It has been so long since I have written to you! I must record a few things here that I fear we will forget:
(1) You have some things right now that make you unreasonably excited. When you are this excited, you’ll sit on the ground, stare at the object of your affection, stick your arms and legs straight out, tiny hands balled into fists, and go “AAAAAAAAH.” You’ll do this until you get to hold the thing, or until it is taken out of your sight. These things include:
River rocks in the bed outside the front door
My iPod shuffle
My brown leather shoes
You love to select a rock and hold on to it in your little adorable hand for as long as possible. We’ve found rocks in corners, in the bed, in your carseat. Your mom came up to you and said “where’s your rock?” and you immediately plunged your hand underneath where you were sitting in your carseat and held your rock aloft, so proud. It is stunning what you can understand!
Bananas, I don’t know if it is their shape, or color, or you like their flavor, but you have a hard time concentrating on the food at hand in your highchair if you can see that bunch of bananas from where you are sitting. “Dah? Dah. Dah!” You like to say as you point.
And that’s another thing, I forgot to write down that you used to love to point at everything. You’ve kind of phased that out at this point, but you just LOVED to point. Point at this, point at that. My favorite is when you’d wake up from a carseat nap and just immediately point at something the moment your eyes opened. So funny. Your mom says you’d point first, and then figure out what you were pointing at second.
Back to that list: you’ll crawl over to my work bag, and push your hand up under the flap, trying to pull out my iPod. You have a hard time unclipping it, so I’ll hand it to you and you hold it with both hands, like a tiny aluminum sandwich, and repeatedly click the play button. Click, click, click. When you tire of this, you crawl along the floor, iPod in one hand, your sides alternating slap of a hand, hsshh of the metal sliding along the floor. Slap, hsshh, slap, hsshh until I take it away so you don’t scratch the floor and the electronics simultaneously.
Nobody can figure out why you love my shoes. You get overwhelmed when I hand one to you heal first and just yell excitedly, but if you get to see the toe box, you reverently scratch your nails into the soft leather. I think you like the sound? I’m not sure.
Those are the things you love with all your might right now.
(2) Your mom just completed six months of planning, sewing, reserving, inviting, baking and brainstorming to throw you a brilliant first birthday party. There were family and friends and ice cream sundaes and a face painter and little slips for everyone to write predictions of your future on. We’ll open those on your 2nd, 10th, and 18th birthdays, though we have to face it, we’ll probably lose our resolve before then and read them. They’ll be new to you though, I hope. Your mom did all this on her own, working literally day and night, and I’m excited to put up a few of the photos from the party. It was so much fun to make a big fuss about your first birthday. You are so sweet.
(3) You know what no means, but you also think it means we’re playing a game. So, we say no when you are, for example, trying to stand up in a corner that isn’t safe and you smile and see how much you can keep doing. It is extremely hard to say a stern no to you without smiling, but when my dad façade cracks and I crack a smile, I make sure to show you what I mean by picking you up, or guiding your hand, or trying to help you understand. I hope it helps.
(4) Mykala hosted another event for you this past Friday, your actual birthday, and Barb (Nannie), Larry, (Grandpa), Michael (Boppy), Robin (Gami), and aunties Katy and Kourtni were all there to have dinner on the actual day of your birth! Your mom made you your own cake out of foods we know are safe for you. No butter, no added sugar, no dairy. Most kids plunge their hands into these tiny cakes made just for them, and we were prepared for the possibility, with just you in your diaper on a colorful waterproof tablecloth out on the front lawn of our townhome. There you were, up on your dais, about to destroy this delicious cake! But, no. You just delicately removed each sliced banana from the coconut cream on the top, and ate them, one at a time. Then, you were done. I felt so proud of you because I think, somehow, you recognized your mom’s hard work and were loathe to destroy something for no reason.
This picture was taken at Hen House Eatery a few blocks from where I work in downtown Minneapolis. This is where we ate breakfast after our first night ever sleeping without Essie. Mykala booked a comfy room at the Marriott Renaissance at the Milwaukee Road Depot and the night before, we marveled at how little we had to pack while we slowly walked the Stone Arch Bridge. Since there were no tiny voices in the night and we didn’t need to worry about our little Ess, we both expected to sleep straight through and longer than normal, but both our brains were on overdrive thinking and wondering about our baby daughter, and we slept in fits and starts. But, it was nice to watch cable TV, take a good shower, and then pick up Ess. Plus, a little time alone was really good for our relationship, and marked a turning point where we were finally able to overcome the crazy schedule and lack of sleep and look one another in the eyes again and say nice things. I love my wife, and a mini vacation (I think Mykala called it a staycation.)
I’ve been taught to avoid excuses, first by my parents and then later in the wisdom of those I read. It was the latter that taught me an excuse for many things should never be offered when this a better explanation: “I didn’t care enough to produce the outcome you were looking for.” This is especially true when one is late. For years, if I was late, I would compose the reason in my head, what the extenuating circumstances were, why this was unusual, how I would correct it in the future. Then, with embarrassment, I realized these thoughtfully-composed reasons skirted reality: they were simply another way to say I hadn’t cared enough to be on time. So, while I have many interesting reasons (excuses) why I haven’t written here lately, it is quite simply because I haven’t cared enough to do it. But, I can’t let my birthday weekend come and go without listing the details of it. And also, I should write here more frequently.
Summers, we get out of the office early on Fridays, and this past May 22nd was both my 30th birthday and the first time for the season we would get out at 3pm. This was the weather:
Perfect, right? So I came home to this smörgåsboard of Mykala’s making: delicious sandwiches, noodle salad, desserts both procured and made, and Essie ready to come on an adventure. Before we left, I opened my first present: Mykala got me a t-shirt from my favorite show, the Accidental Tech Podcast. It fit perfectly, and it is exactly the one I would’ve purchased. So we packed it all up, blanket, food, baby, ourselves, and drove over to Minnehaha Falls park. We sat on the blanket in the PERFECT weather, watched Essie play, ate our food, listened to the live music, and people-watched as families and students, retirees and strivers passed by and began to queue up around the Sea Salt Eatery building, getting beer from the Surly Truck and kicking around in the early evening. I opened simply lovely cards from Mykala and from Ess, ones I will most certainly keep in my card file.
Here I am unwrapping one of Mykala’s AMAZING sandwich creations:
And here we are, the three of us:
You don’t get a lot of perfect moments. I tend to spoil a lot of my potential ones: mine are predicated on the ultra-rare combination of the at-peace internal (my mind feeling at rest, aka nothing at all has gone poorly recently and I’m not worrying about something) and of the well-coordinated external (a fun activity, wonderful company, great weather). This was a perfect HOUR. How lucky I am. Yet, that was only the beginning of my birthday!
So Mykala goes, we should meet my parents they have your OTHER gift. And I’m thinking other gift? I never even managed to request one thing for my birthday, so a second gift in the offering is pretty shocking. We pull up to the Rosedale Mall parking lot and find Mykala’s parents, and it turns out they went in on a ScanSnap ix500 with Mykala and I’ll be gosh-darned if my head didn’t just about explode! Such a huge surprise! I only suspected when I saw Robin carrying the box towards our car. We have since did the math and it has been just about four years that I’ve been talking about this thing. It is a document scanner that is optimized to do one thing really well: take your documents that you’ve been storing in hanging files, take your receipts, your business cards, your miscellaneous user manuals labelled “save”, your mortgage settlement documents, your magazine clippings and turn them into searchable digital data. Fast. Really really REALLYFAST. If you count both sides, 50 pages per minute. I’ve scanned 1200 pages so far and am just getting started. Our next house move will feature absolutely no hernia-inducing boxes of papers.
So it took me 90 more minutes that usual to wrap up at work yesterday; had some quite-difficult CEREC crowns to do. I’m a perfectionist with the scans, and after powdering the teeth, I just didn’t have the contrast I wanted. So we cleaned them, used the diode laser again, and finally got a nice powder and picture. We battled for good isolation, finally got things to a place where I could bond in the absence of contamination. What a relief to see a good result after so much hard work. Our patient was a champion.
Feeling sad I had left Mykala at home twelve hours prior, I hurried home as best I could. So I step in the door from the garage and I the smell of freshly warmed tortillas and filling greets me; I follow the sound of the Spanish music, where I am greeted by Mykala and Essie: “Happy Cinco de Mayo!” cheers Mykala. Essie hopped up and down in her circle desk and I just about wept at how wonderful it was. I told Mykala I felt like Jimmy Stewart in “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
Mykala and I are still adjusting to being parents; it isn’t that you simply do not have time to build your relationship with your spouse when you have a small child, it is that you have to fight for that time and fight for the energy to resolve conflict and, sometimes, you don’t have that fight in you. Things slide and it is difficult to keep the communication lines open. Conversations transition from non-violent into violent communication where you say things like “you always __” or “you never __” or “why don’t you ever __.” So, we’re working on that. When we both acknowledge we have had tough days that could have gone better, when we both are tired, but when we can still meet at the end of the day and enjoy one another’s company… that is a gift.
Inexplicably, Essie fell asleep when I was driving her back from Nannie and Grandpa’s house today. It was bright out, only 7pm, but when I opened the back door of the car, she was totally asleep. I gently picked up her car seat and she kept sleeping in it; so I left her in the bathroom with the fan running. That was 90 minutes ago. There has been time to congratulate Kourtni on her wedding day (today, she and Arlene eloped!), feed the cat, try on my wedding celebration clothes (New Orleans, in a few days!), make dinner, eat dinner, do laundry, and browse the internet. What a strange feeling, sharing this twilight time between just the two of us, Mykala and I.
As I type this, the eastern sky is reflecting the pink rays of the setting sun as the last of the day fades into the deepening blue of twilight. The birds are chirping gently in the trees and there is no wind and no bugs. Let me impress upon you the splendidness of a warm Minnesota night with neither wind nor bugs. It is a rare gift, like a four-leaf clover, and our windows are open letting in all the gentle wafts of cool air.
Moments like this make me so happy, and I love having a space to write about them because they are so profoundly precious. And so, I entrust this memory to my mind and to this space, hoping to visit it again in the future.
Essie learned to clap today. We clap clap at her and she clap claps in return. We painted the front door “brick red” and completed the installation of a new flat black lockset (this set, unlike the old brass one it replaces, actually works to do things like pull the latch clear of the faceplate so we can, you know, open the door), at which point we broke into applause. Essie joined us!
Then she was sitting on her mom’s lap on the couch and her mom pretended to be a horsey, bouncing Ess up and down to riotous giggles. Ess isn’t a giggly kid, so when we find something that makes her laugh it’s like a burst of warm sunlight in the room. Tears in my eyes, listening to our daughter laugh. I am a lucky man and today I am thankful for my life, such as it is.
It has been a while since I wrote about you, Essie. I can’t believe how fast you are growing. For example, you did this adorable thing for a little while where you used your index finger to make a bub-bub-bub sound. We almost recorded it on your mom’s phone, but just like that, you stopped. You were on to bigger and better sounds. You can sit wonderfully now: we can plop you down and let you play while we get ready or do a small chore. You love to point at things. You mimic us! About a week ago, a brappy motorcycle drove by when you were in the car and a moment later we heard you mimicking its sound. Since then, we make raspberry sounds at you, and a lot of the time, you make them back. You are da-da-da-ing and we’re practicing your ma-ma-ma-ing.
You are eating pureed foods! Apples, avocado, broccoli and carrots.
You are not the typical sleeper: you love to get up every few hours and check in with your mom. I think we’re close to cracking the Essie code, how to convince you that sleeping is cool and fun to do for a long, contiguous stretch of time.