Sunday, November 22, 2009

Number One in Our Hearts

Jeep is 15 months old today! It has been an amazing run.

Trip report: our first baby has successfully crossed the line to small person. Tonight his mom asked out loud - "Jeep, how can you be so short, but still be such a regular person in every other way?" He was banging all the pots in the kitchen with a carboard wrapping paper tube. It turns out that they all make slightly different sounds. Jude did not reply to this, but I could see some sarcasm in his gaze as he glanced back at her. What are you thinking, you little monster? Maybe something like, "You ain't seen nothin' yet."

Jeep has successfully completed the race distance of 15 months of life. There was a close call at the Children's Museum treehouse last week, but we've put that behind us. Tonight he was awarded this medal for bravery in combat and courage under fire. Actually, he just found it in the toy bin and wouldn't put it down. But it looks good on him.

What will the next months bring? Our boy is healthy and happy in every way. You had better live it up, little Jeep. There is a little sister or brother on the way that will change your life forever. In the meantime, you get all our cheers, all our attention, and all our love. Go for the gold, baby! Sprint it to win it!
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Friday, November 20, 2009

Be the Man Your Kids Want You To Be

I've had some sobering news this past few weeks.

A close friend was in a car crash late at night on a curvy road. There were four people in the car, and they had all been drinking. My friend was driving, and the accident crushed both of his legs. His girlfriend is under intensive care, and the other passengers were thrown from the vehicle, but walked away unharmed.

I visited my friend in the hospital. His injuries were healing, but his emotions were still on a roller coaster. He reminded me of another night, about a year ago, when were were out drinking and driving around the city. "You are the shittiest designated driver I've ever seen," I had joked. That wasn't quite so funny anymore.

Another friend recently confessed to me that he was drinking too much in the evenings. This was time spent at home with his family, and he wanted to break the pattern. He found that the hour between arriving home and having dinner was a crucial one for self discipline, so he arranged his computer calendar to send him text messages every 15 minutes with reminders. These reminders would say things like "Be the man your children want you to be." That is some heavy emotional blackmail, if you ask me, but it was effective. I admire this.

I told you those two stories so I could tell you about this one.

Yesterday a couple followed some tire tracks off the road near a creek on the Oregon coast. They found an upturned SUV, filling with water, the passengers hysterical. Children were crying. They called emergency services, and a local guy heard it on the police scanner. (Who listens to a police scanner on a Wednesday afternoon?) He jumped in his truck and drove up the road.

The first man plunged into the water to help remove the passengers and couldn't open the doors. He broke the windshield with a rock to rescue the driver, a woman in her twenties. The second man arrived on scene and entered the water with a knife in his hand. He found the children in the back seat and cut their seatbelt straps, then passed them to safety through the icy water.

The woman was hysterical. "There's three!" she yelled, "He's in the front seat!" That's when the men went back into the water and found the six-month old baby, strapped into the carseat, submerged in the water. They cut the baby out, carried him to shore, and began CPR on the little lifeless body as sirens and paramedics arrived at the scene. Doctors were able to revive the little boy, who is listed in critical condition.

The police indicated that the driver was "very intoxicated" at the time of the crash.

There were a number of rescuers that day, made up of friends and neighbors and good samaritans, but I cannot stop thinking about those two men in the water.

These are sobering stories. This is not meant to be a comment on the dangers of alcohol, or a confession of fears, or a condemnation of drunken drivers. These stories bring up a lot of feelings for me.

Maybe I want to point out this simple fact: parenting is a sobering activity. Learning to love and be loved by the children in your life is its own kind of rush. Taking good care of your own little family brings many surprising rewards. It leaves me a little unsettled, and quiet, and much, much more careful.

If I'm going to be the man my boy wants me to be, then I need to remember these stories. I want to be the man in the river, holding the knife. That's the man I want to be, and I think I can be that man. I might to have to get a good knife.

Here's the story.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fall Adventures

The Daddy Life and son are compelled to report on a successful adventure.

Jeep, Daddy, and our good friend all drove out to see my grandmother on a bright fall day. The weather was warm, we played in the leaves, drove through small towns, ate french fries, went for a hike, and generally wore ourselves out.

We dropped off my friend and rolled back into Portland just as the sun was fading. Setting sun, slow traffic, children's music on the radio, and The Daddy Life experienced something he hasn't felt in a long while.

I was tired.

We got home, fed the Jeep, read some books, and he went to bed an hour early.

At this point I had a brilliant and startling realization. Being a Dad, living "the daddy life," and generally fulfilling the needs, wants, and dreams of my 1 year old son - this is an exhausing job. This day we had together, this fall adventure was everything I could have hoped for. I was my best daddy self, and my boy was happier for having shared the day with me.

We had a grand and successful adventure, and I welcome years more of them. Maybe I just never realized how easy my own dad made it look! But Damn! My full time job is a lot of WORK.
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Saturday, October 31, 2009


This is my favorite holiday.

Halloween is the only holiday left in our mainstream, washed out version of suburban American culture in which the unexpected can happen. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Groundhog Day, Easter, 4th of July, or the Day that the Blazers Make the Playoffs? Sure, these days have a lot of goodwill, brotherly love, and church attendance to go around. But HALLOWEEN is the only holiday in which we OPEN OUR DOORS to the general public. It is generally accepted that groups of costumed children will roam the streets, knock on doors, take their handfuls of chocolate largesse, and disappear into the night. There is also this underlying assumption that people will scare each other, and the potential for childhood fear adds a mixture of excitement and adrenaline.

I've never been one for Haloween parties. For me, the real action happens at the front door. Most years, I don't even have a costume to speak of. I just put on some kind of crazy wig, and a funny hat, long tights, a cape, and anything else that looks crazy. Then I make a big fire, we drink cider, and I lie in wait for the little cherubs to come and visit.

This year will be no different. The script will play out as it always does. But this year, we will go out on the early Daddy rounds, knocking on our neighbors' doors before the real ghouls and goblins come out to play. Jeep will be dressed as a pumpkin. Daddy will be wearing a warm coat and holding a cold hand. If you see us, wave hello! This is my favorite holiday, after all. But maybe, just maybe, it's because I love the tricks and treats.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The SAHD Gig Ain't for Everyone

I may have mentioned, but I think I'm a pretty good dad.

Specifically, I'm a good Stay-At-Home-Dad. If indeed the Stay-At-Home-Dad movement is really a movement and not just a bunch of guys too bored or lazy to work, then I definitely belong to it. Hell, I'm an advocate. I think all guys should be SAHDs. Unfortunately, I have discovered that the daddy life is not for everyone, and for some it's a downright bad idea.

This is the story of a bad stay-at-home dad. He's a good dad, but he'd be better off with a job and a good daycare. Sometime early last year, I met this guy and his young son. We'll call him Curtis. He lives in my neighborhood, and we "hooked up" through our wives who met one night while they were walking their respective infants through the hills of West Portland.

Sadly, this is a classic story of young romance and harsh breakup. I was excited to meet another dude whose situation was so similar to my own. But somehow there was no spark. We met a few times, took our kids for hikes, and met up at the library story hour. We even we went out for lunch. Not only did this SAHD "dating" make me feel like Harvey Milk with a 1-year-old, it just wasn't fun.

Curtis was a downer. He had a generally negative outlook on the world, and seemed unhappy with every aspect of raising his child. Eventually, our relationship devolved into a bi-monthly phone call and a halfhearted attempt to get together. Let's be honest here - I blew the guy off. He was genuinely looking for dad-friend, a buddy to hang with and ease his burden down the lonely road of childcare. I just couldn't be that guy.

The last several times we talked on the phone, we had the same conversation. I would say (in all honesty) "I'm pretty busy this week." Curtis would reply, (skeptically) "That's amazing." Then there would be this short pause, where we both considered what this might mean.

I feel bad for this guy. He didn't see his days ahead of him filled with adventure. The wonders of learning to walk, read books, climb stairs, and eat with a fork were lost on him. A few short years ago, I would have found these things just as dull. It makes me wonder - what is the difference between us?

My life with the boy isn't just baby talk and diaper changes. I don't stay at home, watching the clock. We go out EVERY DAY. While it is true that I don't cover as much ground as I used to, pre-baby, we still use every minute of our day to find some action, go out to lunch, or walk through the park. I figured out early, to make this thing work, you've got to have some get up and go in you.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Playing with Fire

My boy is thirteen months old now. He has seen a lot in his short life, travelled, and experienced the love of his parents and family. He had a good run as a baby, and now we are rapidly moving into the land of Toddler, also known as the Land of the Lost.

I say Lost, because that is how my Toddler seems. He can't say real words yet, and really only points at what he wants. We tried to teach him some signs, but he seems to prefer the "Uhh-uhh-uhhh" that is so effective when coupled with a pointed finger or hand. At times, he seems to want everything, and nothing at once. He is exploring everything, which makes the Daddy Life very nervous.

Over the past week we have had a cold in the Daddy Life household. This means that we are home more, wearing sweats and slouching around the house. The kitchen is a minor wreck, and on top of that, the Indian Summer has turned into Fall Chill. One of my many household duties, The Daddy Life started a fire in the fireplace.

This has provided young Jeep with one of the first opportunities to test the limits of his parents and their newfound parenting skills. The fireplace is one of the first arenas in which we are beginning to struggle with the magic word: NO.

Actually, I don't say NO at all. I say BE CAREFUL, IT'S HOT. And then of course my young Toddler looks at me to make sure I am watching, and moves to touch the fireplace screen anyway, which isn't really that hot. So then I pick him up and move him away and we find something else to entertain ourselves. This has worked pretty well, but suddenly these limits are sprouting up all over the house.

NO, YOU CAN'T PUT YOUR HAND IN THE TOILET (while closing the lid)
NO, THAT IS DADDY'S CUP OF COFFEE (I give Jeep his own plastic mug for pretend coffee)

When he wants something that I don't want to give him, I usually just sweep him up in my arms, carry him out of the room, and we find something else to focus on. This almost always works.

I can see trouble brewing on the horizon.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

School Daze

It is September, and like every September of my life, I look forward to a transformation.

This is my favorite time of year. As a child, I was ingrained with the biorhythms of the school year. New teachers, new schools, new friends all brought new challenges and triumphs. The sweet, long evenings of summer drew to a close, and new responsibilities greeted me. Growing up! Independence! New beginnings! The opportunity to remake myself, every autumn. The possibilities and the cold morning air were breathtaking.

This fall is no exception. We have new projects ahead of us. One of them is a new baby, due in May. Little Jeep will have a sister! In the meantime the Daddy Life has to shoulder a bit more housework, childcare, and energy. This is a given. Mommy Dearest has been sacked out on the couch for the last few weeks, a victim of fall colds and baby nausea. This is very exciting, of course. But the here and now demands our attention on another front.

Jeep and his Daddy enrolled in a co-op preschool this September. Preschool? For 1-year-olds? Yep. This is our third week. And it's pretty great.

I will be careful here, not to write too much about these people, these new partners in parenting our Boy. After this blog becomes famous, I am sure that some of my comments will come back to get me in trouble. For the meantime, I will say only a few things.

We are in a small classroom with a teacher and a few other parents. Seven children participate each week, in our case on Tuesday and Thursday between the hours of 9am and 1pm. The school is focused on a "play" atmosphere with plenty of activities and time outside. We are very busy during those four hours, and I would say that this sets us apart from a "daycare" situation. On Tuesdays, I am on shift as the parent helper. On Thursdays I go play golf.

Let me just say this - Jeep loves it. He has always been drawn to other children, and I felt strongly that we should provide him the opportunity for socializing with his peers as soon as possible. He was born in August, so that makes him the youngest in his class. This does not seem to be a problem.

The biggest change for The Daddy Life comes on Tuesday afternoon. We return home from preschool, Jeep has a bottle, and goes straight to bed. The Daddy Life also goes straight to bed, and is generally worthless for the rest of the afternoon. It is fricking exhausting taking care of one-year-olds. How does Octomom do it? Heh heh heh. (That was a joke~!)

After the first Tuesday, I made dinner, Mommy Dearest put the Boy to bed, and I drank all the whiskey in the house. Fortunately there wasn't very much of it. :)

Transformation, here I come! I think we're through the worst of it. Jeep is happy, I am happy, and the new baby heartbeat is cruising along at about 172 beats per minute. I love September.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

September 11

It seems like a lifetime ago. I was working in a Starbucks in Portland, Oregon when the planes hit the twin towers in New York. It was about 6am, I was slinging coffees to the early morning crowd, and guys were coming in with reports of horror and calamity. That was a new job for me, but technically my third run as a Starbucks corporate employee. Did I mention, after my history degree, that I spent my twenties wandering the earth? My return to Portland was something akin to a coming home, but I was still living in a month-to-month apartment. For some guys, commitment comes hard.

The morning wore on, and the stories kept getting worse and worse. Eventually, word came down from the TOP that all Starbucks stores were closing for the day. I was shocked and shaken. There was a girl working there, and I still remember her red hair and hipster glasses. She was off shift that day, but she was sitting home watching the television, and brought in these small pieces of paper. After terror gripped the nation, I glued mine into a little book I keep for important garbage that I don't want to forget. Here it is.

As much as I don't want to admit it, The 9/11 attacks changed my life forever. I was just reading a schmaltzy letter of remorse and remembrance over at Metrodad, and it made me realize that everyone has their own story about that day. I have mine, too. And I guess it's worth telling.

The story begins like this. I was dating 9 women at the time of the 9/11 attacks. NINE. I had a little apartment, and had returned to a town where I had plenty of friends. In theory, I was trying to "get back together" with an old girlfriend. But this was not even remotely true. I was drunk with the possibilities of girls in their twenties, post-college, and ready for action. I could hardly keep them separate in my mind. I had dates every night, and found it difficult to juggle them around. Now, you may be thinking that I am just THAT KIND OF GUY. I assure you, that is not remotely true. I am just a guy, like every other guy, that has been through LONG dry spells and hung on through TERRIBLE stormy relationships. Sometimes it just happens - suddenly, I was THE GUY.

I had more girls interested than I had days in the week! They were lovely girls, all of them. And we had very casual relationships. The were a mish-mash of old friends, new lust, and surprising distraction. Essentially, I discovered casual dating. And it was good. I give a special nod to those that stand out most in my mind - the White Porsche Girl, the Big Bam Boom, the Yoga Teacher, and the Nurse. It was a lovely fall.

There was a downside. When we woke up in my apartment in the morning, I wanted them gone. I didn't know how to say this exactly, but I always felt very strongly that they were somehow invading my space. But then they would go, and I would see them again some other time.

On that September 11, I made phone calls to the people in my life that mattered. I called my mother, and my father, and my brother. After I finished those calls, I thought to myself - "Is this all there is?" I always refer to the fall of 2001 as my "hot period" with the women. Honestly, I think I was just searching for something that I wasn't finding.

Finally, in November, it came to pass. I went on a date with a girl I had been keeping on the line for several weeks. She was a mutual friend, smarter than most, and had recently broken up with a boyfriend. We went out, she came on strong, and I was smitten. We went out to a club with friends, had far too much to drink, and I drove her home with me. She stayed the night, and in the morning a strange thing happened: I didn't want her to leave. I thought to myself - "how can I get her to stay?" Of course I offered her breakfast, and of course she refused, politely. Six months later we were engaged.

Here is the part that I can't get out of my mind: 8 years after the 9/11 attacks, there is a little boy sleeping downstairs with her eyes and my last name. The day that those towers fell, I told myself to GET SERIOUS about something in this life. There is mother and a one year old in my house that I am VERY serious about.

That is my story. It is not as sad as some. But it has a nice ending.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bachelor Night, Part 2

What awaited me in the nursery was something from a horror film.

After months of casual baby monitor use, all my fears were vindicated. For the love of God, what did people do before baby monitors? It was 11:30pm, I was awakened from a deep sleep by the sound of choking, and my daddy alarm was tickling the back of my conscience. I stumbled down the hall, but maybe lurched was a better word. Was I drunk? I felt strange, but pushed onward and into the inner sanctum of babyland. The doors opened, the lights came on, and there he was.

My boy was covered in puke.

It looked as if someone had taken a bucket of puke, mostly consisting of string cheese, curdled milk, and purple grapes, and dumped it into Jeep's crib, directly over his head. He was a little scared but not crying, and when I picked him up I could see that he had been rolling in it. He was happier in my arms, and immediately began grabbing at my face with his puke covered hands. The stench was fantastic. I hadn't seen (or smelled) puke this intense in a long long time. We stripped off his clothes and got directly into the shower.

He was shivering, which makes me wonder how long he'd been puking. The shower warmed him up, and I dressed him in warm pajamas before we returned to the nursery to tackle the sheets, the mattress pad, and the pile of puke clothes. Once dressed, my boy wanted to play. This is the nicest part about sick babies. They don't know that they're sick. Jeep played on the floor awhile until he got another bout of the pukes, which thankfully all ended up on the carpet. I was not going to change those clothes again. I settled him down and he dropped right to sleep.

I went to bed, but somewhat shaken. He sounded perfectly alright on the monitor! He wasn't crying or anything! And then something sent me down the hall, the tiniest little choking sound and then PUKE PUKE PUKE. Oh, the horror. I laid half awake for the rest of the night, but Jeep seemed to be recovering.

At 6am he started his hungry cry, and I went upstairs to make a bottle. Again, something was wrong. My stomach was hurting. I walked back down the stairs and then suddenly I was detouring to the bathroom. PUKE PUKE PUKE. What was this? I never puke! I am the king of bad hangovers, stomach cramps, and holding my chips. Once in Siberia I got food poisoning and muscled down a week's worth of nausea and home remedies without ever once blowing chunks.

What did we eat? Was it Exhibit A? B? C? or even D?

The two of us spent the day taking long naps, crawling around the house, and moaning. I was in a bad way, and did the only thing a self-respecting husband could do. I lied about it. That was my wife's SPA DAY AT THE COAST. If I told her that her boys were sick, then she might come home. So I stuck it out. We were bachelors to the end. Well, almost the end. Eventually I folded and called my mother. She came over after work to take the Jeep off of my hands for a few hours. I was mildly feverish, and spent the time on the couch.

The next morning we were better. A little better. We even went to the zoo. And so, we attempted to put the food poisoning mystery behind us. Until now.

I am a bad man. Virtually everyone we came into contact with during this 48 hour period has since gotten the bug. Either this was our first childhood virus, or one nasty case of contagious food poisoning. Sorry, everybody! Mea culpa!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Bachelor Night, Part 1

Months ago, my wife decided she needed a vacation.

She needed some time away from the baby, and was willing to plan ahead for this last week of August. Her mother, the Latin Teacher, is visiting from New York. The two of them rented a house at the Oregon Coast, armed with good walking shoes and Season 7 of 24. The boys were invited for the first few days. On Thursday afternoon we left to roll back home. This is where the fun begins.

It was hot when we hit Portland and neither Jeep or I felt like cooking. We hung around the house that evening, playing with our newfound toys and pretending to clean the kitchen, respectively. At some point I stumbled upon the mostly finished keg of beer in the garage, leftover from last week's Pig Roast. Why not? It smelled alright and tasted just fine for lukewarm beer. This will be exhibit A.

Jeep ate a lot of grapes for dinner. Grapes and cheese and whole milk and Cheerios. Let the court note that I am marking the contents of my one-year-old's stomach as Exhibit B. Do you see where this is going?

Boy, we were having a good time now. I love bachelor nights! Jeep and I played around the nursery, wrestled on the bed, read books in the shower, and generally had a great night. I was too lazy to make dinner after he went down, so I put in a movie and ate crackers for dinner. Rice crackers. And I found something in the pantry to go with it. Dry packaged pepper garlic salmon spread. From CostPlus World Market. Definitely a Christmas stocking gift. Exhibit C.

On bachelor nights from days gone past, when I still worked for a living and I wasn't out swilling drinks, I had a bachelor tradition that I followed religously. Whenever the wife was out of town, I always watched the somewhat adolescent classic, Joe Dirt. I do not know how this got started, but probably it has something to do with the fact that my Wife HATES this sort of movie and has no patience for it. And of course I love it.

I went to bed around 10pm, just after the part where Joe sleeps with the girl he thinks is his sister. Joe could be Exhibit D.

Around 11:30pm I was roused from sleep. Let me give you a little background about our baby arrangement. At our house, the baby sleeps as far away as possible. He is in the back corner bedroom off the laundry, and we close all the doors to keep things quiet back there. Needless to say, we are the sort of parents who fall into LetHimCry (LHC) category, also known as CryItOut (CIO) or ShhBeQuietAndHe'llGoBackToSleep (SBQAHGBTS). We are heartless cold bitches in my house. And my boy sleeps like a dream.

Except on this night, when I heard a very different sound coming through the baby monitor. He was awake, for the moment, but little Jeep was making a new sound. This one was not a cry so much, as a kind of choking cough. I rose from my bed to see what was the matter.

To be continued . . .

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Pig Roast

My boy turned one year old last weekend.

For Jeep, this was another day of grabbing for rocks, learning to walk, pointing, smiling, and generally experiencing the world in all its beauty.

Of course it was not so simple for me.

A year ago, I had a career change. I went from high school teacher to Daddy.
I left a school where I was valued, needed, and appreciated. I watched kids grow up before my eyes, and I knew that I was making a difference. I was a coach, mentor, teacher, and case manager for a whole slough of kids whose lives didn't hold much hope or promise. I worked every day to help them believe in the power of their dreams.
Five years I spent at this occupation, and in one dazzling August evening in 2008 the birth of my son changed my direction. I quit my job and took a new title. Stay-at-home-Dad.
So of course I had to commemorate the event. With a pig roast.
You may wonder, why a pig roast? I'm not sure I could tell you myself. In retrospect, I will say that it brought together a good mix of celebration, theater, and bacchanalia, which is to say, drunkenness. I couldn't be happier that my boy survived one year of life, and goddammit I wanted to do something GREAT to mark this event with the kind of gravity it deserved.
This was something I was called to do, that I needed to accomplish. Like many things in this category, it caused a minor fight with my wife. But lets set that aside and get on to the story.

I spent weeks preparing for this event. I researched pig roasting methods, scouted an appropriate venue, sent invitations, and procured kegs of beer. And then there was the pig. I chose to purchase this particular swine from a local butcher. I don't know if it was a girl pig or a boy pig. I just said pig, and they said okay.

I set my alarm for 3:40am on the morning of the pig roast. I had enlisted the help of a close friend in the building of the fire and the cooking of the swine. He seems to like being called the Pig Bitch, so we'll stick with that. At 4:45am with lit the match and started the fire.

Part of my whole pig roast obsession was that I wanted to roast the pig in the ground, using the methods of the islanders of Hawaii and the South Pacific. Basically, you make a big fire, throw in some rocks, then burn the fire down to coals and bury the pig under burlap or canvas or banana leaves or cardboard or all of the above. The rocks cook the pig. Brilliant.

There is a problem with this method - I don't know anyone who has ever done it. That's not quite true - I've seen similar earth ovens in Fiji, and of course I've been to the obligatory Hawaiian luau. But that doesn't help me here. I have other pig roasting friends, but they have all used a more labor intensive method - roasting over a low fire on a spit. It seems like all the serious pig cookers I know don't really like the uncertainty of burying the pig without knowing when it's going to be done.

For me, that is the best part about roasting a pig in the ground - there is some definite RISK involved. Greatness courts failure, Romeo.

Back to the pig. Once we had a big fire going, it seemed a shame not to make breakfast. Eggs and bacon, over the skillet. For anyone that would like to recreate a similar task, I made the fire from two year old fir and maple, then threw in an additional bag of charcoal briquettes. I also used about 15 medium sized garden rocks and 40 or so smaller river rocks. Several of the rocks cracked in half during the fire. The pit was about 3 feet by 6 feet, and roughly 3 feet deep. The bottom was lined with old brick.

Once we had finished with breakfast, the fire began to die down and it was time to prepare the pig. The Pig Bitch had picked her up the night before, and she spent the night in a cooler on ice.

Here I have a confession to make. I popped the cooler, tore open the plastic bag, and I got a little sick. I know what you're thinking here. I'm just a city boy, and not accustomed to the hard truth of barnyard life. That may be accurate, but I've been down this road before. I once killed and butchered pigs in a village in Siberia for Godsakes! With knives! No, dear reader, this was a different kind of sickness. It was a moment of doubt. This was the point where I realized that me and my pig roasting ceremony was totally RIDICULOUS. The sun was rising and a gentle fog rested on the meadow. It was 6 in the fucking morning. I had a giant dead animal on my hands, and why? Why am I so crazy? All of my very best thinking got me right here. I sat in it for a minute, and then we had to move on. There was nothing more to be done. Lets wrap her up and cook her!

Here is what we did. First we seasoned the pig with barbecue spice. Then we cut large holes in the rump and shoulders and inserted hot rocks from the fire. We wrapped her several times in aluminum foil, then chicken wire. Placing her onto the coals, we covered her with pre-soaked burlap, then canvas, then wet cardboard. No banana leaves for these cowboys. Then we threw some plywood over the top and waited. Just how long to wait was a topic of much discussion between me and the Pig Bitch. The internet varied from 6 to 12 hours. We only had a 60 pound pig, so I opted for 8 hours.

If you happen to be doing this for a 1 year old birthday party, I must recommend the use of cheap plastic fencing to keep out children and dogs. It also gives the endeavor a macabre quality that can only be augmented by a tasteful plastic cross.

Fast forward 8 hours. We prepared for a party, and a party we had! Despite my best intentions, our 40 some guests and their 15 children failed to drink both kegs of beer. I assure you that I did my part. I was feeling no pain when it was time to exhume the pig and cut her up for consumption. Nontheless, I can only report success.

The pig came out of the ground in grand style. There was a crowd of people, I gave a short speech. May my baby boy live a long and happy life!

Someday he will ask me, "What did we do on my first birthday?"

"We roasted a pig in the ground, son, in your honor."

"Did it taste good?"

"It tasted GREAT."

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

To my Jeep on his first birthday,

This past year has changed me forever. On the day you were born, the evening was a warm yellow and orange. Your mother and I watched the fading light out of our hospital room as the earth rolled slowly away from the sun. That night, the miracle of your birth came alive and into my arms.

I watched your wrinkly white back change to a bright red. When you opened your mouth to cry, it was the most beautiful sound I had ever heard.

I am blessed every day with the exquisite privilege of being your father.

This past year, I have watched you and loved you. Ever the miracle, I have learned from your learning, and rejoiced in your wonder. I was there when you crawled backwards across the room, when you said your first word, and when you climbed to the top of the stairs. I was there when you took your first steps, when you learned to wave goodbye, and when you opened your mouth to laugh.

We have traveled together this year. To the East Coast, down to California, up to Maine, and all over Oregon. We have shared pizza, and ice cream, and egg sandwiches. We have stood together underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, and next to the Ocean, and under the Moon. I wouldn’t trade a moment of it.

Someday you will want to know: what was I like when I was one? I will tell you.

You bring me books to read, and we play with cars on the floor. You make a sound like an internal combustion engine. You love to surf on top of the guitar, and won’t let me play unless you have a turn. You love to eat, especially bites from our plates. Sometimes when you are really enjoying yourself, you make snorting noises like a wild boar. You love to feed us from your plate. You tell jokes and play games, but they are subtle. Often they are easy games like hiding (Where’s Jude?) and pointing. But sometimes they involve the organizing of blocks or throwing things onto the floor, and knocking things over. You don’t talk much, but you make your desires known through a series of hoots and moans. You want to touch everything, and hold it in your hands. You love cell phones, and you hold them to your ear and pretend to talk. You can throw balls, but not very far! And we just learned that you love to play with little dolls. It’s really cute. Please don’t blame me for this later in life.

On this day, one year past the first day of your life, I will make you a promise. Your mother and I love you more than we thought we could. We will stand beside you as you learn to walk, and behind you as you learn to run. We will yell with joy when you ride a bike, and wave goodbye when you get on the bus for Kindergarten. We will love you and laugh with you and support you in whoever you will become. Your dreams are our dreams to nurture and sow and build, from the tiniest hole in the ground to the tallest of skyscrapers.

When you laugh, the whole world laughs with you. You have your entire life ahead of you. Be bold! Be daring, and get out and chase down this life. It is yours to wrangle and capture and tame. This is my gift to you, my baby boy. The world is yours! May you live long and enjoy it.