Living this Moment

I take my daughter to ballet and tap dance class on Saturday mornings – far away from any internet connection or ability to lose myself in a cafe. Last Saturday, the mother of one of Jocelyn’s school friends, “Jan”, asked if we cut Jocelyn’s hair. We didn’t, I assured her, and the last time it was cut was a disaster – because few people know how to cut curly hair correctly. I looked over at the now-veteran dancer to my left for validation. The ten year old, “Brenda”, (whom I remembered had said something similar in a previous conversation when a relative brought up Jocelyn’s hair) agreed, adding her own traumatic experiences. We both noted that there was a salon across the street in this little desert that advertises their propensity for cutting the curly hairs. Brenda, a ten year old dancer, added that her mom was going to take her… and then her voice sort of trailed off.

Being partially hearing impaired and used to voices trailing off to indistinguishable noise, I didn’t think much of it. I tend to nod my head and agree – possibly landing me in a lot more trouble than I need to be in.

Brenda is one of several individuals and families that practically camps out at the dance studio on Saturdays between classes, so she’s often there for the entire hour that Jocelyn has class. Along with a few other girls and a few parents, including Jan. This time, the girls were joking in the dressing/coat room. Being the only non-Hispanic, she comes out of the giggle-fest to ask the other moms in the room, both of whom are Latina, how to say “stupid” en espanol. Both of the other parents wouldn’t bite, telling her that it’s really offensive and mean. She lingers, just long enough for me to look up from my typing and tell her, matter-of-factly, “Bella.”

She runs back to the closet and we three crack up. Almost literally rolling on the floor.

“‘Bella‘? Really? That’s a nice insult. If anybody gets really upset with me and tells me, ‘You’re bella,’ I’d say, ‘Thanks, you think I’m pretty?'”

After class, Joss and I ride the bus with her friend and Jan. The mom looks at me and asks if I know about the curly-haired girl, Brenda. I know who she’s referring to, but not much else about her. And then she shocked me. Out of my pants. The girl’s mother had just passed. Quickly, with little warning.

They buried her on Friday. Yesterday. And the very next day, Brenda goes to dance class as if nothing had happened to fundamentally shift her world. I don’t know how she grieved, or even if she has grieved yet. Heck, I don’t understand how I grieve. There are the stages, of course. But we all pass through them differently, in communion sometimes, but mostly alone. And I am not a part of this child’s life: I can’t mourn with or for her. So I wonder, for a brief millisecond, what I can do.

I can watch my daughter play on the bus.

I turn to her, and I try to burn images into my mind of my daughter enjoying herself with her friend as they watch the streets pass them by.

I can live in the moment and love deeply and madly and not have a single regret. That’s what I can do as a parent. That‘s what I can do as a human being.

Being There

Johnny Cash and Russ Taff have trembling, earth-shaking voices. So when they sing “Were You There?” – the Good Friday-through-Easter spiritual – you can’t help but tremble and shout alongside them.

But my daughter has been singing it recently. She doesn’t have the gravitas of voice, of course. She’s only three, so her little high, girlish falsetto hasn’t begun to develop, much less into something that she could know how to control.
But it’s the fact that it’s her, my little mortal princess, my darling, the little girl who comes to sleep with us in the middle of every night. This little girl who we sometimes struggle with to get her to take her three-times daily life-saving treatments. This little one who, today, I figured wears full-body pajamas that have as much cotton as my t-shirts. It’s the fact that it’s her whom I touch and hold and gives me besos and huggies that sings these lines that makes this song immediate and tangible and transcendent for me.
It’s her that embodies something very close and personal and wonderful and scary about the rhythms of life and death and life again in ways that are new and earth-shattering for me.

Somehow, though she doesn’t quite understand the gravitas of the two thousand year old mystery of the death and resurrection of a Jewish prophet/homeless teacher, man/God, she conveys it to me in simply profound, understated, and relational ways.

Thank you, Jesus.

November Rain and Family Business

I’m just gonna be honest here: I don’t care for this song. But the Mrs. Jasdye lurves it. So, here.

A couple extra points.
  1. I love my daughter’s curious nature. A friend mentioned to me yesterday, however, that she never asks, “Why? Why? Whywhywhywhy??” like many kids her age. I think, unfortunately, she takes after her old man in this matter, always coming up with her own hypotheses and testing them out loud. This morning, for instance, while we were out in this tragic thunderstorm, she mentions that the cars (there’re few of them on the road at this moment) are being so loud. I figure that she’s talking about the thunder (after all, we’ve imitated sonic boom sounds while watching cars speed by near her school), and so I give her a real short (and hurried) lesson on physics. Lightning, speed of sound, etc. I’ll have to go a bit deeper sometime when we’re not running for our lives.
  2. My three-year old has had recurring pneumonia perhaps as far back as August, but at least since September. Jocelyn is undergoing a procedure on Wednesday (right before Thanksgiving) to remove her adenoids, shave down her tonsils (it’s less hassle for a three year old. Only a three day recovery, rather than the seven days if they cut them off. As well, there’s a 0.2% chance that the tonsils will come back.) and send down a bronchilscope to see if there’s anything in her lungs that’s been hosting the pneumonia. Please pray; the whole procedure is a bit scary to us – especially the sleepy-sleepy part. And the fact that she won’t eat or drink during her recovery will drive me mad. Thanks for any and all warm words, thoughts, letters of support. We appreciate them all.

Ready for our close-up, baby!

First ever YouTube video. I may or may not take it down soon. In fact, you may never, ever hear from me again, depending on how my wife feels after finding out I uploaded this little ditty. (And yes, I always have hated the song in the background.) Anyway, I think all the hot chicks in this video are smookin’!

Eleven Months Old!

Let us start off with a little story:

Jocelyn has been rather fussy these last few days, largely because her molars are finally starting to come in. So, despite her best fights, screams and – today – clamp-downs on my fingers, I rub her gums down with Baby Orajel as often as I remember before naps and bedtime. I got all four sides of her mouth (her four-sies serve as the dividing line) with no small struggle, of course (did I mention that she nearly bit through my finger?).

Now, I must mention that Jocelyn isn’t much of a kisser. She just doesn’t show affection in that manner. When we move in to kiss her on the cheeks, she juts her whole neck and head as far away as possible. So, a delightful little change that she’s shown recently is initializing the face rub and kiss. It’s really cute. When she was younger, I used to have her “bite” (pre-raptor teeth) my nose. This is even more precious on the rare occasions that it happens. So of course I went in for the full kiss. It was sweet.

A moment later, I’m calming her down with some juice as she’s on my lap. And I notice something on my lip. I pick out my tongue for a taste. It tastes like Dentist Office. While trying not to freak out the baby, I try to wipe the smear, but it’s too late. My lips have gone numb.

She tricked me.

Now, on to developments:

She’s been experimenting with standing and walking for the last month and a half now. And although she’s not quite able to do either independently just yet, she has made some tremendous strides. For instance, she’s able to stand on her own for about ten or so seconds at a time, sometimes more, sometimes less. I think it has a lot to do with fear. We’ve noticed that when Joss isn’t so self-aware, she’ll continually stand on her own (she’s yet to learn to stand-up without support, but we’re confident she’ll get there) while freeing up her hands to grasp something else.

And then she’ll realize that she’s standing and that that’s a bit risky.

I’m constantly amazed at how she figures to move from one object that is supporting her to another. It’s as if Joss does risk assessments and physics problems in her head in a way that would make Big Blue green with envy and give a heart attack to steroid-addled mathematicians.

And she climbs. She sometimes climbs down, too. We were at the Field Museum here and going up and down the steps was an adventure for her. It was like Rocky.

Her little laugh-thing now is the shaking of the head. Shake heads with her, it’s the cutest and funniest thing in the world. Nod your head every once in a while to keep things interesting. But, if you want to see the most joyous smile in the US, shake your head with our li’l Joss.

And, she adores, loves, worships at the paws of dogs. Dogs! Of all sizes – though she seems to prefer dogs that are just her size and dogs with a funny walk. Sometimes she’ll cry if we pass a dog without giving her proper time to acquaint herself with it. Sometimes she’ll cry if we don’t spend forever with that dog.

Alas, animal lovers, we ain’t getting one. We’ll just freeload off our neighbors.

This Dad in Media?

This is a late addition to the Dads-in-Media Blogathon, hosted at RC’s Strange Culture site.

I have a Gerber baby. Blond hair. Big, blue engaging eyes. Wide smile. Button nose. Balloon cheeks. Dimple on her right cheek.

But don’t take my word for it.

Much more are available at our family blog.

And that’s quite a nice thing. Because I am not such a looker. So I live vicariously through her.

Sometimes we go out and people gawk and whisper and aww and laugh and giggle at, with, or to my sweet Jocelyn. And I am the proud papa.

And then every once in a while, I have to question my pride. Or what my pride is based on.

For instance, the other day we went to a festival here in the city. And, once again, a random person looks at Joss and says something to the effect of, “O my. She’s so beautiful. God bless her.”

I know I sound insulted and frankly patronizing. I shouldn’t be. In fact, I’m quite grateful and taken aback every time she is complimented. But this comment automatically – partially because I am cynical – made me revert to its negative. And I said to my wife, with maybe too much audible disgust, “So, if she wasn’t beautiful, then what? God d**n her? What if she were ugly?

I then reassured Joss, tucked away by then in her stroller, that I would love her just the same. That she is my daughter, completely novel to the wily ways of the world, and I am hers to love her and protect her – no matter what.

But that doesn’t mean that I’m not guilty of not thinking about capitalizing (exploiting?) her natural beauty and other talents. She is – like her mother and father in the days of their youth (and had we not been corrupted by adult evils, still to this day) – easy-going. That is, unless she is teething. Or sleep-deprived.

Sometimes, she doesn’t get her way. She gets hungry. Did I mention that she’s cranky when she doesn’t get enough sleep, and sometimes that goes hand-in-hand with her teething? We’re still trying to recover sleep lost in early January.

But, generally speaking, she is a low-key, low-maintenance baby. And telegenetic. So much so that she should be in advertising.

So we, her humble parents, think.

But every time that we’ve tried to pursue that course of action (or thought we were pursuing that course of action) we ran into that dreaded A word. Agent. Or, just as bad, Manager.

That brings to mind other words, parts of a culture and lifestyle that admittedly need to remain distant from our lives. Other people like, stage parents. Directors. Stylists. The Ramseys. Other matters like exploitation. Makeup. Baby Beauty Pageants. Stage parents. Other stage parents. All of the other kids in Little Miss Sunshine. Us becoming stage parents.

Sure, we could use the money (considering the possibility that we may actually turn a profit from exploiting our baby, that enough people may want to use her image and pay handsomely for it to make it all worthwhile for the time and energy we would put into it). But it would all go to her for her own future use. And, to be honest, we could use the money now. She eats. We can’t watch her and work at the same time. Y’know, stuff like that. College? Both of us paid out of pocket (or are still paying…). Why should she get off easy?

But all that aside, I don’t think that I’m ready to be a Gerber Daddy.

Weekly Links We Like to Link to – Narcissist Edition

I remember the first words that came out of my mouth when I first saw our red-fluid-covered daughter. “Oh, baby, look at her. She’s beautiful!”

I’m convinced that Joss gets more cute each and every month. When she’s 5, there will be no stopping her. When she’s 7, we will attend her coronation as the first ever Princess of the USA. Obama will bow down before her awesome radiance. Of course, she’ll give all glory to the giver of good things, the maker and redeemer and originator of all beauty, God.

You want proof? You say, you need evidence from Day 1 on?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Exhibit A: familydyegest.

Just a few images from recent history:

In August, we are going to Colombia. It’s a country. It’s in South America. It’s about 75 degrees there all year long. We’ll be working with the displaced.

Want more information? This is our Journey Journal. (It’s in WordPress, which is a different language altogether. We’re still working on it.)

10 Months Old

And walking!

Well, with support. But she gets up on her own and can walk on, I mean along, walls. And fast. She loves the park. And kids. And sometimes adults. And observing. And moving. And the special blankey given her by Ms. Henderson (we cleaned it a week ago and she would barely sleep without it. Now she’s going down soundly). Well, not so much right now…

Today, she waved goodbye to another precious little girl (without us moving her arm for her) and she petted a dog (also without us having to do it for her).

These are pictures:

Hi. It’s me. I’m bigger than you already!

She doesn’t smile as much for the cameras anymore (out of training), but when she does, it doesn’t matter what she’s wearing – she’s gold, baby, gold.

All by herself.

I’m gone, babies! Zoom.

“Hello? Operator? Mushi-mushi? Digame? Bueno? Bonjour? Heelllloooo?”

And, finally, an arial shot of the Joszilla terrorizing the village.

The Cutest Giant

The revelation struck Jen yesterday when she took our princess out to the park. It’s a park that we’ve had our sights on for the last year and a half and had high hopes of eventually bringing our playing baby to, once the weather and her aptitude permitted. And so, for the last week, my wife brought our daughter (sometimes with daddy in tow) to this cute little baby/toddler park with the cushy ground. (Remember when we were kids and the concrete under the monkey bars was softened by jagged rocks, broken bottles and syringes? No more. The floors here are so soft, you could use them as pillows. In fact…)

Jocelyn is learning how to walk. Or, at least she gives it the ol’ college try. One foot in front of another while holding on to mommy or daddy with her fingers. As she was leading the way (and she is getting really choosy about the things that she comes in contact with), she was getting excited about following a group of kids that Jen noticed were smaller than her. But apparently, these kids could move all on their own.

The three little ones are having a good time at it with a lot of back-and-forth rapport, and the mothers start talking. One of the mothers asks my wife how old our daughter is. “Eight and a half months.” Jen asks in return.

“Sixteen months.”

We knew she was tall. But. Wow.


But it was connecting with other things I was noticing. While on the swings a couple days before that, she was looking and laughing at a girl beside her who had obvious verbal skills (you know, like sentences and queries and the whole bit) and I noticed that Joss had to be nearly as big.

And her neck has just started showing up. It’s identifiable, no longer hidden in folds of baby-chin. It’s definitely my neck. Long and skinny. But with her cute hexagon-shaped head on top of it, she looks like a pumpkin on top of a tooth-pick. And with both mine and Jennie’s Irish family roots, things just don’t bode well for her.

And her legs. I was changing her yesterday and noticed her legs are about as long as a Rockett’s. But baby-chunky, especially in the thighs. The length, at least, is another thing she got from me.

She is, indeed my precious, adorable giantess.

God bless the little man who falls for her.