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.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

To Tomorrow and Beyond

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It didn't come in the mail all week, even though we told her about it all week.

It's no one's fault, other than the perpetual business-bleeding and delivery inconsistencies of United States Postal Service. We've had package fails before from family outside of California.

True, there's still one more day for it to arrive tomorrow on Halloween itself, the homemade Toy Story Buzz Lightyear costume for Beatrice made with loving detail by Auntie Jill, the Mama's sister.

The plan was for Bea to dress up as Buzz, Daddy to dress up as Woody, Bryce to dress up as Ham (actually a Piglet costume, but don't tell her that), and Mama we're still figuring out (hey, we're on a budget).

We had to have a contingency plan, though. When it didn't come last Thursday, Mama and me began to pitch other costumes to Beatrice.

Fairy? No!

Pooh bear? No!

Princess? No!

Jessie? No!

Buzz Lightyear! Buzz Lightyear! Buzz Lightyear!

*sigh*

So what to do? No Buzz costumes in stock anywhere locally. And for even those available online, shipping was too tight and costly.

I found some homemade Buzz costume instructions online yesterday, and we thought, what the hell -- let's give it a try.

I went to Ace Hardware and bought some paint and colored tape, came home and gathered a box and other pieces of cardboard, and then went to work. I finished the cutting and painting yesterday and then finished the detail today. She hasn't tried the entire costume on yet, but the head, chest and wing pieces were the critical components and they seem to fit and work just fine.

This after a sporadically sleepless night last night with poor Bryce and her new snotty cold and me worrying about the entire future state of the B-hive, the country and the world.

I awoke groggily to this quote:

"When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened." -- Winston Churchill

Thank you, Mr. Churchill (and the Mama thanks you too -- she's always telling me the same thing). The Buzz Lightyear costume got pulled off. Back to the mindful presence of today.

To tomorrow and beyond, my sweet B-hive. Infinity will have to wait.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

The fear of what we do wrong

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Many of us think our own babies are the smartest babies in the world. But when anything developmentally falls behind with them, we worry that something's gone wrong.

What exactly "wrong" is we can speculate until we overcompensate and convince ourselves nothing's wrong at all, or until we're tossing and turning at night wondering what we did wrong to skew their growth progress.

Beatrice started walking at around 11 months, but she didn't crawl until 17 months. Bryce crawled between 7-8 months and walked at around 11 months. When my mother reminded me that my sister and I walked before we crawled, I didn't feel so out of sorts about Bea not crawling sooner.

Now that Bea has started preschool, which she loves, there's a real deficit that's been called to our attention, one that we already knew was there but now it stands out more amongst her toddler peers and her teachers have pointed it out as well.

She has a speech delay. What specifically that means, a maturation delay or expressive language disorder or whatever, we just don't know yet. Six months ago our pediatrician told us she was fine and already had the right pronunciation skills for her age, but she hasn't progressed much since.

Now, she has normal intelligence and comprehension (if not above normal -- she is the smartest toddler in the world you know), normal hearing, good emotional relationships and normal articulation skills. In fact, even the speech therapist she saw this week concurred on all those points. And when we talk about Bea in front of her about not talking enough, her level of communication kicks up a notch.

However, Bea just doesn't string as many words together into three-word+ sentences as other children do at three years old. Bea still has to have a comprehensive evaluation with the speech therapist next month and will more than likely be going to her for the next few months.

What throws people who meet her for the first time is that she's tall for her age; she's mistaken for upwards of four years old. But when she talks, it's more baby-like than clear and simple phrases others her age speak. We've been told more than once that she most likely regressed when Bryce was born and this speech delay has slowed potty training too. Ack.

When Bea was only a few months old our pediatrician requested we get an ultrasound of her head because it was in the very high percentile of size for her young age. The results showed that her brain ventricles were enlarged but there was no other action taken by the doctors. The traumatic birth her and Mama went through included the vacuum on Bea's head that popped off two times before we got her out the third time (a Caesarean was next), so who knows if that had something to do with it early on, but at this point we may never know if any permanent damage was done.

We've always talked with Beatrice and read her stories and told her stories. She even learned sign language early on and still signs please when we ask her to say please. Yes, she watches TV and plays games, watches videos and reads stories on our, I mean her iPod and iPad, but we're also very active and engaging outside as well, always verbal, always loving.

For me and a past that occasionally haunts, there's always the fear of what we do wrong with our children, when all we ever want is for them is to be all right.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ready to reduce the 3%

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When the purple band snapped, I knew it was my last one. Since then a couple of weeks have gone by and I felt as if my call-to-action powers have dimmed.

Of course I know that a bracelet with the words "Hope, Faith, Courage, and Strength" don't really generate superpowers of any kind beyond awareness.

And it won't protect my girls from harm's way.

However, I read recently about a new book by Steven Pinker called The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.

In tribal societies, hunter-gatherers and hunter-horticulturalists, an average of about 15 percent of people met their ends through violence. In the 20th century, if you try to come up with the highest estimate you can, combining all the wars, all the genocides, all the man-made famines, you get to about 3 percent.

Three percent. That's an amazing decline when you consider the dramatic population growth in the past 100 years.

But in that 3% there is still violence where 3 out of 4 murdered know their murderer and 60% of those raped know their rapists.

As a father of two girls, these stats haunt me. Intimate partner violence is alive and well and it's up to us to generate awareness and prevention programs at work and at home, because domestic violence doesn't discriminate. We do, but it doesn't.

I'll continue to do my part. And now that it's Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I've ordered a new batch of purple superhero bracelets, I'm ready to reduce the 3%.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The night before the rest of my life

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There's always a night before the moment that changes your life.

It was a Friday night, October 10, 1997. I don't remember exactly what I was doing, but I'm sure I was just hanging out in my apartment alone watching a little TV, maybe writing a little as well. My life was only then at the beginning of a major transition that I had barely begun to understand.

Maybe that's why the late summer swell of El NiƱo had warmed the waters of the Pacific, to draw me to the sea below the lighthouse, to be there on that very day at that very moment...

But it was only the night before and I do remember there was an offshore flow warming the air outside on the balcony. One of the most beautiful times of the year in Santa Cruz is the month of October, at least during the years I've lived here, and especially the first one.

I had noticed her for weeks on the beach. Always alone, as was I. She was usually reading, always wearing a baseball cap, and always looking, well, quite lovely in whatever bathing suit she wore on any particular day.

But it was only the night before and I wasn't thinking of her. I was thinking of the wreck my life had become, how I had rammed myself against the rocky shore and then crawled onto the beach fearful, yet smiling.

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Then it was the next day, October 11, 1997, on the beach, when we finally met.

I usually get the words wrong, but our lover lore recounts the fact that the Mama walked up to me and asked:

"So, do you always come here alone?"

And like a fool, I almost didn't answer her; I wanted to be alone actually.

But then, "Yes, I do. And you?"

Six years later we were married, on the same date. Five years after that we started a family.

On the night before the rest of my life, I never imagined how happy I'd B.

Happy Anniversary, Mama. I love you.

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Your lovely children in motion

It's not the same. Not when you're gone for any length of time. And a week away is a long, long time in Daddy-away-from-B-hive time.

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Even when you look goofy while away.

I mean, seeing and talking with my girls and the Mama on Skype or FaceTime video calls is great. I can't even imagine what it would've been like without, only being able to hear them on the phone.

Only on the phone. Like it's the late 19th century and we're writing letters that take weeks to get to one another.

But that's okay, because we live in a world of real-time connectedness and mindful virtuality, and thank goodness for that.

However, there's nothing like mindful reality, the moment you walk in the door and see your lovely children in motion, watching you walk in the door.

Nothing.

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They're not clear mental snapshots you retrieve on demand, or even those real ones from your computer or mobile device of choice.

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No, these begin in periphery, a distant grainy motion, the curvature of smiles that then grow rapidly filling the space around them with light and the room with love.

I can't imagine what it's like for those serving abroad, working abroad, or being forced apart because of war or other global disasters for months at a time, even years, without the comfort of holding their families close with any frequency.

I am thankful for short trips. My fortune abounds.