Archive for November, 2004


Jefferson – Adams election

You think this past election was bad? During the 1800 presidential election, voters on both sides were certain that the existence of the Republic was at stake. Thomas Jefferson supporters were convinced that if John Adams were elected, America would end up a monocracy, slave once again to Great Britain. Adams supporters believed that if Jefferson were elected president, we would have gone the way of the French Revolution and that “the people of this nation will receive the just vengeance of an insulted heaven. We will witness our dwellings in flames, hoary hairs bathed in blood, female chastity violated, and children writhing on the pike and halberd.”


Just a Dose of Common Sense

I did this once. In high school, a group of us went to an apple orchard and the to someone’s home to make pie. Lots of pies. How many apples do we need to make a pie, though? We had a recipe that told us how many pounds of apples to use per pie, but we didn’t have a kitchen scale. Science to the rescue! Tony & I went off to a corner to work it out. We have two identical mixing bowls, so we’ll just build a makeshift scale, balancing a bowl of water with a bowl of apples. We know the molecular weight of water so can calculate the weight of a given volume… Several calculations later, we — er, that’s not right. See, you forgot this. Oh, there you go. We’ll need 254 bushels of apples per pie!

Once we’d arrived at this half-assed conclusion, we turned around to face our friends’ bemused smiles and several filled pie shells. “Just keep adding apples until it’s full,” Kiara said, not quite able to hold back gales of laughter.

I swear, that’s why I married her.


Happy Birthday, Owen

Two years ago today I had a root canal. Because I work too damn much and don’t think to take time off when it’s appropriate — like when I’ve just had a root canal — I headed straight for work from the dentist and was at my desk before I noticed the text message on my cell phone: “Baby on the way!”

“Yes, dear,” I thought, “you’re pregnant.” As if I didn’t know. It had been a relatively easy pregnancy to date (she was in her 35th week), and Kiara had just started to feel it in a big way: not only was her brain’s speech filtering capability disabled so that she’d say any damn thing she thought, but now she was exceedingly uncomfortable. Those of you who have carried babies full term (or who have lived with those who have) are now scoffing at Kiara’s so-called “discomfort,” but that’s beside the point. I’m just saying that I knew very well that my dear heart was with child. She had stayed home that day because her blood pressure was wonky and she needed to remain reclined, a position rarely possible in her teaching job. I smiled at the message, because her excitement is infectious.

Then I noticed the voicemail. Several messages from her, one from her mother. Hm. Odd.


Baby on the way.

“I’ve got to take Kiara to the doctor,” I told a coworker, and then raced home. Luckily I had driven that day instead of taking the bus, as the 90-minute bus ride would have been unbearable. When I arrived, Kiara had packed for the hospital and was printing off a birth plan. The baby was arriving five weeks early. We were supposed to talk about birth plans at our childbirth class later that week, so hadn’t even discussed them, but Kiara did some quick research on the web and came up with something reasonable. She was incredibly calm about the whole thing. Her water had broken and contractions had started; her midwife told her to come into the hospital that afternoon, once her contractions reached a certain frequency. This happened quite quickly.

We’d been going to Bradley Method natural childbirth classes. One thing that Bradley teaches is how to recognize and react to different stages of labor, to help the mother through. I frantically flipped through our books, reviewing what I was supposed to know, what I should do, then abruptly stopped and closed the books. I knew this stuff, and the way I was reacting certainly wasn’t helping Kiara. Except for being five weeks early, this was textbook.

Her contractions progressed steadily, and at a certain point it was clear that it was time to go to the hospital. After we settled in, all I remember is helping Kiara relax. Breathe and relax. Breathe and relax. Until all of a sudden, before anyone expected it, Owen’s head crowned, and a minute or two later our son was born. After a small flurry of activity, a nurse held him toward me. “See, Dad? See what it is?” I was puzzled. Yes, I thought, it’s a baby. Duh. What are you asking? Oh. A penis. You want me to see that it’s a boy. Yeah, okay, he’s a boy. How’s he doing? How’s his mom?

Because he was technically premature, NICU staff were on hand to give him a quick examination. They excitedly concluded that he was a very healthy child. Before long he was handed back to Kiara, and together we held him. Our beautiful baby boy.

That morning, I had a root canal. Then, in an uncharacteristic display of one-upmanship, Kiara had a baby.

He slept for the first month of his life, so we had little trouble getting him into a sleeping pattern to match ours. At the time Kiara joked privately that she was sleeping better than she ever had in her life.

When Owen was a few days old, I was sitting on the shore of Minnehaha Creek, watching a family of ducks swim in the swift current. What a miracle, this universe into which my son was born! I looked forward to nurturing a sense of wonder and awe in Owen, hoped that he should learn to treasure this marvelous world. For a moment, as the water gurgled past, I glimpsed Something More.

A woman stepped near, apologized for disturbing me, and knelt to choose a rock to place on her mother’s grave.

That may have been the most poignant moment of my life. I still tear up when I think of it.


But what hubris! To think that I should teach a child about wonder and delight. If I have learned anything, it’s how much he can teach me.

Now two years old, Owen is a happy, healthy kid, and smart as a whip. He’s extremely verbal. We stopped tracking his vocabulary when it topped 500 words and was stringing together coherent sentences. I can carry on actual conversations with him, which just makes my day.

We still co-sleep but are helping him transition to his own bed. He sometimes resists but in the end always succumbs to the notion of sleeping in his bed, “just like Robert” (a friend).

He never says a word to our friend Jim (Robert’s dad), but once at home won’t stop talking about him. He has imaginary phone conversations with him: “Hello, Jim. Are you sleeping? Are you at work? Play trains? With Robert and Jacob. Okay, bye-bye.”

About a month ago, he started preparing and eating imaginary food for himself, Kiara, and me. The menu usually includes hot dogs, broccoli, coffee (just for me), tea, milk, soymilk, juice, water, falafel, cheese, crackers… Hot dogs are a puzzle, since I think he’s only ever eaten them once, and they were made of tofu. Which he loves, so maybe it’s not so much a surprise.

He really, really likes chocolate milk.

He loves family hugs.

He loves to read.

When our cat is meowing sadly in the car on the way to the vet, Owen consoles him: “That’s okay, Niki. Go see vet. Feel better.”

We started using sign language with him at an early age, and he’s taken to it with gusto. I wish we knew more. We also started speaking French with him quite early, but now he refuses to let me speak it around him. I can’t say more than a few words before he protests, “No French, Papa.” Then, “No français.” Tee hee.

Last fall, he was worried about all the leaves falling to the ground, so we spent our evenings putting them back on trees.

He is enthralled by water. He will spend long stretches of time just staring at a lake or pond, watching the wind ripple across the surface.

Just a few days ago he drew a picture of a face, pointing out the eyes, nose, mouth, eyebrows, glasses, chin… That’s the first time that I’ve ever known him to draw something, rather than just draw.

He tells wonderful stories.

When I ask him what he did today, he always answers, “played cars.”

But really, he tells wonderful stories.

He wakes up slowly, like me. He wakes up singing, like his mother.

Happy birthday, Owen. I love you.

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