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Rising Up
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It finally happened. Weeks of waiting; on edge with suspense; practically biting my nails (if I had any to bite); my unwavering gazes towards my daughter expectantly… she crawled.   And I missed it!   Twice!   Perhaps “unwavering” was a little inaccurate, although I did look away for only a moment each time.

I do, however, have eye-witnesses who can attest to each occurrence: 1) my wife and son, 2) my wife and mother.   With each occurrence my wife called for my attention only for me to turn and find my daughter on her belly.

We knew it was coming and had been waiting for some time.   Her flailing arms became more coordinated.   Random swats turned into purposeful grabs.   Rolling over was now intentional and she could sit-up for periods unassisted before falling over.   Then the sitting-up turned into targeted falling on her hands and knees for a shaky moment before collapsing to her tummy.

Then, a few weeks ago, my four-year-old son—eager to teach his baby sister—began demonstrating various ways of crawling and scooting on his hands and knees.   It was as if he threw down the gauntlet.   Our daughter, the sponge, watched awe-struck and soaked in his every movement.   The next two weeks were like watching an infant version of Rocky.   She seemingly dedicated herself to a strict exercise regime:

    Maia on couch

  • Pushups – rolling over was for newborns, this infant would push up her whole body for multiple reps, resting only briefly in-between.
  • Lunges – once her push-ups became like second nature, she would follow-up with pulling her knees under as if to crawl, rock to and fro, and then lunge her whole body forward, reaching for her target.
  • Army crawl – with her lunge and reaching mastered, she worked on technique, pulling and shuffling across the floor in an army crawl.

Leading into this past weekend, her routine consisted of all the above maneuvers.   We were on pins and needles each time she pushed up into a crawl position.   One little hand and knee would shift forward.   And as we’d anticipate the same movement from her other side, she’d collapse taking with her our hopes of a first official crawl.   That is, until Saturday; and then again Monday; when I missed it each time.   Ah, but patience has its virtues.   And the silver-lining to this story is that my accomplished daughter has now demonstrated her skill for daddy this morning.   Thank you Maia!

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Overnight Success
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This past week was encompassed with anticipation—excitement of spending a child-free evening with my wife, and a pinch of anxiety stirred in due to the growing restlessness of our teething daughter.  You see, my wife and I finally decided to schedule our daughter’s first overnight with my mother, her Mémère.  And although our daughter had been sleeping through the evenings, two new front-teeth had cropped up now causing her unrest.  This manifested itself as inconsolable evenings during bedtime, followed by several waking fits through the night.

The first step was keeping my parents in the loop on her behavioral patterns.  The second was ensuring their home was baby-proofed and that they had the necessary essentials (ex:  pack-and-play, baby-monitor, clothes, diapers, and food).  Once we reviewed with them our baby’s feeding schedule and nightly routines, the hardest part came next:  leaving our baby.  Luckily we were mentally prepared and simply kissed our distracted daughter as we said a happy good-bye and left.  The alternative, of course, would be breaking-down with sappy dramatics that would have caused our daughter to feel insecure.

The planned events for our date-night began with a finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.  I’d be lying if I didn’t attribute some of our excitement for the evening towards us seeing the culmination of this franchise to its critically acclaimed ending.  We managed to catch some of the prequels replaying on ABC Family during the week leading up to its theatrical release.  And then we re-watched the Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows Part 1 the evenings before our date.  With our daughter in safe hands, we were ready to enjoy the movie with each other’s company.

My favorite part of the film (and trust me, this isn’t a spoiler):  10-minutes of obnoxious and hostile dialogue from two self-absorbed women in attendance.  One was a juvenile who spouted colorful metaphors and then moved to another seat.  However unjustified, it was after being on the receiving end of hostile remarks for putting her feet upon a seat occupied by the parent of the other woman.  This other woman, being outwardly mature in appearance, then relentlessly pursued the juvenile physically and verbally; refusing to back down until she could convince the intimidated youth to resolve the conflict outside with a fight in the parking lot.  Luckily security intervened and escorted one group out (the juvenile and friend; voluntarily).  In my mind, it should have been the other woman and her parent.  I mean, seriously, who creates such a scene in a movie theatre over a ridiculous altercation like that.  I think we know who the real juvenile was that night.  And although I missed 10-minutes of dialogue, I was still unfazed in my enthusiasm; especially considering that I knew then it was going to be a free movie, as I would accept no less from the theatre’s management.

With the movie behind us, and twenty bucks back in our pocket, we continued our date to the next event—sushi.  The twenty went towards supplementing our dinner with drinks and desert.  We made it home late, enjoyed our quality alone time without children, and then crashed without the worry of awaking to a crying baby.  Instead, we woke to relaxing silence at 7 am, which is a marked improvement to the 5 or 6 am feeding times our daughter sometimes commands.  And although it was refreshing, it was also a little empty—missing our beautiful daughter’s wide grin and emphatic morning babbles.  We had a much-needed night alone, our batteries were recharged, and now we were ready to be back together as a family.  Our daughter’s overnight was a success!

Now this success isn’t measured purely on the ability for my wife and I to enjoy our time alone without children.   Or due to our realization that we miss our child and look forward to her coming home.  True success is measured in how well our daughter fared at my parents.  And it isn’t achieved without careful planning.  We checked-in a couple times between events, and were comfortable with our preparation and that of my parents.  We were relaxed because we knew she was safe, and we knew her success would be on how safe and comfortable she felt.  We were eager the next morning to hear how it went.  And to our relief, she was a perfect angel and went to bed with ease.  There was no late-night restlessness.  She slept through the night and woke happy with cheerful lallations.

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My So Called Over-Complicated Life
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I ran a mile and half today and it felt great. I haven’t run in over a year. In reality, with the exception of a few weeks of poorly training for a Muddy Buddy bike/run event that I did with my best friend a little over a year ago, it’s actually been many years since I’ve hit the pavement. And the funny thing is, that as enjoyable as the run was, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to do it again. Or maybe that’s more of a sad thing. And it’s essentially because I have no time. One of my good friends told me on several occasions that I needlessly complicate my life. He’s right.

I have a few traits that contribute to this phenomenon of self-complicating one’s life. First, I feel like my weekends are longer if I do something on Friday nights, so I generally like to plan something for those evenings. Second, my free time (like most people) primarily exists during the weekends, so my wife and I manage to schedule all the tedious tasks during that timeframe. Thirdly, I know my free time is limited, so I feel like I need to cram in visits from close friends and family in-between my many tasks. Factor in that I’m a father of two who works an average of 50-hours each week, that we just bought a house which needs lots of attention, and that I then try to relieve my wife by tending to our children when I can… and, well, you can see where this is going.

And I simply continue to pile it on. I try to plan date-nights, man-dates, visits to friends and family who have new arrivals. We have several weddings coming up, a baby shower, I want to visit my and my parent’s home towns up north, and my wife and I want to go to her mom’s house in Texas for Christmas. We had wanted to go to Greece in the next year or so, and can’t wait to get back to Paris so we can continue to explore Europe … but realistically, I’m not sure when we’ll ever finally work in those kinds of vacations. I mean, how much of what we have to do (not counting the dream vacations) will actually even happen … probably less than half. We’d be lucky if we get a third accomplished in the next two years, if they could all be spanned out that far. And I’m guessing it’ll be closer to five years before we start considering those dream vacations.

One of my closest cousins lives only an hour and a half away and I’ve not been able to visit him since before his wife was pregnant. They celebrated their daughter’s one year birthday a few months ago. And yet, none of that seems to stop me from wanting to do things like volunteer to help my old condo’s Budget Committee. I invested so much time in the Budget Committee the year before, and we made excellent progress. But it was the first of a series of steps that would need to occur over the course of a few years. And so I feel like I have an obligation to see it through. And yet, realistically, there is no time for it.

It’s almost like this is some form of masochism, except my vehicle for pain is stress; And I really don’t get off on being stressed, but I can’t seem to turn away from it and continue to want to do more; But now this stress is starting to wear me down; Not only me, but my family too. And I’ve got to stop, but I don’t know how … so I write instead … which, of course, is something else I enjoy doing, but have not time for.

But why do these things? I guess that’s the big question. Well, because they make me feel good. Because I feel needed. Because I feel like I’m contributing to some greater good. And maybe even just because I want to, and sometimes it’s just nice to do something I want to do instead of the many things I feel I have to do. This brings a song to mind. The chorus goes “You can’t always get what you want.” That’s right, “You can’t always get what you want…” which is how I feel. But is that really fair? I mean, sometimes some of the things you want end up being something that you need. I know I can’t give any justice to explaining it. But sometimes one just needs to do something to feel whole or feel like they contribute to more than just themselves or their family. I recall a little more to that song, “But if you try some time, you just might find… You get what you need.” And so I’m trying. Trying to run, trying to write, but probably not trying to participate in the Budget Committee. As much as I feel like I need to help them, I gave them a good enough start last year to keep the ball rolling. And in the end I do need to have some checks and balances. Hmmm… could this be a breakthrough. I may actually make it my cousins in the next year. Who knows, maybe I will even make it to Greece in the next year or so. Nah, who am I kidding.

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Fathers for our Brides
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Albin Polasek Museum—currently host to a playful 1950s underwater photography exhibit taken in Florida’s Silver Springs—has a beautiful Sculpture Garden which served as the venue for my sister’s wedding this past Saturday on March 5th. Amidst the vibrant flowers and remarkable sculptures, I took video of a bride’s procession, accompanied by a string duo, to her friend and now husband. And I watched in awe as his unwavering vows to my sister overcame the blaring air siren (testing for tornado warnings?), thunderous low flying jets, and obnoxious boats looking on from the neighboring lake. And what was an otherwise beautiful ceremony, will no doubt be a memorable experience in their prosperous marriage as resounding applauds followed his performance.

This momentous occasion was also marked as the official debut of our new daughter amongst my family at large. As many parents of newborns observe, my wife and I kept our preemie daughter close to home for the first two months of her life. Born five weeks early, her progress was monitored by our Pediatrician who stated our daughter officially caught up developmentally at her two-month visit. And it was at this point that she was cleared for general exposure to large crowds. Not to say that our daughter had any complications or couldn’t leave our home and be around throngs of people, but it was in her best interest to minimize risk since she was more susceptible to contagions as a preemie. And being that my father is one of six children, our gatherings tend to be quite a crowd.

Now my wife Megan is a planner. And even though she carefully timed the feedings, our daughter determined that she would not only be hungry just before the ceremony, but inconsolable for a time after her feeding. So Megan unfortunately distanced herself from the ceremony to prevent a crying baby from interrupting it, unknowing that other events would inevitably perform the same task. At least with my videoing the wedding, she was able to later enjoy watching it; although that’s not always quite the same.

But what was most interesting to me was what I noticed during the reception following the ceremony. Like many wedding receptions, we had our cast of friends and relatives that clumped around tables and loosely mingled with new faces of extended family that they scarcely recognized. There were the unexpected visiting cousins, the dedicated aunt traveling across the country, and the otherwise reclusive family members. And yet, the general theme I noticed about the families of newborns and toddlers was the role of the dedicated fathers for their committed brides. These men (myself included) held their children, chased after them, and attended to their needs much to the relief of their wives. It was clearly the mom’s day off, or at least the best attempt of it that we could muster under the circumstances. I know my own wife sometimes considers my involvement with the kids a blessing since there are many men who shy away from taking part with their children, especially during their early years. But this undoubtedly was a testament, at least of the men in attendance at my sister’s wedding, that we are indeed doing our part and being involved as fathers for our brides.

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Forevermore
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Here it is!  Twenty-Eleven.  MMXI.  Fifteen days into the New Year.  Can it be that I’m finally about to post something again (rhetorical question)?  Typically we writers are told to stay away from asking the reader a bunch of questions.  So, maybe this means a change; a new direction; maybe a new writing style for me . . . are these more questions?  That one sure was.

So what has changed?  What is different?  Hmmm . . .  I’m married now.  I know, I skipped right by that.  I guess it’s to be expected.  My last two posts were on either side of the big day (one in February, the next in May); considerable time between the posts as my writing tapered off and my attentions turned to preparing a future with my new wife.  Although, you may have been able to derive all of this from a few of my tweets.

That future began on a Friday, February 26th.  A cool breeze flowed in from the lake as dusk approached.  Perfect weather:  crisp blue skies with a peppering of thin, faint clouds.  My bride and I stood amidst tall oak trees, hanging moss, and large fallen leaves that failed to resist the Florida cold.  My little boy—almost three—shivered next to me in a black tux and Chuck Taylors.  I exchanged a toy train with him to receive the entrusted ring box with vintage wedding band for my new bride.  It was just past four-thirty—the big hand swept slowly up—as we spoke our written vows with our parents as witnesses.  And at Azalea Park, in front of Greek columns atop a crescent-shaped wall, we said: “I do.”

Forevermore.

Forevermore

February 26, 2010

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