Thursday, December 20, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
This is a picture of my mother and my daughter that was taken over Thanksgiving. Sometimes I think it is the most beautiful thing ever, and sometimes it is hard to look at. My mother has breast cancer. It isn't easy to accept that she has cancer, and this picture makes it impossible to avoid. It doesn't matter that it was caught early, or that the doctors are quite optimistic. It's still my mother and it's still cancer.
And it's still my mother and my daughter in the same photo. And they are looking at each other, and despite disease and distance, they are connecting.
And my mother is still a beautiful women, with or without hair. And Dipity, well I have no words for her, and at the same time I imagine all the best words. It's the same for the picture itself. I want so badly to say that I can't put how I feel into words, and yet I can imagine a million ways to convey the simple yet nuanced and complex wonder and dread that are encompassed in this picture.
My wife and I just watched Snow Cake last night. This is an amazingly wonderful movie, and if you haven't seen it ... well, see it. Sigourney Weaver (another women who is beautiful even when bald) and Alan Rickman have some fantastic scenes. In one they are playing a variant of Scrabble where you can make up words as long as you can make up a comic book scene using the word. Sigourney's character, an autistic woman, comes up with a great one. It is the best word I can come up with right now for this little snapshot. This is a picture of Ma and Dipity, and it is dazlious.
Monday, December 17, 2007
This is almost my 100th blog. It's my 98th, to be precise. I've never been good at postponing celebration, so I'm celebrating 100 now. In honor of 100, and in sympathy for those poor souls that have read some or all of these entries, I will write very little. This blog is supposed to be about Dipity, so I will let my little starlet have today's limelight. And if I change my mind about ceding the spotlight, I have the next two blogs.
Friday, December 14, 2007
There are so many aspects of the stay at home father gig that I don't feel adequately qualified for. I am not Mr. social, thus I don't have a lot, or any, play dates or afternoon teas set up. I have a bad temper. My grumbling and fussing at the idiots on the road, at the mall, and everywhere else probably doesn't set the best example. I lick my fingers, and slurp soup and cereal. I am not now, nor have I ever been, super clean. I'm not nearly as obsessed with germs as my wife. I won't say how often we do the hand washing thing during the day because my wife reads this. And, most worrisome, at least to me, I have never been good at the whole dental care thing.
My dentist, regardless of who or where, always say the same thing: you have great teeth and they would be even greater if you brushed and flossed once in a while. My first cavity was discovered only last year, in the wake of which I brushed and flossed every day for almost four months. That was also a first. Essentially, I have had healthy teeth and have done little to nothing to earn them. My wife is a conscientious tooth brusher, and has had more cavities than I've had clutzy accidents. What if Dipity inherits her mom's teeth and my propensity to remember that I have teeth? Already, she is off to a poor start. Her idea of brushing is to suck on the tooth brush, and the person mainly responsible for encouraging her efforts in dental hygiene is ... me. Her mom brushes with her every night, but the rest of the day is left to ... me. Can kids lose their first set of teeth to tooth decay? Can they lose their permanent teeth before they come in? Is she doomed even before her first trip to the dentist. Is dental hygiene at the whim of nurture or nature? Is there some idiot other than myself I can blame for this. Will Dipity still be cute with yellow plaque covered teeth? Will she still be able to get into a good medical school? Can I avoid this problem if she receives all of her food intravenously?
Maybe it's not too late for me to brush and floss regularly. Maybe, if there was less food in between my teeth I would be less irritable. Maybe a healthier smile would inspire me to give all the kitchen appliances a mirror like finish. And, I would eat like a prince for fear of staining my teeeth. Maybe every cloud truly does have a silver lining ... or a silver cap?
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Death and the Modern Age
A thousand years ago things were different. Hows that for an earth shattering revelation? It's true though. Maybe that's the level of abstraction necessary if one wants to speak the truth. I think I can be slightly more focused and still remain truthful, though. A thousand years ago, death was experienced differently by the living then it is now. It is a risky assertion, but I feel pretty confident in it.
Seriously, though. Before TV, cameras, and the etch a sketch changed our lives forever, if someone died and we cared, generally it was someone we had met, touched, sneezed on, and maybe even kissed goodbye. Certainly, if we had seen them before they died we had met them. I mean, there may have been a cave drawing or a painting, but cave drawings are pretty imprecise and usually the only people art aficionados knew who were in paintings were the dead or the resurrected. Now, we mourn people we shared the world with but never met, and we have pictures to include in our shrines.
I find fame and the famous a strange aspect of our society to wrap my mind around. The idea that people can pass through life, touch us, and never come within 300 miles of us is a strange one. You can almost fall in love with someone without them ever being aware of it. I think I have fallen for Madeline Khan. It's really been a long process, but I only became aware of it a few days ago. I was watching Sesame Street clips on You Tube with Dipity, when I came across Grover and Madeline Khan singing "sing what I sing, sing after me." She is funny, sarcastic, and has a great voice. And she is so cute. I love the blue fur too ... h wait, that's Grover. Anyway, seriously she seems like such a cool person. If she were alive there would be room for day dream encounters (just a hello and lunch ... after all Dipity has a pretty hot mom). Unfortunately, she died over eight years ago. So, it ain't happening. If she wasn't an actress, I never would have thought twice about her. But now ... and it's not just actresses. With You Tube and blogs and all this other nonsense, even ordinary people can be obsessed about at a distance. It's a strange world I've chosen to bring kids into. A thousand years ago might have been better. Hell, fifty years ago might have been better. But how would I know, I only have television and etch a sketched memories to work from.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
If it wasn't already clear, now it's crystal clear. I am a dad. I may not yet have become my dad, or at least not realized it yet, but I know that I am a dad. I know that I'm a dad because I appear in one out of every three million photos. Ever since my wife and I went to a single family camera, I have been the default camera person. Until 18 months ago, though, I made it into pictures. My wife would insist that I be in a picture or two on every trip, party, or event. Now, there is only one face everyone insists on seeing, and it ain't mine. It ain't my wife either, but she manages to get some face time. I'm lucky if I get finger time (see above for a lucky moment). My dad was never in a picture. Even now, with all the money and time he has recently put into photography, nothing has changed. He only seems to appear in the self portraits he uses to test light and depth and whatever else it is photographers might try to test. I suppose I do make the occasional appearance in cell phone self-portraits, but most of those aren't solo gigs. No, my moments in the center of the canvas are over. And that's fine. Dipity definitely has a cuter look. I'd want a picture of her rather than one of me. In fact, that's part of the problem. But, who else would I want to take pictures of? I am a dad after all.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Every morning Dipity brushes her teeth. Dipity is very excited by the prospect of brushing her teeth. All I have to do is ask whether she wants to brush her teeth," and then sprint off towards the bathroom. Well, actually it's not all I have to do. As soon as we reach the bathroom, she says "dada," and points at my toothbrush. So, once she is doing her toothbrush as lollipop thing, I commence brushing my teeth, as directed. I brush my teeth more thoroughly then at any other time of the day ... or moment in my life. I could be featured on a dental health video. She is lollipop girl. The toothbrush never moves once it enters her mouth. When I transition to spit and rinse, she is done too. She isn't always done with the brush, but as soon as I ask her to put it away with mommy and daddy's, she puts it away. She is a fiend for order.
It was at the end of this ritual when, last week, I felt my manhood threatened. Dipity pointed out everyone's toothbrush, as she always does. It was as she pointed to mama's toothbrush that I realized, for the very first time, that I don't have the biggest toothbrush. My toothbrush is shorter and thinner than my wife's. At that moment it felt like the truth of my position in life was fully exposed. When I'm raking, or painting, or staining trim I can overlook all the baking and cleaning I do. As I struggle to establish myself as a writer, and when I channel my inner feminist, I can feel like just another worker and a valuable contributor to the household. Standing in front of those toothbrushes, though, I felt smaller than small. I was no father bear. I shared a bed, I don't eat porridge, and I often sit on the floor. Hell, father bear probably didn't even brush his teeth. And then I thought of an old Chris Rock routine, and I realized I didn't even deserve the big piece of chicken. I should be giving my wife the big piece of chicken! Eventually the storm passed, and my inner Gloria Steinem took back over. I know what I do is important, and I enjoy it. I am proud to be a homemaker, child raiser, and all purpose support staff member. But, I also know that doubt is only a toothbrush away.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Dipity has shown great enthusiasm for most things Christmas. Christmas trees are a clear favorite, especially if combined with a festive beah. Dipity just learned to say beah, and subsequently has fallen in love. If there was a Christmas tree in the Three Beahs book, I don't think we'd ever be able to pry it away from her. Christmas lights are very cool too, whether they are on a tree or not. The same goes for Christmas bulbs, which to Dipity are just very colorful balls. This is why all of the colorful balls on our tree can be found between five and seven feet off of the ground. And snow, well that is beyond cool. Santa is even cool, from a distance or in a book. We haven't tested him up close yet, but I can't imagine it will go well. Clean shaven kids make her nervous.
I know that inflatables don't go over well, a fact which makes me a very proud father. Maybe I'm just old fashioned. Maybe I'm an elitist. Whatever the reason, I find inflatable snow globes and Tiggers' emerging from chimneys to be the absolute apogee of bad taste. Dipity agrees. Today when we were killing some time in Sears, we happened upon a half dozen of these monstrosities. I thought she'd enjoy them. I had just had to pry her away from a forty foot tree and a ten foot beah. I caught sight of the inflatable snowman, snow globe, and Santa's workshop before she did. I asked her if she wanted to see a big snowman. She said yes with great enthusiasm, so I pointed her in the right direction. When she came within eye sight of the bigger than life Christmas icons she paused, and then looked back at me and said "uhhhhppp." I lifted her uhhhhppp, and she buried her head in my shoulder. She didn't look up until we were safely into tool world.
Now, some may say that she was just scared. I saw an eerie similarity between her refusal to look upon nylon Rudolph, and her rejection of every vegetable other than corn. I'm not a big fan of her rejection of peas and carrots, but this almost makes up for it. The only thing better (or worse) than big air filled nylon snowmen and chimneys would be big air filled nylon vegetables. Who knows, there may be inflatable Veggie Tales characters. That would scare me.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
"Uhhhpp." Dipity has just lodged a request to be lifted uhhhpp into my lap. I, of course, obliged. She is reading Curious George. I am blogging. For this moment we are both happy. "Splash." George fell in the lake. "Da Da Da," says Dipity. "Da Da Da," I respond. "Don't bend the book back the wrong way." It's a funny thing to say to an 18 month old, who probably didn't know there was a wrong way to read a book and if she did would probably want to do it that way. "Husssh." George is asleep. I realize the inappropriateness of my comment, so I tickle her. This is a really silly thing to do, since she was sitting quietly on my lap. Now she is sprawled awkwardly with her head weighing down my arm, her feet kicking me in the armpit, and her book making way too many appearances on the keyboard. Oops, now the hands are exploring the keyboard. I'm apologizing now for any odd spacing, pun (oops there went the monitor) ctuation, or spelling. Now I have a fight on my hands, because someone thinks it is fun to turn the monitor off. Well, the trusty old spin in the chair hasn't worked, so I'll try putting her on the ground. Now she's out of my way, but she is fussing. Oh, she actually wants me to lift her up to the old printers drawer I have hanging on the office wall and filled with all kinds of fun little trinkets, trinkets which she likes me to take out one at a time and show her. I'm not obliging her right this minute, so she's being a little grumpy. Oh, it's calmed down. Ohhhhh, she's gritting her teeth and turning red. And, if you haven't guessed what she's doing, I'll add that she is grabbing her crotch and saying "poop." Oh, here comes the smell. She still seemed to be expending effort, so I just asked her if it was a tough poop. She pointed to the brick on my bookshelf. Well, now she is back on the desk, still grabbing her crotch and saying "poop." And, I got a hug. That seems like the perfect note to end this on. She has her arm around my shoulder and is pulling highlighters in and out of the metal cup they live in and sampling them. I am happy to have been able to so faithfully illustrate the context within which I write these little blogs. Maybe now you will forgive me my little typos. Just imagine what this would be like if there was no spell-check. Oh, out went the monitor. I think I'm being sent a message. So, bye bye.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Living with a toddler is like living with a covert operative. Secret agent Dipity isn't quite James Bond. She is equally effective. She also has a way with the ladies, and likes her juice shaken not stirred (she does that herself). Agent Dipity, however, has no ideological or monetary objectives. She doesn't appear very systematic at all, but that could be my adult bias. And truth be told, agent Dipity really isn't an agent. She is a boss, a leader, an institution. She has her own web of underlings.
Her underlings aren't all willing accomplices. This underling is particularly unwilling, for all the good it does me. Dipity is really quite cunning. She certainly screams and cries, but she has a hundred other ways of wearing me out. Hide and seek is a particularly effective tool. All she has to do is laugh and giggle and totter after me, and I run full speed into the other room and duck under a table or fly behind a door. With only a laugh or even a smile, she has me singing, dancing, and exaggerating every motion. After a few hours, I begin to tire. I don't have time to nap. There is simply too much to do, and I am too inefficient when I do it. So I push myself too far, and wreak almost as much havoc as my puppet master.
Last night, for example, I was moving full steam ahead decorating the house for Christmas. I had baked almost 300 biscotti, played, cleaned, played, made dinner for friends, played, gone out on the family Christmas tree search, played, and set up the Christmas tree with my wife. Some tree branches had been cut off in the process, and I was busy cutting them to fit in all kinds of nooks and crannies around the house. At first I didn't notice that I had chosen to place my pile of pine branches on the vacuum cord. I only noticed it when I cut a branch and sparks flew everywhere. I screamed in frustration, which scared my wife as she was upstairs where all the lights had gone off. Dipity was upstairs too ... smiling at a job well done by her unwitting and unwilling henchman.