May 26, 2010

Crawling and Gardening

It has been a while since I've done a real update and things have been a bit crazy lately.

As was evidenced in my video post, Harper has started crawling. This is fantastic and terrifying.

We have since found her in a completely different room than that in which she was left. She follows us slowly around the house, provided she still has line of sight. She has been trying to pull herself up on solid objects.

She seems only interested in things that are dangerous, valuable, or fragile. She has been enjoying the experience of finding a magazine, or a piece of mail, crawling to it and chewing it into pulp.

And oh, how happy she is about that!

During the weekend of the 15th, my mom and Joan came to visit us. It was a great visit and we got a ton of stuff completed. I've started actually working outside in the garden. During my mom's visit, I built a raised bed garden for Sara for her birthday. The confidence I gained in this project has galvanized me to do other things outside. I have numerous home-improvement projects on the horizon for the upcoming weekends.

Our yard has a ... slight grade... to it. We built the raised beds on the upper portion, which means we have a trek up mountainous terrain to get to them. I decided I need to build steps up the hill. After careful consideration and countless hours of doing nothing but watching DIY Network, I decided to build them out of retaining wall and flag stones.

This past weekend, my brother came to visit. This, too, was an excellent visit. He helped me as I built the prototype steps that I will finish this coming weekend.

They aren't perfect, but I'm very pleased with them and I'll be building the full set into the side of the hill this weekend.

You don't care about any of this though. Here are more pictures.

May 18, 2010

Video Post!

She has learned to crawl! My gorgeous and brilliant wife managed to get it on film while I was at work!

Isn't she fantastic?

The answer is yes!

Also, while we were laying in bed watching the video on the camera, Harper managed to throw up a little onto my shirt. While Sara was busy laughing, Harper put her hand in it and then stuck that hand directly in my mouth...

With that said, Harper is six months old today!

May 10, 2010

Nightmares and Dreamscapes

I am prone to nightmares.

From the ages of 5-7, I had a recurring nightmare about once a week. I dreamed that a play-dough like substance was squeezing out of the electrical outlet in my bedroom, Fun Factory Style. There were also various colors that would grind past my vision. I say grind because it wasn't the colors or images that I found terrifying. It was the texture. This dream was always accompanied by the feeling of bike gears grinding over one another.

I have no idea why this dream scared me so badly. Thinking about it when I was awake, I never could figure it out and still don't understand what was scary. Every time I had the dream, however, I would wake up crying, either silently, or not so much.

My dreams have always been odd. My dreams now don't often scare me, but they do scare Sara when I tell her about them. She, as well as most people I tell them to, agrees that my dreams are some of the weirdest ones they've ever heard. About once a week or so, I have a dream that is so strange and bizarre that I know if I tell her, she'll have nightmares. I've only told her about a select few and since my play-dough dream, none have been recurring.

They are always long and involved and I've been tempted for years to write them down in the form of short stories, but usually, I can only remember bits and pieces and almost never do I remember the plot. I have single frames or short clips of fantastic and strange movies in my mind and that's all that remains.

An example that come to me at the moment is from a dream I had a few years ago. I was sitting in a kitchen chair, one with bars between the legs to prop your feet on, underneath stadium bleachers. Before I can do anything, a giant tentacle like something out of Peter Benchley's The Deep, reaches out, grabs one of the support prop and lifts the chair and me into the air, swinging me around like it was going to thrown me.

Another example was a cruise ship that, instead of sailing the oceans, was sailing along a cloud line in a ring around a deep pit in the ocean, inside of which was a tropical island. The ship began teetering back and forth, spilling passengers out of the clouds and eventually capsizing.

I've also had several zombie dreams in which I am trying to find people I love, sometimes doing so, sometimes being killed myself.

I'm sure a psychologist would love to get a hold of these and write a book about it, but nothing doing!

I tell you this not so that you'll understand why I am the way I am. There is no mapping that chasm. I tell you this because Sara and I were both deeply concerned when Harper work up last night, screaming and sobbing and could not be consoled.

She was screaming in a pitch we have never heard from her with wracking sobs that shook her body even as she clung to us. Tears ran down her face, which they almost never do. She took short breaks where she seems to calm down, but then took up the wailing again with renewed vigor.

We were worried that she might have been hungry or getting another tooth, but it was not a cry for food and it didn't sound like a cry of pain. We check her mouth for a new tooth and gave her Tylenol in the hopes that it might be something we couldn't see.

For about an hour (10:30-11:30) last night, after she had already gone to sleep and was doing well, we walked her around the house, talked to her, rocked her, held her, and put her in bed with us. She was alright in bed with us for about 10 minutes then the screaming started again. At 11:30-ish, Sara finally put her back in her crib and she slept the rest of the night.

This morning, she was her normal charming self. To prove it, I have another installment in the Car Seat Photos series.

She was cheerful and playful. I think she's actually smirking at me.

As Sara stated to me this morning, I hope she doesn't have my nightmare gene. It took my years to stop waking up crying or screaming and still, about once or twice a year, I do. Although those dreams are not nightmares. They usually involve visits from my grandfather and leave me feeling lonely and hollow.

I don't think she has night terrors, but she could have had a bad dream. I'm not sure if I want it to be that. If it is, then we could be looking at years of night struggles to make sure she sleeps well. If it isn't, then something else is wrong and we have no idea what it could be.

In any event, we'll have to keep an eye out.

Mother's Day

I have two separate topics to talk about today, so I'm going to put them into two different posts.

Yesterday was Sara's first Mother's Day as a mother. Harper and I let her sleep in all the way until 8am! What luxury! When we did go in, Harper was carrying the card that she had specifically bought and signed just for her mum. The two of them played in the bed for a little bit while I started breakfast.

I made Cinnamon Bun Pancakes with icing syrup and we watched Pirate Radio while slowly slipping into a diabetic coma. After movies and such, we went for a walk on the trail near the house. During this particular trip, I realized that I may actually be becoming a father instead of someone who help create a pregnancy.

We parked the car at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds (read: "a park") and I pushed the stroller up a long, steep, winding hill to the trail. During this entire time, I was reminded that on Saturday morning I boxed, mowed the lawn and carried heavy boxes up and down the basement steps. We walked about a mile and a quarter down the trail before we decided it was too cold and headed back.

At the 1/2 mile marker, I realized that Harper has kicked off her socks somewhere in the journey, and they are nowhere to be seen.

I handed Sara my keys and walked back along the trail to find the errant socks. By the time I found them (pretty much where we turned around) I realized I was closer to my house than I was to the car.

So I just walked home.


On a bike trail.

Carrying baby socks.

Conversations stopped as people passed me and stared at my hands.

Sara caught up to me in my car as I was a block away from the house.

All in all, I think Sara had a great first Mother's Day.

May 6, 2010

A Picture of My Thoughts

I've been thinking about pictures lately.

Pictures are truth and lies.

When we look at a picture, we see a frozen moment of the past. We see a slice of time that shows us joy, sorrow, anger, beauty, pain, life or death. That little bit of happiness or sadness acts on us like a trigger, reviving memories and feelings from times gone by. We use pictures as an index to our lives. How many people have looked at a photograph and never uttered the phrase "Oh, I remember that! That was when I..."

Pictures, however, are also lies. They give us an idea of events, but never the full event. We see a photo of a man being punched in the face and we can't help but think "What's happening here?" The picture causes us to invent a story to fill in the gaps. Was he defending himself? Was he the instigator? Was this a boxing match?

I've been about this topic because I've been trying to take a picture or two of Harper every morning. I send them to a few people in the hopes that I will brighten their days.

Over the past few weeks, I've been taking them with my phone just before I drop her off at day care and, as a result, they almost been identical pictures. I take them while she's in her car seat, wearing different outfits, but with almost identical facial expressions.

I take these pictures because they are the easiest to take with my phone, which is my only camera at the moment. She's a captive subject, usually smiling when I open the door, and it seems like a good record.

If I take these every day for the next few years, I will be able to make a flip-book and watch her grow before my eyes.

She is already growing so fast and I worry that I'm missing so much. There is the time I spend away from her, but there is also the time that we spend together that I miss because of other things. I've been very frustrated with work recently (read "the past 8 months") and I know that our time has become slightly tainted because of it.

In the morning, I am occupied by thoughts of getting ready for work and what I'll do with my students to keep them from having breakdowns, either violently or emotionally. In the evenings, I am occupied by calming myself down from the day, talking to my wife for the first time in 20 hours and just trying to decide whether I should mow the lawn before the sun goes down.

The evenings are a little less stressful because being able to see my daughter after a long day always makes me happy. I walk in the door, say hello and she turns at the sound of my voice and smiles at me.

In my deepest and most personal fantasies, I picture myself coming home from work, tie undone, clothing a bit rumpled, calling into the house that I'm home and having Harper (a little older now) come running at me with her arms wide screaming "DADDY!!!" She'll throw her arms around my neck, I'll drop my work things and leave them there until the morning.

This image is so strong in my mind that I can close my eyes any time of the day or night and see it. I can feel her arms and hear her voice.

Obviously, since Harper is unable to walk or talk yet, this hasn't happened and I'm not holding my breath. Children will do what they want no matter how much I want it to be a certain way. It may happen, it may not.

As of right now, when I'm having a rough day at work, wondering why I'm here, I find somewhere quiet to sit and I go through my phone. I look at the 100+ pictures that I have of my beautiful daughter and smile. I imagine the sound of her voice, the smell of her skin and the feel of her hands grabbing at my beard and face. I use my pictures to remind me why I'm working.

My pictures, while not perfect, are good enough to sustain me in times of trouble. The pictures don't tell a story as some might, but they allow me to create my own stories.

In this instance, I want the lies that pictures induce. I don't want the truth. I don't want to be reminded that I am not with my daughter. I don't want to look at these pictures and see my students staring back at me.

I want my pictures to open the floodgates, not only of my memory, but also my imagination. I want to see the happy life I have at my house. It reminds me that that life is only possible because of the sacrifices that Sara I make every day by going to work. I am thankful that I have a job that affords me the summers off.

I love my pictures and I share them with everyone I can.

I horde them.

May 4, 2010



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