or when she began to interact with them on some sort of self-directed schedule.

I suppose it was around the time she began sitting on her own, but I know that even as her collection of distractions was growing I would prop her up and play with her by waving the toys in front of her and acting out silly stories and nonsensical puppet skits, singing songs and giving her little tickles now and then to keep her attention. That, though, was more me playing and her staring at me as if to say, “Dude, lay off the paint thinner.”

But now she plays for real, with her own itinerary and preferential toy du jour. She pushes the buttons on her electronic whizbangs of her own accord, claps along to the warbling tunes and laughs when she amuses herself with something.

Most evenings when I get home from work she’s just gotten up from her final nap of the day and there’s a bit of time before Nik or I needs to start dinner. So I put down my stuff, kiss my wife hello and chat for a moment and then I crawl down on the floor and watch my little girl play with her big bucket of toys. Sometimes I’ll build little towers of the soft blocks and colorful plastic whatnots for her to knock over. Now and then I’ll encourage her to push different buttons on her battery-operated toys to relieve her mother and I of a tiny bit of the mind-numbing repetition. When her interest wanes I may roll a ball back and forth between us. But often I’m simply a casual observer of her own discovery, reading her board books out loud to her while she busies herself with some trinket or another, clapping along with her, or just providing her with a dad-shaped jungle gym to pull up on, climb over and cover with well-intentioned slobber.

I know that eventually my role will be more active in playtime. I’m already starting to recite colors of the objects she chooses to stick in her mouth. I sing along with the counting songs and make the few sign language motions that I know which represent the lyrics or the toys she’s reaching for. I’m here to guide, to prevent egregious accidents, to provide some educational context, to be a presence for whatever she may need. It’s not the most thrilling thing in the world. Soon enough her and I can sing together, enjoy more complex games of roughhouse or hide-and-seek or tea parties or dollhouses. For now, it’s a simple time of letting go a little bit and watching the way she discovers life. It may not be the most daring or exotic way to end a day, but it’s one of my favorite parts. And I’ll miss the wonder.

Parent’s Log

I present to you a chronicle of our first eight months with a baby, as told via Twitter and Facebook status updates. Minor spelling and grammatical edits have been made, marked with brackets for full disclosure. Analysis follows the list.

[Update: 4/8/2010 08:32] Looks like I missed about half of Nik’s Facebook updates, so I’m adding them in now. Plus, I bumped the starting point back to the beginning of the delivery day and also updated the analysis at the bottom.

ironsoap Re: Water breaking. @DixieGirl: “No one talks about how gross this part is!”
Tuesday, August 4th 08:33
Nikki Hamilton Water broke this morning. Admitted to hospital. Started pitocin. Having a baby today!!
Tuesday, August 4th 09:37
ironsoap We have multiple IV bags, pitocin being administered, some irregular contractions but no active labor. The waiting begins.
Tuesday, August 4th 10:42
ironsoap Contractions are getting pretty painful for @DixieGirl. Giving it another 20 minutes or so before we pester the nurses.
Tuesday, August 4th 11:40
ironsoap So at last check, 3cm with epidural installed and feeling good. Epidural was an ordeal though. They went for the pin-the-tail approach.
Tuesday, August 4th 13:19
Nikki Hamilton I heart epidurals.
Tuesday, August 4th 14:01
ironsoap OH @DixieGirl: “Seriously, I’m going to need a Western Bacon Cheeseburger after this is all done.”
Tuesday, August 4th 14:27
ironsoap Halfway there.
Tuesday, August 4th 15:47
ironsoap They’ve decided not to check the progress this hour after all. Everything’s still going well but they’re worried about GBS risk.
Tuesday, August 4th 17:04
ironsoap Medication is wearing off, they just checked and there’s been no progress. Sending in the drug reinforcements and hoping for a late rally.
Tuesday, August 4th 17:45
ironsoap Going in for c-section.
Tuesday, August 4th 18:25
ironsoap Calliope Faith Hamilton. Born 8/4/09 at 6:41pm. 7 lbs. 7oz. 19 inches.
Tuesday, August 4th 20:26
Nikki Hamilton Calliope Faith has arrived! 7lbs. 7oz, 19 inches at 6:41pm. She is beautiful and we are so in love with her!
Tuesday, August 4th 22:36
DixieGirl Exhausted but too uncomfortable to sleep. So ready to get some of these tubes out of me and walk around.
Wednesday, August 5th 00:30
Nikki Hamilton Paul has only been a dad for a little over 8 hours and he is already the best dad ever.
Wednesday, August 5th 02:48
ironsoap The cutest/saddest thing I’ve ever seen is a one-day-old with hiccups.
Wednesday, August 5th 14:38
ironsoap Maybe it’s the lack of sleep talking, but I’ve yet to hear something from hospital staff that wasn’t useless or contradictory. Bah.
Thursday, August 6th 02:51
Nikki Hamilton Terrified to get the staples removed tomorrow.
Thursday, August 6th 14:11
ironsoap I never thought that four hours sleep and a hot shower would be all I wanted for myself in the whole world.
Thursday, August 6th 15:28
ironsoap Ready to be discharged from the hospital. @DixieGirl grabbing one last free ice cream and poking the spoon thru the bottom in her zeal.
Friday, August 7th 11:04
Paul Hamilton is home from the hospital. Really wanting to catch up on email, FB, etc. but too exhausted right now.
Friday, August 7th 13:37
Nikki Hamilton Home from the hospital. Exhausted and overwhelmed, but happy. Trying to catch up with emails and comments. Thank you everyone for your congratulations and well wishes! Callie is the most wonderful baby ever!
Saturday, August 8th 00:23
Paul Hamilton Made it through the first night at home, just the three of us. Perhaps not surprisingly, everyone got far more sleep than we did at the hospital.
Saturday, August 8th 10:23
Paul Hamilton Thankful that the in-laws stopped by this evening. I was able to get some much-needed chores done while they fawned over Callie.
Saturday, August 8th 22:13
DixieGirl 20 minutes between one explosive diaper and the next. A new record for Callie at only 5 days old.
Sunday, August 9th 01:48
DixieGirl I have porn star boobs and the scariest looking belly ever. So want my old figure back.
Sunday, August 9th 23:31
Nikki Hamilton thinks the most beautiful thing in the world is watching her husband with her daughter.
Sunday, August 9th 23:39
ironsoap Had a pretty good night last night, with minimal meltdowns and what I suppose can be classified as sufficient sleep.
Monday, August 10th 12:04
Nikki Hamilton Calliope is one week old today! She went to her first check-up and has gained 10 oz since leaving the hospital last Friday!
Tuesday, August 11th 14:29
ironsoap We had a great night last night. Of course, we have an appointment tomorrow morning so tonight we’re boycotting sleep.
Tuesday, August 11th 04:26
DixieGirl Already tired of being told we are pronouncing our own daughter’s name incorrectly.
Tuesday, August 11th 14:30
Nikki Hamilton Sleep deprivation is no joke. Experienced parents: please, please tell me that one day I will sleep more than two hours at a time again. I’m actually jealous of all of the “going to bed now” updates on facebook.
Tuesday, August 11th 23:55
Paul Hamilton You know all those advertisements you see where a baby gets a bath and she comes out all happy and glowing and adorable? DO NOT BELIEVE THE LIES.
Wednesday, August 12th 11:16
DixieGirl Learning how to eat quickly. Can almost keep up with @ironsoap these days.
Thursday, August 13th 16:35
ironsoap Yeah. There was a projectile pooping incident.
Friday, August 14th 13:05
Nikki Hamilton Learning how to do everything one-handed.
Friday, August 14th 13:37
ironsoap What? Huh? There’s a world going on out there?
Tuesday, August 18th 14:23
DixieGirl Overwhelmed, emotional and exhausted. Caring for a newborn is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Tuesday, August 18th 20:51
Nikki Hamilton Not a fan of cluster feedings. Especially when they occur between 3am-7am.
Wednesday, August 19th 19:52
ironsoap Today’s shocking development: The pediatrician appointment frustrated and annoyed me. Bonus: We have to [be] back later today.
Friday, August 21st 10:26
Paul Hamilton It is safe to assume that my status will be “is exhausted” until further notice. Expect this notice in or around 2027.
Friday, August 21st 11:45
Nikki Hamilton Agenda for today: Pediatrician, lactation consultant, back to Pediatrician. I hope sleep factors in somewhere, but I’m not counting on it.
Friday, August 21st 15:03
DixieGirl Thoughts of sleep consume my life these days. I would make a deal with the devil if it meant I could get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.
Friday, August 21st 15:14
ironsoap I didn’t anticipate all the assembly that was involved in fatherhood.
Saturday, August 22nd 22:48
DixieGirl It is amazing (amazing!) what a couple hours of sleep can do for your mood. The day she sleeps through the night I will do a dance!
Saturday, August 22nd 11:31
ironsoap I think the past three weeks have caught up to us and are making @DixieGirl and I delirious and giggly at the drive-thru.
Monday, August 24th 16:35
Nikki Hamilton Switched pediatricians and LOVE our new one!
Monday, August 24th 17:12
Nikki Hamilton Venturing out by myself for the first time since having Callie to go to a doctor appointment. Hoping I’m ready for this…
Tuesday, August 25th 13:31
Paul Hamilton Getting ready for an appointment at the pediatric cardiologist to get Calliope’s heart murmur checked out.
Friday, August 28th 09:54
DixieGirl On our way to the pediatric cardiologist to get Callie’s heart murmur checked out.
Friday, August 28th 10:44
DixieGirl Doctor says Callie’s heart is perfect! The heart murmur was just normal background noise. :)
Friday, August 28th 12:21
Nikki Hamilton My kid is a super champ when it comes to eating. She’s averaging 5 ounces of weight gain every three days!
Friday, August 28th 12:22
ironsoap Dear Leave Management Contractors: It makes my leave feel less leave-y if I have to talk to you every other day about it.
Friday, August 28th 12:29
Nikki Hamilton Going on 48 hours of Callie only sleeping for an hour at a time. Delirious with exhaustion.
Sunday, August 30th 03:23
Nikki Hamilton Callie already loves being read to by her daddy. Listening to Paul read to her and watching her stare at him in wonder is quickly becoming my favorite time of day.
Tuesday, September 1st 22:11
ironsoap Coordinating sleeping schedules. In purely theoretical terms, naturally.
Tuesday, September 1st 19:17
ironsoap Taking a walk with the family on a warm summer evening.
Wednesday, September 2nd 19:56
ironsoap The baby just gave Nikki a pretty good left cross on the chin, but she did drop her shoulder a little and left herself open for the jab.
Wednesday, September 2nd 23:41
Nikki Hamilton Callie had her one-month check-up today. In her first month of life she’s grown almost 2 inches and gained over 2 pounds. The doctor says she’s doing great and is a healthy baby!
Wednesday, September 2nd 15:36
Nikki Hamilton Isn’t sleep deprivation used as a form of torture?
Thursday, September 3rd 02:42
Nikki Hamilton is secretly proud of herself for sticking with breastfeeding even though it has been difficult.
Friday, September 4th 21:47
Nikki Hamilton For the past week Callie has cried on and off (and refused to sleep) from 11pm to 4am. Just in time for Paul to go back to work next week.
Monday, September 7th 13:18
DixieGirl 5 weeks after her arrival, Calliope’s birth announcements have been ordered.
Thursday, September 10th 15:20
ironsoap Aaaaand the baby spit up in my face. Was my mouth open? You betcha.
Thursday, September 10th 17:13
Nikki Hamilton Sad that Paul has to go back to work on Monday. :( It has been so awesome to have him at home with us.
Saturday, September 12th 14:43
ironsoap Trying to enjoy the last day of my paternity leave. I’m going to miss it.
Sunday, September 13th 16:25
Paul Hamilton hopes that if he’s been distant or unreliable or unresponsive or cranky with anyone over the last six weeks that they can forgive him. It’s been… surreal.
Sunday, September 13th 18:27
Nikki Hamilton The night before Paul has to go back to work Callie is refusing to sleep.
Monday, September 14th 02:05
DixieGirl First day at my new job and I have the world’s most demanding client. Also, I don’t think I ever get to clock out.
Monday, September 14th 11:47
Nikki Hamilton Ready for bed… too bad I never know when that time will be.
Monday, September 14th 16:21
Nikki Hamilton Did not shower or change out of my PJ’s today, however I managed to brush my teeth. I’ll consider my first day as a stay-at-home mom a success.
Monday, September 14th 18:54
Paul Hamilton Every single electronic white noise or music player Calliope has (at least 4) features an auto-shutoff that cannot be overridden or even adjusted past what I must assume is the industry standard of five minutes. Unable to comprehend the logic of this.
Tuesday, September 15th 11:44
ironsoap Fairly certain @DixieGirl just got Callie to laugh. Either way, an adorable sound.
Tuesday, September 15th 11:52
Nikki Hamilton I think Callie laughed for the first time today!
Tuesday, September 15th 12:32
ironsoap Nikki: “Come on, kid, poop or get off the pot.” Callie: *FRNT*
Wednesday, September 16th 19:42
Paul Hamilton Nik: “What’s higher than major?” Me: “Corporal?” Nik: “Dude, that was Corporal poop.”
Friday, September 18th 11:13
ironsoap I didn’t sleep well last night, but not because of my newborn. There must be some kind of law against that.
Friday, September 18th 11:31
Nikki Hamilton It is only 12:30 and we have already had two poop blowouts that required an emergency load of laundry.
Friday, September 18th 12:35
DixieGirl Things we should buy stock in: laundry detergent, diapers, wipes and burp cloths.
Friday, September 18th 13:05
DixieGirl My husband is encouraging me to relax in the bath with a glass of wine while he takes care of the baby. Because he is awesome.
Friday, September 18th 23:20
Nikki Hamilton It’s always a nice surprise when rubbing your daughter’s back to stick your hand in poop. Today’s incident resulted in an immediate bath.
Saturday, September 19th 17:55
Nikki Hamilton The phrase “No use crying over spilled milk” is clearly in reference to dropping 6 oz. of freshly pumped breastmilk on the floor.
Sunday, September 20th 10:29
ironsoap I know I’m through the looking glass because I’m relieved they’re _only_ using a chainsaw at 8:00 in the morning.
Monday, September 21st 08:29
Paul Hamilton The cat discovered the comfort of the baby’s crib last night. That straw may not have been the metaphorically terminal one for the camel, but feeling that Nik may view it as the one that slipped the disc between L4 and L5.
Wednesday, September 23rd 11:24
DixieGirl Available to good home: Baby-repellent cat that sleeps in cribs and wakes up peaceful infants. Must love fur on everything you own.
Wednesday, September 23rd 12:06
Nikki Hamilton wishes it wasn’t so warm out so she could go on a walk with the baby.
Wednesday, September 23rd 15:07
Nikki Hamilton Callie has discovered her thumb. It’s pretty cute.
Thursday, September 24th 13:08
DixieGirl I’m having trouble staying awake and Callie is having trouble falling asleep. Not a good combo.
Friday, September 25th 16:18
DixieGirl Trying to figure out why the library doesn’t allow strollers.
Saturday, September 26th 14:21
ironsoap Hey cashier lady: You know what’s more helpful for my crying baby than telling the same stupid story about cheese twice? Doing your job.
Saturday, September 26th 21:02
Nikki Hamilton is feeling sad today. Not sure if it’s the result of a night full of nightmares or the fact that Paul has to start going into the office tomorrow and I will be on my own with the baby.
Sunday, September 27th 10:47
DixieGirl Starving, but baby is snoring on me and Hubs is snoring next to me on the couch. Hoping everyone wakes up soon!
Sunday, September 27th 14:04
Nikki Hamilton wonders how to get her 8-week-old baby to take better naps.
Monday, September 28th 11:47
DixieGirl When my child is hungry, you feed her NOW. Or there will be hell to pay.
Monday, September 28th 16:38
Nikki Hamilton First day alone with the baby and I went on my first outing without Paul. Thanks to the help of my awesome sister I braved Babies R Us!
Monday, September 28th 16:47
Nikki Hamilton Trying to scarf down lunch before the baby decides she’s sick of the playmat.
Wednesday, September 30th 14:40
Paul Hamilton Last night the offspring slept for seven hours, woke up peacefully to gulp down a meal, then went quietly back to sleep for three more hours. There was much parental giddiness this morning.
Thursday, October 1st 11:38
Nikki Hamilton Callie’s newest way of signaling she’s finished with her meal is to blow a raspberry at me, ensuring I am covered in milk.
Thursday, October 1st 11:56
ironsoap Hoping The Pixies, Wilco, T.Rex, Dead Kennedys, etc can loosen the children’s songs from their barnacle-like grip on my brain.
Thursday, October 1st 16:36
Nikki Hamilton I love that it cracks Callie up everytime she sneezes.
Thursday, October 1st 18:58
Nikki Hamilton You know you’re suffering from sleep deprivation when you spray your outfit with Shout rather than Downy Wrinkle Release.
Friday, October 2nd 08:03
DixieGirl Not looking forward to Callie’s 2 month checkup this morning. Many shots will be involved. And not the kind involving alcohol.
Friday, October 2nd 08:06
Nikki Hamilton Sitting in the waiting room while Callie gets her vaccinations. Paul thought this was best.
Friday, October 2nd 10:14
Paul Hamilton Wife says, “Can you watch the baby real quick? I’ll get you some breakfast.” Expecting toast, maybe oatmeal. She comes back with eggs, toast, bacon and coffee.
Friday, October 2nd 11:19
Nikki Hamilton Calliope spends a lot of time grinning up at the ceiling. We like to think she’s smiling at her Great-Grandpa Follett and Great-Grandma Yoder.
Saturday, October 3rd 13:05
Paul Hamilton Ugh. Got rear-ended by some jerk in a Mercedes because some other jerk made an illegal U-Turn. Nik was driving, Calliope and I were in the back seat. Spent the afternoon in the ER making sure everyone is okay. We all got a pass; even the car escaped surprisingly unscathed.
Saturday, October 3rd 18:57
Nikki Hamilton Callie is two months old today!
Sunday, October 4th 16:50
Nikki Hamilton Walked by Callie’s bed this morning just as she rolled over for the first time!
Monday, October 5th 05:54
Nikki Hamilton When did getting up at 7am become sleeping in[?]
Tuesday, October 6th 10:50
Nikki Hamilton It is a cruel irony that even if the baby sleeps through the night you still have to get up to pump.
Wednesday, October 7th 11:34
Paul Hamilton heard himself ask, “Did you just drop pie on the baby?”
Wednesday, October 7th 15:49
Nikki Hamilton really, really wishes her baby liked slings or carriers so she could do baby wearing.
Thursday, October 8th 14:31
DixieGirl Day 3 of a very fussy baby.
Thursday, October 8th 14:49
Nikki Hamilton The thing that made the baby stop fussing and squ[eal] in de[li]ght? Sitting in her boppy on the floor watching “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”. Paul will be horrified.
Thursday, October 8th 18:53
Nikki Hamilton needs her crabby little girl to take a nap.
Monday, October 12th 12:49
Nikki Hamilton cannot wait for Callie to be old enough to go to Disneyland.
Monday, October 12th 18:19
Nikki Hamilton Rain falling outside, stew cooking inside, cozy baby sleeping = perfect day!
Tuesday, October 13th 11:32
Paul Hamilton Four unwelcome words: “We have a poo-mergency.”
Tuesday, October 13th 13:02
Nikki Hamilton It took 10 weeks, but I finally took my first completely solo trip out with the baby!
Thursday, October 15th 16:47
ironsoap The baby steadfastly refuses to take her prescription so she spits it out onto her blanket. Naturally the cat is happy to lap it up. Rad.
Thursday, October 15th 18:59
DixieGirl Cracking @ironsoap up with the crazy sounds I’m making at the baby.
Friday, October 16th 15:59
Nikki Hamilton does not like pumping.
Saturday, October 17th 17:03
DixieGirl I’m learning that one of the most difficult things about parenthood is that someone is always ready to tell you you’re doing it wrong.
Saturday, October 17th 19:24
Nikki Hamilton I think my growling stomach just startled the sleeping baby.
Monday, October 19th 11:57
Paul Hamilton In the span of five minutes the cat barfed all over the place, the baby spit up on me, Nik had a make-up incident and I gashed my finger open on a pencil sharpener. I can’t explain how exactly, but the end result of this is: We’re ordering a pizza.
Tuesday, October 20th 19:49
Nikki Hamilton I spent the year leading up to Callie’s birth looking for a job to no avail. In the last week I’ve had two different people call me about a job opportunity. I suspect Murphy was involved.
Wednesday, October 21st 10:35
Nikki Hamilton I don’t understand how I could have slept as long as I did last night and still be tired. In an unrelated note: I did it again. I made coffee minus the coffee grounds. :/
Thursday, October 22nd 09:56
ironsoap Did a solo mish to the library with the baby this morning. It was almost—almost—disappointingly uneventful.
Friday, October 23rd 11:54
Nikki Hamilton I’m wearing sweat pants with spit-up on them and I fully intend to go to the grocery store like this. Who says new moms aren’t hot?
Friday, October 23rd 19:29
Nikki Hamilton is not a fan of growth spurts.
Saturday, October 24th 06:58
Paul Hamilton Enjoying a relaxing Sunday afternoon with my wife and daughter.
Sunday, October 25th 18:01
Nikki Hamilton My child sounds like she is being tortured when she does tummy time.
Tuesday, October 27th 12:58
Nikki Hamilton Callie is taking a much-needed nap and I am going in search of some much-needed chocolate.
Wednesday, October 28th 19:52
Nikki Hamilton Callie decided she’d rather play than sleep last night.
Friday, October 30th 10:04
Nikki Hamilton Callie really wants to be upset but she keeps getting distracted by the sheep hanging over her swing.
Friday, October 30th 15:23
DixieGirl I have never seen someone have this much dedication to fighting sleep. Why can’t babies understand naps are a *good* thing?
Friday, October 30th 16:47
Nikki Hamilton Callie aimed wrong and missed her mouth with her thumb. She decided that sticking it in her cheek would be the same concept.
Friday, October 30th 16:52
Nikki Hamilton How long do growth spurts last? What I thought was one last weekend began again this weekend. Maybe I’m wrong and it’s something else?
Saturday, October 31st 15:24
DixieGirl Trying to stay awake while rocking a baby is a losing battle.
Monday, November 2nd 14:51
Nikki Hamilton can’t believe her baby is 3 months old today
Wednesday, November 4th 08:12
Nikki Hamilton The baby had a poop blowout that was so severe the onesie could not be saved. RIP Lucky Duck shirt. Guess you weren’t so lucky.
Wednesday, November 4th 12:52
Nikki Hamilton is getting pretty quick at typing one-handed.
Friday, November 6th 16:02
DixieGirl Relaxing in comfy sweats, watching guilty-pleasure TV with a sleepy baby in my arms. Life is good.
Monday, November 9th 18:22
Paul Hamilton Overheard at the Hamilton’s: “Changing your diaper is like a rodeo.”
Tuesday, November 10th 12:05
DixieGirl The baby makes noises like a zombie. I’m sure @ironsoap is so proud.
Tuesday, November 10th 15:12
Nikki Hamilton is wondering when the growling will stop and the napping will begin.
Tuesday, November 10th 15:42
Nikki Hamilton is really hoping the little one sleeps through the night tonight. It was a cruel trick to get us used to it and then take it away these past two weeks!
Tuesday, November 10th 22:32
DixieGirl It appears my daughter enjoys it when you sing novelty rap to her.
Thursday, November 12th 12:40
Nikki Hamilton Sick mom and (possibly) teething baby makes for an unhappy household. Luckily Paul is awesome and is keeping it together for all of us.
Saturday, November 14th 19:58
Nikki Hamilton wishes she could make her baby feel better.
Monday, November 16th 13:12
Nikki Hamilton Turns out you can’t bribe a baby. If it did work she’d have a pony and a car by now, all in exchange for sleep.
Wednesday, November 18th 22:01
Nikki Hamilton Turned around after throwing something in the garbage and Callie had flipped onto her stomach. She’s slowly getting the hang of the rolling over thing.
Monday, November 23rd 18:22
Nikki Hamilton Wow, that was intense. Three hours of screaming and she’s finally asleep. I’m not counting on it lasting long. Hopefully I get at least a few hours of sleep…
Tuesday, December 1st 00:36
Paul Hamilton Despite taking an extra month to complete it, I’m disappointed that Callie’s “Zombie Baby” Halloween costume turned out badly. Once again the creativity I see in my brain and the creativity I can produce with my hands does not sync.
Tuesday, December 1st 15:42
Nikki Hamilton was planning on making homemade banana bread today, but Callie is having a rough day. Not sure how one becomes a supermom that does it all.
Tuesday, December 1st 16:32
DixieGirl I want to go back in time and punch [P]ast Nikki for ever complaining about lack of sleep. She had no idea.
Wednesday, December 2nd 08:48
Nikki Hamilton Thinking Callie will be braver tomorrow when she gets her 4-month shots than I was today getting my ingrown toenails removed.
Thursday, December 3rd 15:42
Nikki Hamilton Has it really been 4 months already?
Friday, December 4th 07:37
ironsoap Heading out with @DixieGirl for our first date sans baby. Fairly excited.
Saturday, December 5th 18:12
Nikki Hamilton 4 month stats (a few days late): 13 lbs. 14.5 oz and 24.5 inches long. She’s grown almost 6 inches in 4 months!
Monday, December 7th 13:49
DixieGirl I should be cleaning while the baby sleeps, but after the difficult morning we’ve had I just want to relax for awhile.
Monday, December 7th 13:50
DixieGirl You know what really helps a baby that has trouble napping? Construction on your apartment building.
Monday, December 7th 14:33
DixieGirl I want to stay in a warm, cozy bed all day. Callie does not.
Tuesday, December 8th 09:52
ironsoap We’re out of clean drinking glasses. For a minute, I seriously considered drinking out of a baby bottle.
Tuesday, December 15th 19:59
Nikki Hamilton Experienced my first out-in-public diaper blow-out complete with poop caked on baby’s leg and matching stain on my lap. So, so awesome. :/
Wednesday, December 16th 15:26
Nikki Hamilton Rough day in the Hamilton household. Baby is definetly cutting her first tooth and is NOT happy about it.
Wednesday, December 16th 17:08
DixieGirl Enjoying some time with the baby and Paul before he leaves for Missouri.
Sunday, December 20th 15:02
Nikki Hamilton is sad Callie and I won’t be able to accompany Paul to Missouri for his Grandpa’s funeral.
Sunday, December 20th 20:55
Nikki Hamilton All I want for Christmas is sleep.
Tuesday, December 22nd 07:49
Nikki Hamilton Callie is suddenly mobile. She is rolling all over the place. I believe it is time to childproof the house.
Wednesday, December 23rd 18:12
Nikki Hamilton Attempting to get Callie’s picture taken with Santa.
Thursday, December 24th 13:30
Nikki Hamilton is thinking Christmas Eve is probably the one night during the year that kids go to bed without a fight. Unless, of course, your kid is 4 1/2 months old.
Thursday, December 24th 23:17
Nikki Hamilton Paul let me sleep in this morning while he watched a recorded Sharks game with the baby. Can’t wait to experience Callie’s first Christmas after we all eat some breakfast. Merry Christmas, everyone!
Friday, December 25th 10:19
Nikki Hamilton wonders if it makes more sense to go to bed now and try to get some sleep before the baby inevitably wakes up, or just stay up until she does.
Sunday, December 27th 00:38
DixieGirl I remember a time when Tool would be stuck in my head, now it’s The Itsy Bitsy Spider.
Tuesday, December 29th 11:37
Nikki Hamilton Sigh. What we thought was a tooth (and even had confirmed by several parents) has disappeared. Now I have no reason for Callie’s behavior lately.
Wednesday, December 30th 11:52
Nikki Hamilton Everyone have a safe and fun New Year’s Eve! 2009 was one of the best years of my life (second only to 1999 – the year that started it all). :)
Thursday, December 31st 15:09
Nikki Hamilton Happy New Year!! 2010 started off with the baby sleeping until 9:30. A sign of good things to come?
Friday, January 1st 09:59
DixieGirl Bedtime is becoming more difficult the older Callie gets.
Saturday, January 2nd 22:13
Nikki Hamilton Callie is one month away from being halfway through her first year of life!
Monday, January 4th 11:31
ironsoap Drank a 5 Hour Energy and then kissed the baby. She’s been really intense ever since. That stuff is potent!
Monday, January 4th 12:03
Nikki Hamilton Paul and I started watching the sign language dvds my friend gave me. I can’t wait to teach Callie all of the signs.
Monday, January 4th 16:46
Nikki Hamilton Listening to the baby blow raspberries at herself instead of sleeping. I’m guessing her face is somewhat damp.
Tuesday, January 5th 21:14
DixieGirl Overheard at the Hamiltons[‘]: “Babies are damp”.
Wednesday, January 6th 18:50
ironsoap Having a coughing fit does not make rocking a baby to sleep easier.
Thursday, January 7th 22:13
ironsoap Much earlier morning than usual due to doctor appointment for the baby. At least I have the day off.
Friday, January 8th 08:02
DixieGirl You know who is a good candidate for vaccines? A crabby baby that’s overdue for a nap.
Friday, January 8th 14:56
ironsoap Baby had a rashy, wailing reaction to a vaccine shot today. So naturally it was the first time @DixieGirl decided to stay in the room.
Friday, January 8th 18:51
Nikki Hamilton Callie had a rough time with her vaccinations today. She ended up having a reaction to one of them and now has to get them one at a time.
Friday, January 8th 18:57
Nikki Hamilton has a cranky baby that doesn’t feel good.
Saturday, January 9th 15:18
Nikki Hamilton I love that my daughter saves the majority of her poop blow outs for when we’re out in public.
Monday, January 11th 17:16
ironsoap Today’s Patience Mid-Term: Try to get a reluctant baby to take a nap while a gang of obnoxious morons tears the siding off your building.
Tuesday, January 12th 10:51
Paul Hamilton Nik and the baby’s communication technique has devolved into growling at one another. Interestingly, this seems to be more effective than their previous efforts.
Tuesday, January 12th 14:37
DixieGirl Feeling really bad for the baby and the cat right now.
Wednesday, January 13th 10:48
Nikki Hamilton My child does not want to eat today. I never have that problem.
Wednesday, January 13th 16:11
ironsoap Dinner with friends was great. Fearing we will pay the price for disrupting the baby’s bedtime routine, though.
Saturday, January 16th 20:36
ironsoap Well hello there, pre-dawn morning! It’s been, what? …24 hours? You haven’t changed a bit.
Sunday, January 17th 06:36
ironsoap Hitting the workout room for the first time since the baby arrived. Future Paul is sure to curse my/our name.
Sunday, January 17th 12:05
ironsoap Waiting at the fish counter, wearing a five month old with questionable intestinal control. It creates an interesting bouquet.
Sunday, January 17th 16:30
ironsoap Turns out I don’t know the lyrics to very many lullabies. I’m sure my audience is indifferent, but I still kind of feel like an ignoramus.
Monday, January 18th 18:09
DixieGirl Big thanks to the dude that watched me struggle to get in the door with a stroller and didn’t offer to help.
Tuesday, January 19th 10:13
Nikki Hamilton thinks it’s going to be (another) long night. Callie has been having an exceptionally rough time sleeping this week. Both Paul and I are exhausted.
Wednesday, January 20th 22:30
Paul Hamilton Snuggly babies may just be the perfect compliment to cold, wet mornings.
Thursday, January 21st 10:10
DixieGirl Why does my child hate sleep SO much?!
Thursday, January 21st 22:00
Nikki Hamilton My toes are still throbbing after kicking Callie’s bouncer this morning. Found out upon inspection that one of them is a pretty shade of purple.
Friday, January 22nd 00:42
ironsoap It would be a lot easier if getting up ridiculously early with a baby was energizing, like getting up to exercise.
Sunday, January 24th 05:41
DixieGirl PSA: Please do not give sleep deprived parents your parenting tips based on any experiences you have had with your dog.
Sunday, January 24th 16:01
ironsoap Huh. Forgot to eat this morning. You’ll have to excuse me, it’s been a long time since I saw this side of 09:00 without rocking a baby.
Monday, January 25th 08:26
Nikki Hamilton The construction workers have the uncanny ability to begin all of their noisest work the second Callie falls asleep. Nap fail. Repeatedly.
Tuesday, January 26th 11:17
Nikki Hamilton I could watch Paul play with Callie for hours. Not sure if me or the baby is more entertained by him.
Tuesday, January 26th 19:20
DixieGirl How does one keep their child’s head warm if the child knows how to remove hats (and hates wearing them)?
Thursday, January 28th 09:25
ironsoap New pet peeve: Establishments without changing tables in both lavatories. I’m not in the situation, but what about single dads? C’mon.
Thursday, January 28th 18:51
DixieGirl It’s funny to me that sometimes Callie can sleep through an amazing amount of noise and other times the cat meowing wakes her up.
Friday, January 29th 13:57
Nikki Hamilton Of course the construction guys are going to bang on the bedroom wall as soon as Callie fell asleep. Why wouldn’t they start work on the opposite end of the house that they were working on prior to her sleeping?
Friday, January 29th 14:06
ironsoap I feel like the theme from “Cheers” ought to play everytime I walk into Babies R Us.
Sunday, January 31st 16:26
ironsoap Tried to go to a new Me[x]ican restaurant tonight. Left hurriedly after asking, “Did we just bring our baby to a bar?”
Sunday, January 31st 19:00
Nikki Hamilton Going to Oakland with my sister to pick up Callie’s birth certificate.
Monday, February 1st 08:23
DixieGirl How do I time it to have Callie try to sleep at the same time as they’re working on our bedroom walls EVERY SINGLE DAY?
Monday, February 1st 15:02
Nikki Hamilton Need ideas for free or inexpensive activities outside of the house. Callie and I are going a little stir crazy these days.
Tuesday, February 2nd 15:34
DixieGirl In fur[t]her bad news: no public restroom in said coffee shop and baby with poopy diaper.
Tuesday, February 2nd 15:42
DixieGirl There could be big money in a line of medicine safe for breastfeeding moms. Specifically cold and flu remedies.
Wednesday, February 3rd 14:43
Nikki Hamilton Callie is six months old today! Time is flying by!
Thursday, February 4th 05:17
DixieGirl Accidentally took the baby to another bar. But who ever expects Togo’s to have a bar in it?
Thursday, February 4th 14:00
DixieGirl Really not looking forward to 6 month vaccinations today, especially after our last experience.
Friday, February 5th 10:38
ironsoap Extreme sports for parents: Four hour outings with no diaper bag.
Friday, February 5th 10:53
Nikki Hamilton Trying to figure out what Callie and I are going to do all day on Friday. We have to be out of the apartment from 8am-5pm while the construction team installs new stairs. :/
Sunday, February 7th 20:39
DixieGirl Amused that I cannot tell if that is Paul or Callie I am listening to snore over the baby monitor.
Thursday, February 11th 23:18
Nikki Hamilton Pumping in the car is not easy.
Friday, February 12th 07:32
Nikki Hamilton Callie has lost her baby scent. :(
Tuesday, February 16th 22:59
DixieGirl Cannot believe I walked out of the house without a single burp cloth.
Wednesday, February 17th 14:24
DixieGirl Disappointed that a large chain like @Starbucks does not have changing stations in the restrooms.
Thursday, February 18th 16:33
ironsoap Actually considering a pre-22:00 bedtime.
Thursday, February 18th 21:34
Nikki Hamilton Dinner at Harry’s Hofbrau with my two favorite people. The perfect way to end the week.
Friday, February 19th 19:14
Nikki Hamilton We have started child-proofing the apartment. I can no longer open anything.
Saturday, February 20th 23:55
DixieGirl Can’t decide if it makes more sense to stay up until the baby wakes up or go to bed and try to get *some* sleep.
Sunday, February 21st 00:10
ironsoap Three guesses why the whole family is still awake with four hours left before alarm clocks start going off. I’ll spot you the first two.
Monday, February 22nd 01:25
DixieGirl Running errands with my mini-sidekick.
Monday, February 22nd 13:37
Nikki Hamilton Doesn’t remember the last time she ate a meal at a normal pace. No, wait, it was about 6 1/2 months ago.
Tuesday, February 23rd 13:10
DixieGirl Callie learned how to wave today. Now she waves at anyone that makes eye contact with her.
Tuesday, February 23rd 13:55
DixieGirl My daughter has the habit of peeing all over the exam table everytime she goes to the doctor.
Wednesday, February 24th 11:18
Nikki Hamilton Experience[d] parents, when did your kids start sleeping through the night? Did you do anything to help them along, or did they just start sleeping well on their own? Callie will be 7 months old next week and I need to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I am so deliriously tired I am no longer thinking straight.
Wednesday, February 24th 13:07
ironsoap In retrospect, taking a cranky, under-napped baby to a restaurant on a busy Friday night wasn’t our best idea. We made it happen, though.
Friday, February 26th 19:30
ironsoap Somehow got bamboozled into “professional” portraits for the baby. Fully anticipating the hard sell in 5… 4… 3…
Saturday, February 27th 14:44
ironsoap 7 month-old slept from 22:00 until after I left for work at 06:30, a first in weeks. #sleeptraining #lullababy
Wednesday, March 3rd 06:58
Nikki Hamilton Callie has decided her favorite form of communication is blowing raspberries. While completely amusing to us, it is slightly awkward when we tell her to say “hi” to strangers and she spits at them.
Wednesday, March 3rd 10:21
Nikki Hamilton Exactly 7 months ago we decided we should go to the hospital “just in case” and returned home a party of 3.
Thursday, March 4th 06:28
ironsoap It only took 45 minutes to get the baby to sleep last night–half the time as the night before–and she slept through again! #sleeptraining
Thursday, March 4th 08:50
DixieGirl It would be awesome if the cat and the baby could both agree to stop spitting things up.
Friday, March 5th 09:04
ironsoap Baby mohawks are the best part of bathtime.
Friday, March 5th 20:47
Paul Hamilton Nik to the baby: “I’m going to look for your money while you eat your hot dog, okay?” Me: “Can I hear that sentence one more time, please?”
Friday, March 5th 20:59
ironsoap Had a bit of a setback last night, but tonight baby fell asleep in under 15 minutes with practically no fussing. #sleeptraining #lullababy
Friday, March 5th 21:40
Nikki Hamilton Really wanted to workout while Callie took her nap, but it has been so long since I worked out last I cannot remember where the DVDs are. :/ Guess I’m rocking the post-pregnancy flab for at least one more day.
Monday, March 8th 15:58
ironsoap After a week of steady improvement, the last two nights have been very difficult. #sleeptraining #lullababy #wellidontneedanytrainingkid
Tuesday, March 9th 22:21
Nikki Hamilton Took a nap while cuddling with Callie this morning. Even with the loud constuction on the roof going on, it was still the best nap ever.
Wednesday, March 10th 12:43
DixieGirl Baby is asleep. Husband is asleep. Why am I still awake?
Saturday, March 13th 01:39
Nikki Hamilton We took Callie to her first Sharks game on Saturday and found out the hard way that it scares her when they score. :(
Monday, March 15th 00:14
Nikki Hamilton Signed Callie up for swim lessons. I guess this means I have to get into a bathing suit soon…. does a wetsuit count?
Tuesday, March 16th 13:19
Nikki Hamilton The weather was so nice today we decided to have an impromtu picnic at the park for dinner. Callie was a bigger fan of the grass than the bubbles Paul was blowing.
Wednesday, March 17th 22:01
DixieGirl Bedtime is not going smoothly tonight. :(
Wednesday, March 17th 22:01
Nikki Hamilton Daylight savings has turned Callie into a late bird. She gets up later every day. 10:45 and still asleep…
Thursday, March 18th 10:42
Paul Hamilton Me: “How about that spot right there? Is that some pee?” Nik: (Sticks her hand right in it) “Nope, it’s dry.” Me: “…Dude. That was some pretty savage super mom action right there.”
Sunday, March 21st 22:19
ironsoap Worst night yet. #sleeptraining #failure
Monday, March 22nd 00:09
Paul Hamilton Aaand that’s why super savage mom action is not the way to go. On a related subject, what’s the best way to disinfect skin?
Monday, March 22nd 20:01
ironsoap It’s hard to concentrate on this training while a cute baby is trying to play hide-and-seek with me. #workfromhomepitfalls
Wednesday, March 24th 09:54
ironsoap They said it couldn’t be done but I totally got the baby’s onesie off without undoing her highchair harness.
Wednesday, March 24th 19:01
ironsoap Trying to fill a weird amount of time between the day’s various activities. Settling on trying to lull baby to sleep while @DixieGirl shops.
Sunday, March 28th 12:09
DixieGirl You know you’re exhausted when you use a CT scan as an excuse to take a 30 second nap.
Tuesday, March 30th 12:33
ironsoap Trying a different approach to our sleep strategy tonight. Last couple of nights have been pretty brutal. #sleeptraining
Tuesday, March 30th 20:51
Nikki Hamilton Eight months of awesomeness!
Sunday, April 4th 14:34

Now, by my count 30% of those were about sleep, napping, sleep deprivation or exhaustion. 22% are elated, contented, excited or relieved. 13% involve diapers, spit-up, going to the bathroom or changing a baby. The rest are assorted observations, anecdotes or announcements and honestly, that sounds just about right in terms of mapping to the amount of your waking thought is devoted to the various topics.

I also found it interesting that when referred to by name, we call our daughter “Callie” 64 times in these posts. By contrast we use her full name, “Calliope,” eight times. We use the generic term “baby” 82 times.

It’s Untenable

So I’m not sure it was clear considering the backdating of the previous post, but I tried to write an entry about the first six months of Callie’s life and it ended up taking me two months to finish.

To avoid having people assume I was really that bad at math I set the date for the post to February 4th, which was when I first started writing, but I guess that throws off some various mechanisms that work to distribute my postings to places like Facebook and Twitter. It’s probably just as well; the final result in my opinion is not indicative of two months of work.

It’s actually gotten me thinking about my posting habits quite a bit because even before the intended-for-February post my previous effort was October or something. But then again I look at my Drafts folder and see entries that were begun on September 29, December 8, January 7 and so on, none of which were ever completed.

Long time readers will recognize this cycle: I write a couple of long-form articles that accidentally resemble half-decent writing and one person says, “You’re a good writer!” Then I start thinking I have an audience and I have to meet expectations which results in me thinking that nothing I write is worth the minimal effort it takes to parse my fourth-grade-level prose.

I’m also coming to realize the impact that short-form self expression has on my desire to write lengthy blog entries. A quick scan of the archives will confirm that few humans—on this planet or off—are as capable of taking a simple thought and expounding on it to the point where written words are actually capable of rending brain cells into a fine paste not unlike single-grain oatmeal. Which is why the by-design restrictions of Twitter and Facebook statuses are nice because they demand that I be pithy. But since I’m speaking my mind and getting to the point, the temptation to take that small passing thought and extrapolating from it reams of text is lessened. I’m sure you’re in agreement with me that this is by and large a good thing.

So my choices are either continue to nitpick longer pieces until I finally squeeze out something that meets some invisible criteria or I can try to get back to what ironSoap was supposed to be in the first place which is an online journal detailing some of the semi-daily events and activities to keep people who either care or have a heavy masochistic streak enlightened.

I think I need to simply learn how to lighten up about it and get to the point a little more. I avoid making promises about updating schedules because they are, simply by virtue of being made, destined to become bald faced lies. However, journal or no, the underlying intent of ironSoap was to encourage me to write regularly and that ain’t happening. So something needs to change. I know the bar for “quality” around here is fairly low but don’t be surprised if I sacrifice a little of it in the coming weeks in favor of quantity as part of an effort to avoid multi-month droughts.

Half Year

They say, “Enjoy it while it lasts.” They usually follow it up with, “And it doesn’t last long.”

I’m doing my best.

Lulla-cry Baby

I’m not so good with the lullabies. They are comforting, even to me, but also to my daughter—I guess that’s just the point. Still, the comfort comes from having them sung to you; as the singer I found quickly that my memories of the melodies were sharp, the lyrics not as much. As an audience you find solace in the intent underneath the lyrics, the softly sung choruses in whispered verse. Memorization of the poetry on top is far from mandatory. So I struggle with various on-the-spot mumblings and half-remembered couplets. Often times I find myself sticking with a single refrain, usually something simple like “Kum Ba Ya,” riffing on the tune with a stream-of-consciousness sort of babble that only half makes sense. Fortunately, we chose a name that rhymes with and matches syllables with “baby.”

The difficult part of singing lullabies isn’t the lyrics, though. That’s just the part that makes them awkward. The difficult part is that many of the standards, “Lullaby and Good-Night,” “Twinkle, Twinkle,” etc are in keys that aren’t readily hit by whispered singers. I have no delusions that my singing is stage-worthy or even publicly acceptable, but I love to sing. I’ll make up silly songs for no reason whatsoever and belt them out as I wash dishes or take a shower or drive along a nighttime road. Catapulting dippy made-up songs into the air is fun and fairly easy, but trying to maintain a sense of steady melody at a low, sleep-inducing volume is… not.

Sometimes the variations of song and lyric are clearly not for my daughter’s edification. She seems just as happy if I iterate endlessly over “Hush Little Baby” but there are so many songless Mockingbirds and clumsy horses I can promise to her before I start to go a little batty. On one night in question I’d exhausted my supply of lullabies but not my child. I continued to rock her gently in my arms and grasped clumsily at something to continue with, afraid in that deluded panicky state you enter as a parent of an infant that something you are doing, have done or are about to do will cause a startled awakening accompanied by the requisite wail of newborn anguish. Lacking any true inspiration I began to improvise on a hoarse, practically tuneless little melody that was half “You Are My Sunshine” and half “Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The lyrics were standard lullaby fare: Blissful slumber, promises of new days tomorrow, reassurances of parental protection, simple exclamations of steadfast love and devotion, non-sequiturs for the sake of rhyming couplets. The difference, as near as I can tell, is that instead of struggling to excavate long-forgotten lyrics from the depths of my brain, I was expressing in the first person my affection for the sleepless and thrashing babe I rocked like an exhausted pendulum. It was far from the first time I’d ever made such thoughts and feelings known to her, but be it the inherent weariness or the structure of song or perhaps just the fact that it actually worked as intended, lulling her steadily into the desired state of calm and rest I’d been working on so diligently, the result was unexpected.

I’m not, by nature, an emotionally charged sort of person. At least I don’t perceive myself as such. My default mode tends to be a sort of mildly bemused observer, occasionally drifting into moderate crankiness or a slightly softened compassion. The range is fairly short between the extremes of my moods. I don’t really get hopping mad very often. I don’t have very many moments of unbridled joy. And I definitely don’t find myself moved to tears with any kind of regularity. I didn’t even cry when Callie was born, though I went into the experience fully expecting to. It surprised me when I discovered that instead of being moved I was simply overwhelmed and sort of terrified which resulted in me entering a kind of semi-robotic state.

But in this case, I watched my little girl open and close her tiny mouth a few times, slowly, as if tasting the air around her, drinking in my song. I saw her beautiful eyes flutter closed and stay shut. I felt her nuzzle just slightly closer to my arm with the croaking sound of my stupid and now forgotten song, the tears fell.

The First First

I don’t put much stock in “Firsts,” at least not the way it seems many parents do. And okay, I have no data to back this up but I suspect it is principally a “mother” thing. At least the tracking portion of it in cute little books that look suspiciously like low-rent scrapbooks to me. If I had to wager I’d say the demarcation of “firsts” originated with dads as a means of injecting some competition into child rearing.

Anyway, maybe I should put some stock into it because perhaps developmentally those milestones are more significant than I give them credit for. To me, though, it feels like our daughter’s firsts are hardly forebears of new chapters in her life. She has consistently displayed a propensity for various actions and achievements only to promptly discard the activity once mastered as if to say, “Check. What’s next?” Her first smile, her first head lift, her first babbled vocalization, her first object grasped from curiosity (as opposed to reflex) are all lost to the haze of overwhelming change and adjustment that has characterized the last six months.

But I do recall the first time I heard her laugh like a little person.

She has a number of distinct laughs: The throaty chortle she uses when she’s amused by our games of peekaboo and silly faces, the shrill delighted squeal she uses when surprised by happiness such as a tickle or a raspberry blown on her soft little tummy, the wide-mouthed tchkkkk of air escaping tightly stretched lips and firm tongue that she does when she’s cracked herself up and convulsed into a little twitching ball of self-congratulation. I love each and every one of these laughs, but the one I love the most is the braying “ha-ha-hee-hee-hee!” of genuine mirth when something really cracks her up.

The first time I heard it I was changing her diaper and trying to make her smile as has been my custom from nearly day one. I’m not as much of a speed-changer as other dads I’ve spoken to who view the chore as a sort of Nascar pit crew scenario whose principle measure of success is beating a previous best on the stopwatch. I certainly don’t spend as much time at the changing table as Nik or most other moms I’ve encountered, but I try my best to interact with the baby as I process her waste receptacles because I figure it’s not her fault she’s too short and too immobile to use the toilet. Heck, even I bring a book with me to the bathroom so the way I see it, people need some entertainment when they have their business taken care of.

I couldn’t say what led up to the moment, but it was probably the usual barrage of tickles and hugs and exaggerated smiles. At one point though I grasped both of her wrists and lifted them up to my closely-shorn hairline and tickled the tips of her tiny fingers with the stubble. She squealed a bit with excited glee. So I pulled her arms up higher and drooped my head down a bit lower and drug her little palms across the close-cropped pate of my balding head. With a clutch of her stimulated fingers and a laugh that sounded for all the world like a delighted little girl as opposed to an amused newborn, she screeched out the now-familiar sounds of real person laughter. The sound was so surprising and remarkable that it forced a hearty laugh of my own out of me and for a couple of minutes the two of us took turns cracking each other up. Whenever we would regain our composure I’d rub my head with her chubby baby fingers and we’d start all over again.

It took a long time to change that particular diaper.

Mistakes, I’ve Made a Few

We’ve made a lot of mistakes already as new parents. Thankfully and mercifully none of them have resulted in anything seriously detrimental to our baby’s health. One that stands out in my mind is mistake I made in planning a bunch of family visits almost immediately after the birth. The problem wasn’t in the family, it wasn’t even in the visitation, the problem was merely in the additional set of worries and responsibilities that come with having people over when added atop the already crushing weight of adjusting to life with a newborn.

For their part I think our families were gracious and patient with us. It couldn’t have been easy. I read a lot and assumed from the data gathered there that the early days would be times when any and every helping hand would be more than welcome. A lot of the visitors we had were in fact there to offer support, be it emotional or by attending to chores we would maybe otherwise have let slip or in perhaps subliminal offers to assist with the baby. The hitch is that Nik and I are stubbornly, perhaps stupidly, independent. We feel a collective loathing to admit that there is something that we need help with, that we can’t handle entirely on our own. I think in a way we felt that we had waited nearly ten years to have children just to make sure we were, in fact, ready so yeah, help appreciated but not necessary.

Especially with my family it was just too much too soon. Nik and I were exhausted and terrible company. We sat around. A lot. We watched mindless TV. A lot. We fed the baby. We changed the baby. We rocked the baby. We watched more TV. Our schedules were dictated by the child we were determined to handle on our own, without apology. As first time parents who were accustomed to being basically homebodies anyway it didn’t feel so different from our normal routine, just a bit more intense and filled with 100% more dirty diapers than we were used to. What did feel different was the parade of guests. We don’t have house guests often: We’ve lived in smallish apartments for ten years. We’re the mobile ones, we do the visiting. Having people up in our space was awkward for us. We were trying to adjust to the idea of being a threesome instead of a couple and that’s weird enough, now we have my family and… well they probably felt like we were the worst hosts in the world.

They weren’t wrong.

But the mistake wasn’t in them coming. It wasn’t—I don’t think—even in us being preoccupied. The mistake was in planning the trips so close to the baby’s birth. Many of the trips were planned also to coincide with my leave of absence from work, so I think there could have been some more consideration of that to begin with. A lot about the time I spent on paternity leave would be done differently if I did it again. I’d have saved some time, if possible, to take a bigger chunk of time off later in the year. Like around the halfway mark. Like around now. Callie is so much different now than she was when everyone was coming out to see us and her. Nik and I are so much different now. I often think about how little I get to see my daughter during the week: I leave for work before she wakes up and I get a couple of short hours with her when I get home before we have to go through her bedtime routine and then I put her to bed and try to spend some time with Nik before one or both of us collapses into exhaustion. Nik does her best; she comes out to have lunch with me about once a week. She sends me pictures and messages during the day telling me about the activities her and Callie enjoy, relaying funny little anecdotes of the things she does.

I think about how most of my experience with my child was in her helpless undeveloped newborn stage and how little has been in the delightful, tiny emerging human stage. I wish I’d saved some time off to get in on that action. I wish we’d planned short introduction meetings with my family at the beginning and arranged longer visits for later, when she was interactive and funny and capable of being charmed and charming with her geographically dispersed extended family. It was a mistake, and you can’t take it back. I know the people who were so overjoyed to see Callie and us early on don’t mind that the baby they saw was minuscule and basically inert. Their excitement was genuine, as was ours. But it’s hard not to wish you’d done things differently, and harder not to worry that it might be a portent.

The Bold and the Beautiful

On weekends I spend a lot of time with my daughter. For one thing it gives Nik a much-needed break from the constant care of a baby for a couple of days and for another it gives me a short window to connect with her now that the hassle of needing to provide an income for our family has injected its unwelcome head back into our lives. It seemed long on the face of it and in fact the six weeks I spent on leave following the birth was the longest period of un-work I’ve spent since I was probably 20 years old, but looking back now it didn’t last nearly long enough.

Mostly we hang out and play at home, I feed her and change her and do all those things parents have to do with infants. But also we go out and do stuff together. Nothing super exciting like zoos or parks or museums (yet), but regular outings like the grocery store or the bank. I’ll never understand dads who think of spending time with their kids as “babysitting.” It’s certainly work of a caliber I’m highly unaccustomed to, but to me it came with the package. I’m not trying to convince you how awesome I am here. Quite the opposite. I feel like this is simply normal, like spending time with one’s daughter—even as young as mine is—was never meant to be strictly a maternal undertaking. I think it’s curious and a little sad that stay-at-home dads are kind of weird (being a SAHD, I mean, not the dads themselves) and it’s kind of discouraging that I get about equal numbers of pats on the back as I do pitying stares when I’m out alone with Callie. I’m not saying I should get more back-patting, I’m saying I shouldn’t get a second thought.

Anyway, one of the differences early on between Nik and I was that she marked out a sort of activity comfort zone for herself. She avoided going out alone with the baby, she found the tools and tactics that seemed to work for her and she resisted deviation. I, on the other hand, felt like a brave adventurer when charged with the baby’s care: I’d see how much I could integrate her with all my “normal” activities. I tried all the carriers first, I took her to places she didn’t “have” to go because I wanted to be with her and go wherever at the same time, I forged ahead with bottle-feedings and bathtimes. Honestly it wasn’t that I was or am particularly adept at any of this: But there is this thing that guys do when faced with uncertainty and that is feign absolute confidence and control. It’s a defense mechanism and you’d be surprised how often it works. Sometimes simply trying to be in charge of a difficult situation is the same as actually having a handle in the first place.

I have no idea if my brazen disregard for the klaxons of panic that sounded in my head at the prospect of extraordinary “newness” helped ease Nik’s transition into confidence or not. I like to think my willingness to try things like showering with the baby in a bouncer just outside the door when Callie and I were home alone opened the door to the notion that having a baby didn’t mean donning a leash. Now, of course, Nik is unimpeded by the existence of a child in our lives: She spends more time outside the house and outside that comfort zone than she does within.

Digression aside, when the baby and I venture outside on weekends I’m intrigued by how many people are struck by the presence of a baby. I classify people’s reaction to seeing Callie into three categories: The Melted Heart, The Panicked Soul and The Unimpressed.

The Melted Hearts are those who, regardless of their mood before laying eyes on her, will dissolve into a sappy grin. The more socially forward of this group will come up to us and interact with Callie, often then engaging me in some mild conversation, “How old is she,” “Is this your first,” etc. They’ll openly stare and try to get her to smile at them (which Callie is typically more than happy to oblige). Often people in this category are women, often older either of a grandmotherly age or approaching it although there have been plenty of guys who fall into this category as well, though none of them have been under 30. Obviously these are my favorite and Nik and I have discussed often how happy it makes us when we see someone’s mood noticeably lift on account of our baby. I confess I think she’s ridiculously adorable and I semi-shamefully admit to sort of showing her off when I’m out but I think sometimes that that weird effect dads-alone-with-babies has stunts the Melted Hearts moreso than when Nik is present.

The Panicked Souls are those who definitely take notice of a baby in their midst, but they regard her not like some kind of wonderful surprise addition to their day but as a ticking time bomb of some sort. Generally these people will also stare openly at Callie but not in the admiring way Melted Hearts do, but in the way you might stare at a slavering and obviously rabid deer that wandered into your picnic area. Logic dictates that you probably aren’t in any immediate danger, but you don’t want to take any chances. I’m not entirely sure what Panicked Souls are concerned about: Maybe it’s that I’ll whip off her diaper and start twirling it above my head like a sling, maybe it’s that she’ll suddenly break out into eardrum-puncturing wails (little do they know she reserves those for bedtime) or maybe they just think I’m suddenly going to rush up to them and tell them they have to babysit her for an hour because I just got called away to do an emergency heart transplant or rescue a litter of puppies from a burning building (what? like I can’t be a cardiologist or a superhero?) thus initiating a sequence that resembles something out of an 80s comedy starring Steve Guttenberg. I have no idea. People in this group tend to be males younger than 30 and any woman whose outfit costs more than my monthly car payment.

The Indifferent are those who try to pretend that Callie doesn’t exist. Often these people are those who are patronizing businesses without a lot of square footage in their storefronts like coffee shops and libraries. The presence of unpredictable infants in areas that are typically reserved for relatively quiet conversation is, I understand, kind of a potential disruption but I think no one wants to be “that guy” who’s got a problem with a dude carrying around his child on a Saturday afternoon. Their strategy seems akin to “ignore it and maybe it will go away.” The irony of the parallel between this and the way a child might hide under covers to avoid a scary imagined monster is something I like to savor. The mischief in me often wants to try to get Callie to take a nap in places like these just to spite the people who would ordinarily be Melted Hearts but I usually resist the temptation. To provide context: Callie loathes naps. Curiously the other large group of people who fall into this category are parents who have slightly older children like around 5-9. I wonder sometimes if they have finally exited the baby/toddler/preschooler stage and are counting their blessings but desperately fighting the hidden longing they harbor to have a baby around the house again. The wounds of sleepless nights and fearful worry for the well-being of someone so helpless and wholly dependent are still fresh, but not so much so that they cannot be overlooked or overwhelmed by the sight of a fresh-faced little cherub riding in a front-carrier with a happy toothless grin.

My Rock

Possibly the most remarkable thing to come out of Callie’s birth has been the emergence of Nikki as a superstar stay at home mom. Not that the road has been entirely smooth, far from it. In very many ways it has seemed to be the hardest transition she and, as an extension, we have ever had to make. Which was not entirely what I expected. I said last year that Nik was singularly fixated on being, or perhaps even born to be, a mother. This, I think, led to an assumption on my part (at least) that she would glide effortlessly into the role and relish it from the outset.

It hasn’t been that easy.

But, Nik doesn’t get the credit she deserves. So let me take a moment to enumerate just a tiny fraction of the reasons why she is indubitably the best wife I could ask for and why she is literally the only person I would ever want to be the mother of my children.

  • Breastfeeding: Nik and Callie struggled mightily to figure out breastfeeding. We tried so many things: We saw lactation consultants, we pestered our friends and families, we acquired a vast array of assitive devices to try and make nursing easier. Nik toiled with it for almost two months and when circumstances made the prospect even more challenging she switched to exclusively pumping. This exhausting, uncomfortable, time-consuming, onerous task was carried out for five additional months all because she wanted Callie to have the benefits of breast milk no matter the cost to herself.
  • Courage: A huge part of why this phase of our lives has been challenging for her is because Nik, long prone to clinical depression, has been fighting off the effects of postpartum depression. Ignore that idiot celebrity scientologist (excuse the redundancy), PPD is real and it’s rough. It didn’t help that I, in all my granite-like density, completely missed the symptoms that I was supposed to be watching out for. Somehow, though, despite what could have been a debilitating handicap she bravely soldiered on and simply met every challenge head on. She may have felt like she was drowning under the weight of the new responsibility and the struggle to reconcile the roller coaster emotions coming along with it, but she never missed a beat.
  • Support: We had hoped that even after I went back to work I would be able to spend a lot of time at home, especially during the first year. But then the wheels of change started turning at work and as opportunities arose, that changed rippled down into our plans. It wasn’t feasible for me to be at home as much as we’d thought and that in turn meant that in order for me to take advantage of the career opportunities in front of me Nik was going to have to rise quickly to the challenge of being a full-time solo SAHM. She may have been nervous about it and felt like she wasn’t up for the task but she’s proved to be not just a wonderful primary care giver for our daughter but also the most dependable partner in our collective responsibilities that I can imagine. She thought she couldn’t do it without me, but it turns out I couldn’t do it without her.
  • Team Parenting: I’m trying very hard to be a good dad to Calliope. Time will tell how effective my efforts will be, but while it sometimes feels like society at large is either skeptical or ambivalent of my goals, Nik has never once given any indication that she was anything other than fully supportive of my desired involvement level. She shares everything, even though she is often the one who has to carry out our collective decisions. She makes it a point to include me in everything, she sympathizes with the fact that even though she’s got the harder job of the two of us, I wish I could switch with her sometimes or even just wish I could be there more. She sends pictures of her and Callie many days. She relates all of their triumphs and difficulties each evening so I’m always clued in. Above all, she makes me feel appreciated.

This has by far been the hardest, most rewarding, craziest, most phenomenal six months of my life. I can’t believe it’s been so long already. I can’t believe it was ever any different. But more than anything I can hardly bring myself to take a breath for fear that I might wake up and realize this has all been the most wonderful if achingly fleeting dream. I thought before that I felt like a lucky man to have the family I do. I know now that feelings aren’t a factor. The stone fact is that no one has ever been more blessed than I am and a man couldn’t ask for a better wife or a more perfect daughter.

It’s On My Mind

I’m obsessed with human waste. Not in the creepy I-keep-mason-jars-of-it-under-my-pillow sort of way, but in the it’s-constantly-at-the-forefront-of-my-mind fashion. I’d blame my daughter but honestly she doesn’t really seem all that concerned about it. Sure, when she’s been sitting in her own foul for half an hour she’ll express some dismay over her environment, but it’s not like she’s really interested in what it is, she only cares what it represents. I, on the other hand, care deeply about it for reasons I don’t fully understand.

Actually, that isn’t true. I do in fact understand my preoccupation with “poops” and “peepee.” It’s like when there’s that really annoying pop song that seems to be on everywhere you go, relentlessly pounding its syrupy beat and trite lyrics into your skull for days on end and finally your only defense is to give in, turn up the radio to sing along, download the track from iTunes and buy a T-shirt with the chorus hook printed on it to wear ironically and prove to everyone how cool you are for being so uncool. What I’m saying is I don’t want to spend so much time thinking and talking about doo-doo but I don’t have a choice because it keeps coming up so I can either gnash my teeth in impotent angst over it or pretend it’s some kind of scientific pursuit.

The reason it’s such a nagging constant these days starts with the diaper. I realized before we had a baby in the house that children of this age utilized diapers in lieu of toilets and I understood that they needed to be changed quite a bit. What I wasn’t exactly prepared for was the frequency of the diaper contents. Aside from the half dozen or so “pit stops” in the restroom which can be accommodated in my case by a urinal (or even a waist-high bush if it comes to that) I have about one serious visit per day. By comparison my daughter does upwards of six or seven number twos per day. Early in the morning it’s all fine and good, with much praise and odd parental pride: “Look at the big girl with her big girl poops! Such a good girl!” etc. By mid-day the tone has shifted more along the lines of “Again? Well, okay…” and by the early evening you’re hearing the sort of heavy bargaining typically reserved for International Treaty Negotiations only in this case the outcome is who has to change the current diaper and who is owned (and I quote) “Fourteen thousand back rubs and the full unrestricted rights to choose the pizza toppings for the next ten pizzas.”

But listen, if it was just the frequency I could readily treat it as an unfortunately regular annoyance that entered my mind only as necessary and then left just as readily. But alas the tragedy of baby ownership is that they lack any sort of reliable communication interface aside from a catch-all error code function which is not only excessively verbose but also frequently misreports problems and occasionally alerts for no reason at all. As such you’re left to secondary monitoring to determine the overall health of the unit and in this case it means you can only ordain the quality of the input by closely examining the output. Not that even this kind of analysis is really informative. I mean, given the various parameters described by the professionals, I know from experience you can have detailed debates with your co-administrators over whether a particular specimen exhibits problematic characteristics or not. If you want to try this experiment at home, see if you can agree with a family member about what qualifies as “mucousy” given no additional information or examples.

I can tell you authoritatively that there are relatively few parties like a parents party when a parents party gets going on a Friday night about whether this or that globule of excrement means the baby is sick, allergic to something, getting too much foremilk or is indicative of a normal infant’s digestive system. Holla.

But perhaps the most persistent human-by-product-related musings revolve around messes in undesired locations. I’m talking about pee in your hand or poop on your hat here. I like to think of myself as a fairly clean and sanitary person. I shower regularly, I prefer a tidy environment (maybe not to the same degree as some, but I’m certain more so than others) and I try to remain at least mostly presentable. But it only takes one—two at the most—instances of being out in public and finding some sort of excrement that doesn’t belong to you on your arm or shoe before you start to develop an ever-present concern that you may at any given point in time be sporting dookie on your pants. The terrible fear is that the baby may not even be around when a tragic discovery is made and it’s really hard to play off a big pee stain on the back of your shirt while you’re giving a career-making presentation to your boss’ boss’ boss without having something cute and cooing to distract people with.

I guess the best you can hope for is that they’re new parents too, at which point they’ll just be thinking, “Wait. Did I check the back of my shirt for urine this morning?”

A Scene From Our New Life

Paul walks in. Nik sits on the floor, baby in front of her.

Nik: Here, take this.

Paul: What is it?

Nik: It’s a gold nugget.

Paul takes diaper.

Paul: This is a diaper. Augh! There’s poop here!

Nik: Well, it’s not full of candy.

Paul: No! The poop is on the outside!

Paul hurriedly throws diaper into trash. Paul rushes to the bathroom and begins washing hands.

Nik: Laughing. There was an incident.

Paul: Aw, man. There’s no soap in here! What is happening?

Paul runs into kitchen.

Nik: Hey, when you’re done running around, can you get a new shirt for the baby?

Nik considers.

Nik: Also, you may want to grab the carpet cleaner.