Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Baby Eclipse and Date Night Reborn

When God created baby, she eclipsed the sun and moon.

Sometimes the world grows cold.

Even for the most prepared of parents, having a baby means never being quite prepared. It means spending most of your time caring for baby, and less and less time caring for each other (and on yourself, especially if you're a single parent). It means less adult intimacy and more baby poop.

Don't get me wrong – I love my baby B and Mama A. But before A + K = B there was only A + K = K + A and that equaled hot-as-a-firecracker-on-the-fourth-of-July love (as my Grandpa used to say, usually referring to his coffee, not his unending love of Grandma). We traveled the world, went out to dinner whenever we wanted, worked out whenever we wanted, watched whatever we wanted, read whatever we wanted, kept decorative but dangerous household items laying around wherever we wanted, took baths together whenever we wanted and had sex whenever (and wherever) we wanted. Date night occurred every week with passionate regularity.

We never wanted children and we were deemed selfish because of it. Evangelical philosophy aside, I'll never understand that one.

However, we changed our minds and the judgments of others turned into redemption and revelry. That's not why we had a child, to receive redemption. No, we did it because together we chose to have a child and start a family.

We're heading into month six with baby and for the most part we're doing great. But recently we hit a speed bump going to fast without watching the road signs.

Mama and I share all responsibilities including those with baby, and we're fortunate to both have jobs and a baby-care person during the week, but it's true that Mama gets most of the home baby care (and she has the breasts to prove it). Last weekend that didn't work out so well and we were both feeling our roles and responsibilities were skewed and underappreciated, especially me. I never thought I'd become the jealous husband/father of my own wife's time (and my own), but I did. All my mindful living and adult maturity was strong-armed by impotent-rage-man I used to be and I completely shut down. Just an angry knot on a rotting log fuming in a stinky bog. Mr. Butthead with bells on.

How attractive is that? Not very and I was pretty ashamed of my reaction. We worked it out though, because we always do (all work and no play makes for dull parents) – that's what true love is, and realized that we need to "make" more hot-as-a-firecracker-on-the-fourth-of-July-love time for each other again.

It's time for date night to burst from nothingness like a birthed star, this weekend to be exact (or date afternoon; it's the date part that counts). Poetically I've always referred to Amy as my sun and I her moon, but we have to realign our orbits since we now revolve around baby who solely depends on our gravities push and pull.

When God created baby, she eclipsed the sun and moon and then took a nap.

Sometimes the world makes time for us.

By the way, I just joined Dad-Blogs.com (http://dad-blogs.com/) and I'm glad I'm in the Fatherhood Friday mix!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Get down on it – The Human Race is coming

All right, I'm in. The Human Race is coming to Santa Cruz and me and Bea are doing it.

According to the Human Race Santa Cruz website:

The Human Race is a nationwide community fundraising event for nonprofit organizations. The Santa Cruz County Human Race features a fun run and walk beginning at Natural Bridges State Park and winding along beautiful West Cliff Drive.

Local organizations and businesses recruit walkers/runners/pledge-gatherers to raise funds for various participating Santa Cruz County non-profit organizations.

Participating nonprofit organizations receive 75-85% of funds raised and the Volunteer Centers of Santa Cruz receives the remaining percentage to coordinate and stage the event.

I'm still thinking about launching a similar event for daddies and babies in the future, but why wait for that when we've got this! Nonprofits and faith-based charitable groups are taking huge hits these days when our communities need them the most.

So, let's get down on it and go for a fun run. I'm hitting you all up for pledges, by the way.

If Mr. Bay Area Mom can do it, anyone can

We watched Mr. Mom this week and I've forgotten how cute it was, and how eerie the parallels from the early 80s economic slump and today's unprecedented meltdown.

I'm very thankful that I have a job. Even though our firm only does as well as our clients do (and we've already seen our share of company death knells), there are those staying alive, even growing, in the human resource and senior care marketplaces.

My heart goes out to those who aren't as fortunate. The number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits has almost hit 5 million. And according to an article I read last week, government data shows that:

The numbers are startling: More than 80 percent of pink slips handed out since the recession began in December 2007 have gone to men, thanks to their disproportionate slice of jobs in hard-hit fields like construction and manufacturing.

I remember what it was like to be out of work after the dot.com bust. But that was different then; Amy and I didn't own a home that plummeted in value and we didn't have any children to care for. We were more footloose and fancy-free and could absorb the monthly revenue hit. In fact, besides some freelancing, I was heavily involved in online fiction and poetry workshops at Zoetrope, honing my writing craft.

I hit some tough times during that work-at-home stint. Feelings of inferiority, of being a failure, of not knowing who the hell I was. Alcohol became a comrade, a medicating brother in arms, and almost came between my wife and me (don't overbearing co-dependent friends always do that?). However, I was stronger that I gave myself credit for, and we worked it all out; the mindful living I experienced even then threw me a life preserver, as did my lovely wife. (Here's a great read for fathers on centering oneself.)

On a lighter note, one of my good buddies always teases me. "That poetry gig didn't really work out, did it Kev."

No, it didn't (although I miss it terribly at times, the writing that is).

Now we have a house and a child and we're so very thankful we have jobs. Amy works four days a week, so we have childcare three days a week and then on Friday's, it's daddy's turn.

I'm also thankful my mother activated my nurturing gene decades ago, because otherwise, there would be no daddy daycare on Fridays (with the exception of one Friday so far when I was with the boyz). We've actually got it mostly worked out, Bea and me, with her morning nap coinciding with my Friday morning Webcasts and sales meetings, and then again in the afternoons so I can catch up on the millions of administrative mind-benders crawling all over my skin.

We play in between the working lines – tummy time on the boppy pillow while anything in her reach goes from hand to mouth. I read to her (stop, do not hop on pop) and we watch eebee and Sesame Street and nursery rhymes of all kinds with unending glee.

And we've started a sweet tradition of the afternoon rockfest. Yep, I flip on an iTunes Genius mix and we boogie to everything from Bowie to Spoon. (One of these days I'll get it on video.)

But it's difficult at times as well. If baby has a meltdown, which she did last Friday afternoon, there's nothing I can do to make it all better. When the wailing continues unabated for 30+ minutes, you begin to see the dark side of the force ("Luke, give in to your feelings…"). And our baby is on the far side of being colicky.

Thank God almighty.

Although I can barely hold a candle to their experiences, I can better imagine what it's been like for mommies for generations and the new breed of Mr. Bay Area Mom.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hence the singing Hindi velociraptor

Our little Bea has started to vocalize beyond the cooing, gurgling and crying. Trouble is, I can't figure out if she sounds more like a baby velociraptor or the loudspeaker Hindi singing we experienced in Bali years ago or Gregorian chant chipmunk style.

Okay, not really. Kind of. Actually, she's really flexing those pipes with all the elongated vowel sounds and startling bursts. It's very exciting! All the baby books and sites we read and such tell us to keeping reading and talking and singing to baby as much as possible, including reading books, recipes, grocery lists, last-minute stimulus package riders (hey, it was signed today).

I read at Parenting.com that New York University researchers have found that listening to your voice lays the groundwork for your infant to understand nonspeech, such as music and animal sounds.

Hence the singing Hindi velociraptor.

We've also noticed that when we're driving in the car or when she's laying in her crib before or after a nap, she's babbling to herself in sing-song sounds.

How amazing to witness her transformation. Every day she takes my breath away (especially when she scratches my face with those sharp little nails – Mama, get the clippers!).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Read Across America: words are sustenance for heart and mind

I grew up buried in books, tunneling through character and plot. Words were sustenance for heart and mind. Nothing's changed as an adult except that time has sealed up many of the tunnels.

I should stay home one day just to plow through an entire novel in one sitting. I mean sitting and laying (with the occasional cat nap).

Reading, reading, reading. I read to Bea all throughout Mama's pregnancy and we both read to her all the time. She's digging the words and the sounds of our voices, and she's exercising her own voice more, articulating new sounds I've never heard her utter before.

Granted she prefers putting the books in her mouth just as much as she likes looking at them. Like I said, sustenance for heart and mind and lil' B-usybodies.

Next month is the National Education Association's Read Across America day:

The nationwide reading celebration takes place each year on or near March 2, the birthday of children's author Dr. Seuss. Across the country, thousands of schools, libraries, community centers, and more participate by bringing together kids and books, and you can too!

Your reading event can be as simple or elaborate as time and inclination allow. Whether you choose to scale up or down, keep in mind the basic premise and it's almost sure to be a success:

On March 2, the National Education Association is calling for every child to be reading in the company of a caring adult.

That Bea can count on. We've got plenty of Dr. Suess books as well.

Children aren't the only ones who need reading friends. Today I again volunteered as a book buddy for older folk through the Santa Cruz Public Libraries. I did it years ago and sadly my book buddy passed away a few months after I started. Not why I waited so long to do it again, but glad I'm doing it now. I'll be delivering books to homebound elderly, visiting with them, talking about the books we're both reading, take their requests, make recommendations, etc.

I'm happy to see our Santa Cruz libraries get hip and high tech – the AquaBrowser Library – Word Clouds – Angels and Kittens – Cherubs and Heaven.

Okay, I'll stop.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The triple whammy of Bea’ing (queue eebee)

Oh crap, I spoke too soon. Just last week I was telling friends and family that Bea was sleeping through the night. Sure, she fed at least once a night, but for the most part she was sleeping, which meant Mama was sleeping, which meant I was sleeping.

Until the other night:

"Aaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeee!"

Baby nightmare? Scared me to death, but when Mama pulled her into bed from the bassinet and fed her, I thought all is well.

Then a few hours later:

"Aaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeee!"

Baby nightmare again? Gassy? Teething?

The trippy whammy, Sammy. Yep, I spoke too soon.

"Aaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeee!"

We try to limit detrimental adult stimuli during the day – TV, hardcore rap, industrial death metal, Stephen King short stories, the wood chipper, firing the gun into the ceiling, etc. However, we think it has more to do with being gassy and the fact that the teething has begun.

No teeth have erupted yet, but she's drooling and chewing and fussing off and on.

"Aaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeee!"

And the gassiness just kicked up a notch a few days ago – burp, toot, toot, burp, burp (Morse code for growing pains?). We've been making the move to organics across the board, but I can't imagine that being the issue. We did start her on banana-breast-milk mash about three weeks ago, which she loves, so maybe that's it.

Mama went from pseudo-vegetarian to hot little carnivore, so maybe the beef's got something to do with it?

As I'm typing this I hear:

"Aaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwiiiiiiiieeeeeeeeeeee!"

Queue eebee. Amy found it on our cable on-demand kids channel last week and I watched it with Bea this morning. We were both so excited, drooling and flailing our arms and legs like over-turned bugs in the hot sun.

I have seen joy incarnate, and it is eebee.

I love eebee.

More on eebee later...