Monday, September 25, 2006

What I Can Tell You

Sometimes, especially as a parent, you run across things that are so horrible that you wish you could scrub them out of your brain. These are the things that linger and come back to haunt you in the minutes before you fall asleep, while your child lays innocently dozing, perfectly unaware of the nightmare visions running through your head. There are stories you hear accidentally that lock inside your brain, that you can't even tell your spouse about because to say them out loud gives them more power over you. So you lock them inside, and they grow and manifest and sink roots into your subconscious.

You know what I'm talking about. I can't tell you what triggered it this time - I literally cannot bring myself to tell you - but you already know where these things come from. Local news stories. Needlessly disturbing horror movies. Child endangerment. Consumer warnings about unsafe toys. Stupid (or neglectful, or plain evil) parents. Or grandparents. Or teachers. Or guardians. Or strangers. Or babysitters. Or...

Anyway, I can't talk about it. So let me tell you what's going on with the boy.

He'll be sixteen months old shortly. He's walking now. And when I say "walking," I mean "restlessly pacing around the house and wreaking havoc."

When they start walking, it's cute to see them put three or four steps together for the first time. "Aw, look, he almost made it to the couch! Just a little closer, honey. One more step! One more step!"

And then they get to one more step.

And then they can walk across the room.

And then they can walk anywhere under their own power.

And then you realize how small your apartment is.

We have taken down the gates that used to restrict him in our living room. He just needs more room to roam. So now, all day when he's home, he wanders from the living room into one bedroom, into the other, back into the hallway, maybe into the bathroom for a change of pace, into the living room. Constantly in motion.

He has toys everywhere. I do not exaggerate. There are toys in the hallway. Under his crib. In the bathroom. He flings toys into the kitchen (the only part of the house still gated off) to get our attention, and just generally for the sake of flinging toys. He owns the apartment now.

Chloe (the cat - remember how I used to have a cat?) is under constant fear. She hops on the bed and he's right after her, reaching up to "pet" her. (Thump thump thump. It's a miracle he hasn't gotten clawed yet.) She jumps on the couch, and he's right behind her. He grabs for her tail - of course, because it's the most fun part of her body. He chucks toys at her sometimes, and when she flinches, he giggles because he's gotten the kitty to respond to him. So he chucks another toy. And another, until we finally realize why he's giggling in the other room.

I'm thrilled that he's walking, folks. Don't get me wrong. But it's infinitely more work keeping up with him, and childproofing has become something like defense. Trying to catch the problems before they become disasters. Suddenly, new things are dangers and easily within reach - the ironing board, the cords for the blinds, the phone charger cords.

He's also verbalizing more. He only had a couple of words at his most recent ped appointment, so we were just a bit worried about his verbal development. Here's one thing you learn as a parent - "words" are not the same as words. If he says "dat" every time he points at something, that's his word. "Dat." If he says "dob" when he points to a dog, or a cat, or a chicken, or a hippopotamus, that's his word for "animal." Whatever it is that he says repeatedly with some meaning, that's a word.

He suddenly has mastered the concept of "up" and "down." Concurrently, he loves sitting in chairs. So he points to the chair - "ub."

We sit him on top of his tiny tiny baby chairs. He plays for a minute, then gets restless.

"Dah." Down.

Again. "Ub." "Dah." "Ub." "Dah." This can go on for days.

Sometimes he fires off entire streams of words, the meaning of which is lost to us. It seems like sometimes I amuse him, and he's responding to me by saying dad over and over again. "Dah dad dad dad dad," in funny little intonations. Sometimes he just repeats the same sound in a blurt - "nuh. Nuh nuh neh neh nuh." Sometimes it's gutteral. Sometimes he surprises us with high-pitched variations. But he seems to be experimenting more with words, which has to be good. I expect that soon, he'll just have a burst of progress, and he'll just overflow with a big stream of new words. That seems to be his pattern of learning things - a little bit of progress, maybe a bit of a regression, and then suddenly full-steam ahead.

We are fortunate to have days off with him during the week. Every Friday with him is a joy. He surprises me so much, how much he progresses, how much he grows in just a few short days. He is the light of my life, that boy. He glows incandescently with happiness and curiosity. May it always be so.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years Ago

It was a Tuesday. I was busier than I had ever been in my life, helping to coordinate five separate events in a course of six weeks. That very day, I was supposed to work a press conference at the port of Seattle, something about pressuring port commissioners to support labor rights. I also had to go to the doctor's office that morning. I had sprained my wrist, or smething small like that. Something insignificant.

I was asleep when R called me. "Are you listening to the radio?" I groggily replied that I wasn't.

"You'd better turn it on." There was a seriousness in her voice that I had never heard before.

I turned it on at around 6:50 Pacific time. The World Trade Center was smoldering from the impact of both planes. There were reports of a car bomb at the State Department, and smoke behind the White House. I switched on the tv, and the computers in the living room, and kept talking to R on the cordless phone while walking through the apartment. My brother woke up, startled at the sudden commotion, and we started soaking in media reports together. CNN's website was frozen for some time, and then relaunched in a stripped format, only headlines and photographs.

I went to the doctor's office. As I remember it, the office was quiet and the lights were dimmed, but that could just be my memory.

I worked for a political non-profit then, and the office was somber. My boss quietly intoned, "This is serious, man. There's gonna be a war." It seemed prescient then, but looking back, she was just voicing the obvious. We had been attacked. The Pentagon had been bombed. The World Trade Center had been incinerated, along with thousands of people. Someone would be called to pay.

Did I trust Bush to get the war right? No. But even I was feeling like something had to happen. Grudgingly, I acknowledged that some response would have to happen.

R was just my girlfriend at the time. We had been seeing each other for ten months, and lived in different cities. We spent the night together, and most of the next week. We both went home early from our jobs and sat and watched Peter Jennings together. I remember how human he seemed, and he nearly choked up at one point when he told viewers that if they had children in another part of the country, "call them up." He was reassuring and he seemed to constantly report the facts, not the wild rumors or speculation, but "here is what we know." Twenty minutes later, "here is what we can verify."

I still remember watching Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and finally Bush making their comments and speeches, and thinking "these are not the people I trust to protect me." I was deeply suspicious of Bush and the cabal he had surrounding him. We had been through a horrible election, one which left me and millions of people with deep feelings of mistrust about whether the government was legitimate. I personally wanted Al Gore to rise up as the thundering voice of the opposition, but instead he went off to grow a beard. And then suddenly, after the attack, everyone immediately fell in line and starting saying things like "we have to support the president in times of crisis" and "it's not the time to question the government." It smelled of bullshit then, and it does now.

We ate dinner that night in a small pizza parlor in the University district. The proprietor, who might have been Lebanese, was talking about how Americans had been so complacent about terrorism, and now we would see how it felt to be the ones attacked. I wasn't angry at him, but I was surprised at his candor. It would be harder to make blunt assessments like that in the months, as we were warned to watch what we said and what we thought.

I remember thinking that Seattle could be the next target, a conclusion no doubt drawn from local news hyperventilating. I wanted nothing more than to spend my days with R. She was my rock, the person who kept me sane, and I wanted to spend as much time as possible with her. Time seemed fleeting.

Nine weeks later, in a Brazilian restaurant, I dropped to one knee and proposed to R. Her hands shaking, she said yes emphatically. The date of our engagement? 11/9. A coincidence, but I will say that the date is easy to remember.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Daddy's home. Wait - stop crying!!

And the day was going so well. I've got Fridays off with Oliver, thanks to my fantastic four-day schedule at the new job, and we had a really good morning. We did a little shopping at University Village, and Oliver got to walk all over the Land of Nod (he fell in love with a group of giant rubber ducks.) We came home, ate lunch, read him a new book, and then tried to go down for a nap.

Oh my God.

He's suddenly decided that bouncing is evil. We've used the friggin' balance ball to bounce him to sleep since he was three months old, and it's always been magic. Suddenly, as soon as the bouncing starts, he's flailing arms and arching his back and screaming! bloody! murder! He did this last night, but then he suddenly fell asleep all at once, like a switch had been flipped.

Well, today, that switch wasn't working. I tried to bounce screaming, bawling, bucking Oliver for fifteen minutes (it felt like hours) and finally, I thought, "Is this it? Is this the end of bouncing? Does he just want to go to sleep by himself in the crib?" Anxiously, excitedly, I lay him down in the crib. And then suddenly he's awake. Completely awake. Playing with toys, grinning at me. Wide the fuck awake.

So I just decided to leave him there and hope (read: pray) that he somehow would get tired and fall asleep by himself. And I decided to help him by laying down myself on the bed, which he can see from the crib.

Twenty minutes later, he was still eagerly awake, pointing at me and going "dat, dat, dat" to get my attention.

As soon as I pulled him out of the crib, he started bawling again. I tried to bounce, but if you can imagine laying a cat across your forearms and rocking it to sleep, it was like that. Chaos. At some point, he started clawing at my shoulder to try and get out of the prone posture and somehow pull himself to a safe place.

The screaming and crying went on for approximately forever, and at some point I was sitting, still bouncing, with him facing me and sitting on my knee. And then his head tipped forward. He fell asleep like that, his head buried in my chest, flopped over like a rag doll.

I know he's going through a lot of transitions now. He's a new walker. He's switched to one nap earlier than most babies do (15 months), and he just started daycare in earnest this week. But holy Mother of God, this was the worst nap he's had in a year. Things have got to get better, because that was just a nightmare.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Nancy Did It

Egads! Oliver's been tagged with his first meme at the tender age of 15 months. Thanks to Nancy over at Now You Listen Here for passing it on.

3 Things That Scare Me

  • Getting dropped off at daycare. Once (last week), I just ignored mommy and started playing. Now I ignore playing and just cry my head off.
  • The open spot where the elevator door opens, where it's not the floor anymore and it's not the elevator, it's just two slats of metal and open space. I fell down once here, and now that little space just freaks me out.
  • The washcloths that mommy and daddy use to clean me up after a meal. That's why I flail my hands all over the place when they come at my face. Get thee gone, evil washcloths!

3 People Who Make Me Laugh

  • Mommy
  • Daddy
  • Um ... that nice person on the flight home from Boston who played peek-a-boo with my froggy and didn't even get mad when I reached over the seat to touch her hair.

3 Things I Love

  • I love bath time. I love all my squirty toys, and I love splashing, and I love trying to throw the rinse cup at mommy or daddy when it's full of water! Wee!!
  • I love my kitty. She doesn't seem to have the same fondness for me - I try to pet her and she runs away. I try to be nice and give her one of my toys, like a car or a Lego, and she just glares at me. And then she runs away.
  • Boob. Or rather, what your people call "boob" and my mommy calls "nums." She wanted to use another word, so I wouldn't be in the middle of a supermarket and start shouting for "boob!" But I love some num-nums. When I wake up, when I go to bed, when I'm upset, when I'm just kinda feeling snuggly, nums are the best.

3 Things I Hate

  • The first two minutes of night-night. (Sometimes more.) I arch my back and yell and thrash like a crazy crazy little baby. Then the switch goes off, and I fall asleep like boom.
  • Getting my fingernails clipped. Yaaaarrrrrr! Go away! Give me my hand back! What do you think you're doing to my finger?! Here, watch me squirm out of your lap and slide onto the floor like jello, just to get away from you and your nasty nail clippers!
  • Going to daycare. See above.

3 Things I Don't Understand

  • Why daddy doesn't let me play with the electric fan.
  • Why mommy and daddy don't let me play with the cat food. What's the big deal? It's food, right?
  • What's the big deal about pulling cords? They're all over the house - why shouldn't I pull on one sometimes? Why would mommy and daddy have so many cords if I'm not supposed to play with them?

3 Things on My Changing Table

  • Changing table? I remember that. Now my folks change me on a big portable thing called a Patemm pad. They just put it down on the floor or the bed and change me there. So the stuff that's there changes all the time. But there's usually one toy to keep me distracted.
  • And a big thing of baby wipes.
  • And usually, the knee or forearm of a parent, to keep me from rolling away. It doesn't always work.

3 Things I'm doing Right Now

  • Sleeping. Like a baby. Because, hey, guess what, I'm a baby.
  • Laying in the cosleeper, which is almost so small for me that I can touch one side with my head and the other side with my feet.
  • Listening (in my sleep) to the sound machine that I've listened to since I was a wee little baby.

3 Things I (think) I Can Do

  • Walk, although sometimes I fall on my butt. One time, I fell down forward on my hands and knees, and then I fell down again and my face hit the carpet. I was really mad.
  • Pet the kitty really nicely. Sometimes I do. But sometimes, I just go whap whap whap with my hand, and then kitty gets mad.
  • Sit in big chairs, like the one in front of the computer. Really, daddy usually puts me in a big chair and then sits and waits for me to try to get down, or else maybe he's waiting for me to fall down. Anyway, he just sits there and gets real jumpy if I move at all. And if I stand up, his eyes get all big. That's fun.

3 Ways to Describe My Personality

  • I am confident and centered.
  • I'm (usually) a happy little boy.
  • I'm mischievous. That's what daddy says. He says I get a glint in my eye sometimes when I'm going to do something naughty.

3 Things I Can't Do (yet)

  • Run.
  • Face forward in the car. Mommy says we're not turning my car seat around until I'm thirty pounds, because it's safer for me.
  • Say a lot of words. Most of my words sound the same right now. "Ah." "Dah." "Dat." "Dot."

3 Things I Think You Should Listen To

3 Things I Think You Should Never Listen To

  • Kenny G
  • The lullaby Radiohead album. My daddy listened to this, and he had a look on his face like he just ate something out of the kitty's litter box.
  • The sound of me crying, especially when I just fell down and I'm really upset.

3 Absolute Favorite Foods

  • Avocado (but maybe not this week)
  • Bunnies. I like Cheddar Bunnies. I like Bunny Grahams. If they made little cheese pieces and called them Cheese Bunnies, I'd like those, too.
  • Watermelon. Mmmmm...

3 Things I'd Like to Learn

  • What's the deal with the computer? Either mommy's on it, or daddy's on it, or mommy's on it and daddy's looking over her shoulder. I never get to play on the computer.
  • Where does the water go when the drain gets pulled?
  • What's really going to happen if I eat cat food? Will I turn into a kitty? I'll find out someday. Oh, I'll find out.

3 Beverages I Drink Regularly

  • Breast milk
  • Water
  • Cow's milk (if by "drink," you mean "put the sippy cup to my lips and drink tiny tiny amounts")

3 Shows I Watched as a Kid (that would be NOW)

  • Um ... I watched some tv when I was on an airplane, but it was some movie about doggies and I couldn't hear the sound.
  • Daddy turned on the news once and I watched it for a few minutes. There was a fire at a place where some of daddy's friends lived. They were okay.
  • I liked to turn on the tv at grandpa's house in Florida. I kept watching these funny shows where they tried to sell stuff like kitchen equipment and jewelry. And then daddy would turn the tv off. Mean daddy.
  • P.S. I watch some tv at daycare, but mommy and daddy say they don't like to think about it.

4 Babies I will tag