An Open Letter To My Darling Daughter On Her First Birthday

Wow, I can’t believe you’re one today. Depending on the day, it either seems like the time has flown by or like you’re been part of our lives for far more than 365 days. Truthfully, you were part of us for the nine months before that, of course, but as much as I would look at the black and white ultrasound photo that still sits on a shelf directly across from where I sit every day, I could not have imagined what you’d really be like. I could see your nose, but that’s about it. I had no idea you’d have such bright, blue, sparkly eyes or that your cheeks would be so popular that strangers would come out of nowhere and say they wanted to eat them. Don’t worry, I didn’t let them. A few copped a quick cheek feel, but I kept an eye on them.

No, I really could not have known what being your dad would be like, how amazing it would be, how impressive you are and how completely my happiness has been connected to yours. I doubt you will remember this down the line, but when you have a bad day, so do I. When you’re popping out teeth and just not feeling well, I can’t help but feel out of sorts myself (and not just because those are the days where you seem dead set on clearing everything off of every shelf and table in the condo). I could not have known how warm my heart would get when you look at me and said “dada” or when you finally started laughing. I can’t really explain how mad I get when people cut us off in the car or when those strangers try to touch you. Mom calls it my “daddy bear” coming out and that just about explains it perfectly. How dare they, don’t they know I’m carrying precious cargo?

Something that most parents say to their kids is that they just want their kids to be safe and happy. Oftentimes, parents will go overboard on the former and wind up inhibiting the latter. I know I’ve probably done this already and will most likely do it as you grow up, but I want you to know that it all comes from a place of love and caring. I do my best to let you run around and do your own thing and hope you know I’ll always be there to scoop you up when you fall down (both literally and figuratively).

Looking back, it’s been a heckuva year. Remember when I used to carry you through the whole grocery store because you were too small for the cart and I didn’t want to use those gross ones with built in baby seats? Or how about when you were so little, we’d have to wrap you up in a blanket so you wouldn’t bonk yourself in the face and wake up? Or how your tiny hands and inquisitive nature have lead to an early exploration of the guitar? No, you probably won’t, but that’s okay. I’ve taken plenty of pictures and done a fair amount of writing her on the blog and over on my photo diary about your exploits, so we’ll hopefully be able to strolls together down memory lane.

You won’t understand this — or maybe any of this — until you have kids of your own, but I want you to know how proud I am of you and how much I love you. It’s such a complete and honest and true feeling that comes from deep inside. Like just about everything else about being a parent, it’s hard to explain, but instantly recognizable when you feel it. I hope my own issues and problems don’t seep down to do you too much and I apologize for my bad days, but want you to know without a shadow of a doubt that I love and support you and want you to have everything the world has to offer. Happy birthday chickadee.

Drawing Inspiration From A Ten Month Old

I spend a lot of time watching Lucy and a lot of that time is spent in our living room. Like most living rooms, we have a coffee table–higher than most and fairly large, but stable–right in front of the couch. This is where I do most of my work during the day and really spend most of my day when not crawling around on the floor with her. This table has been one of Lu’s main cruising locales ever sense she could pull herself up.

She now zips around the table with relative ease, but every now and then she comes across a discarded blanket or sweatshirt that gets in her way. What really impresses me about this kid is how resilient she is. Some kids would hit these roadblocks and go play with another toy or just sit and cry. But Lu’s no quitter. She’ll shove, crawl and force her way to whatever she’s trying to get it no matter what. Sure, she gets frustrated and cries sometimes, but only after trying really hard to surpass her obstacle.

It’s pretty inspiring, actually. It’s like she doens’t know or understand the concept of “can’t.” To her mind, she can do anything, she just needs to figure out the best way to do it. I hope to become more like that as I continue to grow up, at the same time, I hope it’s the kind of thing she doesn’t grow out of. Stay strongheaded, Lu, just don’t remind me of this post when you’re 16 and trying to convince me to borrow the car.

Single Handedly Taking Care Of A Baby, Or: How To Take Care Of A Kid After You Stupidly Cut Your Thumb

You get the joke in the title right? I added the secondary title to make sure people understand that I’m not the only person taking care of my daughter, but that I am quite literally doing it with one hand after injuring myself. Now that I’ve explained away every last drop of humor, I’ll explain myself a little better.

Last weekend I planned on making perogies (delicious Polish potato dumplings) but after making the dough on Saturday night I lost my steam. To make it up to my wife who was looking forward to the delish dish, I decided to get the filling together during the day and then serve them when she got home (you’ve got to basically make mashed potatoes then put that in little dough cutouts, boil them and then cook them in butter). It’s a long and labor-intensive process, but the results are usually pretty tasty.

So, the other day I was working on mashing the potatoes. I had already peeled them and they were boiling away in water pre-mashing. I was shredding cheese for the filling and wanted to see how much I had so I went to grab the tiny kitchen scale on the counter. Turns out, one of the legs was stuck under the knife block, so when I pulled on the scale the block tipped over. I’m not sure exactly what happened next, but I tried uprighting the block, my hand slipped and I felt my right thumb hit something. I looked down and blood was starting to come out of my newly sliced thumbnail.

I really don’t want to get too graphic because I myself  am quite squeamish. I actually used to pass out at the sight of my own blood, but haven’t had that problem lately, thank goodness. Oh, did I mention that Lucy was playing right outside the kitchen when this went down? I tried keeping my calm, but I had to quickly grab and wet some paper towels to stop the bleeding. She started crying pretty soon after I cut myself–or maybe even before, she tends to cry and want attention when I’m cooking–and wouldn’t stop. So, it would not be an understatement to say that this was a fairly intense situation.

Trying to keep myself calm (my head felt light and my stomach twisty, but I held on okay) while also trying to patch myself up and verbally soothe the baby was no small task. I called my mom because she’s a nurse and I wanted to make sure it was okay to put gauze on the wound and then wrap it up with medical tape. I have this gut-wrenching fear of the sticky parts of bandaids or tape actually getting stuck on cuts as well as further pain from absentmindedly bumping cuts. Mom suggested putting some Neosporin on there which I did.

At some point, I grabbed Lu and put her on the bad while I wrapped the finger and talked to my mom on speaker. I wound up being okay, though I did smash the thumb into a table that night trying to cut a piece of salami for a snack, not a good feeling. I even went on to finish a batch of perogies for that night’s dinner. I’ve been airing it out occasionally, but mostly keep the cut wrapped up in a simple bandaid. I bump it every now and then which smarts (the nail is cut, but still all attached), but I get really nervous every time I got to pick Lu up. I know she wouldn’t do it on purpose, but she kicks her legs like crazy and I’d rather not have that sting of pain surge up my arm into my brain if I can avoid it.

It’s been a bit of a challenge and I’ve had to get out of that paranoid-about-pain part of my brain to take care of her day, but I think I’m doing pretty good. If ever there was an obvious, slap-me-in-the-face example of how being a dad can change you and how you think about yourself, I guess this is it. So worried about getting hurt am I that I was literally shaking when my wife wanted to look at the cut the other night. It’s a deep, possibly inborn part of myself that I’m doing my best to ignore/evolve while taking care of Lucy. At the end of the day I will try to avoid my injury getting hurt, but I won’t let that worry get in the way of feeding, dressing or taking care of my baby. I guess that’s a sign of maturity, though I’d rather have learned this one without bloodshed, I think.

Back In Action

I was really, really looking forward to last week’s vacation (see pics over on The Monkee Diaries). Between work and watching Lucy, I was feeling pretty run down and a whole week spent with my wife and her parents seemed like the perfect break. I’ve mentioned this occasionally, but I think what has surprised me most about watching Lucy on my own is how exhausting it can be. Even on her best days, the basic act of vigilantly watching a child who can’t do anything for herself takes its toll. Add some creative writing/journalism on top of that and it makes for one tired poppa.

All those extra pairs of eyes to watch and arms to hold were great. I didn’t even have to change the majority of the diapers which was a nice change of pace. But, as they say, that was then. Today was now and boy was it a doozey. I think after not only having so many people to see and interact with–including various family members that came along to see her–not to mention the amazing scenery to check out, Lucy is now bored with our modest condo.

I’m really hoping this is just a phase or possibly a step towards learning to sit up or crawl, but she just seemed bored or nervous all day. She didn’t want to stand, so I stood her up. She’d smile for a bit, but like a light switch flip, she’d start crying. Most of the day, she didn’t want to sit, so I walked around with her which worked a little. Heck, she didn’t even seem that hungry and trust me, I tried giving her a bottle to soothe her as much as possible.

Our friend Adrienne had her first child before ours and she gave us the most profound and accurate pearl of wisdom: just when you feel like you’ve got everything figured out and are a great parent, the kid goes and screws it up. Obviously, she meant it as a joke, but there’s a definite slab of truth in the statement. Before heading off on vacation I was tired, but I felt like I had a pretty good handle on Lucy and her habits. A week later I feel like I’m back at square one. I know part of it is just readjusting to being home along with each other, but she’s also getting stronger and probably more used to this place and wants to see more of the world. I’m going to have to get a little more creative with how we spend our days!

The Best Laid Plans (Or…Why Can’t I Get To The Farmer’s Market?)

For the second week in a row, I’ve had aspirations of heading to nearby Cornwall for their weekly Farmer’s Market. I found out about it last year and became a big fan because of the huge variety, nice people and low prices. Plus, shopping and eating local is a good thing, I hear. My only complaint is that it doesn’t go later in the day, ending at 5:30PM, because it would be nice to head over with my wife.

While driving through Cornwall recently, I saw a sign for the market and was excited to head over. Hasn’t happened yet. Heck, I just went to the grocery store for the first time with Lucy last week. Trips like these worry me because I still haven’t figured out a good way to carry Lucy in a wrap or other kind of baby-carrying device that’s not a car seat (those things are cumbersome). My wife wraps the Moby around herself like a ninja doing origami and the baby’s perfectly happy. I try something like that and not only am I worried I didn’t wrap it right, but also that she’ll have a poo-splosion and we’ll both be covered. Really, I just need to keep going on outings with Lucy and that will make it easier all around. Eventually my fears will fade away or at least lessen.

As I mentioned last week, Lucy had a rough day on Wednesday. Today was kind of rough, but for different reasons. Some work things came up that I had neglected making me feel like a rank amateur and stressing me out for the rest of the day. Add in to that the fact that Lucy seemed to be spitting up and pooping a lot and it was an odd day. She also ate more than normal and wasn’t sleeping for more than 10 or 15 minutes per nap. Maybe it’s a growth spurt, I don’t know. The point is that, given the day we’d been having, I was even more worried about taking her out to the farmer’s market (and then the grocery store).

So, thanks to a cocktail of work, worry and the general wariness that comes from watching a three month old all day on your own, I didn’t wind up running any of my errands. I feel like a bit of a failure (how did 50s housewives do it all?!) but I’m still getting used to this whole work-from-home dad thing.