Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Everything changed.

People use this phrase all the time. Everything changed on September 11th. Everything changes once you're old enough to drink. Everything changes once you drive a Hemi. Everything changes once you listen to the Doors.

On May 31, 2005, everything changed for us.

I remember so much of that day, and the days leading up to it. I remember exactly where I sat and where R lay when she had the misoprostol treatments. I remember the restaurant on Capitol Hill where we ate our last formal meal pre-baby. The antiseptic smells of scrubs and clean towels. The bathtub where she tried using hot water to stem the pain of her contractions, to postpone the epidural just that much longer. The salmon from the cafe, the location of everything in the room - the tv, the bassinet, the sink, the bare padded area where I slept while my wife worked to bring our baby out of her body and into the world.

I remember seeing the crown of his head emerge, as magical as anything I have ever seen. I realized then the weight of creating another human being. We weren't just creating ultrasound pictures or something to put in the crib. We created a person, and here was his head, and here were his shoulders, and the umbilical cord caressed his throat gently, like the last kiss of a lover, and then the doctor's scissors snipped it away and he sprang out into the cold light of day. It was 5:32 am. It was a Tuesday. Today is Wednesday. We have gone fifty two weeks and one day since that magical moment, and today is the anniversary of his birth. It's his birthday.

I want to say that we were playing his lullaby CD, the one that's playing now as he slumbers in the next room. I could be wrong. We could have been playing James Taylor or Cat Stevens or Enya. But my heart wants it to have been that lullaby CD that welcomed him into the world.

I remember so many trivial and hugely significant moments that splash against each other in my mind like ripples in a turbulent sea. I remember his tragically feline cries from those early early days, and I remember how much he slept as his body struggled to draw as much nourishment as he could. The desperation of those early days, until the lactation consultant came and taught R about latches and the satisfying clunk! of his swallows, and he began to feed in earnest. Then it all comes in cascading waves. Meconium diapers. Blankets. His play gym, and the way he would lay on his back and bat a fist at his little hanging frog.

The frightening first day I spent alone with him.

Baths. Strolls in the Bjorn and in the various strollers. I remember the first time we went to the store in the Bjorn - he spit up on the padding and I didn't even notice until we entered the store and I saw the white patches against blue fabric. (I had nothing to clean him up with. I had to learn.) The first time I went to parenting class, feeling awkward and slightly desperate and wildly emotional in a room full of mothers who were equally emotional if not more.

More memories. Solid food. Smiles. Laughter. Tears and crying jags that evolved from catlike cries into real babylike sounds. (No less tragic.) Naps that were blissfully still and long, and naps that descended into chaos and tears on both sides. All of it.

I remember it all, and the things I don't remember sneak up on me unexpectedly. I remembered suddenly this morning how tiny his first diapers were, and how small his body was, like a doll.

I used to be so tired that I would fall asleep on the couch carrying him, and we would sleep together, sprawled together in a pile of fatigue. I fell asleep holding him that first day, sitting upright, and I startled myself awake with nightmare visions of how I could have dropped him, how I could have somehow slipped and had him tumble out of my hands. I don't believe that now. Even that first day, I was his father, and there was no force, not even my own exhaustion, that would have caused him to slip from my grasp.

Our boy is now a year old. 365 days ago, everything changed for us. My career changed. The way I looked at everything - television, food, baseball, alcohol, plastic, honey, electric fans, newspapers, everything - changed. My new world is exactly one year old, and I'm only starting to get used to it. He is the joy of my life, and the greatest thing I have ever been associated with.

Happy birthday, Oliver.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Lies and Snakes and Planes

So I was sitting around thinking one day...

No, that's a lie. I was on TableTalk, which is my new addiction. It's a combination reader forum and bulletin board that runs parallel to I was surfing through the various threads I subscribe to, and ran across the Snakes on a Plane thread, which is just a bunch of silliness and giddy excitement about the upcoming movie starring Samuel L. Jackson and a whole damn mess of snakes. Someone mentioned that the only two movies she was looking forward to were "An Inconvenient Truth" and "Snakes on a Plane." She then wondered why she couldn't find a movie that would show both as a double-feature.

Always one for a challenge, I imagined Al Gore as he might appear in the SoaP movie, trying to convince the other passengers of their common dilemma:

"The truth of the matter here is incontrovertible. There are snakes, and they are aboard this plane. We're not talking about one snake, or a small handful. There are lit'rally hundreds of snakes. Right here! Here on this very plane. This plane where you and I rest comfortably, has come under a very sudden and unforeseen attack by snakes."

Then someone wondered aloud about Dick Cheney trying to explain to W about the movie. And, as I said earlier, I can't resist a challenge.

Bush: So, Uncle Dickie, any good movies out there?

Cheney: mutter grumble ... Nacho Libre.

Bush: Oh, yeah, that's the rasslin' movie. That'll be good! What else?

Cheney: mutter mutter snarl snarl ... snakes ... mutter growl ... plane mutter mutter ... guy from "Pulp Fiction."

Bush: Oh, my gosh! Should I call the National Guard out to the airports?

Cheney: grumble mutter ... fiction, Mr. President ... gribble ... not real.

Bush: Yeah, but that United 93 plane movie really happened. I remember that! I went out to some field and they said it was a plane ... that the plane crashed ... there was this field ... well, I didn't really get it but I said God bless America and everyone clapped, so I guess it went okay. Are you sure there really aren't some Islamic snakes on our planes?

Cheney: mutter mutter ... not likely ... grr woof ... we'll look into it.

Sigur Rós Review by Dooce

I found it in my heart, though, to drag my body out for the evening on the off chance that my husband would have a transcendental, life-changing experience, even though now as parents we have those every day when our child takes a nap.

That sentence alone should be enough to persuade you to read Dooce's review of a recent Sigur Rós concert. It's a magnificent attempt to define Sigur Rós' music, which is slippery and amorphous and grand and bewildering. That is, it's indefinable. The review is waiting for you over at

God, I miss concerts.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The First Time

The interview went well. Good rapport, good answers, blah blah blah. I'm waiting to hear from them.

What really mattered to me is that Oliver was a gem in his first daycare session. He was charming, he was playful, he only had one serious crying jag. He also was nearly asleep on his feet when I came to pick him up - the interview went longer than I expected.

I've been at home with little O for nine months now, and last Friday was tough for me. It was like the beginning of the end. If I don't get this job, I'll get another one, and we'll be putting him in someone else's hands for eight or nine hours a day. I don't worry about the daycare provider - she's great and kind and loves Oliver. It's just ... well, it's not us. It's not me.

When I came to pick him up, I was disappointed that the main daycare provider wasn't there (she had to pick her own kids from school.) The other person there wasn't able to give me a full rundown of how the day went, only the short time she had spent with him. Before Oliver saw me, I peeked in the door and saw him playing contentedly with the daycare worker. I called his name a few times (it felt like several hundred) before he looked my way. And then he let me pick him up. And then burst into tears.

And yes, I felt nine shades of awful. A little girl looked up cautiously and asked, "All right?" He was all right. Tired. Maybe hungry. Maybe a little spooked at having suddenly been dropped into the hands of strangers, with a gaggle of other kids he'd never seen before. But of course he was all right.

I took him home and he almost fell asleep on the eight-block drive home. He was down in minutes, and only then did I allow myself a few tears at the new bridge we had crossed.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Hokey smokes. I sent out a resume last night, and twelve hours later, the organization called me back to set up an interview.

I can't tell you the organization, obviously, but it's a fundraising job and it's a much larger organization that I first realized. My interview's at 1:30 tomorrow (Friday.)

My contract work with my previous employer dried up at the end of April. I finished everything I could do, and though it was tempting to invent some previously undiscovered work so I could bill them for more hours, I dutifully reported that my desk was clean. (One of these days, they'll realize that I still have office keys.)

As much as I want to continue being a stay-at-home dad, things are tough on one income. I could hit some temp agencies, but they're all M-F businesses, and my M-F daytime hours are busy. (I can't imagine sitting Oliver in the waiting room of a temp agency while I do typing and grammar tests for hours.)

So after sending out two dozen resumes, I got a lightning-fast bite. The job description is comprehensive, the voice over the phone was friendly, and these folks really look like they've got their act together. I could really enjoy being just another employee in a well-oiled machine of a development department. Cross your fingers for me.

Oh, and we're also going to try daycare for the first time tomorrow. While I'm interviewing, little O is going to be hanging out at an at-home daycare for an hour or two. It's the first time he's been away from both of us since he was three months old. So cross your fingers and toes. Between the new experience of daycare and the job interview, I am in an emotional state commonly referred to as "freaking out."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Moussaoui Lives

At last, the grotesque spectacle is over. Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person convicted (however periperally) in connection with the 9/11 attacks, will spend the rest of his life in prison. The United States will not be carrying out his execution.

Those of you who are longtime TMBS readers know my feelings on the death penalty. For you new readers, here goes. I'm against it. Always. In every instance.

Why? Because I have a soul, and I don't believe that I should kill other human beings out of revenge. If I won't do it, I won't have the government, acting on my behalf, do it and dress it up in terms like "the ultimate punishment." It's killing. We, as a civilized society, should not be in the business of executing people. This is not an abstract discussion for me. I've had my opportunity to face this decision directly, when the man who killed my brother was sentenced, and when it came time to make the call, I couldn't do it. I could not be a party to murder, even for a man who had murdered my own brother.

The federal prosecutors had two challenges in this trial. First, they had to convict Moussaoui for something that would tie him to the 9/11 hijackings, even though everyone knows he was in jail in Minnesota when the planes took flight. So they wrangled a conviction on the grounds that Moussaoui should have confessed he was part of the plot when he was arrested in August 2001. As many civil liberties lawyers have explained, this is essentially convicting ZM for not implicating himself in a crime, which he has every right not to do under our Fifth Amendment. The precedent is disturbing, and no doubt will be challenged for years to come.

So part one was successful. ZM was tied to 9/11. The jury decided he was eligible for the death penalty based on this bizarre conviction. Now they just had to push the jury to decide in favor of his execution. This is where the trial went over the edge from bizarre right into horrorshow.

The prosecutors showed video of people jumping from the World Trade Center and hitting the ground. People on fire. Body parts in the street. They played the cockpit recording from Flight 93, the final moments of 40 people's lives who fought to save the U.S. Capitol or the White House from catastrophe. Giuliani was called upon to describe his personal anguish as a witness to the WTC attacks. Phone calls were replayed. Countless ghoulish scenes of death and chaos were shown. Tears were shed by nearly everyone in the courtroom.

"That was a man on fire as he fell through the canopy. Those are the remains of his body," Rosbrook testified in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.

And yet the jury refused to execute Moussaoui. When the prosecution mounted an all-out blitz of horror to push the jury to their emotional limit, they maintained their humanity and spared Moussaoui's life. He will not be released, of course - he spends the rest of his life in prison, and will die a tired old man instead of a martyr.

On NPR this morning, I heard that Moussaoui claimed that the United States had lost, because they weren't able to get an execution. When we have a system that cheers murder as justice, when someone like Moussaoui practically begged to be executed by America's hand, and the jury was still able to hold onto their decency, I think the opposite is true. I feel pride today for those twelve jurors, our representatives of justice and, amazingly, of mercy.

Someone Knows I'm Here!

A special shout-out today to Phil aka "Macchiato Man" of Perils of Caffeine in the Evening fame for posting my very first comment on the new blog! I knew someone would find me, eventually, but it was getting awful lonely out here in the wilderness.

I know I've got other friends out there from the Salon Blog community. Drop me a line, people, so I don't feel all Robinson Crusoe out here. I promise I'll try to post more often. (The corrolary to that: you might be reading a whole lot more about Oliver than you ever wanted to. That's the price you pay.)