Saturday, May 30, 2009

Thoughts on Fatherhood: The Reboot

On the way home today from dropping Emily off for a women's meeting, I had one quick errand to run then was rushing to get Owen back for bed. While I was finding new and unusual ways that my body - and in particular, my right shoulder and arm - could contort in order to drive while keeping his pacifier still in his mouth. In fact, I would have made any yoga master proud... but I digress.

I suddenly realized that I was driving past the hospital where he was born just four short months ago. And in that wispy way that memories come flooding back in... that almost out-of-body experience where you're still there (driving, in my case) but also re-living that particular moment with such realism and clarity... I was transported back to the exact moment when he was born.

Owen's birth was one of the most poignant moments of my life. To say it was 'awesome' or 'amazing' or 'incredible' or 'super-stupendous' really just cheapens the experience. Those words are too over-used and meaningless for vastness contained such an event. In fact, I still cannot find words that accurately describe the all too brief yet expansive hours and minutes that contained Em's labor and Owen's arrival.

This is a picture of Owen shortly after arriving...

As you can see, his head was still snapping back into shape and his hands were still mostly blue. Even then, he didn't cry or complain much. As the doctor checked him out, he just sorted squawked at him, as if to say, "Hands off, buddy... I'm having an experience here."

Just a few short moments before, I had an experience of my own.

It's difficult to describe outside of calling it a complete system reboot. You know, like after you download and install in update on your computer and you're required to restart your computer before it will function properly again. When it's happening, the system is busy and you can't access any programs or do anything. I had a complete system reboot... literally. For some imperceptible amount of time... could have been 2 seconds or it could have been 2 minutes (I'm sure Emily could tell you)... I couldn't think... I couldn't move... I couldn't talk.

Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Not a single thought crossed my mind. It is as if the earth time continuum for suddenly stretched out like a rubber band, and I was helpless to do anything.

Since that day, I've pondered what it all meant. When I snapped back to reality and slowly began moving again (much to Emily's loving chagrin), I didn't feel any different. But I knew something was different. I've had a handful of similar experiences when God has stepped into my life and basically said, "Sit down, son, I've got some work to do." But all those times, I kinda knew what was happening.

This was different.

Since that day, I've wondered... what was God up to... what changed in those few moments of complete reboot. I'm now beginning to understand.

Now I can contort in 800 different directions to keep a pacifier in while driving one handed and listening to country music. Yes, country music. For those who know me, I would have formerly considered this a great sin... but something about its haunting twangs and cheesy lyrics soothes our little boy... so I listen and may even sing along one day.

But those are little things... now I see him when I close my eyes at a hockey game, or when I'm in a project meeting at work, or when I've had a rough day and it seems like the attacks are coming from every direction. I see him and have to ask myself... "Am I representing manhood to him? Can he look at me and see a pattern of what it means to be man that follows God with all his heart, mind and strength?" When he stands as a man one day or has a family of his own, will he say, "I know how to be a man because what my father showed me."

That's my duty... that's my role. And I'm committed to it. Because this world will eat up our kids and spit them out. It'll tear them to shreds if we let it. That's why we have to build strong, faith-filled kids who can endure to the end. Children who know right from wrong, and have a deep, abiding love for God.

And it starts with us. We, fathers... we, men. (and a good dose of mothering to boot).

So here's to memories, and here's to reboots. Here's to fathers and mothers. And, most of all, here's to my Father in heaven... who's shown me the way time and time again.

To the end.

Monday, May 25, 2009

My son is the coolest

I know what you're thinking... another Owen love fest. Well, maybe so, but I've got good reason.

First, I'm not saying the kid is 'cool' in the popular sense of the world (though, I think he is that as well). I mean, the kid is as cool as a cucumber. I dare say near unflappable (minus the Dad factor, which can result in the aforementioned TNM). Let's review the facts...

We were moving some stuff up to Baltimore today. We had our boy off his nap and feeding schedule, being stuck in his car chair for long periods of time, half-sweaty most of the day while we handed him off from one person to the next while we moved boxes. Not a peep or a squawk... not once.

He even took an afternoon interlude to watch his dad fumble around in our new place's garden trying to plant some sort of organic matter (thankfully mom-mom was there to give some direction). He's sweaty and sitting in the sun, but all he's focused on is dad getting his hands dirty.

Then, after all the moving is done for the day, we plod our way back to DC in torrential rain, then head straight to a Trini-food lime with some friends. He's chilling, watching Paul Blart - Mall Cop, and contentedly being passed from one person to the next. He even suffers through his mom and dad staying late to discuss Congress business... all this without having eaten in nearly five hours and while having a dirty diaper, not to mention being past his bed-time.

Guess what, still cool as a cucumber.

We get him home, in a dry diaper and quickly fed... and guess what? You'd think this is a prime case for a TNM or bed time tantrum. I mean, he's had more than the trifecta of baby unhappiness...

But not our little Quarry man. He only requires about 4 laps around the room with dad quietly rocking him and he's out like a light. Not a single grumble, whine or squawk.

I prayed with him this morning that we would meet our day's challenges with strength, patience, and accuracy.

Well done, son... well done.

(update: hyperlinks added for context)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Owen laughing

This is one of the first times Owen has genuinely laughed... and we were fortunate enough to catch it on video...

As each day passes he gets more interactive, alert and engaging. What a joy!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Thoughts on Fatherhood: Avoiding the "TNM"

You may be wonder what "TNM" stands for.  It's a "Thermal Nuclear Meltdown".  What does it have to do with fatherhood... well, let me explain.

I recently learned a valuable lesson.  There are a very few things that will upset Owen.  Occurring separately, they are easy to deal with and the period of upset is rather sort, if not non-existent.  The key triggers are simple to identify (in order of precedence):
  1. 1) Hungry
  2. 2) Tired
  3. 3) A 'poopis' diaper
However, there are those rare times... the perfect storm, if you will... when those three triggers happen all at once.  Usually to an aware parent, these situations are relatively easy to identify and avert well in advance.  But for the still-wet-behind-the-ears dad (such as myself), it can be a dangerous trap to fall into.

Seeing as how Owen is still relatively young, I've gotten very few chances to hang with my boy without mom somewhere close by to help identify the 'clues' and/or step in before the TNM happens.  But the other day, I boldly ventured out with Owen on my own to hang out some of the guys for Akin's bachelor 'lime' (FYI: lime is a Trini term that is loosely defined as "hanging out", but that is too simple a definition for the complexity of the word and I don't have the time to weigh you down with the full definition in this post - maybe later).

Anyways, Mr. Owen was a picture of contentedness and good behavior... and patience.  He appeared to know very well that Super-mom was not nearby so he was cutting dad some slack on taking care of the above triggers.  Slow-witted pops had an inkling that some of these triggers needed attention, but did not take immediate action.

But then it happened... the TNM in full effect.

After a frantic and tumultuous passage of indeterminate time, and much exasperated sweating and soothing by dad, Owen was finally fixed up and asleep.  But here are my lessons learned from the whole ordeal...
  1. 1) When you sense that a bottle/feeding is needed, move heaven and earth to make it happen.  As our chiropractor friend advised me, even an armpit is a good way to warm a bottle.  Essentially, guys fix problems... be innovative and get the job done.  Don't be stupid.
  2. 2) Keep your cool.  When the stress kicks in, it's not going to do you or the child any good to panic.  Just take care of the triggers in order of precedence and everything will return to normal... you just may need a bit of tear wiping (and a de-stressing nap for dad afterwards).
  3. 3) Learn from your mistakes.  As someone joked while the TNM was happening full-scale... "I bet this is the last time you make that mistake."  Well said.
So that's the TNM and that's my story.  I guess it boils down to one simple rule for dad, "Don't be stupid."  

Sometimes that's harder than it looks.

(P.S. Emily may make me replace that picture above... so enjoy the effect while you can) * smile *

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Drooly face

Decisions, decisions.  How do pick when every picture is amazing.  The above is probably my favorite.  I love the lighting.

Nothing better than a sleeping baby.

The whole family

We wanted to try and get the blue, blue sky in the background.  Owen was such a good sport for all his "flying" shots.

I love this shot because it has Owen's 'drool' face.  He practices that face a lot.

Finally, a little shot of some baby hands.  So cute.

Likey?  Check out our photog's site here.  Thanks GI

Monday, May 4, 2009

All That and a Bag of Chips


You just finished your last translation of the semester.  Here's to a job well done!  I watched you hang in there even as Nassar drained your brain - drop by drop.  But you did it - you finished strong and I'm proud of you.   Now you can enjoy a well deserved break and let that grey matter regenerate.  

116 credits down - 4 to go!  (Tennis class anyone?)  

I love you.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Three Happy Months!

Owen is three months old today - one quarter of a year.  He's my happy, smiling, giggling boy and every day with him is a charm.  He still loves his walks, being outside, the birds above his crib, daddy's funny faces and voices, eating and bright colors.  

Three months with you has flown by Owen - we love you!