Archive for November, 2010

Thanksgiving at home

November 26, 2010

Andrew Hicks

When my wife’s sister got married in April of ’08, Tiffany and I were told the wedding would start at 11 am. Neither of us was actually in the wedding, and we didn’t have babies back then. All Tiffany and I had to do was to drive the 100+ miles and, somewhere along the way, buy some kind of card or present. I think Tiffany also needed a new shirt, and I needed a belt. We left home late, did some stress-speeding down the highway, and did our best to zoom through Gordman’s or wherever.

We arrived at the wedding at like 11:35, already self-conscious before we had to change our clothes in the parking lot. A few other people were trickling into the church, none of them apparently as worried about being more than a half-hour late. We filled out the card and walked into the building sheepishly, and we soon learned the wedding was actually going to start at noon. Tiffany’s sister and parents had told us the wrong time on purpose so we’d do that last-minute Procrastination Shuffle straight into actually somehow being early. It was a shrewd little trick that, in the end, worked out in everyone’s favor. For once, Tiffany and I didn’t have to be Photoshopped into the family pictures after the fact.

This Thanksgiving reminded me a lot of the morning of Tiffany’s sister’s wedding. We weren’t up and moving in time, and we had twice as many bodies to get dressed and pack for. It was a no-win scenario that had our scheduled departure time arriving and vanishing with us still nowhere near ready to go. And we were still looking ahead at the process of wrestling everyone into the car and driving almost two hours while the rest of the family waited for us to arrive so they could finally eat. The mood in our house was one of terse, annoyed futility and led to a few rare moments of marital discord. That idealized list of things I was thankful for got shoved way onto the back burner, obscured by a raging grease fire.

Somewhere between us being half-packed and all the way pissed, Tiffany somehow earned us a reprieve. It was decided that the family dinner in the next state over would proceed without us, and we would come into town on Saturday so everyone could still see everyone. Suddenly, our holiday seemed like a holiday again. We got Sarah and Silas both down for naps, we cleaned the kitchen and started some Crock Pot barbecue, and we had some relaxing moments of togetherness with the Wii. It was uneventful and imminently memorable all at once.

So now it’s past sundown on Black Friday*, and I still have yet to take a bite of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, et al. Today, though, is shaping up to be like yesterday. I got up, made breakfast for me and Sarah, fed and held Silas, took an epic nap, took my little girl outside, cleaned up some, wrote some emails, wrote this blog and still have many good domestic hours ahead of me. In a year when I am more grateful than ever for my family and friends and have assumed the duties of being home instead of at work all the time, this housebound Thanksgiving break seems more than appropriate. And the grandparents still get their hug time and photo shoots tomorrow, and Tiffany and I will get some baby-free time to meet up with friends. Win, win, win.

Getting married and having kids has given me more to enjoy and be proud of in life, but it seems like my actual appreciation level for the large and small things has climbed over the past year. I also, as of today, have gone longer without having a drink than any time since 1997. I don’t think quitting drinking is something I could or would have done on my own. My mom would refer to it as a God thing, and I think she’s right. Even more to be thankful for.

*I was up with Silas from 3:15 to 5:30 this morning, and I managed to convince a couple of Facebook rubes** that I’d been camped out in front of Dollar Tree since 7 pm in the hopes of saving up to 27 cents per item on selected doorbusters. Then, off to Shop-N-Save to fight for one of a dozen Black Friday 30-cent loaves of wheat sandwich bread.

**I don’t think anyone bought my assertion that, every year on the day after Thanksgiving, my wife breaks out her special VHS collection of “Saved By the Bell” episodes with everyone but Mark Paul Gosselaar edited out. She refers to the entire affair as ZACH FRIDAY.

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Is this a parenting blog? Nah…

November 24, 2010

Andrew Hicks

This blog is about a parent, but I wouldn’t call it a parenting blog. The term “parenting blog” suggests a general editorial stance of authority or even just familiarity with the ins and outs of raising small children. There are parenting moments that baffle me or seem to require more effort than I give or know how to give.

As a dad, I know and do more with Silas (who just celebrated his 142nd day on planet Earth by pooping) than I did when Sarah was the same age. I’m primary caregiver to both kids now, but for most of Sarah’s first 2 years, I was working the days, evenings and weekends of the restaurant biz. For awhile, it was wake up, leave for work, be gone all day and then often arrive home after Sarah was in bed. We started Sarah in daycare, moved her to a babysitter, then – just a week before The Event – switched to having me watch her and Silas and work nights.

This blog has resulted in wisecracks about me posturing myself as Superdad, but in terms of fathering ability, I’d rank myself about average. I probably care more than most, I put in a lot of hours as daddy, and I give a lot of love to these babies and their wonderful mother, but I know there’s stuff I’m not doing. I know better parents than I are not allowing themselves to be so worn down by the routine of diapering, feeding, bathing, playing with, burping and chasing around that they lazy out when they finally do arrive at a free second. I don’t think a daily nap was granted by the Bill of Rights, but I often act as though it were.

I get tired more easily than I used to. At least a little of that has to do with me still recovering from a compound ankle fracture and surgery. I’m returning to normal but am not all the way back. I’ve recovered enough to tackle this assignment, but it’s obviously more difficult than it would have been minus broken bone.

All that said, I want to be able to use this blog to solicit advice from parents more seasoned than myself. The past week or so, Silas has been a lot fussier during everyday activity, he’s been staying awake longer and later, and he’s had discomfort I haven’t been been able to automatically soothe. He’s been crying more, and my usual tricks for making him happy and calm have seemed to work less and less. Consequently, my reserves of patience have dropped to lower levels than usual.

I have a little mantra when I start to get upset with Silas for crying and fussing. It comes from a Xeroxed, folded newsletter mailed to us by a local parenting organization. There was an article on teething, which – given Silas’s age and lack of signs of cold or flu – probably accounts for the pain he’s experiencing. Among the bulleted advice points on how to make teething easier for your kid was the generic admonition to give the little dude extra “tender loving care” during the teething process.

It was simple, obvious, even cliched, but those three words resonated with me. Tender loving care. When I’m frustrated, when I’m getting short with His Lil’ Screaminess, I softly say those words out loud, and then I put them into practice. Or try my best to. That’s what my baby boy deserves. I have immense love for him, and he’s experiencing pain that he is completely not at fault for. What better time for some TLC, you know? It’s the best thing I’ve found so far for getting my patience back.

What I’d like to know, and maybe this would be a good one to ask the parents from “19 Kids and Counting,” is if there’s a magic, catch-all parenting secret or karmic maturity trick on how to restore and stabilize patience to the adult brain before your emotions succumb to baby stress. Or are baby-stress reactions mostly motivated by selfishness and just something to suck up and deal with?

Probably, the latter is true, but I’d like to hear words of parenting wisdom and sanity-preserving techniques from those with more knowledge and experience than I on the topic at hand. Maybe I can finally get some comments around this blog. That’d be cool.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

May-December shoes

November 23, 2010

Andrew Hicks

I made the 100-plus-mile trek to my in-laws’ house a couple weeks back, so I could drop the kids off at Meemaw and Peepaw’s Daycare (can’t beat the rates) and follow up with the orthopedist who performed my ankle surgery in September. I got the customary X-rays — for some reason, I love looking at my ankle screws from three different angles — and was pronounced Almost Back To Normal. Which means, first and foremost, I won’t have to drive 100-plus miles to any further appointments.

Snoop Docky Doc* also told me I could go bootless as I see fit. It’s still kinda weird putting that left shoe on again, after being foot-shod in post-surgery wrap, a fiberglass cast and then the space boot. The left shoe sat out for quite awhile. It’s not often a shoe partnership gets split up like that, with Righty continuing to go into battle while Lefty stares at the inside of the closet for weeks on end. It’s like one shoe’s having a midlife crisis, and the other shoe’s counting the days to retirement. I’ve got a May-December shoe situation.

I coordinated the doctor appointment to match up with the weekly big-city standup open mic, and invited the Facebook world at large to come see me. Usually, those kind of invitations provoke a couple half-hearted “I’ll try to make it out” comments and about a half-dozen “I would totally be there, but…” apology responses. I’m guilty of this, too — I love to claim I’d go do something, that there’s nothing I’d love more, but I tragically, unfortunately can’t due to some preexisting, tenuous reason. Which, these days, two babies and a broken ankle is pretty much a catch-all**.

I had a few friends that I knew would come up to see me, but imagine my onset of sheepishness when I got to open mic and found out it was canceled because Doug “Superhigh Me” Benson was in town doing a special engagement. Now imagine that, in the next few minutes, friends kept showing up. Old, close friends I haven’t seen in awhile, making surprise appearances. Nine in all, with the show canceled. I had no choice but to head out to a couple restaurants and bars with the entire group for the next four hours.

I’ve entered the stage of my adult life, previously thought impossible, where I am capable of holding my own socially without feeling like I need to drink. I hadn’t fully tested this until the night everyone showed up for my canceled open mic, so out we went, and I held court while downing ice waters. (I’m one of those customers now. Sorry, entire service industry.) It was a good night and a great group, and there was a strange moment a couple hours in where my assembled group of friends sat on the entrance stairs to the restaurant and I performed the four minutes of standup I’d prepared***.

I mingled, I played some shuffleboard, and I discovered alcohol wasn’t the reason I’ve always sucked at shuffleboard. Most importantly, I had a really good time with a group of close friends, friends of friends, significant others of friends, and my omnipresent ice water. My childless courtship time with Tiffany occurred in a whirlwind, with me quickly going from single party guy to married dude in a different town, working a different job.

Out of necessity, and with no personal precedent to refer back to, I neglected some fun, healthy relationships with some great young people after I got married. Three-plus years later, my life seems so much more valuable, and so does time spent with Hall of Famers from my social golden years. Thanks for coming out, all’a y’all.

*I give all my medical care practitioners nicknames based on prominent hip-hop MCs throughout history, though I have no further examples to offer at the present time.

**Also, this kinda makes me an immature jerk, but I think it’s great to tell someone online that you’ll definitely be there for their four-minute performance in the community college adult piano recital, then later on pretend like you forgot they live two time zones away. I mean, what do they expect when they send out an inconsequential blanket invitation to everyone they’ve ever exchanged a friendly word with?

***This was my second indicator, the first one coming from my clued-in, opinionated wife, that I couldn’t sell the following joke onstage: “When someone asks me a date-related question, I always round up.  Q. How old is your youngest?  A. He’ll be six months in January.  Q. How long have you been married?  A. It’ll be ten years in 2017.  Q. How long have you been waiting for a good laugh on this joke?  A. It’ll be one day tomorrow.”

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Baby Silas chills in his buggy.

Public apology to Barney

November 21, 2010

Andrew Hicks

At various points in this blog, starting with the very first post, I’ve made reference to “Barney’s bitch ass.” All along, my wife Tiffany has insisted that Barney does not have a bitch ass and is, in fact, a positive influence on small children.

Over the past couple months, Barney has sent me cycling through the Five Stages of Grief, from denial (“There’s no way my beloved television is really issuing forth hour upon hour of a giant, lip-synching, borderline-retarded PBS puppet”) to bargaining (“Okay, Barney, I know my kid’s going to clamor for at least two more hours of you, but only if you put let me change to the Weather Channel for a second first, so I’ll know whether we’ll be able to go outside and escape you tomorrow”) to scabies (“Was that you who gave me scabies, Barney? If so, not cool, dude. Not cool”) to now, finally, acceptance.

I accept that Barney is a semi-permanent, lumpy member of this household. I’ve started buying groceries he likes. And, really, he keeps Sarah really happy. She sings, she dances, she has manners. She thinks kids in wheelchairs are cool. None of this would’ve been possible through traditional parenting and Teletubbies alone.

So, in this public forum, I address the following words directly to Barney: I retract my previous statement that you have a bitch ass. You are welcome in my home, and you can hang out with my daughter anytime. You are, however, a major lamewad, so don’t come around when Sarah’s asleep. You and I don’t hang out. Ever.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Thanks to my mom for capturing this beautiful shot of Sarah posing in a tree in her yard.

Birthday blog hiatus

November 20, 2010

Andrew Hicks

Would this be a good time to mention that my goal rate of blog posts is one per day? I want to have daily Mr. Mom diaper stories for you – I mean you specifically; yes, you, the person who’s reading these words right now. What time of day do you do your idle Internet reading? First thing in the morning, over a cup of coffee? During hours 3 through 7 of your state job? On your phone during rush-hour traffic? Or, like me, in the dead of night when everyone’s asleep? Whenever the time, my goal is to be there for you every day. Maybe not in the form of a fully-realized, 800-word comedic tour de force, but maybe with just a couple good paragraphs to tide you over on your way to go play Farmville until dawn.

So, yeah, I want to write good new stuff every day, and this is my first post in almost two weeks. I was without a computer for about a week while SpacebarGate2010 resolved itself in the form of a brand new laptop keyboard that was shipped in from California, I think via Pony Express. I had lofty plans to maintain productivity sans laptop. I was going to write blog posts on my phone, or I was going to hand-write them and type them up on the public library computers*. Neither of which happened.

Meanwhile, this blog slipped down my priority list in favor of the seemingly endless stream of multitasking that is taking care of very young children, keeping the house clean and finally testing out that Cubed Duck Steak With Pickled Rhubarb recipe for the Crock Pot. You’re really cheating yourself if you don’t let your duck steak and rhubarb simmer for at least half a waking day. And the atmospheric, grandma’s-house smell is better than potpourri.

It seems I’ve gently nudged Sarah’s body clock back since we returned home. During the ankle recovery exile at my in-laws’ house, Sarah was up at 8, down for her nap at 1, and in bed at 8, like clockwork. It’s still pretty clockwork-esque, but we’re living in some time zone a few hundred miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Sarah stays up until around 10 or 11, then she doesn’t get up until somewhere around 10 or 11 in the morning. Silas, meanwhile, doesn’t go to sleep for the night until somewhere between one and two. God help him, he has to watch the entire episode of “Last Call With Carson Daly.” Most 4 month olds go to bed after Jimmy Fallon. Silas is an incorrigible sleep maverick.

Sarah's untouched, unadorned birthday cake.

When she turned 2 this month, Sarah got to have three birthday celebrations she’ll never remember. The night of her birthday, we got a cake and a bunch of Hot-N-Ready Little Caesar’s Pizza**. She made a big old mess and was cute and loud. That weekend, we traveled down to Tiffany’s parents’ house, had pulled pork and opened presents. Sarah’s favorite gift is a trio of flat boards that contain rows of letter, number and animal shape blocks with little round plastic handles. In theory, the flat boards supposed to hold the blocks. In reality, this 2 year old prefers her blocks scattered throughout the upstairs of the house. More specifically, they’re scattered wherever my right foot is about to step when I’m holding Silas over my right shoulder and can’t see directly in front of me. Those little round plastic handles really hurt when you drop your weight on them. It’s been a bad autumn for me below the calf.

The third birthday observance was like a week and a half after Sarah’s birthday. Our next-door neighbor brought her four kids over, ranging in age from 3 to 8. We had more cake and, oh man, more Little Caesar’s Pizza. And Sarah was presented with a baby doll that the 8 year old kept reminding us had only cost her mom four bucks. It was fun to watch Sarah play with a group of bigger kids, and she took an immediate liking to the baby doll. In some cultures, 2 year olds take care of actual babies***, but Sarah’s chopped-and-screwed toddler attention span only allows her to be big-sisterly to the inanimate object for a minute or so. Inanimate Baby is outta luck with his toddler babysitter around these parts.

Okay, that’s it for now. See you tomorrow. Riiiiiiiiight…

*At various points in my modest life, the library computers have been my main means of accessing the Internet. It’s always an interesting scene at the library. Large, creepy middle-aged guy on my left is playing some game where he needs to find the Silver Sword of Samsifar so he can defeat the leather-winged griffin on the island of Kurr. Large, creepy middle-aged guy on my right is busy posting Facebook updates of how he’s doing in the eighth grade. I’m just there to pay my electric bill.

**Talk about a comeback. I grew four waist sizes to Little Caesar’s between seventh and tenth grades, then I thought they went out of business. Now you can walk into their restaurant and get a gooey, piping-hot, sweet-sauced pepperoni pizza immediately for five bucks. Maybe this was what finally snapped Snooki out of that anorexia. Well, that and the 1,500 empty alcohol calories she ingests before sundown. But I’m not here to bash orange-tinted MTV reality stars. I’m here to talk about freakin’ pizza. And my family. My loving family. Then pizza again. Then family, pizza, family, pizza, until the battery on my laptop runs out.

***Pulled that right out of my ass.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Mr Mom, meet Mrs Donkey

November 8, 2010

Andrew Hicks

The babies and I have been back home for a week and a half, and it’s wake-to-sleep childcare, house chores and writing for me, with some lazy patches in the middle. I’m enjoying it, and the days when I wasn’t surrounded by my tiny progeny seem distant already. Silas is a calm, sweet-natured baby with occasional fussy times. Sarah is an adorable, curious little chatterbox who is almost always amused, loving or both.

Lately, Sarah’s been really cracking me up, too. She grabbed one of her favorite books, opened it up and pretended to read, “One time, there was a story. The end,” and closed the book. I’ve since made those eight great words into a catchy Nate Dogg chorus. Ask me to acapella it if you ever run into me at Karaoke by Kris in the bowling alley lounge.

Another hilarious Sarah exchange came just after she’d woken up, bright-eyed from a good night’s sleep, and was lowered into her highchair to eat some breakfast. She stretched out her arms, threw her head back and announced, pseudo-dramatically, “Sooo tired.” I replied as if she was being silly: “You are not,” and she insisted, “Am!” Does Reader’s Digest still pay people like $300 for Very Cute Little Kid jokes? I admit, I used to love all the Reader’s Digest domestic niche-joke columns: “Humor in Uniform,” “Life in These United States,” “My Time in Juvey,” etc.

Fictional armchair philosopher and ADD sufferer Jerry Maguire would insist that we live in a cynical world, but it really doesn’t seem like it when I spend an unseasonably warm fall afternoon hanging out in my big backyard with my little play-buddy. Stuff like that truly is “what it’s all about,” even more so than the Hokey Pokey. My heart melts when Sarah excitedly calls out “Daddy! Daddy!” Although, I admit, sometimes I’ve already heard “Daddy! Daddy!” a hundred times in the last ten minutes, and I start to wonder where Mommy! Mommy! is hiding herself.

More than anything lately, Sarah likes to sit in my lap and have me read her books. Sarah’s current favorite little-kid book is called Mother, Mother, I Want Another. Very basic, intriguing little plot for a toddler. Baby Mouse is put to bed and, as mom’s leaving him to sleep, he asks mom, “Can I have another, mother?” Mrs. Mouse freaks out: “What? You want another mother?! Whatever will I do?”

Mayhem ensues as Mrs. Mouse dashes off to grab, one at a time, Mrs. Duck, Mrs. Frog, Mrs. Pig and Mrs. Donkey, and they all sing lullabies to Baby Mouse. Finally, Baby Mouse explains that their lullabies were great and all, but he really just wanted another kiss from his mother. Ohhhhhh… all the Mrs. Animals say, and they all realized they were yanked away from their families for a completely false emergency. Baby Mouse should’ve spoken his ass up sooner.

Good lessons here: Misunderstandings are a waste of time, clear communication is necessary, and damn, does Mrs. Donkey have some bad breath.  Sarah right now likes MMIWA at least as much as famed film critic Pauline Kael enjoyed Chinatown, “with its beautifully structured script and draggy, overdeliberate direction.”

Sarah subscribes to an activities magazine for preschool kids. It transfixes her even though she has no clue yet how to play the counting games and run her little crayon through the mazes. Her favorite thing to stop, point and shriek at is the tiny cover art of some PBS semi-all-star Christmas DVD they’re shilling in an ad. This particular picture, like an inch tall, is buried among lots of other visual noise, but Sarah is repeatedly drawn straight to it. And she’s always excited to point to the mini-image of each little kid mascot when I ask, “Which one’s Thomas the Train? Which one’s Barney? Which one’s Fireman Sam?”

Sarah’s good at pointing to those little head-and-shoulder shots of popular children’s characters that sometimes appear on the front and back inside covers of kid books. And she’s pretty accurate at identifying the purple horse, black sheep and white dog in the sophisticated children’s masterpiece Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Sarah right now likes BBBBWDYS as much as Roger Ebert hated Mad Dog Time. “Watching it,” declared Rog, “is like waiting for the bus in a city where you’re not sure they have a bus line.”

Single me would bitch-slap married me for spending 800 words on the redemptive beauty of being around my children. I’ve already been accused of selling out, although to me the key component of selling out involves receiving money. Maybe I’m selling out on consignment. I should ask Mrs. Donkey what she thinks… What? Oh, Pauline. Her name is Pauline, not Mrs. Donkey. I always forget.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah swings.

Sarah’s birth day

November 3, 2010

Andrew Hicks

November 3, 2008
7:57 am

I’m standing in scrubs at the doorway of a hospital room. My mom and in-laws are in a family waiting area across the hall. About a half-hour ago, one of the nurses told me she’d be back for me in five minutes. The commotion of several pairs of feet starts to rattle up the hallway. I stick out my head just in time to see a handful of hospital techs and nurses dart by, and I overhear enough to know they’re scurrying to the room where my wife is under spinal anesthesia.

A nurse stops and addresses me: “Dad? You ready?”

It’s one of the first times I’ve been called dad. It sounds foreign. I follow the nurse, who assures me everything is going great so far, down the hall and into a service corridor. She makes sure my Michael Jackson face mask is in place and pushes the button that swings open the double doors to the surgery room.

I step inside. Bright lights overwhelm my vision. I hear the gentle hissing and beeping of machines. I hear the organized chaos of team communication between doctors, nurses and a slightly creepy anesthesiologist with a clipped German accent. The nurse directs me to a stool on wheels. I slide into place next to my beautiful wife, whose caged eyes flash from overwhelmed and pensive to surprisingly calm and cognizant. She takes my hand as I remark how crazy this all is.

Her face, looking over at me with a faint smile, fades into hospital gown-covered shoulders and an abrupt blue sheet-curtain. Beyond the curtain, the Caesarian is well underway. Tiffany asks, “Baby cry? Hear a baby cry?” I tell her not yet, they’re still getting her out. German Anesthesiologist tells Tiffany she “vill feel a lot of press-shaw.” The doctor and the nurses start to calmly repeat the same mantra, “A lot of pressure, a lot of pressure,” as if these are the time-tested magic words that will bring forth baby.

I tell my wife I love her. She tells me the same, then asks about the baby cry again. I think of it as a delirious response to the spinal block, but she’ll later tell me it was the one thing she was focused on. She’d had worries about bad reactions to anesthesia and Sarah being stillborn. She knew if she heard the baby cry, everything would be fine.

Someone announces that they see a head. The curtain is blocking all the action. I look into the reflecting glass of a medical cabinet on the wall to my left. There, I can see the flurry of movement by well-trained hands, then the silhouette of a tiny body being lifted from its mother’s womb. A quiet, quick second passes, then… we hear the baby cry. A stuttering, hesitant billy goat bleat that soon escalates into a full-blown, hyperventilating wail.

“Baby’s crying?” Tiffany asks me. Yes, I tell her happily, choking back tears. The baby’s crying. A voice on the other side of the curtain announces that it’s a girl. Another voice announces the time — 8:06 am. I squeeze my wife’s hand and brush her left cheek. I’m also in charge of making sure her drool gets collected in the maroon plastic kidney-shaped bedpan. Side effect of heavy anesthesia, the drool.

“You might wanna get your camera out there, dad,” says the head nurse, a lady whose name I’ll soon find out is Victoria. Over the next few hours, she’ll embody the patient but wizened stance of someone who spends most of her work week giving basic parenting advice to people who mainly don’t know what they’re doing and don’t listen. Victoria kind of reminds me of an infant caretaker version of Michael Caine’s character in The Cider House Rules, minus the abortions and ether addiction.

I feel overtaken by emotion but somewhat numb at the same time, like I’m watching something happen to somebody else. I snap photos of the cleanup, the weighing, the measuring and the fingerprinting. I take mental note of the vital stats: 8 pounds, 1 ounce; 22 1/2 inches long.

Victoria asks if we have a name picked out. I tell her Sarah Grace. She indicates that she approves. All this time, my wife’s midsection is opened up behind me, and I try to avert my eyes. I’m just too curious, though, and I take a couple long stares at her exposed organs and intestines. A year and a half ago, I’d never met even this woman whose insides are all mangled from giving birth to my baby. This is intimacy.

Newborn Sarah has stopped baby-crying by the time she’s in her first diaper, wrapped in a hospital blanket and deposited in her mommy’s arms. German Anesthesiologist obliges us with a photo of mom, dad and baby. I get the camera back and frame mom and baby. A notice comes on the display screen, telling me the batteries are as good as dead. I have no backup Energizers in the pockets of my scrubs.

Nurse Victoria shoots me a look of death when she realizes baby’s first photo shoot has come to an abrupt, premature end thanks to dad’s inadequate planning. Eight minutes into fatherhood, and I’ve already earned a permanent slot on Vickie’s extensive shit list.

We get back to the hospital room, and Sarah — already taking her first nap — gets passed around to three grandparents. I change batteries in the camera, and along with everyone else, I take as many pictures as possible. Then I excuse myself to call my dad and a few close friends, wandering up and down the hospital hallways while I spread the news.

My mom finds me minutes later. Tells me I should get back to the hospital room because Tiffany’s about to breastfeed Sarah for the first time. It’s just me, her and our new baby in the room. Sarah latches right on, a true natural.

Now, I come from a small, reclusive family. I only have one brother, two years younger than I am. I didn’t grow up around babies, and I never really planned on having my own. Older couples I befriended would always tell me I’d change my mind when I met the right woman, and I shrugged it off until I did in fact meet my perfect counterpart.

We were barely boyfriend and girlfriend when Tiffany and I took her best friend’s 2 1/2 year old to Six Flags with us one afternoon. Watching Tiffany act so tender, patient and maternal with a cute little girl changed my mind in an instant. I knew she was the only possible mother for the children I never thought I’d have.

That said, on Day One, I hold my baby like she’s a glass grenade that will self-destruct with any contact or movement. I’m still a week away from changing my first diaper. I’m about a year from feeling like I remotely know what I’m doing as a dad. But when I collapse on the couch in our hospital room, with an hours-old Sarah sleeping on my chest, I feel an overwhelming, proprietary love I didn’t know was inside me. This newborn girl has changed me in an instant.

I love you with all my heart, Sarah. Happy second birthday, sweetie pie.

Silly Spider’s trunk or treat

November 2, 2010

Andrew Hicks

Last year on Halloween, I made a last-minute trip to ShopKo to put together a costume. The extent of my purchases for self were a $3.99 Afro wig and two-dollar bottle of hair oil to keep the wig well-lubed. I added that drippy wig to the black pants, suspenders and blue ruffled ’70s tux shirt (which I found on eBay by searching for those exact five words) from my Meat Loaf costume. And I was off to our weekly karaoke night.

Who was I? It took me a half-dozen improvised answers before I settled on Jerry Pekin, replacement bass player for Toto on the European leg of the 1979 Hold the Line tour. My Pekin getup won first prize in the costume contest, to the chagrin of people who actually spent time and money on their Halloween rigs. Honestly, I had that contest locked down no matter what. I had a big group of friends with me, and none of them had entered the contest. Their votes were automatically going to me.

That same ShopKo trip, I bought a Silly Spider costume for Sarah, who was not quite 1 and not quite walking yet. She wore Silly Spider at home for a couple pictures but didn’t leave the house in it until this year, when it was less a full-body costume than an above-the-waist costume. Tiffany coordinated a noteworthy effort, though, dressing Sarah in purple jacket and socks, long-sleeved black shirt and gray pants. Those three colors perfectly matched the palate of the Silly Spider. Let no one say my wife’s religious viewing of all eight seasons of “Project Runway” has been for naught*.

My Silly Spider

I’ve been back home with the babies for four days now. We go to the park and hang out in the backyard, but Dad remains pretty stationary in his play efforts. Taking Silly Spider Sarah trick or treating in the neighborhood was an awfully involved walking effort for the amount of candy we got. The ratio of houses with candy to houses without candy reminded me of the old Paperboy video game right before you get kicked off the route. Dark house, dark house, dark house, dark house then finally one with the light on.

I put the busted ankle through a hell of a workout** before retreating to our house with only a few flavored mini Tootsie Rolls, some stickers and an oversized Gummie Lifesaver in Sarah’s candy bucket. Tiffany and baby Silas joined us, the latter wearing an adorable orange-and-black sleeper trumpeting the fact that it was baby’s first Halloween.

We decided to bag the neighborhood walkathon and head straight to the Trunk or Treat at a nearby church. Turned out, it was the only place to be. This was my first time doing a Trunk or Treat. I was a single, childless dude up until a couple years ago, but even if I’d had kids, I would have wanted to boycott all Trunk or Treats because of the lame-ass name alone. Little did I know a TOT is like walking among a concentrated cornucopia of stationary, decorated mini-parade floats, all bearing candy.

First Halloween for Silas

In the same amount of steps I’d already walked in my neighborhood, I netted — I mean, Sarah netted — 20 times the treats. All you have to do is walk up and grab. When my toddler reached into the candy cauldrons and had a hard time deciding, I plucked out one of everything for us. The owners of the tricked-out trunks were all too distracted by my super-cute kid to notice me taking triple helpings of Three Musketeers. Even if they did, what were they gonna do? They were church people, and I’m a big dude. You’ve got to let stuff like that go. God says.

On top of it, there was free cotton candy and lemonade and a weenie/marshmallow self-roast campfire. And not a single Methodist in attendance used all this generosity as leverage to invite me to church. That’s a good tactic, too — you end up thinking, Wow, if they’re so confident in their church that they don’t even invite you, it must be a great church. I’m still not gonna go, but I enjoyed the sense of community. Everyone knew everyone except us, and we managed to blend.

Sarah enjoys her spoils

We skipped the “roast your own hot dog” action because we had the two babies with us but also because a dude whose house was right across the street from the church was yelling at the crowds about his free hot dogs and chili. So we wheeled the DuoGlider over to his place and finally got socially worked over in exchange for goodies. Owner of the house was sick of talking to the same old small-town folks he already knew, so while we were eating his super-greasy chili*** over by the garage, this dude was working his talk-show interview magic.

I don’t often invite sober small talk, particularly with strangers. My approach to these situations is to offer as little information as possible, dash off a good one-liner and exit while they’re laughing. We were trapped this time, but I quickly realized, when this guy asked a personal question, it was only so he could listen for the first available tidbit that would prompt him to tell a tangentially related story about himself. That I could live with. Even better, the second we were done eating his food and drinking his Crystal Light or whatever, we used the old “gotta get these precious babies to bed” excuse and darted back to civilization****.

Even that little side trip helped make 2010 the best Halloween in years. Small town, fall weather, free stuff, beautifully delighted toddler, Tiffany and I sneaking little kisses here and there. It was the kind of simple, beautiful family holiday experience I just didn’t get all those Halloweens I spent drinking, getting rowdy and staying out until damn near sunup.

The best part is, Sarah’s too little to know she earned herself a giant stash of candy that her parents are going to eat the lion’s share of while she’s asleep. Stolen Halloween candy tastes even sweeter. Especially when you’re taking church candy from a baby. Muwahahahahaha…

*One of my more reliable standup bits thus far has been mentioning how I love being married but wish someone would’ve told me beforehand that I’d have to watch reality shows on Bravo until death do us part. It’s one of the hidden wedding vows: Better. Worse. Sickness. Health. Project. Runway. Top. Chef. Real. Housewives. HOLY! CRAP!

**Oh yeah, get this — just before leaving to take Sarah out for Halloween, I realized while strapping up my Aircast boot that I’ve been putting that thing on wrong the entire time. Massive cripple fail.

***I overheard him explaining to a rather large lady how his chili meat recipe yielded the ideal combination of 50% beef, 50% grease. Indeed, the top two inches of crock pot product were composed of nothing but oily orange liquid. He had two serving spoons in the chili — one slotted, one solid. He told his oversized lady guest that the solid spoon was for those partygoers who liked their chili grease-only. America is something freaking else, man.

****I always end up chickening out, but one of these days I’m going to let loose with some outlandish, made-up stories at one of these events just to see if the other people challenge me. When I departed for my first weeklong Caribbean cruise, I told all my friends I was going to introduce myself to people as an anesthesiologist. Give them only a vague sense of the basics, then if they pressed harder to learn any details about my professional life, stop them with, “Hey, hey, come on now. I live anesthesiology day in and day out 49 weeks out of the year. I’m sick of talking anesthesiology. I’m on vacation here, I hope you can respect that. Let’s talk about you for awhile.”