October 4, 2010

My latest spare-time-project was this credenza for our dining room. I wanted to build it for as cheap as possible, so I picked up three pallets for free behind a local business that throws them away. Interesting, each pallet had a different IPPC stamp on them and they represented Germany, Spain and Italy. These pallets turned credenza have literally been around the world.

The top is made of reclaimed Java wood, which I had left over from the dining table that I built with my Dad. I tried a few new things including tapered legs, dowel joinery and doors, which proved more time consuming than I thought.

September 28, 2010

It's not easy having a child, introducing another human being into my immediate life. Another person to think about it, to take care of, to feel joy over, to feel frustrated by, to spend time with. Because no matter which way you slice it, whether all you see is the joy or the first words or the future wedding, there is something to be said of the hardship.

What I expected from these early years were the long nights of frequent wake ups, of feeling tired most of the day, of the teething fussiness, the constant picking up. The problem is that I didn't get any of that. She wakes up at 10am every day and I can't remember the last time she woke up during her twelve-to-fourteen-hour nightly hibernation. She whines less than a few minutes of the day and is, for the most part, as happy as the day she learned the sign for milk, which sent her squeezing her hands together on repeat for a week.

What I didn't foresee was that my daughter, who stole my heart from the moment I saw the wet hair on her head, could so easily take away something that defined my life with Kari as much as anything else. Our ability to pack up and go, to hit the road or the air, has been slowly crushed and beaten out of us by Stella's hard headed refusal to stay calm in the car. It didn't take long to decide to travel out of state less, on account of her incessant need to whine and moan continuously when strapped down. Even traveling in state has become a tiring endeavor. By the time we reach our destination, even one hour away, our heads are spinning from her refusal to relax, a word that we have calmly and loudly and hopelessly tried to teach our little independent nineteen month old.

I didn't anticipate the emotional toll it would take of being a Father torn by the necessity of work and the desire to spend every last minute with her. Or the guilt that envelopes me every week that goes by when I can't go 50-50 with Kari in parenting duties, something I promised myself would be possible. I didn't think about the moments that come every few days when I realize that even though I've spent plenty of time with her, I haven't actually spent time with her. I haven't chased her around the dining room table or built skyscrapers out of blocks or looked into her eyes for minutes at a time or whispered in her ear that I'm so infinitely proud of every ounce of her.

I never knew that having a child would lead to missing my wife so much.

And I know this is j u s t the b e g i n n i n g.

A few months ago this night, September 27, 11:51am, was on the calendar. Pacific Crest Trail hike 2010, night one in the trees near Lake Arrowhead. I was going to be sleeping in my tiny tent, next to my hiking partner, sound asleep after a fifteen mile hike through the San Gabriels earlier in the day. Tomorrow would have brought twenty-five more miles North, twenty-five miles closer to my goal of making it all the way to Canada one day.

But tonight, September 27, I'm laying in bed alone, tapping my fingers on a backlit keyboard and listening to a certain National's song on repeat. Kari is throwing up every few hours in the living room, and Stella is fast asleep in her darkened room. I cleaned up vomit today, changed four diapers filled with poop, rubbed cream on Stella's rash and ran between living room and bedroom, keeping my eyes on the two people who matter more to me than everyone else in my life combined. Tomorrow I'll wake up and work for an hour before my girls get up and then I'll give a list of Stella's needs to a last minute morning babysitter and then I'll drive Kari to the Doctor for some fluids and to make sure our twelve week old is still in good shape.

And yet, even as the tears roll down and the cumulative parenting burden feels as heavy as it ever has, I absolutely can't wait to be with my family tomorrow. No matter how the day goes, no matter the complexities, no matter the unpredictability, no matter how this life unfolds, I can't wait to be with my family tomorrow. And that seems like enough.

August 28, 2010

A few of my favorite pictures from the last month. She turned 18 months old on the 21st.

August 2, 2010

In the end, we traveled our way across 2204 miles of the Southern United States in a little under 90 hours, with several stops along the way in Nashville, Arlington, Vernon, Albuquerque and the Grand Canyon. Our loaded down, trusty Honda Civic took most of the brunt with 100 degree heat and several hundred pounds of stuff packed into its backseat and trunk. I couldn't have asked for a better road trip partner than Paul, who was up for anything and made me laugh at least half of the time. What may go down as my favorite line from the trip: After spending four days with my iPhone, playing games and using the maps feature and taking pictures, he says as we neared Los Angeles: "It's like the future, but it's right now." Brilliant.

Here are some of my favorite photos, from East to West...

--A little creature outside our hotel in Eastern Arkansas--

--The Ballpark in Arlington--

--Vernon, Texas--

--West Texas--

--Grand Canyon National Park--

July 27, 2010

Road trip begins now.

I have $100 for our four day, 2000 mile journey west, only because my driving partner Paul is vouching for gas since this is really his move west. I figure $100 should cover some magazines at the airport, a few meals in this town and that city and possibly a drink or three with my buddy Asher.

Food is going to be tricky this time around since my partner and I no longer eat meat. Gone are the road trips of my growing up and pre-turning-30 years where fast food burgers and tacos took center stage in my belly. I imagine eating on this trip will be trickier and more thought driven than simply looking for the pre-exit sign on the interstate that says Arbys. Now we will be forced to exit into the unknown in the hopes of finding a little diner or eatery that may or may not serve something vegetarian. While I will miss the guilt free, road trip fast food that I have come to love since our first family road trips, the adventure of eating local will certainly be interesting in it's own way.

My pack is small and mostly contains food, which is partly because I'm scared of the aforementioned mystery that surrounds our lunches and dinners and partly because it seemed cheaper and healthier to bring my own goodies (cashews, dried mango, puffins and rice cakes).

Also packed is my trusty camera -which I plan to use a lot in West Texas - some charging devices, a CD with Radiolab podcasts, two David Sedaris audiobooks and a pillow for nights under the stars.

Traveling alone is revealing some of my stronger anal tendencies, which tend to hide in corners when I'm traveling with Kari and the more recently acquired Stella, who over the course of 17 months has managed to drive these peculiar habits and unusual pleasures into the far off nooks and crannies of my mind. But sitting on the plane, alone and full of a slowly poured glass of orange juice, I am able to dwell on these tendencies. Like the fact that my seat pocket is neatly arranged in front of me and that my Vanity Fair is void of all inserts. Or at the airport when I had time to arrange my bills from largest to smallest, all facing the same way. Or at home packing late last night, going over every minute detail from the podcast arrangement to the way my luggage was arranged like a puzzle in my pack, with each pair of socks in the exact right place. I know in a few hours, when I join the company of another, that these luxuries will no longer be viable, but for now, I'll keep sipping my orange juice for as long as I want to.

Nashville will be here soon. More to come then.

July 21, 2010

She has learned a new word and uses it whenever she can. Volume would help. :)

July 8, 2010

Trying not to forget...

She tickles everyone these days, crunching her little fingers in other kids faces and making a tsk tsk sound, all while looking like she is being tickled herself. When she doesn't get a laugh out of her tickle targets, she fake laughs on her own and then walks away cheerfully. Last night at the park, she missed a few tickles under the chin and wiggled her fingers straight into the eyes of a few toddlers. When one of them cried a little, she looked at me quizzically as if to say, "they don't really get it, do they dad?"

Our babycenter update yesterday mentioned this: "The challenge for toddlers is not understanding speech, but coordinating their lips and tongue and breath well enough to make themselves understandable." I have a new appreciation for her words now, which on any given day include some or all of the following: car, shoe, dada, mama, wawa, dog, go, ba nana (two words for her), cracker, ba bye, tee (as in television), bubble, hair, eyes, nose, teeth, mow (mouth), cheese, ball, Ieey (Eisley) and her new word that she is in the process of mastering: squirrel (which sounds like qua?, as if she's asking a question).

The inside of our Element has turned into a playground of late. Maybe it's the tinted windows or the moon roof or the ample cargo space (or maybe that's just what I like), but for whatever reason she loves climbing and roaming around the Element after a long drive. She'll pick food out of the cracks of her car seat and then stumble into the front where she steers and shifts and cranks up NPR without much difficulty.

There is a moment that happens at least once a day and it's my absolute hands down favorite part of the day. It's the moment when our little family crosses paths somewhere in the hallway or dining room, with all of us going somewhere but not to each other. Kari will be headed towards the kitchen, I'll be headed to the office and then there is Stella who is walking from her bedroom to who knows where in the house. She always has this interesting purposeful look in her eyes as if what she is about to do was her decision alone and she doesn't need us for any part of it. Sometimes I'll stop, turn and follow her secretly to see what was on her mind. It's usually to drop off something in the living room that she found in her bedroom, like a ball or some paper clips, which she found yesterday. It's only for a moment, that my little child is suddenly on her own and doesn't need us for something, but I always get this rush of contentment and a wonderful dose of reality. It's not just Kari and I, or Kari and I and our little baby anymore. It's US. We are a family.

[Thanks to Mel B. for the brilliant pictures!]

June 26, 2010

I finished this end table this morning. All of the wood is from pallets I picked up a while back While the design is mine, I got my inspiration from my friend Mel Barlow's end table in Brooklyn.