Friday, June 10, 2011

Letting Go

I’ve been a parent for a little over 4.5 months and I have to say it’s one of the most challenging, albeit rewarding, experiences I’ve ever had. I was lucky to be able to take seven weeks off earlier this spring to take care of her and watching J grow and change over those weeks was amazing, making itthat much harder to go back to work when it was over. Spending that much time with her I learned a number of things such as the sound she makes when she’s getting tired, the signs of hunger, and how to distract her when she’s throwing a fit. That last one saved me early on when she just wouldn’t stop crying and as a last resort I started clapping and it just mesmerized her to the point where the crying stopped and she stared at my hands. But of all the things I learned the most important was letting go.

Julia Reaching

When K was pregnant with J we consistently got two pieces of advice: 1. Get as much sleep as you can before the baby comes and 2. Go out to eat because it’ll be a while before you can again. We got lots of sleep and we ate out but here’s the thing, you can’t store sleep and we went out to eat not too long after she was born. I think the most useful advice anyone could have given us is to just let go. Let go of the idea that you’ll be getting a full night’s sleep because you won’t, at least not for a while, and you’ll be fine. Let go of spontaneity of your choosing because this pooping and crying creature has their own ideas. Like that last minute decision to take a little day trip up north that was interrupted because the baby wouldn’t stop crying for the first 20 minutes of the drive so you turned around. There will be spontaneity but that’ll be of the baby’s choosing. Let go of control. You don’t control how long your baby’s hair is going to stick up no matter how cute it is. Let go of things. That sleeper you bought because it’s so adorable, yup, she outgrew it in a week. Oh, and that favorite pair of jeans of yours, yeah she just pooped all over them when she blew out her diaper. Letting go of late night dinners out or going to concerts during the week. Letting go of some of the things you thought defined who you were before the baby.

Julia having a jovial conversation with her mom

But here’s the thing, you’re letting go of some things to welcome in the possibility of much more wonderful things. That TV show I would have watched is now replaced with trying to make my daughter laugh so hard she throws up, which I’ve done and resulted in me being equally proud and grossed out. The quiet time in the morning where I eat a bowl of cereal and catch up on the news has been replaced with singing made up songs to J. Those concerts at night, well let’s just say now I much prefer holding a sleeping baby than standing on my feet for hours as drunk people push by.

Julia working hard at her multiplication tables

All of those things that I’m giving up now will come back slowly but as they do I’ll be letting go of other things…things that will be harder to let go of. That quiet in the morning will be because we just got home from taking her to school for the first time. The television show I’m watching will be because she’s out with friends or, heaven forbid, a date and finds them to be more interesting than she finds me to be. Spontaneous trips will be because she’s all grown up and out of the house at college or working on the other side of the country.

Julia Carrot

The more I think about it the more I realize the letting go never ends. Now excuse me while I go home, put some product in J’s hair to make it stick up again, and refuse to stop hugging her.

What did you do to my baby?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

A Selfish Post

I wasn't planning on writing a post on the passing of my dear friend Kim Ricketts vowing to leave it to the much more capable and eloquent writers out there who would no doubt do a much better job than I ever could. I didn't know if I could write about the too soon passing of a friend again. It just isn't fair. We always say that with the passing of someone close to us to the point of cliche but rarely is it ever not true, especially with Kim.

But I had to write something and I will admit this is for very selfish reasons. When I look back on the time I got to spend with her it is filled with smiles and laughter. There were the stories and hugs we shared, the encouraging words about being a parent, how we planned to revamp the event series we worked on together, and the dishing. I would not trade any of the time I spent with her for anything, even the time when facilities screwed up and there weren't any chairs for our event and she gave me the look I'm sure her children are familiar with that just said, "Fix it."

It's not the time we spent together that makes me sad but rather the time we won't have. I know this is really selfish because there are three wonderful people out there who won't have another chance to hug their mom and husband who won't have another chance to hold his wife's hand. I know this but I'm going to be selfish for a moment and I hope you forgive me for that.

When Kim found out we were having a baby she was so excited for us. At one point I expressed some nervousness about being a parent and her response was, "You'll be great, just make sure to read to her." She missed our baby shower because she wasn't feeling well and was still going to doctors to try to figure out what was going on but the next time she saw me she greeted me with a big hug and a bigger stack of books.

She never got to meet Julia. I think that's one of the things that has made me so sad over the past week. When Julia was born Kim was in the same hospital but on a different floor. We were so tempted to find out what room Kim was in and bring the baby to her but we said we'll have lots of other chances to introduce Julia to her Auntie Kim. Over the next few months we were back at the hospital a number of times with Julia and I would often send Kim a message saying we were there and Julia says hi and can't wait to meet her. She would often tell me to give Julia a hug for her and once she got out of the hospital and was feeling better she couldn't wait to hold her.

There was never a doubt in our minds that there would be another day, a day when Kim would feel better and be able to hold the baby and read her a book. If we had known how little time we had we would have just said screw it and showed up at her hospital room door with the baby. Julia would have loved Kim, I have no doubt in my mind about that. I'm going to say it again, it just isn't fair. It's not fair that Julia has to grow up in a world without Kim Ricketts. It's not fair that she'll never get to hear Kim's voice or her laugh. It's not fair she'll never get an email from Kim where the subject line is used as the introductory sentences to her message. It's not fair she'll never get to hear Kim tell stories, especially the ones where she gets really animated (like the Marco Pierre White story).

I've gotten to experience all of that and I look back upon those things with joy and happiness. But Julia will never get to experience them. The sadness doesn't come from looking back at the time we had together but rather the time taken away from us and the things we won't get to do. Because Kim told me to, and you never want to disappoint her, we will read Julia lots of books and in doing so Kim will always be with us.

I know I'm not the only one that misses Kim and I'm being selfish but sometimes you just have to be selfish.

Oh, and cancer, if I ever run into you in a dark alley be warned I will kick you in the nuts you fucking asshole.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Three's Company

I thought I talked about poop a lot before but my perception of a lot changed a little over seven weeks ago. That's a lovely way to begin a post now isn't it? But seriously, if you have kids you totally know what I'm talking about. I'll just leave it at that for now but I reserve to right to revisit the topic later on.

Yummy mitten

It really boggles my mind that our daughter is seven weeks old boggles my mind even more that I'm a father. I mean come on, have you met me or read the first paragraph? But you know what? I'm loving it. Every day with little J is an adventure and I can honestly say it's never boring. It's so much fun seeing how much she changes and how much her personality becomes apparent as each day passes. I can tell already this little girl is going to be trouble when she gets older.

Kristen and Julia

She made us wait for her awesomeness though; there was a point where we weren't sure she was ever going to come out. We tried everything to cajole her to come out and by everything I mean anything that involved eating. I think that's where we went wrong because after our due date passed we decided to take advantage of the extra time and do date nights. We went out for spicy food twice after a number of people told us that was a reliable way to naturally induce. It didn't work. If anything it made her want to stay in there longer because she was enjoying all the food we were eating. After a while it was decided she either had to come out or start paying rent. Since she didn't have any monetary assets, as far as we could tell, she was evicted but not without putting up a fight first. After over 25 hours our little gigantor was born.

Of course any child of mine will have stripey socks

I won't lie to you, a lot of what you read about having a newborn makes it sound magical and easy but it isn't. Sure there's the lack of sleep that everyone talk about but that's not all. Don't get me wrong it's an amazing time that I will always cherish but it's hard. As hard as it might be for me I'm not the one that has to provide food for the little one and this kid likes to eat. If it wasn't for our friend Matthew Amster-Burton's book Hungry Monkey this whole child rearing thing would have been one big failed experiment and we'd be trying to trade the baby in for something easier to a unicycle with a flat tire.* So if you have a baby or are expecting a baby get his book. The first chapter on breastfeeding is worth the cost of the book because he tells you how hard breastfeeding really is in the beginning.

[* I don't actually condone trading your children for money or goods and we never considered giving our baby away to the gypsies. Of course that's not what we're going to tell her when she's being a pain in the ass as a teenager.]

You can be whatever you want to be

As difficult as some of it has been we've been amazingly lucky to have such a wonderful support system made up of our friends here in Seattle and our families who took time out of their busy lives to come out and help. I gotta tell you, having friends that are chefs and amazing cooks come bring you food makes those sleepless nights a lot easier to take. It was also really nice having family stay with us when I went back to work. Knowing someone was at home making sure Kristen was being taken care of while she was busy with J made going back to work a little less painful. Of course it was, and is, still hard to have to leave Kristen and J in the morning. It seems like when I get home every evening J is so much bigger and much more active than when I left 11 hours earlier.

Julia cuddling with mom

With all our family having gone home we're now on our own so it's up to us to figure out how to work, do laundry, wash the dishes, and occasionally pick up the house while wrangling a baby who doesn't really care what else we have to do. But it's okay because it's fun. Seriously. I know I said it's hard but it's the funnest hard thing you'll ever do. (Shut up Marc.) Plus, when else do you have the chance to laugh at someone else for having pooped all up their back?** Okay maybe college but chances are the person that does it in college is not nearly as cute as your baby and you definitely won't be offering to clean it up.

[** I told you I reserved the right to revisit this topic.]

J dancing

P.S. Does anyone have tips for taming this kid's crazy hair?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


369. That's the number of days ago when we were trying to decide whether we should change our plane tickets to stay longer. We had already spent a lot of money to be here and we couldn't imagine leaving now so an extra couple hundred dollars wasn't going to sway us one way or the other. After some discussion we decided to see how things went that night and would decide in the morning. Little did we know the decision would be made for us when we woke up 368 days ago.

Kristen's best friend since high school, Christine, had been battling stage IV colon cancer since August of 2005, she was 28 when she received this diagnosis. I know what you're thinking and we all thought and still think the same thing. 28 is way too young. WAY TOO YOUNG. But over the next few years Christine seemed to be doing better and her cancer went into remission. She went back to school to get a graduate degree in Public Health with a focus on advocacy based on her experiences fighting cancer as a young person who didn't have health insurance at the time of the diagnosis. Of course she came to visit us a couple of times including staying with us for a couple of weeks over Thanksgiving in 2008 and attending our wedding.

But then a week after celebrating the 4th of July things changed. Kristen had been getting worried in the weeks prior because conversations with her weren't the same anymore, what was once a sharp mind started to get easily distracted and forgetful. Then the phone call came. Christine was in the hospital. The news hit Kristen like a punch in the gut. The doctors had performed exploratory surgery a couple of times and discovered the cancer had returned to her liver and colon and it was very aggressive. The conclusion they came to was news everyone was dreading, there was nothing more they could do other than try to keep her comfortable. After the phone was hung up and some tears were shed we immediately went online and booked a flight out to Nebraska for Kristen early the next morning. I would stay behind for a few days to get things in order at home because we weren't sure how long we'd be away.

When I got to Nebraska Christine was no longer conscious but the days prior to my arrival, while Kristen was with her, she was awake and in good spirits. Despite what was happening her personality persisted and at one point she even played a practical joke on Kristen and her best friend from college, Mandy.

We took turns with Christine's family at the hospital, choosing the night shift so her parents could go home and get some sleep. Kristen and I would spend the night watching movies, puttering around on the internet, eating food we normally wouldn't (like Little Debby snack cakes and Pringles), and doing what we could to make sure Christine was as comfortable as possible. We'd have to call the nurses when the bags that were holding the fluid that was being drained from her abdomen needed to be changed and try to figure out what she wanted when she started moaning since she was not conscious, whether it be a swab of water against her lips or a hit of pain medication. We didn't know, we just did what we could.

In the morning Christine's parents would return and Kristen and I would head down to the cafeteria for breakfast before we ventured out into the Omaha sun. She played tour guide and showed me all the places she liked to go in Omaha and Bellevue and shared stories about growing up there. We hit up a couple of restaurants she liked and met up with her brother for lunch one day, making sure to get the fruit pie for dessert at the Village Inn. After sightseeing we headed back to Christine's parents' house so we could grab a quick nap and shower before we had to be back at the hospital. It wasn't under the best of circumstances but it was nice to see where she grew up and get our minds off of things for a few hours.

After I was there a few days a decision was made to move her to a hospice so she could be in a more comfortable environment. The first night there Kristen and I watched the Royals game on television so we could see Yuniesky Betancourt play at short. Yuni had been traded to KC from the Mariners and was actually on the same flight as Kristen when she came out to Nebraska. I’ll be honest, I have no idea why but he was Kristen’s favorite Mariner. While watching the game we also debated whether or not to change our flight because we were supposed to fly back to Seattle the following day. We didn't know how much longer we'd stay but it seemed like we should stay.

Later that night Christine seemed to be doing okay so we decided to get some sleep. At one point Kristen woke up because Christine was making some sounds but they weren't anything unusual compared to what we had been hearing the nights before. Kristen started talking to her and told her that everything was going to be okay and after a little bit Christine settled down. That was 369 days ago.

Early in the morning I woke up and noticed her breathing had changed. It was different but didn’t seem to be labored or pained like it had been before. I drifted back to sleep and about an hour later I woke up again because the room was silent. I got up to check on her and noticed she wasn’t breathing anymore. Gently, I woke up Kristen to tell her and then called the on call nurse. We also called her parents to let them know she had passed. Kristen and I both thought that her telling Christine everything was going to be okay let her know what we were going to be okay and it was alright for her to go. We also joked she was so polite she didn't want to keep us from going home. That was July 18th, 368 days ago.

We flew home later that day and spent a week in Seattle before heading out to Minnesota/Wisconsin for the funeral. Mandy let us stay with her and we got to meet a bunch of Christine's friends as well as enjoy three (3!) different kinds of tot casserole. Everyone shared their memories at the service and over beers later that night. But Christine wasn't done with us yet. Kristen's family has a big reunion every two years but we had to miss it because we were in Omaha. Where the service was held ended up being really close to Kristen's Uncle and Aunt's place, which is where the reunion is held, so we were able to stop by and see them as well as some of Kristen's cousins. Plus the goats. The fainting goats. And yes, we did make them faint.

So it's been a year now and there have been good days and bad days. The days when Kristen reaches for the phone to give Christine a call and then remembers. The days where she starts crying because she just misses her friend. It was 369 days ago she last told her friend that everything was going to be alright. It's been 368 days since we told it to ourselves.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2-17-2010 Show: Westward Bound

In the late fall and early winter our lives got turned upside down. The owner of the house we were renting passed away and the trustees decided to sell it. Of course they tried to keep it from us as long as they could before telling us this information so we wouldn't move right away and they would keep getting rent money. Well when we finally found out we weren't too happy and scrambled to find a new house. We lucked out and found one pretty quickly but ended up having to move during the holidays which is definitely not a good time. This is when I started this show and now, a couple of months later, I'm finally digging out and publishing this.

It's actually good timing because last night I took K to see Visqueen for the first time and she loved them. She loved them so much she kept asking me why I had waited so long to bring her to one of their shows. My response was that when we first started dating Visqueen was too loud for her, but now she can handle it. :) If you aren't familiar with them I highly recommend you check them out. They were actually one of the first bands I saw in Seattle when I moved out here 11 years ago and they're still one of my favorites.

Westward Bound

Forgive Me - Visqueen
You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb - Spoon
Crumble - Dinosaur Jr.
The Ruminant Band - Fruit Bats
Genesis 3:23 - The Mountain Goats
The Aviator - Stars of Track and Field
I Belong to You/Mon Coeur S'Ouvre a Ta Voix - Muse
Pearl's Dream - Bat for Lashes
Luna - Fanfarlo
Hen of the Woods - The Cave Singers
Silver Amongst the Gold - The Grand Archives
To Kingdom Come - Passion Pit
Dragon Queen - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The High Road - Broken Bells
40 Day Dream - Edward Sharp & The Magnetic Zeros
The Horizon is a Beltway - The Low Anthem
Nomenclature - Andrew Bird
Strange Overtones - David Byrne & Brian Eno
When We Were Alive - The Thermals
T.V. Lieyes - The Cops
Darling - Sons and Daughters

You can find an archive of my old shows at the DJ PegLeg Podcasts on Libsyn.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

10-24-2009 Show: Grey Skies and Rain

It's been almost five months since the last show I put up. I had every intention of doing one every couple of weeks over the course of the summer but then life got in the way. Before I knew it summer was over, it started getting dark earlier, and the grey skies and rain moved in.

I started this show back in late August/early September and it was originally called "Last Days of Summer". Well as things dragged on summer quickly came to an end and by the time I finished it we were deeply entrenched in fall.

Grey Skies and Rain

Hold the Morning - Hey Marseilles
She Called Up - Crowded House
Apartment Story - The National
Take Me to the Riot - Stars
Blacking Out the Friction - Death Cab for Cutie
23 Minutes in Brussels - Luna
Just Stand Back - Low
Une Annee Sans Lumiere - Arcade Fire
See the World - Gomez
Subject Drop - The Pernice Brothers
Spellbound - Doves
Undisclosed Desires - Muse
Folds in Your Hands - Passion Pit
Say Aha - Santigold
Be the One - The Ting Tings
Hysteric - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Oslo Novelist - The Grand Archives
Magpie to the Morning - Neko Case
California Rose - Laura Cantrell
Drunken Hiccups - The Tallboys

Since it's been so long since my last shows you can check out an archive to listen to the older ones. You can find them at the DJ PegLeg Podcasts on Libsyn.

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Summer Bounty